L’homme Theroux; a Novel by Carlos Cunha

Canadian Métis teenager Thomas Theroux is pushed onto the trail to manhood after a routine trading post transaction goes horribly wrong. Not fully accepted by any of the factions jockeying for control of the gold-rich Saskatchewan frontier, Thomas must weave his way through the fortune seekers pouring into the territory, bellicose First Peoples, and the formidable landscape itself.

Pursued by a rival tribe determined to kill Thomas and extinguish the remains of his half-breed Gros Ventre family, Thomas enlists the help of his Uncle Black Feather to realize his father’s dream of homesteading the wilderness. At the Hudson’s Bay Company, the pair finds themselves embroiled in a frontier war between First Peoples and Europeans over how much civilization will take hold in the modernizing dominion.

With the help of new-found allies, mountain guide Versailles, his former slave Pierre, and a pair of rebellious Ojibwa sisters, Thomas and Black Feather fight their way back to their families along the bank of the North Saskatchewan River to begin rebuilding their lives. Along the way, Thomas must extricate himself from a love triangle that threatens to ignite another Indian war and decide whether to cast his lot with Europeans or First Peoples.


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Sample Chapters

Hello, World!

44a6a4ead1c67a92cfbfae8cfa23d1ebb529f0239b02f885b3pimgpsh_fullsize_distrLife on the farm entails a lot of death, but for once, new life visited the Cunha homestead this week. Even if my family were to go the vegetarian route and only keep animals for what they produce, they will eventually die. I’m still young enough that I will outlive all the animals I own, and as their steward, one of my responsibilities is to minimize suffering at the end of life.

Having said that, we are ruthless in application of Rule #3: Those that don’t produce have no place. My farm is neither a petting zoo nor an animal retirement community. References to livestock riding the bullet train to freezer camp are gallows humor because I don’t take pleasure in killing. It’s necessary to eating animal flesh, controlling costs, and ending suffering.

Even the times I’ve screwed up dispatching an animal were far less gruesome and prolonged than the average take-down of prey by a predator in nature.

Mrs. Cunha and I have been kicking around the idea of purchasing an incubator for about a year, and spent most of the summer on the verge of taking the plunge. The option of producing a batch of chicks whenever it was convenient for us was attractive, as was having control over the pace and timing of reproduction. Depending on how fancy we wanted to get, the cost wasn’t terrible, but the prospect of adding one more chore to the list kept us holding out for a hen to go broody.

539a00524f9ee110005cf75710f4a781f896eb630a60411a0cpimgpsh_fullsize_distrTime always seems to be the resource of which we have the least. The chickens look to have a lot of time on their hands. Their job is pretty low stress and low skilled. Maybe that’s why they don’t qualify for minimum wage.

I don’t know how industrious your chickens are, but mine make Department of Motor Vehicle employees look like tornadoes of ambition. The dumb clucks in my flock don’t even have hobbies. They just sort of mill about like teenagers at a school dance; moody, self-absorbed, and convinced nobody likes them.

Well, they’re right. The teenagers, I mean. They might be more likable, if they crapped out eggs, but then they’d want a trophy for it.

Fully understanding that a broody hen stops laying, the trade off a dozen or so eggs during a gestation cycle of approximately twenty-one days sounded like a fair trade, both in terms of unrealized ova and, especially, unexpended effort on our part.

Any time the animals do their thing without human intervention is a bonus in my book, since it’s less work for us.

My first rooster, John Wayne, was a cock apostle. Prior to him, I wasn’t keen on having one around, but lack of a cock-of-the-walk caused my chicken coop to have the same dynamics as a women’s prison. There was incessant gossipy chatter, squabbling as cliques emerged and dissolved, and a big bull-dyke hen named Henrietta strutting around with a chain hanging off her wallet pressuring the other hens into lesbian relations.

I’m not kidding. I saw her mounting the other hens. She is also suspected of radicalizing the flock into mounting the Chicken Uprising of 2015.

1389d74399e7d94e12031c4ee0ee0b75ad0ca2dce77429e3bepimgpsh_fullsize_distrAll that silliness ended when John Wayne stepped out of the carrier he was delivered in. By sundown the same day, peace and order were established in the flock. When I went to close up the coop that night, I found tranquility, instead of the usual bedlam.

John Wayne sat in the middle of a perch, Henrietta nuzzled up submissively at his side, surrounded by all the other girls for warmth and protection. The only head that raised when I walked in for the nightly headcount was his, and I swear he winked at me.

I’ve been a fan of roosters ever since. Feel free to insert your dirty joke here. I know how chicken people are.

I go so far as to always have an understudy rooster, since you never know when a coup in the coop might become necessary.

The loss of John Wayne was a blow to the flock, but we were in luck, as his previous owner, a classmate of my oldest daughter, had an incubator full of eggs fertilized by his brother. It wasn’t exactly genetic cloning, but it was the best shot we had at a replacement that might be close. Of course, there were no guarantees, but considering the emphasis on bloodline that each animal breed association has, we figured our odds were decent.

This young lady, who is the most responsible and reliable teenage I’ve ever met, was beside herself when she lost the entire batch by forgetting to plug the incubator back in after some maintenance. Another blow came when informed that John Wayne’s brother was, also, no longer among the clucking and the last in his line.

16be5ebcb8e5d6364be5ea3a8d05aca64a18ab9a05e6accd4cpimgpsh_fullsize_distrMy current rooster lacks a name. He’s a big, gangly thing, and, for quite some time, I suspected he might have been a turkey. He’s nowhere near as handsome as either of the predecessors, but hasn’t displayed any of the behavior that earned Clint his coup d’état. This goofy looking rooster has done something neither of the other two managed to pull off.

