True Costs
(An Essay by Lyle Stout)

Dateline: 15 September 2014

Spring in The Country, by Iowa artist, Grant Wood


“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
—Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac


I first came across this quote just last year – 2012. Leopold's book was first published in 1949, the year after his death. So, I am admittedly late to his party, and I doubt that he and I would agree upon theology. Yet this quote embodies much of why I have made the choices I have made in my life, and the way in which I have raised my children.

If we are disconnected from the production of those things which are essential for our survival, we become arrogant. Arrogance is a spiritual disease. If we think that our desires can be fulfilled at the mere turn of a faucet, touch of a button or click of a mouse, then we will thoughtlessly fulfill those desires without discerning the true costs. 

In Genesis 3, God declares, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat your bread.” That is a true cost, and I have not seen evidence that God has changed His mind. A related principle of life I have observed is that if I am not sweating for my bread, then my choice forces someone else to sweat twice as hard. Such knowledge wears on my conscience, so I garden for some of my food and cut wood for some of my heat in order to sweat for some of my bread. 

If I can't humble myself in order to meet my own needs of daily bread, then I have succumbed to the arrogant vision of the society in which we live. I have shared my vision with my family. As my children grew, they helped in the garden, helped cut firewood, and had a small dairy goat herd that they milked twice every day. The goats left when the children left home, but my children, now adults, often still choose to return home and aid me in my Quixotic journey in the pursuit of justice. May God bless them!

To further illustrate the nature of true costs, I will end with a story my father told me. When he returned to his parents' farm in 1946 after his military service in World War II, he continued to raise livestock there even while he pursued other employment. One day he was filling a hog water via water pumped by the windmill. He became occupied in other things and forgot that the hog water was filling. Inevitably, it overflowed, flooded the pen, and made a big mess that he had to clean up. As he cleaned up the mess, his father came over, leaned on the fence, and said, “You know, this never happened back when you had to hand pump the water into buckets and carry it over to the pen.”

Spring in Town, by Grant Wood




Some Selected
You Tube Clips

Dateline: 13 September 2014


My first YouTube movie, Four-Day Carrots, which I put online exactly two months ago, now has over 25,000 views. That… is... crazy. 

Speaking of carrots, I enjoyed watching this following video of a man in the UK who grows large parsnips and carrots for show. His "stump" carrots are "absolutely bloody bonkers."



####

On a more serious note, if you have investments with a brokerage firm, you better listen to the following interview with Boston University professor Lawrence Kotlikoff. The American financial system is breaking down and smart, honest, hard-working people who thought they were putting their money in sound, reliable investments are now discovering otherwise. Even if you don't have a brokerage account, you should listen to what this man has to say. It is a symptom of a much bigger problem.





#####


Joel Salatin fans will appreciate two recent YouTube interviews with Joel. Here is the first one…



#####

 With the 13th anniversary of 9/11 in mind, I recommend the following discussion. Why are 9/11 "truthers" so concerned about pointing out the lies and finding out the truth about 9/11? This discussion answers that question. 




#####

Precious few Americans understand the value of gold and silver. Mark Dice has proved this many times over by producing several videos showing him trying to sell gold and silver coins to people on the street for ridiculously low prices. In the following video he attempts to sell an American silver dollar for a dollar.


#####

Reformation Heritage has been working for several years to produce a King James study bible from a Reformed perspective. This is something new and it will be available next month. I'm going to get one.


#####

I have been putting some effort into learning the names of God. His names reveal His character. For example, Jehova-Sabaoth means the Lord Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, or The Lord of Armies. So one day I did a YouTube search on the subject and came up with this…






American-Made
Washboards

Dateline: 12 September 2014




Years ago, I received a long, handwritten letter from a woman reader of this blog whose washing machine was breaking down. She wanted to know if I thought she should buy another machine or start doing the family laundry by hand. 

I showed the letter to Marlene and she said, "Well, I hope you're going to tell her to buy another washing machine!"

Unfortunately, I don't think I ever answered that letter. If you're still reading this blog, ma'am, I apologize. I sure did put some thought into it but, if I recall correctly, I had a lot of hay down at the time. Hopefully, you bought another washing machine.

