Evaluating the next step.

Awhile back I posted about a possible career change and making that leap. I had thought about possibly going to Auctioneer school. I’ve always been fascinated with auctions and that chant. The problem that I’ve come up with is that even with the lessons and exercises provided, I just might not have the aptitude for it. And you know what? It’s ok.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflection lately. Involving thought, meditation, prayer, and personal honesty.

I really believe that it is time for me to move on from my current career. At the time that I started it and for the last 13 years it was a good career. Overall it still is, however, it’s also a career that is dangerous and stressful. It is one of those careers that if your heart and head isn’t in it 100% then you can become a liability to yourself, and your workmates. My head is still there and I’m in the prime for performance, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. Before I become a liability and make things more dangerous I think it is time to move on.

The Auctioneer route was a thought, but my skill set doesn’t really mesh with that. I realized that my first step is to take stock of my strengths and skills. Here is the basic list:

1. Leader (currently supervising now)

2. Teacher (also currently doing that now as an FTO “field training officer”)

3. Blacksmith

I was discussing these strengths with a good friend and he suggested I teach blacksmithing. Wow, talk about a lightbulb coming on! I like teaching, passing the knowledge and experience that I have on to others to help them succeed has always been an enjoyment.

So I have been studying some and exploring the possibility. This seems very viable. Its also very portable so moving to the farm wouldn’t really disrupt things.

The issues I have to work out are:

1. Lesson plan.

2. Creating different classes to offer for further skill levels.

3. Advertising.

4. Pricing.

5. And the biggest, just starting.

I have another friend who actually asked me a few months ago if I offer instruction. He has been curious about the craft for awhile and after seeing me on Forged In Fire he started asking. At the time I told him that I hadn’t really thought much about it. I think that once I develop my plans I’ll teach him some for free and let him be an evaluator for the class plan. The advantage to this is that I know he will give me an honest opinion and critique.

I’m definitely going to give this one a lot more thought and Introspection, but I really like this idea. The most difficult hurdle is pricing for instruction. I would keep classes small (4 students at a time, max) so that each student gets the necessary attention.

This feels right. Not 100% convinced yet, but that could also be the anxiety of making that big career jump.

Who knows? If anyone has any input on lesson plans, pricing, or anything else, I welcome all comments.

The safety and liability side of it has been figured out, now I just need to figure out the rest.

All the best,


P.s. I don’t normally write two posts in a day. Sorry if I seem a little chatty. Writing seems to help me process things in my head.


Creating a park and some sneaky #$@%&* deer..

We had a good weekend of work on the farm this trip.

We had been wanting to get a “road” cut down to the creek. The brush is thick everywhere on the property, but just at the bottom of the hill to the creek it gets particularly heavy. The trip before last I had cut a road with the bushhog and chainsaw down to the creek. The terrain down there is much different than the rest of our property. The soil is comprised of more sand than clay and the vegetation is different as well. When the logging company came in and stripped the parcel a few years before our purchase, they couldn’t log within 30 yards or so of the creek because of that soil. The good side to that is that the trees there are bigger, creating a heavier canopy and preventing the briars from taking over. Because of that, between the trees was mainly just tall grass. Once that road was cut, I couldn’t really maneuver the big tractor and bushhog around down there. And that tallare grass was a tick haven!

Anyway, we took our normal suburban riding lawnmower this trip. Maria turned into a slalom, road course driver and mowed all over that bottom land. The amazing thing is that when she was done it looked like a park! We joked that we should open it up as a small campground.

How nice is that?

Now we can use and enjoy this area without being carried away by the ticks.

Now to those dang deer…

Sunday I spent all day driving Darla (our John Deere tractor, Darla Deere) I continued to rip out roots and stumps in the house/barn area. Then, I decided to run the cultivator down the driveway again before I packed up to head back. I really want it to be as smooth and well groomed as possible before we start spreading gravel. Well, after moving dirt with the rake, I swapped out for the grader blade to smooth it. It was really looking good.

Once I got that done, I went to take a little break in the camper (ok, the air conditioning, lol). I was only in there for about 20 minutes with the generator running. I then decided to take a walk, get some good photos and then start shutting down and locking up.

When I walked out to the driveway and started taking photos, I happened to look down and saw a fresh deer track! I was 40 yards away with the generator running!

It wasn’t very big, but geez…you talk about sneaky!

Broad daylight, me nearby, engine running….and that deer tip toeing by. Next trip I’m putting the game cameras back up. I’m super curious now!

We hope you all have a good week.


Stink bug jamboree and sleeping in the cold..

So, a beautiful weekend here on the farm. High temp about 72, low around 44.

Great weather for working! Except….

I get to the pop up and find out that a swarm of stink bugs have tried to evoke some squatter’s rights. I knew what they were and knew better than to squash them. Bad idea in case you didn’t know.

