Community in a Spinach Patch
The picture above is of Marlene harvesting spinach from our garden early in the morning. I planted lots more spinach than usual and it has grown exceptionally well in the cooler-than-usual spring we’ve had. I think the Complete Organic Fertilizer mix I got from Steve Solomon’s gardening book (which I wrote about HERE) has helped too.
We’ve eaten a lot of this spinach (fresh and steamed) and have frozen some too. But the really nice thing is that we have shared it with six other families, and they were very glad to get it. In most instances, they stopped by to pick their own. Yes, that’s the nice thing.
Thank You John Shuttleworth
The current issue of BackHome Magazine brought a surprising editorial that begins as follows:
”Though some of our generation may not realize it, much of the contemporary movement toward renewable energy, locally grown foods, and bootstrap self-sufficiency owes its existence to a farsighted farm boy from Redkey, Indiana. On March 29, 2009, John Shuttleworth, cofounder of the venerable self-reliant-living magazine The Mother Earth News passed away in his home in Evergreen, Colorado, after 71 years of intense and independent living.”For those who don’t know, John Shuttleworth and his wife, Jane, started Mother Earth News back in 1970. They invested $1,500 in the venture and put the first issue together on their kitchen table. A mere nine years later, with a million subscribers, the Shuttleworth’s divorced, and the magazine was sold. It was never the same after that. And neither was I.
Here’s another BackHome quote:
”Born in 1937, John grew up on a small Hoosier farmstead, where his family had to make do for just about everything, including the electricity they generated from their wind turbine—which John’s father built himself, right down to the hand-carved wooden blades. If the depression was affecting the economy, it was hard to tell from the Shuttleworth farm, where, as John wrote years later, “the attic was hung heavy with home-cured hams, the root cellar was full of fruits and vegetables, and the pantry brimming with home-canned meats and crocks of pickles curing away... while we had all the fresh eggs, milk, and butter we could eat.” You almost got the impression that the self-made media mastermind didn’t survive the depression as much as he enjoyed it, having a leg-up on self-sufficiency right from the start.”Later in the editorial is this sentence:
”By the age of 14, he was submitting cartoons and articles to national publications, competing with adults three times his age and earning some money while honing his communication skills.”Well, John Shuttleworth certainly did have communication skills, and what he communicated through his magazine resonated with me as a young teen. No earthly book or publication has so influenced my life as did The Mother Earth News in its early years. None even come close.
I dare say, I learned how to write primarily by reading Mother Earth News magazine—every issue—from cover to cover, especially the first ten years worth. And Shuttleworth’s eight-page article in the September/October 1977 issue titled, How To Write For Mother stands, in my opinion, as the best thing I’ve ever read on how to write how-to.
Now, three decades later, I’ve written eleven books, numerous magazine articles, and a whole lot of blog essays, most of which have been instructional. Every so often, I’ll pull out my dog-eared photocopy of that old Mother Earth article and reread it. And I always come away from doing so with a fresh appreciation for John Shuttleworth’s plain & simple, yet pleasantly readable, ability to communicate with the written word. Here is an excerpt from the end of that article that gives you a feel for Shuttleworth’s style:
Then again, I know of no law that requires an author to limit him or her self to the same dull, dead, gray boilerplate that most of the rest of today’s “writers” deal in. Have we all turned into IBM machines? Does no one know how to sprinkle flecks of silver and gold into his or her copy? Are all the magical wordsmiths who once used nothing but paper and ink to conjure up misty moors, melodious chimes, and shimmering sunsets in the minds of their readers... all...gone....?
I think not. I hope not. I prefer to believe that such crafts men and women have only temporarily been forced to hide up in the cool, green hills... while the brutish mutants who identify everything by social security numbers and view the world through 18-inch screens and who lurch back and forth across the valley floor on clangorous trail bikes and snowmobiles and converse with such depthy expressions as “wow” and “you know” have their day. A short one.
