Updating & Organizing

I am doing some updating and organizing of this blog in anticipation of returning to blogging next month.

One of the things I've done is create an index and titles for the 20-part series, Getting Started & Finding My Way, which I posted here earlier this year. If you are new to this blog, I invite you to peruse the story of my youthful struggles to find my way in the world.

Click HERE to get to the Index

See you in a week or so....

Summer Felicity 2008

Strawberries and blueberries and raspberries are all beautiful in their own way, but they just don’t compare to clusters of grapes on the vine.

I grew up in the suburbs eating supermarket grapes—the juicy, seedless kind grown somewhere other than around here. It would be sometime in my teen years before I experienced a New-York-grown grape right off the vine. The center was more slimy than juicy, and it had seeds. Ugh! Who would want to eat those dreadful things?

Well, my tastes have changed. Now I prefer a homegrown grape to those prissy storeboughts. And the earthy, undiluted, sweet juice from those berries is, in my opinion, the quintessence in fruit-of-the-vine beverages. Far better than wine.

The above picture is of my Concord grapes in July. They will ripen from green to blue-black and we will harvest every last grape. Not one will go to waste.

Summer delights here are more often than not, simple, like dill pickles in the making. The cukes are, of course, homegrown, as is the dill.

The ever changing interplay of earth and sky and sunlight is something that we here in the countryside notice and appreciate every day. There are times, when the sun is setting, that the light is especially rich. Such was the case when I took the above picture.

I grabbed my camera and ran outside, hoping to capture the scene of billowing cumulonimbus clouds in a blue sky, with golden hay stubble and big bales on the ground. My son was riding his four-wheeler in the field and I waved him over for a picture. He is a lean, tawny, country boy and a blessing to his parents. His name is Robert E. Lee Kimball (note the stars and bars by his knee).

Once again, summer hereabouts means little chickens in a “chicken tractor” on our lawn. These cute little featherweights will grow up to be plump roasters that we will harvest and load into the freezer.

We went to the New York State Pageant of Steam again this summer. I think it might turn into a family tradition. It was a good time. In addition to old tractors, and steam engines, and saw mills, and a flea market, and such, they had a few old pickups. I happen to like old pickups. When we saw the 1947 Ford in the above picture my son Robert said, “I’m going to buy you a truck like that someday, Dad!” I don’t need a truck like that but I liked hearing him say those words. The lad in the foreground is my 13-year-old, James—yet another blessing.

You never know what surprises you’ll find at the steam show. Last year there was a genuine Crosley Icy Ball ice box. It’s hard to beat a find like that. But this year’s surprise find was even better. That thing in the picture above is a Quadractor. I had never seen a Quadractor outside of a magazine picture. What a thrill.

Another part of summer that I enjoy is library book sales. Fifty cents for any paperback and a dollar for any hardcover. At the most recent sale in Moravia (my hometown) I spent an hour blissfully absorbed in searching the tables for books that interested me. I ended up spending five dollars for the books pictured above. They are:

How to Keep Hens For Profit (copyright 1913)

Virginians at Home: Family Life in the Eighteenth Century

George Washington’s Horse Slept Here
(about a family that bought an old barn in Long Island in 1950 and turned it into a house)

The Yankee Peddlers of Early America
(“An Affectionate History of Life and Commerce in the Developing colonies and the Young Republic”)

Letters of E. B. White

I have started reading the letters of EB White first. Elwyn Brooks White was born in 1899. Back then there was no e-mail. People communicated to far off family and friends by putting words on paper and sending the letters through the mail. Evidently they also saved the letters they received, at least they did the ones from EB White.

Back in 1976, as many letters as could be found were rounded up and put into the book. It is a 686-page compilation of White’s life story, along with so many personal letters, beginning with some from when he was nine years old. It makes for a surprisingly entertaining book that I am enjoying far more than I ever expected.

You may recall that E.B.White’s most famous book was “Charlotte’s Web.” Almost of equal popularity is “The Elements of Style,” a book about how to write well which he co-authored with his Cornell professor, William Strunk, Jr.

E.B was an entertaining writer, and I like his style. I am currently up to 1937. White had been working at the New Yorker magazine and yearned for the country. He didn’t like the city because “the pavements were hard and they didn’t have any broody hens.” So, at 38 years old, he decides to quit his job, take a year off, and live at his summer home in North Brooklin, Maine.

