On this last day of November, 2009, Thanksgiving is still fresh in my mind. Many people think the Pilgrims came to America for religious liberty. That is not entirely true.
Four years ago I posted an essay to this blog titled Pilgrims & The Christian-Agrarian Exodus of 1620. I recommend that essay to you for a perspective on the Pilgrims (the perspective of the Pilgrims themselves) that you have probably not heard anywhere else (certainly not in the government schools). The Pilgrims were religious and cultural separatists. Their inspiring example is not just for Thanksgiving.
As Novembers in upstate New York go, this one now past was exceptionally pleasant. There was little of the blustery wind, biting cold, and snow that are typical of our Novembers. While I do like the change of seasons, along with the snow, and even the bitter, purging cold of winter, I don't much like the length of the cold season we typically get here. A couple of weeks would be sufficient for me. Perhaps this winter will be a short one.
-Robert’s Deer 2009
My son Robert spent a good portion of November in Bangor, N.Y., which is way up near the top of the state. He was helping a crew of guys install a network of tubing lines in a 4,000-tree maple sugar bush. Robert would get home on Friday nights and be up and out hunting before sunup the next morning. That’s dedication. This year he got his first deer with a bow, as seen in the above picture.
I grew a single pumpkin plant in my garden this year. I used my Whizbang Squash Planting Secret to get the plant off to a good start, and it yielded up several big pumpkins. The picture above shows just some of the pumpkins from that one plant (the stems were chewed off by
Our family has never celebrated Halloween, so we don’t make Jack-O-Lanterns out of our pumpkins. But we still carve them...
We cut all the pumpkins in half, scraped out the seeds, and chopped them into small chunks.
We then sliced the skin off each chunk, filled a stock pot with a steaming plate in the bottom, and cooked the pieces until tender. Marlene mashed up the soft pumpkin chunks and packed the puree into freezer bags—three cups to a bag.
Marlene makes a simple baked pudding with our homegrown and home-processed pumpkin puree. It tastes like pumpkin pie but there is no crust. All the ingredients are wholesome. It is simple, good food. Here is the recipe:
3 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
Blend ingredients. Pour into 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes (or until the tip of a knife in the center comes out clean). This recipe is a modified version of This Online Recipe
As for the pumpkin seeds, they don’t go to waste. They are washed, drained, boiled, seasoned, and baked. Homemade pumpkin seeds not only taste good, they are nutritious. Marlene tells me (with a big smile): “They’re good for your “prostrate.” Here’s A Recipe.
Marlene and I celebrated our 29th year of marriage this month. Our union is strong, and true, and we feel greatly blessed to have each other.
It is, however, bittersweet to look at a picture of ourselves together in middle age. The freshness and vitality of our youth has faded. If I could post pictures of us from 29 years ago you would see what I mean.
They say that adolescence, the transition between being a youth and being an adult, is a difficult time, and I suppose it is. But middle age, that time when you face the limitations of advancing age and transition into “elderhood,” is also a difficult time of life.
I’m quite certain that I’m more thankful at my age than when I was younger. The perspective of years gone by brings a greater awareness of, and appreciation for, God’s grace and mercy, and the many undeserved blessings He has bestowed upon myself and my family.
If you have been reading my monthly installments here, you know we are trying to buy a small section of land adjoining our rural 1.5 acre homestead.
At this point, we and the neighbor have finally agreed upon a price for a portion of the land. It is less land than the three acres I hoped to get. I estimate that is a bit over two acres.
The agreement is only verbal at this time. Now the neighbor must get approval from the bank (mortgage holder) to sell this portion of their seven acres. We are offering a premium price. The bank should approve it. But I suspect the bank will also want most of the money. I don’t know how that will factor into the outcome.
The picture above shows a portion of the stream that runs through the property (and on behind our house). Out of view to the left is a portion of field that has very good soil. I have plans for that good soil, but I’m trying not to count my chickens before they hatch. I do hope we can get this resolved before Maple Syrup Makin’ Time in the spring.
This next picture shows a view of the field from what would be the new property line. A road is to the right. The house and shop in the distance is our place. The shop (building on the left) is actually the international headquarters of my home business, Whizbang Books. The acquisition of this land would give us many times more tillable land than we now have.