But holy Jesus they were everywhere inside.

I did a little research and found out that they are Halyomorpha halts, also known as the brown marmorated stink bug. They are an invasive species that came from Asia and landed in Pennsylvania in 1996. They feast on fruits and berries. I guess they really LOVED our huge covering of blackberries.

Anyway, in the fall they look for a place to over winter and this group decided that our camper was the spot. WRONG. I caught and released over 200 of them and then I realized that the ones I had released were getting back in. So I fired off a couple of bug bombs. I set one can inside and rolled the other under the camper like a grenade. The last person you want to mess with is a pissed off Marine, lol. It didn’t kill most of them, but they sure beat feet like their heads were on fire and their asses were catching. Not in my house!

I hated to kill any, but I was overwhelmed. I really have changed as I’ve aged.

Got a ton of work done today though.

I was able to get a trail cut wide enough through the trees to be able to get the tractor and bush hog down by the creek tomorrow to mow that tick infested wonderland. It really is beautiful, but the ticks can get really territorial in the tall grass.

Oh yeah, and the furnace in the camper won’t light, so I shall be sealed up in my sleeping bag nice and tight as the temp drops to the mid 40s.

In spite of all that, I still love building and creating our homestead!

Maria and I hope you are having a good weekend, where ever you are!

All the best,


Contemplating a new career..

Maria and I have been looking for just about any way for us to leave the area we live in now and get nearer if not ON the farm. That, of course, would require a career change. The farm itself won’t be ready for at least 2 more years to help provide any income.

Our online business isn’t doing bad, but its not to the level of being able to support us even with the meager lifestyle that we have. On a side note, if you like to visit to look for great gifts for the ones you love head on over to http://www.noharminfarmin.com

Ok, back on track after that short commercial break.

We’ve both been coming home from our day jobs everyday for quite some time now with the first thing out of our mouths being “we’ve GOT to get out of here”.

Both of the day jobs we have are high stress, moderately to highly dangerous (depending on the day), and have become very unfulfilling. We both feel that the productivity just doesn’t exist anymore despite better work practices and greater knowledge. Basically, the world is changing and so are we. That we have out grown them.

I won’t mention what the jobs are mainly for security purposes, but we both believe it’s time to move on.

Brainstorming has become commonplace in our household. I actually stumbled across an old desire that I had as a kid….

Being an auctioneer!

I went to farm auctions as a kid with my Dad and I was always fascinated with the auctioneer. I had always thought that it would be the coolest job ever. But, life got in the way and that dream had been filed away, until a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve started looking at different auctioneer schools and licensing requirements. Even if I don’t just flat out quit my current job, I might go to school and get licensed.

Now, I know that in a past post I lamented about having too much to do and this would be one more thing to add to the list. But, I think that if I add this one to the list I can clean that list up and remove some other things. Thus, getting us closer to the farm and still afford to live.

This whole plan is still in the thought stages, but as I compare pros and cons I lean toward this kind of plan more and more everyday.

Have you ever figured out that the job/career that you have been doing for years is suddenly not where you should be and made a drastic change? If so, we’d love to hear about it. If you think I’m just bat shit crazy, I’m ok with hearing that too. Lol

Maria and I hope everyone has a great week.

All the best,


The pure satisfaction of a good days work..

We had a great weekend of work at the farm this weekend. We were able to get about an acre completely cleared. The surprising thing is that we came up with an easier and cheaper method.

Our property is rough and rustic. By that I mean it was logged about 8 years ago. I can understand the former owners doing this to make money. After all isn’t that what farmers do? However, when a logging company clears a large area they leave a ton of stuff behind. Luckily for us it isn’t trash, but it does mean stumps and logs. Both are now hidden in the 8 year overgrowth. These obstacles make clearing land extremely difficult and time consuming. About 80 to 90 percent of the overgrowth is thin enough to use the bushhog to clear…until you smack a big old stump. Then you go clean out your under shorts and change the shear bolt in the pto shaft.

Cleaning out those stumps with a chainsaw is both labor intensive and gets expensive. It seems that both the 18 inch bar and the 20 inch bar saws we have drink gas like nobody’s business. Plus, they both get rather hard on the lower back when you are bent over searching for stumps.

So, the easy AND cheap alternative?

We’ve got a cheesy 14 inch bar, electric chainsaw that is light and easy to wield. We also figured out that running that saw on the generator used just a fraction of the gas.

This is the view after sawing out old stumps and any tree over 2 inches in diameter. Once we cut all of that out and put it all on the ever growing brush pile, we then run old Darla Deere (the tractor) through it with the bush hog.

Same spot after bushhog treatment.

We’ve found that we can clear the areas that need clearing faster, with less fighting vines and thorns, and sweating, and at a fraction of the cost.

