Gardening Bits For Hard Times
(A Continuing Series)


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As noted in yesterday’s blog post, I am short on time these days. I need to take leave from blogging until the end of February. But I will still be posting a daily “little bit” here. Each little bit will be a short excerpt from the book, Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, by Steve Solomon.

Each day’s “gardening bit” will be posted below the previous day’s, so the collection will read in logical order from the top down. I will also change the picture at the top of this blog each day when I add a new bit. So if you stop by and see a picture different from the previous day, you know to scroll down and read the new “gardening bit.”

When I return from this gardening bit break on March first I will provide a picture of my mysterious "midlife crisis" birthday present to myself (which I mentioned awhile back). And I also expect to provide a photo with some details about the “Planet Whizbang” gardening tool that I’m currently working to bring to market.

Gardening Bit #1
20 February 2009
I have all kinds of books about gardening. Not one of them is the total and final word on the subject. But every one is a worthwhile source of useful information. Based on my readings and my predilection for down-to-earth simplicity, I am particularly fond of Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, by Steve Solomon.

I was initially hesitant to send for the book because I thought the subtitle, Growing Food In Hard Times was gimmicky. Besides that, I was starting to think maybe I had enough gardening books. How much more could there be to know about this subject? Well, shame on me for the latter thought, and nothing could be further from the former impression.

It turns out that Steve Solomon has written a commendable book. It is chock full of valuable insights and useful information. The book is also decidedly contrarian in many ways, as you will see. But Solomon's opinions and methods of gardening are informed by many years of personal experience and research. What’s more, Solomon is the fellow who started the Territorial Seeds company in 1979, when he was 37 years old. Seven years later, he sold the business and moved to Tasmania where he continues to garden and grow a large portion of the food he eats.

“Gardening When it Counts” was published in 2005. Solomon foresaw “coming hard times,” and the need for basic, sound gardening information to help people provide for themselves through those hard times. And those hard times have now arrived. Here is an excerpt from the book:
Gardening magazines, garden centers, and seed catalogs all promote the idea that their appealing merchandise is useful and essential—that you need it. Actually, to veggie garden successfully you need only a few hand tools, used properly. I am going to educate you about this as your grandfather should have done. But almost none of us had a grandfather who knew how to grow vegetables, who grew up on a farm, who sharpened shovels and hoes and worked the earth. If you’ll allow it, I am going to be the gardening grandfather you never had.


Gardening Bit #2
21 February 2009
During the 1970s, inflation and unemployment were high. In such lean years, many people grew substantial backyard veggie gardens. I was a young man who did that.

Good times returned in the 1980s and continued into the first half of the first decade of the new millennium—fat years. I was there. In easy times people go to restaurants and take summer vacations; not me, I continued gardening.
During the fat years an unfortunate change happened in veggie gardening. Books and magazine articles promoting traditional homestead and backyard methods—growing well-separated plants in rows far enough apart that you could walk between them—disappeared. Row gardening was universally denounced as a waste of space, inefficient with water, and low-producing, densly packed, deeply dug, super fertile, massively irrigated, raised bed systems became fashionable. As I write this book in 2005, intensive gardening still reigns.
Steve Solomon goes on to explain that he adopted the intensive gardening methods of John Jeavons, and by 1984 he had written three of his own gardening books recommending intensive methods.

But in the 1980s, as he grew seed variety trials for his Territorial Seeds company, Solomon noticed something...
Trials require that you grow plants far enough apart that each can develop its full potential. One thing I noticed from doing this was that my trial plots didn’t need nearly as much irrigation as my intensive veggie garden. Another was that these well-separated plants got much larger; they tasted better than crowded vegetables did when they weren’t harvested properly; and many vegetable species grown that way yielded more in relation to the space occupied, not less as I had read in books by intensivist gurus.
This realization of Solomon’s resonated with me as I read it because I myself adopted the raised bed intensive gardening approach for several years. Then, two years ago, I ripped out all my rotting wood-framed beds with neat walkways between them and went back to traditional row gardening. I’ve looked at gardening from both sides now and I’m persuaded that less intensive, more traditional gardening is better suited to growing a serious amount of good quality food with the least amount of fertilizer, water, and other inputs.