We have new chickens on the farm.

This isn’t the first bringing forth of life on the Cunha homestead, but it’s the first of the feathered variety. I’m excited. My assumption is all five will reach maturity. At which point, we will have to determine how many of each sex we have and begin the decision making process of who stays, who goes, and who gets replaced.

It’s a never-ending cycle of deciding how to maximize available resources to reach goals, and a big part of the homesteading mindset.

But for the moment, I’m basking in the joy of new life and little, feathered puffballs.


3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.


Send in the Clowns

clowns1This week’s clown sighting in the woods behind my children’s grammar school caused a panic induced, district-wide lock-down and a roaming mob of concerned, armed parents, supported by local law enforcement authorities, to scour the county searching for a man in clown makeup.

Reports from witnesses told of the clown doing everything from peeking out from behind a tree, to offering children fee candy from a nondescript, windowless van, to ritually sacrificing a puppy.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.

The only leg-pull in the above description is the exact location. As far as I know, there have been no clown sightings in my end of the Tennessee Valley, but with the scary clown hysteria sweeping the country, I expect to be recruited into an insane clown posse any day.

Hopefully, I won’t go insane in the membrane.

I’ve long held the opinion that eyewitness accounts are the least reliable form of evidence. This is especially true when the witness is also the victim. Pain, adrenaline, shock, and emotional stress screw up perception and the mind’s ability to accurately recall the most basic of details.

Disregard the mountains of research that clearly demonstrate everybody sucks at accurate detail recollection in stressful situations. Ask your favorite cop how often a witness’s description of anything is accurate.

It’s not that they’re lying. They’re just plain wrong.

We labor under a cultural assumption that children are accurate relaters of information and possess astute observational powers. It’s as if we believe children are born with clairvoyance that diminishes as they approach majority.

That’s hogwash. Children are sneaky, devious liars who relish opportunities to embarrass adults by innocently blurting out gems such as, “My baby brother was an accident” or “Mommy and Daddy are buying me a pony for Christmas. They’re hiding all the leather tack gear in the closet.”

You’ll get a pony the day I get peace in this house.

Children are not allowed to make important decisions in their lives precisely because they lack experience, the ability to accurately discern, and a wider contextual understating of the world. In short, they’re ignorant of most things, and to take what they say at face value, without rigorous scrutiny, corroborating testimony, and physical evidence, is parental foolishness.

Now, that I think about it, we should probably disregard the vast majority of what children say because it’s mostly whining. Entertaining their petty grievances and indulging their fantasies only encourages them in their neuroses. Try telling my grandfather there was a clown lurking in the woods. You’d be lucky to only be laughed at. More likely, the response would be, “Then don’t go near it, stupid.”

clowns4Harsh? Perhaps, but still sublime. Somewhere along the line, we decided the only letter’s that should not be appended to a gentleman’s name on his calling card are M, A, and N.

Post-secondary education produces exactly the opposite of what it claims. Today, college only makes people dumber. The same founts of idiocy that have given society safe spaces and trigger warnings, also turn out educators, administrators, and civic officials who will shut down an entire school district on a child’s say so.

Doesn’t anybody besides me remember the McMartin preschool case and how many lives were ruined by false testimony from children?

How many IQ points are sacrificed with each tuition check written?

The creepy clown craze has grown from a few isolated instances of idiots to a full-blown hysteria. Schools are prohibiting clown masks during Halloween. Various local police are arresting people in clown costumes for disturbing the peace, inciting public disorder, or whatever catch-all law their jurisdiction uses to deal with low-grade troublemakers.

Most of the arrests are of teenagers getting their kicks scaring younger kids. It’s deplorable behavior, but pretty much what I’d expect from a teenage boy. Whom I really feel for are the honest-to-goodness, no-kidding, professional clowns, who spend years perfecting their craft, only to see their bookings evaporate. That’s the real crime, destroying someone’s livelihood.

If your age ends in “teen,” it’s an open question as to whether you should be counted as a human being or not.

According to spokesfool Josh Earnest, the White House has consulted with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security about how to handle creepy clowns.

Holy crap. Dig up J. Edgar Hoover because this just became a federal case right up there in magnitude with bank robbery, human traffickers, underage prostitution, child pornography rings, and ISIS trying to cut our heads off.

Since when are assholes in greasepaint such a big problem?

clowns2A quick look around the internet reveals the growing counter-hysteria of videos depicting what can be classified as just deserts for clowns behaving badly. These videos show what I would imagine is a non-professional clown who approaches someone going about his day and behaving in one of those disorderly manners that would earn them arrest by a policeman. Basically, being a jackass.

The person or persons approached, either out of what seems genuine fear or simply not being in a mood to be screwed with, knocks the tar out of the clown.

And I can’t say as I blame them. Most people have no desire to be drawn into someone else’s silliness. If you’re stupid enough to go around antagonizing strangers, don’t be surprised when they express their displeasure strongly.

If you’re gonna be dumb, it helps to be tough.

Here is my wild-assed theory: This whole creepy clown hysteria is a viral marketing campaign spun out of control.

My first thought was the campaign was connected to Stephen King’s IT movie adaptation. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and television mini-series. However, with a release date of September 2017, the timing seems off. Hysterical clown sightings for nearly a year seems to be too long to ask to hold the public’s attention.

Besides, both Stephen King and the film’s distributor, New Line Cinema, are established names with enough budget for a traditional marketing campaign and stand to lose far more than they gain when it foreseeably spins out of control the way it has.

clowns6Just like Youtube, Coca-Cola, and Apple, Stephen Kind and New Line Cinema are such dominant players in their fields with such broad general appeal that avoiding alienation of a segment of society is more important that thrilling and impressing a tiny target demographic; i.e., horror movie fans.