One of the first things EB does is go see the town smith, Mr. Allen, to have him make an ax head. Then he sets about making his own ash ax handle. In a letter to his wife, Katharine (who is still working at the New Yorker) he says: “I have had an entirely new feeling about life ever since making an ax handle.” He is also raising ten turkeys and various other animals.

I believe Katharine and their young son will join him shortly. And, of course, he will go on to achieve literary fame in the years ahead. I still have a lot of book to go.

Speaking of writing and taking time off, it is time for me to once again take leave of blogging, as I said I would a week or so back. This will be Phase II of my summer break from blogging. I would really like to head up to my summer home on the coast of Maine (which reminds me... E.B. White, feeling poorly in one letter, says that he would rather feel bad in Maine than good anywhere else in the world) but there is much too much to be done here.

I still have plenty to say and share with you about “Living the Good Life,” and whatever else strikes my fancy. I hope you will stop back.

See you then.....

The above picture is titled: "Overachiever"

A Missive on the
Prosperity-Driven Life

[Dateline: 8 August 2008]

It has been an unusually good growing season here in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. We have had rainfall almost every day, with lots of sunshine and warmth. My garden is growing with tropical lushness.

That hasn’t always been the case. Take, for example, the summer of 1999. I remember it all too well. It was a drought year. The creek behind my house dried up. Then our well went dry and the pump motor burned out. The soil was parched like I had not seen before. It was terribly hot every day. My family faced considerable hardship as a result.

Marlene hauled our laundry to the laundromat. We took showers at her mother’s house in town. We even took dishes to her mom’s place to wash. Most memorable was the sawdust toilet I put together and we used for two months. It served the purpose remarkably well and we realized that life without a flush toilet is not so bad—just different.

Compounding the difficulties of having no water was the significant financial drought we also faced.

I had invested a lot of time and savings into launching a small business venture a year or so earlier and it had been a failure. The money was gone. Gone too was my drive to work. I had neglected my remodeling business to focus on the new venture and, having poured myself into it, all for naught, I was burnt out. I was depressed too. I found it difficult to motivate myself to do anything.

All the while, the bills continued to come due: insurances, phone, electric, food, gas, and so on. Our savings account dwindled to nothing. I borrowed and used all the money I could get on my life insurance policy. We withdrew everything that was in our modest IRA retirement account. The checking account was practically empty. And I, as the sole provider for my family of five, was faced with the full burden of our situation.

I have mentioned that time in my life in past essays here. It was not a good time for me. But, in retrospect, I dare say a taste of failure and poverty is a healthy thing for someone who thinks they are above and beyond such a state in life. It brings perspective. You can better relate to others who struggle with poverty, and there are many of them all around us.

And times like that can bring a person to their knees. Why is this happening to me Lord? What did I do to deserve this? I don’t know what to do. Please help me!

Oh yes, experiences like that burn themselves into a person’s memory. And experiences like that can be a powerful incentive to a change of attitude, to humility, to repentance, to spiritual renewal.


When I was 14 years old, I stayed a couple summer-vacation weeks with my cousins in Springfield, Mass. I clearly recall an event that happened there one very hot day. We had come back to Springfield after a wonderful week at Cape Cod. The floor carpet in the station wagon was full of beach sand. My cousin Peter and I were given the job of vacuuming the carpet.

Like I said, it was a hot and humid day and we were unhappy about the work we had to do. We wanted to be back at Cape Cod, at the beach, in the water, having fun. To make matters worse, the house directly across the street had an in-ground swimming pool in the back yard. We could hear kids laughing, splashing in the water, and having a great time in the pool.

Peter and I griped about our sorry lot in life and wished we had a swimming pool. We decided right then and there that when we grew up we would each have in-ground swimming pools. We would have in-ground swimming pools because we would be rich. And then we made a pact.

We agreed that whichever one of us made a million dollars first would buy the other an in-ground swimming pool.

I’m still waiting. So is Peter.


I have read recollections of some old timers who grew up on a farm before there was television and radio and all the modern conveniences we take for granted these days (i.e., flush toilets). Looking back on their early childhood, those people will often remark that they were poor, but they didn’t know it at the time.

They didn’t know it because they had plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over their head, and they were part of a loving family. What more could a child need?

Only as they grew up and were exposed to the urban culture beyond the shelter of their rural homes, exposed to automobiles, exposed to the influencing media of television, radio, movies, magazines, and so much clever advertising, did they come to realize how “poor” their childhoods had been.

