Agrarian Thoughts

I have recently acquired a copy of the book Agrarianism in American Literature, edited by M. Thomas Inge. Though I have not read much of this book yet, I have skimmed it and it looks good. I found the introduction to be particularly insightful where, in an attempt to define the word “agrarian,” the editor introduces some “thoughts which are generally to be understood as “agrarian.” I think you will appreciate these Agrarian Thoughts:

1. The cultivation of the soil, the mother of all arts, has within it a positive spiritual good and instills in the cultivator such virtues as honor, manliness, self-reliance, courage, moral integrity, and hospitality. These folllow from his direct contact with physical nature, the medium through which God is directly revealed and which serves to remind man of his finite nature and dependence on God. It is an occupation singularly blessed by God, since He was the first husbandman, having wrought order and creation out of confusion and chaos, and it is the first employment ordained by Him of Adam, the first man.

2. Only farming offers complete independence and self-sufficiency, because regardless of the state of the national economy (provided the farmer and not the bank owns his land), his basic needs of food and shelter are provided through his cooperative relationship with nature. The standard by which an economic system is judged is not how much wealth or prosperity it produces, but how effectively it encourages freedom, individuality, and morality.

3. The farmer has a sense of identity, a sense of historical and religious tradition, a feeling of belonging to a concrete family, place, and region, which are psychologically and culturally beneficial. His life is harmonious, orderly, and whole, and counteracts tendencies in modern society toward abstraction, fragmentation, and alienation.

4. Industry, capitalism, and technology, and the thriving metropolises they have created, are often destructive of independence and dignity, and encourage corruption, vice, and weakness.

5. Agricultural communities, where the brotherhoods of labor and cooperation bring about increased understanding, provide a potential model for an ideal social order.

Benny's Grandfather
Was A Ditch Digger

Dateline: 17 July 2005
By: Herrick Kimball

And Benny's grandfather grew tomatoes

Benny is a guy I work with. He is of Italian heritage. He is a Vietnam vet.

We got to talking about garlic the other day and Benny told me his wife uses a LOT of garlic in her cooking. She uses fresh garlic in season and minced garlic from the store out of season. Benny eats out a lot but he never eats Italian out because no one makes Italian as well as his wife. I've had Mrs. Benny's pasta with the garlic and tomato sauce and it is good.

Well the conversation that day turned to Benny's grandfather. He was born in Italy, but came to American and lived in Auburn, NY. Benny told me his grandfather was a ditch digger. He hand-dug many sewer lines in the city of Auburn. If you've ever hand-dug a ditch (as I have, on several occasions) you can't help but have a lot of respect for someone who digs ditches for a living.

But that wasn't all Benny's Grandfather did for a living. It turns out he had a big market garden. It was in the city and Benny says it was a city block long. He spaded the garden by hand. He did not have a rototiller, or a tractor with a plow. Just a shovel. It was a city block long! If you've ever spaded a garden by hand you can't help but have a lot of respect for a man who spades his market garden by hand.

Benny's grandfather grew garlic, and scallions and tomatoes. This was, after all, an Italian family. The scallions and tomatoes were his specialty. He supplied all the little markets in the city. Little markets that, except for a single remaining dinosaur, have become extinct in the city of Auburn, NY. A couple Mega Supermarkets now dominate.

Benny's grandfather had a sink set up in his basement to prepare his produce for market. The tomatoes he grew were huge, says Benny, and he holds up this hands to show me just how big they were (and I wonder if Benny might be exaggerating just a little).

How did Benny's Grandfather grow such huge tomatoes? Chicken manure. He would get burlap bags of dried, crusty old chicken manure and dump them into big open-top barrels by his garden and fill them with water. He had a lot of these barrels. Benny says, "That s--t would ferment and he'd dip the water off the top and pour a ring of it around the tomato plants early in the morning."