I can run one of the gas saws for about 30 minutes before refueling, this means that after a days work I’ve gone through well over 5 gallons of fuel. Our generator will run under a full steady load for about 4 hours on a gallon, longer on a lighter load. So, 8 hours for less than two gallons.

The type of generator might make some difference as well. We bought a Honda EU 2000I. It was a little pricey at the original purchase, but well worth it. Those are one of those things you don’t want to half ass. It’s super quiet and sips gas. When not running power tools with it we can run the pop up camper on shore power (including A/C) for almost 5 hours on a gallon of gas. We really want to lower our carbon foot print, but we also want some comfort once in a while.

We also got this beauty of a cultivator. It’s not being used for tilling and planting much now, but it will drag those old logs and cut brush like a giant lawn rake!

Things continue to improve and we will get things liveable before you know it. Our temporary home feels like home now because its ours…even though we only stay every other weekend, it gets harder to leave each trip.

But, it’s Sunday night so back to the grind.

Maria and I hope you all have a great week!

All the best,


Giving opportunities to others..

I received an e-mail from a casting Producer with ITV America the other day. They handle casting for several shows including “Forged In Fire”, “Alone”, “American Grit”, and “Pawn Stars” among others.

I got the e-mail because I was on Forged In Fire, and since folks that compete on that show might know people that train and use knives on a regular basis. I was asked to put out the word that they are casting for a new show involving knives and some sort of physical challenge.

I don’t know the details of what it would entail, but I can give you an excerpt from it that gives a brief description and the contact info…


“We’re searching nationwide for bladesmith, swordsman/women, weapons experts, martial artists, bladesport enthusiasts, etc. who want to put their knife skills to the test. All levels – from amateur to expert- are accepted, as long as they know how to wield a knife. Participants will use their favorite forged weapon in an obstacle-course style challenge.

For more information or to speak with a Casting Producer, please e-mail me at jen.gross@itv-creative.com ASAP with your name, age, phone number, and a bit about yourself. You can read more about ITV at HTTPS://itvstudios.com/studios/itv-america”

Just so everyone knows, the only affiliation I have with that company is that I was cast as a contestant on Forged In Fire. I can tell you that I was treated very well, and they all seemed very professional.

So, if anyone thinks they’ve got some skills and wants to test em….shoot them an e-mail.

20 years ago I would have been up for that challenge, but now I just make knives for people to use in something like this. If you apply, Good luck to ya!

All the best,


Storm prep…

We are on the southeast coast of North Carolina and regardless of the track that Irma takes, we are going to have a mess to deal with. Of course, if were able to move permanently to the farm (Virginia piedmont) then we would probably only have to deal with a pot full of rain. But alas..

We’ve prepped our house and put away anything that might become a missile. We’ve stocked up on water and food. Plenty of gas for the generator and all vehicles topped off.

Maria has the option that if it looks bad she will head for the farm and stay in the camper.

I don’t have that option. My day job as a first responder means that I will probably be out in the weather working 16 – 18 hour shifts trying to help people who will curse me for it. Its what I do, and what I’ve done for 26 years.

If you are in the path of Irma, or the following Jose, stay safe and if someone in uniform suggests that you leave, don’t call him an asshole, it really IS for your benefit and they are looking out for you even though they can’t be home evacuating their own family.

Stay safe, and take care. We really do love all of you.


Burning the candle at both ends vs. Trying to succeed

We started our hand made gift business 2.5 years ago, and bought our land 8 months ago. Since doing both of these we have been running wide open.

Maria and I both work full time jobs besides the other activities. She works 40 hours a week at her “normal” job. Then she comes home and takes care of me and the house. (A full time job in itself, and I’m really trying to up my game so it doesn’t all fall on her shoulders). Then she sews, tiedyes, and answers customers questions. On weekends that I don’t work, we go to the farm to continue improving and clearing the land.

She’s very busy.

I work a really screwy schedule. I work 15 days a month, with 12+ hour, very stressful shifts. Those days are spread out throughout the month with 3 day weekends every other week. When I’m not “at work” I’m in the forge, making knives and other metal items in 130 degree heat. Then on those 3 day weekends, to the farm to pull stumps and clear land. Oh yeah, during all of that, I’m answering customer’s questions and taking custom orders.


This weekend was one that we were to go to the farm, but we didn’t make it.

Thursday was my last night of work. Normally I’d be in bed by 530 am, and then back up around 11 to work Friday afternoon in the forge. Then I would take off Saturday morning for the farm, stay overnight, and work both days before coming back to get ready for work on Monday night.

This past Friday, I worked in the forge like normal. By the end of the day I was exhausted. This schedule has been going on for months and I think I hit a wall.

I told Maria that I didn’t think I was going to make it to the farm this weekend. I went to bed Friday night and slept just over 14 hours.