I never had that problem. I knew full well that I was “poor” from a very young age. My needs as a child were met but, living in suburbia in the 1960s and 1970s, I was keenly aware that my family was not as well off as Beaver Cleaver’s family or The Brady Bunch. Just looking around, I could see that most everyone else was better off than us. And, undoubtedly, most everyone else was well aware that they were not as well off as everyone else they compared themselves to.

We were intentionally indocrtrinated by the media and the culture we lived in from a young age. We were cursed with that industrial-world plague of never being content, of never having enough, no matter how much we had. And so, we resolved to ourselves from a young age that we would grow up to be rich. It’s the “American Way,” don’t ya know.


The desire to be rich, to have an abundance of possessions and money, is the keystone of our modern, neo-Babylonian culture. Everything seems to revolve around the acquisition of money and all the superfluous things that money can buy. It is, after all, money and things that bring us respect, validation, influence, and comfort.

Indeed, if someone does not at least aspire to be rich in the many material things our culture offers, they are looked upon as loosers and misfits. Pity the poor fools who don’t have the initiative to “make something of themselves” in this life.

Yes, we live in the midst of a culture that places great importance on the pursuit and acquisition of prosperity and all the pleasures that prosperity can buy. Many men and women forgo having families so they can pursue prosperity in its many alluring forms. Others do have families but neglect them as they strive to achieve a greater and greater measure of wealth.

People invest to get rich. People commit crimes to get rich. People go to casinos to get rich. People buy lottery tickets to get rich. People borrow money and buy what they cannot afford so they will at least have some semblance of being rich. It’s all about getting rich. And, from the standpoint of what the Bible has to say, it’s all wrong.

But how could it be wrong?

After all, there are preachers who preach that God wants His people to be rich and wealthy, that blessings and riches go hand in hand, that if we are right with God, if we tithe, if we give generously, we will receive more money in return. There are men who will testify to this truth in their lives. They are rich because God has blessed them. How could it be wrong to work to be rich if so many other Christians are rich?

What’s wrong with working to achieve such success? What’s wrong with encouragng and guiding our children into vocations that will help them to be rich? What could possibly be wrong with Christian men and women striving daily to build wealth within the world system?

Surely it is okay for Christians to aspire to acquire wealth on par with the rest of the culture around us!


Last month I read the gospel of Luke, which has much to say about this subject of being rich.

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ condemned the pursuit and acquisition of riches—in no uncertain terms. Scripture beyond the book of Luke supports this condemnation. Thus, I am left to conclude that the desire to be successful in the world’s terms, the desire to attain the trappings of success (to be rich) is not of God.

For me, the most compelling evidence of this fundamental truth is in Luke 8, which tells the parable of the sower.

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Then Jesus Himself provides the interpretation of His parable:

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Did you see it? Right there is a remarkable condemnation of the Prosperity-Driven life as it has been adopted by a great portion of the Christian church in our day and age. Cares and riches and pleasures are likened to thorns that choke out the fullness of life that God desires for His people. Such thorns need to be rooted out.

Is your life choked with the cares and concerns that come when riches and pleasure are pursued? Are you living beyond your means? Are you discontent because you do not have as much as those who you choose to compare yourselves to?

Or maybe you are a Christian so successful and comfortably wealthy that you’re convinced none of those verses can really mean what they say? Perhaps you are deluded into thinking you are not rich when, by most people’s standards, you are. The fact is, by historical standards, and even current worldwide circumstances, all of us in the industrialized West are materialistically very rich.

I don’t know where you are in your thinking about success and wealth and pursuing the so-called American Dream. It doesn’t matter to me. But if you are a Christian, and you take your Christianity seriously, it should matter to you.

Christians are called to separate from the ungodly aspirations of the world culture around us; to separate from Vanity Fair in it’s many manifestations. But when it comes to pursuing prosperity, the concept of separation is so contrary, and Christians are so syncretized into the financial Zeitgeist of our age,that we are hard pressed to implement something like this. We have been so indoctrinated by Babylonian culture that we have trouble getting our minds around the meaning of separation in this regard. Besides that, we love the pleasures and playthings that our money can buy.

So how does a Christian seeking truth and desiring to please the Lord effectively separate in this area?

I can not answer that question for you. I am trying to answer the question for myself. I am looking for the balance between properly providing and pursuing prosperity. It is a delicate balance.

