Four-Day Carrots
(Part 3)

Dateline: 10 October 2014

I've decided to extend my break from blogging to the end of this month. But I'll probably stop in once or twice between now and then, like with this here post….

I've just uploaded another short movie to You Tube. I made it kind of fast, so it's not as good as it could be. But it shows the "Four-Day" carrot beds (featured in previous film clips) at three months of age. The tri-planted carrots in black plastic mulch are looking good!

Click Here to watch the 8-minute film clip.

Complexity & Collapse
(An Interview With Joseph Tainter)

Dateline: 6 October 2014

This flow chart illustrates the amazing complexity of America's new health care system, also known as, Obamacare.
Click Here for more details

If you have read this blog for long you know that I often make the point that complexity (and dependency) leads to vulnerability. And vulnerability eventually leads to failure.

That being the case, I've long believed that our incredibly complex, interdependent, modern civilization will eventually collapse. That is, after all, what has happened to all complex civilizations throughout history. 

So it is that I found This Recent Interview with Professor Joseph Tainter at the McAlvany Weekly Commentary to be of great interest. I recommend it to you.

Joseph Tainter is an anthropologist and historian who has studied the collapse of various civilizations throughout history. He is author of the 1988 book, The Collapse of Complex Societies

I think Professor Tainter has a remarkably insightful understanding of how and why complex societies always eventually collapse. I think he is right on with his understandings of how our modern civilization will collapse. A few notes from the McAlvany interview:

—Complexity is the cause of societal collapse (Dr. Tainter does not think resource depletion will be the cause of collapse). Other factors certainly enter into the picture, but it is, essentially, complexity itself that leads to collapse.

—Complex societies become more complex as they work to solve problems that arise. Complexity happens slowly, incrementally, over a period of time.

—Collapse, defined as the loss of a complex way of life, happens relatively quickly.

—Our modern complex civilization is trapped in its complexity. There is no way to lessen complexity and avert collapse.

—Complex society is a historical anomaly. Civilizations throughout most of history have not been complex.

I hope you will take the time to listen to the whole interview. And maybe you'll come to the same conclusion I did

Our complex civilization may be trapped in complexity but we as individuals and families don't have to be. To the extent that we can, we who are wise to the lessons of history can simplify our way of life, lessen our dependencies on complex civilization, and learn to be more self reliant. 

It's the same old bottom line. I've been blogging about it here for the past nine years. The good news is that more and more people are seeing the connection between complexity and collapse, and they are being seriously proactive about it.


I'm on blogging break until the 15th.
See you then.

I'm Taking A Little Break

Dateline: 2 October 2014

Back in early August I blogged about Ebola and colloidal silver, wondering if colloidal silver might help prevent or cure the disease. Now that Ebola has landed in the United States, I'm thinking more about this.

I'm also thinking is that it is incredibly foolish of our government to allow people from countries where Ebola is now pandemic to freely come into the United States. If they do let them in, such people should be quarantined for a period of time. Doesn't that seem like a wise thing to do? But folly on top of folly seems to be the way of American government these days. And we will all pay a price for it.

I have a friend from high school who went on to get a PhD in biochemistry, then did post-doctorate studies in microbiology, before a teaching gig at Harvard Medical School. He recently wrote on his Facebook page… "Did you know that the RNA 'genome' of ebola codes for only (8) proteins?? That is scarier to me than any horror film I've ever seen…" And he provides This Link for more details.

I have no idea what he is talking about with genomes and protein coding, and the link is only to be understood by microbiologists, but I do understand "scarier than any horror film I've ever seen."
Fortunately for America, the health authorities in Dallas (the current ground zero for American Ebola) have everything under control there. The wicked disease is contained. That is what they have said in news conferences.
Some translation may be needed here…. 
What the health authorities mean is that the disease is not contained and it is not under control. 

Understanding government talk is easy once you realize that the truth of any situation is almost always the exact opposite of what the government people and the government-controlled media say it is. 
Back to colloidal silver 

The US Government asserts that colloidal silver is not a cure or preventative measure for Ebola (Note: see "government-talk" translation tip above). 

The government says this because there are concerned about people who are trying to get silver solutions into ebola-affected countries in order to help the sick people.  And government authorities are putting a stop to this

As usual, there is more to the story than meets the eye. This Article brings some interesting facts to light and tells how our government is now going after anyone who asserts that colloidal (or nano) silver could help with ebola.

One of the people that the government is going after is Dr. Rima Laibow. She has issued This Protocol with instructions for the use of 10ppm nano silver (and vitamin C) for helping to prevent ebola, and for treating ebola symptoms if they arise.

I'm not endorsing Dr. Laibow. You can read her protocol, and the information on her web site. Then you can come to your own conclusions about her. Yes, she sells nano silver, but, personally, I'm inclined to think she is more apt to be telling the truth than our government.

There is a lot of talk about a vaccine for ebola, and mandatory vaccination for all Americans is expected at some point. There are a lot of people who have concerns about the safety of vaccinations. But not to worry, the government says they are safe (Note: see government-talk translation tip above).


