Monday, December 16, 2013

Season's Greetings!

It's Monday which means our chicks are yet another week old, 6 to be exact! Here's what's been going on since our last post.


After missing an entire year of holidays at home, it was really nice to jump back into the traditions. We spent Thanksgiving Day in Little Rock with the England family and friends, enjoying a large bird and other delicious foods. We made the Friday morning trek to Camden and spent the weekend with the Knight family, enjoying more large bird and other delicious foods. I think most of all we were thankful for being home and spending time with family, and for large birds and other delicious foods.

This holiday also inspired us to consider growing—you guessed it—large birds! Be on the look out next November for your very own, farm fresh, free range, turkey! All proceeds will benefit the Camp Mitchell Farming Project.


The early visit from Father Winter encouraged us to stay inside and do paper work. We finished a grant application for a hoop house and are currently working on two other opportunities 1) that will enable us to support volunteers and 2) that will support us on a individual/personnel basis. We avoided B-cabin fever by escaping to take pictures and bake bread.


A Hamburg on my head..
As I mentioned, our birds are 6 weeks old today. They have consumed over 65lbs (the weight of a small child, circa first grade?) of feed so far and a few of them are getting personal. Which is what I call their desire to be close to me/in my way when I clean their brooder. One Little Miss likes to fly/jump on me and explore the specks on my shirt and hat. Also, since more of their feathers and combs have developed, I was able to identify one of the “hamburgs” as a Sicilian Buttercup. I believe she is the only one of her kind and the other seven are in fact Hamburgs.

Work Weekend

We had our first official work group this past weekend. The Knight and Lapicz family worked with us on Saturday. It was pretty miserable and cold but we were able to put up all our fence posts, finish sifting potting soil for the greenhouse, weed and thin all our garden beds, and clear limbs on the north side/farm side. On Sunday, we made lots of progress with Coop Mitchell: the floor is complete, laying boxes are installed, windows are cut and covered, and the roost is finished. All that lacks for the coop is a screen door on the front and a paint job! Doug and Kathryn turned our compost pile. Our friend Kevin also joined us and did an awesome job fixing up our hoops for row cover. Our beds are no longer dependent on the bottle...

Work Weekend, to come!

We will have another work group this coming weekend to clean up the north side/farm side land. A dumpster will be on site, as well as a thermos of hot chocolate. We still have room for a few more people, if you are interested in joining. We will begin work by 9am Saturday morning and work through the day. If you are willing and able, you can stay the night and continue work with us on Sunday. Lodging and meals provided! Just comment here or email me, if you'd like!

If we don't post until then,  

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Tractor in the Collection Plate

The new roof on Coop Mitchell
Ice sickles are on the roofs here at Camp Mitchell, but spring is closing in fast. By the spring planting season we have to have our seeds ordered, soil prepared, and transplants grown. So we have been taking advantage of the nasty weather to do some planning. I have been compiling information on crops that we would like to grow next year. Jenny is working on all the forms and information needed to get people registered for summer camp in 2014.

Our chicks are 3 weeks old today. They are growing their big-girl feathers fast and we've discovered they go cuckoo for raisins! We took them on their first outdoor adventure/field trip on Wednesday and they were able to scratch around in the dirt and leaves. We are now confident in identifying most of our birds: 6 Buff Laced Polish (small white eggs), 4 Egyptian Fayoumis (small white eggs), 1 Barred Plymouth Rock (large brown eggs), 1 Golden Laced Wyandotte (large brown eggs), 8 Striped Pencil Hamburgs (medium white eggs), and 3 we are not sure about yet, maybe Buff Orpingtons, but not for certain. In case you had not heard, 4 died in the first week, but the remaining 23 members of our congregation seem to be very healthy and happy.

First Field Trip!

