The Birthday Present

Marlene and I have been blessed with three sons. Our firstborn turned 18 years old this month. His name is the same as mine. He is the third generation Herrick Kimball. But he goes by the name, Chaz, which is a variation of his middle name, Charles. He is a good kid and that is due mostly to God's grace and his mother's influence.

So I was faced with the matter of getting a birthday present for my son. We keep present giving very simple for birthdays and Christmas but being 18 years old called for a really special gift. What could be more special than a gun?

I've written about giving my sons 20-gauge shotguns for gifts. And I've mentioned here before that I don't think a man can have too many guns. So that's what I did. I bought my son a gun. But it wasn't just any gun. This was a special gun. It is a gun that the whole family has been using and enjoying. Friends who have stopped by have shot the gun and really liked it too.

Even Marlene has been shooting this gun. Fact is, she stood five feet away from me, called to get my attention and, when I looked up, she fired it directly at my head. She did not hit me because the range of the gun is only about three feet feet. But I flinched and she laughed. Well, that was a big mistake on Marlene's part! ;-)

Click here to see this gun. It's a well-made and functional gun that makes for a memorable and greatly appreciated gift. it's also cheap, which is nice too. I actually bought mine from Lehman's hardware.

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On another note, I've added new agrarian blogger links over on the right side of this page. And I have a new category for Junior Agrarian Bloggers


Two Kinds of Men

Dateline: 22 February 2006




Marlene recently read the book Little Britches, by Ralph Moody, to our two youngest boys. My oldest son read it to himself a few years ago.

Subtitled, “Father and I Were Ranchers,” it is the hard, true story of 8 year old Ralph and his family ranching in Colorado in 1906. It is not a Christian story but it sure is agrarian, and it’s got a lot going for it. There is a little bit of strong language but, if you read it to your younger ones, you can filter it out in the reading. Marlene was crying when she got to the end of the book.

I’d like to give you a taste of this story. The following excerpt is from the chapter, “I Break Nine Toes” (and, yes, young Ralph did indeed break nine toes). I have edited some of the passage out to save space.

……….


I always liked working at Autland’s best. Fred used to butcher a pig for each of his three alfalfa cuttings, so there was plenty of fresh pork, and Mrs. Autland didn’t seem to care how many chickens she fried, or how much sugar it took to make pies and cookies. She and Bessie could cook almost as well as Mother, and they had lots more things to cook.

While we were putting up Fred’s first cutting of alfalfa, his cousin came out from Denver for a visit. He brought his wife and [daughter] Lucy with him. Some of the other men said he was sponging on Fred because he loafed around and told stories a lot of the time. I think his wife and Lucy were sponging too because I never saw them help with the cooking or dishwashing, but I liked Lucy just the same. She was a year or two older than I, and while the horses were resting after dinner we used to play up in the hayloft of the barn...

Her father had just been fired from a good office job in Denver, but Lucy didn’t care. She said he’d been fired lots of times before so it didn’t make any difference. I remembered what Fred had told Father about needing food for us youngsters more than money, and I told Lucy about it. Then I said that the Autlands had better things to eat than anybody else in the neighborhood, and I thought Fred would let them live right there if they did enough work.

Lucy didn’t like that at all. She asked me if I thought her father looked like a darn fool. Then, before I could tell her, she said that only dolts and darn fools live on ranches, because farmers didn’t need any brains and there was too much hard work to do.

When I got mad, she said that Fred and Father weren’t fools because they owned their own ranches and hired men to do most of the work. I didn’t tell her that Father didn’t own our ranch, and I didn’t want her to think he was a darn fool, so I just kept still. Then she told me that smart men like her father never did have to work hard, because they knew the world owed them a living and there were easier ways to get it than doing hard work...

While we were milking that night, I told Father what Lucy said about her father, and asked him why he didn’t try to do the same thing.

I only saw Father mad two or three times, but that was one of them. He jumped up off his milking stool and came around behind Brindle. His face was gray-white—even his lips were white—and his voice was shaky when he said, “Don’t you ever talk to that girl again.”

He just stood there for a minute, as if he didn’t know what he was going to say, then he put the stool right down in front of me and sat on it. He reached out and took hold of my knee hard. His voice didn’t shake then, but he talked low. “Son,” he said, “I had hoped you wouldn’t run into anything like this till you were older, but maybe it’s just as well. There are only two kinds of men in this world: honest men and dishonest men. There are black men and white men and yellow men and red men, but nothing counts except whether they’re honest men or dishonest men.