I can tell you this much: I am closer to the answer than I was at 14 years old. And I am closer to the answer than I was during the drought of 1999.

I’m persuaded that the balance we need is found first within our attitude and focus; which is to say, within our heart’s desires. Second, I’m inclined to believe that our heart’s desires are clearly revealed in our actions—in how we make the money we need, in how greatly we strive for the acquisition of money and the things money can buy, in how we spend the money God has entrusted to us, in how freely we give to others in need, in how well we live within our means, in how content we are with little.


I know a man who is an electrician. He flat out doesn’t like Christians. Why? It turns out that he once had a business partner who was a Christian. The partnership went sour. The Christian partner made sure he came out on top. at the expense of his non-Christian associate.

The modern business world celebrates getting the better part of a business deal. But Christianity does not condone oneupsmanship.


My stepfather sold health and life insurance for 30 years. He once told me that he did not like to sell insurance to Christians. I was shocked. “Why not?” I asked. “Because they lie,” he replied.

Again, it came down to money. He had sold insurance to outwardly professing Christians who lied about their health history on the insurance forms. When it came to light, the insurance company took money away from my father.

Those people may have thought it was okay to lie to the big, impersonal insurance company if they could get away with it. But their actions affected my father’s finances, which were never that good.

Christians speak of witnessing to unbelievers, about how important it is to verbally tell them about eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Yes, that is important. But actions speak louder than words.


Years ago, Marlene and I got a call from a man at Focus on The Family, a Christian ministry that I’m sure you’ve heard of. He and another man from the ministry were going to be in our area and wanted to take Marlene and I out for breakfast. We were supporters of that ministry at that time, but relatively small supporters. How did they come to call us? What did they want? I was suspicious.

They said they typically visit with ministry supporters when they travel and happened to call us at random. We met them for breakfast and had a very nice visit. The only mention of money was when I brought it up.

I had heard that James Dobson, founder of the ministry, did not take any salary at all from it. I asked if that was true. Both men assurred me that it was true. They told me his primary source of income was from the books he has written. Then they explained that, because the ministry promoted his books, Dr. Dobson gave a sizeable portion of his book proceeds to the ministry.

Now there is a Christian man who is careful and conscientious about his witness. Actions speak louder than words.


I could ramble on. But I’ve made my point—a point that, for some reason, I’ve felt strongly compelled to make here.

Before I close, I’d like to give you two guiding verses of scripture. The first is from Psalms:

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Then there is King Solomon who, you may recall, was very rich and very wise (but fallibly human). He declared, looking back on his life, that all the work he had done was vanity and vexation of spirit. Then, in the book of Ecclesiasties, he says this:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Organic Weed Annihilation
(any weed)

Dateline: 6 August 2008
Updated: 11 April 2013

Bindweed (photo link)

My friend Steve is a Christian-agrarian homesteader. He is the most resourceful person I know, bar none. He is also an organic gardener.

One day Steve and I were discussing bindweed. Also known as wild morning glory, bindweed is the most hellish weed I have ever known. Unhindered, it will grow lush and wrap itself around every other plant, entangling it, dominating it, destroying it.

Pull it out and bindweed grows back. Rototill through it and every chopped up piece will grow a new plant. Bindweed is so bad that, if faced with the scourge, even the most passionate of organic gardeners will consider using herbicide.

I know this because when I was a kid, my family had bindweed in our garden. It’s still there. We fought it for years. We fought the bindweed, and the bindweed won. It owns the land where the garden once was.

My friend Steve has bindweed on his land. He knows how bad it is. But he does not have a problem with it in his garden because he has devised a non-chemical technique for totally annihilating the weed from his garden. Now I’m going to tell you what that technique is.

Like I said, Steve is resourceful. For years, he has collected sheets of old steel roofing and siding. He has gotten this material for free for the hauling wherever and whenever he can. In most instances he has removed it off of old buildings himself, with the owners permission. Steve has piles of this old steel roofing and siding stacked by his garden. In the spring, he lays the sheets of steel on the ground over a large section of land where he intends to plant his garden next year (he rotates the placement of his garden from year to year). He weights the sheets of metal down with old tires, rocks, chunks of firewood. The metal “carpet” stays in place for an entire year.

Nothing grows under the steel. Bindweed roots die off. Dandelion roots and burdock and quack grass roots die off. Everything living plant under the metal is starved of sunlight and dies. it is a beautiful thing to contemplate, especially if you have a bindweed infestation.

