Arrows and Minnows

Remembering the Family Farm

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganWhen I think back to summers as a boy, I remember a farm pond with a legendary stock of crappie, working a roughly one-acre garden, campfires out by the tractor barn, riding horses through the “motherland” to watch the sun set with my dad, and waking up of a morning to roam the family acres in whatever way my brothers and I could imagine. Horizon to horizon, shared with my best friends and thousands of head of cattle.

We’d get chewed on good – and rightfully so – for running cattle or messing around in crop fields. And our parents warned us of numerous dangers. But generally, we were left to our own devices and could venture as far as you could see in any direction, our canvas for testing the laws of nature.

I learned what a rope burn was descending the hayloft when my brother Andy jumped on top and came along for the ride. I also learned to respect just how tough and strong Andy was watching him ride a rank horse, Bucky (appropriately named), through a thicket – and ride him to a standstill.

From my brother Josh, I learned patience. Not many youngsters could sit for hours at a pond waiting for fish to start biting. Not many youngsters can walk for days with a shotgun without seeing much. Watching my older brother, I had no choice. He taught me to appreciate hunting and fishing, hobbies I still love to this day.

And when our older half brother, Danny, came out to the farm, it was full-blown go-time. Mom and Dad let us off the hook for the most part, and we could let loose, chore responsibilities and work largely ignored.

However, most days did involve work, although we didn’t have to milk cows or do many of the other traditional farm tasks. Our chores consisted of cleaning cockleburs out of the horses’ manes (dreaded, tedious work), dealing with firewood, mowing the huge yard, harvesting fruit in the orchard, and helping work that large garden.

My most dreaded garden task was picking green beans. We had beans for miles – the amount of which time has no doubt helped to exaggerate – which my mom canned to last throughout the year. We spent hours stooped over the bush bean plants, getting stung on our hands, working down the rows, and standing up every few minutes to straighten our backs.

Then we’d get to snap them sitting in the lawn chair beside Mom, which was – and still is – the best part of the chore.

Beans added so much to our garden, and are still one of my favorite garden crops to this day. Check out Page 13 of the June issue of GRIT Country, “All About Growing Beans,” and add hours of fun and fulfillment to your backyard growing space.

Campfire cooking – be it a wienie roast or a mess of crappie in a cast-iron pan – was another staple of summer, the part of the day when you knew the work was finished and Mom’s baked beans were warming in a pot. Take outdoor cooking to a whole new level after reading “DIY Wood-Fired Outdoor Cooker” on Page 7. These plans require some construction skill, but if you’re feeling up to taking on a summer project, this one is as worthy as any, and it will enhance suppers in all seasons.

And finally, one of my favorite recently read articles, Karen Keb’s “Keep a Family Milk Cow” breaks down what a milk cow actually produces for your family – how much money it saves – and details how to go about raising one. It doesn’t get any more Grit-ty than that.

Enjoy, and if there’s anything you’d like to see in particular, send an email my way at

Until our paths cross again,
Caleb D. Regan

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Country View: Counting My Blessings

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganLast year, life was good to me.

First and foremost, my wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary in a tree-house cabin in southern Missouri, hidden from the world on the North Fork River. We fished for wild native trout by day and ate exceptional food like deer tenderloin and homemade dill bread in the evenings. 

Fly fishing for native trout on the North Fork River in southern Missouri.

Earlier in the year, after a meaningful weekend deer hunting with my father-in-law, I took about 40 pounds of whitetail deer meat from pasture to freezer. I’d harvested several deer in previous years, but always relied on the local butcher for processing the meat.

I’ll never forget the feeling last fall as my wife and I sat at our little kitchen table, carefully carving meat away from bones and – for the first time – actually seeing to it myself that nothing went to waste. It felt like such good work, to both of us, and was a fulfilling

Back in the spring, we caught more than 19 pounds of trout that supplied us with some excellent-tasting fish, a catch that nearly lasted us all the way through the hot Kansas summer of 2011.

We processed around 40 broiler chickens in November, an annual event that puts some meat in the freezer and bonds our staff and community here at GRIT in a way that office discussions cannot.