“Some men work almost entirely with their brains; some almost entirely with their hands, though most of us have to use both. But we all fall into one of the two classes—honest and dishonest.

“Any man who says the world owes him a living is dishonest. The same God that made you and me made this earth. And He planned it so that it would yield every single thing that the people on it need. But He was careful to plan it so that it would only yield up its wealth in exchange for the labor of man. Any man who tries to share in that wealth without contributing the work of his brain or his hands is dishonest.

“Son, this is a long sermon for a boy of your age, but I want so much for you to be an honest man that I had to explain it to you.”

I wish I knew how Father was able to say things so as to make you remember every word of it. If I could remember everything the way I remember the things Father told me, maybe I could be as smart a man as he was.

What My Grandmother Did For Me

Mary Towle Kimball
of Fort Fairfield, Maine
1984 (76 yrs old)

As I grow older, I find myself becoming more reflective and sentimental. I reckon that’s because age allows us a better perspective— I can now see more clearly how God, the omnipotent and omniscient orchestrator that He is, used different people in my life to shape my character, bless me, and lead me into a closer relationship with Him. My grandmother Kimball was one of those people and I feel compelled to tell you the story of what she did for me.

She was born Mary Louise, in Fort Fairfield, Maine, the first child of Hiram and Kate Towle. Ten more children followed. It was typical for farm families to be big like that in those days. All the children were needed to help on the farm. As the oldest child, my grandmother had her work cut out for her. From what I’ve heard, I believe she had a good childhood on the farm. One thing is for certain, the Towle siblings were a close-knit bunch.

After graduating from high school in 1928, my grandmother went for a time to Simmons College in Boston. Near as I’ve been able to determine, she studied home economics. After that, she returned to Fort Fairfield, and met Herrick Kimball. He was a hometown boy from a humble farming background who left the area in 1918 for college and medical school. He had recently returned to open up his medical practice. They dated and married, but not until Herrick paid off all his school loans. I mention that because my grandmother told it to me on more than one occassion.

They purchased a large and appropriate home on Presque Isle Street. The marriage produced two children, a boy and a girl. Philip, the oldest, grew up and married my mother, Mary Philbrick, when he was a student at Bowdoin College. Shortly thereafter, I made my way onto the scene (1958). Somewhere, packed away, I have a tiny black sweatshirt I once wore with the Bowdoin mascot (a polar bear) on it and the wording: “Bowdoin Class of 19??”

Before long, my parents divorced. Philip went on to remarry and become an orthopedic surgeon. My mother and I went on to stay with her brother in California for awhile, then to Massachusetts, where she remarried, and finally we settled here in upstate New York. I have told you all of this because it sets the stage. It gives you the background you need in order to better understand what my grandmother Kimball did for me.

The divorce and relocation separated me from my father. I did not talk to him. I did not see him. I remember getting Christmas gifts for a few years. But my father had a new family and his medical career to concern himself with. Out of sight and out of mind applies. But it did not apply to my grandmother. She stood in the gap.

I think my grandmother made it her mission in life to make sure that I remained connected to the Kimball and Towle side of my family. With that in mind, she sent cards and letters on a regular basis. In the letters she would write about herself, my father, my aunt, and all her brothers & sisters and nieces and nephews. She often sent photographs of herself and others with writing on the back to explain who people were. She sent pertinent newspaper clippings, and for major holidays and my birthday, she always sent me some spending money. She did this as long as she lived.

 My grandmother let me use her camera to take this picture 
of her in 1965 when I was seven years old

At Christmas, when I was young, she sent BIG boxes packed with carefully wrapped presents and holiday decorations. When I started collecting stamps in 6th grade, she sent me a plate block of every new stanp the Post Office issued. She did this for many years.

The point is, my grandmother never missed an opportunity to reach out and connect with me. By doing this, she made me feel like I was very special to her. I had no extended family members living anywhere around me, but my grandmother made it clear that I was part of a big family up there in Maine.

You can only connect so much by mail and an occasional phone call with someone 900 miles away. It’s not the same as spending time with that person. So my grandmother invited and enabled me to come visit with her, and for many summers of my youth (up until 8th grade) I went to Fort Fairfield. Part of those summers were spent with my mother’s parents at their farm outside of town, but most of the time I was with my grandmother Kimball.

My grandmother Kimball's house in Fort Fairfield, Maine.
A very special place for me.