When Steve removes the sheet metal the following spring, the ground is bare and the moist soil is soft and workable. Sometimes he tills the ground. Sometimes he just scratches the surface with a hoe and plants his crops.

Steve says the bindweed will eventually return into the garden from its perimeter positions. But he can get a good garden out of the plot without much weed problem for the one year.

The idea works. All you need is some old roofing or siding sheets. Start collecting scrap now for future gardens. Once you have it, the metal will last for many years.

This year I decided to use some sheet metal mulch in my wintersquash patch. Since my neighbor moved to Washington state last fall, I lost the use of his land to garden in. I needed to expand the garden space on my own small piece of land. That meant I would have to till up some lawn. Sod tills hard and it occurred to me that I could lay my small collection of salvaged sheet metal siding on the sod early in the spring to kill the grass. That’s what I did.

Then, when it came time to plant the squash, I separated the sheets about a foot apart and planted my squash. No rototilling was needed. I planted my squash as per my Whizbang Squash Planting Secret. Here’s a picture of my squash patch earlier this spring.

As you can see in the picture, the "Whizbang tire cloches" are in place. I have piled grass clippings between the metal sheets to keep weeds down there. I'd also like to point out that with sheet metal mulch you can push the lawnmower over the top of the metal and mow the lawn along the edge very nicely. Here's a picture of a healthy young squash plant with the cloche removed.

This next picture shows the squash bed a few weeks after the cloches have been removed. No cultivating around the squash is necessary. Weeds are no problem. the sheet metal and grass clippings take care of the weeds. On the left side of the squash patch I have continued to distribute a heavy layer of grass clippings, as they are available.

The picture below shows my squash patch at the end of July. It is a dense jungle of healthy, fruitful vines. The combination of my Whizbang Squash Planting Secret (click on link above for details) and sheet metal mulch is a winner. Recycle, reuse, and reap a bountiful harvest. Thanks for the great idea Steve!

P.S. To see a picture of Steve in his sheet-metal-mulched garden, with the most remarkable Blue Hubbard squash you've ever seen, ClickHere, and scroll a short way down the page.

Bifurcating Eschatology
My Nifty New Compost Sifter

Dateline: 4 August 2008
Updated: 26 April 2013

I’ve been an enthusiastic gardener since I was a teenager. My interest right from the beginning has been in organic gardening. One of the fundamental elements of organic gardening is compost.

Early on, as I learned about the wonders of using compost in the garden, I was discouraged by the fact that it takes so long to make the stuff. It can take up to a year for a pile of organic materials (i.e. weeds, kitchen scraps, & animal manure) to decompose into compost.

Teenagers are not known for their patience, and my patience was especially short because my family attended a fundamentalist Baptist church.

I didn’t expect to be around in a year. I had read Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth.” I had been to see that Billy Graham movie, A Thief in The Night. I listened to speakers proclaim that end times Bible prophecy was coming to pass. The rapture of the church was supposed to happen before the nation of Israel (founded in 1948) was a generation old (and a generation was defined as 30 years). Preachers assured their listeners that the Antichrist was in the wings, ready to assume his diabolical role in the Great Tribulation. There was a lot of speculation about exactly who the Antichrist might be. Henry Kissinger was a likely candidate.

I believed what the Biblical prognosticators prognosticated. Never would I have dreamed that I would remain here on this earth as long as I have. It’s a wonder I even took time to plant any seeds in the garden back then.

Now, half a century old, I’m a little bit more discerning. The hyper-dispensationalist beliefs of my younger days have been supplanted by the more orthodox postmillenial doctrines held by the Pilgrims, the Puritans, and the Reformers before them.

When I compare the fruit of these bifurcating eschatological doctrines, I see anxiety, selfishness, defeatism, and denial of responsibility on the one hand, and selflessness, hopeful, responsible optimism on the other. Dispensationalists focus on what they see as satan’s sovereignty over this world, while the postmillenialists focus on God’s absolute sovereignty over all His creation, for all time. The one focus sustains a shallow, shortsighted faith, while the other cultivates faith with greater depth. I’ve seen it from both sides and that’s the way it appears to me.

Curiously, it turns out that this whole dispensational way of thinking is relatively new in the history of The Church. It rose to prominence, roughly paralleling the rise of the industrial revolution. I see it as a part of modernist Christian theology, which so often propagates the newest Christian fad-belief-movement, and profits financially from misleading the faithful.