I relate this story to you because I think it is a wonderful look back....to a time when men worked for a living, when men turned the soil over by hand with a spade, when men grew food for their families and communities, even in the cities. It was a time when there were little markets in each community throughout the city. Was this an idyllic time? Yes it was. One definition of idyllic is "pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity." It was idyllic.

Clearly, Benny's grandfather did not live an easy life. But it definitely had idyllic qualities. There is, without a doubt, great value in manual labor, in working the soil, in growing food. There is great satisfaction in such things.

I asked Benny how old his grandfather lived to be. The man was 97 when he died. Homegrown garlic, tomatoes, scallions, and hard work. How's that for a longevity plan?

Good Agrarian Bloggin'

Gosh, but there is a lot of good Agrarian blogging going on these days....

First I'm flattered that The Deliberate Agrarian was mentioned in Hallowed Ground, a Catholic-Agrarian Blog.

Of me, the Hallowed Ground blogger says..."He's apparently one of  those damnable Protestant heretics, but since he's an agrarian, I won't hold that against him just yet."

Then, over to Rick Saenz's Dry Creek Chronicles, there is a fine article titled Farmer Boy

And Kansas Milkmaid is writing some very good stories. Some are a bit long so when Marlene and I went out on a "date" last Saturday (meaning, we went out to get groceries without the kids) I took copies of Mrs. Milkmaid's stories and Marlene read them on the way.

Ann is exercising her agrarian painting skills at Sun and Soil. Scott is telling us how to make a low-cost maple syrup evaporator at Homesteader Life. J.M. is talking about the "birds & the bees & pumpkins" at Anthesis in Agriculture. And Northern Farmer (is it Tom?) is sharing his wisdom about how to succeed as a startup farmer. (see links at right for these blogs).

I'm thinking there are a lot of folks out there who would really appreciate all this good agrarian discussion, if they only knew it was here. Anyone have any ideas for how to spread the word?

“Can You Feel The Energy?”

Dateline: 13 July 2005
(Note: today’s blog is a continuation of yesterday’s blog post, 
Earl The Bee Man & My First Hive)

My honeybee hive wintered well and was full of activity in the spring. Then something amazing happened. I was working in my garden one morning and became aware of an audible humming in the direction of my hive. I looked over and saw that there were far more bees in the air than normal. The corporate buzzing became louder as the bees collected into a cloud. Then the cloud rose into the air and made its way out over the trees in the back woods.

I went into the house to tell Marlene what I had seen and ended up having some breakfast. The boys heard my story and went out to investigate. They returned shortly to tell me there were “millions” of bees on the ground by one of my apple trees. I headed right out to see for myself.

Sure enough, there was a tight bunch of bees, about half a peck in size, maybe more, at the base of the tree. I called Earl Downes, the local bee-man and my mentor, and he came right over. He was suited, as usual, in his white bee-suit coveralls but wore no gloves or veil as he carried a section of hive (called a super) over and set it on the ground a couple feet from the beebunch.

Earl explained that when the hive population grows too large for the hive, the bees make another queen and a portion of the bee population takes off with her to find a place to make a new hive. It’s called a swarm. The tight cluster of bees before us was surrounding the queen, he said.

I was trying to figure out why I saw a cloud of bees take off and here was this churning mass before me. Did they come back and clump here when I was eating breakfast? Or were those bees in the cloud the house hunters? If Earl answered that question, I don’t remember. He told me they would find the super he brought and move right in with the queen. Then he would return tomorrow and take it away and set the bees up somewhere in a full hive. He told me this while on his knees right next to the swarm.

Standing a few feet away, I inquired about the possibility of him getting stung. Earl explained that a fresh swarm won’t sting because they gorged themselves with honey before leaving the hive. But as the swarm ages, and the honey is consumed, the mass of bees will become a “dry swarm,” which can get downright mean.

“You can put your hand right into the swarm and they won’t sting you,” he said to me.

You can do that,” I said. “But not me!”

