This farmer’s home and shop semblance those of pilgrims’ centuries ago patterned from the old country.
Actually, Brad Carter of Paola is a pioneer of sorts in several regards, such that one might not have inkling that he was a computer guru in the nation’s capital.
Country living from youthful days was forever gnawing, as the desk job created health issues relieved quickly upon return to physical labor.
Forever skillful with his hands and wood, Carter did work with timber frame structures in the East and expanded upon return to the home state Kansas.
Carter built a timber frame home on the 37-acre Miami County tract bought when moving back in 1992, did commercial construction of similar structures, and then added his shop in the style for instinctive woodworking skills.
There’s a lot more to the story; developing a pecan orchard, expanding the farm, making mancala game boards for the grandkids’ Christmas and a grandfather clock for his daughter. So much, easy to get ahead, so back up; what is a timber frame home?
“Actually, timber framing and post-and-beam construction are methods of building with heavy timbers rather than dimensional lumber such as 2x4s,” briefed Carter.
“Traditional timber framing is the method of creating structures with mortise and tenon joints using heavy squared-off and carefully fitted and joined timbers secured by large wooden pegs,” he explained.
“It is commonplace in wooden buildings from the 19th century and earlier, constructing out of logs using axes, draw knives, and hand saws, along with brace and bits,” Carter detailed.
“Laborious farmers could gradually assemble a building capable of bearing heavy weight without excessive use of interior space given over to vertical support posts,” he said.
Assistance was contracted from a Virginia builder with oak timber cut from the land for the framework, and Carter finished their own two-level, 2,400-square-foot farm home in 1994.
“It is an extremely strong construction, and the unique open style with timbers makes a very classic home atmosphere,” said Carter, who noted it’ll likely far outlast him, and several generations.
“Post-and-beam homes in England are more than 800 years old; they’ve outlived three or four foundations,” he stated.
Need for dedicated area to pursue his woodwor
king talent, Carter constructed a home-matching, two-level, 800-square-foot shop. “I just like the look and efficiency,” he noted.
Others do, too, and Carter developed a business commercially constructing a handful of similar post-and-beam structures in eastern Kansas and western Missouri.
However, the farming bug kept prying Carter, as well. A native of Independence, he graduated with a business degree from Pittsburg State, worked in electronics while serving in the military, became employed by Sprint at Overland Park, ending up in the nation’s capital.
“I just never could become accustomed to that position and the people,” Carter said. “I’ve always liked to work with wood, and the back problems created at a computer desk all day made me realize I needed the healthy lifestyle living on the land.”
Moving back to the farm south of Louisburg, Carter was closer to his dad at Independence, and acquaintances in Overland Park. “I became completely healthy,” Carter admitted.
But, there was more land than a woodworker-timber framer was putting to good use. “Dad knew a Pittsburg man who grew pecan trees profitably, and suggested that might be a possibility for our farm,” Carter reflected.
So, Jake Creek Pecans began as a hobby. “In 1994, we purchased 200 saplings from Kansas State University, and started our pecan orchard in what used to be a cornfield along the banks of Jake Creek. We were excited,” Carter said.
Over the next five years, the orchard was expanded by approximately 100 saplings annually. Then in 2001, Carter and his wife, Lila, purchased 160-acres adjoining property.
“With the help of the Miami County Extension Service and the Pecan Experiment Station in Chetopa, I was able to learn the ins and outs of pecan farming,” Carter said. “I still use the Extension Service and county agent Megan Westerhold extensively to see to it that we’re growing pecans right.
“We began growing our own saplings, a process involving stratifying the pecan nut,” Carter continued. “We now have 1,900 trees with approximately 600 of them currently bearing improved variety pecans.
“Our hobby has become a full-time job,” he insisted.
“We spend our springs pruning and grafting, our summers watering and mowing, and our falls harvesting, so that we can offer our customers only delicious, locally grown Jake Creek Pecans,” Carter said.
“The trees are healthy, and this year’s crop was fantastic. We had a great harvest with both Pawnee and Kanza varieties to sell,” he assured.
Marketing is done through area farmers markets and out of their farm home.
They offer one-half pound packages of shelled pecans for gift giving and snacking; one-pound packages of shelled pecans; two-pound packages of less-than-10-percent shell pecans, noted as the “best seller;” and three-pound bags of cracked pecans for those who “enjoy picking pecans out of their shells on a cold winter evening.”
Admitting the pecan business is far from a get-rich-quick farm enterprise, Carter said, “It requires lots of machinery that we’ve purchased, and it’ll be another 20 years or so before all of our trees are in full production.”
However, pecans are a profitable farm crop, with nature and weather conditions always being a determining factor in production.
As all commodities, pecan prices fluctuate, but Carter sees that his 1,900 trees could average 75 pounds of pecans, and maybe wholesale at $2 a pound. “I don’t know if Lila and I’ll ever see them do that, but it’s still an exciting business,” Carter, 69, evaluated.
In the meantime, there are plenty of ongoing projects in the post-and-beam woodshop. “My time there’s limited, but I really enjoy that, too,” said Carter, noting several special projects he’s made over the years.
“I made a shadow box for a medal display for a retiring joint chief of staff general when I was in Virginia, and the president presented it to him. That was a pretty major deal,” Carter said.
However, Carter said, “Most of the woodworking is for myself and my family.”
Many people haven’t heard of a mancala game board, and Carter hadn’t either until one of his grandchildren asked if he could make one. “Of course, I said I’d give it a try. I made one for each of the grandkids for Christmas, and now we’re all into the mancala game boards,” he said.
Basically, the board has 12 holes with two larger holes, and is played with beads, Carter explained. The objective is to capture more beads than the opponent. “It’s quite the family game,” he insisted.
Still, his proudest recent project is the grandfather clock made for his daughter. “She’s seen it, loves it, but I haven’t given the clock to her yet,” Carter said. “We have a little competition going, and when she meets certain stipulations, the grandfather clock will be hers. She’s really working on it.”
Farm life takes many directions for Brad Carter, never a dull moment, but happy and healthy are what count for one who knows.