And soon, those who value the texture and the color and the emotion and the feel and the nuances of the language will once again be able to practice and strengthen their craft. And today’s computerese will once again give way to living, breathing words that soothe and cradle grown people’s hearts in the mysterious and marvelous worlds that language can create.
In the meantime, the least you can do is try to brighten and focus and intensify every part of every sentence you write for The Mother Earth News. I expect nothing less.
Shuttleworth’s Mother Earth News was written for them that’s doin’. As a teenager, I wanted to be one of them. I was inspired to learn the practical rural skills needed for self reliance—skills that men, because they are men, should know, like how to build and fix things, how to grow and preserve food, and how to solve problems with roll-up-your-sleeves creativity. Then, having learned such things, how to live life without being engulfed (and enslaved) by the industrial system—without being fully dependent on the Industrial Providers.
In short, I did not want to grow up being a helpless man in a world system geared to crank out legions of dependent, helpless, modern men.
Mother Earth News was counter-cultural because it was counter-industrial, and as such, it was revolutionary. I joined the revolution when I was 15 years old and, though I have at times strayed from the path, I have not strayed far, and I have always come back to counter-industrialism or, more specifically, agrarianism, because, ultimately, I am attracted to truth and beauty and there is neither truth nor beauty in the industrial paradigm.
I eagerly awaited every new issue of The Mother Earth News because I was a willing student, looking for another idea to pursue or project to build. My teen years were one hands-on project after another from the pages of that beloved magazine. I taught myself everything from darning socks and threshing wheat, to making bent willow chairs and Prowley Snooker's Original Hot Apple Pie Sandwiches.
I still have most all of the early editions of the magazine. They are gathering dust in the attic over my workshop. But I will not part with them. The memories are too dear. Like an old photo album with snapshots from when I was a boy, evoking fond memories, I can spend hours looking through those old magazines. And someday soon I must do that.
Much of the focus of the early Mother Earth News was on encouraging bootstrap entrepreneurship, all of which fit into the anti-corporate/industrial way of thinking and living. It was, in fact, an article in Mother Earth that sparked my desire to have a mail order business. As a teen, I bought books about how to start and operate a successful mail order business. Then, in the early 1980s I came up with a “great idea,” or so I thought. It involved supplying information on a specific subject. I placed an ad in Mother’s classified section. The orders rolled in. People were sending me money. I sent out the information. And then I heard back from some upset customers. They felt I had ripped them off. I sent the money back and that was the end of my mail order business. But I learned from the experience.
Looking back, I needed a couple decades of life and work experience under my belt before I could come up with ideas and information that people would pay money for, and be pleased to get. Of course, the internet also made it a whole lot easier to start a mail order business.
Now, Whizbang Books is a thriving home business. A couple months ago, Marlene (The Wife of My Youth) said to me, “Well, it looks like you finally have the mail order business you always dreamed of.” Yes, it sure looks that way. And, in part, I have John Shuttleworth to thank for it.
It's also worth noting that my first serious foray into self employment came about after reading a Mother Earth article about the chimney cleaning business (I wrote about it HERE).
My environmental consciousness and love of the soil was cultivated by The Mother Earth News. My desire to own a piece of land (debt free) originated with Mother Earth News, as did my introduction to the principles of sound money, and my fundamental distrust of big government.
In short, Mother Earth News, under the vision and direction of John Shuttleworth, helped to mold and shape who I am and where I am today, as much, if not more, than my parents, and that is no exaggeration.
Here is how the BackHome article ends:
”If there were ever a definition of a Renaissance man, John Shuttleworth would have fit somewhere within it—wordsmith, artist, entrepreneur, engineer, and visionary ... and a true mold breaker, the likes of which are few and far between.”
The Sad Part About John Shuttleworth
John Shuttleworth has now passed away and I am sorry. I am not as much sorry that he died as I am sorry about how he lived his life, or how it appears that he lived it.
