Deliberate Agrarian Update:
31 December 2009

Looking Back & Looking Ahead
(No Gloom & Doom Here)

Dateline: 31 December 2009... Ten years ago today the world was anxiously awaiting the new millennium. The big unknown question was about to be answered. Would our computer-dependent civilization be plunged into sudden pre-industrial chaos by the so-called Y2k bug?

I had read the dire prognostications of so many computer specialists. I had taken them seriously. For nearly two years my family had prepared to the best of our ability, as our meager finances would allow, for the end of the world as we knew it. We were stocked up on everything from toilet paper to wheat berries to potassium iodide tablets. We were, as one of my coworkers puts it, “one of those Y2k kooks.”

When 2000 dawned and Y2k proved to be benign I was relieved and disappointed. Relieved because I was not really prepared for the sudden collapse of Western civilization. Disappointed because I had been wrong. I thought I had been wise to prepare, but I appeared foolish. It was a painful experience.

I solemnly gathered all the Y2k books and printed information I had put so much stock in. I sealed everything in a cardboard box, and stashed the box in my attic. I did not have the heart to throw it all away. The box is still there, unopened. I don’t suppose I will ever open it.

But I did not go back to the blissful ignorance and vain strivings that, to a surprising degree, characterized my life prior to the pre-Y2k “era.” It turns out that the nonevent was still pivotal because I had become keenly aware of so many systemic fragilities.

Things like the highly refined division of labor, our vertically integrated, oligopily-controlled food supply system, the just-in-time inventory and delivery system, hyper-dependence on fossil fuels, a monetary system based on deception and fraud, the aging of so much infrastructure (e.g., the electrical grid), and the mind-boggling global interconnections were sobering things to contemplate. Then there was the breathtaking US debt and a free-spending, corrupt political system that can not fix itself. A new word came into my consciousness: Unsustainable.

Thus it was that I couldn’t help but come to a sobering conclusion: The current government-corporate-industrial system we now live in really is unsustainable, and systemic collapse is inevitable. It won't be the first time a highly refined civilization has collapsed (more on this subject later).

More and more people are coming to understand this because things are beginning to unravel. We now find ourselves in the beginning stages of an economic crisis that will, before it’s over, likely make the 1930’s seem mild by comparison. Economically speaking, I think America has passed the Rubicon. Barring some sort of divine intervention, there is no going back to the prosperity we’ve known in the recent past.

Seeing and understanding the inevitable, I have, for the past ten years focused my thinking and my actions on voluntarily “pre-collapsing” my own little world of “industrialized” aspirations and expectations.

Industrialism is built on a lie anyway. The lie being that we can only be happy or content in life if we strive and acquire more money, more and nicer things, more power, more prestige, more amusements, more leisure, more personal pleasure.... in short, more of everything that is shallow and temporal. Furthermore, this industrial-world Vanity Fair assures us that the party will go on forever, that a day of reckoning will never come.

I have chosen to reject those lies and for the past ten years I have simplified my life, my hopes, and my dreams. I and my family have worked to learn and incorporate new skills so that we might be less dependent on the industrial providers. We still have much to learn and do in this life pursuit but we have made progress.

And right here is where I feel compelled to point out something that was not particularly clear to me during Y2k, but which has became a driving motivation for me: I’ve come to understand that agrarian-based life, characterized by living simply and providing my own needs, with my own hands, from the land, to the degree I can, was not only the historical norm, it was also the biblical imperative.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, continually seeking His truth, and I came to understand the wisdom of living my life within the agrarian paradigm. I saw that this way of life dovetailed perfectly with scripture. Not coincidentally, such cultural secession is the antithesis of modernism.

Some people think that if you express concerns about the fragile and unsustainable condition of our current socioeconomic system, you are a “Doom & Gloomer.” I have no control over such characterizations, but I can tell you that I do not feel particularly gloomy or “doomy” at the prospect of inevitable decline and eventual collapse. Instead, I find myself fascinated by the slow, gradual, continual unfolding of history in this regard. And I have hope.

I am not entirely detached from this history. My family will most certainly be affected, perhaps very seriously. But, to the degree to which we have extracted ourselves from the “system”, we should be better able to deal with the hardships.

More than that, however, as a Christian, I take great solace in the assurance that my God is entirely sovereign over the events of history. He is the Great Orchestrator. He and He alone, holds my life in His hands. Ultimately, He will do as He pleases with me, for His own good purposes. This is what I believe. I have stated this before. And I am very comfortable with it.

As a child of the Sovereign, through faith in Christ, I take tremendous solace in His love for me, which I see manifested through so many expressions of grace and mercy in my life. I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve. If I lose it all tomorrow and come to some tragic end, God is still good. Like Job said in his pain and distress: “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.”

For me, life is not about survival, it’s about obedience. And, no matter what the outcome, the love, the grace and the mercy are always there for those who know Him and are called according to His purposes. Ultimately, I am speaking about a sweet hope that exceeds anything this world has to offer.

I fail to see one shred of doom or gloom in that outlook.

Now, having said that, I am mindful of the fact that a good child is obedient to the father, to his words of counsel and admonition, to his wisdom, to His leading. That is my personal challenge in this new year. I hope it will be yours as well.

Land Update

Speaking of hope, we still hope to purchase two acres of land bordering our 1.5 acres. This last month we finally got a purchase offer signed and I have lined up an attorney to represent us.

The holdup now appears to be with our neighbor's mortgage company. I assumed the mortgage was with a local bank but it is with some out-of-state bank.

Nothing is guaranteed at this point but we are making progress. Meanwhile....