Modern Christianity appears to lead modern Christians here and there like ancient Israel wandering in the wilderness, moving ahead, but in circles, never arriving in the promised land, being fed with manna from heaven, but never feasting on the milk and honey that is just over the border in Canaan. It is an analogy that fits the whole industrial movement itself.

Time will, of course, tell which branch of doctrine is correct (they can’t both be), and it could be that I am completely wrong. But I’ve had my fill of dispensationalist thinking, thank you.

Whatever the outcome, I am absolutely certain of one thing: Postmillenialists are theologically predisposed to making better compost than their dispensationalist brethren. There is just no question about it.

In addition to all of that, I can attest that the advancing of age brings a different perspective of time. After making it through fifty years, another one doesn’t seem so long to me. And so I now patiently and joyfully make compost piles each year to use on the following year’s garden. Which finally brings me to the subject of my nifty new compost sifter.

If you have read much of this blog, you already know that I’ve written and posted pictures telling about the unique mechanical compost sifter I made several years back. It’s a dandy machine. You can read all about it HERE.

The only drawback to that motor-driven contraption is that it’s big, heavy, and motor-driven. It also requires a modest investment of money and time to build. Then there is the matter of eventual maintenance and repair, not to mention the need for electricity to run the thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I like machines. they have their place. But I also like utter simplicity. There are plenty of times when I need only one garden cart full of sifted compost, or less. There are times when I don’t want to deal with the noise of a big machine and the hassle of running power cords. It is for such times that I invented the compost sifter shown in the picture below. It is utter simplicity coupled with ease and efficiency.

What you are looking at in the picture (taken from high atop the compost pile) is a Whizbang Garden Cart (anyone can build one). That cart is among the most versatile and useful tools on my little homestead!

On top of the cart is the nifty compost sifter. As you can see, the sifter rests on two 2x4 support pieces. Those pieces are screwed to the sifter box. And they have shallow notches on the bottoms that fit over the top sides of the garden cart. I rubbed some candle way on the top of the cart sides and the sifter box glides back and forth almost effortlessly.

Of course, if you heap the box up with unsifted compost, it requires some effort to shake it back and forth, but it is still relatively easy to do. The box measures 22” by 26” and is made of 1x8 pine boards. The bottom is 1/2” hardware cloth. The two handles are 1-1/2” by 1-1/2” pine screwed into the corners. I shaved down the top ends to get a comfortable handhold. Here’s a picture of me (taken over the top of the compost pile)shaking down a big load of compost.

Here’s a picture of my 17-year-old son, Robert, shaking down a load of compost.

Sifting compost is a great job for a teenage boy, especially if he is helping his mom or dad. Marlene can easily use the sifter too, but she will only want to sift two or three shovelfuls at a time. Actually, the less you fill the box, the faster it sifts out.

After sifting, the remaining unsiftables, like rocks, stones, missing kitchen cutlery, spent shotgun shells, and whatnot, can be disposed of. Here is another view of the sifter.

So there you go. That’s my utterly simple compost-sifter box.

Make a Whizbang Garden Cart. Make a sifter box. Make compost. Sift it. Use it to grow good food for yourself and your family. Such things are part of “the good life.” At least, they are for me.

And The Winner Is....

Dateline: 2 August 2008

It is time to announce the winner of the Peterson Coppertop Bluebird House Contest (Click Here for contest details and a picture of the Peterson). First, the contestants were as follows:

MG...Tacoma, WA
RS...Seattle, WA
AK...Beulah, MO
JK...Red Lake Falls, MN
PM...Sanbornville, NH
SM...Windsor, MA
CF...Williamsburg, MA
MH...Hampden, ME
RO...Woodlyn, PA
CB...Thief River Falls, MN
JK...Akley, MN
GT...newport, TN
KB...Kendall, WI
GR...Boyne City, MI
DH...Secor, IL
RLR...Logan, OH
T&SS...Union, SC
JS...Ashland, PA
WK...Willisburg, KY
ML...Shannon, IL
JD...Bristol, TN
RM...Bison, KS
MS...Neenah, WI
DL...Greenbay, WI
BP...Lacey, WA
BW...Finlayson, MN
AH...Williamsville, MO
RA...Norfolk, MA
RM...Brookfield, VT
TM...Voluntown, CT
SC...Newbury, VT
SR...Jefferson, TX
KD...Truman, MN
TC...Leoma, TN
BC...Columbia, KY
JT...Albuquerque, NM
JS...Crescent, OK
DS...Colorado Springs, CO
RW...Equinunk, PA
DE...Fort Valley, PA

Some of those folks bought more than one Whizbang book from me and their name was entered more than once in the drawing. In all, there were 56 names in the hat.