From what I have ascertained in various reports, John Shuttleworth was a very difficult and demanding man to work for when he was the editor of his famous magazine. And in a magazine interview (which I will write more about shortly), Shuttleworth says he had 80 to 100 different jobs in the ten years before he started the magazine. Those things make me wonder if he might have had some personality “issues.” The internet news reports say he was found in a hot tub at his home ten days after he died (of natural causes). His sister, quoted in one article, says she had not heard from her brother for years. He had no children. It would appear that Shuttleworth was a recluse and, more than likely, a truly miserable person.
As for myself, I admit to curmudgeonly and hermitic tendencies, but my life deliberately revolves around my Christian faith, family relationships, and my community, in addition to working to live simply and successfully apart from the industrial world system. The fullness and richness of this Christian-agrarian lifestyle stands in stark contrast to the apparent life that Shuttleworth lived. In a very real sense, this man helped me on my journey to where I am now, but he himself never knew such blessings. That is a tragedy if there ever was one.
The Plowboy Interviews
Before I leave the subject of John Shuttleworth, I want to tell you about the 1975 “Plowboy” interviews with him that appeared in Mother Earth News. In the first interview, Shuttleworth tells his life story, and it is worth reading (I provide a link below). Here is an excerpt:
”In my own case, I was doing useful work by the time I was three or four. As a matter of fact, Mom has photographs of me at that age sitting on the seat of our homemade tractor, steering it across a field while dad forked manure off a wagon that was hooked on behind.Shuttleworth goes on to tell the story of getting polio at 11-years-old and almost dying. He believed the Polio resulted from contact with DDT on the farm. You can read Part 1 of the Plowboy interview At This Link
Now I hasten to add that my father had that tractor geared down so low that it was barely creeping when I did this, so there was absolutely no danger involved. I also want to point out that I was not being exploited in any way. Quite the contrary! I thought that steering the tractor around was a glorious way to spend the day. The fact remains, however, that I was doing useful work and I knew it was useful work,and I knew the world placed a high value on such activity.
... Now that I think of it, I realize just how incredibly lucky I was to grow up that way. I was being taught what life is really all about from the first day I drew a breath. There was very little to distract us from the straight-and-uncut back then, no trash compactors or “convenience foods” or corporations telling us how nuclear power would save the throwaway society. We didn’t have a throwaway society. Every bit of string, every paper bag, every bread wrapper got saved and reused, sometimes five or six times.”
And you will want to read Part 2 of the interview too. As I reread the second interview, which I first read when it was published 34 years ago, I was struck anew by some of the things that Shuttleworth said, and I was astonished to read him mention what is now commonly referred to as peak oil.
Shuttleworth tells the story of Walter Prescott Webb and his book, The Great Frontier, first published in 1951. The “Frontier” Web speaks of in his book is the last 450 years of New World discovery, exploration, and exploitation, which brought incredible wealth and social change. It sounds like the book is essentially an historical overview of the rise of industrialism.
But that Frontier is all discovered, and mostly exploited. What’s next? Energy supplies are dwindling. Most everybody agrees with that now. Will science and technology come to the rescue and preserve industrialism? Here’s what Shuttleworth had to say:
I think that one direct quote from The Great Frontier pretty well sums up what Webb thought about science’s chances of “saving” mankind. “Technology has given us the luxuries and comforts in a riotous holiday in which we can eat and breed, but all the time it is sawing off the limb on which it complacently sits, on which civilization rests.”
Again and again in The Great Frontier’s section on science, Webb sifts through hard facts and figures and arrives at one conclusion: Science creates nothing. It only accelerates the destruction of what is there.When the interviewer asks Shuttleworth what Webb “saw” for the future, based on his historical thesis, Shuttleworth says:
He just said that if no substitute boom maker was found to replace the Frontier, we would be faced with “radical changes indeed.”Then Shuttleworth elaborates:
Society will go through a process of "devolution and retrogression rather than evolution and progress". Rural life will become more important and the cities will become less pleasant places in which to live. Population will stabilize — too late, of course, and for the wrong reasons — and society will take on some of the steady state characteristics of the Medieval Age.