-My New York Times Op-Ed
Last month I mentioned that I sent a n Op-Ed article to the new York Times. They didn’t publish it. But that was no surprise. The big surprise would have been if they did publish it.
In the cacophony of ideas and schemes being offered up to solve America’s numerous problems, the agrarian “solution” I proposed in my NYT Op-Ed piece would come across to most modern Americans as just plain absurd.
After all, agrarianism and industrial modernity are diametrically opposed. But, as I explain in the Op-Ed, industrialism is not compatible with individual liberty, and is therefore un-American.
You can read the editorial that never was here: My New York Times Op-Ed Article
-Wendell Berry Speaks
Here is a good place to interject a dose of quotations from Wendell Berry...
"Let us have the candor to acknowledge that what we call "the economy" or "the free market" is less and less distinguishable from warfare."
"We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibilities that have been turned over to governments, corporations, and specialists, and put those fragments back together again in our own minds and in our families and household and neighborhoods."
”But once greed has been made an honorable motive, then you have an economy without limits. It has no place for temperance or thrift or the ecological law of return. It will do anything. It is monstrous by definition."
"A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance."
"A man with a machine and inadequate culture is a pestilence."
"The promoters of the global economy...see nothing odd or difficult about unlimited economic growth or unlimited consumption in a limited world."
"For the sake of “job creation,” in Kentucky, and in other backward states, we have lavished public money on corporations that come in and stay only so long as they can exploit people here more cheaply than elsewhere. The general purpose of the present economy is to exploit, not to foster or conserve.”
"When going back makes sense, you are going ahead."
I’ve written here in the past about An Exemplary Farm. To my way of thinking, exemplary farms are small, diversified, family farms that employ organic and sustainable farming practices and direct-market their products to the community around them. This month I learned about another exemplary farm not far from me.
Paul and Maureen Knapp (along with their three sons) operate Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble, N.Y. If you want some inspiration, check out their web site. Oh, by the way, Cobblestone Valley Farm now processes their poultry with a Whizbang plucker.
Another farm operation that I’m impressed with is up in West Topsham, Vermont. The Walter Jefferies family at Sugar Mountain Farm raises hogs on pasture and they are currently building their own on-farm hog processing facility. It is an impressive undertaking.
-As Maine Goes...
I've heard it said that "as California goes, so goes the nation," which means that whatever happens in California will eventually happen in the rest of the country. That's downright scary. I'm hoping that as Maine goes, so goes the nation, particularly relating to dairy farmers:
By Associated Press
October 12, 2009 9:18 AM
BAR HARBOR, Maine - A group of organic dairy farmers in Maine has formed its own company with its own brand of milk.
Shoppers soon will be able to buy MOOMilk — short for Maine's Own Organic Milk — at stores in Maine and Massachusetts.
This is great news and you can read the story at this link: True Yankee Ingenuity Launches MOOMilk
A friend here in my town contacted me a few days before Thanksgiving asking for help. He had someone lined up to process the turkeys and ducks he had raised but they backed out. Would I be able to help him? I said I would help him, if he was willing to help me with the work and learn the process.
So my friend showed up early on Saturday morning with four turkeys, three geese and a dozen Indian Runner ducks. I have processed a lot of chickens and turkeys in the past but never a waterfowl. So this would be a learning experience for me too.
Well, I can tell you that if chickens and turkeys were as difficult to pluck and process as ducks and geese, I would not be raising my own chickens every year!
But I would like to get a few Indian Runner ducks (like shown above). My friend says they are great for bug control in the garden. And the turkeys he raised were heritage breeds. Beautiful birds. If we get that two acres, I’ll be raising turkeys again.
-Make Your Own Handle Rub
If wood-handled tools are given an annual coating of the homemade “rub” shown in the above picture, they’ll last longer and feel more comfortable in your hand. I show and tell how to easily make your own wood-handle preservative in this online essay: Make Your Own Planet Whizbang Handle Rub
And speaking of the Planet Whizbang, I am now selling completely assembled Planet Whizbang wheel hoes. Details Are Here. This simple, efficient hand tool is the thing to have if you are growing a big garden. So I’ll be giving mine a real workout if we buy that land.
-Back To Bee Keeping
Years ago, I had bee hives. I wrote about my beekeeping in these essays:
Earl The Bee Man & My First Hive
Can You Feel The Energy?
