He Is Just So Happy



My loveliest Christmas gift this year was the outpouring of recollections about the little things in farm life that so many of you wrote about last week. I am trying hard not to utter grandiose statements about how you are turning this blogsite into something profoundly wonderful, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that you are an extra special bunch of really great human beings. It is just so much fun interrelating with all of you.

Another lovely Christmas present came from my sister, Marilyn: a bushel of wheat for our chickens. I gave her four ears of my open pollinated corn wrapped in a red ribbon, extra delicious for making corn bread. When we tell other people about our gift exchange, we get strange looks. But all of you reading this blog will just nod and say “of course.”  What could be more fitting? The interesting aside about getting a bushel of wheat is that, despite the fact that the elevator uptown has tons of wheat in storage, it is no longer able to extract just one bushel out of the huge storage bins. And the neighbors and relatives from whom I used to get a little wheat no longer raise it. But the people at our elevator are mighty nice guys, and when Marilyn put on her best poor-old-helpless-kinfolk-neighbor-farm woman look and smiled benignly at them, they somehow figured out a way to do it. It’s one of the blessing of living in a small community, Marilyn says.

Just when I thought no one could top that Christmas gift, there’s a knock on the door and in comes a nephew, John, and he has a gift for us that is so precious I am tempted to put it in a safe, except I don’t have one:  a cute little sack— which he sewed together himself— full of his very own homegrown cracked corn and oats. More scratch feed for our chickens.

You will appreciate the story behind this gift. John has become a farmer in recent years, the new kind of farmer who does it for fun, not for money, financing his “operation” by working another job, along with his wife, Julie, who also has another job. John, like myself and so many of you, had to wait until he was middle aged to save enough money to become a contrary farmer. He and Julie built a house, a barn, a pond and a chicken coop on their newly-acquired land. (Until the house was finished, they lived in a camper trailer and used an outdoor privy that John built.) They put in new fencing for a flock of sheep. They rescued abandoned brush land and turned it into productive pastures. They put out gardens way to big to manage with all the other work they do. Eventually John found an old John Deere combine to harvest his oat crop which was almost as weedy as mine used to be. He repaired an old baler (I have some of his bales in the barn right now). He put out a half acre of corn and he and Julie husked it by hand. He found and repaired an old grain grinder and milled the corn and oats to make scratch feed for their chickens. As he had given us, he gave some to other relatives, all of whom have chickens of course. I told him there is a new market opening up— for SMALL amounts of farm supplies such as so many of our family members require. He rolled his eyes. He’d love to try but there is just no more time available in his world right now.

Here’s the all-important point. Although he has to be one of the hardest working people in the world, John is supremely content. Thinking about him— and of all your recollections of farm life— I want to climb up on the roof of his barn and proclaim a message to a world full of discontent and sadness today. I want to point to John working his little farm and scream: HE IS JUST SO HAPPY!

And a Merry Christmas to us all.


When all is said and done, a lot of things that Gene is quoted as “saying” might not really come out of his mouth or pen, but the kernel of the idea comes straight from his ornery brain!
Thanks for remaining true to your contrary beliefs and a very Happy New Year to you and yours.

Gene, you are kind, but I never saw it as heroic. I saw it as “contrary”! Something anyone with a little “gumption” would do, if they reasonably could. I know a guy who is a hard core Small Farm Journal/ Lynn Miller, “farmer pirate” type. He is so contrary, I worry for him! He fully intends to GIVE his small farm away, when he gets too old to work it–and I actually think he will. I may be uncomfortable discussing heroism, but I know, “crazy-brave”, when I see it!

Sir, I’ve said my piece. I think I’ll go back to lurking on your blog. I just wanted you to know how profoundly your work has influenced a whole lot of people you will never meet. There are many, many anonymous readers who consider you a personal friend and mentor–folks who take real comfort in your pragmatic wisdom, and inspiration from your vision of how things were, and could be, again.

I’m not trying to give you a swollen head, but when I consider your body of work, what you have observed and experienced, the personal sacrifices required of you to keep on telling the truth, in a heartbreakingly difficult effort to reverse the erosion of the traditional agrarian values that once made America the envy of the world–and to do so without falling prey to bitterness and despair….. Well, that is when words like “heroic” come to mind, and truly seem to apply.