If there is a woman out there reading this who does your whole family's laundry by hand, and you recommend against having a washing machine, your perspective would be appreciated in the comments below.

From my point of view, there are two problems with electric washing machines. First, they break. I understand the newer machines tend to break down a whole lot faster than the old ones. Our washing machine (a Kenmore) is at least 25 years old. It still works, though I have had to come up with some unconventional repair strategies (literally, in part, using baling wire) to keep it going. I don't want to buy a new washing machine because the one we have still works, and it gets worked almost every day. Our three boys are out of the house, but they still bring their laundry home to wash it.

The second problem with washing machines is that they need electricity. When the grid goes down someday, an electric washing machine isn't going to work. That reality will probably be the least of most people's problems, but it's something that is on my mind. I'd like to have the ability to wash clothes without electricity when the electricity is gone.

Thus, over the years, I have been acquiring the tools necessary for post-electricity clothes washing. They are the same tools that were used in the pre-electrical era. I have galvanized wash tubs and a vintage, fold-up,  two-tub wash stand with a center section to clamp a wringer on. I have a hand wringer from Lehmans. I have a Rapid Laundry Washer (but maybe I should have a Breathing Mobile Washer). I have Fels-Naptha soap. All I lack is a washboard.

So I did a Google search and was amazed to find that there is still a washboard maker in America. The Columbus Washboard Company in Logan, Ohio, has been making washboards since 1895. According to their web site they are the only washboard company left in America. 

It was a delight to peruse the web site and learn about the history of the company. And I bought me one of their washboards. Well, actually, I bought it for Marlene. :-)

(photo link, with article)




Jacqueline's Snarky Sorry
or
New Clothespin Crafters!

Dateline: 10 September 2014

Some of my Classic American clothespins.
And now there are other clothespin makers out there.

Yesterday I received the following e-mail…

"I am sorry you have no desire to build a business and create jobs. I have found a family in the Northwest who wants to grow their 100% American made clothespin business to create incomes for families in their area. Their pins are made of maple and feature stainless steel springs."
—Jacqueline

That was the whole e-mail. There were no prior e-mails between Jacqueline and myself, and when I read that I wondered why she had written. What was her point? I concluded that she was being snarky. Then the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome set in.

For those who don't know, I started making Classic American Clothespins last year. Part of my business plan is to bring the manufacture of high-quality traditional clothespins back to America by encouraging other woodworkers throughout America to become clothespin makers too. Instead of building my own enormous American-made clothespin empire, I envision a decentralized network of small, independent, artisan clothespin makers.

With that in mind, I have made my clothespin specifications available for a small fee and I also sell stainless steel clothespin springs. The springs are made by a U.S. manufacturer. I paid quite a sum of money to purchase a large initial supply of the springs a few years ago.

Thus it is that Jacqueline's e-mail could not be more incorrect in its assumptions and implied criticism. My desire is not to build one business but to help inspire and build many businesses, thus creating many jobs.

The family in the Northwest that she is so impressed with is one that recognized the opportunity I was offering, purchased my clothespin specifications, and is buying the stainless steel springs I sell. The part about them "creating incomes for families in their area" is kind of a mystery (but it sounds like a great thing).

The fact is, I don't make much money selling clothespin specifications and stainless steel springs. If a lot of clothespin entrepreneurs eventually buy the springs on a regular basis, then I stand to have a steady stream of income. But it won't have come without a lot of financial investment, and the passage of a lot of time. 

Anyway, this is a long-worded way of announcing that there are now TWO enterprising traditional-style clothespin makers in the United States (besides yours truly). My vision for a national "guild" of handcrafted clothespin makers is starting to take shape. Please take a few moments to check out the following web sites. At the end I will offer my advice for purchasing clothespins from the growing (slowly-but-surely) network of new American clothespin makers.


Handcrafted Clothespins by
Mefford Endeavors

clothespins by Thomas Mefford

Thomas Mefford, makes clothespins in Connecticut. His family (three generations under one roof) has a busy farmstead. I am powerfully impressed with Thomas Mefford's range of skills (beyond making just clothespins) and entrepreneurial pursuits. Click Here to go to the Mefford Endeavors web site. Click Here to read about and order handcrafted clothespins from Thomas Mefford.