The democracy of the frontier will give way to socialism and fascism. Governments will become stronger and individuals less important. Capitalism will decline and prosperity will slip through the fingers of England, Europe, and — finally — the Americas.
As population expands toward its final balance with the land, food and clothing — the very basics of life — will become relatively more and more costly. As a result, we'll soon give up our efforts in name, as well as fact to feed the planet's hungry, defend the "free" world, and prop up the economy of every nation that sides with us.
We were all poor once but — suddenly, one day — we all got rich. And we stayed rich for 450 years. And then we all started to get poor again. And, since practically no politician or economist seems to have read Walter Prescott Webb, our "leaders" can't figure out why all the goodies have quit pouring in.These next quotes from the interview —34 years ago—were remarkably prescient:
So they've resorted to magic.... They think that if they mutter the right incantations and fiddle with the discount rate or insure bank deposits or create investment tax credits just so... that, somehow, the Good Times will roll once more.
Well I got news for those guys. Magic — even in a business suit — ain't gonna do it. What we need is another Great Frontier. Another unmapped and untapped planet to swing right into orbit with the Earth so we can build a bridge across and start plundering all that wealth. And until that happens, it will do us absolutely no good to look back at the late 40's, the 50's, and the early 60's and think that our magic will ever recreate the binge we were on then. It'll never happen.
Terrorist activities will become far more desperate, far more violent, much wider spread, much more random, and increasingly directed against totally innocent bystanders.
Economically, there will be more and more violent swings in the price of commodities. The stock markets of the world will increasingly be run up and down by rumors, privileged information, and pure caprice. Inflation of every possible intensity will sweep the world, as will large and small recessions and depressions and purely chance mixtures and combinations of simultaneous inflation and depression.And I’ll wrap this up with a proposed solution from Shuttleworth:
So we might do well to examine that last Dark Age in an effort to learn how we can survive the coming Dark Age with some comfort and grace. And, if we do, it seems to me we find that our best bet is the immediate construction of small, decentralized, self contained, agrarian communities.You can read all of these quotes in context at the interview. Here’s The Link
I bought a copy of “The Great Frontier” on Ebay for four bucks and am looking forward to reading it. Shuttleworth didn’t foresee the dot-com boom of the 1990s. But such “prosperity” was, in the span of history, relatively short lived, and I don’t see where it did much except postpone the inevitable historical outcome. Amazing though it may be, the internet isn’t another Frontier from which to extract natural resources and wealth.
Save The Toads
I found the little fellow pictured above by my house, scooped him right up, and transported him to my garden. Some people think toads are ugly. I think they are beautiful. They are beautiful not for their looks but because they eat slugs.
Sometimes, when I am running my wheel hoe through the soil between rows in my garden, I will unearth a toad. The hoe doesn’t usually do any harm. It just displaces and disturbs the dear creature. And when that happens, I’ll take a moment to carefully pick Mr. Toad up and relocate him to a safe, shady spot. Now, if I cultivated my garden with a rototiller, I’d churn all the hapless toads up and see them limping off with mangled legs.
Save the toads..... Cultivate with a wheel hoe!
Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe Update
Speaking of wheel hoes, in my last monthly letter I finally took the wraps off my newest idea: the Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe. Response to the web site and the tool has been very positive. I sold 50 wheel hoe metal parts kits this last month. Several kits have gone to Canada. One went to Greece.
What I have enjoyed most about my new wheel hoe venture is the feedback that has come back from the Planet Whizbang Pioneers who have built their own Planet Whizbang and put it to use. You can read the feedback here.
The blog, Keep it Simple Survival wrote about the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe and that brought in a lot of traffic. A wheel hoe is, of course, one of the most practical peak-oil-end-of-industrialism-return-to-agrarianism tools you can own.
I believe that many people are making their own wheel hoes without purchasing the metal parts kit from me, and that is great. Some people can’t figure out why I would provide complete how-to instructions on the internet for FREE. They wonder why I don’t put the plans in an e-book and sell them. Well, I feel strongly that these plans need to be in the public domain in order to get the word out as fast and as far as possible.