Rob Zombie, on the other hand, is a better candidate for wild accusations. His latest movie, 31, is clown-centric and was released September 16th of this year.

Hummmmmm. Law enforcement types call these things “clues.”

clowns5A well-known, but far from household name, movie maker releases a horror movie set in a circus, chock-full-o’-clowns, right at the same time dumbasses in clown costumes begin making benign appearances standing near trees and skittish, overprotective parents hit the panic button, setting off a national frenzy that makes it to the White House and much of the English-speaking world.

Well played, Rob Zombie. Well played.

Starting November first, bearded men in buckskins and Indians wearing loincloths will begin making public appearances to promote my book, L’homme Theroux and generate pre-release interest in Little Crow’s War, the next installment in the Coureur des Bois series.

What the hell. It worked for that other guy.




3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

It’s a Snake Eat Snake World

snake3For every animal farmers and homesteaders bring onto their land, there is at least one other uninvited critter that comes along for the free ride. Most livestock are installed on the homestead because they taste delicious, with a little preparation, or because they produce something else that is just as tasty.

As an example, chickens fill both roles. Who doesn’t like chicken or eggs? Especially, the sort from my farm. Except for the occasional miscreant who meets an untimely end, my chickens have a fairly plush gig. It includes a run with more square footage than the first house I lived in, a muscular lab who hasn’t figured out that hens are made entirely of chicken meat to pull security detail, and regular access to a hay field, where they can scratch the soil and eat bugs until their hearts are content.

If you don’t have a specific purpose on the farm, don’t be surprised when you are what’s for dinner.

In my youth, I had a pet ball python that, despite all reasonable efforts to keep him contained, would escape every now and again to make off for warm, secluded areas of the house.

There is something hardwired into the human mind to avoid slithery sorts of animals because, even for the owner of a snake, opening a closet door to find Monty the Python draped over and curled around a closet rod will give you a start.

I knew I owned a snake. I knew he wasn’t in his glass house when I looked five minutes ago. It’s not unreasonable to think the snake may be hiding somewhere in the house, but I still nearly wet my pants every time.

It’s like those posts on Facebook of a young Victorian lady that suddenly screams and transforms into a ghoul.

One of the horse stalls in my barn is converted into a feed storage closet. Somebody goes in and out of there at least twice a day, so habits develop and expectations emerge because nothing bad has ever happened entering it. For example, I expect to waltz into the feed locker at night and NOT NEARLY STEP ON A FREAKING SNAKE!

Luckily for me, the little fella (or little lady. I didn’t check) had managed to entangle himself in the flap end of a roll of bird netting we had leaned in the corner.

After Mrs. Cunha came running at my shrieking like a little girl, I felt confident enough in my snake wrangling skills to move the whole circus outside. Roll of bird netting in one hand, the safe end of the snake in the other, and about four feet of well-muscled, writhing garden hose in between, I waddled out of the barn with Mrs. Cunha following close behind with a flashlight and a hatchet.

The tree farm on the other side of the road that borders my place seemed like an excellent location to let this snake go be a snake. I wasn’t sure how to free him from the net, but figured, if I couldn’t shake him lose, I’d leave the netting there and let him sort it out.

I’ve seen videos of people bitten by critters while trying to release them from a trap, so I assume trapped animals are ingrates.

Zeus, sensing excitement, came hauling dog-butt from around the corner of the barn, where I assume he was sniffin’ and peein’, to join in. He would have made an excellent member of La Costa Nostra because despite extensive questioning after the fact, Zeus remained mum as to whether his intent was to protect his territory or play tag.

Either way, I now had the added difficulty and stress of trying to keep the dog and this snake apart from each other. For her part, Mrs. Cunha did an excellent job of keeping the flashlight beam trained on the business end of this serpent, so I could keep some degree of control on the situation. I was praying the whole way that the snake didn’t work its head free and take a chunk out of me.

I don’t recall saying, Honey, watch this! but that’s about how things turned out. The snake freed his head and, being that I was holding on to its tail, swung towards me and the dog. That’s the moment things got real, as the kids say.

My regular readers should know by now what Rule #2 is on the Cunha Homestead.

In the heat of a moment, whether it’s a gunfight or pushing Helen Keller out of the path of a runaway horseless carriage, dealing decisively with the threat takes precedence over everything else. Sorry, Mr. Snake. I don’t enjoy killing. Under different circumstances, like passing through on your way somewhere else, I would have been largely indifferent to your existence.

Curious at to the exact form the Devil had taken to invade my garden, I turned to my good friend Google. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a snake nerd. Such a person is called a herpetologist and their field of study is called herpetology. They are quite informative people.

snake1Turns out the snake we had just evicted from the barn was an eastern black kingsnake; which have the rather interesting propensity to eat rattlesnakes. Who knew? But like any self-respecting reptile of the same proportions, eastern black kingsnakes eat mice and chicken eggs, too. I suspect they would also eat a chick, if given the chance.

This is an interesting conundrum that never crossed my mind prior to owning a farm. To my mind, animals are in either the “good” or “bad” category. This “mixed bag” status forces me to think, and I’m not such a big fan of having to think. Mostly, because I’m American.

If I wanted to deal in nuance, I’d be a Liberal.

After considering the duality of the situation, I began to wonder what the sacrifice of eggs would be versus the benefit of reduced rattlesnakes. They eat eggs, too. Is it really a wash in terms of lost eggs, and the deciding factor has more to do with avoiding inadvertent viper bites? With a fairly young child and her big, goofy lab running around the joint, the thought of someone receiving a dose of snake venom frightens me.