And we added a deep freeze last winter – a gift from family – that now allows us to affordably purchase quality meat for the first time. Be it half of a grassfed steer, or half of a bison split among friends, my family is closer to consuming in a manner of which we can be proud.

Really, we’re closer to living how we want to live. After looking at country homes for more than a year now, we’re months away from moving out to a modest little A-frame house that sits on a few acres of pasture, a move that will allow us to raise a few head of cattle, keep the chickens we already have, and maybe add rabbits or a pig or three.

Personal events of the year as great as they were, being given the opportunity to be more involved in the editorial decisions here at GRIT – the nation’s most iconic, historic rural lifestyle magazine that has remained in continuous publication the longest of any – means I get to work more directly for you. It’s such an honor to work on this title every day, and to hear from the folks of rural America on a daily basis; folks like my Uncle Fred and Grandpa Goodno – folks cut from the same cloth as I am. We live and love the lifestyle, and we also listen. We love to listen.

One of the things our readers indicated recently is every editor’s dream: You want more. Our editorial survey team (join at suggested that 72 percent of you would like to receive an electronic PDF-format digital supplement to GRIT that would be published halfway between print issues, a shorter six additional issues of the magazine, if you will.

So, fairly soon, we'll be sending out our first-ever issue (Volume 1, Number 1!) of GRIT Country, and we’d love your feedback. It’s entirely free the first time around, and we look forward to providing you with 12 issues a year of your favorite rural lifestyle magazine. Subscribe to GRIT Country right here. Each interactive issue of GRIT Country will contain at least one gardening article and one DIY project – make sure and check out the DIY doghouse on Page 7 of the April GRIT Country, and consider giving your pooch a new set of digs he or she will love, for cheap.

To receive that first issue, all you have to do is either subscribe to GRIT Country, or make sure you're signed up for our newsletter, GRIT eNews, and you can sign up for that at

It was a fun one to work on, since for the first time ever we could include live links in an issue, and we're working toward including videos right in the PDF; the possibilities are fun and intriguing to think about.

Finally, to add your voice to the discussion, join the editorial advisory group at the web address above, or drop me a line at We’ll do everything we can to provide you with the cream of the crop.

Until our paths cross again,
Caleb D. Regan

Photos: courtesy Gwen Regan 

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Resource for Locating Heritage Turkey Breeders

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganGetting ready for Thanksgiving, I was thinking the other day about locating heritage turkey breeders in my area to source a high-quality bird for the family dinner table.

Corresponding with Slow Food USA via Twitter and email, those folks made me privy to an exciting new technology not all that unlike the heritage breed locator on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s website that I used a couple weeks back to find a replacement Hamburg hen for the backyard.

Slow Food USA has put together the Slow Food Thanksgiving Guide, complete with a heritage breed locator, 72 recipes in various courses that you should feel good about feeding your family, and general tips and tricks to having a “Slow Food Thanksgiving”.

Midget White Tom 

Looking for farms that fit the Slow Food mission with dedication to raising appropriate breeds of animals the right way, Slow Food USA turned to the ALBC, Heritage Turkey Foundation and Local Harvest, among other organizations, to come up with a list of farms that ship nationally and do things the right way.

Visit a farmers’ market, source a turkey, check out the Slow Food USA Thanksgiving Guide, and cook a meal that would make small farmers everywhere proud. Also, take a moment to check out these websites and resources, and direct your attention and respect to these organizations fighting the good fight.

As for myself, I’ll have the privilege of slaughtering my own heritage bird Saturday for next Thursday’s feast. There is much to be thankful for this holiday season.

Follow Caleb on Twitter at @calebdregan. 

Midget White tom image: courtesy American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

ALBC Breed Finder Helps Add Laying Hen to the Backyard

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganLast Saturday, thanks to the ALBC breed finder, we headed out to the home of GRIT and MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader Margaret Kramar to pick up a replacement hen for the wonderful layer we lost in the 113-degree heat this past summer.

Margaret and her family were a pleasure to talk to, and in this business you often don’t get the opportunity to interface directly with readers; it’s such a nice alternative to emailing and phone conversations.