Onions & Potatoes
That picture above is of my wheel hoe being directed between rows of onions. The onion rows are planted 16” apart. I can walk off to the side and comfortably operate the hoe along between the two onion rows. It’s a simple thing to cultivate down long rows with the wheel hoe. Very simple.
Those are Copra onions. I’ve written here before about how much I like the Copra variety because they not only grow so well for me but they keep so long in storage. We hang net bags full of the onions in our basement in the fall and use them all winter and into the spring. Fact is, the last week of June we took out the onions that remained in the basement. They had sprouted and were soft, but there were still several firm, usable onions in the bags—eight months after being harvested. That’s a good storage onion for you.
Same goes for potatoes. Most of the potatoes still in our basement at the end of June were sprouted and soft. But Marlene was still able to find several still-good spuds to cook with this month.
My Son James...
is only 14 years old but I often forget and think he is older. It’s an easy thing to do when, for example, he comes down the road driving a backhoe. James was helping our farmer neighbor and he had a lot of old, loose hay to get rid of. Knowing I could put some of that good organic material to good use, James brought me three bucketful's.
The farmer and his wife went to Ohio last weekend and James is taking care of the beefers. I wasn’t driving a backhoe and being trusted with the care of a herd of beef cows when I was 14 years old. This sort of thing really impresses me.
I Have a New Blog
As if I don’t have enough to do already, I established a new blog at www.WhizbangGardening.com. There is nothing to speak of there now. But, in time, I will edit and re-post all gardening essays from this blog to that blog. I am doing this because my gardening essays here are scattered throughout an archive of hundreds of essays. I want to gather the gardening writings into a more topic-specific place where they can be more easily found. I will also use this new web site as a forum to introduce readers to the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe.
One of the things I will be fully explaining in the new gardening blog is my Whizbang row cover hoop system. But I may not get it together until this next winter. The picture below is of a couple of summer squash plants getting a start inside the hooped row cover. Note that the leaves are not eaten by bugs. If I did not get these squash plants started under the protection of row cover, they would be under massive attack from cucumber beetles (those wicked little black & yellow striped bugs).
Marlene’s Disturbing Experience
My wife Marlene was buying some bedding plants at a local Mennonite family’s farm stand and observed something that disturbed her greatly. It was a 14-year-old Mennonite girl wearing flip-flops on her feet, carrying a pump-up sprayer, and spraying something along the edge of the driveway. Marlene asked what she was spraying and found out it was RoundUp, which is the infamous Monsanto herbicide. Her maternal concern roused, Marlene told the little girl to be careful not to get any of the spray on herself. To which the girl gave a polite laugh.
Monsanto asserts that their killer chemical is completely safe. It is not surprising that they say that. What’s surprising to me is that so many people believe it.
More RoundUp Information Here
Better Living Through Chemicals
One day, awhile back, a coworker of mine was snacking on some sort of “fruit-flavored” candy. He had a bag of the colorful little things. He told me they were really good and asked if I wanted one. I asked him if there was any actual fruit in the candy. He checked the ingredients and said, “Nope. No fruit.” I declined the offer and replied that it is amazing what they can do with chemicals these days. He thought that was funny.
I can live without candy, and pretty much do. But I admit to a weakness for Breyers mint chocolate chip ice cream.
My friend, Kevin Ireton, has retired from being the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine. It was Kevin, as a “junior” editor who traveled here to Moravia to meet me and take pictures for the first how-to article I wrote for that magazine (or any magazine). That was back in 1992. Kevin was an encourager and his encouragement helped me realize that I had some talent as a writer. Before long he moved up to the Editor position and gave me lots of opportunities to write. I have been ever grateful for those opportunities and his encouragement.
In the current issue of Fine Homebuilding, Kevin writes that he wants to live a “slower, quieter, more contemplative life.” That is, in my opinion, a fine reason to leave.