This is, of course, a debatable gardening matter. But the point is, intensive gardening is not a panacea and Solomon’s book goes on to explain the reasons why traditional methods should be reconsidered. That is not the who point of the book. There is much, much more to the gardening wisdom of Steve Solomon, but he is clearly not a proponent of intensive gardening.

Gardening Bit #3
22 February 2009
If your goal is to produce not half, but nearly all the calories and nutrition needed year-round, and if your family can depend on the ordinary potato as their healthful staff of life, then you can add more land in order to produce sacks and sacks of nutritious spuds or sweet potatoes.
The good thing about potatoes is that working plots of this scale can be done entirely with hand tools. To produce the same amount of nutrition by growing cereal grains would require five to ten times as much land per person. The healthful potato is really the thing for getting through hard times.
I could not agree more with this advice. We typically grow several bushels of potatoes, keep them in crates in the basement, and depend on the supply through the winter. If times were hard, I would plant more potatoes. Fact is, I hope to be planting more potatoes this year. The hardest part of growing potatoes is digging them in the fall. You can read an essay I wrote about digging potatoes, and see a Whizbang Garden Cart full of homegrown spuds, AT THIS LINK

Gardening Bit #4
23 February 2009
Chapter Two of “Gardening When it Counts” is titled, “Basics.” Here is where Steve Solomon divides vegetables into the categories of low demand, medium demand, and high demand. These categories refer to the fertility necessary to grow each category. Then he explains the importance of balanced fertility when growing vegetables.

Solomon makes it clear that soils with ideally balanced fertility are very rare. He further states that the addition of organic matter in the form of composted vegetation and animal manures is a good thing but it does not necessarily correct unbalanced fertility. Fact is, organic matter from soil with a fertility imbalance will amplify already existing soil nutrient imbalances.

The point being, you can not balance fertility in an unbalanced soil without the addition of external inputs (i.e., some sort of fertilizer), especially if you are growing medium and high demand vegetables.

With soil nutrient imbalances in mind, Steve Solomon presents a “recipe” he has developed for:
...an organic soil amendment that is correct for almost any food garden. It is a complete, highly potent, and correctly balanced fertilizing mix made entirely of natural substances, a complete organic fertilizer, or COF. I use COF and regular small additions of compost. Together they provide incredible results. I recommend this system to you as I’ve been recommending it in my gardening books for 20 years. No one has ever written back to me about COF saying anything but “Thank you, Steve. My garden has never grown so well; the plants have never been so large and healthy; the food never tasted so good.
Solomon’s COF recipe is not something I feel I should reveal in detail here (I encourage you to get the book), but I will have more to say about it in the next gardening bit.

Gardening Bit #5
24 February 2009
Yesterday I told you about Steve Solomon’s Complete Organic Fertilizer (COF). I didn’t feel it would be ethical of me to reveal the recipe here because the book is protected by copyright. Small sections of the book, for the purposes of review, and with my encouragement to get yourself a copy, seems appropriate, but I don’t want to cross the line.

However, Stepahanie Skelly who has a blog called One Big Adventure, sent me an e-mail to say that Steve Solomon himself has written about his COF recipe at THIS INTERNET LINK. Thanks Stephanie!

The COF ingredients, things like seedmeal (i.e. cottonseed meal), ordinary agricultural lime, dolomite lime, and ground rock phosphate are typically available in bulk quantities for reasonable prices from most rural agricultural farm supply stores. There is such a place about six miles from my home. I think it has been in business for over a hundred years. They cater to farmers but when I need something they are glad to oblige. So that’s the kind of place where you can get these ingredients.

If stored properly, COF ingredients will keep for years. I intend to stock up on a mullit-year supply this spring. As far as I’m concerned, a supply of COF is better than money in the bank.