Here’s our new little Hamburg hen (speckled, pretty, smaller bird on the left). She was just hatched this past spring, so I'm glad to get her in her first year. There was a little scuffling and establishing pecking order in the first few minutes, but when I went out later that first night with a flashlight, our two hens were roosted right next to one another in the coop on the same roosting bar. I think now it's safe to call them buds.

Speckled Hamburg on the left, and Dorking on the right. 

We’ve never named our hens, not for any other reason than we have two different breeds, so they are simply: the Hamburg and the Dorking. I really don’t buy into the if-you-name-it-you-won’t-want-to-eat-it philosophy, so maybe these girls end up with a name at some point.

Our chickens are laying hens, definitely, but a few years from now we will end up stewing them as well. I’ll probably have to take them away from the house and wife for the processing, since it’s not the most pleasant thing for anyone to process the animal they raise, but it’s completely necessary in my opinion.

By the time I got to our former Hamburg, rigor mortis had set in, so she was buried in the backyard instead of reaching the proverbial stew pot. Really, she should have been burned to prevent any chance of disease, I know, but we currently live in town and that’s just not possible.

Anyways, I strongly endorse the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s online directory and rare breed locator on their website. Type in the species or even specific breed you are looking for, your city or zip code, and proximity parameters, and you can locate a member of the ALBC closest to you. It’s a breeze.

One phone call to Margaret, and we had ourselves a replacement Hamburg that will be just as appreciated as her predecessor, and hopefully we can see her through to an older age. It certainly was an added bonus that the Kramars are dedicated to country living and rare-breed conservation – values that I think are probably widespread among the ALBC members by definition – not to mention good GRITty folks!

Now, just to convince Gwendolyn to add a couple of meat rabbits to the space we have, and between poultry, venison and rabbits, we’ll be doing about all of the home-meat processing that we can until we make our way out where the pavement ends.

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

ProMan PTO Adds Utility to Utility Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles

A photo of the author Caleb ReganHere at the GIE+EXPO in Louisville, Kentucky, there are about as many farm-related machines to look over and run as a guy could ask for: I’m talking John Deere tractors, Bobcat excavators, Cub Cadet garden tractors, Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws, Ford trucks, and about as many zero-turn mowers as a landscaper could wish for.

One of the coolest things I’ve seen so far, is some cutting-edge technology and engineering that enhances utility of two staples on the farm that previously often went underutilized: the UTV and ATV.

Kirk Jones, of ProMan PTO has engineered a cool way to add power take-off points on UTVs and ATVs that can power a cutting deck, log-splitter, leaf blower and more on either the front or back of these machines that in most cases are used only for hauling equipment and pure fun on the farm.

ProMan PTO Front Mounting Mowing Deck for an ATV 

For the ATV, you’re looking at adding the system for around $5,500. For the UTV ProMan PTO mobile hydraulic platform, it’s going to run you around $6,000. Something to consider, though, especially if you’re considering adding a completely separate machine with PTO attachment capabilities. 

The system relies on a hydraulic pump attached to the motor and a reservoir cooler mounted to the machine – on the front-load rail of ATVs and under the front seat of UTVs – that run hydraulic hoses either to the front- or rear-mounted attachment.

ProMan PTO Mobile Hydraulic Mount 

It opens up a whole new arena for consumers, dealers, and manufacturers alike.

Imagine using your ATV, attaching the log-splitter, and splitting your log segments right on site, rather than loading them in the truck, hauling them back to the barn, unloading them, splitting them, and stacking firewood. Or, better yet, attaching the splitter to the front of a UTV with a trailer on the back, and you see where the application goes from there.

ProMan PTO Log Splitter 

ProMan PTO UTV Hydraulic MountOr, rather than mowing pond banks with a tractor bushhog that never feels safe enough, attach a mowing deck to the ATV or UTV and bush hogging in a much safer manner.

It takes UTV and ATV utility to a whole new level.

In fact, the whole idea originated because Kirk Jones felt there had to be a better way of mowing his farm in hilly central Southern California. He turned to an ATV already on his place, took off the casing of the engine, reverse-engineered a fitting for the hydraulic pump, attached the cooling reservoir, and voila, a mobile hydraulic platform took the ATV into a whole new level of production and safety.