Our Dream Home
Is Up For Sale

The above house is located a couple miles down the road from us. It has just come up for sale. Here is the realtor’s description:
Incredible opportunity to own a Landmark property,cir.1820 built by Judge Charles Kellogg, NYS Legislator. Historically, frequented by Millard Fillmore, 13th American President. Plumbing and electrical upgrades have been made to this well preserved home. Period architecture with original chestnut wide plank flooring, ornate window and door casings, stain glass vestibule sidelights, 10' ceilings, both grand and rear staircases. There are two pillared open front porches that require rehab. Tillable acreage, barn. *** Next door historic church offered separately at $70,000 "as-is" on 3 lots ***
Here is a picture taken from the front yard of the house, looking across the road (the field behind the barn is part of the property):

And here is what the historical marker in front says:

This is a rare piece of property that Marlene and I have always wished we could buy. For as long as I have known about the property (35 years), no one has lived in the house. I suspect it has been vacant much longer than that. But the interior is in very good condition, and much as it was long ago.

The house is on the market for $310,000 and is therefore beyond our reach (WhizbangBooks is not that profitable). 95 acres of land goes with the place. Assessed value is $238,000. Property taxes amount to $4,700 a year.

Thus, our dream home will remain only a dream. Even still, we are curious to see how much this property will actually sell for, who will purchase it, and... if they will live there for long. I wonder about how long the new owner will live there because the house is said to be haunted.

The current owner is a retired heart surgeon from California. He purchased the house more than 30 years ago with the intention of retiring there. But when his wife found out it was haunted, she wouldn’t live there. So they bought another place a few miles down the road. The Dr. kept some horses in the barn for years, kept the lawn mowed, and the interior is in such good shape that he must have kept the place heated too.

As mentioned above, there is an old clapboard church right next to the house. When I was a teenager, the Dr. allowed the church I attended to use the old church for one week of vacation Bible school. I recall the interior of the church being very old and complete and original in every respect—like something you might see in a place like Genesee Country Museum (a wonderful place to visit if you're in the Rochester, N.Y. area).

The story goes that a couple of contractors the Dr. hired years ago to do work on the house were spooked by voices and conversations that were heard in rooms where no one was. And tools were found mysteriously moved. The contractors up and left and wouldn’t work there.

So the house has a reputation. I wonder if whoever buys it will be informed. I doubt it. This could be interesting.

In the late 1800’s, this area of New York state was a hotbed of spiritualist activity. Spiritualism is: “the belief that the dead can survive as spirits which can communicate with the living, especially with the help of a third party, called a medium.” Local lore has it that Abe Lincoln’s wife came to the town I live in to meet with spiritualist leaders in an attempt to communicate with her assassinated husband.

Few people are aware that Spiritualists were frequent guests at the White House during Lincoln’s presidency. There is some evidence that seances were held there and that Lincoln was in attendance for at least one of them.

It is quite possible that the haunted house down the road was a place of Spiritualist activity because that community was something of a cultural center in the late 1800’s. There were businesses, a library, and prominent citizens living there. But you wouldn’t know it if you drove through the place today.

Learning From Greek History

One of the neat things about knowing your history is that it provides a “big picture” view and that brings greater perspective to current events. That is certainly the case with ancient Greek history, as I have been learning lately. I’m working my way through a 526-page book titled The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization
by Victor Davis Hanson. With a title like that, I couldn’t resist.

Here is an excerpt from the back cover of the book:
The farmers, vinegrowers, and herdsmen of ancient Greece are “the other Greeks,” who formed the backbone of Hellenic civilization. It was these fiercely independent agrarians, Hanson contends, who gave Greek culture its emphasis on private property, constitutional government, and individual rights.
I have read only to page 75 but, thus far, I can tell you that Hanson’s tome begins with the end of Mycenaean culture (1200-1100 BC), a civilization which suddenly and mysteriously collapsed.
We are not sure whether the end of this world was due to foreign invaders, dissatisfied subjects, natural phenomena, or general systems collapse; but there is no doubt that in the aftermath came a dramatic depopulation of the Greek peninsula. With it came an erosion of government authority, at least in the centralized, highly regimented form of the past.
It happens that agriculture was also centralized in this ancient culture and I’m of the mind that when it collapsed, the population fell as a result of starvation. Hanson says further of this once-strong culture (bold emphasis is mine):
Wealth was not widely distributed. Food production was tightly controlled. Social life was highly regimented. Those conditions of complexity made the entire system resistant to needed reform and extremely vulnerable to outside challenge.
Hanson refers to the Mycenaeans as having “centralized palace economies” which resulted in “stratification,” “bureaucratization,” and thus, “vulnerability.” It was this “innate complexity and fragility of a palatial society” that likely led to an inability to rebuild after a systemic crisis hit the kingdom.

On the subject of bureaucratization Hanson makes a statement that resonated deeply with me (see my essay titled, The Jeffersonian Solution):
The net result of bureaucratization was as always the creation of vulnerable dependence...
So the centralized, highly refined, Mycenaean culture crashed, and stayed crashed. This led to 400 years (1100 to 700 BC) of what is known in Greek history as the “Dark Ages.” But, curiously, those were years of liberation from government control which, in time, resulted in agricultural innovation and progress. One such innovation was private ownership of small farms.
The decentralized Dark Ages were for all their impoverishment an important first occurrence. They were “dark” only in the sense of not well recorded; in agrarian terms the earlier Mycenaean period had been the true dark age. But once Mycenaean palace authority was done away with, there was a second opportunity for agrarian transformation...
Are you seeing some possible historical parallels here? The fact is, every highly advanced culture in the history of the world has, thus far, considered itself something exceptional and.... collapsed.

But when looking at the historical big picture, the collapse of a civilization does not mean it is the end of the world—just the end of a long-established way of life for the people in that culture. Some people will survive the collapse and adapt to the new reality. And out of what initially seems so bad can come a different way of life that is actually, in many significant ways, better than it was before. I’m of the mind that this is exactly what will happen with the eventual collapse of our highly refined and fossil-fuel-dependent industrialized civilization.

I might live long enough to see what will be looked back upon as “The Great Collapse,” but I’m fairly certain I’ll be dead and long gone before things greatly improve. Perhaps in my next monthly letter I’ll give you some more perspective into the so-called Dark Ages of Greek history. The story gets better.