“No, really!” he replied. “Watch this....” Earl slowly eased his ungloved hand into the moving mass. It enveloped him like a fluid up to his wrist. “There is incredible energy in a swarm of bees. You can feel the energy. Want to try it?”

I gave it a brief thought, threw caution to the wind, and did the unthinkable. Yes, it’s true, I put my bare hand into the middle of the massed bees.

“Can you feel the energy?” Earl asked.

Oh yeah, I could feel it alright. My bare hand was inside the organism of moving bees. It was one of the ultimate agrarian thrills of my life. I lifted my cupped palm slowly out of the swarm and bees, like water, flowed over the sides back into the mass. I tipped the cup and bees poured out. Believe it or not, I did not get stung.

Using his bare hands again, Earl parted the swarm, looking for the queen. He saw her for a moment. I did not. He manipulated the mass some more, spreading it out. “There she is! See her?” I saw a bee that looked to my untrained eye, pretty much like all the others, except maybe a little longer.

It was a learning experience for me that day.

As soon as Earl left, I headed back into the house to tell my family what I had done. I urged them to come out and watch me stick my bare hand into the swarm.

They huddled a safe distance away while I kneeled on the ground by the bees and told them, like an experienced bee man, what was going on. Then I said, “Watch this.” and I slowly eased my bare hand into the swarm.

Marlene and the kids were very impressed. Then I exclaimed, “You can feel the energy!” as I lifted a handful of bees into the air. At that moment I felt a different kind of energy. One of those little buggers must have dried out and got a bad attitude. Bee stings hurt and I yelled, “Ow!” and gave my hand a quick shake.

I probably don’t have to tell you that a good bee man does not shake his hand violently when he gets a sting. Several bees, still latched to my fingers, became alarmed and responded by stinging me several more times. I was on my feet by then, slapping my hand repeatedly on the side of my jeans. I noticed some bees were flying close to my head and swatted at them with my other hand. Things were getting ugly. I yelled to the family... RUNNNNNNNN!.... and we all hightailed it back to the house.

I was standing in the doorway when they got there. They couldn’t run very fast because they were laughing so hard.

My fingers swelled up like hot dogs.

Yes, it sure was a learning experience for me that day.

Earl The Bee Man & My First Hive

Dateline: 12 July 2005

Earl Downes is the bee man around these parts. Earl really knows bees. He lives off the beaten path on Dresserville Road, a few miles outside Moravia. Earl has sold his honey self-serve for many years from a display stand in his front yard. In the barn next to his house is a workshop where he builds and repairs hives. There is also a nice extraction room there and he recently added a nifty little honey store on the side.

Folks from all over, including many city people, go to Earl’s for honey of many varieties. Early in the spring, the bees around here make basswood honey. I never knew there was such a thing as basswood honey until I met Earl. Buckwheat honey is a regional favorite. Buckwheat flowers are white and a field of them has a unique pungent aroma that I rather like, but some folks find it offensive. Whatever the case, buckwheat honey appears dark brown in the jar on a shelf. But, as Earl showed me one day, when you hold it up to the light, you can see that it actually has a gorgeous translucent mahogany hue.

Sometimes people will stop by Earl’s to get stung, on purpose. No kidding. They say it’s good for what ails you-- arthritis in particular. Earl tells me country folks have been using bee stings as medicine for centuries. Nowadays they call it “bee-sting therapy.”

When someone stops for a sting, Earl holds the bee by its wings and touches her (only females have a stinger) down on the desired location. The bee will oblige by injecting a barbed hypodermic syringe full of venom into the patient. Earl is glad to help folks out this way. He doesn’t even charge for it.

In his younger days, before he became the local bee man, Earl was a local building contractor. I met him when, in my younger days, I went into business as a remodeling contractor.

Earl used to go down to Lehigh Lumber in Moravia most every morning for coffee and conversation. An irregular regular bunch of men would be there, some of them old-timers. On winter mornings, when work was often less pressing, I liked to linger and join the discussion. Sometimes we would all sit around in the back room where Joe DeForrest repaired the broken window sashes that customers brought in. He rescreened windows and doors too. And if you needed a lamp rewired, he could do that.

