restoring the land & the people
When I was 41, my younger sister died of colon cancer at the age of 37. My other sister, my brother and I each began a quest for a healthier lifestyle, especially one that would reduce our risk of getting cancer and the other chronic diseases (now called the "diseases of affluence" by Colin Campbell). A few years later, my brother introduced me to John McDougall's book, "Twelve Days to Vital Health" and I tried it for 12 days. I had already run two marathons and had been running some but my knees started to hurt a bit so I was mostly running shorter races. Some amazing things happened in those 12 days on a vegan diet that changed my life. First, my digestive tract changed, then I saw some lumps in my legs disappear, I no longer had a drowsy feeling in mid-afternoons, my voice felt better (less mucus because of no dairy), back pains got better, arthritis in my neck mostly disappeared, and I started to run again without the pain in my knees.
These noticeable changes really were a wakeup call to me. I was in good health before I started but still changing to a plant-based diet made big improvements that I did not expect. I vowed to continue a modified vegan diet with "special occasions" as McDougall calls occasionally eating animal products.
About this time, I ran into a small article in the newspaper about the Second Luddite Congress that was to be held in Barnsville, OH. I drove over there and found some amazing people who were living a simple lifestyle. Some were Amish, some Quaker, some atheist, but all were seeking to live a simple lifestyle. The motto was "Live simply so that others may simply live." I had been a believer in minimizing waste, conserving energy, and avoiding the pollution for several years ( I was living in Upper Arlington but joined a program of "cut it high and let it lie" for my lawn to avoid the chemicals), but this program gave me new incentive to live a simpler lifestyle and to try to teach/persuade others to live the same way.
In 1997, I started to look for some land in the country as an investment. I was not looking to move from the comfort of the suburb but it may have been at the back of my mind. My realtor friend, Kim Deoping, in my singles group, did not really know much about farm land but together we looked at several places that had 30 or so acres. Then we looked at this farm near Johnstown that had 30 acres on one side of the road that could be split off from the rest of the 250 acre farm. That is really the only reason we came out to look at it I was not looking to change my lifestyle that much.
Well, when we got here, they were having an open house. The buildings were totally unimpressive. The house reeked of cat smell, the front porch was falling down, one wall on the old barn was falling off the foundation, another building was sway backed and ready to fall. But this older guy, named Jim Rhodes was there and loved to tell stories. He and the realtor kept talking about the lake where the neighbors would skate in the winter and fish in the summer, so I said "Let's go and see it. We drove through weeds higher than the truck for about a mile and ended up at the beautiful lake on the property. They had actually mowed the grass across the dam. You could see maple trees all around the lake. Rhodes told about the beavers that made the lake in the beginning and you could still see beaver evidence in tree stumps in the woods. He told about Jenifer, the owner who had rebuilt the dam enlarging the lake somewhat because she really loved the lake.
I walked with the realtor and Jim and Kim across the dam toward the woods. By the time we reached the woods, I (half kidding) told the realtor, "I'll buy it". I had no idea how I could make it happen because the asking price was way more than I could afford and I had two other mortgages that I was paying at the time. Making it happen was a miracle that only God could bring about. It included Jenifer being willing to wait several months holding an off $50,000 more than my because she wanted me to have it. I had my properties up for sale but no buyers were close. When Jenifer said she had to close the sale, my friend, Jack Eggspeuller, who was on the board of the Heartland bank, put in a good word for me, and I got a loan with payments higher than my monthly salary! Immediately upon signing the mortgage, both of my properties sold and I could bring the loan down to an affordable level.
I moved in the next month and started to work on the house first. It had been inhabited by five cats and no people for quite a while so you can imagine the smell. I had to sand and varnish several rooms. There were lots of projects in the house including redoing the kitchen three times, putting on new siding on the west side of the house where you could see right through to the inside in several places, and later adding the sun room and deck and new bath. I repainted the dining room and kept the non-working fireplace to preserve the look of the original 1740 house in that room at least. I resisted putting in new windows because they had the original wavy glass panes but finally gave in to the loss of heat and tried to make the new ones look like the old.
The old farm house was quite dark and I wanted to add light and create a view of the horse pasture from the kitchen so I added a solarium and a deck on the back side looking toward the farm. I also converted one bedroom into a down stairs bathroom and laundry. So now there is a large open kitchen and a nice bathroom also, with a view of the farm. I converted another bedroom downstairs into a combination office and bedroom. The three bedrooms upstairs and bath are open for B&B guests.
