That’s me in the above picture. I’m in my garden with my homemade Planet Whizbang wheel hoe. It is an appropriate picture for this monthly letter because, finally, after months of development and many, many hours of preparation, yesterday I launched my newest business endeavor. It is a web site dedicated to telling everyone in the world (who has internet access) how they can make their own affordable wheel hoe with an 8” oscillating stirrup hoe. The web plans and step-by-step tutorial are FREE. I invite you to check the site out at this link:
If you do check out the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe web site, and you think it is a worthwhile idea, I would appreciate your help spreading the word on the internet. And I thank you!
With the wheel hoe project now launched, I think I have reached full Whizbang capacity. I am completely maxed out. I have expanded my part-time home business, Whizbang Books, to the point where I can not take on anything more unless I leave my factory job and come home.
I would, of course, love to do that. It has been my goal right from the beginning. But the Whizbang business does not provide as well as the full-time factory job.
Having had a particularly bad personal experience in the not-so-distant past with lack of work, total loss of my life savings, and far more bills than I had money to pay them with, I’m hesitant to leave a job that now pays the bills, even if it is a job I am not happy with.
So, for now, I’ll continue to work my ”day job” and the part-time Whizbang business. The way the world is going, I have a feeling I may lose the full-time job before long. If that happens, then you’ll see more Whizbang ideas.
The Lovely Marlene has been assuming more of a role in the Whizbang business. She now takes care of daily mailings at the post office, thus saving me the time. She is also running errands and answering some e-mails. This is a tremendous help to me. Thank you, Marlene.
Earlier this past month I was in church listening to a sermon and the preacher asked: ”Wanna get rich?” Then he told how: “Count your blessings.”
I can honestly say that I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want a lot of “stuff.” But it would be nice to be able to keep more of what I earn, without the government taking it. I heard recently that more than 40% of Americans don’t pay any income taxes. I’m not one of them.
When I listen to the radio news and hear of all the money being spent (and wasted) by our government, it makes me very angry. When I hear of all the new taxes the government is planning to impose, it makes my blood boil. When I see the American dollar losing value and very high inflation looming, it is very sobering. We are not free in America. Government is not our servant. Americans are now servants to big, overblown, oppressive government. It’s like a bad dream, but it is reality.
I discovered Rural Patriot this last month.
It is written by some familiar names. Their stated purpose: We wish to return our nation to its roots, which is a Christian agrarian republic.
To which I say: “Amen!”
And it was at “Rural Patriot” that I read this excellent quote from Wendell Berry:
A person dependent on somebody else for everything from potatoes to opinions may declare that he is a free man, and his government may issue a certificate granting him his freedom, but he will not be free. He is that variety of specialist known as a consumer, which means that he is the abject dependent of producers. How can he be free if he can do nothing for himself? What is the First Amendment to him whose mouth is stuck to the tit of the “affluent society”? Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs. The most able are the most free.
Well, I guess I’m not a total slave because I agree with Wendell Berry. I don’t give a darn about “affluent society” and my objective as a “Deliberate Agrarian” is (and has been) to continually lessen my family’s dependency on what I call the “Industrial Providers.”
Reading a quote like that fills me with renewed resolve (it is a righteous resolve!) and brings clarity to my mind.
We are living in a time of significant transition. Industrialism in all of its manifestations is unsustainable. It has sown the seeds of its own destruction. It is painful to watch and experience. But it is also a fascinating thing to behold.
We are all tied to industrialism. We are all affected by it. We will all be impacted by the changes that are now happening, and yet going to happen. None of us can sit entirely on the sidelines. But those of us in the countryside who reduce our dependencies and pursue simplicity will, to the degree that we can do that, be less affected by the coming changes.
The above picture was a mystery. That string, all tangled in my grape vines had been a line that I ran between stakes in my garden for layout purposes. I used to be a carpenter and carpenters use string lines (and tape measures, and the Pythagorean theorem). I unhitched one end of the string and laid it on the grass. then I came out the next day to find it all tangled, as the picture shows.
I thought one of my sons must have tied it there like that. Or maybe it was the neighbor boy. Yeah, it must have been that neighbor kid. He’s always blasting through the field next to my grape vines with his annoyingly-loud fourwheeler (or his father is doing the same with his even-more-annoyingly-loud fourwheeler.) It is a nice field. Good soil. I used to grow garlic and potatoes there, until those people with their fourwheelers bought the place. All they know to do with that beautiful field is drive over it. Where was I.....
Oh, right, the string.
I was annoyed that someone took the string and tied it up like that. I untied it and brought it back over on the lawn by my garden. Then I worked in the garden awhile and Marlene came out and said “Look at that bird on the grape vines.”