A fellow can learn a lot chewing the fat over a cup of coffee with old-timers down to Lehigh in the early morning: the local news, national happenings, politics, construction, and beekeeping were recurring topics. This is where I first met and got to know Earl.

When I was a teenager I bought a paperback book all about keeping honeybees. They’ve always intrigued me. But I never did get a hive. I told this to Earl one morning and he said he would set me up with a hive any time. More years passed and Earl kept offering. Finally, in the spring of 1999, with the Y2K crisis looming, I took him up on the offer. It seemed like a good time to get more self sufficient. Besides, Marlene uses a lot of honey when making her breads and granola.

Well, to make a long story shorter, I’ll tell you that my first year of beekeeping was a great success. I put the hive out on the corner of my property, off the lawn, near the brambles, along the woods. Every so often I’d pull on my white leather bee gloves with the canvass gauntlets, tie my pants tight to my boots, put on my bee veil, fire up my smoker and, hive tool in hand, crack open the top lid of my hive. This was always an adventure because the bees usually got quite upset with me and, on occasion, I would get a sting or two, even with the protective equipment. Honeybees are very persistent when they are angry. And I can tell you it’s just alittle unnerving when they cluster on the bee veil a couple inches in front of your nose.

I did not really know what I was doing or what I was looking for when I delved into my hive but it was definitely a happenin’ place in there, and those fascinating little creatures sure were making lots of honey. In the fall Earl helped me harvest and extract around 75 pounds of the glorious natural sweetener. He said that was a good amount for a new hive. I was thrilled. Even though the bees did all the work, I felt like I was quite the apiculturist. I had visions of being an old bee man, like Earl.

My hive wintered well and was a hum of activity in the spring. Then something amazing happened..... (to be continued in the next blog)

Wendell's Wisdom...

Wendell Berry is the foremost of Agrarian writers. His perspicuity is rare, refreshing, inspiring and, at the same time, sobering. Berry is an expert when it comes to pointing out that the Industrial Emperor has no clothes on. So it’s only natural that what little I’ve read of Berry’s writings, I’ve liked (I hope to read more soon). Mr. Berry has an article in the recent issue of Orion Magazine. Here are a few quotes....

“We agrarians are involved in a hard, long, momentous contest, in which we are so far, and by a considerable margin, the losers. What we have undertaken to defend is... “good farming.” I mean farming as defined by agrarianism as opposed to farming as defined by industrialism; farming as the proper use and care of an immeasurable gift.”

“...Because industrialism cannot understand living things except as machines, and can grant them no value that is not utilitarian, it conceives of farming and forestry as forms of mining; it cannot use the land without abusing it.”

“...one of the primary principles in industrialism has always been to get the worker away from home. From the beginning it has been destructive of home employment and home economies. The economic function of the household has been increasingly the consumption of purchased goods. Under industrialism, the farm too has become increasingly consumptive, and farms fail as the costs of consumption overpower the income from production.”

“I said awhile ago that to agrarianism farming is the proper use and care of an immeasurable gift. The shortest way to understand this, I suppose, is the religious way. Among the commonplaces of the Bible, for example, are the admonitions that the world is made and approved by God, that it belongs to Him, and that its good things come to us as gifts.... The world, Gerald Manley Hopkins said, is charged with the grandeur of God. Some such thoughts would have been familiar to most people during most of human history. They seem strange to us, and what has estranged us from them is our economy. The industrial economy could not have been derived from such thoughts...”

“Even now, if they cared, I think agricultural economists could find small farmers who have prospered,not by “getting big,” but by practicing the ancient rules of thrift and subsistence, by accepting the limits of their small farms, and by knowing well the value of having a little land.”

“If you have no land, you have nothing; no food, no shelter, no warmth, no freedom, no life.”