I'm taking a break from blogging for awhile. I will post a blog update here on October 15. If you are not yet signed up to receive this blog by e-mail, there is a link to do so at the top right of this page. 

Here's wishing all of you the blessings of a strong immune system and abundant health, now and through this potential pandemic.

My Grandfather's Farm
As It Is Today

Dateline: 30 September 2014

Photo by Paul Cyr
(click to see enlarged view)

My Aunt Carolyn recently sent me the picture above. It shows my maternal grandfather's farm, on Forest Avenue Road in Fort Fairfield, Maine, as it looks today. 

I sent the picture to a cousin and he wondered if I might be mistaken. That's because the old place looks a whole lot different than it once did. The red barn with silos was never there before. Neither was the long back addition on the white house, nor all the other outbuildings and additions. There was only the house and the red-roofed barn in the foreground.

The barn on the right was the only barn on the farm when my grandparents owned it. I remember the barn very well.
(photo by Paul Philbrick)

My grandfather died in 1971. My grandmother sold the farm a few years later. It changed hands several times before an Amish family (the Yoder family) from northern New York state bought the place and moved in back in the summer of 2007.

Near as I can determine, Noah and Lovina Yoder, along with their 11 children, were the first Amish family to settle in Aroostook County, Maine. Noah is a farmer and a carpenter. He builds barns and furniture. I'm pretty sure all the buildings and additions to buildings on the farm have been made since the Yoders arrived. It is great to see.

This DownEast magazine article, featuring Noah Yoder's story and that of the Amish in Northern Maine, is particularly good. The picture at the top of the article of the Amish boy making a snowman shows a little bit of my grandfather's barn. Sadly, the article reveals that Noah's 22-year-old son was killed in an auto accident one winter. He was a passenger.

This Web Page shows pictures of an Amish barn raising in Easton, Maine, which is right next to Fort Fairfield. If you look closely you'll see that the barn is not a traditional post and beam structure. It turns out the Amish rarely, if ever, put up post and beam barns anymore. 

These days, Amish barns are nailed together using 2x6 lumber. You can learn more about the specifics of how Amish barns are made in Maine from This Link

I have a lot of memories of my grandfather's barn. Back in the July issue of my 2010 Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine I told the story of helping him repair potato barrels, and getting split ash hoops from the indians, and nearly blowing my hand off with a firecracker I found in the barn. Click on that link and you will also see a picture of my grandparents back in the day (there's a picture of me too, back when my memories were fresh and real and lodged themselves into my brain).

The barn was built by my Uncle Clyde Kennedy (author of The Hard Surface Road: A Memoir of the Great Depression) after WW2. Clyde married my mother's sister, Aunt Dawn. The lower half of the barn is a potato cellar. If I remember correctly, the upper floor of the barn is concrete (it would be the ceiling of the potato cellar). I'm pretty sure this is right because I recall there was a rectangular concrete hatch in the floor. Maybe more than one. I think they were there to unload harvested potatoes through.

Anyway, there is a little bit of a secret in that barn. One of the concrete hatch covers has my grandfather's name in it: P.O. Philbrick. The letters were written in wet concrete by Uncle Clyde, and there is also a profile drawing on the hatch (made in wet concrete) of my grandfather's head. Uncle Clyde was an artist and I was always amazed as a kid by the excellent likeness of my grandfather.

If I ever make it back to Fort Fairfield I would like to stop and see if that little secret is still in the barn.


You can see a film clip showing the beautiful farm country of Northern Maine (including my grandparent's farm) from an aircraft in This YouTube Movie. It also shows some Amish boys plowing fields with horse teams. 

My grandparent's house looks pretty much the same on the outside
(photo by Paul Philbrick, December 2013

Planet Whizbang Profile
And My Advice
For Economic Independence

Dateline: 29 September 2014

Yours Truly, back in 1997 BB (before beard).
Marlene took this picture for Farm Show magazine.

A man in Georgia contacted me a couple weeks ago to see if I would be interested in answering some questions about my homestead business for a book he is writing. The book will contain some profiles of people who are generating income while living off the land. 

I don't live off the land entirely but, as anyone who reads this blog knows, Planet Whizbang is a successful homestead business that allows me to live on my land, full time. 

Everybody's situation is different, but I know how I got to this point in my life. If someone else can benefit from my example, then I'm more than willing to share what I know.

I agreed to answer a a series of questions in writing. If a verbal interview were part of this, I would not have been as interested. Having questions in writing allows more time to give thoughtful answers.

It remains to be seen how my Whizbang profile will eventually end up in the book, but I thought I would share with you the last question, and my answer to it...

Question: What advice do you have for someone considering leaving a "real job" to become more self-sufficient? 

Answer:   A person or family can become more self-sufficient while working a wage slave job to pay the necessary bills. It’s just a whole lot more work. But it is a practical way to make the transition. While working the wage slave job, you can seriously pursue the elimination of all debt. You can’t be self-sufficient if you are in debt. Simplify your wants and needs in every way possible, while acquiring tools and skills of self reliance.

