Take the next step on your journey
Informal interviews with homesteaders, cooks, gardeners and employees will help you take the next step on your journey to a simpler life. Escape the chaotic, stressful world for about seven minutes and learn how to live a satisfying life, enjoying time with family and friends.
Joel Salatin: Back at Lehman’s!
Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms is a farmer, author and as we like to call him “Pastor of the Pasture.” Joel had a second visit to Lehman’s this summer and we can’t help but soak in the wealth of knowledge that Joel shares with us. Tune in to hear his tips for making your homestead the most efficient it can be. Wherever you are on the journey to a simpler life, curious OR serious, you can learn something from the experience Joel brings. After all, starting small is the most efficient as you’ll learn in this episode.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Welcome to Solutions for a Simpler Life. This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s on the square in Kidron, Ohio. We’re glad you’ve joined us. And today we have Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia. Author, and as I like to call him, Pastor of the pasture. Joel I’ve heard you speak about the top time wasters on the homestead. Can you tell us a little bit what some of those are to make us more efficient when we’re homesteading?
Joel Salatin: Sure. Well one of them is simply walking places without carrying something or carrying a full load. I never carry one 5 gallon bucket for example. I carry two 5 gallon buckets. Then tomorrow you have one sitting there, you don’t have to carry it at all tomorrow. Another one is to make sure your distance isn’t too far. Ben Hartman who wrote The Lean Farm based on Toyota manufacturing’s lean manufacturing procedure, found in gardening, you don’t want to have to walk more than about 100 yards to get a tool. So it’s actually more efficient to have duplicate groups of tools stationed in little sheds around the place that are all within you know 50 to 100 feet of all your workspaces so you don’t have to walk one hundred and fifty yards, for example, to get a tool. Another one is getting preoccupied about perfection. Moving the project from functionality to perfection can often double the time on a project. The chickens, the cows, the pigs, the tomato plants, they don’t actually care if it’s not perfectly plumb or not perfectly level or not perfectly square. And too often we just burn up a lot of time trying to make form over function and be perfect. So those are some things that that kind of enter into the farmstead that can eat up a lot of time. The number one, to me, the number one is trips to town. One of the reasons to simplify our lives with a homestead, farmstead, situation is to unplug from town. And so by doubling up on trips to town where we’re piggybacking so we make our list and we say, “OK I’m only going to go to town once a week.” Or whatever. So we do all of our errands in one day by writing things down, making a list, planning a little bit. You can really reduce those trips to town. That adds up to a huge amount. Another one of my favorites is what I call the filler list. And so many times we’re working along and we kind of finish a bigger project and, “Oh I’ve got I’ve got 15 minutes before supper or before I’ve got to go do something else, before I have to meet somebody.” Whatever. What I do with those 15 minutes? Let’s see I had a thought this morning about something I needed to do, takes about 15 minutes. What was it? Let’s see I was… We end up spending 15 minutes trying to recall what we had thought about this morning that took 15 minutes to do. And so if we write those down and just keep them on a rotating filler list, anything that just takes you know 10 to 20 or 30 minutes, then when you have those snippets of time where it’s it’s too little time to start something new but too much time to waste, we can fill it with these little filler things that take just a few minutes. Chopping the five thistles that are out behind the woodshed. You know those kinds of things. And you know a few of those add up to some significant progress in a week to take some of those 10 and 10 and 15 minute intervals.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: I think you said it was your grandfather or your father that said four hours a day should be chores and by chores things that have to be done at a certain time.
Joel Salatin: Right. No more than four hours.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: No more than four.
Joel Salatin: No more than four hours. So we try to keep it at three, maybe two hours in the morning and one hour in the afternoon for chores. And the reason is because you need time between chores to make progress. Whether it’s to read, to plan, to construct, to build new, to repair, to maintain. A chore is something that you do at pretty much the same time every single day. Milking the cow, feeding the dog, gathering eggs. Those are chores that you do every single day at the same time. So anytime that we can move something that it’s currently a chore and we can move that to a flexible time of day that completely changes that task because suddenly now we can fit it into the day as opposed to it being a have to at the same time every single day.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Sure sure. Well it sounds like you are very productive. What do you do to relax?
Joel Salatin: What do I do to relax? Probably if I was honest it would be read. Read is my recreational thing. I just, I love to read.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Is writing relaxing for you?