“To be landless in an industrial society obviously is not at all times to be jobless and homeless. But the ability of the industrial economy to provide jobs and homes depends on prosperity, and on a very shaky kind of prosperity too...”

A Son’s Identity (Part 3)

My last two Blogs were about how boys seek role models and these role models shape a boy’s identity. I also pointed out that godly fathers must not only endeavor to be a godly role model for their boys, they must also provide their boys with wholesome alternatives to the sorry examples of manly role models that the popular culture provides for our children.

Now, finally, I want to tell you about a wholesome character-building, identity-shaping, resource that I believe is an incredibly effective tool that fathers can use to help their boys mature into wise and well-adjusted men. But this is not just a resource that fathers can use. It is something that mothers and grandparents and, even, close friends and relatives can give to a young boy and it will make a difference for good in that boy’s life. And I think young girls will like it too.

I discovered this resource three years ago, when my two youngest boys were 7 and 10. Christmas was coming and I was surfing the internet, looking for unique gifts. I got the idea that some books-on-tape would be good for the kids. It would be an alternative to television (which we do not watch a lot of) and videos. I bought a couple G.A. Henty books on tape. Then I found a tape series called Sugar Creek Gang. I read the description of the series and the testimonials and I decided to part with the money to give the first 12 tapes in the series (there are 72 altogether) a try. I also bought each of the kids a $12 tape recorder from WalMart.

Come Christmas day, the kids opened their books-on-tape gifts and were not exactly thrilled. They were polite and thankful and set the tapes aside so they could play with the more exciting gifts. Later on, they gave their recorders a try.

Now here we are three years later. The Henty tapes were listened to once, the “More exciting gifts” have been forgotten, and The Sugar Creek Gang Tapes are still being listened to.... every single day! I kid you not. My kids listen to the stories on these tapes (I’ve purchased 4 volumes out of 6, so far) every single day. They listen to them in the car when we are traveling. They go to sleep at night listening to them. My two youngest boys absolutely love these tapes.

The tapes are narrations of the original Sugar Creek Gang books written by Paul Hutchens, starting in 1939. They are based on Mr. Hutchens’ own boyhood days growing up on a farm in Sugar Creek township (near Thorntown) in Indiana. Mr. Hutchens was born in 1902. The stories are a wonderful celebration of agrarian life. Hutchens had six brothers and two sisters. His childhood memories were the inspiration for the books.

The tapes I have are narrated by Paul Ramseyer, who does such a good job. They are fast paced, exciting and boy do they ever teach good things! When I hear my boys saying bible verses, singing portions of hymns, and quoting poetry (i.e., “Barefoot Boy With Cheeks of Tan” or “Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree” ) that they picked up from these tapes, I am delighted. When my youngest son asks me, “Dad, do you know what a Quaker Blessing is?,” and then tells me when I say no, I’m impressed. And when these boys want to help their mother in the kitchen or me in the garden, because of the influence of these stories, I’m grateful. I simply can not say enough good about these tapes!

I asked my youngest which Sugar Creek Gang stories he likes best. It was hard for him to decide, but his top three are “The Timberwolf,” The Treasure Hunt,” and “The Killer Bear.” I asked him what “The Killer Bear” was about and he told me it is about how “Little Jim” shoots an angry bear with “Big Jim’s” rifle. Big Jim is fifteen and the leader of the gang. Little Jim is only 8 years old. I won’t tell you how he does it. Wow! What a story! When I asked my 14-year his favorites, he thought awhile and said “The Lost Campers,” “The Trapline Thief,” and “The Blue Cow,” but quickly added that they were all good.

Marlene says I should tell you that Bill Collins’ father (the book’s are written from Bill’s perspective) is not portrayed as a bumbling idiot, like fathers are portrayed in the media today. Instead, this father is a good Christian man who leads his family with wisdom and compassion.