My grandfather died when I was seven years old. I have some recollections of him. I remember going to his office and accompanying him to the hospital one day. I remember going to the Rexall drug store he owned on Main Street. I remember sitting at the lunch counter in the front and being treated to anything I wanted. My grandfather was a prominent and respected man in the town and I was his first grandson, his namesake. It seemed that everywhere we went, people were delighted to see me and that made me feel pretty special.

After my grandfather’s death, my grandmother was able to focus her attention more on me when I visited. She bought me clothes and comic books and various playthings. We went to the library. We went to museums. We went to the fair, and to horse races, and out to eat. And when we weren’t eating out, she was cooking for me. She was an exceptional cook.

My grandmother was also a creative person and she involved me in her creative activities. When she did ceramics, I did ceramics. When she painted, I painted. When she did decoupage, I did decoupage. When she went tramping out in the woods, looking for a particular plant to pick and dry for her craft projects, I followed right along and helped. She was an excellent seamstress, but I never did sew, or knit, which was what she often did in the evenings when we watched television together. Reruns of Bonanza now remind me of watching tv with my grandmother.

This is me in 1965 while visiting my grandmother for the summer

She loved flowers and was active in the garden club. I recall her making flower arrangements for inside her house and for the family headstones in Riverside Cemetery. In my mind’s eye I can see my grandmother, all dressed up (she always dressed so well), with a pearl necklace, high heels, and white gloves, spading the earth around one of her flower beds.

I knew her as an active person. She got up early in the morning and was busy with cooking or cleaning. It seemed that she was always working at something. Later in life she took up golf. She kept a cart at the Aroostook Valley Country Club and we went golfing there many times. I think I enjoyed driving the cart more than hitting the ball!

Every summer I would see the same family members and friends. They stopped by to visit, and we often went to Towle family get-togethers at Aunt Ruth and Uncle Gib’s camp on Munson Pond, just outside of town. The Potato Blossom Festival was a major event in Fort Fairfield each summer and the big parade went right down Presque Isle Street, so the Towles and Kimballs would gather in large numbers on my grandmother’s lawn to watch it go by. In time, I actually figured out who most of those friends and relatives were!

My grandmother had a camp on Cross Lake, an hour or so north of her home. It is a place I have such wonderful memories of. Sometimes just she and I would go there, but often there were others that came. I remember stopping to get my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Helen, who had gone blind and lived alone in town, and taking her to the camp with us for the weekend. I saw my grandmother give of her time and talents to help others in many different ways.

This is me at my grandmother's camp.
The sign says, "Chateau Kimball."

She attended the Baptist church across the street from her house. My earliest recollection of going to church is going with my grandmother. She was not outwardly “religious” but I got the impression at a young age that her faith was important to her.

Looking back, I suspect that some people looked at how my grandmother doted on me and gave me so much, and they figured she was spoiling her grandson. Perhaps that thought even crossed your mind as you’ve read this. Well, I do not think she did that. I sure did enjoy getting the royal treatment when I was with my grandmother, but it was more than balanced out by the reality of my life back in the scrappy, working-class, housing development where I grew up the rest of the years.

No, my grandmother did not spoil me. Instead, she helped me, like no one else, to understand who I was. She helped to shape my identity. It was something that I very much needed as a little boy. And she modeled for me important character qualities.

I am particularly mindful of all this today because it was one year ago on this day that my wife, The Lovely Marlene, called me at work and told me that my grandmother Kimball had suddenly died. She was 97 years old. She had outlived all but one of her siblings. She was in remarkably good health for her age, but she was fragile and her time had come. The moment I had so dreaded for years was upon me.

I immediately went home and prepared to go to Maine. Marlene and I and our three boys headed out in the SUV the next morning. The trip went well and we were there two days later, in time for the funeral.

It was a wonderful funeral service. My father was, of course, there. My sons had a chance to meet a grandfather they have never known. There were family members there that I had not seen for many years. They were all so much older. But I knew them. They were my family and I knew them. One cousin shook my hand and said “Welcome home.” Indeed, though I have never lived there more than a few months in the summers of my youth, I have always felt like I was home when I was in Aroostook County Maine.

I am a person who does not show emotion in public. It is a different story when I am alone with my emotions, but in public, I’m a cool cucumber. And I was that way through the funeral. The closest I came to loosing it was when Pastor Beals, who led a bible study at the retirement home where my grandmother had an apartment for her last years, spoke of my grandmother’s faith. He made some sort of comment about how she knew the scriptures better than he did and how she knew Jesus as her savior. That was such a blessing for me and my family to hear.