Before the Europeans came to this farm, the land was occupied by the native Americans and they left their mark too. There two very old "Bent Trees" behind the lake at the farm. The natives would bend a tree down and strap it to the ground to mark significant items including water and trails. These are today called "Bent Trees". As the tree grows, it has a unique shape. You can see this shape in the pictures below. These trees marked the lake at the Flying J Farm
The original farm was called, "The John Denty Mill and residence". We know this because the picture below was found of the farm in a book at the Johnstown library called, "Significant places in Licking County from 1847-1860". In those days before cameras, people would hire artists to draw a picture of their places. I treasure this picture. The picture on the left is the old farm house and barn as it is today. The picture on the right is as close to the same perspective as the drawing from 1847 but it is really hard to get the same content because of the huge Norway maple directly in front of the house just off the walkway. Still you can see the old barn with the same roof line as in the drawing. Very apparent is the "Quilt Barn" painted a few years ago by my helpers that summer, Cassandra, Lydia and Zach. If you look closely you can see their signatures.
I have tried to trace the owners of the farm and found that the Denty's probably owned it the longest until the 1920s. I know this because shortly after I moved in an older gentleman named, Looker, stopped in and asked if he could do a coyote drive across my farm. He added that his grandfather had lived in a cabin by the lake. Checking further, the Lookers are descendants of the Denty's and there are several Lookers still in the neighborhood.
I have done an extensive search on the rise just north of the lake on the farm and found a lot of evidence for a residence from a long time ago. There is the sandstone base for a cabin, and nearby a very large cistern, the base for a windmill, and a beautifully constructed hand-dug well with brick walls. I like to call this well the "Jacob's Well".
One of the first questions people ask me about the farm is where did I get the name. My answer is that my first passion/goal from the age of about 9 was to fly airplanes. I wanted to fly more than anything else in the world. I don't know if this was the source of the passion but I had frequent dreams in which I could put out my arms and actually fly. I was the envy of everyone because I was the only one with that ability. As a youngster, I came from a family of four children who lost their father when we were young (I was 7). We lived on welfare for 6 years before my mother married my step-father and we moved to a small farm. I was 13 when my step-father offered 1/4 of the milk check to my brother and I in exchange for milking the cows, which made us rich enough to buy our own cars when we reached 16. But it was very unlikely I would realize my dream to fly because that was the most expensive career one could choose to go into. Nevertheless, after graduating with a BS in Physics, I enrolled in the missionary aviation program at the Moody Bible Institute hoping to be missionary pilot in remote areas of the world accessible only by airplane.
Well, I finished the flight school but never made to the field. Instead I got married and went to the University of Illinois to teach flying at the U of I Institute of Aviation. That only lasted for two semesters when I took a job as a test pilot for the Aviation Research Laboratory at the U of I. It was less than a year after that before I began work on a masters degree and then a PhD in experimental aviation psychology. All the while I was flying staff transport and obtained the Airline Transport Pilot certificate, the highest certificate one can get. I had climbed to the top of the flying mountain, so what should I do next? I did not give up flying entirely but took a faculty position at the Ohio State University where I taught aviation psychology (the study of the optimization of the human in aircraft systems) and did research but the main thing I did was the convene the International Symposium on Aviation Psychology every two years and then I founded the International Journal of Aviation Psychology which I still edit. Along the way, I wrote two books and edited one. Now you can see where the "flying" part of the farm name came from.
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The Flying J Farm is 251 picturesque acres including 100 acres of woods, a six acre lake, a small pond, three streams, 90 acres being tilled and 40 acres of permanent pastures. Three gardens totally about 5 acres are located in rich bottom land. The jewel of the farm is the lake which is located about one mile south of the farm house. Surrounding the lake is 60 acres of woods containing mostly maple with oak, hickory, ash, cherry, beech, elm, ironwood. The lake is fed from two or three streams that are mainly runoff from other farms. The lake was an original beaver pond and the evidence of beaver was everywhere around the lake when I arrived but has since mostly disappeared along with the beavers. The previous owner built a dam expanding the size and depth of the lake. There are about 90 tillable acres and 40 permanent pastures. The soil is mostly clay but about 5 acres are loam which are used for gardens.
FLYING J FARM