I looked up and there was the end of the string up off the lawn, back up in the grape vines and a bird was working that string all around, tangling it up.
It was a Baltimore Oriole. We watched the bird for some time and came to the conclusion that it wanted the string but since one end was still tied to a stake, it couldn’t get it. I imagine that must have been annoying for the bird.
So I took several lengths (about 2-foot long) of the string and draped them along down the grape arbor. Then I went back to my garden work, looking up every so often to see if the bird was taking any. And it was!
The male and the female Oriole would fly to the arbor. The male would watch while the female grabbed the string with its beak and flew off into the woods, the long string trailing behind.
If I was Marty Stauffer I’d have a picture to show you of the female Oriole in flight, carrying the long string. But I’m not, so I’ll show you this one from Google images. What beautiful birds these are. (the picture is of a male Oriole)
I have added a couple of new bloggers to my “Stable of Agrarian Bloggers” (listed on the right side of the screen). One is Rural Revolution by Patrice Lewis who describes herself as: “a practical constitutional Libertarian stay-at-home gun-toting homeschooling cow-milking rural-living Christian mom.”
That’s my kind of people.
While you’re there, be sure to read The New and “Improved” Ten Commandments
I’ve also added The Sifford Sojournal. I was impressed with a recent post there about how to make a fat lamp using a Mason jar, lard and the string from a mop head. Good going!
One of these days I WILL get around to writing about my “Whizbang” system for easily making simple, durable, and inexpensive hoop tunnels in the garden. This year I attached some heavy-duty clear plastic to the hoops. This next picture is of a short section over some melons. The melons are planted in black plastic (garbage bags laid on the ground) and covered with the clear-plastic tunnel, which is open on each end so it doesn’t get too hot.
Our garden is just getting started. We have been eating spinach and rhubarb, but that’s it for now. I like to eat spinach by stacking a LOT of the leaves on a slice of bread, then I pour on a little bit of salad dressing (i.e., Thousand Island), and top it off with another slice of bread. It’s like a “salad sandwich.” Quick. Easy. And good for you.
In the “Family” department, my two youngest sons have been helping farmers with rock picking again this spring. Some days they pick rock for one farmer in the morning and another in the afternoon. That work is pretty much done now and the first cutting of hay will be happening next.
My 18-year-old son is finishing up his high school homeschooling and will work the summer for the same building contractor he worked for last summer. Upon finishing high school, I’ve told him he can then buy himself a vehicle. He has the money saved and wants a pickup truck. I told him that if he gets a pickup, he should start a light-hauling business. “Have Pickup, Will Travel.” He likes the idea.
My oldest son (and namesake) is now 21 and has enlisted in the Army. He goes to basic training in August. He needs structure and discipline in his life. So I'm pleased that he has made this decision, and hope it proves to be a life changing experience...for the better.
In the “Faith” department, I recently read an excerpt from the book, “A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of The Christian Life” by J.I. Packer. I think this excerpt is a whole chapter titled “Why We Need The Puritans.” You can read it at This Link.
Near the end of the chapter, Packer wrote about three different kinds of modern evangelical Christians, and I think his analysis is fascinating. You may be among these three:
”...three groups in particular in today's evangelical world seem very obviously to need help of a kind that Puritans, as we meet them in their writings, are uniquely qualified to give.
These I call restless experientialists, entrenched intellectualists, and disaffected deviationists. They are not, of course, organised bodies of opinion, but individual persons with characteristic mentalities that one meets over and over again.”
Packer first describes the “Restless Experientialists.” I know many of these kinds of Christians. You probably do too. Many are my good friends, but I have never been entirely comfortable with this kind of Christianity (probably because I'm not good at "bubbling over in the prescribed manner"):
”Those whom I call restless experientialists are a familiar breed, so much so that observers are sometimes tempted to define evangelicalism in terms of them. Their outlook is one of casual haphazardness and fretful impatience, of grasping after novelties, entertainments, and 'highs', and of valuing strong feelings above deep thoughts. They have little taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplined meditation, and unspectacular hard work in their callings and their prayers. They conceive the Christian life as one of exciting extraordinary experiences rather than of resolute rational righteousness. They dwell continually on the themes of joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction and rest of souls with no balancing reference to the divine discontent of Romans 7, the fight of faith of Psalm 73, or the 'lows' of Psalms 42, 88, and 102. Through their influence the spontaneous jollity of the simple extrovert comes to be equated with healthy Christian living, while saints of less sanguine and more complex temperament get driven almost to distraction because they cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner. In their restlessness these exuberant ones become uncritically credulous, reasoning that the more odd and striking an experience the more divine, supernatural, and spiritual it must be, and they scarcely give the scriptural virtue of steadiness a thought. It is no counter to these defects to appeal to the specialised counseling techniques that extrovert evangelicals have developed for pastoral purposes in recent years; for spiritual life is fostered, and spiritual maturity engendered, no by techniques but by truth, and if our techniques have been formed in terms of a defective notion of the truth to be conveyed and the goal to be aimed at they cannot make us better pastors or better believers than we were before. The reason why the restless experientialists are lopsided is that they have fallen victim to a form of worldliness, a man-centred, anti-rational individualism, which turns Christian life into a thrill-seeking ego-trip. Such saints need the sort of maturing ministry in which the Puritan tradition has specialised. What Puritan emphases can establish and settle restless experientialists? These, to start with.”