Marlene Hurt Her Finger

My wife, The Lovely Marlene, had her hand on the opening of the car trunk when one of our sons shut it. The result was a very sore finger and blackened fingernail, as shown above. To release the pressure of blood build-up under the nail, Marlene let me drill a hole through it. She looked away while I twirled a small drill bit between my fingers to make the hole. She could have gone to a doctor to have this procedure done but she decided to let me do it. Now that's trust for you. I wonder what the doctor's office would have charged for doing this sort of thing?

Selling Clocks
To People Who Don’t Need Them

Winter for me is a time for reading. I recently finished reading an obscure 1964 book titled “The Yankee Peddlers of Early America,” by J.R. Dolan. I found it to be a wonderful resource of early American cultural tidbits. The book has a section about clocks in early 1800’s America, which you may find interesting (I know I did):
In the back country, the time of day did not matter very much. The settlers worked from “kin to kaint,” meaning from the time in the morning when the sun made it light enough to see by until it was so dark you could not see at night, and there was no advantage in knowing just what hour of day it was. Virtually all of the families that left the settled seacoast areas to get a new start in the western wilderness came from homes that had no clocks; some of them may have never seen a clock, and certainly had never had occasion to have one around long enough to learn what handy things they could be. And it was a fact that large numbers of people could not tell time even if they had had a clock. There was a further complication; no standard of time existed anywhere in the country. It might be two o’clock in one town and three or four o’clock in the next one. All time was “Sun time” and in the back country at least this was at best more or less of a guess.
Nevertheless, within a couple of decades, as prosperity came to the farming classes (which was just about everybody back then), peddlers were selling tremendous quantities of shelf clocks. What changed?

Well, for one thing, the price of Yankee-made clocks declined with the advent of clock factories. Clocks themselves had been around for a couple of centuries but they were very expensive and found only in the fine homes and mansions of the very wealthy. But...
...when the price of clocks began to fall to a level that put them in reach of nearly every home, the poor man would have been less than human if he did not react to the obvious advantage of acquiring one of them. It might not be a dignified and stately grandfather’s clock, but it was a clock and it ticked, and you could refer to it casually when talking with friends. You would surely manage to give it a prominent place on the mantle, so that even the most casual visitor could not fail to see it and be impressed with your substance and standing in the community. The peddler who was instrumental in giving you this prestige knew human nature, and while he never would make any direct references to what your neighbors would think of it he certainly would not fail to mention one or two prominent people that had just bought one from him. And so you parted with a couple of hams and maybe a flitch of bacon and hoped it would move you into more select circles and give your wife and children a glow of pride in your accomplishments.
In other words, owning a mantle clock was something of a status symbol for rural Americans.
Of course, after a couple of generations of clock peddling the saturation point was approached, but we can be very sure this was anticipated by the clock-makers as well as the peddlers. The answer was: you need a second clock—maybe one for the kitchen or the bedroom.
By the way, in the Colonial era of American history, we had virtually no centralized industry or manufacturing. We were an agrarian society, and this was by design. England would not allow manufacturing here because they wanted us to exchange farm, forest, and fishery goods for the manufactured goods of the mother country. The Colonial era ended with American independence and soon thereafter, an industrial revolution took root in the United States.

[Note: the clock pictured above is from 1812 and was the kind typically sold by American peddlers. The mechanism is relatively simple. The gears are wooden. It probably did not keep time very well, but it ticked and that was the most desired effect of these early clocks]

What The Real Numbers Tell Us

If you have an interest in our current economic reality, I suggest that you read This Interview with cofounder John Williams. Here is the lead-in to the interview:
Do you believe everything the government tells you? Economist and statistician John Williams sure doesn't. Williams, who has consulted for individuals and Fortune 500 companies, now uncovers the truth behind the U.S. government's economic numbers on his Web site at Williams says, over the last several decades, the feds have been infusing their data with optimistic biases to make the economy seem far rosier than it really is. His site reruns the numbers using the original methodology. What he found was not good.
I stopped over to and noticed that they have calculate that the current rate of unemployment in this country is actually around 22%, not 10% as is widely reported by the government and media.

And The Future of American Agriculture

As mentioned in last month’s letter, I am planning to get back into beekeeping this next year. With that in mind, I am reading and absorbing the information in numerous books on the subject. One book I’ve read has been particularly good. In fact, it is excellent. Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, by Rowan Jacobsen, is a must read for anyone with an interest in farming, gardening, or agriculture in general, let alone beekeeping. I can not recommend this book enough, even if you do not care to raise bees (though you may change your mind by the time you are done reading it).

Jacobsen discusses the industrialization of agriculture and beekeeping and how it has led to incredible stress on the honeybees. As a result, bees are dying of mite infestations, and in recent years, an alarming number of bee colonies have suffered from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Though the cause of CCD is not known exactly, it is likely that insecticides, industrial beekeeping practices, and lack of diverse habitat are working together to stress bee colonies to the point of collapse. Mr. Jacobsen believes that honeybees are something like a canary in the coal mine of modern agriculture. Their failure highlights the grievous flaws in modern farming practice and portends the coming collapse of industrialized agriculture.