In a recent e-mail exchange, Kevin commented on this blog (which he had just discovered) and wondered if I had heard of or read any of the writings of his former college professor... Wendell Berry. Wow. That was a surprise. We who hold agrarianism dear, all know who Wendell Berry is, and greatly appreciate his writings.
Wendell Berry Takes A Stand
I also appreciate what Wendell Berry recently said at a NAIS public hearing in Kentucky. You can Read About It Here. And if you go to that link, you can also hear Mr. Berry’s actual testimony in which he says he will refuse to participate in the program, even if it means going to jail.
Speaking Of Civil Disobedience
Personally I can’t see myself ever registering any farm animal I own with the government. And likewise, I will refuse to fill out the U.S. census questionnaire that is coming out next year. The questions are far too personal. I seem to remember this happening the last time the census was done. I refused to answer the intrusive questions then too.
I heard recently that census information was used after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to round up Japanese Americans for the internment camps. This time they’ll probably use it to round up everyone who doesn’t answer their questions
The Most Beautiful Place...
What is the most beautiful place you have ever been to? That question was asked of the church congregation I was in one Sunday recently. Several people answered with places like the Grand Canyon,Yellowstone Park, or Hawaii. Then someone said that this area where we live here in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is really very beautiful. What came to my mind right away, and what I offered in reply to the question, was that I think being at home, in my garden, on a summer evening, with the sun setting across the valley, is about as beautiful as it gets.
Orlav’s Latest Essay
Dimitry Orlav, you may recall, is a Russian-born engineer who experienced the Soviet collapse of the late 1990s. He has written about that period and how he believes the United States is heading for a similar collapse. His most recent blog essay is a long one but it is a cogent big-picture analysis of the situation the world currently finds itself in, and where it is going. I recommend the essay to you but I’m going to provide a few quotes here, and make an observation at the end...
”...the economists are discussing the exact timing of economic recovery. Mainstream opinion ranges from "later this year" to "sometime next year." None of them dares to say that global economic growth might be finished for good...”
”We continue to listen to economists because we love their lies. Yes, of course, the economy will recover later this year, maybe the next. Yes, as soon as the economy recovers, all these toxic assets will be valuable again. Yes, this is just a financial problem; we just need to shore up the financial system by injecting taxpayer funds. These are all lies, but they make us feel all right. They are lying, and we are buying every word of it.”
”We may never run out of oil, but we have already run out of money with which to buy it, at least once [meaning last summer when the price went so high], and will most likely do so again and again, until we learn the lesson. We will run out of money to pump it out of the ground as well. There might still be a few gushers left in the world, and so there will be a little bit of oil left over...But it won't be enough to sustain an industrial base, and so the industrial age will effectively be over, except for some residual solar panels and wind generators and hydroelectric installations.”
”I think that the lesson from all this is that we have to prepare for a non-industrial future while we still have some resources with which to do it. If we marshal the resources, stockpile the materials that will be of most use, and harness the heirloom technologies that can be sustained without an industrial base...”
”Once the maintenance requirements of the industrial infrastructure can no longer be met, it quickly decays and becomes worthless. To a large extent, the end of oil means the end of money.”
”Now, I expect that a lot of people will find this view too gloomy and feel discouraged. But I feel that it is entirely compatible with a positive vision of the future, so let me try to articulate it.”
”First of all, we do have some control. Although we shouldn't hold out too much hope for industrial civilization as a whole, there are certainly some bits of it that are worth salvaging. Our financial assets may not be long for this world, but in the meantime we can redeploy them to good long-term advantage.”
”Most of the wealth is in very few private hands right now. Governments and the vast majority of the people only have debt. It is important to convince people who control all this wealth that they really have two choices. They can trust their investment advisers, maintain their current portfolios, and eventually lose everything. Or they can use their wealth to reengage with people and the land in new ways, in which case they stand a chance of saving something for themselves and their children. They can build and launch lifeboats, recruit crew, and set them sailing”
”Those who own a lot of industrial assets can divest before these assets lose value and invest in land resources, with the goal of preserving them, improving them over time, and using them in a sustainable manner. Since it will become difficult to get what you want by simply paying for it, it is a good idea to establish alternatives ahead of time, by making resources, such as farmland, available to those who can put them to good use, for their own benefit as well as for yours.”