That hat is my own Amish hat that we got on our vacation to Lancaster PA last year. I enlisted my son James to draw the winner. The location of the drawing was our back yard. James's brother Robert held the hat aloft. I assure you that James thoroughly scrambled the contents before picking the winner.

As per my instructions to James, he drew a single slip of paper with the winning name on it. I told him to have an excited and surprised look for the picture.

And the winner is...

Congratulations William in Kentucky. I will be mailing your Peterson Coppertop to you this week. I hope there are bluebirds in Kentucky. Thank you to everyone who entered this contest. I wish you could have all been winners.

One more thing...

After the official drawing was over, James said he should have done the drawing with his BillyBob teeth. Oh, what a grand idea! I suggested that we do a reenactment. This is how it turned out. What a good sport you are James!

Me & My Honda Are Famous

This Just In....

The August 11th issue of Newsweek magazine has an article titled Honda Gets it Right, All Over Again. Lo and behold, it contains a quote from me.

Here’s exactly what it says:
”Gas prices drove Moravia, N.Y., farmer Herrick Kimball to ditch his pickup for a Honda Accord, which he uses to haul chicken feed from a trailer hitched to the bumper. "I can load an Accord up like a pickup truck," he says.”

The writer of the article read a previous blog essay here and e-mailed me wondering if she could call and ask me some questions about the Accord I bought a year ago. I didn’t respond and she emailed again. So I sent a e-mail back saying I wasn’t interested in being interviewed. Shortly after sending that e-mail, she called my home phone number.

I told her that I had just e-mailed her but she said she hadn’t checked her messages. Then she asked me about my Honda. Since she had gone to all the trouble of calling, I decided to do the "interview." We had a nice talk and that quote from me is accurate.

The part about me being a farmer isn’t accurate. I never said that. But close enough. I like the sounds of it, even if it isn’t true.

The part about ditching my pickup for the Honda is pretty much correct. I ditched my beloved old F150 for a Ford Explorer (which is a gas guzzler equivalent to a truck), and then I ditched that for the Accord last year.

We do like the Honda. And it does pull a trailer just fine. And you can load a 4ft by 8ft trailer up with chicken feed, just like a truck.

By the way, I also told the reporter all about my Whizbang Chicken Plucker. But, for some reason, she decided not to mention that in the article. I think a picture of the Whizbang Plucker, in action, would make a great front cover for Newsweek.

So, anyway, that’s the story on that.


This brings to mind the time I was mentioned by name in a New York Times article back in 1977. I was attending The Grassroots Project in Vermont. A reporter from the times came and visited the school for about a week to gather information for his story.

When the article came out, it said something like, “Herrick Kimball, a recent graduate of Choate, said......” (I forgot what it was reported that I said).

For those who don’t know Choate is a high-class prep school in Connecticut. I never went there, much less graduated from there. But there was a guy I went to school with at The Grassroots Project who did graduate from Choate and he’s the one that said whatever I was supposed to have said and can’t recall now.

The mistake came about because the other guy’s name was Harry. But it wasn’t really Harry. He was known as Harry and we all called him Harry, but his parents had given him the name of Andy. So the reporter must have referred to a list of student names and figured the Harry he talked with was Herrick. Close enough, I guess.

After all, Harry couldn’t possibly be Andy.

But he was.

Both Harry and Andy were downright disappointed that I got mentioned in the Times instead of him.

Index To My Series of Home Business Ideas

The following essays offer some insight into the wisdom of starting a part-time, home-based, small business of your own. And I discuss some specific business ideas.

Losing One’s Job

Home Business Idea #1: Be a Toilet Repair Professional

Home Business Idea #2: Start a Woodworking Shop

Home Business Idea #3: Teach What You Know

Home Business Idea #4: Be a Ditch Digger

Home Business idea #5: Publish a Local Diner’s “Gazette”

Home Business Idea #6: Self-Publish How-To Books

Home Business Ideas: Some Concluding Thoughts & Your Comments

Getting Back to Blogging

Hey. What happened to July? It sure did breeze by fast. Too fast. And here I am back to blogging. It’s good to be back. But my vacation from blogging was so enjoyable and so productive that I’ve decided to blog three or four essays that are on my mind, and then take the rest of August off.