As a result, some beekeepers are changing their ways, going against conventional wisdom, and prevailing. I would love to quote all of Chapter 9 for you here. It is titled, “Resilience And The Russians.” I will, however limit my excerpt to a few sections about a Vermont beekeeper named Kirk Webster. Here is a quote from Webster:
Beekeeping now has the dubious honor of becoming the first part of our system of industrial agriculture to actually fall apart. Let’s stop pretending that something else is going on. We no longer have enough bees to pollinate our crops. Each time the bees go through a downturn, we respond by making things more stressful for them, rather than less—we move them around more often, expose them to still more toxic substances, or fill the equipment up again with more untested and poorly adapted stock. We blame the weather, the mites, the markets, new diseases, consumers, the Chinese, the Germans, the (fill in your favorite scapegoat), other beekeepers, the packers, the scientific community, the price of gas, global warming—anything rather than face up to what’s happening. We are losing the ability to take care of living things.
Rowan Jacobsen points out that Kirk Webster has learned to successfully raise bees by working with the bees and nature, apart from conventional beekeeping wisdom. Part of this means operating on a smaller scale. As a result, Webster is not nearly as financially successful as the industrial-scale beekeepers. But that is not important to Webster and here’s what Jacobsen has to say about this (bold emphasis is mine):
But what is poverty? “The state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions,” according to Merriam-Webster’s. It exists only in the context of an economic system. If you can’t afford the same sneakers or minivans or steak as your neighbors and you feel humiliated or inferior or just plain sad as a result, then poverty can cause real mental and physical duress. But if your goal is “to have a nice life in the country, centered around farming, gardening, and especially—keeping bees” (that’s Kirk Webster), then poverty starts to look an awful lot like a traditional, healthy existence.
The problem, as Webster might see it, is that farms have been co-opted into the modern economy, and farmers are forced to start acting and thinking like businessmen. There’s nothing wrong with a farmer having a good head for business, but farms—at least, environmentally conscious ones—can’t be run like other businesses. Businesses are predicated on the assumption of endless growth. When starting a business, you write your five-year business plan, then borrow a big wad of money and hope that your growth stays ahead of your interest payments. It’s a Ponzi scheme based on new waves of consumers funneling money into your business. And it depends on the assumption that you can always make more product. No matter how mature your company gets, you are expected to keep making more product. If Coca-Cola or Exxon has a flat year, shareholders savage the company.

But in the world of biological systems, nothing grows unstoppably except cancer. A healthy farm is immersed in the cycles of nature; steady growth, steady decay, a well-maintained balance. To grow economically, it has to either eat up more land or produce more on the same land. Those have been the basic farming trends for half a century or more. But neither can go on indefinitely. Land is finite, and many technological innovations that have allowed farmers to wring more product from their land have come by sacrificing the long-term health of the soil. In other words, the innovations weren’t really offering something for nothing. Like fossil fuel, they were taking a resource built up over millennia (fertility) and liquidating it in a one-time spree.
Kirk Webster had other ideas. He understood that all the trends in the industry—indeed, in the country— would only lead him and his bees to greater misery, so he decided to step off the train and follow a different path. He counseled his colleagues wanting to opt out of the industrial model to cultivate self-sufficiency.
Cultivate self-sufficiency. There is tremendous wisdom in that bit of advice. Here are the words of Kirk Webster:
Beekeepers must become experts at producing honey, pollen, queens, or other bee products; and enjoying a simple, low-cost lifestyle in a rural place. By investing some of your time and money in the self-sufficiency aspects—raising your own queens, building your own equipment and buildings, welding, gardening, etc.—you become partially removed from the instability of the overall economic system.
Well said! There is so much more to this excellent book. I dare say, if you are new to beekeeping, this book is a fine place to start your journey. It will educate you about bees, the problems with modern beekeeping, present some likely solutions, and give you a solid moral foundation for your journey into a vitally important agrarian pursuit.

Homemade Biochar
For The Garden

Have you heard of biochar? It is a natural soil amendment. It is supposed to make your garden grow better. That sort of thing is appealing to me. I also like the idea of making my own biochar, and that’s what I am doing this winter. I’m harvesting biochar from my woodstove. You can get the whole story (with pictures) at this link: Harvesting Biochar From My Woodstove

A Few Words From E.B. White

That essay about harvesting biochar from the woodstove to use in the garden brings to mind the following words from E.B. White. This excerpt comes from White’s January, 1943 Harper’s magazine article titled, “Cold Weather.” It has something of a Wendell Berry tone to it.
There is always the miracle of the byproducts. Plane a board, the shavings accumulate around your toes ready to be chucked into the stove to kindle your fires (to warm your toes so that you can plane a board). Draw some milk from a creature to relieve her fullness, the milk goes to the little pig to relieve his emptiness. Drain some oil from a crankcase, and you smear it on the roost to control the mites. The worm fattens on the apple, the young goose fattens on the wormy fruit, the man fattens on the young goose, the worm awaits the man. Clean up the barnyard, the pulverized dung from the sheep goes to improve the lawn (before a rain in autumn); mow the lawn next spring. the clippings go to the compost pile, with a few thrown to the baby chickens on the way; spread the compost on the garden and in the fall the original dung, after many vicissitudes, returns to the sheep in the form of an old squash. From the fireplace, at the end of a November afternoon, the ashes are carried to the feet of the lilac bush, guaranteeing the excellence of a June morning.

”I Don’t Want To Have To Kill Him...”

If you have not yet listened to the 911 call that Donna Jackson of Lincoln County, Oklahoma made this last month, you should. Mrs. Jackson, 56 years old, was alone in her rural home shortly before midnight when her dogs started barking. She awoke to find a man she did not know outside her home trying to get in. She called 911. The 911 operator dispatched the police. In the meantime, the man became more angry and desperate to get in. It took the police more than 20 minutes to arrive. By then, the man had thrown a patio table through the door and attempted to enter the house. Mrs. Jackson shot him “graveyard dead,” with a single shot from a 16-gauge shotgun, just as she told the operator she would do if the man entered. You can listen to a very short, edited version of the 911 call At THIS Link

No charges were filed. The 911 operator had told Mrs. Jackson she had a right to defend her property. Here in New York state, it’s debatable whether a person has the right to defend their own life, let alone their property.

Oklahoma is one of the few states to have a "Stand Your Ground" law. You can get an idea about the legalities of self-defense in your state by going to this link: Castle Doctrine in the United States

It’s worth noting that Mrs. Jackson had dogs that served as an early warning system, but that was it. Another thing worth noting is that she did not need to load her shotgun. Apparently, it was already loaded and in the closet with the safety on. Also, as the recording makes clear, Mrs. Jackson was remarkably confident about her ability to defend herself against this intruder. But if you listen to the entire (32 minute) 911 recording (Click Here To Listen) you will find that this brave woman was an emotional wreck after shooting the man.

Near the end of the 911 call, speaking to her son on the phone (he happens to be in law enforcement) Mrs Jackson tells him, “I did what y’all told me to do.” The point being, this family was prepared, and it’s a good thing.

[Note: the picture above is not Donna Jackson]

Homemade Vinegar Update

My fermenting apple cider vinegar did not change in appearance during the month of December. It still looks like the picture I posted in my last report. I assume it is biologically progressing. These things take time. We'll see what another month does for it.

