Raised Garden Beds

Dateline: 25 April 2015

Raised beds in my 2014 garden.
(click on pictures to see enlarged views)

Most how-to articles or YouTube videos on the subject of making raised beds in the garden focus on using lumber or concrete blocks to frame the beds. I have made and grown food in lumber-framed raised beds in years past, but not any more. These days I make simple raised beds as I explain in this blog post...

My raised beds are all 30" wide and 16' long, with an 18" walkway between them.

I have made wider and longer raised beds, but this size is one that works well for me. The bed and walkway width is the same as used by Jean-Martin Fortier in his excellent book, The Market Gardener (which I reviewed HERE), but his beds are 100' long. 

After cultivating the garden soil, I stake out the beds, using wood stakes cut from old pallets...

the stakes are 18" long

The stakes are driven into the soil with a sledge hammer...

A standard shovel is 9" wide. The walkway between the beds is 18." See how nice that works out?....

The red metal in the background is recycled sheet metal siding
that I have laid down as a walkway in my garden.

I use polypropylene baling twine, tied from stake to stake to outline my garden beds and walkways. Polypropylene twine is very strong and does not sag after being stretched tight...

This next picture shows the strings in place, framing what will be a walkway between two beds...

With stakes and strings in place, it is time to start making the raised beds. I do this by working my way down the 18" walkway and "excavating" one shovel-width of soil onto the bed on the right, as this next picture shows...

I am shoveling the loose soil, down 4" or 5" onto the bed.

This next picture shows the right half of the walkway has been shoveled onto the raised bed on the right, and I am about to shovel down the left side, putting the soil onto the left raised bed....

Once that is done, the walkway and raised beds will look like this...

And here you can see two walkways shoveled out, with a raised bed in the center...

Now it is time to shape the raised bed. I do this with a garden rake. This next picture shows the bed is shaped in the foreground, and has yet to be shaped in the background...

And here is the whole bed after being shaped with the garden rake...

I take this shaping and finishing  of the bed a step further by using a leaf rake...

The smoothed and finished bed is in the background.
The small rubble in the foreground is what the rake collects.

Here you can see a finished bed, ready for planting...

This next picture shows three beds all shaped and smoothed. A Planet Whizbang wheel hoe can be used to keep the beds cultivated and free of weeds. I've used my wheel hoe for this purpose in the past,  but I now use black plastic mulch in the walkways.

The strings and stakes stay in place for the entire gardening season. In my next installment of this series, I will show how I am using black plastic as a mulch in the walkways between the beds. I have a new way of easily securing the plastic.

Stay tuned...

All About Capons

Dateline: 24 April 2015

The above picture comes from the 1914 booklet, Caponizing, by George P. Pilling. Here is an excerpt from the book:

"A capon is a male bird (cockerel or rooster) from which the testicles have been removed. As in other animals—bull, horse, boar, etc., this operation changes his nature entirely. He has only one function in life, to get fat. The growth is more rapid, the comb and wattles cease to grow, the bird is lazy, his plumage is heavy and very beautiful, the spurs do not develop, neither hen nor rooster has any further use for him, and he seeks the company of the little chickens, brooding over them at night, and leading them about during the day. In France, the capon largely takes the place of the mother, the hen confining herself to laying. 

To the poultry producer of today the capon is an absolute necessity, if he intends to stay in the business and make it profitable. He makes quick meat, tender meat, and much of it, and, best of all, he makes the highest priced meat in the market.

The uncaponized rooster runs his flesh off; he is always in trouble. When Mary E. Wilkins made one of her characters say "Chickens allies die in debt," she was, no doubt, thinking of the rooster, for he does usually die in debt; his feed bill is never settled by his carcass; he is a nuisance any way you take him.

Caponize this good for nothing fowl, all legs and appetite, and, presto, he is changed into the quiet Capon; his mission in life is now to convert his owner's food into the delicious and highly profitable meat."

My interest in learning about caponizing is not to produce profitable meat for sale, or even to produce superior tasting chicken (capons are, by all accounts, remarkably flavorful) but to produce meaty birds for my own family, using common breeds of chicken, instead of depending on a far-away hatchery in another state to supply me with the common hybrid Cornish-X chicks (preppers, listen up).

If the idea of being able to raise your own high-quality meat birds, using the cockerels (young male chickens) of standard egg-laying breeds, intrigues you too, I recommend that you first educate yourself in the old, and mostly forgotten, art of caponizing. You can do this by reading articles on the internet, and by downloading the four inexpensive caponizing resources I have just released at

The following pictures show the covers of the four caponizing books. You can click on the title under the pictures to learn more about each...

Capons and Caponizing

Producing Capons in Pennsylvania

Beuoy Bow Capon Book

The Pilling Caponizing Book

I have yet to caponize a cockerel, but I am confident that, with the information in the above resources, I'll be able to do the surgery. The confidence comes, not just from the books, but from the fact that I've butchered enough chickens in my life to be familiar with, and comfortable around, the bird's internal organs. 

I don't know if I'll caponize some chickens this year, but I'll acquire the tools this year, and, eventually, I'll get around to the task. Sooner or later, I get around to actually pursuing something that interests me, but it begins with learning all I can about a subject first.

With that thought in mind, I'm wondering if anyone reading this has personal or offhand experience with raising or eating capons. If so, please share what you know in the comments section below.

Thank you.