It wouldn’t likely be a fatal event, but the desire to protect my children, particularly the ones of the girl persuasion, increases as the child’s age decreases.

Call me a hetro-normative dinosaur who clings to misogynistic values of the patriarchy, if you like, but girls rate more protecting from life’s traumas. The boys would consider being snake bitten as a badge of honor and show off the scars to anyone willing to see them. I’d probably do the same. Boy and girls are just different from each other.

Considering their relative sizes and how often most snakes eat, how many rattlesnakes can an eastern black kingsnake eat, anyway? For all I know, rattlesnakes leave the area because they are terrified of the eastern black kingsnake’s reputation; like in Jim Croce’s warning to stay clear of the south side of Chicago because of Leroy Brown.

So, yet again, I find myself short of answers and turning to my readers for advice. What are your experiences of kingsnakes and the general trade-offs of beneficial outside wildlife that come with a cost to farm output?




3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

Protect Your Hay Investment

7ccc760f6b117192a424a4b7f45b4ed69bfa1b21b8555f0233pimgpsh_fullsize_distrWhether you grow your own or purchase, proper hay storage is a critical homestead skill to possess. The longer your winters, the more important hay storage becomes to the survival of your animals and the homestead itself.

This past week, we put up fourteen hundred bales of fescue at my place. Combined with the eight hundred bales from the first cut earlier this summer, my math calculates the yield at 2.1 tons per acre. Talking with my County Extension Agent, this is at the low end of the “normal” range in my area, but not a complete disaster, given that it has been a bad year for hay with everyone down about thirty percent.

Considering I haven’t done anything to the field, aside from admire it and daydream a bit, I’m reasonably happy for a first harvest.

From talking to neighbors and the previous owner, it’s been some time since the field had any TLC, so I’ve kept my expectations modest.

Mrs. Cunha and I bought the farm without benefit of owning a tractor or haying equipment. Since we didn’t have money for both, and a rented house with a yard full of idle farm machinery didn’t make a lot of sense, we figured the absolute worst case scenario would be that the field was left fallow for a couple of years, while we saved our pennies.

As it turned out, the solution was something of a middle ground that would not have been possible without the help of my neighbors. Through a combination of work ethic, industriousness, and shares of the harvest, we managed two cuttings. The understandable downside is my field is mowed last. As a result, the second cut had begun to sour in the field and there likely won’t be enough growing time for a third cut this season.

Considering we expected the field to be a total loss this year, we’re thrilled.

0610161332Even after parceling out shares and Mrs. Cunha selling some of the hay with her brilliant idea to give a discount to buyers who pick theirs up out of the field, I am still up to my ass in hay. Each nook and cranny of every available structure is stacked to the rafters and then some. In a way, I’m glad there probably won’t be a third cut because the only option left for storage is to pull the cars out of the garage and stack bales in there, too.

Let my worst problem in life be that I have more resources than I know what to do with.

Besides the obvious solution that I need more and bigger animals to chew their way through my problem of awaiting the near certain winter hay shortage, maintaining the quality of the fodder becomes the issue.

Hay, and any other crop, begins to degrade the moment it is separated from the ground. From there, the race to the consumer begins. For products with a longer timeline to consumption, the battle for preservation involves more preparation than it does rushing down the road to the farmer’s market.

For hay, the goal is to maintain as much nutritional quality for as long as possible. We square bale for several reasons; lack of and access to equipment, availability for suitable storage space, our farm needs, and local market demands. Round bales don’t work for our needs and goals, but if you find them effective, don’t change what works for you.

How ever you get you hay, both bale types have the same storage requirements to maintain them at the highest nutritional level possible. To that end, there are basic steps to preserving hay and minimizing waste:

Get it inside

Gigantic rolls of hay sitting in a field are a common sight during the summer in my area, but with all the summer rain we get, they tend to form a hard, protective crust around the outside. Kind of like the shell of an M&M, but proportionally thicker. That shell is also wasted hay of between four and twenty percent, according to the Mississippi State Extension.

2deb267d8d5a921ce67b315d36bae2a3f11c98412303b6c8fbpimgpsh_fullsize_distrIf you’re set on round bales, I recommend you read their Minimizing Losses in Hay Storage and Feeding. It’s the best sixteen pages of knowledge I’ve read recently. It’s also free, so that’s a bonus.

Whether you’re in the square or round camp, all hay benefits from being taken in out of the elements. Hay needs air circulation, but exposure to wind, moisture, and sunlight diminishes nutritional quality rapidly. The bale spoils from the outside toward the center and eventually reduces to an inedible block. Even round bales will degrade to the point where livestock will refuse all but the very center.

UV rays, moisture, and wind will eventually erode the pyramids of Egypt to nothing. Hay is far less durable than limestone.

Keep it dry

Rainfall is not the only source of moisture. Runoff, leaky barn roofs, water dripping from trees, and even condensation forming inside a structure can be sources of moisture that can either prevent hay from drying in the first place or promote mold and rot.

Even if you don’t have a traditional barn or some sort of structure in which to store your hay, anything is usually better than nothing.

At a minimum, rig up a tarp to keep at least most of the sunlight and moisture off it. If you’re absolutely broke or completely out of options, stack the bales tight with some sort of tall post in the center and drape one of those cheap blue tarps over it like a circus tent.

I can’t guarantee how well it will work, but it beats doing nothing and watching money turn into grey, inedible scabs. And for Pete’s sake, don’t let sit in water.