Why Johnny Can’t Preach

When Rick Saenz over at Dry Creek Chronicles recommends a book, I’m inclined to check it out. Such was the case with Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon.

It’s not a big book and I recently got around to reading it. The premise is that few Christian ministers these days can preach even a mediocre sermon (less than 30% according to Gordon). In Chapter One the author makes this statement:
As starving children in Manila sift through the landfill for food, Christians in many churches today have never experienced genuinely soul-nourishing preaching, and so they just pick away at what is available to them, trying to find a morsel of spiritual sustenance or helpful counsel here or there.
Gordon further states:
The moribund churches I’ve seen have been malpreached to death.
We who are churchgoers know this is true, but has it always been so? Gordon says it has not. What then is the reason for such a dearth of good preaching? The answer, according to Gordon is summed up in this excerpt (the bold emphasis is mine):
I believed then, and believe now, that the profound shifts in dominant media in the last half of the twentieth century have profoundly misshaped the sensibilities of the typical American, and that this, in turn, has led to a profound decline in preaching.
More to the point, Gordon writes that the “movement from language-based media to image-based and electronic media [has] altered our sensibilities.” In other words, Americans are, by and large, not the readers they once were, and when they do read it is what I would call light reading, or easy reading, or superficial reading. This condition in general applies to preachers in particular, and it translates into shallow understandings as well as the inability to think through and articulate cogent sermons. Gordon makes it clear that...
Our inability to read texts is a direct result of the presence of electronic media. The sheer pace of an electronic media-dominated culture is entirely too fast. Electronic media flash sounds and images at us at a remarkable rate of speed; and each image or sound leaves some impact on us, but greater than the impact of any individual image or sound is the entire pace of the life it creates. We become acclimated to distraction, to multitasking, to giving part of our attention to many things at once, while almost never devoting the entire attention of the entire soul to anything.
Then Gordon provides a quote from a National Education Association report that really caught my eye (bold emphasis is mine):
Advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent minded.
I dare say, most Americans of our day are bombarded with, and manipulated by, so many kinds of electronic media that they are intellectually stunted and unable to see the technological neo-slavery they have subjected themselves to. Independent thinking can not exist in such a maelstrom.

Sadly, Christians are as mainstream-media-manipulated as the unbelievers around them, and there is something seriously wrong with that. This is one reason why I, as a Christian-agrarian, advocate a degree of deliberate cultural secession or separation. The Bible is clear on this subject. Every new “worldly” technology needs to be evaluated by Christians and rejected if it serves to lead us into ungodly bondage. That’s the way it looks to me, and Mr. Gordon pretty much comes to the same conclusion as indicated in these next two quotes from his book:

Every technological development has an opportunity cost because once we spend even part of our day using technology we once did not use, some of the things we once did with our time we no longer do.
...if particular sensibilities are not being cultivated by the culture’s dominant practices, they can still be cultivated by individuals who choose to live differently.
I should point out that “Why Johnny Can’t Preach” goes beyond just identifying a problem. The subject of what constitutes good preaching and how to correct the problem that exists is also discussed and every Christian minister would do well to read this book.

Cod Liver Oil
Is Good For You

Like most Americans our age, Marlene and I are conscious about our health. We try to eat well and take a variety of herbal/vitamin supplements. Marlene is more “into” it than me. I’m more of an on-again-off-again supplementalist (I think I may have just invented that word). Our latest supplemental interest is an oldie but a goodie.... cod liver oil.

If you are not currently a cod-liver-oil-taker, maybe you should be. You can read all the good things about cod liver oil at This Link

The particular brand of cod liver oil we are taking is made by a company called Carlson. This company has a reputation for producing an exceptional product. The really nice thing is that the oil is available in lemon flavore, which doesn’t taste like fish at all. In fact, it actually tastes kind of good.

I see that the Weston Price people are big advocates for taking cod liver oil. They used to recommend the Carlson brand I am taking. But now they say it doesn’t have enough vitamin A to make the grade. Instead, they recommend some sort of lacto-fermented cod liver oil. I read something at the Weston Price web site about Roman soldiers of old taking lacto-fermented cod liver oil.

Well, I’m sorry but I draw the line at lacto-fermented cod livers. I’m just not gonna do that, even if it is good for a body, which I really doubt. After all, Rome fell. I wouldn’t be surprised if fermented cod liver had something to do with it. Nope. Not gonna happen. No way.

A Special Gift

My stepfather gave me the picture above for Christmas. It is a pencil drawing of my maternal grandfather, Percy O. Philbrick, of Aroostook County Maine. He is the man pictured with me (at two years old) on the cover of my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian.

This drawing is special to me for a couple of reasons. First, it was my mother’s. She had it drawn maybe twenty years ago. Second, it was drawn by a local woman named Olive Adams, from a photo my mother gave her.

Olive was my mother’s very best friend. She was my Sunday school teacher when I was a teenager and my family attended the little Baptist church down the road from our house (the same church where I heard The Sermon I’ll Never Forget). Olive had multiple sclerosis from birth and had limited use of one arm. But she was a talented amateur artist.

Olive tried to teach me how to paint with watercolors when I was a kid, but I was a hopeless case (much like I am a hopeless case at learning how to play the banjo, but that’s another story). After my utter failure as a watercolor artist, Olive thought I might do better as a portrait artist. She invited me to the house of one of her artist friends one evening. All kinds of talented people were gathered there to draw the portrait of Carmen Pennella. You don’t know Carm but he was one of my favorite high school teachers, and he was then playing the starring role in a community theater version of "Fiddler On The Roof."

I think Mr. Pennella was a little surprised to see me walk in the door. Anyway, all these gifted artist people—and me—spent the evening sketching Carm who, with his beard, made a great looking Tevye. I did my best. In the end, when I showed it to Mr. Pennella, I think he was horrified and insulted. But, really, I had done my best.

When we were leaving, the nice artist lady who had hosted the event said to Olive: “He does have some talent.” She was talking about me, and trying to be nice (sort of like, Cake Like That....).