We are also collecting resources and tools for our farm. ARI taught us the importance of using local resources. We are very excited if we can reuse some piece of junk or buy from local businesses; We do this because 1) it means not supporting industry that pollutes our environment, 2) reduces waste, 3) it is cheaper, and 4) it allows us to make connections based on local friendship rather than cooperate wealth.

Some ways we have been able to practice this ethic so far include:

First pile of rice husk charcoal!
- Chef Adam is helping us collect kitchen scraps for compost
- We bought compost from North American Composting in North Little Rock
- We made a kiln for making rice hull charcoal made from a rusty coffee can and a rusty pipe
- We collected eleven windows out of an old house to make cold frames for starting seedlings in cold weather
- Harold Hedges helped us buy a used tractor and a bush-hog attachment from a friend of his
- Helen at the petting zoo just down the road gives us stalls of manure to compost
- The electric company showed up to clear the power lines here and agreed to dump a truck load of their wood chips for us to use as mulch
- We made a brooder house for our chicks out of old picnic tables, windows, and a screen door from one of the cabins.
- Our friend Nathanael Wills helped us till the ground for our wheat field.
- The AYE kids helped us sow the wheat
- We bought rice hulls from ETW, a local distributor of southern rice hulls and wood chips for poultry bedding
- A neighbor named Travis came and bulldozed the area where our garden will be on the farm side
- a parishioner from St. Peter's, Gail, gave us a grain grinder to use for our wheat next summer
- Many people have already volunteered for a day or two to help to donate some of their time and muscle
Harold unloading the tractor. 

As the needs of our farm grow and become more complex, we want our community network to do the same. To communicate to the rest of the world what we can use here for the Camp Mitchell Farming Project, we have started a new tab called “Pitch In!”

Check it when you feel like helping your food grow. If you see a need that you think you can provide, email Jenny Knight at or Doug Knight at .

We would also like to start an email distribution list for folks interested in receiving news about work weekends and updated needs. If you would like to be on this list, please comment here or send us an email requesting to be added to the farm email list.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Chicks Are Here!

Episcopoultry Ministry

The leaves are falling up here at Camp Mitchell. Jenny and I have been hard at work settling into our new home, making preparations for the Camp Mitchell Agricultural project, and getting a few seeds to germinate before the frosts come. 

We have great news! As our Uncle Timo of Ghana would say, we have started our ministry. Our congregation is 27 in number and very young— two days old! We picked our baby chicks up from the post office. They were jet lagged and cranky, but once we got them moved into their new home they were snuggling up to the heat lamp and sippin’ on some garlic/honey infused water. They are all hens of different varieties; We think right now we’ve got some golden penciled hamburgs, Egyptian fayoumis,  Rhode Island reds, six polish chicks, and a few other varieties we aren't sure about yet. They are all certainly cute though!

In two months they will be big and fluffy enough to keep themselves warm. Until then we’ve got to get to work on what Jenny is calling Coop Mitchell. We are turning an ancient, wasp-filled, shed into the chicken coop. So far we've pulled out the rotten floor and replaced the rotten roof. Next up we have got to build a roost, laying boxes, and improve the ventilation. God willing, by March of next year, they will be cozy, fat, and full of eggs. 

Despite the coming cold, we are really feeling invigorated by the arrival of new life here. It gives us hope that one day soon, we might have something like a farm up here! When something goes bump in the night, Jenny and I are up to check on our chicks. We are really depending on them for a lot. They will provide not only eggs for camp, but manure to fertilize our gardens, insect control, and a vitality that will allow many people to connect with our project. 

Faith, Farm, and Food

Last week Jenny and I drove to Sewanee, TN for a conference at the University of the South. We were talking about faith, farm, and food with people from across the Episcopal Church that are involved at the intersection of these three things. Some people we met were priests, some were farmers, some were writers, some were educators, most were a blend of all these. 

Some topics on the table were: 1) why is the Episcopal Church interested in  agricultural reform and improving our food systems? 2) what does farming have to do with God’s plan? 3) How can the church function as a part of the movement to reform our food systems?