But the most memorable thing that happened to me that day was near the end. Most everyone had gone. It was over. My Aunt Ruth was leaving. I had not spoken to her yet. She came over to say good bye. She held out her hand and I took it. She looked intently into my eyes and said, with deliberation and deep emotion, three simple words that I will never forget; three simple words that bring me to tears every time I think of them, because they are three simple words that made all the difference in my life:

“Sheeee loved you!”

I’m sure my face went red and my expression changed instantly. I could barely talk, I managed to nod my head and say “I know.” Then she said, “See ya.” and walked away with one of her sons at her side.

My grandmother did love me. I always knew that. And I loved her dearly because of it. I am the person I am today, in large part, because of her love for me. I thank God for my grandmother.

I thank Him for loving me in such a special way through such a special person.

Mary T. Kimball, 1967
with Hollywood, California, in the background


Making An
Agrarian Family Calendar

Dateline: 14 February 2006

For the past few months I have been buying my wife, Marlene, issues of the magazine, Cooks Illustrated. It has no advertising and is a very informative & down-to-earth publication. Maybe the real reason I like it is the editorials by Christopher Kimball (no relation). Mr. Kimball grew up on a farm, still lives on a sort-of farm ("two herefords, nine hens, two pigs in the summer, six horses, and two or more beehives, depending on how many survive the winter."), and writes of his family and country life (at least he has in the past few issues). I’m going to quote from the first two paragraphs of the recent (April 2006) issue and then comment......


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“Anyone who has spent time on a farm knows that a year has a rhythm to it, one that is determined by the weather. My mother, Mary Alice, who inherited a love of farming from her father, went so far as to create her own calendar with notes about planting garlic in the fall, when to add fuel stabilizer to chainsaws and mowers, and the best time to order baby chicks. Every day had a purpose and more than one task at hand, so when, for the first time in a year, the wood cookstove had to be fired up before sunrise and the air was so sharp it caught in your throat, it was time to turn the page on the calendar and get busy. There was work to do.

The advantage of this system is that you always know where you are in the grand scheme of things. It’s time to tap the trees, site your gun, feed the bees, clean the pig house, call the ferrier, split the kindling, prune the trees, or plant the corn. Life runs on a schedule and you better not fall behind. If you do, the apples get coddling moth, the hay goes to seed, and you miss the good runs of sap. For old-timers, a good calendar was a matter of life and death.”



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I think the idea of a family calendar is a nifty idea. Along with the seasonal agrarian tasks that Christopher Kimball mentions, family birthdays and anniversaries and even deaths of past relatives could be recorded and remembered. As could important holidays that are not normally found on any other calendars (i.e. Robert E. Lee’s Birthday).

I’m pretty sure that Cheri Shelnutt (a.k.a., Tennessee Farmgirl) has done something like this. I’ve heard her mention the calendar she has put together. Cheri, if you read this, I’d like to ask you to post at your blog sometime telling us more about the calendar you have created.

In any event, Christopher Kimball mentions in his editorial that he still has his mother’s calendar, “the one that tells me when to clean out the garage and check the carrots in the root cellar.” It is a family heirloom. What a wonderful thing to create and put to use and pass on to future generations.

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P.S. The web site for Cooks Illustrated is: www.cooksillustrated.com

Agrarian Enterprises on the Internet

I recently read two e-books published by John and Lisa Mesko at Lighthouse Farm. The books, titled As a Hen Gathers Her Chick and Goat’s Milk For Your Maidens were written by Lisa and they are the first two volumes in what the Meskos call The Homestead Series. These books are well done and a delight to read.

Both books are centered around John and Lisa’s two young daughters and how they learn about the chickens and goats that become a part of their family’s homestead. These are primarily teaching books and an excellent introduction for young children to chickens and goats. Children will learn what the animals eat, where they live, how they act, how their young are born, and how the mother cares for it’s babies. There are plenty of great photos to go along with the text.

But the books are not just about animals. They are also about a family that works together and enjoys their Christian-agrarian lifestyle. Thankfulness to “the good Lord” pervades each story. Unlike the average farm-animal book for children, The Homestead Series is distinctly God-honoring and family centered.

I see from the Lighthouse Farm web site that the Meskos are planning to make a DVD of their Homestead Series books, with Lisa doing the reading. That should prove to be more “child-friendly” than an e-book and I look forward to seeing them.

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The Meskos have also revised and republished in e-book format two books from the 1870s. They are part of the Dare To Do Right series. I like what the web site says about these books:

“...the Dare To Do Right series of books harken back to a time when the predominant worldview of the American society was the Christian worldview. Even those people who did not profess to be Christians understood the Christian worldview, where right was right and wrong was wrong, where the authority structure of the family was practiced, revered, and honored.”