Bob Wilson

Gene, regarding that quote, I said that in a public forum to the largest, most politically connected and powerful dairy farmer in my county, during a somewhat spirited debate. A Cornell Cooperative Extension employee heard it, got quite a kick out of it, and asked me the same question. I’m pretty sure I attributed it to YOU…. If you didn’t actually say that to me, in one of your books, it may have come out of my peabrain, but I would STILL attribute it to you. Your books have scattered some wise and powerful seeds into some fertile ground….

While “the big boys” were steadily trying to maintain their subsidized, tax-breaked, “buy-up- another-small-farm-every-year-with-the-same-constancy-attributed-to-Canada-Geese-flying-North-in-the-Spring”, status quo–and pretending it represented the best of all possible worlds–I tended to challenge that assumption and introduce an alternative view. Based entirely on a 1980 USDA census of my county, I suggested that “get big or get out” wasn’t necessarily the only, or best, route forward. (And THAT was pure Gene Logsdon!) I gently, (more or less), reminded them that, between 1980 and 2000, over one fifth of our county’s farmland was no longer in production and, more tragically, we had lost more than a quarter of our rural population–and we simply didn’t HAVE an “urban” population, to make up the difference. (Ottawa was a lot closer than Syracuse; unfortunately, it is in another country.)

Having, not too long before, enthusiastically participated in a brief, but reasonably significant war in Southwest Asia, (Desert Shield/ Desert Storm), it occurred to me that, if I had gone to someplace in the Third World and, over the barrel of a rifle, took a fifth of the farmland out of production and drove off one quarter of the rural, largely agrarian, population, it would probably, and very appropriately, be considered a war crime. To some powerful farmers in my county, however, (and some other people, including elected people, who should know better), our non-violent, slower-rolling devastation was simply, “business as usual”.

More than a few of our big, “commercial” farmers saw the recent emigration of many Amish families, out of Ohio, and into our area, as either a threat, (it tended to increase farmland prices because somebody else actually wanted to buy land to live and work on), or, as a potential commercial asset, (cheap, competent labor). There was a lot of typical, in-group vs out-group sentiment around, and when the conversation turned ugly, whether public or private, I tended to challenge it. There was also a similar prejudice toward small, organic, or alternative, (read: non-dairy), agricultural start-ups. I tended to challenge that, too.

You taught me that the Amish sense of community is strong and tries to be self-supporting. (As a former, military professional, trust me, I can fully appreciate the power of community.) I made it a point to investigate your observations, and I found them to be quite true. As a result, I tended to see this new dynamic, (and the arrival of a few Contrary Farmers), as a game-changing, demographic force through which we might help stem the steady tide of decline in our rural population base–and all that it implies for the long-term health and productivity of the region. (I’m talking about people, not gross receipts.) So, I made the obvious, no-brainer, connection between “culture” and “agriculture”, as opposed to the equally obvious connection between “business”, (no holds barred,winner take all), and “agribusiness”.

So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s your quote, Gene.

Bob Wilson

Eumaeus and Jan: Your kind words choked me up. Thank you.

    Bob, If I did say that, I’m glad I did. I have said things in the past that are rather embarrassing. You mentioned that you sold your farm to a young man for less than the big boys would have paid. I have a friend here who did the same. That is an heroic act. Gene

First off Merry Christmas and a properous New Year to you and everyone thats reads this.
My wife always fixes Christmas breakfast for us,my 90 year old Uncle,my bachlor cousin that takes care of his dad as my Aunt died a few years ago,another good friend that lives near us with no family in the area thats in his 80’s and my just turned 90 (Dec 23rd) mom.We had homemade sausage,homemade biscuits and grape jam along with eggs from our Black Australorps.For Christmas and our anniversay (Dec 24th) this year we ‘gave’ each other 2 Great Pyrenees pups as a couple of
our older dogs are getting up in the years.Will go to another Aunt’s house for a huge dinner on Saturday with lots of family and eat too much country ham for sure!Looking forward to more of Gene’s articles in the coming year and all the great comments on them.