Tomorrow I will provide a quote from Solomon’s book about how to build soil fertility if you can not afford to buy COF (there is also the possibility that, one day, if things in the world get bad enough, COF ingredients will not be readily available). For now, I’ll leave you with this quote about COF from the book:
The ideal fertilizer would release slowly, so the nutrients didn’t wash out of the topsoil with the first excessive irrigation or heavy rain. It would be a dry, odorless, finely powdered, completely organic material that would not burn leaves if sprinkled on them and would not poison plants or soil life if somewhat overapplied. All this accurately describes COF.


Gardening Bit #6
25 February 2009
For those who may not have the financial resources to purchase the ingredients for Steve Solomon’s COF for their vegetable gardens, he provides some lesser options. Among them is this one:
Soil improvement materials were always scarce for Native American gardeners. Their approach, and a wise on it was: concentrate what fertilizer they could get into hills. Usually several plants were grown on each fertilized hill. The word “hill” in this case does not mean a high mound; it is a low broad bump about 18 inches in diameter that is deeply dug up and into which fertilizer is mixed. For Native Americans the fertilizer was often a buried bony “trash” fish that weighed at least one pound. I expect the Native American garden was also used as the family latrine and as the burial yard for slaughtering waste, dead dogs, and other small animals, with each deposit making a hill.
These days, hills might be fertilized by roadkill or a quart of strong composted chicken manure and a few tablespoonfuls of agricultural line.
That advice brings to mind several things. First, I guess I should be glad that my dog buries so many woodchucks in my garden every year. Second, my Whizbang Squash Planting Secret is something akin to a Native American hill and this year I’ll be adding COF to the mix. Third, I’m now thinking that all the deer bones we’ve been feeding our dog (and that are now scattered around the yard) can be collected up and used for fertilizer (Perhaps they can be ground up in my Whizbang Apple grinder). Waste not, want not, eh? The “Old Timers” would approve. Check out this old farm almanac entry.

Gardening Bit #7
26 February 2009
For those who want to save money or don’t have a lot of money to spend on the grocery bill, Steve Solomon provides a personal recollection from his book, Gardening When it Counts:
From mid-1980 through mid-1983, most of the food my household ate was vegetables, supplemented by some apples rom an old orchard and helped out at breakfast most mornings by blackberries, picked during high summer, stored in a rust-speckled old chest freezer in the woodshed, and blended with frozen bananas, bought as “overripes” at super-bargain prices. Money was so tight that when the germination percentage of the seed company’s bean seeds dropped below what was ethical to sell, I’d bring those seeds up to the house and we’d cook them. The food we purchased during those years was the odd bit of brown rice or millet, sometimes a chunk of ordinary cheese, some real Jersey butter or milk from the man down the road, olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing, and in winter, oranges or grapefruits now and then, but only by the full box and only when really cheap. I bought enough gasoline to go to town twice a month, paid the land taxes, purchased the odd bit of clothing at the Salvation Army, bought a chunk of beef about once a month when I’d crave it.

The point of this story is that you too can eat that frugally...if you need to. I could do it again too, if I needed to. And in terms of health, we’d both be better off if we did.
To this list of simple, inexpensive, wholesome foods, I would have to add oatmeal or oat groats. It is hard from me to imagine life without oatmeal.

Gardening Bit #8
27 February 2009
Steve Solomon founded Territorial Seed Company. As a former seedsman he knows the seed business very well. We who are not seedsmen look through garden seed catalogs and see colorful vegetable pictures and descriptions, but Solomon looks beyond the outward appearance and judges seed businesses by their ethics.

My personal definition of ethical is “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” When it comes to the seed business, Solomon believes an ethical seed company will test the germination level of all seed lots twice a year and will cull out the weak seeds, even when it means throwing away thousands of dollars of product. I wonder how many actually do that?

Furthermore, Steve Solomon believes that an ethical seed company will conduct seed trials. That is, they will plant and grow out the seed they sell to evaluate the plants and vegetables that are produced. He contends that a minimum size for a meaningful trial ground would be half an acre. A medium-size seed company would need a few acres.