Tomorrow I will announce the winner of the Peterson coppertop bluebird house contest. For now, here’s a few thoughts...


A lightening surge hit my Dell laptop computer in July. So I ended up buying a secondhand iBook G4 from a mom&pop Mac dealer. I couldn’t be more pleased. What a superior tool the Mac is!

Only problem so far is my inability to figure out how to transfer photos from this computer to Photobucket so I can include them in this blog. But I hope to surmount that learning curve this coming week.


We are in the midst of summer plenty here.There are plenty of wholesome, fresh-from-the-garden foods to eat. Potatoes, peas, green beans, yellow beans, onions, lettuce, cabbage, beets, cucumbers, summer squash, and raspberries are a part of our dialy fare. Tomatoes are just coming on. This is where I would be inserting a picture of a summer evening meal on a table in our back yard, if only I knew how.


My wife, The Lovely Marlene, decided not to bake for the farmer’s market this year. Now she is so busy with other things around here that she wonders how she managed to have time to bake in the past. Actually she still bakes and sells bread maybe once a week, in much smaller quantities, for people who call and order it. But that is more manageable. She is still making and selling homemade soaps, mostly wholesale to a couple retail outlets, and it sells very well.

Marlene would love to have a farm stand near our house. I would grow the fruits and vegetables. She would bake and do the selling. I like that idea too. The only problem is our lack of land and time for me to grow things.


By the grace of God, for the first time in my life, I think I have managed to save enough money to buy a small section of land, without going into debt. My part-time Whizbang Books business has been moderatly profitable in the past two years. We have our eye on the five acre field right next to our house. It is good soil and we could pay a premium for it. Only problem is that it’s not for sale.

But things have a way of changing. Perhaps there is other land we are supposed to buy, at a later time. Or, perhaps the Lord has blessed us with the extra money for another purpose. And so we await clearer direction.


The governor of the state of New York made a “rare and unprecedented” 5-minute speech on television last month. He wanted to let New Yorker’s know our state is in serious financial straits. Among other things, he proposed that the state cut its work force and do more with less. Gasp!

I’ve heard that New York has more public employees than any other state. We also have the highest property taxes in the nation. A recent news report stated that one in seven workers in New York is a government employee. I suspect that statistic includes federal government employees. It might even include government school teachers. Whatever the case, it is too many.

I don’t know for sure but I may be the only state employee who agrees with the governor. Working for government is an eye-opener. There is all kinds of waste and corruption in government. Yes indeed, they need to cut the size of the state workforce in half, to start... my job included.

To which some of you may think, “Why don’t you just quit if you feel that way?” Well, believe me, that thought crosses my mind every day. It would be a much easier decision to make if they just eliminated my job.


We went to a friend’s home to celebrate the 4th of July. A woman i know was there and she said she read my story about The Smell from a 7,800-Cow Dairy. Then she told me this story...

Her son got married a few years ago and rented a trailer home from the 7,800-cow dairy mentioned in my blog essay. While living there, the son was continually sick and the daughter-in-law had three miscarriages. Then they had the well water tested. The level of nitrates in the water was off the chart. high nitrates cause miscarriages. The couple moved away. The son is no longer sick and the daughter-in-law was able to have a baby.

Do you think the people who own that farm drink that same water?


I see that Matthew Potter finished his Whizbang Chicken Plucker and is now in the pastured poultry business. One satisfied customer has blogged about Matthew’s business. Read About it Here.


Part of my productivity last month centered around my next Whizbang project. I was able to make good progress on this new home-based entreprenurial idea last month. As mentioned in the past, it will consist of a free, detailed, internet how-to photo tutorial (instead of the usual how-to book). I will tell how to make a tool that every homesteader can put to good use. Only problem is that the tool is very expensive. But I'm going to tell you how to easily make a homemade version for 1/3 the cost of a storebought. This tool will make gardening and growing food so much easier and more enjoyable. It will serve you faithfully for the rest of your growing days and you will be able to pass it on to your grandchildren. I will hopefully make money off the idea by supplying parts kits. I'm excited about the idea, but I'm not saying anything more than this publicly until it is all ready to go. Lord willing, I hope to have everything in place by the end of the year. That's all I can say for now.

Stay tuned....