Let it breathe

Even though hay dries in the field before baling, there is still some drying that occurs after. It generally takes about one to three weeks for the moisture content to stabilize. For that to happen, air needs to circulate around, and to a lesser extent, through the bale.

Hay bales should be kept off the ground. Until we ran out of them, we laid down old tires left in the woods to keep our hay bales off the ground. We then switched to wooden pallets we scored from the co-op, Tractor Supply, and anywhere else we could mooch a few free ones.

5006289f62d46f695ce350b6c6e3117bc93f7d32f6515cb80bpimgpsh_fullsize_distrOnce we drank those wells dry, we had to come up with something else. The brilliant Mrs. Cunha jury rigged pallets from my stash of 2x4s in the garage. Beautiful, creative, and ingenious; I married way above my pay grade.

This is where things get interesting. And by “interesting,” I mean “dangerous.” And by “dangerous,” I mean “you accidentally burn down your barn.”

The tendency is to pack as much hay into the barn as possible because space is always in short supply. I’m as guilty as anyone, but there is risk involved. During the one to three week curing period, hay bales give off heat. Packed together in a big enough mass, they sometimes give off enough heat to set the hay on fire.

I can’t quantify the risk. Although, I imagine my insurance agent can and has. Old Timers talk about hay catching fire like it happens every week during summer, but I don’t see nearly enough burned down hay barns to make me think it’s any more likely than an accidental pregnancy.

Then again, I have six kids. Your mileage may vary.

Watch for mold, rot, and critters

Of the three, critters are probably the most fun to deal with. Mrs. Cunha isn’t the sort of woman to jump at the sight of vermin, but she and I have been known to mount an afternoon pellet rifle safari. Otherwise, we let the barn cat prowl around and leave us the occasional gift on the door mat. She must think we’re terrible hunters and wants to make sure we eat. Either that, or it’s tribute.

Definitely, get a couple of barn cats.

a090dd9125771308d722c0fbd05d9be87d29f7777471ba9962pimgpsh_fullsize_distrMold and rot aren’t as exciting to chase down. They just kind of lurk, but can be more damaging. Both can set in from the outside, which makes it easier to find, but mold, in particular, will grow and spread on the interior of a hay stack.

Keeps your eyes open, inspect your hay, and dig into the hard-to-reach parts every once in a while. Quite, unfrequented areas of your storage space are likely locations for birds, coons, and possums to take up residence. Spot checks won’t magically guarantee wildlife squatters won’t show up, but will help in catching them early, so you can evict them or take measures to discourage them from returning.

That’s Rule #2 on the Cunha farm. Go be wildlife somewhere else, because if you take from me, I will most assuredly take from you.

There is loads more to hay and farming that I don’t know. I freely admit that, but there are resources available. These are a few I have found helpful and informative. The best part is they are delivered straight to you, in your pajamas, no less, through the magic of the internet:

Storage of Small Square Bales by John Worley, Associate Professor, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension

Square Bales Need TLC by Angus Beef Bulletin

Tips on Hay Storage by Dwain Meyer, PhD, North Dakota State University and Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota

Selecting and Storing Horse Hay by Krishona Martinson, PhD and Paul Peterson, PhD, University of Minnesota Extension

Sizing and Siting Hay Barns by University of Missouri Extension

Minimizing Losses in Hay Storage and Feeding by Mississippi State University Extension

Making the Best of a Bad Situation – Storing Large Round Hay Bales Outside by University of Florida IFAS Extension




3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

Beelzebub the Social Justice Warrior

satanic-templeThe Satanic Temple has established international headquarters in a 130-year-old Victorian house on Bridge Street in Massachusetts that looks more like a bed-and-breakfast than a temple to the Prince of Darkness.

Zoned as an art gallery, the Satanic Temple building will be open to the public with art installations, lectures, and film screenings.

My dearest hope is these rather vanilla offerings will be spiced up with the occasional virgin sacrifice, just to enhance their street cred.

What will most certainly occur is the headquarters will become the permanent home of a nine-foot-tall statue of Baphomet, cast in bronze and weighing in at about a ton. This two thousand pound alloy Satyr is not likely to be moved again, as the Satanic Temple is waiting for Oklahoma City to accept the idol as the “quid” to the “pro quo” of getting the ACLU to drop their lawsuit demanding removal of a statue of the Ten Commandments in front of the State Legislature building.

Exactly what pull the Satanic Temple has with the ACLU isn’t clear, but that’s the offer listed on their website.

Despite a mission statement that includes the group’s commitment to “embrace practical common sense and justice,” the practical common sense idea that the laws of the United States, and all of the Western world, are based on the Ten Commandments escapes comment in their wider philosophy. Whether you believe Moses brought them down from the mountain or they are the product of a Bronze Age Jew’s peyote hallucination, the Ten Commandments as a basis for law are extant.

When the Islamists take over and impose Sharia law, they will replace the Ten Commandments statue with one of the Koran, or whatever they base their lunacy on.

For all the convoluted logic of why they are kinda, sorta are a bonafide church and really a religion, but not in the way we unenlightened, Christ cultists understand it, these lightweight Lucifer lovers are just another flavor of pedantic Social Justice Warriors.

timthumb3This is the same group that created the After School Satan program as an attention grabbing device to promote their real religion; the Church of Science. The Satanic Temple website is a litany of pabulum pushed by Social Justice Warriors and intellectuals who are too smart to be fooled into having faith in anything not springing from a laboratory.

If the Satanic Temple at least worshiped Satan, they might be worth more serious consideration, but from what I can gather, the organization lines up firmly on the left. It’s platform is pro-choice, anti-religion, feminist,…you get the idea.