I know fewer of this next group, but I’ve run into them, and I’m sure you have too:
”Think now of entrenched intellectualists in the evangelical world: a second familiar breed, though not so common as the previous type. Some of them seem to be victims of an insecure temperament and inferiority feelings, others to be reacting out of pride or pain against the zaniness of experientialism as they have perceived it, but whatever the source of their syndrome the behaviour-pattern in which they express it is distinctive and characteristic. Constantly they present themselves as rigid, argumentative, critical Christians, champions of God's truth for whom orthodoxy is all. Upholding and defending their own view of that truth, whether Calvinist or Arminian, Dispensational or Pentecostal, national church reformist or Free Church separatist, or whatever it might be, is their leading interest, and they invest themselves unstintingly in this task. There is little warmth about them; relationally they are remote; experiences do not mean much to them; winning the battle for mental correctness is their one great purpose.
They see, truly enough, that in our anti-rational, feeling-oriented, instant-gratification culture conceptual knowledge of divine things is undervalued, and they seek with passion to right the balance at this point. They understand the priority of the intellect well; the trouble is that intellectualism, expressing itself in endless campaigns for their own right thinking, is almost if not quite all that they can offer, for it is almost if not quite all that they have. They too, so I urge, need exposure to the Puritan heritage for their maturing. That last statement might sound paradoxical, since it will not have escaped the reader that the above profile corresponds to what many still suppose the typical Puritan to have been. But when we ask what emphases Puritan tradition contains to counter arid intellectualism, a whole series of points springs to view.
Now we come to the category that seems to fit me more than any other:
”I turn finally to those whom I call disaffected deviationists, the casualties and dropouts of the modern evangelical movement, many of whom have now turned against it to denounce it as a neurotic perversion of Christianity. Here, too, is a breed that we know all too well. It is distressing to think of these folk, both because their experience to date discredits our evangelicalism so deeply and also because there are so many of them. Who are they? They are people who once saw themselves as evangelicals, either from being evangelically nurtured or from coming to profess conversion with the evangelical sphere of influence, but who have become disillusioned about the evangelical point of view and have turned their back on it, feeling that it let them down. Some leave it for intellectual reasons, judging that what was taught them was so simplistic as to stifle their minds and so unrealistic and out of touch with facts as to be really if unintentionally dishonest. Others leave because they were led to expect that as Christians they would enjoy health, wealth, trouble-free circumstances, immunity from relational hurts, betrayals, and failures, and from making mistakes and bad decisions; in short, a flowery bed of ease on which they would be carried happily to heaven - and these great expectations were in due course refuted by events.
Hurt and angry, feeling themselves victims of a confidence trick, they now accuse the evangelicalism they knew of having failed and fooled them, and resentfully give it up; it is a mercy if they do not therewith similarly accuse and abandon God himself. Modern evangelicalism has much to answer for in the number of casualties of this sort that it has caused in recent years by its naivety of mind and unrealism of expectation. But here again the soberer, profounder, wiser evangelicalism of the Puritan giants can fulfill a corrective and therapeutic function in our midst, if only we will listen to its message. What have the Puritans to say to us that might serve to heal the disaffected casualties of modern evangelical goofiness? Anyone who reads the writings of the Puritan authors will find in them much that helps in this way.”
I do think that we can learn a lot from the Puritans and I hope to read more of J.I. Packer.
As I mentioned last month, I planted a single hops plant in my garden. I’ve never grown hops. It is supposed to grow very high. Right now it is beside a T-post and seems to be doing well. I will chronicle this plant’s growth through my monthly letters here. This is what the hops plant looks like now, at the end of May. It is about a foot high. It has a long way to go:
See you next month...
Same deliberate time...
Same deliberate place...