Friends From Japan!

We met Hironori at ARI last February.

“Where are you two from?”


“Wow! Do you know ATU?”

“Yeah. In Russleville.”

“I will study there in August.”

We were amazed to have met someone in Japan who would soon be living so close to our home. Finally we found some time to meet Hironori and two of his friends and show them some of Arkansas’ beauty. We went to Mount Nebo and also visited with a parishioner from All Saints, Russelville who is from Japan. We are planning to get together with her and Hironori again to make Sushi!

We miss Japan a lot and really enjoyed listening to Hironori and his friends speak their beautiful language. 

Peace be with you,

Doug and Jenny Knight

Friday, October 18, 2013

Done with the Gypsy Lifestyle

How was Japan? Are you glad to be back?/I bet you are glad to be home. So what are you doing now? Where are you living? Are you working? Do you miss Japan?

These are 6 of the bazillion questions we get asked when we see people for the first time upon our return home. As any high school or college graduate or newly wed or any person in any kind of transition knows, some times we are more receptive to answering these questions than other times. By now, we have crafted some well-rehearsed answers to these questions. And as of the past week, we are happy to change our response to one question: Where are you living? 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are no longer living out of our car, jumping back and forth between parents' houses, be it blood or in-lawed or even quasi-adopted parents. We are not planning our sleeping arrangements around our church or friend obligations. We have even gone so far as to change our address with our bank...

#10 Camp Mitchell Rd, Morrilton! You asked me where we're living? OK, I'll tell you: #10 Camp Mitchell Rd, Morrilton! That's where we're living! 

(^home made smoothie goes to the first person to guess the movie reference!)

We have a home. And it is atop a beautiful mountain next to the Arkansas River. We are living a summer camper's dream. 

Summer camp, 24/7, it's so awesome I'm gonna die!!

(^two smoothies if you guess 'em both!)

Doug and I know we are very blessed and fortunate to call this place home for the next three years. But we know it's not going to be rainbows and butterflies (summer camp) the whole time either. This place has dirt (the good and the bad kind) just like everywhere else and we're here to give and learn and grow in it.

Doug would like to be referred to as the Camp Mitchell Agricultural Specialist, you can call me the CM Farmer or Poultry Specialist or Bob. Any which way, two mere folk like us can't possibly even dream up this project by ourselves. YOU are welcome in this place, on the mountain, on the farm, to help or observe in any way. We welcome you and your friends, church, family, girl scout troop, cousin's girlfriends, and neighbors to join us. We will hold various official work weekends and you are welcome to arrange with us any other events or work times. 

So with that, let me update everyone on the progress of the Camp Mitchell Farm Project!

The wheat germinated! My sister Katie and her dog (Mia) have begun a weekly visit to the farm to help out. Last week we stepped the wheat, meaning just that, we stepped on it. We learned at ARI that stepping the wheat when it gets to a certain size is good for the wheat's roots. It strengthens them, toughens them up. Doug and I also put up a "deer fence." We were at the co-op to buy legit deer fencing and the man working filled us in on his deer proofing secret:

Apparently deer don't like to go shopping!
Katie and I made signs for the compost
We visited the petting zoo down the road and met with Helen who happily worked with us to clear manure out of a stall in her barn. We collected two full truck beds, go farm truck!


We also ordered 40cubic yards of compost from American Composting in North Little Rock. They delivered this mountain of dark chocolate goodness on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, Katie and Mia visited. We cleaned out the greenhouse. 

Later that evening, the Knights came for a campout. We worked all day Thursday clearing the rest of the garden beds, sowing mustard, lettuce, collards, and turnips. Our big job was assembling a quick-composting box. We learned a method of quick compost at ARI in which we build a frame, layer green matter, brown matter, manure, micro-organisms, and rice bran. The indigenous micro-organisms (IMO) feed off the rice bran and accelerate the decomposition of the other materials. If everything goes as planned, this box should finish through the winter!