I had the intent to just relax this weekend and recharge my batteries. It didn’t work very well. I don’t just sit around too well.

I ended up going through my knife stock and realized that I was way behind on making sheaths. So I spent several hours making 15 leather sheaths. I was able to do that part in the house, but I also ended up with 3 orders for woodworking holdfasts, so there still ended up being some forge time this weekend.

Those are all the sheaths I made this weekend. Maria let me use her cute little railroad rail anvil I had made for her to set grommets with.

So, I did get some things done, and I got a little bit of rest…but my question for all of you is “How do you balance the overwhelming amount of work to be done with the hours in the day and the amount of energy you have in your body?”

I’d love to hear.


Showing change…

As I was busy breaking the plow yesterday I kept feeling as if we just aren’t catching up, at all..

But I was just looking at the photos I took today and comparing them to earlier in the spring…wow! There actually IS some progress.

The orange is the area that is becoming the last 300 feet of driveway, the pink is what needs to go. We’ve only cleared a small portion of the pink shaded area.

The above photo is from earlier in the spring. When I could barely even get the tractor back there.

This was this past Saturday, just prior to breaking the plow. Better, but not great.

And now, that’s where we are at. Still not great, or done but we can get both the 4 wheel drive AND the 2 wheel drive trucks back to the campsite. And able to get the pop up camper on site as well. So…when you keep looking at things too close you miss the beauty of the progress. Instead of missing the forest for the trees, I missed the driveway for the dirt.

By the way, the repaired plow..

That top bolt in the blue circle is the one designed to shear. The good news is that I always have plenty of those bolts on hand since they are the same ones that protect our bush hog pto shaft from exploding when you whack the crap out of a stump (which I am also REALLY good at doing,lol).

I’ve got quite a bit of experience with equipment, and living in the woods. Building a homestead from scratch is all new to me. I think my lesson learned this weekend was that on the homestead ( and in life) things might not look like they areyou moving along, but if you step back to look you might just be surprised.

Maria and I hope that you all have a wonderful week.


Meeting neighbors and breaking plows..

Ok, not exactly neighbors, but the nice folks in our new community.

If you’ve followed our blog for any amount of time you’ll know that Maria and I are going to be unable to live full time at the farm for a couple of years. I’ve got to finish up and retire from that silly job/ career. That will gives us a decent monthly income to help fund things a little. And, while I would love to be here now, all the time, it is still going to take a couple of years to get the house, barn, and shed built so we can live here.

So, on to the neighbors. Awhile back we met our actual neighbor that lives a cross the road. He’s a great older gentleman and his wife who have lived in their house since the 70s.

But, as we drive out here every couple of weeks to work and improve the land, we drive through our “new” community. Keep in mind that the town is 10 miles away and at the time of the 2000 census there were 1257 inhabitants. Just our kind of place.

For the last few months we’ve noticed on a sign in front of the Gretna volunteer fire department, they have been advertising a barbeque supper as part of there fund raising. Well, that was tonight. We worked on the farm all day and then washed up as best we could and went to town! It was really nice to see real hometown folks come out to support there volunteer firemen and meet with each other. The little old ladies with their hair and make up done and the little old men in their Sunday clothes. All meeting and greeting each other as if they hadn’t spoken in years. Just our kind of place.

The only people that actually talked to us were the fireman we had spoken to earlier in the day when we stopped to buy raffle tickets for a 4wd atv that they were giving away. But even in the hub bub of their big shindig, those guys remembered who we were and greeted us as friends. Just our kind of place.

So that was the wonderful part of the day. Work at the farm was good. Not too hot, and productive, until….

If you aren’t familiar with a single row, leinbach plow, they aren’t supposed to look like that.

They have one bolt in the frame that is weaker than the rest. Its designed that way for safety. Should you over tax the plow i.e. Hitting a big rock, stump, or just generally beat the tar out of it, that “shear bolt” is meant to do just that, shear. This allows the blade to rotate down and release you from whatever it was that you didn’t need to be plowing.

Maria and I had to redirect about a third of our driveway (300 feet of it) because our original path had a couple of really sharp turns. And, we started clearing the first 2 acres that will be the “barnyard”. We got brush cut and stacked, trees felled and stacked, and then I went to town…see that connection from above?

I ripped and tore my way through that dry clay soil and got about 80 percent of the stumps ripped out. Our little, 32 year old John Deere 850 was grunting and groaning, but she was getting the job done. Then I snapped the bolt. That was a perfect time to park her, get cleaned up and go meet our new community. Either in town, or 10 miles away here in the brush…its just our kind of place.

This is weekend long work trip, so hopefully I’ll have some really cool photos tomorrow. But now its time to relax by the fire and listen to the whipporwills sing in the distance.

We hope that you are all having as good of a weekend as we are!