Beyond that, develop an entrepreneurial mindset and look for small business opportunities. It is almost impossible to pay the industrial-world bills with a small farm these days. But it is entirely possible to create a home business that pays the bills and allows a family to live a down-to-earth, more self-reliant lifestyle on a section of productive land. I know it’s possible because I’m doing it.

Being home, on my land, with  my family around me, not dependent on a job to pay the bills, and living a contra-industrial lifestyle is my definition of success and freedom. 

It all starts with having a personal vision of what you believe is the right, and true, and best way to live your life, then embracing the vision one step at a time. 

As a Christian, one of the key Bible verses in my life has been Proverbs 3:5-6... “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”  That is, essentially, my story. 

The Biblical concept of being faithful with small things is also critically important. In other words, do the best you can with what you have. Everyone’s story is different. Don’t compare. Don’t covet. Be brave. Work hard. Enjoy the adventure. That’s my advice.


The term,"economic independence," as found in the title of this blog is a misnomer. I don't think anyone in the "civilized" world can be economically independent these days. But you can be independent of a so-called "real job," and that's my point. More and more people are pursuing and achieving this form or economic independence. It's great to see, and I'm looking forward to reading the new book. I'll be letting you know about it here when it is in print (it will be an e-book).

Birth Of An Orchard
Part 4
Forlorn Reality

Dateline: 26 September 2014

Futureman, on the way to the orchard
(click pictures to see larger views)

Lyle Stout sent me an e-mail wondering how my orchard was doing these days. It's a good question, and this blog post will answer it, in a round-about way.

For those who don't know, I wrote about the orchard of my dreams in the following blog posts…

Part 1: Getting Started (April 2013)
Part 2: Layout & Planning (April 2013)
Part 3: After A Summer's Neglect (November 2013)

Back in the spring of this year I spent several hours over the course of a few days working more at leveling a circle of ground around each tree, and laying in a heavy mulch of hay from old round-bales that were on the property (as explained in Part 3). I also planted some comfrey around the trees. And that was the last I've seen of my orchard.

Life gets real busy around here in the spring and doesn't let up until late fall. The orchard is quite a distance from my house, on the new land we bought a few years ago. Out of sight, out of mind. I've come to realize it's not the best situation for getting an orchard started. It would be a whole lot better if the orchard were right near my house. But there is no land right near my house for an orchard. It's a bit of a conundrum.

Anyway… yesterday was a good day to go and see my forlorn orchard. Marlene had a lunch date with a friend so it was me and Futureman (my grandson), home alone, looking for something to do together before his nap time. 

We took the "back way" to the orchard, which is to say, into the woods behind our house, down into the gully for a distance, then up out of the gully into the field where the orchard is. We were not in a hurry. 

After finding a good spot to cross over the creek I found a steep bank, quickly climbed to the top, and encouraged Futureman to follow. He made it up the bank quicker than I expected.

I set him on a moss-covered rock outcropping at the top and took the following picture…

Then I sat on the rock while Futureman explored around the area (the cow was in his pocket)…

From there, we headed into the top of my field. Here's a picture of the field from the wood's edge…

My field is full of goldenrod. There are no animals. There is no crop. I'm still trying to figure out what best to do with it. I kind of wish it was all woods. I'm partial to woods.

The goldenrod is well over my head in parts of the field. This next picture shows Futureman on my shoulders…

Another selfie in the goldenrod jungle…

We found our way to the orchard and this is an example of what the apple trees are looking like…

It may not be immediately evident from the picture, but the apple trees have grown pretty well, despite all the weeds that surround them. The old hay mulch only suppressed the weeds a little. A thick mulch of wood chips would, I'm sure, be better, but I have no wood chips. The tree trunks have thickened nicely. There are too many branches. Pruning is needed. The ring of fencing has kept the deer from browsing… for now. 

The comfrey root cuttings I planted in the spring have established themselves. Comfrey will help with weed suppression, and it is supposed to mine nutrients from deep in the soil.

I planted three comfrey plants around each tree, several feet out from the trunks.

So my orchard isn't looking all that great, what with the weeds all around, but it's not a lost cause. Futureman and me headed back into the woods down below the orchard…

One of Futureman's favorite things to do is throw stones into the stream. There is an abundance of stone on this land. He can busy himself for a long time throwing the stones. When the stone makes a big splash, he laughs. When I throw a stone into the water so that it splashes on him, he's startled. But then he picks up a big stone for me and wants me to throw it, because he likes getting splashed.

Our little hike allowed me to check on the trees I planted earlier in the spring. Some have died. Some have lived. This little oak tree has done the best of all…

Futureman loves to play in the creek. I dare say, there is nothing he likes more than throwing stones in the water. But maybe there is something he likes more…

When we got almost home, in the woods directly behind our house, I lifted him up to grab the hanging rings under a tree fort my kids made years ago. To my surprise, he was able to hold his weight and hang there. He laughed with delight at this new experience…

And that's the story of me and Futureman going to the orchard. We had a good time together. And he had a good nap afterwards, dreaming, I suppose, of big rocks and the wonderful splashes that big rocks make in the water.