Waiting on germination...
Don gathering leaves for our brown matter
Kathryn sprinkling rice bran
Finished compost box, should start steaming!
Doug with some turnip greens that came up!
Germinated kale!
Other happenings on the farm include the anticipation of chicks! We ordered 25 rainbow pullets last week and they should arrive the first week of November. Our big projects now will be preparing the brooder house and eventually the coop, and clearing the land across the street where we plan to grow most of the crops and vegetables.

Agricultural Specialist
Agricultural Specialist, working lunch bar
Rainbow around the sun!
Japan was great (if you want to know more, please read previous posts on this blog). We are happy to be home. We are living and working at Camp Mitchell. We do miss Japan and ARI and all our family there. 

Your Camp Mitchell Missionaries,

Doug and Jenny

PS, we had a good time in NYC!

And a good time on family vacation at the beach!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wheat Have We Been Up To?

Jenny and I are spinning around in the in-between space you enter when you leave behind a big project and start a new one. I say we are spinning because we are being kept busy with projects involving both of them. We have been speaking to churches, elementary schools, and college classrooms about our year at the Asian Rural Institute. We have been writing our final reports for the Young Adult Service Corps. We are also preparing to go to New York at the end of this week for the official debriefing.

We are also extremely busy starting our new projects here in Arkansas. We have slowly but surely been moving into our housing at Camp Mitchell. Jenny and I drove to Columbia, Missouri to trade in our Subaru for a farm truck. We have been kick-starting our college ministry at St. Peter’s in Conway. And even though we haven’t done much to prepare the soil or farm infrastructure, we could not help but try to get in on the fall planting season.

In the precious few days that Jenny and I have spent here at Camp Mitchell so far, we have filled a bed with seeds of fall veggies like radish, turnip, collards, and cabbage. For some seeds like kale and onions. We made a soil block, ARI style! Our potting soil is a little bit hard. Sadly we have not found any rice husk or a substitute yet, but we have built a chimney which we’ll be using to make rice husk charcoal as soon as we find a source for it. We also discovered that they are called rice “hulls” in the US.

Luckily though, we were able to reach out into our local community for some help getting our fertilizers going. Kathleen and her family at Cedar Springs Stables helped us collect the manure from their chicken coops and rabbit pen.

To start an interesting experiment that will peak people’s interest in our farming project and tell them that we are serious, we decided to plant some wheat! We picked a plot (~2000 sq.ft.) and asked our friend Nathanael to help us till it up. Nathanael works with the farming project at Pulaski Heights Middle School.

Nathanael and me, posing in front of the farm truck.
Jenny actually getting work done.
This weekend Camp Mitchell hosted the annual Arkansas Youth Event. Many youth groups in the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas come to stay the weekend together at Camp Mitchell. We had one hundred 6th through 12th graders here. Jenny and I organized a session where everyone got to help sow the wheat. We prayed over our work using a prayer for agriculture that we found the in back of the Book of Common Prayer.

Doing agricultural work helps to keep us connected to our beloved family at ARI. When my hands are in the dirt, weeding, sowing, or harvesting, I know that someone at ARI has been busy this day with a similar task. They actually just harvested rice!

Now our goal is to keep it moist enough to germinate. Then negotiations with the deer begin!
So this week our goal is to finish our work with the Young Adult Service Corps and return safely from New York City. Hopefully that will be the last airplane that I ride in for a long time. I am thankful for but tired of airports.

Then, starting mid-October, we will be staying at Camp Mitchell full time. By the first week of November we hope to have solid draft of the Master Plan for the Camp Mitchell Agricultural Project. Farm Shop, Chicken House, Compost Toilet, Fish pond, Onion Patch, and Foodlife eternal—Here we come!

Peace of the lord be with you,

Doug and Jenny Knight