Thomas Mefford.
A picture of entrepreneurial industriousness.


Handcrafted Clothespins by
Lady and the Carpenter

clothespins by Kevin

The lady is Hilary. The carpenter is Kevin. They and their three (homeschooled) children live in the Pacific Northwest. Kevin's dream is to have his own business as a full-time woodworker. It's a good dream, and maybe the clothespin business can help it come true. Click Here to go to the Lady and the Carpenter web site. Click Here to read about and order handcrafted clothespins from Kevin.

It isn't just Lady and the Carpenter.
The kids help make clothespins too!


My Clothespin Buying Advice

The decentralized, artisanal approach to American clothespin production means that people who love to use traditional-style clothespins now have three different American-made clothespins to choose from. 

Thomas and Kevin both use my Classic American clothespin springs, and they have my clothespin specifications, but their clothespins are different from mine. Look at the pictures, read about the clothespins, and you will see this.

I consider this difference in clothespins to be a good thing. Now, those who love to use sturdy, dependable, traditional-style clothespins can purchase a minimum of clothespins from several different clothespin makers. You can then compare and evaluate and come up with your own personal favorites. This sort of thing could be a lot of fun.

I wish Kevin and Thomas the very best!





A Transient and Ephemeral Epoch
(Hubbert's Other Peak)

Dateline: 8 September 2014

Marion King Hubbert
1903-1989

I'm sure that most people who read this have heard of "peak oil." Some people think peak oil is hogwash. Many of these people assert that we are not running out of fossil fuels (coal, oil & natural gas). But doubters who say that reveal their misunderstandings about what peak oil is all about. 

Though fossil fuels are currently being used up as fast as they can be extracted from the earth, peak oil has never been about running out of fossil fuels as much as it is about not being able to mine enough fossil fuels out of the earth to sustain continued economic-industrial growth

Concerns about peak oil originated with M. King Hubbert,  a geoscientist who recognized back in the mid 1950s that the world's consumption of fossil fuels was increasing exponentially, that the once-plentiful worldwide supply would naturally decrease, and that the ever-expanding industrial era could therefore not sustain itself perpetually. 

At first, very few people took Hubbert's predictions seriously.  There was, after all, an abundance of crude oil to extract. Then, American oil production peaked in the early 1970's, just as Hubbert said it would (some 15 years earlier). He further claimed that worldwide oil production would peak around the turn of the century. His "peak oil" graph of world oil production (pictured below) is a familiar one to anyone who has looked into the subject of peak oil. 

Hubbert's famous "peak oil" curve

There are clear and compelling indications that we are today at the top (or rounding the top) of Hubbert's peak oil graph. Yes, it is true that there are vast deposits of oil sands and such as that, with enormous amounts of energy in them, and it is true that America is currently producing more energy from newer oil and gas extraction technologies. But it is also true that the new extraction technologies require a whole lot more energy input to get energy out. 

The net Energy Return On Investment (known as EROI) is more important than how much energy is being produced. The EROI is not very high on the newer extraction technologies, as compared to just pumping millions of barrels out of the once-vast oil reservoirs of the world. In the final analysis, it is the economics of energy extraction that determines its true viability.   

If you want to learn more about peak oil, I recommend this documentary on YouTube: A Crude Awakening. Also if you haven't already done so, be sure to read my essay about Professor Walter Prescott Webb's Boom Hypothesis of Modern History. I don't know if Webb (a historian) and Hubbert (a scientist) knew each other but they both came to the same conclusions about the rise of the industrial age, and it's certain decline.

As for Hubbert's other peak, here it is…

Figure 10
This is Hubbert's other peak 

That graph diagram comes from a 1976 technical article by M. King Hubbert titled, Exponential Growth As A Transient Phenomenon In Human History. Here is what Hubbert says of this graph:

"A better appreciation of the brevity and exceptional character of the epoch of the fossil fuels can be gained if we view it in the perspective of a longer time span of human history than we have considered heretofore. In Figure 10 the complete cycle of exploitation of the world's total supply of fossil fuels, coal and petroleum, is shown on a time scale extending from 5,000 years in the past to 5,000 years in the future."