Unfortunately, after two good years, a mite infestation killed off my hives. I gave my hive boxes to Earl the Bee Man because I had so much else going on and was discouraged with beekeeping.
But I have missed having bees. We sure did like harvesting our own supply of honey. And having bees around really does make a difference in the garden. I might have had twice as many pumpkins from this year’s one plant if I had better pollination.
That being the case, I have decided to get myself more bees this spring. But I will not buy the typical hive boxes as I did in the past. Instead, I’m going to simplify the whole process by making a couple of top-bar bee hives as explained at this web site: The Barefoot Beekeeper.
Top bar beekeeping is not well suited to a large-scale bee enterprise. You could say it is less industrialized and more traditional. Of course that appeals to me. I just want honey for my family. Why should beekeeping bee so complicated and expensive to get into? Well, it turns out it doesn’t have to be. Stay tuned....
-Cider Vinegar Update
The above picture of our cider-vinegar-in-the-making (see previous monthly posts for more details) shows that the gelatinous mother has formed very nicely on top of the cider. This is biological progress. There is a faint vinegar aroma to the jar, but the liquid has not clarified. We shall see what happens next month. Be sure to stop back for the December update.
-My Newest Piece Of Yeoman Furniture
Last month I showed a picture of a cabinet (which I call Yeoman Furniture) that I was making in my workshop. The cabinet is now finished and pictured above. It is made of 3/4” pine boards with a 1/4” birch plywood back. I also used a length of simple cove molding from the lumber yard.
I painted the cabinet with a layer of red milk paint. Then I painted on a coat of thinned Elmer’s glue. Then I painted on a coat of black milk paint. The layer of glue was supposed to cause the black paint to “crackle” so the red undercoat showed through. Well, it didn’t crackle. I must have thinned the Elmer’s too much. Or maybe I’ve got the wrong thing in my mind. I thought for sure I read somewhere in the past that Elmer’s glue would cause crackling.
In any event, I distressed the edges with sandpaper, applied some stain (a mixture of a couple of old cans in my shop), and finished off with a coat of beeswax handle rub (the same stuff I talk about above).
The cabinet will go in our bathroom when I finally get it remodeled (progress has been slow on that front). This kind of furniture is remarkably easy to make, has down-to-earth character, and can take a beating. In fact, the more distressed it is, the better it looks. It is also, above all, functional. As a bonus, it should be a family heirloom someday. I hope one of my children will put it to good use and maybe even hand it down the family line even further.
-A Sobering Question
It has been rightly said that the government that robs from Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul. As a result, Paul becomes a dependent citizen. The government likes it that way. Dependent citizens are easier to control (see my NY Times Op-Ed mentioned above). But in light of the economic reality we are facing, this sort of arrangement is surely not sustainable. What will happen when all the dependent Pauls of America don’t get their subsidy? I think we're going to find out.
-The Focus of This Blog
The underlying theme to this blog since I started it over four years ago has been to present the wisdom of pursuing an agrarian life and provide my own life as one example. My writings have been a call to action. I’ve endeavored to encourage and inspire others to do something in the face of a destructive modern culture and the impending destruction of our modern economy.
I do not advocate “survivalism” here. I advocate agrarianism, which is a permanent way of life (it is not something I’m “trying out” for a season). My motivation for living a deliberate agrarian lifestyle is my Christian faith. I’m of the mind that God created His people to live within the agrarian paradigm, and I’ve written about this here in the past.
Christian agrarianism is a form of separatism. Like the Pilgrims of 1620, Christian agrarians of today eschew cities and, more to the point, the ungodly culture of the city, which now, by way of the media, permeates our entire nation like never before in history.
Furthermore, Christian agrarians are focused on reclaiming a greater degree of personal subsistence and sustainability which comes with working the land responsibly and laboring to supply our physical needs. In short, we are endeavoring to simplify our lives and break away from total dependency on the industrial providers.
The way it looks to me, the “powers that be” and all their wise men are helpless to find genuine solutions to the mess that they’ve created. So be it. We must find our own solutions as individuals. With that in mind, the agrarian path provides a positive direction and genuine solutions.