I purchased these tapes on the internet from Beloved Books. I cannot recommend these tapes enough. They are worth every penny of their cost ($49.95 for each volume of 12 tapes, or $ 54.95 for CDs). I know this sounds like an infomercial. Let me officially say that I do not have any any financial interest in any way with Beloved Books.

Today I am ordering volumes 5 and 6 for my boys. I should not have put it off. I see that Beloved Books has a special introductory offer. You can two hours of listening to “The Swamp Robber,” for $4.95, postage paid. I encourage you to at least get this tape and listen to it. Do it today. You’re going to enjoy it as much as your kids!

This concludes my 3-part series on A Son’s Identity. Thank you for reading it.

A Son's Identity (Part 2)

In the first installment of this blog on A Son's Identity I explained how all young boys look for role models to be just like. When this happens, the boy, in a very real sense, allows these role models to shape their identity. Then I told you how, as an 8-year-old boy, I wanted to be a super secret agent, like Derek Flint and James Bond.

Having read all the James Bond books when I was a boy, I can tell you the lifestyle of this man is one of materialism, womanizing, gambling, and substance abuse (alcohol and tobacco). Sure, there are all kinds of thrills in 007's life, but thrills do not lead to fulfillment. Look under the glamour and you'll find a shallow, self-centered, and vain man whose life is void of substantive meaning. In short, Bond is a desperate and pitiful human being. He is a product of, and a classic example of, the modern industrialized man.

So how, you might wonder, did I make the transition from idolizing to indicting this fictional paragon of vainglory foolishness? Well, it's a God thing, really. I became a Christian, grew in my faith and, eventually, caught the vision of God's archetype for manhood, which is pretty much the complete opposite of the 007 example.

And then there is the Agrarian connection. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, my family moved from our suburban tract-house outside Syracuse, N.Y. to an old farm house on 25 acres out in the country. This was a significant life-changing experience for me. I was not a complete stranger to the country. My grandfather (another role model I’ll talk about one day) was a retired potato farmer in Northern Maine, and I have wonderful memories of summers spent visiting my grandparents. But I was not a country boy. And our family’s move was not a visit. It was for life. I’m still here.

I am firmly convinced, from my own experience, that here is no better place for a boy to grow up than out in the country. Agrarian life at its best fulfills a boy’s deepest yearnings and can ignite his imagination in countless wholesome ways. The little adventures and experiences that come from living in close contact with the woods, fields, streams, wildlife, and work of a simple rural farm or homestead are also incredibly valuable when it comes to instilling character and integrity in a boy.

But Agrarian life does not, in itself, provide a boy with the positive identity-shaping influences he needs. Within the Agrarian framework, there needs to be an example of a real man. I’m not speaking of a hollywood super hero or a sports star or a rock musician or any of the sordid subculture icons that vie for a modern boy’s attention and, in reality, his life. I’m talking of a real, reach-out-and-touch-him-talk-to-him-and do-stuff-with him man. This man should, preferably, be the boy’s father (but a grandfather or other man can fill the role).

A father who lives, and loves, and leads in a wholesome, God-glorifying manner will impact a boy’s life like nothing else. If a son sees the good fruit of a godly father, he will, 99.9% of the time, embrace the beliefs of the father. I believe a father’s primary ministry and work in life should be to his family. A father must not only provide a godly example, he must protect his children from the influence of unwholesome role models. And he must provide his children with other examples of wholesome role models.

This is what I believe to be true. This is what I endeavor to do in my family with my boys. I am not the best at it, but I’m aware of the importance of being and doing what I’ve just told you, and I believe, with God’s help, it is making a difference in my children’s lives. My boys are thriving in this kind of environment. They are having a far better childhood than I ever had. They will, I trust, and pray, and believe, grow up to be better men than I.

I have one more thing to say along the lines of this subject, but I have decided to save it for the next entry. I will tell you about a resource for young boys (and, to some extent, girls) that is a powerfully effective, wholesome, identity-shaping and character-building influence. It is something I discovered three years ago and I have seen it bear remarkable fruit in the life of my two youngest boys. Saty tuned.......