I have downloaded one of the books, Grandfather’s Faith and plan to read it to my two youngest sons soon.

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Those of you who have read John Mesko’s Blog,Antithesis in Agriculture, or listened to his Plain Talk interview, know the Meskos are returning to John’s parent’s farm in Minnesota. They will be farming and pursuing their multigenerational Christian-agrarian vision there.

It is not an easy thing to make a living as a small, independent farmer these days. With that in mind, many people, like John, are turning to the internet, and using a variety of creative ideas to help generate income for their family enterprises.

I know many of you who are reading this are either doing, or planning on doing, much the same thing to support your own agri-preneurial ventures. I think this is good and it is very inspiring to me. Maybe I’ll even get my own web site up and running by the end of the year

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I see John is planning on producing instructional videos, including one about how to process chickens. I think there is a big demand for that particular video. And I think I heard in his Plain Talk interview that he’s planning a video on butchering goats. I wish there were a video out there for butchering pigs. I think I will need it next fall.

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One last thing... Even without a web page, I have used the internet to market my agrarian books, most notably the Whizbang Plucker planbook. In fact, were it not for the internet, that book would probably never have done as well as it has. And, based on my experience, I want to share a bit of advice with those of you who are starting home businesses.

That advice is, very simply, not to get discouraged if things don't come together and produce the desired results right away. Good things take time. I encourage you to take a long-range, sustainable view of your endeavors. Lay the groundwork without overextending your resources, provide a good quality product, and give it time to bear fruit. "Little by slow" as an old Italian farmer I one knew used to say... "Little by slow"

“Every Bean’s A Blessing, Boys!”

Dateline: 11 February 2006



Farmers around here used to grow a lot of kidney beans. There was even an old, stone, water-powered, “bean plant” in Moravia (my hometown). But the building had not been used for a long time and was torn down last year. A wonderful piece of agrarian history was reduced to a pile of rubble in a matter of hours. Then it was hauled away for fill. I’ve heard a restaurant will be built on the site. Things like that sadden me.

And it saddens me to see so many of the old wood barns around here fall into disrepair and ruin. In the past 30 years that I’ve lived in these parts, I’ve seen dozens of once-nice old barns disappear from the landscape. I can drive down the country roads around my house and remember the barns that were once there. I suspect it is the same story in any agricultural area of the country. I point out where the barns used to be to my boys. I think I have become something of an old-timer, especially to them. But I digress (old-timers do that). This story is about beans.

Two years ago, my homesteading friend, Ken, gave me a few handfuls of red kidney beans that he had harvested from his garden. I planted some of the beans in my garden. I think it was a couple of 50 ft. rows.

The beans grew well and in the fall, when the pods were dry, I pulled the entire plants, tied them together in bundles with baling twine, and hung them from the ceiling of my workshop (which is the closest thing I have to a barn).

The bunches hung there most of the winter. Then, one day, I took some time to pull the dry, blackened pods off the plants. I threw them into some feed sacks and hung the sacks from the ceiling.

More months passed before I decided to separate the dry beans from the pods. I did this by laying the sacks on my sturdy work bench and beating them with a baseball bat. The pounding broke the pods open, releasing the beans. But it did not damage the beans.

After working each sack over with the bat, I pulled out the dry, bean-less pods, and tossed them into my chicken yard. (The chickens are not interested in dried bean pods but their yard serves double duty as a compost pile. ) In the bottom of each sack were the shelled beans and a lot of chaff. I dumped all the beans & chaff into a cardboard box and took it outside on a windy day to winnow the chaff.

To winnow off the chaff, I simply scooped the beans out and poured them down into another box from a couple feet above. Most of the chaff blew off to the side while the heavy beans dropped straight into the box. Winnowing like this is easy and fun to do.

Those winnowed beans sat in my shop for several more months. Finally, three evenings ago, almost 1-1/2 years since they were harvested, I brought the beans into my kitchen for final separating.

With a winter storm blowing outside, my whole family gathered around the kitchen table to sort beans. I scooped them onto the bare table and each person began to inspect and sort. All less-than-perfect specimens, small stones, and remaining chaff were pushed into a reject pile and the good beans were selected out.

My whole family was working together with some bluegrass music playing in the background. I took the opportunity to explain to my three sons that what we were doing was what families did in the old days, before the industrial revolution so radically changed the way families lived. I told them that, prior to the industrial revolution, whole families worked together to provide for the needs of the family. I explained that this is called the family economy.