They are the average Hillary supporter with a better mascot.

What ever happened to the apolitical Satanists? Guys like Anton LaVey, who were into the Devil for the naked women and dissident shock value of carving pentagrams into school desks with a protractor. Those are the right reasons to wear all black in the summer.

I never saw any evidence that my parents were Satanists, but rummaging through the family’s Encyclopedia Britannica, a 1969 newspaper clipping from the San Francisco Examiner dropped out from between the pages. The caption read something along the lines “Satanist Minister Anton LaVey marries…” and mentions names of participants I neither know nor remember. When queried, my parents said the couple depicted were friends of theirs from when my dad was stationed at Treasure Island in the Navy and they lived in San Francisco. Included in the explanation, was an entirely too casual mention that not only did they attend the ceremony, but my dad was the cameraman because outsiders weren’t allowed into the temple where the wedding took place.

Wait a second. My parents bought the house where I grew up in 1972 and married in 1966. They lived in San Francisco between those two dates and had a pair of friends married by arguably the most famous Satanist in the world. Clearly, they were close enough friends to warrant tucking the memento away for twenty years.

And what’s this jazz about outsiders not being allowed into the ceremony?

Did my parents flirt with the occult? I always suspected they liked to party, but I never thought it might extend to summoning the Devil.

My running joke about being a writer is that I’m a profession liar. Often, Mrs. Cunha stops me mid-sentence to ask if I’m giving an accurate recounting of events or setting up a punchline. My dad wasn’t a writer, but he did have the ability to lay believable groundwork for a zinger. It’s a skill he passed on to both me and my brother Jake.

anton_lavey_photoHowever, two decades to set up a practical joke for children not even conceived stretches the reasonable bounds of hijinx. Bravo, if my dad had that sort of patience and forethought, but I doubt it. That’s just too long to sit on a gag.

If you’ve never been, you might not realize just how small San Francisco actually is. It’s less than fifty square miles and, at the time, had about three-quarters of a million people crammed into it.

The place is very much like a small town in that you run into friends often and can’t avoid your enemies.

The Satanic Temple website goes to pains in explaining how they are different and distinct from LaVey Satanism. Looking around at some other Satanist organizations, they do, too. For all the proclaimed differences, Anton LaVey’s First Church of Satan is the yardstick against which the rest of the Satyr worshipers measure themselves.

I also get the sense, after researching his background and recalling the occasional local television appearances, Anton LaVey was a bit of jackass. Even with the benefit of Black Masses featuring nude young women rebelling against their parents, I can imagine his shtick got old pretty fast. My parents having a connection, however tenuous and tangential, to the Granddaddy of Devil worship, explains an awful lot.

The modern breakaway worshipers of the Fallen Angel have eschewed the “sex, drugs, and heavy metal” of old school Azazel for a more thoughtful, socially conscious Mephistopheles, who provides safe spaces and trigger warnings.

If the Satanic Temple was cheese, it would be Brie; soft, bland, and palatable to everyone.

Maybe it’s all an elaborate ruse? The Devil is known to be a trickster, and what better way to hide than to present as a Social Justice Warrior?

It all makes sense, now.




3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

Thank God, I’m a Loser

winloss1Losses in life tend to outnumber the wins. Hopefully, the big defeats are few and widely separated, but the little losses, the tiny humiliations and minor ignominies, come along in a steady patter. They are what Hamlet meant when he talked about suffering the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune.

The huge victories like a Powerball jackpot or a Super Bowl championship are elusive things that only happen to other people. The rest of us rednecks, who make up the unwashed masses, have to dial back our expectations and settle for our most jubilant moments to be landing a new job or the birth of a child.

Life is an eighty year long series of kicks in the nuts. The only variable is how long you live.

That bar may have to be set even lower in the future. It won’t be too long before the rest of my children have left the nest, and as ornery as I’ve grown, there aren’t too many employers willing to keep me around for very long. Animal husbandry-related births and discovering the chicken coop wasn’t blown down by a windstorm will have to suffice as moments of triumph from here on out.

I’m willing to take small victories wherever I can. Maybe it’s a function of growing older.

My youngest son has pestered his mother and I to let him play football for the past several years. Our reluctance had nothing to do with the prospect of physical injury to the lad. If I were to tell the truth for a change, the twerp could use a good knocking around by someone not related to him.

Our sticking point was the cost involved just to indulge a teenager’s fantasy of O.J. Simpson touchdowns and Mark Gastineau sacks. My wife and I know the reality more closely resembles a rendition of The Miracle Worker with Helen Keller as captain and the remainder of the squad made up of her less coordinated clones.

I try not to pick on the mentally handicapped, but if the protective helmet fits, I’m gonna point you toward the short bus.

Now that he attends a school with a football team, complete with issued equipment, a coach, and a field to play on, Mrs. Cunha and I relented to Carlos, Jr.’s pleas to become a gridiron warrior.

They are currently sitting on a two and two record, but I’d prefer to see them closer to zero and four.

The desire to see my son lose has nothing to do with my win record in school sports. I had one season each of basketball, football, rugby, and track, where I threw shot put and discus. We went undefeated in rugby, broke even in basketball, and had exactly one win in football.

In a school so small that we only had a varsity track team, and still had trouble mustering enough runners for relay events, I came in dead last in two events every single meet. Each Friday for four months, I had my ass handed to me by kids who had their throwing technique down far better than I did.

My parents, bless their hearts, would ask how I did after every meet. I don’t think they meant to poke at fresh wounds, but I still felt like a loser having to admit defeat, yet again.

Losing might suck, but winning only makes you suck more.