A Son's Identity

All boys seek out and identify with role models that they want to be just like. It is part of the process a boy goes through to find his identity. I do not understand the psychology behind it. I just know it to be true. It is true with every single boy. No exceptions. I suspect it is true with girls too. But it is especially true with boys. This is a very powerful truth. It is something that every father needs to understand.

I want to explain this a little better by giving you an actual example of what I’m talking about. When I was a boy, I lived in a housing development outside Syracuse, New York. I enjoyed reading Hardy Boys and Brains Benton mysteries. These books were not bad but they did not inspire my young mind in ways that were as good as could have been the case with better books.

I believe those books prepared me for that fateful day in 1966 (I was eight) when my stepfather took me to see the movie, Our Man Flint, starring James Coburn. Flint was a super secret agent who, with a bevy of buxom beauties fawning over him, nonchalantly saved the world from a nefarious bad guy. He did it again the next year in the sequel, In Like Flint. I thought Derek Flint was the coolest man on earth. Never mind that those movies were a total spoof of the whole secret agent “thing” that was a part of popular culture at the time. I took the Flint movies very seriously. I wanted to be Flint.

I idolized this fictional invention of Hollywood to the point that I would not allow anyone to take my picture. How could I ever be a super secret agent if there were photographs to identify me. My parents thought this was cute.

A boy who rode my bus (he was four years older than I) bore a remarkable resemblance to James Coburn, or so it seemed to me. I secretly observed this kid’s every move. I noticed that sometimes the muscles in his jaws would ripple. I thought that was very cool. I figured out how to repeatedly clench my teeth so I could do the same thing. I wanted to be just like this kid because he was the closest tangible example of my secret agent idol. This is the way young boys think and act. (This is also the way they get into trouble).

Then came James Bond. My dad took me to see my first Bond movie in 1969 (I was 11). It was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring George Lazenby as Bond and Diana Rigg as the Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo (a.k.a., Tracy). She was the daughter of a European mobster and became 007’s wife. Right after the wedding, Earnst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bundt machine-gunned Tracy to death. I had a new idol to attach my identity to.... I wanted to be James Bond.

I never missed an opportunity to watch a Bond movie. But I didn’t just watch them, I absorbed them. I used my reel-to-reel recorder to tape the movies when they were on television. I thank God there were no VCR’s back then. But there were James Bond books. I read them all. I can tell you these are not the kind of books you want your impressionable pre-teen reading. None of this was good for me.

It is because of this experience of mine, innocent as it was compared to so many others, that I am very conscious of identity-shaping influences in the lives of my boys.

I see the ungodly popular culture around me as a destroyer of boys who, but for the lack of proper identity-shaping influences in their lives, would grow to be men of incredible virtue, honor, and responsibility. The world sadly needs more men like that, don’t you think?

In the next installment of this Blog, I will tell you why I did not become a super secret agent. I’ll tell you a little about what I think a boy needs in order to one day become a man in the best sense of the word. And I’ll tell you about an incredibly powerful and totally wholesome identity-shaping resource for young boys that I discovered three years ago. Stay tuned.....

Our Fathers' God To Thee.....

In 1832, Samuel Francis Smith, a New England minister, "felt the impulse" to write a patriotic hymn. On a scrap of waste paper, in 30 minutes time, he composed the words to My Country 'Tis of Thee. The tune, from a German hymnal, dates to 1740.

It is a beautiful song with eight stanzas. The 4th is a prayer...

Our fathers’ God to thee,
Author of Liberty
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, Our King!


"Our father's God" is the God of all creation; the God of the Old Testament Patriarchs; the God who sent His son to earth to atone for the sins of men. This song acknowledges, and declares boldly, that God alone is King over America, that He is sovereign, that He is the "Author of our American Liberty."