I told them that when the whole family is producing in this way—when they work together to provide for their needs, it makes the family stronger.

I told my boys that the typical Modern family does not work together to provide for its needs. For example, I asked them if they knew any other family that sat around the kitchen table sorting out dry kidney beans?

Of course I gave other examples, and I spoke on the subject longer than I probably should have (I can get carried away with such things). They listened to me politely as they sorted away.

After a half hour of work, we had sorted half the beans. It amounted to about eight pounds. We put the beautiful red beans into canning jars.

The next night we gathered again around the table, after dinner, to sort out the rest of the beans. Seeing another opportunity to teach my boys some profound truth, I jokingly said:

“Hey guys, have I ever told you about how the industrial revolution radically changed the structure of the family and how important it is that families today reestablish a family economy by working together to provide for the needs of the family?”

There was a collective moan from the bean sorters and my youngest, James, said, “Yes, we’ve heard all about that Dad.” And my middle son, Robert, said, “And I understand it too.”

I knew that this night’s “lesson from dad” needed to be a little lighter— a little shorter. So, closely examining the legumes in front of me, I said the first wise thing that came to my mind...

“Boys, I want you to know that every one of these beans is a blessing! That’s a word of wisdom from your Pa, boys. Don’t ever forget it. Every bean’s a blessing!."

I knew this little comment on my part was well-received because it brought some laughter. So I kept going.

“And someday when I’m dead and gone, I want you boys to remember what I said here tonight; Every Bean’s a Blessing! I want you to pass this on to your sons one day. Every bean's a blessing!”

And then, not being able to resist the opportunity, I proceeded to tell my boys that every bean and every bit of food the Lord provides really is a blessing. And I told them that the family we had was a blessing from the Lord. And I told them that someday I and their mom really would be dead and gone and that they would probably be grown up with families of their own, but that they would still be brothers for life, and brothers need to be a blessing to each other.

I didn’t overdo it. There was a lot of give and take in the conversation. When it was all said and done, we had a good time sorting beans around the kitchen table. Profound truths were discussed, important values were communicated, and the beans are in the pantry. But that’s not the end of the story.

Last night, Marlene made a spicy rice and bean dish for dinner. It was a special dinner because it tasted good and it was made with our beans, the ones I had grown, the ones we had all sorted together. And I couldn’t help but exclaim: “Every bean’s a blessing, boys!”

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Dry beans are so easy to grow and harvest. They keep well for years. They are incredibly nutruitious. And when you need more, you just select out some of the nicest looking ones and plant them in the ground. That’s what I’ll be doing this year. If you have never grown beans for dying, I encourage you to do so.

Monsanto Pig Patents...

I subscribe to the Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener newspaper. It's a decent quarterly publication (www.mofga.org). In the Dec2005-Feb2006 issue is a little blurb about what is quickly becoming my least favorite global mega-corporation— Monsanto. The title of the little article is: Monsanto Hogs Pig Patents. Here's a few quotes:

" Monsanto has filed patents in 160 nations for—pigs. Filed at the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva, the patent application stakes a claim on pig rights in more than 100 countries including... the United States."

"If granted, Monsanto will be in a position to prevent breeders and farmers from breeding pigs with certain characteristics or methods of breeding, or force them to pay royalties."

"Says Eric Gall of Greenpeace, "If this patent gets granted, Monsanto could control the normal breeding of pigs to a large extent, without any real invention behind it. ... This patent application is so absurd we wonder what Monsanto will come up with next."

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This company—Monsanto— is the the corporate personification of evil.

The Garden Seed Monopoly

I have written here before about the ever-increasing control of a handfull of enormous global corporations over the world's food supply. An article in the recent issue of Countryside magazine sheds an ominous and foreboding light on this topic. The article is titled, "The Gardening Game" and is subtitled "Do you know where your seeds come from? You may be surprised."

I am going to take the liberty to quote from the Countryside article. I encourage you to get the magazine and read the whole thing yourself. Countryside is an excellent resource for Christian agrarians (and aspiring Christian Agrarians). Here are the quotes:

"Virtually every large mail-order garden company in the United States uses a seed broker to supply them with stock."

"The American nursery trade is a 39.6 billion dollar a year industry. With the purchase of Seminis in January of 2005, Monsanto is now estimated to control between 85 and 90 percent of the U.S. nursery market. This includes the pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer markets. By merging with or buying up the competition, dominating genetic technology, and lobbying the government to make saving seeds illegale, this monolith has positioned itself as the largest player in the gardening game."