As you might imagine, properly conducted seed trials would take a a fair amount of time and work and money. And, as you might also imagine, many seed sellers do not take this part of the business seriously.

With all of that in mind, Solomon writes the following in his book:
In 1989 I wrote an article for Harrowsmith, then a brave country-lifestyle magazine. I explained the garden seed trade and evaluated and ranked mail-order companies. Why do I say “brave”? Because mail-order seed sellers made up a large portion of Harrowsmith’s advertisers, and my article offended more than a few of them. First I sent out 69 questionnaire’s on Harrowsmith’s stationery, stating that I was the ex-owner of Territorial Seed Company, that I was writing an article evaluating garden seed companies, and that I might telephone for further information after the questionnaire's answers had been received. Some of the questions were: Do you have a trials ground? If so, how large is it? Do you have your own in-house germination laboratory, even if uncertified? If so, how often do you test the seed lots on your shelves? What germination standards do you use to determine if a lot is fit to sell? What percentage (or how many) varieties in your catalog are actually grown by your company”

After eliminating those who elected not to respond (about half, which was not a surprise to me), I then removed from consideration those without trial grounds. Out of 69, only 20 were left. After a probing telephone chat with the management of these companies, I found 11 were worth recommending.
And so it was that Mr. Solomon revealed that some seed sellers operate their businesses to much higher standards than others.

“Gardening When it Counts” proceeds to list American seed companies that Solomon believes are the most ethical—which is to say, that sell seeds of the highest quality for home gardeners. I’ll name names in tomorrow’s Gardening Bit.

Gardening Bit #9
28 February 2009
If you sold vegetable seeds to people and you also sold gardening books in your seed catalog, would you sell a gardening book which evaluated and recommended a list of ethical seed sellers, and your company was not on the list? No, you would not.

And that explains why you will not find Steve Solomon's book, "Gardening When it Counts" amongst the book offerings in most seed company catalogs.

In regards to this matter, must say I admire what appears to be plucky Populism in Steve Solomon. That's the attitude of a Yeoman—someone confident and independent; not beholden to corporations or government; free and unafraid to speak the truth as he sees it. Yes, I like that in a person.

Below is a list of the American seed companies that Solomon recommends in his book. Unfortunately, he does not reveal the list of all companies he evaluated. A short commentary about each of these garden seed sellers is also in the book.

Stokes Seeds
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Harris Seeds
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Park Seed Company
Territorial Seed Company

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This concludes this "Gardening Bits" series.

I’m Going Back To Bits


My plate is full these days. The Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press Book will soon be in print (you can still buy a reduced price copy before the end of this month). I need to finish the book’s web site at www.WhizbangCider.com. I need to put a press release together and send sample copies to numerous magazines and book buyers. I will try marketing this book to several home-brew suppliers too.

Besides that, I’m cramming to bring my next Whizbang product to market before spring and good weather arrives and the garden beckons me. The new Whizbang product will be revealed in all its down-to-earth glory at www.PlanetWhizbang.com.

I am very excited about the cider book and the Planet Whizbang. Both products will enable people to provide more and better food for themselves and their families. This is particularly important as the economy worsens.

Many people are very concerned about the uncertainties of the future. The most practical advice I can offer is what I am doing myself.... Grow as much of your own food as possible. Learn to preserve the harvest. Stock up. Invest in tools that will help you achieve these goals. That productive, responsible, prudent action will benefit you and your family no matter what happens with the economy.

Personally, I foresee the possibility that I may not have a job a year from now. I’m not fretting about it, but I’m also not totally ignoring this possibility. That said, I know from past experience that it takes a long time for new products I come up with to start bringing in some money and pay for the initial investment of time and money. I’m investing a fair amount (from my relatively humble financial perspective) in the Planet Whizbang tool idea. I think a lot of gardeners will see the value of having and using the tool. Stay tuned.