-I Get Mail
A surprising number of people find their way to this blog. And a surprising number of them write to say how the things I’ve written here over the past years are affirmation of what they have been feeling. This blog is encouraging to them, and their words are encouraging to me. A recent example is this excerpt from a fellow named Bob in West Virginia:
I am so blessed to have found your blogs. They have allowed me to focus my efforts into something other then a hobby. I have over the last couple years started a garden, got a small flock of laying hens, and planted a few fruit trees on my 1.19 acres. All very haphazardly, looking to be a little less of a drain on the world that God has given us to be stewards of.
I have been a follower of Jesus for about eight years now and with study and guiding from the Holy Spirit I have felt that this world we live in is going down hill fast. I have found a few books and quotes that when I heard them and some of your writings they all clicked with what the Lord was trying to tell me.
The first thing that got me started was a book by Steve Farrar: "Point Man - How A Man Can Lead His Family." He traces the collapse of the family to the industrial revolution, with fathers being lead away(by the lure of $) from the family for 8,10,&12 hours a day. The family/agrarian lifestyle was a apprentice program for our children to learn the tools of life and we have strayed from that model as I also found at your blog.
What I found particularly interesting about this letter is the reference to the book, “Point Man.” I read that book many years ago and it had quite an impact on my thinking. I believe the author’s explanation of how the industrial revolution was responsible for destroying the family structure may have been a significant factor in preparing my mind to see the wisdom of more seriously pursuing the Christian-agrarian lifestyle. Then came the writings of Howard Douglas King that I found in “Patriarch” magazine.
-It's A Wonderful Life
Every year at this time I look forward to watching the Frank Capra movie, It's A Wonderful Life. I've written about my appreciation for this movie in the past at this link: It's A Wonderful Life—It's A Wonderful Movie
Also, be sure to check out my Most Challenging "It's A Wonderful Life" Trivia Challenge in The World
-What Can Be Done On One Acre Of Ground
As I’ve said in the past, we can learn from and be inspired by the old farm almanacs of the 1800’s. This particular selection is an example of that. It comes from Robert B. Thomas’s Old Farmer’s Almanac of 1851.
The editor of the Maine Cultivator published, in his useful paper, his management of one acre of ground, from which we gather the following results:—One third of an acre, in corn, usually produced thirty bushels of sound corn for grinding, besides some refuse. This quantity is sufficient for family use, and for fattening one large or two small hogs. From the same ground he produced two or three hundred pumpkins, and his family supply of dry beans. From a bed of six rods square, he usually obtained 60 bushels of onions; these he sold at $1 per bushel, and the amount purchased his flour, Thus, from one third of an acre and an onion bed, he obtained his breadstuffs. The rest of the ground was appropriated to all sorts of vegetables for summer and winter use; potatoes, beets, parsnips, cabbage, green corn, peas, beans, cucumbers, melons, squashes, etc., with fifty or sixty bushels of beets and carrots, for the winter feed of a cow. Then he had also a flower garden, raspberries, currants, and gooseberries, in great variety, and a few choice apple, pear, plum, cherry, peach, and quince trees.
Some reader may call the above a “Yankee trick;” so it is, and our object in publishing it is, to have it repeated all over Yankee land and everywhere else. If a family can be supported from one acre in Maine, the same can be done from every other state and county in the Union.
-1853 Farmer’s Calendar Selection
The old farm almanacs typically had a short “Farmer’s Calendar” essay for each month of the year. The essay that follows, titled “Thanksgiving,” gives you an example from November of 1853. I love the old farm almanacs for excerpts like this.
This is the month in which the people of New England, in imitation of their ancestors, are accustomed to keep a Thanksgiving festival, in grateful remembrance of the blessings of the year. “I will rejoice and be glad in Thee, and will celebrate the name of the MOST HIGH.” And have we not all reason to rejoice and give thanks? “The husbandman now counts his sheaves, and reckons up his abundance. Do we not now live upon the gifts of summer and autumn? And with what activity has Nature labored, in those delightful seasons, to accomplish the beneficent views of the Creator in favor of man! How many flowers and plants hath the spring caused to bud; how many fruits hath the summer ripened; and how many harvests have been gathered in autumn! At present, Nature has completed her designs for this year, and is now going to enjoy a sweet repose.” We will be thankful, then, for all these signal blessings. Sing, ye farmers and husbandmen! wake, wake into gratitude, and join in lauding HIM who “makes the grass the mountains crown, and corn in valleys grow.”
See you next month......