"Monsanto holds over eleven thousand U.S. seed patents. When Americans buy garden seed and supplies, most of the time they are buying from Monsanto, regardless of who the retailer is."

"Six companies, DuPont, Mitsui, Monsanto, Syngent, Aventis, and Dow control 98 percent of the world's seeds."

"Before it was acquired by Monsanto, Seminis eliminated 2,000 varieties of seeds from its inventory."

[Note: the seeds being eliminated are the older, open-polinated, heirloom varieties. They are being eliminated because they are not patented or genetically modified, which means they are not profitable.]

"... in 1981 there were approximately 5,000 vegetable seed varieties available in U.S. catalogs. Today there are less than 500."

"Seed biodiversity will be compromised globally [as the old varieties are not propogated and, therefore, lost] while the corporate stranglehold tightens . . ."

My friends, this is scary stuff. Tom (Northern Farmer) and others have Blogged about this same subject in the past. It is extremely important that "We The People" work to preserve these seed varieties in our families and our communities.

As Tom has done in the past, the Countryside article recommend that people go to the Seed Savers Exchange website. I'm headed there right now... www.seedsavers.org

A Couple Blogs of Note

Please stop by The View From Full Quiver Farml and welcome Gill back to the world of Christian-agrarian Blogging.

And I do enjoy Emily's Blog at Straining Onward

I'll be adding links to these blogs along with the others over on the right hand side of my site.

My Vinegar & Hard Cider Experiment

Last fall I blogged here about the first time I made apple cider. It was in 1977 when I was a student at the Sterling School in Vermont. My buddy, Ed got the idea that we could make some hard cider by corking it into recycled Coca-Cola bottles and waiting for it to go hard. It didn’t work. The corks popped and the bottles fizzed over.

Then I told you about how, last fall, my family made our own apple cider and we froze some. That did work. We have been enjoying that frozen cider for the past few months. I only wish we had frozen a couple hundred gallons! It’s awesome good.

But I didn’t freeze all the cider we made. I took two gallons and put them into wide mouth gallon jars with cheesecloth over the tops. The gallons have been sitting on a shelf in our back room. I’m hoping they’ll turn into vinegar.

I have a homesteading friend who makes his own apple cider vinegar in a big crock with cheesecloth over it. He gave me some once and it was very good. It’s far better for you than storebought cider vinegar because it has the “mother” in it. “Mother” is a “live active culture.” Our bodies need good live active cultures to populate our intestines and keep us healthy.

My friend says that if I just let it set long enough, the cider will turn to vinegar. He tells me it once took 10 months for a crock of his to turn to vinegar. Right now, after a bit more than 2 months, a lot of sediment has settled onto the bottom of the jar and a skin has formed on the top. I guess that’s what it’s supposed to do. I asked my vinegar-making friend how I’ll know when it’s ready. He said I have to taste it. This stuff has been sitting on a shelf, open to the air for months and I’m supposed to taste it? I’ll give it a little longer. :-)

With one other gallon of last fall’s cider I decided to try making hard cider again. I just put the cider in a gallon glass jug with a twist cap and set it on the kitchen counter. Every so often I’d crack the lid to let any built-up air escape. It took awhile but air eventually formed in the jar. At one point, I was cracking the lid and releasing the pressure twice a day. The jar would be still but when I cracked the lid, bazillions of micro-bubbles churned up from the 1/2” of sediment on the bottom. It was truly amazing to watch.

Bubble activity slowed and I have not been letting air out very often. The liquid in the jar has clarified. It is a pleasant golden amber color. A couple weeks ago I said to Marlene that I thought it was probably ready. We decided to give it a try.

The only problem was, I knew that when I cracked the lid, the bubbles would roil up from the bottom and all the crud that had settled down would become mixed into the clear top fluid. So I decided to open it quick and suck out a sample with a turkey baster. I managed to get a small sample and we gave it a taste test. It was remarkably good. I’ve tasted alcoholic beverages in the past but I’ve never been a drinker so I’m not an expert at all when it comes to alcoholic beverages— but it tasted like a cross between beer and champaign.

Well, that was a couple weeks ago and the jug has since settled down again so that the top cider was nice and clear again. I decided to try pouring some of the good stuff off the top before the bubbles erupted and stirred up the bottom crud. Marlene held a glass over the sink while I quickly screwed the cap off and poured out about half a cup.

It was even better than two weeks ago. It smelled more like beer this time. I think it tasted like beer too— sort of. It was very smooth. It was really quite delightful. I liked it.