With my time so short lately, and spring coming, and the subject of growing food prominently in my thinking, I’ve decided to post a series of “Little Bits.” I did this last month when I was cramming to finish my cider press book. This time will be a little different. This time I will post a series of “Gardening Bits” gleaned from one of my favorite gardening books. The Gardening Bits series begins tomorrow.

Bullwinkle Economic Solutions



The impending reality of financial collapse was clearly evident to me and plenty of other common people back in 2005 when I wrote about it on this blog and then in my book, “Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian,” (page 80):
”My guess is that a worldwide economic crisis will be a major part of the story. It is only fitting since industrialism in all its many forms is rooted in greed and the love of money.”
That impending reality is now a present reality. The conventional financial wisdom of so many “experts”—most notably those who advocated that investing in the stock market was a wise thing for people to do with their life savings—has proven to be foolish advice. The oft quoted adage that “you can not lose money in the market if you invest long term” was and is utter nonsense. It flys in the face of that boilerplate disclaimer which states, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Those amazing stock market profits were an anomaly. They were the result of “irrational exuberance.” They were founded on greed and fraud. They were a bubble that has now burst.

Remember blowing big soap bubbles when you were a kid? They float gently in the air, a delightful marvel to behold. But they eventually pop. And when a bubble pops, it’s gone. You can’t put it back together.

Back in 1999, prior to the Y2k “thing,” you could purchase a 1/10 ounce American Eagle gold bullion coin (roughly the size of a dime) for $34. A One ounce silver Eagle coin (the size of an old silver dollar) sold for seven bucks. Today on Ebay, the same 1/10 gold Eagle sells for $132 and the 1 ounce silver eagle goes for $20. Some precious metals dealers no longer sell the 1/10, 1/4, and 1/2 ounce gold Eagles because demand now exceeds supply.

It wasn’t long ago that the typical television and radio investment advisors were telling people it was unwise to invest money in precious metals. Or, at most, that only a very small percentage of their money should be in such a contrarian investment. Those who bought precious metals were thought to be ignorant and kooky.

Now I am hearing these economic advisors on the radio say that owning physical gold may be a wise move. They are saying this to the masses of people who have lost a large portion of their life savings in the stock market. That which was considered foolish a short while ago is now seen as prudent.

But actual reality has not changed. Precious metals have always been a safe store of wealth in a world of paper impostors.

I do not trust the government to do the right thing—to tell the truth—to responsibly deal with economic reality. They have shown themselves to be the actual kooks, and dangerous kooks at that. When they broke with the Constitutionally mandated gold and silver money standard in America, the government set us up for this destruction we are currently seeing.

Now the conventional wisdom is that the government must spend billions and trillions of dollars it does not have in order to reignite so-called prosperity. This is akin to trying to reassemble a soap bubble. These people appear desperately insane to me.

I happened to hear Glen Beck on the radio recently. I like Glen Beck. He had a big graph that showed the volume of paper money in circulation since 1929. The graph showed that the money supply was essentially flat for decades. When Richard Nixon severed all connections between the American dollar and gold, the money supply started to go up. Prior to Y2k is soared. After Y2k it dropped a bit. Then, starting late last year, the line of the graph spikes straight up. You can See It For Yourself Here.

If that graph is true, it represents a chilling reality coming our way. All that paper money dilutes the value of the dollar. It will likely lead to Inflation.....inflation like this country has never seen before.

Granted, I may be wrong. I’m a simple man looking at simple facts and momentous events. But the way I see it, the kind of thinking that created this debacle is now trying to fix it with more foolishness. It reminds me of the old agrarian idiom: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

Perhaps the government’s economic magicians will surprise me. Perhaps they will pull a rabbit out of their hat. Or perhaps, like Bullwinkle Moose, they’ll pull a lion out of their hat. The lion of inflation which will devour what is left of the wealth of so many Americans now shellshocked and paralyzed by their stock market losses.

Those of us who are old enough to remember Bullwinkle Moose know that he immediatly stuffed that lion back in the hat. But Bullwinkle is a cartoon. And cartoons are not reality.