”The problem is, what to do with financial assets before they lose value. The answer is to invest in things that will retain value even after all financial assets are worthless: land, ecosystems, and personal relationships.”In a nutshell, Orlav is calling people to drop out of the industrial system because it is unsustainable. The handwriting is on the wall. And what is the bottom line? Agrarianism. Returning to the land and “heirloom technology” (I love that wording). It sounds a lot like my Agrarian-Style Economic Self-Defense Plan that I wrote about last year.
A Smart Man
I drove into Syracuse New York (an hour from my home) a couple weeks ago to pick up a shipment of idler pulleys, which I resell to people who are making their own chicken plucker. While there I happened to have a conversation with a man who told me that he purchased 300 acres of rural woodland in a remote area of New York state 30 years ago. He bought it for recreational purposes and has a small hunting cabin on the property. He told me his yearly taxes amount to $800. In order to purchase the land he took out a loan but paid it off a long time ago. He actually paid the loan off with money he earned from the sale of some selectively-harvested timber. Then a few years back, he had a portion of the woodland logged again and made over $100,000 from it. That's pretty neat, but here's the part of this guy's story that I really like...
The man told me that the 300 acres and every cent he has made off that land is in a trust. He has it set up so that when he dies his children will be able to use and enjoy the land for many generations, without any financial input. Sustainable harvesting of the timber will be more than enough to pay the taxes...forever. That's a smart man.
In Praise Of Probiotics
Did you know that in the colon alone, there are 100 trillion bacteria—enough to fill a quart-size jar? Well, now you do.
The current issue of The Natural Farmer is all about probiotics and the important role they play in human health. Industrialized food is mostly dead, mostly (or completely) void of nutrition, and mostly bad for you. Live foods that promote healthy "gut" organisms (probiotics) are good for you and the subject is fascinating. I'm sure many who read this know more about the subject than I do and, yes, I have Sally Fallon's book, "Nourishing Traditions" (but I have not read it much yet).
In any event, I just wanted to mention the subject because I've written about making sauerkraut here in the past and the Natural Farmer article had this little factoid:
"A visit to the Civil War cemetery and Pest Home in Lynchburg, VA describes the success of Dr. John Hay Terrill in treating smallpox. Giving his patients sauerkraut reduced the death rate from 90 percent to 5 percent."Along these same lines, the idea of homemade lacto fermented "artisnal" sodas sounds downright interesting and Here is a nice little article on the subject
Surviving Off Grid (A New Book)
The incomparable Michael Bunker is writing a book about "surviving off-grid." It is a book directed primarily towards Christians and the "grid" as Michael explains it is not just the electrical power system. You can read the book's Introduction at this link: Surviving Off-Off-Grid.
Neither John Shuttleworth, Walter Prescott Webb, nor Dimitry Orlav look at the end of the Industrial era with a biblical worldview. Michael Bunker does. I don't know of many Christians who are addressing this situation, and it is good to read. I recommend it to you while it is still online. Chapter One and Two are currently there too. Here are a couple of quotes from the Introduction:
"The “advancements” of Rome (those accomplishments that allowed hundreds of thousands of people to live in an artificially built society, separated from the means of production) actually served to cripple and mentally enslave the people who became addicted to city and suburban life."
"Governments and the prophets of urbanization provide entertainments to keep the mind numbed and fractured, and always new trinkets and wonderments to keep the soul anaesthetized. New products must always appear on the shelves in order to stave off boredom – and the manufacture of eternally useless baubles serves to maintain an ever increasing need for jobs, employment, and growth."
" It is a sublime spiritual irony that, had man remained within God’s declared will as to the manner and means of life and living, he would have not been so susceptible to the massive and destructive threats that face him today… and at the same time, having remained within God’s will, he would be less likely to be facing wrath as a result of his rebellion."