Me and defeat are old drinking buddies. We’ve spent so much time in each other’s company, I’m surprised we’re not engaged. I’ve failed so often and consistently, I plan on failure and am surprised when things don’t go sideways.

I caught the tread of my boot on a door threshold about a week ago and took a tumble down a four-inch step. Even in my creeping middle age, my body still remembers how to take a fall.

Despite tumbling headlong onto cement, I sustained only a bruised toe and a thumb-size scrape on my elbow. The to-go container I was carrying at the time didn’t even pop open. I kept that sucker up out of harm’s way like an infantryman holding his rifle aloft while fording a river.

The little wins in life are the sweetest.

There’s another point to this story of my clumsiness; expect to fail. Then get up and keep moving.

Some of my more recent failures include:

These are only a few of my screw-ups that come to mind from the past year or so, and don’t even touch on the curve balls life throws just because it can. Luckily for me, I’m such an experienced loser that I hardly notice anymore. My kids, on the other hand, could use a little more practice; especially, my youngest son.

Maybe it was the years of holding back while playing board games, so as to not crush their little spirits. Perhaps, I should have let them fall out of a few more trees. God knows, nearly being trampled to death by a milk cow was a defining moment in my young life.

However, a trip to the Emergency Room is a lot more expensive than it was thirty years ago. I suspect my children would be whisked off by Child Protective Services, if they showed up to the Emergency Room as frequently as my brother and I did.

Most families don’t know the Emergency Room nurses well enough to include them on the mailing list for the family Christmas newsletter.

Winning is a great feeling, but it’s not very instructive, in the grand scheme of things. Thinking about it, winning doesn’t even teach how to be a “good winner.” If it did, winning coaches wouldn’t have to remind their little turds to be magnanimous during the post-game high-fives and “good game” lineup.

I spent this summer working Carlos, Jr. like a rented mule. Not only could he not maintain pace with a fat, old man, but he bitched and moaned the whole time. There’s only so much whining about the uselessness of homestead skills I can stand before giving in to the urge to hit him with a shovel. Apparently, sunrise to sunset does not match up with a teenager’s circadian rhythm.

The fatal flaw of teenagers is their tendency to believe in skills and abilities they don’t possess.

Carlos, Jr. showed up to football practice full of more hubris than most fourteen-year-olds. I’ll admit the kid has speed, but that’s about the only natural talent the boy’s got. As near as I can tell, he’s not even in the top half of the team, on an individual skill basis. He also seems to think it’s everyone else’s job to make him shine.

After months and months of disabusing the boy of his notion that wealth and celebrity are a mere bus ride to Hollywood away, the new route to riches and glory is paved with professional sports.

My son is the best player on the team. Just ask, and he’ll tell you so.

Lacking a survey of the team, I can’t be certain, but something tells me they disagree with the boy’s self-assessment. I know a cheap shot and an intentionally missed block when I see one, and so do the coach and Mrs. Cunha, but some lessons can only be taught by a child’s peers.

Hopefully, each bruise and slam into the turf is another of life’s little losses that teaches him how to win with some grace. The cumulative weight of all these little losses has yet to break the ice of understanding, but I’m hopeful. A losing season would hurry that process along.

After two losses in a row, my son became dejected and considered quitting because his talents weren’t employed effectively.

Jesus Christ. It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it?

Judging by his black eye and a bruise pattern that reminds me of a cheetah, I think his reluctance to continue has more to do with the unofficial peer learning process than it does resource mismanagement by the coach.

Mrs. Cunha and I probably took a little more pleasure than we should have when his face dropped at being told he was going to finish out the season. It drooped even farther when informed we expected him to play through high school, as well.

It’s the little losses in life that are most instructive.




3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

Advertiser Friendly Censorship

youtube4The free flow of information from Youtube content providers might be coming to an end; only partly, due to political correctness, but mainly due to the greed of all participants.

Just ahead of the long Labor Day weekend, Youtube began informing content providers that specific videos they have uploaded were demonetized because they violate the Youtube Terms of Service agreement. If the term “demonetization” doesn’t mean anything to you, allow me to explain by way of defining the opposite.

“Monetization” is the Holy Grail of all internet content producers.

It’s a badge of success for having the ability to generate a reasonably large amount of internet traffic. The content producer’s thoughts and ideas have a broad reach and enough resonance with an audience that people are willing to come back for more.

And a little cash in the producer’s pocket doesn’t hurt, either. As a matter of fact, some folks on Youtube manage to make a living from the cut of advertising dollars their content garners. It’s good work, if you can get it, but posting videos of a buddy and me kicking each other in the nuts seems like a weird way to make a buck.

Besides, my mind wanders into weird places and my vocabulary is entirely too colorful for polite company. Everyone is probably better off that I stick to the written word, where opportunities to edit and rephrase abound. Freedom of speech is great, but getting off a watch-list is a huge pain the ass that I’d rather not deal with.

Writers don’t often get in hot water for what they write. They get in trouble for what they say in interviews.

Luckily for me, I never jumped onto the Youtube bandwagon. I’m a homesteader with a writing problem. Despite owning a picturesque farm and possessing ruggedly handsome good looks, the content I produce doesn’t lend itself well to video. Writing weekly articles, producing novels, making sure the farm doesn’t go to hell, and holding down a regular job keep me busy enough that the thought of plastering my mug all over Youtube blathering on about God-knows-what-all makes me want to curl up into a ball with a bottle of single-malt and a bucket of ice.

youtube3Despite the foot stomping and cries of “censorship” from content providers, there hasn’t been a change in the Youtube Terms of Service. Rather, it’s a combination of Youtube informing content providers that the rules are being enforced and the hubris of the content providers themselves.