How To
Properly Scald A Chicken
(My Never-Fail Technique)


Dateline: 14 February 2009


Ten years ago I started growing chickens for meat here on my little 1.5 acre homestead. I pastured them in a homemade chicken tractor on the front lawn. After they grew to harvestable size, I butchered the birds myself. The craft of killing, scalding, plucking, and eviscerating chickens was completely new to me. I remember how offensive and intimidating it was.

But after butchering nigh unto a thousand chickens over the years, I am no longer offended nor intimidated by the work of butchering. I dare say, I enjoy “processing” chickens. Besides that, it is a good feeling to know I can now do the job and do it well.

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would one day enjoy butchering chickens, I would have laughed. “Ha! That’ll never happen!” But it did. Maybe there is something wrong with me.

In any event, I have made it a point in the past few years to post several poultry processing essays here on this blog, and I have even put together a whole web site that tells (and shows) exactly How To Butcher A Chicken in ten easy steps.

That web site specifically explains how to eviscerate and cut up a chicken after it is killed and scalded and plucked. For information about what comes before that, my 11-year-old son, James, shows how it’s done HERE. (By the way, that essay has been read by more people than anything else I’ve posted here on the internet in the last four years)

Although I have discussed the matter of scalding chickens prior to plucking in other essays, I have not written specifically about this very important topic. This essay will now correct that deficiency.....

A chicken is scalded by dunking it up and down in hot water. Such action serves to loosen the feathers so the bird plucks easily.

Scalding is a matter of confusion to the neophyte chicken butcherer. I know it was to me when I was new to the whole chicken butchering “thing.” But I now know the never-fail secret to perfectly scalding a chicken. This secret is what I wish someone had communicated to me ten years ago. If you have never butchered a chicken and you want to learn how, you’re going to have it easier than I did.

Follow this simple never-fail technique and you will never under-scald a chicken (and have a hassle getting the bird plucked), and you will never over-scald a chicken (and end up with torn skin or cooked flesh).

This technique will easily render the kind of scald that allowed World Champion chicken plucker, Ernest Hausen of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, to hand-pluck a chicken in 4.4 seconds (back in 1939). It is the kind of scald that will allow you to Whizbang-Pluck several birds at once in about 15 seconds.

First, you will need a thermometer of some sort to measure the temperature of your scald water.

Second, you will need a pot full of water that you can heat up and dunk your chicken into. I have used a turkey fryer pot over a propane burner. There are people who scald in a pot heated by a wood fire. Either approach will work.

Heat your scalding water up to between 145 and 150 degrees. I know people who say 148 degrees is best. Others say they successfully scald in water up to 155 degrees. I do not necessarily disagree with either of those claims. The important thing to understand about water temperature is that you do not need an exact temperature in order to get an exact scald. But you need to be in an optimum temperature range. Shoot for 145 to 150 degrees and you will be in the optimum range. In time, you may find that a little cooler or a little hotter is more to your personal liking.

When your water temperature is within the optimal range, hold your bird (or birds... you can dunk two at a time with one hand) by the feet and dunk it down into the hot water. Make sure you dunk the critter in far enough to wet the smallest feathers on the bottom of the legs, just above the feet.

Hold the bird under the water for maybe three seconds and give it a vigorous little up and down jiggle. The jiggle action helps to get hot water to the base of the feathers. Then pull the chicken out momentarily before dunking, jiggling, and removing it again.

After a couple of dunks like this, you need to perform a feather pull test. This test is performed by selecting one large wing or tail feather and pulling it. When you do the feather pull test and the feather slides out with no resistance, the bird is scalded to perfection.

Chances are you will need to dunk the bird more than two times. You may need to dunk it four times, or six times, or more. I don’t know how many times you will need to dunk your bird. There is no magic number.

The important thing is that you repeatedly dunk the bird, and each time you remove it from the water, you give a pull on one of those big feathers. Make sure it is only one feather, and when it slides out with absolutely no resistance, the bird is ready to pluck.