And now you know the inauspicious beginnings of my hobby as a portrait artist. I can tell you I have come a long way since then. After years of practice and study, my skills are greatly improved, and I’ve developed my own unique style.

Most people don’t know of my love for portraiture. It has been a private pursuit.... until now. I’ve decided to show you one of my better hand-drawn portraits. I drew this self-portrait last winter when I had a beard. My portrait is pictured down at the bottom of this page

Planet Whizbang Update

I got my Johnny's Seeds catalog recently and checked out the current price of a Glaser Wheel Hoe with an 8" oscillating blade. It was $349. With shipping it came to $364.95. If I lived in the western US, it would have been considerably more (johnny's is in Maine).

The Swiss-made Glaser hoe is a great tool. I know this because I own one. That oscillating stirrup blade on a wheel makes for easy, efficient weed control in the garden. But I can tell you that the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe I developed (pictured above) works just as well at the Glaser hoe. The difference is that a Planet Whizbang wheel hoe costs A Whole Lot Less Money.

Stop by for details. You can make your own hoe using my free online tutorial. Or you can buy a bolt-together metal parts kit. Or you can buy a spiffy ready-to-go version. Even the most expensive Planet Whizbang option (the spiffy ready-to-go hoe)is about $100 cheaper than the Glaser.

Thus far, I have sold almost 100 of the first production run (250 units) of these affordable wheel hoes. So you can still be a Planet Whizbang Pioneer

Next Month....

Lord, willing, this deliberate agrarian will return back here on January 31st, 2010 and share some more thoughts and ideas. If all goes as planned, I will finally reveal my Whizbang row cover hoop system. I also hope to show and tell you about a simple, attractive, inexpensive, kitchen garden tote that I am currently developing. Here's wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

Self Portrait
By: H. C. Kimball

The medium is blue ball-point (a Bic, I believe) on 20-pound copy paper.


homestead for happiness said...

Great mind. Love your blog.

Anna said...

I really like the quotes in the bee section about poverty and self-sufficiency. It's hard to explain wanting to live at the poverty line to other folks, but when it means getting to do what I love all day long, it's a no brainer for me! Despite being at the poverty line, based on the definition you quoted, I definitely don't experience poverty.

Herrick Kimball said...

As a follow-up to my reference in this essay about Shadowstats founder John Williams and his view of our current economic situation, I just happened upon an interview with Williams and I recommend that you go to THIS LINK and listen to it.

Mr. Williams is a 60-year-old economist with a degree from Dartmouth and a lot of business/economic experience. He does not strike me as a "doomer survivalist" type, but he is in the business of taking a realistic look at the numbers, and his conclusion is downright sobering.

He also offers some practical advice to people for getting through the turmoil we are inevitably going to see and experience.

I would also recommend to you An Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan which I wrote and posted here one year ago.

Tom in Mississippi said...

Mr. Kimball, your monthly blog post is a highlight that I look forward to all month. I've been reading your blog (and books) for a couple of years now, and you have changed my outlook on a lot of things. As a result, I now do things I didn't used to do: raise and butcher chickens, eat fresh eggs, work in the garden. I also have some things I didn't used to have: A garden, a shotgun, a fishing pole, an understanding of where our food comes from, a simplified set of priorities, and now as of about two weeks ago, 41 acres of land. May God bless you.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Tom-

I thank God for your comment. It warms my heart.

Congratulations on getting the land. 41 acres is a nice size to have and take care of. Looks like you're going to be real busy in this new year.

You are a smart man. I wish we were neighbors.

Cyndi Lewis said...

Oh, to be able to afford such a lovely home and land like what is for sale near you. Actually the price is not too bad but it is more than what my family could afford. Please do keep your readers posted as to what happens with it. Thank you for your informative and inspirational posts. My son made my husband a top bar bee hive for Christmas so we are about to embark into the world of beekeeping so the sharing of your knowledge in this area would be a blessing.

John said...

Mr. Kimball - I've been meaning to ask you about your progress with that banjo! Sounds like a good story.

By the way, I'm not sure how well that drill bit worked on Mrs. Kimball's finger but should you need to do that again any time I recommend this method: Straighten a section of the smallest paper clip you can find, heat the pointed end in a candle flame, and with very little pressure poke it right through the nail. Works real fast and it will feel better in no time.

Country Girl said...

What a hoot, nice picture. Actually I love the one of your grandfather! Someday I will get to reading your book. I like that you played doctor on your wife. We do that often. A few months back MM put my dislocated toe back in place after iceing it. Ouch, it was out for about a month, I thought it was broke. We are both nurses but we carry high deductible insurance.

Country Girl said...

I forgot to mention, good for the women who killed the intruder. I too would do the same! If they are entering my house without my permission they will be greeted with a shot gun. I appreciate the link you posted. Sounds to me like us Mainers can blast em. I would regardless for the safety of my children.

Anonymous said...

Have been looking into the top bar bee hive also . I am looking forward to hearing how the bee keeping experiance goes for you.
The reason I an not very motivated is that I am so lucky that the bee keeper in the next county actually rents his bees out right down the road from me, so I buy my honey from him it is MY honey!And my garden is full of them.
His view of colony collapse is so different from what is in the news. He almost lost his about 4 years ago and since then they have come back stronger than ever, he said it is just the normal cycle of nature, yet the article in the newspaper this summer ended with his quote that he nearly lost them all 4 years ago.
I notice this on our little " farm " some years a type of animal or plant or bug will be plentiful and then nearly disappear for a few years, I was very surprised that the red clover that we planted 15 years ago and had long ago died out came back full force about 3 years ago.
I am optimistic about the honeybee for this reason, but I think it would be so interesting to keep them myself.
My plan for this Feb is to try tapping my maples for our own syrup it seems like a good thing to do at a time when winter drags on .
I am hoping to get enough for one good bottle this year and have a good pancake breakfast to celebrate ! That is starting small.
I look so forward to your monthly posts ,you have many great ideas and also make me think. Thank you for your writting.
Karen from Michigan

Rod Hutton said...