It takes 5 to 7 hp to move an ATV in low gear, so you’re left with 40-some-odd hp that isn’t being used. My biggest question is with engine torque, and how the log splitter holds up when the engine isn't at full-throttle, or how fast the blades spin on the cutting deck when not at full-throttle. Nevertheless, these guys at ProMan PTO designed a system to tap into leftover engine power, and now it’s on the market. The system is currently compatible with Kawasaki, Yamaha and Polaris engines, and hopefully Honda, John Deere and Kubota will follow. Proman PTO seems to be onto something, and it could change the game when it comes to farm equipment and the small farmer getting more out of his or her machines, and in a safer mode of operation in some case.

Leave it to a small landowner to come up with such a cool concept.

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Visiting Flight 93 Memorial, a Moving Experience

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganOur work here at GRIT affords me the ability on some occasions to visit some really special places and interact with some really inspiring people. Visiting the Flight 93 Memorial outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, was as chilling, moving, and proud of an experience as I’ve ever had.

The idea of visiting this location and how special it would be occurred to me after reading a column by Rick Reilly (the link forwarded to me from my brother Josh), who writes usually sentimental sports articles for ESPN.

In the days leading up to September 11 of this year, he wrote a moving piece in which ESPN published the actual transcript of the audio recovered from the Flight 93 plane. It was the first time I’d ever read it, and it’s really something else.

For those who don’t know, Flight 93 was the fourth plane that never made it to its intended target on September 11, 2001. Heroic passengers stormed the cockpit behind a passenger plane drink cart and caused their aircraft to crash about 18 minutes by air from the most probable intended destination, the U.S. Capitol building.

Map of the events of September 11, 2001. 
Photo courtesy Flight 93 National Memorial/U.S. Department of the Interior

From the follow-up trials following that day, we’ve learned that Osama bin Laden most wanted to send the fourth plane into the White House, but other planners and advisors favored the Capitol. Apparently one of the reasons September 11 was chosen was that the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate were both in session that day.

Flight 93's 40 crew and passengers, heros of September 11, 2001.To condense the events (you can read about the events of that day on the Flight 93 Memorial website), the fourth plane was delayed 25 minutes before takeoff, so at the time of the terrorist takeover passengers learned from family and friends about the attacks on the other buildings: the World Trade Center and the U.S. Pentagon.

Trade, military, and government were all targets, and can you imagine today how morale would have been further affected if that fourth plane hit a Congress in session. Eighteen minutes of hesitation, it would have been a completely different and even more devastating day. And this was perhaps the most important plane to the leaders of al-Qaida.

After attending the fall 2011 Mother Earth News Fair in nearby Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, I used the opportunity to drive the 45 minutes to Shanksville along with colleague and Gas Engine Magazine's Christian Williams.

Flight 93 Entrance, nearby is location of the future Tower of Voices. 

Photo courtesy Christian Williams

The Memorial outside of Shanksville is simple, yet elegant, and it reflects rural America and in some ways GRIT itself.

“From the beginning, our thought was that this memorial needed to be specific to this place, it should be about rural Pennsylvania, so when you are here, visitors should see the sky, and the fields, and the hillsides,” says Flight 93 National Memorial site manager Jeff Reinbold.

Memorial Plaza at the Flight 93 National Memorial outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 
Illustration courtesy Flight 93 National Memorial/U.S. Department of the Interior by Paul Murdoch Architects and Biolinia

Rural landscape was a big part of architect Paul Murdoch’s plan. The colors of the memorial structures are grey, black and white, with the landscape of what once was a strip mine offering the brilliant appearance. 

One cool notion is that the land is healing itself along with American citizens who experience the Memorial.

Landscape of Flight 93 National Park. 
Photo by Christian Williams

In fall, all the hillsides are bright in autumn color. Visit in winter, and you’ll see a hardened landscape. Spring is green and really lush, and in summer the fields surrounding the memorial are filled with wildflowers, “yellow wildflowers as far as the eye can see,” in Reinbold’s words.