"... it is inarguable that this colonization of the Western mind took place. Thousands of years of history and successful living were thrown out, the baby with the bathwater. Over a period of 100 years, the Agrarian mind was overthrown and the Industrial and Urban mind was developed. Independency was replaced with dependency. Individuality was replaced with a horrible fake of the same name. The whole mind was fragmented and compartmentalized so that the man or woman can be forced into specialization – like an ant or a bee in a colony"
"The connection that ties people into this modern Babylonian system is the system we call "the grid". That grid consists of physical and spiritual connections and services that intertwine us with the world, and cause us to rely on the world system instead of on God. There is a huge difference between utilizing some aspect of the world system, as necessary, for the purpose of further separating from it...and loving the world by being tied to it - so do not let naysayers and illogical barkers convince you that if you believe in separation, that this separation must be complete, total, and immediate -else you are a hypocrite."
When I read the writings of the different people above, and others of the sort, then stand back and look at the world as it is around me today, I am persuaded that Western culture is, indeed, on the cusp of radical transition. Powerful trends are playing themselves out. A new reality is emerging. Prescott's Frontier is gone, and with it must go the unprecedented prosperity of the last four hundred years, which is really just a small blip in the historical time line. The "American dream" of ever-greater wealth and leisure for each new generation will give way to a harder and leaner existence for the average man.
We will all be swept along by the inevitable tide of history. None of us can stop it. As a Christian, I have no problem with that because I see history as the unfolding will of the sovereign God I serve. It is all according to His will and for His glory.
My responsibility is to live and act with wisdom and prudence, according to the laws of God, no matter what happens. With that in mind, I am more convinced than ever that I need to continue to work on eliminating material wants and perceived needs, along with my industrial-world dependencies. Such simple living, coupled with providing for as many of our physical needs as is possible, while living close to and dependent on the land is not easy, and it is not accomplished overnight.
In the months ahead I intend to begin getting rid of so many unnecessary and sentimental worldly possessions which I don't use and which, collectively, weigh me down to this place.
In addition to that, I'm going to start seriously educating myself about off-grid, low-energy options.
First comes the awareness. Then the conviction that a change is needed. Then comes the thoughtful consideration of all possible options. And then we take steps in the right direction. I don't see myself selling this little place and moving into a yurt next month, but I'll start laying the groundwork for that possibility (or some other significantly simplified way of life) now.
Broiler Chicks To The Left Of Me, Beagles To The Right, Here I Am, Stuck In The Middle Making Chicken Plucker Parts
My son took the above picture of me working in my shop. When I saw it I wondered who that old guy was. My hair is getting whiter by the day. And without my beard, I'm afraid that I resemble a chicken without its feathers.
Speaking of which, I'm working on a "featherplate," which is a part needed to make a Whizbang Chicken Plucker. I sell these parts to Whizbang chicken plucker makers. In the background is a Whizbang Garden Cart filled with 62 Cornish-cross chicks. Out of sight is a cage where we store Marlene's two beagles every evening. If we don't cage them inside and, instead, keep them tied in the back yard, they bark into the night, nonstop. I don't much like beagles, even if they are really cute.
In addition to dogs and chickens, my little shop is crammed with plucker parts, wheel hoe parts, books, packaging supplies, and so on. Trying to fit all these necessary components of a growing home business into a small space is a real challenge.
And this last month it has been a real challenge to keep up with orders. I have spent just about every spare minute (and plenty I didn't have to spare) in my shop during the month of June. Every so often, I'd take a few moments to work in the garden. Thankfully, I have a wheel hoe to keep the weeds in check. ;-)
Hops Plant Update
My hops plant really grew this past month. I extended the t-post with a length of metal conduit outfitted with wood blocks and lengths of sisal twine (as you can see in the picture). I pruned the plant to four stems, the highest of which is now almost 6ft tall. I have a feeling the plant will really grow in this next month of July, as will the whole garden.
I'll post another hops picture in next month's letter. See you then.....