Drat my bad timing for having discovered your blog only a few months ago. I've spent many hours reading through years of old posts and enjoyed the ruminations on the philosophical basis of your way of life, as well as reports on the many ventures and experiments you always have in progress. In 20 years of gardening and poultry raising I have learned or developed many techniques like the ones that you use, but you seem to take them to a higher level, and I am grateful for the advice. I have been raising pastured poultry for the past two years (I visited Joel Salatin's farm this fall) and after two decades of reading and digging, I begin to have an understanding of how the natural processes can work in the garden. Your big-picture outlook helps to make sense of it all.
But really, what brings me back each month is not the expertise or the prose, but the fact that when I read your posts, I am visiting a home that is full of joy and love, and I can't help but be encouraged and inspired. I hope you know that is the touchstone of your Christian witness.
So, God bless you and your family in the new year and I look forward to the next dispatch from the Kimball household. And drat my bad timing again for ordering your chicken plucker book two days before it went on sale. Consider the extra five dollars my enthusiastic contribution to your entrepreneurial venture.
Oh, and one comment on last month's post: Speak for yourself about the faded "freshness and vitality of youth." "The Lovely Marlene" looks as radiant as ever.
Rod in New Hampshire

timfromohio said...

Great update! I'm sure you've spent a great deal of time thinking of how you might put the additional land to use if the deal works out - I'm hoping that you'll share these possibilities in a future update, hint hint ....

Anonymous said...

Your commentary on modern day preaching is on target.

Biblical illiteracy is rampant in our churches, mainly because people simply do not read anymore.

One of our Sunday School teachers told me he was reading a book, the first book he has read since high school. He graduated 15 years ago.

Too many people rely on preachers to tell them what's in the Bible. Same thing was true before the printing press......

Christians as basically lazy toward the Word of God therefore they are susceptible to be tossed about as Eph 4 says.

God Bless

SooNee said...

I appreciate your blog and all the help it offers us.
I have to say that I have never been lead by the Lord to keep weapons. I was instructed that either I would trust God to defend me or I could attempt it on my own. I chose the Lord God. Of course it requires actually knowing God and His word which your article on 'Why Johnny Can't Preach' covers quite well.

timfromohio said...

SooNee - respectfully, consider what Christ instructed the Apostles to do prior to beginning their ministry. Sell their cloaks and purchase what ... a sword. The Lord promises our needs to be met, but not without some work on our own part. Your logic is akin to saying, "the Lord promises my needs will be met so I'll trust in Him to feed me and actively do nothing on my own in this regard." There are three primary roles for Christian men - we are to be the (1)priests, (2)providers, and (3)protectors of our families. Most of the time this protection comes in the form of protecting our families from wordly influences, but I believe it applies to physical protection as well. There also exists a chain of command. The Lord is at the helm, then the father, then the mother. If dad is home and somebody is kicking down the door, it's his responsibility to deal with the situation. If dad's not home, which is negative result of the industrial paradigm within which we are all trying to operate, the duty falls to mom. I belive the Lord designed men to better deal with such situations, and their emotional aftermath, but that doesn't mean a woman shouldn't defend herself, her children, and her home with the best tools available for the job.

If you've not been lead to be armed, I wouldn't tell you that you should be. However, I would also not imply that by being prepared one trusts in the Lord any less.

SooNee said...

Luke 22:36-38 is not Jesus telling us to arm but a fulfillment of scripture in Isaiah.
We war not against flesh and blood-Ephesians 6:12 so what or rather who is our enemy? Jesus said we have been given all authority in His name over demons. What do you think is behind someone threatening murder or other?
Its one thing to quote scripture but its a whole different thing to actually believe it and live it.

What I have written is true and I live it so I know it from scripture and from experience.

timfromohio said...

SooNee - I'm in absolute agreement with you on the causes behind evil in the world. However, I still maintain that your interpretation of Luke 22 is but one interpretation. I would offer up Jim Rawles', who is a beliver, thoughts on Christianity and personal defense as another:

SooNee said...

Without going into detail, let me say that I have had someone come to my house to murder me. My children were young and at home at the time. I did as the Spirit told me and he left. No doubt the Lord allowed this so I would know that "no weapon formed against me shall prosper".
I share this as the truth of God's Word and with the knowledge that His angels encamp around us.
Clearly living according to faith is a scary prospect for some.

timfromohio said...

SooNee - God is good, sovereign, and in charge. It is obvious that He provided protection to you and your family during that scary experience.

I would still entreat you to consider personal protection as another simple form of preparedness. Do you grocery shop or garden to feed your family? Why? Your rationale is that the Lord will provide for all needs at all times without any input on your part. This is certainly not a position supported by Scripture. We are called to work simply, live apart from the world, and essentially to cause no trouble. However, we are not called to be doormats or take passive positions in regards to evil or injustice.

I believe that this is the position from which Mr. Kimball commented on his blog and would certainly not question the magnitude of his, or anyone else's faith, who might comment, for having such a view.

Annie said...

I certainly enjoy reading your posts. Very intelligent and thoughtful. I particularly like the section on bees and the analogy of business to a ponzi scheme. I never thought about it like that before but it is dead on.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks everyone for your comments here. I feel compelled to reply to SooNee...

Your principled stand against the ownership of firearms and their use for defensive purposes, relying instead by faith on God’s protection, is commendable. It reminds me of my mother’s unwavering belief that God would heal her of cancer, as I have written about in my book, “Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian.” She refused to trust in doctors and modern medicine, looking on these things as “an arm of flesh.”

My mother thought that it was not God’s will that His children should ever be sick, that “by His stripes we are healed,” that sickness was a result of demonic oppression. As an heir and joint heir with Jesus Christ (who is now ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, with all power and authority in heaven and in earth given to Him), my mother believed that she had authority, in the name of Jesus, over demonic spirits.

Nevertheless, she was dead and gone in less than a year. Some among the faith-focused would say my mother did not have enough faith, but they did not know my mother.