High Quality
Handcrafted, Hardwood Clothespins
(For Mother's Day)

Dateline: 18 April 2015

Casey Schillinger's Heritage Clothespins

Mother's Day is about three weeks away and what, I ask you, would make a nicer gift than some heirloom-quality, handcrafted, hardwood clothespins? 

With that thought in mind, I would like to direct you to the online Directory of Artisan Clothespin Makers that I have put together at There are currently six clothespin makers in the directory. All of them have clothespins to sell.... except one, and that's me.

It was my intention to make a production run of my Classic American clothespins this spring, but I've changed my mind. Instead, I'm going to do some necessary work on my house, tend my garden, and spend time with my three-year-old grandson. I hope to get a production run made this fall, but don't wait for me.

Clothespin season is here and I encourage you to check out all the other quality clothespin makers at

My goal of building a network of artisan clothespin crafters throughout the United States is slowly but surely taking shape. Please let your friends know about on Facebook and other social media.

And I thank you.


P.S. If you are a woodworker, you can make your own heirloom clothespins. Top-quality, stainless steel springs and specifications are available at

Going To See
Nabeel Qureshi
At Cornell University

Dateline: 18 April 2015

Dr. Nabeel Quershi

I’m a homebody. I don’t get out much. I rarely go to any events, other than church on Sundays, and sometimes I don’t make it to church. But when I heard it mentioned in church last weekend that a speaker from RZIM was going to be giving a presentation at Cornell University, my interest was piqued.

RZIM is a Christian ministry that focuses on apologetics, which is to say, a reasoned defense of the Christian faith. Their objective is to “help thinkers believe and believers think.” RZIM speaking teams go to secular educational institutions throughout the world. I have listened to some of the RZIM speakers on YouTube and they are remarkably intelligent, articulate people.

I have a lot of respect for anyone who has the mental capacity and courage to go into the secular temples of the land (a.k.a. universities) and speak to the important issues of life from a Biblical perspective. 

So I did some research on this Cornell speaking engagement and decided I would go. Cornell is only 45 minutes from my home. I was intent on going alone but I sent an e-mail to a few friends, inviting them to go with me. I ended up taking three other men, one of whom has three degrees (including a doctorate) from Cornell. Having a Cornell alumnus is handy when you visit the campus, because they know where they are going. :-)

We got to Kennedy Hall about half an hour early. The auditorium seats 600 people and there was plenty of seating to choose from. But by the time the presentation started, the place was jam packed full. I didn’t see an empty seat anywhere!

There were some grey haired outsiders there (like me) but the audience was mostly Cornell students, with many different cultures of the world represented. 

The main speaker was Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, an American-born Muslim (his parents immigrated to the US from Pakistan). Qureshi is a remarkably well spoken intellectual. He has a medical degree, two masters degrees and is currently pursuing a doctorate at Oxford University. His talk was titled, Why Jesus? The Gospel in a World of Religion and Irreligion.

Dr. Qureshi covered a lot of cultural and theological territory in a couple of hours, starting with the question of, “what is the meaning of life?,” and ending with a Q&A session covering topics like, “if God is a God of love, why is there so much suffering in the world?”  The audience was respectful and listened intently.

I’m glad I went, and I think my friends were too. We had a lively discussion all the way home.

Having said all of that, I would like to take this opportunity to recommend This YouTube Presentation by Nabeel Qureshi, in which he tells the story of his conversion from Islam to Christianity, while in medical school. It's well worth taking in this unique personal testimony.

Nabeel Qureshi has also authored a book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslin Encounters Jesus, and has a Facebook Page Here.

The Last
Ice Merchant

Dateline: 17 April 2015

Anyone interested in agrarian culture and traditional ways of life will enjoy watching The Last Ice Merchant. It is only 15 minutes long. The photography is excellent. The story is rare and compelling.

Blessed Is The Man...
(On Tax Day)

Dateline: 15 April 2015

(click to see larger view)

Today is "tax day." It is the deadline government has set for me to pay "my fair share" of the money they continually extort from the productive citizenry. I am sending in checks for so much money that it boggles my mind. And the money I send, which represents a great amount of my expended life force, will be squandered by the irresponsible, parasitic politicians, who do not work nearly as hard as I do, and do not produce anything of value. 

If I worked for money alone, I would be very depressed. If I didn't have the money set aside, I would be more depressed. As it is, I'm not depressed, but I admit to being distressed by the injustice of it. So I'm going to write out my checks to the government and then get back to the work of my life...

Spring has finally come to Central New York State. The garlic sprouts are growing fast. Yesterday I planted shelling peas. And today I will commence to reroof part of my house. The roof is nearly 30 years old. It is time.

I will put my thoughts on more pleasant, uplifting things. I will try not to think of corrupt government, and hard-earned money lost to scoundrel politicians. I will think on the quote pictured above. 

I have had that quote for many years. Either I typed it, or my mother typed it, back in those days when personal computers were nowhere in the land.

It is a quote worth putting on paper, and reading every so often, because it puts life in proper perspective. At least it does for this man.

The beauty of the internet is that I can do a Google search on "A. W. Ward," and the name, which was something of a mystery to me before, is revealed to be a Christian man who wrote many inspirational things. Things that are well worth reading and ruminating on. Do a Google search of your own and you will discover some of this man's well crafted word-treasures. Here are a couple more...

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss,
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk to failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.
“Before you speak, listen.
Before you write, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you invest, investigate.
Before you criticize, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.
Before you retire, save.
Before you die, give.”

I have so much to blog about but, as I said, spring is here. I have much to be doing. Blog posts will be less frequent for awhile.

Happy Tax Day.