My casual countertop experiment making cider homebrew has inspired me. I’m thinking that I’m going to have to get an air lock and a 5-gallon glass jug and read up on this craft of making hard cider. It seems easy enough to me.

My only problem now is reconciling this sort of thing with my latent belief that Christians should not drink alcohol.

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UPDATED INFORMATION....March 2009
Since this essay was first published, I have developed a "Whizbang" cider press and apple grinder. You can learn about these simple, effective, homemade tools, and my new book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder And Cider Press by going to my new Whizbang Cider web site. Here's the link: www.Whizbang Cider.com


They Are Not Human

Dateline: 3 February 2006



Roundup is the world’s most commonly used herbicide. It’s made by the corporate giant, Monsanto. One of my neighbor’s is a farmer. I’ve seen him spray Roundup on a perfectly healthy hay field. A few days later, the whole thing was dead and brown. Then he planted a crop into the dead field without plowing or preparing it. It’s called no-till farming.

Some crops, like corn are genetically modified so that they are not affected by Roundup. So the farmer can spray the corn field and kill weeds without killing the corn. I’ve read that Roundup is sprayed on 140 million acres of genetically-modified crops around the world each year.

Since Roundup was invented (It has been around for a couple decades now) the company has made a fortune for its stockholders, and the company maintains that their killer chemical is perfectly safe, if used according to their guidelines.

I’ve expressed concerns about Roundup to two farmers I know and they have assured me it is indeed perfectly safe, and then they give me some spiel about why it is safe. I don’t believe these people. I think they have been duped by the chemical companies. Anything that can kill a whole living field like that is not safe for people.

And now the independent studies are coming out to show the dangers of Roundup. It turns out that that Roundup damages human placental cells, even at 1/10th of the exposure that the company claims is safe. They have also found it kills tadpoles in water around the fields. What else does it kill? What other damage does it do to people once it’s in the environment and the food chain?

How could Monsanto claim Roundup was safe when it damages humans? How does any chemical company claim that their chemicals are safe? Someone must study the safety of the chemical. And that brings me to a little story that I feel compelled to share with you. . .

I know a guy who works in research at a well-known agricultural college. You would instantly recognize this school's name. This guy and I are on friendly terms. I won’t tell his name and I won’t tell the school and I won’t tell much about the details of what he does because I don’t want him to loose his job. But I will tell you about a conversation I had with him not too long ago.

He was telling me that he was helping with a new field study. It involves the planting of crops and the effects of a new chemical herbicide. It is a multiyear study. I asked him who commissioned the study. He told me it was the chemical company that made the herbicide.

I asked him if he thought the study would, in the end, prove very favorable to the chemical herbicide. He laughed out loud and said, “What do you think?” The point being that of course the study would prove the herbicide everything the company wants it to be.

To this I wondered if the college with the world-renowned reputation was prostituting itself? He responded, a little subdued in his tone, “Well, you wouldn’t want to tell them that.”

Then he told me that the chemical company gave the school a grant of several million dollars to study the herbicide. The point being, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. After all, research—even academic research—is a business that needs satisfied customers to survive and prosper.

This conversation was something of a revelation to me. Most people like to think that institutions of higher learning and their research departments are morally neutral when it comes to the scientific research they do. But I think that is being very naive.

Surely, no researcher would find an herbicide with obvious and immediate shortcomings to be safe. But what about the hazards and dangers that are not immediatly obvious; the ones that go undetected for years or, even, forever? Do the research companies that are in the back pocket of the giant chemical corporations really study those things? I don’t think so.

I do not trust the multinational corporate Industrial Providers. They are not human. They do not think and act like real people. They are artificial entities. They have artificial hearts and artificial consciences. Nothing is more important to them than making money. That is their whole reason for being. It is their only reason for being. They are not human. They are not my friend. They are not your friend. Don't ever forget that.


Apple Seed Theology

I recently happened upon a simple little down-to-earth illustration that speaks volumes about the awesome greatness of the Lord Most High. It is jam packed with God-glorifying theology. Here it is:

Anyone can count how many seeds are in an apple. But only God can count how many apples are in a seed.

I plan to share that profound and thought provoking nugget of wisdom with my children soon (next time we have cider or applesauce or anything with an apple in it provides the opportunity) and I will do so many more times in the future. I will even, Lord willing share it with my grandchildren one day too. And when I am dead and gone, I hope the generations to follow will continue to tell their children.

Perhaps you’ll want to share it with your children too.