Joel Salatin: It is. Writing is relaxing ,although not as relaxing as reading because you’re creating as opposed to just…
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Consuming.
Joel Salatin: Consuming yes.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Do you have a favorite author? Fiction or nonfiction.
Joel Salatin: My favorite fiction author is Charles Dickens.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Ah of course.
Joel Salatin: He is still just… What he did. I mean imagine this guy is writing in 1830, 1840, England. And back in those days they didn’t have computers and so he wrote with a quill pen and so he would… Most of the novels, most of the books that he wrote were actually carried in serial form first in newspapers. And he was writing as many, at his peak, six books in serial form in newspapers with a quill pen. I mean he didn’t have a dictionary. So imagine keeping all the characters and the flow of the story moving on six different projects simultaneously with a qui— I mean…
Glenda Lehman Ervin: That’s pretty incredible.
Joel Salatin: I can’t even describe it.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: So he was the first prolific blogger.
Joel Salatin: Oh absolutely yeah. Today he would be off the charts in his ability and his the number of words that he do. I mean his vocabulary was just incredible. Yeah I just… The worst part of Charles Dickens is that it’s old enough now that it’s becoming a little harder to read because we don’t use all those kinds of words or there are specific things for coal buckets and different kinds of buggies. And you know we just call it, we just say buggy. But for him a hack was different than a buggy which was different from a coach.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Sure very specific vernacular.
Joel Salatin: Yeah. There are very specific things. And it is becoming a little bit more difficult to read now. But I’m just spellbound by his ability to tell a story.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Fantastic.
Joel Salatin: An incredible storyteller.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Do you have a non-fiction favorite?
Joel Salatin: Oh nonfiction favorite. Probably Wendell Berry. He’s a true wordsmith.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Well we’re fortunate that there is so much good material out there, online of course that’s only as good as the author. But the number of books that we have for example here in our store everything from Square Foot Gardening to tapping maple trees for syrup, to goats. And we often talk to people that are just getting started and we request that they don’t buy 40 acres and sell everything, they get some books and they start small. And I know that something you talk about too it’s a journey. It’s not a destination. Even with animals you say literally start small. Start with a rabbit or a chicken. Don’t start with two massive horses.
Joel Salatin: Yes absolutely always start embryonically. Around our farm whenever we’re thinking about a new project, the tendency is in America today especially when you’re talking to a venture capitalist, is to to ask, “Well how big can this be?” You know we’re always thinking big. Around our farm, our first question is always, “Well how small can we do it?” Because it’s in the small situations that you work out the kinks and you don’t shake up the Mothership right. You know you don’t want to jeopardize the mothership with an experiment. And so we’re big on experimenting but experiment small and experiment one thing at a time. Don’t experiment with everything at once. Experiment with one thing, become proficient at one thing, and then do your other experiment, do your next thing.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Sure and see if it’s scalable.
Joel Salatin: And see if it’s scalable, yeah.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Yeah we do that at work too. If it doesn’t work small it’s unlikely to work big. You’ll just have bigger problems.
Joel Salatin: Exactly. Test it. I mean testing is such a big— We do that with supplements for animals, with full year things for plants. The thing is, especially when you’re talking about growing things, which you know with homesteading growing things is a big deal. Plants, animals. What happens is that when we’re growing things, growing things have a mind, you know they’re not just mechanical there’s a dynamic element to living things. And so we read a book, we read a second book, and there’s two kind of maybe conflicting products that were used and results achieved, OK? Well now what’s gonna work for me? What’s going to be my answer? And so we need to appreciate that different situations, especially biologically, have different nuances. And so a product that was one person’s whatever, panacea, does not have the same results for another person. And so you have to test. Don’t don’t buy a 55 gallon drum of something right out of the box. Get a pipe and do some control things. And you know we’ve tested that with mineral supplements and different kinds of things to determine what seems to work best. What’s a better ration for chickens for example. And it’s trial and error but always do it on a small scale first. Do your tests, find out what works for you, and then…
Glenda Lehman Ervin: That makes perfect sense. Thank you so much for joining us here today Joel and we hope to have you back soon.
Joel Salatin: Thank you. It’s my delight.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s, where we stand for a simpler life. Thanks for listening. For more visit lehmans.com.