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A Moment With Bill

The Farmer and His Crops

I am a farmer; a tiller of the soil.  I have been all my life.  Interestingly, I did not realize my profession until just recently, sixty-four years after I was given my tools and my plot of land.  I do not feel foolish in saying that; I believe it to be true of most people I have encountered.

How can that be you ask?  How is it possible that a man, sliding down the backslope of middle age, suddenly realizes his calling in life?  Surely he must be addled; surely he must be daft beyond all hope.


"It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn." Unknown author


I was given incredibly fertile land at birth, and I was given the finest set of tools a person could ask for.  As I rested on hands and knees during those early years, I looked out over my kingdom and saw the rich, dark soil and the infinite possibilities of bountiful crops, and I smiled.  Who wouldn’t smile, knowing what I knew then, that greatness was before me, and all that was required was that I do the work and manage my land with great care and love.

I was given two hands, two feet, a mind, imagination and determination.  I was given support and love, and if there was a limit to my potential I certainly did not see it.

So I planted my seeds in the springtime of my life, and as generations had done before me, I watered them and tended to them gently.


Bitter winds blew as the years passed, loosening the soil, tearing at the roots of my young crops.  Those roots were too shallow; they had not had time to grow deep and strengthen, and the much-needed nutrients had not soaked into the young plants.

No windbreaks had been grown for protection; the elements continued to pound unmercifully, and this gardener had no answer for the onslaught.

How does one anchor the roots?  How does one stop the wind, the rain, and the snow?  The answers to those questions were in the gardening books that had been given to me by my parents at a young age, but they had been abandoned on the shelf, gathering dust, forgotten at a time when they should have been opened and memorized.

We all have such books.  We all have the wisdom of the ages awaiting us each and every day, but all too often wisdom is wasted on impetuous youth, and so it was for this farmer.  The answers were there for the taking, but I was much too busy blaming the wind, blaming the rain, blaming the snows and yes, blaming the damn soil.

To blame the nature of life is a fool’s errand, and I was a fool for sure.


We are told that patience is a virtue, but no one ever mentions that patience requires patience.  LOL  Oh, how unfair that is!

We are also told that pain is a great motivator, and so it was for this gardener.

For too many summers I went without crops.  My stomach cried out for the sustenance that was sorely lacking, and the pain, at times, was almost unbearable.  Slowly…ever so slowly…the realization came to me that the answers were not to be found in blame, nor were the answers to be found in quick-fix solutions that held no future bounty.

I needed to return to basics, to those gardening traditions and principles that had been handed down to me so many years before.  I needed to properly prepare the soil.  I needed to surround my fields with wind breaks to protect them from the harsh winds, and I needed to ask for help from neighboring gardeners when I was in search of answers.

I pulled the dusty tomes from the shelf and blew off the years of neglect.  I bought myself new gardening clothes, and I took the cotton out of my ears and stuffed it in my mouth.  I became a farming student, empty of opinion and ego, desperately willing to listen as only the dying can be.

Miraculously, or perhaps not at all so, the jet stream shifted and the warm, gentle breezes of rejuvenation blew through my garden.  The soil warmed; the roots held deep; the life-giving sunshine bathed my land in its elixir, and my crops once again rose above the surface and reached for the heavens.


The struggles ended six years ago.  I have experienced six years of bumper crops, each year better than the last.  I walk the garden this year and I can predict with certainty that 2013 will be another record-breaking year for my crops.

Do not be mistaken in thinking that the harsh winds never return, for from time to time they slice down from the north with icy breaths and piecing threats of doom.  They do not, however, pose a threat, for I have learned to trust in the soil and trust in the nutrients I have added over the past six years.

I have learned to carefully mix equal parts of compassion and love, empathy and happiness, into a fertilizer that is the equal of any potion ever concocted.  It is a growth hormone for sure, and one I have no intention of abandoning in the future.  As long as I continue to sprinkle its sweet nectar on my garden I am rewarded with priceless gifts year after year.



There are times in life when we farmers/gardeners try to complicate life too much.  We are like ships on a fog-shrouded sea.  Our sight is disrupted; our hearing confused by the sounds muffled by the fog.  A world we once felt a kinship with no longer resembles anything we have experienced, and we lose our way in the fogbank.

We never think to check our personal compass!

Our personal compass will always point to true north, but we must be willing to accept that reading as the truth.

So it was for this gardener of life.  Once I trusted in my own personal, internal compass, I was fine.  Once I trusted in the wisdom handed down to me decades ago, and quit trying to re-invent the wheel, I was fine.

The land I had been given sixty-four years ago was the best I could have ever hoped for.  The tools were forged from strong metal and would withstand the elements.  The wisdom handed down to me was timeless and true.

All that was left for me to do was to trust in that truth.

Living Simply During Simpler Times


I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
Lao Tzu 

Bill HollandA picture and a thousand words….literally!  Join me as I use pictures of the magnificent Rutledge Farm in telling a story of a simpler time here on Earth.  What I am about to tell you may sound foreign to you.  In fact, you might think it is impossible that such a place once existed.  In today’s world of modern conveniences, technological advancements and rush, rush, rush, it might be hard to grasp the following tale, but I swear it is all true.  It is a tale of how our ancestors once lived.  Perhaps by telling the tale we can gain a new appreciation for a lifestyle that has been forgotten but will never be outdated.