 In a similar dilemma, I’m giving serious consideration to abandoning Twitter entirely because I don’t see the return on effort expended as worth it.

Every piece of media produced, whether it be a movie, book, video, novel, article, etc., requires resources to both produce and deliver. Those of us silly enough to believe the things we produce have value to people outside our immediate circle of family and friends undertake the endeavors with varying levels of belief strangers will find out products sufficiently valuable that they will be compelled to reach into their wallets and hand over a couple of dollars.

Every writer, farmer, artist, craftsman, and storyteller since the beginning of time cherishes each laugh, gasp, ooh, and aah at what they produce. Unfortunately, those expressions of enjoyment suffer from a poor exchange rate.

Part of that springs from a generalized idea that everything on the internet should be free. No one is immune from the phenomenon. I’m just a guilty as you are.

Getting me to part with a dollar is as tough as convincing Hillary Clinton to send air cover to Benghazi.

Convincing people to unclench their fists from around their bankroll is never an easy task. Starbucks and Apple seem to have figured out that magic formula, but the vast majority of producers of ephemeral delights don’t have that sort of mojo.

The difficulty in getting people to part with their hard-earned ducketts is compounded when the product is not tangible. How exactly do you value words, sounds, and images?

The goal of radio and television has often been described as keeping the customers attention between blocks of advertisement. Youtube is no different. Neither is Facebook or WordPress (where you are very likely reading this) different. While I don’t receive monetary benefit from the ads you see at the bottom of the page, make no mistake they serve a purpose. That purpose is to cover the costs of delivering the “free” content.

Your mother was right. There is no free lunch.

Believe me when I say that I would happily take a piece of the advertising action, if I could deliver a big enough pool of readers who hang on my every word to quit my day job and concentrate of writing about homesteading full-time. Alas, I don’t.

youtube5While I pretty much suck at what I do, there is an elite strata of content producers who have managed to parlay their popularity into gainful employment. Some have attained their level of success for reasons that elude me, but ultimately, it comes down to eyeballs.

Folks who work in marketing departments probably have fancy words like “demographic reach” or some such made up term to describe the ability the convince a group of people to buy something.

With that in mind, I’m total open to saying your crappy product is the best there is or ever will be, as long as a check is included with the sample product.

Youtube is a refuge for content producers who are unable to marry into money, but are still gold-diggers at heart. Just like politics is Hollywood for the ugly, making a living on social media platforms is like a gentlemen’s club outside the gates of a Navy base.

It’s the very lowest end of a seedy industry with no real hopes of advancement, but it’s a rollicking good time while you’re there because the few rules in place aren’t really enforced.

By now, you may have asked yourself exactly why I care about any of this Youtube fiasco, since I’ve already admitted that I’m neither part of that producer community nor beneficiary of the advertising revenue stream.

Aside from envy due to my lack of success, I have a small dog in the fight. I aspire to make money using a similar model and frequently hold unpopular opinions, which in the marketplace of ideas seems to give license for all manner of personal attacks that have little to do with whatever issue is at hand.

I’ve been called a racist so often that I’ve started to believe there somewhere exists a mural of me and Nathan Bedford Forrest embracing, while David Duke stands in the background wearing a Klan robe, waving a Confederate battle flag, and curb-stomping Martin Luther King, Jr.

Youtube demonetizing videos has less to do with violating Terms of Service than it does with advertisers caring about their image. It’s tough to blame them. Advertisers are ultimately concerned with maximizing the sales of their product and won’t risk alienating any segment of the purchasing public, which is to say, anyone with a dollar in their pocket. Free speech has little to do with it.

youtube2Every time a celebrity gets in some sort of trouble, whether it’s Bill Cosby, Ryan Lochte, or R. Lee Ermy, their corporate sponsors are the first to abandon them. Advertisers are smart enough to understand that consumers aren’t very bright and seem to make sport of product boycotts for the most trivial of reasons.

How many millions of dollars in lost revenue or percentage of lost market share can the right viral boycott cost a Fortune 500 company? None are willing to find out for certain.

In an effort to make themselves attractive to the really big advertising money, Youtube is tightening its definition of “advertiser friendly.” The broad categories of what is not advertiser friendly don’t seem unreasonable:

  • Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor.
  • Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism.
  • Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language.
  • Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, and, abuse of such items.
  • Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies; even if graphic imagery is not shown.

That’s easily half of the videos on Youtube, and taken broadly, means an awful lot of people will have videos demonetized, since I’m not even sure Disney content escapes this dragnet. Despite the screams of “censorship,” Youtube isn’t abridging anyone’s free speech. It’s not like they are refusing to bake gay wedding cakes.

Content providers can still post. They just might not get paid for their trouble, which for many of them takes away the incentive. If you make your living creating Youtube videos, Youtube kinda becomes your boss and has the ability to modify the work rules. Your other option is to leave, if the conditions are intolerable. Just as with a regular job, the balancing act becomes one of how much are you willing to give up versus how much you gain.

If you have a better offer, take it. Otherwise, suck it up and adapt to the new rules of engagement, buttercup.

Ultimately, the content providers will calm down from their tantrums and realize this is a good thing. After all the teeth gnashing, content providers who want to step up to the real advertising money will figure out how to play by the Big Boy rules. Those who want to keep doing their thing as always will have to pay a price for exercising their freedom.

Nobody ever said speaking your mind was free of consequences.

Youtube is not in the business of providing a platform for content providers to spout off anything that comes to mind. They are in the business of selling as many ads as they can for the highest price possible. Any content that frustrates that goal will not be rewarded.




3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.