This song, these sentiments were once widely understood and accepted by our American popular culture. That is no longer the case. I wonder, with that being the situation, how much longer can "freedom's holy light" continue to shine?

Sunday Ruminations #2

First Things First

I want to say thank you to those folks who have posted messages here this last week in response to my blog entries. I am reading what you post, and I would like to respond to some comments (and may do so in the future) but time prevents me from doing so in these busy days of summer. It is all I can do to get the blogs typed and uploaded. But I am enjoying this immensely.

I especially appreciate it when you refer your friends to The Deliberate Agrarian, as Rick Saenz did this week at Dry Creek Chronicles. Thanks for the encouraging words, Rick.

Marlene’s Blog

My wife does not have a blog (yet). But she says that if she did, she would call it Working From Son Up To Son Down.

This Morning in The Garden

I wish that every morning could be as perfect as today was here on our little homestead. It was the kind of morning that you remember and long for in the depths of a cold and barren winter. It was nothing short of Edenic. I was in my garden early. There is no place else on earth that I would rather be than in my garden on a beautiful summer morning.

My curled-leaf parsley plants are really starting to bush out. I broke off a dewey sprig and ate it. My first taste of the season. Wow, it was good! Just a touch of grit on the leaves, but nothing serious. I had another. When the tomatoes are ready, I will have tomato, parsley, mayo, and garlic powder sandwiches, made with Marlene’s homemade bread, of course. The Moderns think that parsley is a garnish, only to be looked at. Silly people.

The summer squash plants are lush and healthy. The peas are going by, as is the rhubarb. The melon plants entered a “hypergrowth” stage this past week. Broccoli is coming on.

Marlene came out and, together, we planted two more beds of green beans. I prepare the ground. She plants. I cover and water. She will harvest. I planted some cilantro too. Hopefully, it is not too late. We will use it to make fresh salsa.

Strawberry Joke

Last night we were all sitting around the kitchen table, tired from a busy day. David was picking through a stainless steel bowl of strawberries that Marlene had picked. I selected a particularly big one and said, “Look. This is the Mother of all strawberries.” David searched the bowl and pulled out a bigger one, “That wasn’t the mother of all strawberries. This is the mother of all strawberries!” I looked and said, “That isn’t the mother of all strawberries. It’s the Mother, Father, Grandmother, Grandfather, Mama Bear and Papa bear of all strawberries!!”

Everyone burst into laughter. When it died down, we burst into laughter again. We couldn’t stop. David was practically rolling on the floor. I had tears in my eyes. Marlene quipped, “I didn’t think it was that funny.” To which we all started laughing again. Like I said, we were tired.

Speaking of Strawberries

As I was preparing strawberries for the freezer last week (see On Picking Strawberries in The Early Morning) one of my sons said something very insightful. He told me that he had some strawberries at his Aunt Linda’s. They were from Grisamores (the local u-pick operation). He told me they were nowhere near as sweet and good as our strawberries. This delighted me to no end. My son has become a strawberry connoisseur.

More On Oatmeal

My blog on The Breakfast of Agrarians resonated with a lot of people. Sherri in California wrote me the following:

“The best oatmeal I ever had was in a B&B in Scotland (for a family reunion). I tried to find out why and finally got the answer (3 years later). They use pin head oats-- a groat cut into thirds-- which are soaked overnight, then cooked for 45 minutes.”

Today’s Sermon

Church today was more crowded than usual. Always nice to see. The sermon was on the subject of Freedom. How freedom isn’t free, nationally or spiritually. Jesus paid the price for our sins and set us free in Him. True freedom comes from knowing Him and being in His will.

We sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Many people think the Founders of this once-great-but-now-declining nation established a Democracy. This is wrong. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to give us a Republic. There is a huge difference.

We’re Having A Party

Lots of friends & family are due here in about an hour. We’ll be celebrating Independence Day with food, fun, and a bonfire tonight. Wish you folks could all be here. Now, wouldn’t That be fun!