So what we see is a 10,000 year timeline along the bottom of the graph. The vertical line of the graph appears to be a measure of fossil fuel energy consumption. The upwards "blip," representing the fossil fuel epoch, spans approximately 400 years of human existence. We are, I would guess, beyond the half-way mark, heading down the other side. Please note that there is a point, just over the top, where the decline gets real steep.

Hubbert refers to this sharp and lofty rise (and decline) in the span of world history as a "transient and ephemeral epoch." 

Here is another quote from M. King Hubbert's 1976 article…

"During the last two centuries we have known nothing but exponential growth and in parallel we have evolved what amounts to an exponential-growth culture, a culture so heavily dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that it is incapable of reckoning with problems of nongrowth."

#####

I want to point out that the 5,000 years of history prior to our current transient and ephemeral epoch were an "agrarian epoch." And the 5,000 years after represent the neo-agrarian future that awaits us. 

It actually awaits the generations that follow us. But I really do think we as a civilization are on the other side of the industrial epoch peak. It's all downhill from here.

I also want to point out that Hubbert's timeline doesn't stop at the end of the industrial age. 

Of course, Hubbert isn't the one who decides that history goes on, but his assumption was that it will, and I think we should all consider that it will. 

Each of us has a limited history of our own on this earth, but our children and our grandchildren will follow us and, Lord willing, they will play their part in this grand panorama of Providential orchestrations. When I look at the possibilities, and probabilities and realities that lie just ahead, I am left wondering what I can do now to help my children and grandchildren to be better prepared to deal with the world as it will be.

I think one important thing that can be done is to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak. That is, to personally embrace the agrarian paradigm that has been (and will once again be) the historical norm. If we don't do this, if we cling to, and are completely dependent upon the established systems and institutional promises of a civilization that can not be sustained, that is not being helpful, to say the least.

As a Christian man, I am compelled to think multigenerationally. When I look at how God works throughout history to achieve his purposes, I see that governments and institutions play their part, but God  does his greatest work over the course of generations through humble, God-fearing families. Which brings to mind a Bible verse that I take very seriously... 

"[God's] mercy is on them that fear Him, from generation to generation." (Luke 1:50)





Who Decides
What's For Dinner?

Dateline: 7 September 2014

My recent post about robots prompted Lyle Stout, a reader of this blog from Iowa, to send me an essay he wrote a year ago. Lyle wrote "Who Decides What's For Dinner" for his family and posted it on his Facebook page. This essay contains firsthand observations about the changes that have taken place in agriculture, and I'm sure many of you will appreciate the perspective and commentary. Thank you, Lyle, for giving me permission to publish it here.


"Dinner For Threshers" by Iowa artist Grant Wood
(click picture for larger view)


Who Decides What's For Dinner?
By: Lyle Stout

When the kids were home over the long Thanksgiving weekend, for one meal we made home-made pizza from scratch. While the crust  was very good (the flour was made from fresh ground whole camut berries), the home grown/ home made kale pesto and the re-hydrated tomatoes (home grown, hand-picked and dried at the peak of ripeness) were to die for. You can make food like this, too, with a little effort. But industrial agriculture won't give it to you.

My great grandfather farmed this 160 acres with horses & mules. Most of the land was in grass or forage. My father even remembers plowing up a patch of native prairie as late as 1962.  In 1903, most of Grandpa Ed's income came from the sale of the livestock products that he raised – not crops. He and Grandma Hattie also raised and preserved almost all of their own food as well.

Interestingly, back before there was mechanical refrigeration in railroad cars, and before Mulholland and others figured out out to steal half the water of the west and pipe it over the mountains to the Central Valley of California, Iowa was a principal supplier of produce to Chicago. Before 1900, Iowa was also one of the top apple producing states in the USA. But there was a blight that killed the trees in the early 20th century, and then Wallace started the Pioneer Seed Corn company, promoting hybrid seed corn, and the rest is history. One hundred years ago, Iowa was self sufficient within its boarders in terms of feeding its citizens. But we now import most of our food from other states.