Field of Honor, where the direct impact point is, marked by a boulder today. Only family members of Flight 93 passengers and crew are allowed out into the field.While I stood there – it was September 26 – early fall felt hopeful on the surrounding pastures, but the large boulder placed directly over the impact site loomed incessantly. I felt extremely visceral emotions of gratitude, sorrow and reverence for those folks on board Flight 93 that day.

Since over 90 percent of the remains of the 40 passengers and crew members who were onboard are still scattered in the field where the plane went down (it was upside-down at the point of impact), the impact site and area immediately surrounding it are at this time closed to the public; only family can go into the field and approach the boulder.

But I stood about 150 yards out staring at it and thinking about what those people went through on that plane. In some ways, it was not a quick death, since passengers took a vote and knew ahead of time what they were about to go through. It begged the question and questioned my own courage standing there: Would you have done the same?

For most of us, I think the answer is probably yes, but seeing this site made me for the first time imagine being on the plane, upside down in these hills in late summer, the al-Qaida terrorists throwing the plane up and down violently, trying to throw the resisting passengers away from the cockpit. Even though we like to think many Americans would have done the same, it’s no less incredible, no less the ultimate sacrifice.

The Wall of Names, containing all 40 passengers and crew members, is erected along the flight path of the United Flight 93 Boeing 757. 
Photo by Christian Williams. The Wall of Names is erected along the exact path that the United Flight 93 Boeing 757 came down in rural Pennsylvania.

At the time of this writing, Flight 93 National Memorial is still about $10 million short of all the funds it needs to finish the project. The actual memorial is in place, but lacks an appropriate visitors’ center and 90-foot wind chime at the entrance with 40 softly speaking chimes (the future Tower of Voices), and the Field of Honor, with 40 memorial groves of trees native to Pennsylvania, “reinforcing this idea that this is not a memorial that you look at, it’s one that you are part of, you inhabit it,” as Reinbold says.

Rendering of the future Tower of Voices at Flight 93 National Memorial. 

Rendering of the future Field of Honor, with 40 memorial groves containing trees all native to Pennsylvania. 
Illustrations courtesy Flight 93 National Memorial/U.S. Department of the Interior by Paul Murdoch Architects (2)

I felt it down to my core, and if you’re ever in the area, I would recommend experiencing this special rural American place; a place of which we should all be very proud.

To become part of this cause, visit, and consider donating whatever you can. For one hour of your wage or salary, you’d be contributing to the memory of a group of regular American passengers who rallied to save hundreds of lives, it not thousands. It was the first victory against terrorism, as the Capitol dome still reaches for the sky in Washington D.C., and 10 years later, we’ve still not completed the memorial for those brave souls. 

Names of people honored at the Flight 93 Memorial. 
Image courtesy Flight 93 National Memorial/U.S. Department of the Interior

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Interacting With Animal Stewards at the 2011 Mother Earth News Fair

 Day 1 at the 2011 Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs Pennsylvania offered the chance to mingle with livestock, speak with animal owners, and listen to presentations from leaders in the animal husbandry world.

Alpaca Family at 2011 MEN Fair

My own responsibilities, helping at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's Animal Husbandry Tent, meant I was assembling poultry and rabbit cages, leading ponies to pens, and even in once case carrying a non-halterbroke sheep from a trailer to her pen about 50 yards away.

Christine Williamson Spinning Wool

Some of the coolest things from this Fair, for me: talking with livestock owners of various animals, and even getting to know individual breeds; it offers one of the few chances in this business to have a direct interface with readers, and it’s refreshing to hear about their homes, farms, gardens, animals and lives; seeing speakers like Pat Foreman, Carol Ekarius, Harvey Ussery, and Joel Salatin, not to mention the presentations given by my own colleagues at Ogden Publications; a refreshing chance to get to know those colleagues better, outside of our office cubicles.

Classic Llama and a Packing Rig

This video was a quick interview with Anne Hallowell of Mercer County Pennsylvania. The Hallowells raise Classic Llamas, impressive multipurpose animals that perform well as guardian animals, companions, and most notably pack animals. I’d never seen a pack rig like this for a llama, and the idea of using this animal to pack up for a camping trip and then employ that animal to protect the campsite on that trip is pretty cool.


It’s inspiring to interact with Fair-goers, exhibitors, and presenters alike.

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

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