Merry Christmas, Gene! Your blog is always a delight – when I receive the email notification of a new post, I never hesitate to read it post-haste. I’m not a farmer, contrary or otherwise, but I imagine that someday, with some savings and gumption, I just might find myself raising some animals, or perhaps some delicious plants. Just wanted you to know that your wisdom and good nature extend beyond the specifics of working the land; as an uneasy city dweller, I find that I’m well served by everything you write.

A Merry Contrary Christmas to you!

Gene. It’s Christmas and you’re on your farm and I’m on mine. Which kind of means we’re together on the holidays. Which does mean what a lucky boy am I!

Really like the last paragraph of this post. The last line is something every reader dreams of: a surprise.

All the best. From Saddleback Mountain in New Hampshire

Merry Christmas Gene and to your family. Thanks also for the blog and the books, they have certainly been helpful. You are so spot on when you said ” I told him there is a new market opening up— for SMALL amounts of farm supplies such as so many of our family members require.” That’s something that is badly needed here in Latvia too, albeit more the equipment side as I suspect that the feedstock could possibly still be got from friends and neighbours – you just have to know the right people 🙂

Gene, because of you and the words you have put out into the world, Contrary Farmers will always be among us, Thank God!

I will be eternally grateful to you for your part in my journey to becoming a small farm farmer. Bless you,

Teresa Sue

Warms my heart to read your blog and replies! Happy New Year to all!

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Merry Christmas to each of you! I find myself blessed that I have found Gene’s books and this blog and all of the community associated with it!

Merry Christmas to all.

Dear Mr. Logsdon,

I’m not much of a blogger–and I don’t even know it this is the right place to do it, but before either one of us gets any older, I wanted to thank you for making my life a LOT more rewarding than it might have been, had I not read “The Contrary Farmer” and “All Flesh IS Grass”. If I went into detail, I fear I would become maudlin in a hurry, but suffice it to say this:

Inspired by your outstanding example, upon retiring from a career as an officer in the USMC, I bought a vacant, 140 acre dairy farm in Northern New York, where, amidst much work, I made good hay and raised good sheep. Once in awhile, I actually made a little money! More importantly, I made friends with my Amish neighbors, learned how to drive a buggy, walked my fields, and enjoyed an entire decade of building a life that I had often imagined, but could never quite envision–until I started reading your work. You told the truth and you made me believe it was all possible. It IS. For that, I am ever in your debt.

I have retired, now, to a comfortable couple of acres in Southern Arizona, ten miles, or so, from town, (with a wife who hasn’t stopped grinning since we got here, and an old Border Collie who is still trying to figure out what-the-hell happened). I am planning a hand-tool-sized garden, a small vineyard, and a rainwater collection system, as I am engaged in the process of building a deer-proof fence, “Logsdon-style”, (8′ by 20′ stock panels on steel posts for the deer, with a little bit of chicken wire around the bottom for the bunnies). The fence is nearly done.

The main thing I wanted to say, is that I appreciate the rare privelege and opportunity I had to bring an abandoned farm, (established in 1828), back from the dead, and make it, once again, healthy and productive. I can’t say my wife was entirely happy about it, but my last official act as a Contrary Farmer was to leave a much nicer offer from one of “the big boys” on the kitchen table–when I sold the place to a hard working Amish kid with a young family–for a good bit less money. A lot of folks figured that proved, decisively, I was as “crazy” as they had always quietly suspected, but I figure I ensured the survival of that small farm, AS a small farm, for another couple of generations. What’s THAT worth? But for your work, educating knuckleheads like me about what is actually important, that gesture would never have occured to me….

My thanks and best wishes,
Bob Wilson

“I won’t ask you to take the business out of agribusiness, if you don’t ask me to take the culture out of agriculture!”

    Thank you, Bob, (and all of you). That’s a great quote. Who said it?” Gene

    Great comment, Bob Wilson. Bless you.