I respected her greatly for her faith, and supported her decision to believe in God alone for her healing. In time, I may be faced with a similar situation, and I may respond similarly because, ultimately, I believe much the same thing.

Like my mother I almost never go to a doctor, despite various aches and pains that befall my aging body, and lately cause me more than a little concern. Instead, I pray and trust the Lord to heal me. He always has and I praise Him for that. But one day He may not. As it is said, past performance is no guarantee of future results. :-)

Unlike my mother, I sense that we who believe in God’s word and His promises do not come into the fullness of our inheritance and authority here in our earthly state. It seems to me that there must be some balance to our faith, or maybe it is faith tempered with wisdom.

Whatever the case, it is absolutely true that God is our defender and our faith is necessary in this regard. It is also true that He meets all our needs, and faith is necessary there too. But faith alone (as Tim stated) does not supply our every need. We must do our part.

While on this subject, it appears to me that it is common among Believers to slip into the mindset that sufficient faith on our part is like a key that unlocks abundant health, prosperity, and in the same train of thought, complete protection from evil. If this way of thinking about faith were taken to it’s logical conclusion, the Christian life would be free of all troubles and hardship. This has never been the case for the Christian church in this realm. In fact, quite the contrary has been the case, and for good reason. God is better glorified in the manifold weaknesses of His people than in the modern hyper-faith theology that redefines what it means to be an overcomer. But I’m beginning to digress....

If I understand you correctly, you are willing to trust in God’s protection alone, without any attempt at self defense, even unto death. Like I said, I find that commendable.

I would suppose that, by extension, you are also willing to let any children in your care be killed without any attempt to defend them. I do not find that commendable.

But you are a woman and I am not. That may have something to do with the difference of opinion on this matter. We are “wired” differently. Besides that, this is an ugly subject that none of us wants to have to think about, let alone ever actually deal with, and I think this is true especially with women.

But as a man who is a husband and a father I feel it is my God-given responsibility to lead, provide, and protect my family. I see this as a matter of obedience to God’s calling. Obedience is right up there with faith.

(Continued in the next post... Blogger only allows comments with a maximum of 4,096 characters and this goes over)

Herrick Kimball said...

(continued from the previous post)

Thus, I have numerous firearms. I know how to use them. And I fully intend to use them if needed to defend my family against lethal force. Likewise, I might use them to defend a defenseless neighbor, or my neighbor's children (this could be considered an example of loving our neighbor as ourself), or I might use them to help to defend my country against foreign invaders or, as the early American Christians did, against my own tyrannical government.

Furthermore, I have taught my wife and children how to safely and properly use these weapons. The idea being that they may be able to defend themselves if I’m not there to do the job.

I should add that such self defense or protection does not only apply to the human element. Protection from animals, especially for those of us who live in the rural areas, is no little concern. For example, I shot a rabid raccoon that once walked out of the woods and right up behind me one summer day as my family was in the back yard having a picnic. This is not an unusual occurrence. We don’t hesitate to shoot “suspicious looking” animals around here. :-)

Perhaps I am more sensitized to the reality of so many people with evil intent in this world because I work in a maximum security state prison. I know more murderers, rapists and child molesters than I care to know. And there are plenty of such people still on the “outside.” They live amongst us.

Now, having said all of that, I want to make it perfectly clear that my faith is not in my guns and my ability to protect myself. I see firearms as nothing more than tools, much like a garden hoe or a hammer (both of which, by the way, could be used for self defense). A stick or a rock or a knife can also be tools of self defense. A firearm is just a very efficient tool.

Because my trust as a Christian is not in myself-and-my-gun, I am cognizant of the possibility that, under some circumstances, I may be called upon to not use a gun to defend myself. God may impress upon me that I am to submit and be led as a sheep to the slaughter, for His glory. This is a real possibility in the days ahead if Christians are destined to suffer persecution, as they have done throughout history.

My intention here is not to tell you that you are wrong in your thinking. If I find fault, it is only in what I perceive as a dogmatic assertion on your part about an old subject that has sincere and faithful saints on both sides.

My perspective is my perspective. I may be entirely wrong. Or I might be partly wrong. And you might be partly wrong too.

In the end, I think the whole matter of a Christian defending him or herself, or one’s family, or one’s neighbor or one's country, all boils down to a matter of spiritual discernment, maturity, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. I can assure you that, in the event of such an incident, firearms or not, my faith will play a central role in the event.

Here's wishing you continued safety and protection under the shelter of His wings.

Herrick Kimball

timfromohio said...

Mr. Kimball,

Wow - you have succintly and elegantly verbalized the position I was trying to present!

SooNee - I hope my efforts were not offensive to you.

To change the comments topic back to bees I want to thank you (Mr. Kimball and others who commented on bees) for motivating me to get serious about learning more - I found out that there is a local beekeeping organization that offers introductory classes and I'm going to sign up for one. I'd encourage anybody else out there to do a simple internet search on beekeeping in their respective counties or check local extension organizations. I was amazed to find a large number of small, local, grass-roots organizations promoting beekeeping and helping new folks get started.

Casey said...

Thanks again for the helpful update.

On a side not, if anyone is interested, Penn State Cooperative Extension is offering a series of free online beekeeping seminars starting 1/18 and progressing every other week until 3/29. I am really looking forward to participating as it has been something I have been thinking about for a while now. Here is the link:

Herrick Kimball said...

The online seminar looks good. This talk of beekeeping classes got me looking for something hands-on near me. I see that Cornell University has a two-day beginners class in the spring that is probably worth the money. Here's The Link

SooNee said...

I am not a word of faith, claim it kinda gal.I do not tempt God nor do I put Him to the test. I do pray and wait for an answer if it is not imediate. But I don't do is live in fear.
The question I put to you is this:
What do you believe God is able to do? Make two columns and label one Can and one Can't. I do not have a Can't column. Do you?

On a different note, I was talking to the Lord some months ago about not being strong enough anymore to chop wood. The Lord lead me to Herrick's article about the Fiskars ax which I purchased and I can easily chop wood. This was a great relief to me.

I shall not post anymore for I am quite sure I have overextended my stay.