Rutledge Family Barn 


The barn and farmhouse were built in 1853.  Washington was a fledgling territory at that time, and citizens were few and far between, often separated by a mile or more of streams, hills and unbroken forest.

Building a barn back then was a community project.  Word would spread that there was going to be a barn-raising, in the tradition of the “old days,” and neighbors from near and far would congregate on a pre-arranged day and build the structure.  They used what they had to do the job.  Tools that were carried over the Oregon Trail; trees felled on the property, tall Douglas Fir so plentiful as to seem endless; wooden pegs to fasten the boards together in lieu of nails which were scarce.

A barn this size would take weeks to build no matter how many neighbors pitched in to help.  As tall as a three-story building and easily 150 feet in length, the barn had to be big enough to house a winter’s hay and other miscellaneous farm implements.  Ladders were built to handle the tall work, and men scrambled from beam to beam securing the cross-sections so it would stand tall and strong throughout many a Washington winter.

They ate together during the building of the barn, and oftentimes slept under the stars until the job was completed, and then one by one they would gather their tools, hop up on the wagon seat, and urge their horses back down the path that led to their farms. There they would work their own farms until the call was raised to help another neighbor.

To help another neighbor…..these pioneers sensed that they were all in it together.  Taming a wild country required teamwork.  To lose at that game meant death.  To succeed meant survival and another day of sunrise, work till dusk and a hard sleep.


The farmhouse came later.  During the early years the farm family lived in what could generously be described as a cabin.  The barn was built first because the barn was necessary.  Need vs want was a doctrine that was required in this tough country, and the barn was the working hub of this farm.  The farmhouse was a luxury that would be built when time allowed.

So slowly it took shape,  One room was framed, and then another, the family room and kitchen in that order, and later the bedrooms, study and pantry followed.  Water was of course needed, so a ditch was dug from a stream a half-mile away, and water then flowed to the new home and farmland.  Rocks the size of wagon wheels were dug from the earth and used to make stone walls, and constantly the sound of falling trees was heard as the forest was changed into farmland.

After a decade of labor it was a working farm with all the “modern” conveniences.  A town sprung up five miles out, and postal delivery came intermittently, and neighbors multiplied as the territory approached statehood.

Rutledge Family Homestead 


There is something about working together and ensuring each other’s survival that forms a bond among men and women.  These were people who wanted nothing more than a simple life.  They had fled the crowded cities and the madness of the east coast in hopes of finding a new beginning, and here is where they made their claim and bet it all.

They looked out for each other.  They partied together, celebrated holidays together and respected each other, and in so doing they formed a bond that would get them through the tough times to come.

There was, in short, a feeling of community.  National politics meant very little to these folks.  Statehood or no statehood, that debate held little interest for them.  They seemed to sense, innately, that they were only as strong as their weakest link.  Nobody was left behind and everyone shared in the bounty of harvest time.  When the fierce winter winds blew they all kept a vigilant eye, making sure that a straggler had not fallen by the wayside, and if one had they all mourned together.

Yes, it was a community.


The yellow orbs looked from the fringe of the woods at night, and the howl was mournful and frightening, one and the same, and the neighbors would sit around a campfire and reassure each other, with their presence, that all was alright.

When trouble came a’callin, no matter its shape or size, there the community was, backing each other, providing strength and courage.  This was a tough area and it had broken many a pilgrim, but it did not break the Rutledge clan and others like them.


I see a revolution happening.  Do you see it?

I see more and more people returning to some old, but not forgotten, principles of community.  I see neighbors looking out for each other. I see community gardens growing where residents work together with a common goal.  I see an increasing number of people who are becoming involved in the area that they live, starting projects for the benefit of all.

I see the Rutledge legacy passed down to a new generation of socially active human beings who want what the Rutledge family once had.

Are you a part of it?  Have you finally said “ENOUGH” and decided to slow things down a bit and get back to basics?  Does that sound good to you?


We took a road trip this weekend to a chicken farm about thirty miles from our home. Our goal was to pick up six chicks so we can raise them and have fresh eggs each morning.  We ended up buying nine, which is three more than we are allowed in our neighborhood but oh well.

We achieved what we set out for, but in the process we met a wonderfully kind man who taught us a lesson or two about life.  He is a veteran of the Vietnam War.  He came back from that war with PTSD, and he has struggled over the years.  His wife died twenty years ago and then the struggles became demons and he was on a downward spiral with No Hope the next destination.

That was when he bought his eleven acres and decided to raise chickens as a hobby; something to take his mind away from the demons and focused on living rather than dying.

He now has a working farm with hundreds of chickens, four cows, some goats and some geese. He told us that his son and family help him when they can, and neighbors stop by to lend a hand, and all of them share in the labor and share in the rewards.  He has found peace on that farm, and just talking with him filled me with peace and hope for the future.

I want what he has.  I want what the Rutledge family had.  No, I am not talking about farms, although I would be quite happy living on a small farm.  I am talking, rather, about a lifestyle where people help people. I am talking about being in control of my own financial future, and relying on my labor and ingenuity to make it happen. I am talking about living in a community of like-minded people who have my back as I have theirs.

I am talking about Living Simple!

Simplicity….patience….compassion…..according to Lao Tzu, the greatest of treasures.  I will add a fourth….do all things with love as you live a simple life.

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