My current “day job” has to do with manufacturing and technology. I sit at a desk, talk on the phone and, since I do a lot of CAD and bills of materials, I push a mouse. (Joyce says I need a cat.) My brother, like 5 generations before him, is a farmer. Now, just as a draftsman used to use real pencils and T squares (as I was trained to do back in high school), farming has also changed a lot, as I witnessed recently when rode a bit with my brother as he was doing his fall tillage. When I was growing up on the farm, we had no climate controlled cab on the tractor, a mold board plow might cut a 5 foot wide swath perhaps 8” deep, and it took both hands on the steering wheel and complete concentration to plow a straight furrow. Dave's huge tractor is climate controlled and steered by GPS. It pulls a chisel plow that is 16 feet wide and plows 12-14” deep. The GPS maintains a consistent overlap of a few inches. Unlike the old mold board types, the chisel plow leaves lots of organic trash on the surface to resist erosion. Each “round” is 1 mile long – ½ mile each way – and covers about 2 acres. Dave plowed over 400 acres this fall. He says this system is very efficient, but pretty boring to operate. He has to keep one eye out for anomalies in the field, but mostly he sits in climate controlled comfort with no more cabin noise than a commercial jet, listening to talk radio to pass the time.

Farming has also become capital intensive. The farm I live on has been in the family for over 100 years. When great grandpa sold the farm to grandpa back in the 1920s, he sold it for less than $50 per acre. (Of course, a farm laborer got 3 squares, a roof over his head, and maybe $0.50 per day back then.)  If my dad were to advertise it for sale today at $16,000 per acre, it would likely be sold within a week. My brother's tractor is valued at $160,000. His seed corn – something great grandpa used to get by saving his best corn from last year – will cost him over $125 per acre. He plants about 800 acres – do the math. Plus, because the seed is not only a hybrid, but a GMO, there is a label on it just like on your software. You know – this is not your intellectual property, you are just leasing it from us, yada, yada, yada. For the farmer, that means that it is illegal for him to save his own seed, should he want to. All this GMO stuff is necessary so that the farmer can control weeds with herbicides, which are also expensive. The hybrid part boosts yields – four fold from great grandpa's 50 bushels to the acre. And that kind of production requires expensive fertilizer, mostly synthesized from petroleum or natural gas.

Now, all this money flying around sounds impressive, but no farmer actually owns much of what he has free and clear. As Robert Kiyosaki says in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” when the banker says that your mortgaged house is an asset, he is not lying. He just isn't telling you who's asset it is. (Hint- it's not yours.) So, there is a lot of money pouring through the farmer's hands, but it is difficult to get much of it to stick. But the bank, Monsanto, Dupont, Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) and John Deere are all doing well, thank you. And, since we have the best government money can buy, the big agricultural conglomerates pretty much dictate ag policy, which pretty much decides what the farmer grows. And that includes the food we eat, not just corn for cows.

So, under this kind of leadership, let's look briefly at how corn has been modified. We already mentioned the GMO part, which may also include insecticidal genes to resist root worm. (BTW, even the pollen from this stuff kills insects – including bees and the Monarch butterfly.) Then, it is also bred to keep its ears attached just well enough so that they make it into the combine and don't fall on the ground. We already mentioned bushels to the acre. But it is also bred to dry down on the stalk, so that it costs less to artificially dry it down to acceptable storage moisture. And, of course it is bred for sugar, as it is used as the primary carbohydrate in livestock feed, the principal component in Ethanol, and don't forget that ubiquitous ingredient in manufactured food – high fructose corn syrup. So, what about other nutritional aspects? Hello? Anyone there?

So, if the agri-conglomerates are in control of ag policy, and they also control and manipulate the genetics of our food stock, what is happening to our food? Take that tomato at the store. It was bred to be picked by a machine and to stay green until they gas it just before they deliver it to your store. And then you wonder why the texture is a bit rubbery and it doesn't taste like the tomatoes that Grandma used to grow? Wake up and smell the roses. If you want real food, grow it yourself or go visit you local farmers market. And tomatoes are just the tip of the iceberg. (And I'm not just talking lettuce here.)

So, who decides what's for dinner at your house?