    Bob Wilson! Gene means the world to my husband and I. Your sentiments sent to him brought a tear to my eye. Sometimes I don’t think Gene understands how his writing has touched and changed so many people’s lives. Thank you for posting this! Than you for loving Gene as much as we all do!

    What a wonderful legacy! I am touched that you went with the heart and sold it to someone for less money but will no doubt take care of the land. It is truly inspiring.

Dear Gene, Merry Christmas to you and Carol. We look forward to checking in with you every Wednesday. This blog is truly something very special. We can’t wait to see what you come up with in the New Year.

Merry Christmas to you & Carol! Thank you for this blog that I’ve been able to share with my younger friends who had no inclination or attention span to read your books until they got hooked. Now I have to keep track of who has which of your books borrowed. Thanks for the bait!!

My family and friends have been getting jars of honey and bottles of blueberry mead–all infused with much contentedness and happiness.

Lake Erie has blessed us with a very white Christmas. The 11 hens gave us 10 eggs today. The 8 bags of chopped leaves that laid frozen by the garden got spread in the warm spell. The wood pile looks like it will get us through the winter. Life is very good.

Thank you for all your wisdom Gene. You know what really matters and do a great job of reminding us every week. God bless.

Merry Christmas, Gene, and have a blessed New Year.

Merry Christma Gene and thank for all your teachings. Like John, we are contented and happy. Yes we work normal jobs and have a small farm, but life could not be better. All the memories my children have and will continue to have. This was my first year of open pollinated corn. It was a family event picking and storing the corn. Our six and 4 year old sons had a blast making corn rockets and finding the biggest ears. Granted they tended to knock a lot stalks down to get the big ears, which put a grimace grandpas face. The chickens love the corn along with scraps from our kitchen, there really is no feed cost. I am a miltary brat (excuse the term) and knew little of farming. Your books have been the greatest teachings and I cannot thank you enough.

Merry Christmas and stay warm by the fire.

Merry Christmas to the Happy and Content! One of my great presents last year was from a guy who butchers wild game for a fee. He gave me a bag of “mixed fat” so I can tell recipients of my homemade soap this year that their soap has deer, pig, and even bear fat in it!

Thank you for this year of fun, wisdom and you.

Many blessings, Natalie Manor

Almost Farmer status

*From:* The Contrary Farmer [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] *Sent:* Tuesday, December 24, 2013 11:16 AM *To:* coachnatalie@nataliemanor.com *Subject:* [New post] He Is Just So Happy

Dave Smith posted: ” From GENE LOGSDON My loveliest Christmas gift this year was the outpouring of recollections about the little things in farm life that so many of you wrote about last week. I am trying hard not to utter grandiose statements about how you are turning”

Christmas at our house is similar, Gene. Homemade wild blackberry jam, apricot jam, zucchini relish, fermented pickles and wine jelly (we didn’t make the wine but the rest comes from our place) for grown-up presents. Room air fresheners made from baking soda and peppermint oil for Mama from the small fry and chili oil for Daddy, who likes his foods to have some zing. It wouldn’t be Christmas without divinity candy for my husband, who only gets to indulge in it once a year. Eldest granddaughter brought in the Christmas goose for dinner (her first-ever goose, got it with the first shot, and it was banded — hubby is so jealous because in 45+ years of hunting he’s never gotten a banded goose). Her little sisters and I are going to frame the certificate of appreciation the wildlife folks sent her and put it under the tree. Hubby is picking up the deer salami today, so we’ll have that to snack on and take to the annual New Year’s party with family friends — a 50+ year-old tradition. Homemade country Christmases are the best kind! My very best holiday wishes to you, Carol, and all the friends who gather ’round the Contrary Farmer!

Merry Christmas, Gene, from a displaced Buckeye in the Redwoods of California, to one who has known his place in the world from the beginning.Always enjoy your contrariness, it’s great to know there are other rapscallions in the universe!

But, Gene, just the other night at my local bookstore, I bought your small scale grain raising book, for my winter reading supply. What gives?…. LOL?

    Steve, good question. What gives is old age.That book was written a pretty long time ago. I still grow the old corn thanks to neighborly help.Other grains, well, the memories are great anyway. Gene

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