Now you know how to easily scald a chicken to feather-pickin’ perfection. Now you know the secret.

I can tell you this technique also works on turkeys. Ducks and geese are, however, birds of a different feather. Though I have never personally scalded and plucked a duck or goose, I understand that the same technique will work at the same temperature range. But the bird will need to stay under the water much longer.


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If you are processing A LOT of chickens, check out my essay titled, "Introducing My Deluxe Automatic Chicken Scalder
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You can find links to all my poultry processing essays here: Herrick’s Poultry Essays Archive



(I can't say for sure, but this woman might be Ernest Hausen's wife scalding a chicken for him to pluck back in 1939)

Seed Company Blues



This Just In!!!

I ordered something from Pinetree Garden Seeds two weeks ago. It was something very simple that could be sent in an envelope. I haven’t received it yet, so I called the company.

The woman on the phone was nice but she sounded tired. I asked her about my order. She said they haven’t gotten to that day yet, meaning the day two weeks ago that I placed my order. In other words, they are more than two weeks behind filling orders.

I asked if things were busier than they normally are at this time of year. She said business is up 30% from last year. She said they just hired nine new people and they are working longer hours.

Clearly, a lot more people in America are taking gardening seriously.

If you have not yet ordered your seeds for this year, I suggest you do so soon.

The First Time
My Grandmother Died

Dateline: 12 February 2009

I once heard the testimony of a man who was in an airplane crash. The plane caught on fire. The man got out of his seat and, with flames all about, made his way through the fuselage and out to safety. Others were severely burned. Others died. He walked through the fire and was unharmed. The man gave God the glory for preserving his life.

Such a story is a remarkable example of God’s protection over one of His own. It doesn’t always happen that way. So often, people die or are horribly hurt. But God is sovereign. He is capable of preserving a person’s life or of taking it any way that suits His plan and purposes. It’s His prerogative. The good news it that, no matter what, God promises to be there for those who are His in our times of trouble.

Miracles of protection, deliverance, and healing, against all odds, are certainly not unusual with God. They are common in the Bible. They have been common throughout the ages. They are common today. God’s mercy in the face of dangerous events has been manifest towards well-known figures in the history of the world. And His delivering mercy has extended to countless common, obscure, quiet, unheard of people who never wrote a book or gave a speech, or were interviewed on the radio about their experience. All of which brings me to my grandmother, Gertrude Lang Philbrick.

She was my mother’s mother. Her grandmother was my Great, Great Grandmother, Josephine Jordan. Gertrude was the wife of a potato farmer. She lived in northern Maine her whole life except for a few final years when she was moved to Tennessee and cared for by a daughter.

My Grammie Philbrick was a woman of faith. I have written of her once before in this essay: The Cherished Letter. In this essay, I'm going to tell you about a rare and special event that happened in my grandmother's life a long time ago. I know about this because my grandmother wrote it down. With the passing of my mother and the acquisition of her personal parers, I now have a copy of the story.

This story is a recollection of an event that happened in my grandmother’s life in 1934. She wrote about it in 1987. At that time she was 85 years old, living alone in an apartment in Blaine, Maine, just down the road from the Baptist church she attended. One daughter lived a few miles away and was there for her if she needed anything. All the rest of her children had moved far from Northern Maine and the farm life they were born into.

What prompted my grandmother to put this experience into words so late in her life? The answer is in a letter to my mother, which was included with the story. Here is what my grandmother wrote:
I’ve thought of this many times during the years and have tried to tell a few—but I felt the ones I told would look as if they thought “I was haywire.” Now I believe God is nudging me to tell. Herrick’s clippings are great. God bless him. God is using him, I’m sure.
It turns out that my writings were the inspiration for my grandmother to put her story into words. As you might imagine, I got a lump in my throat when I read that. The clippings my grandmother spoke of were probably letters to the editor of a local newspaper. That was the beginning of my "career" as a writer. Some of the editorials were fairly long and published as “guest editorials.” My mother must have sent the clippings to her mother. That was 22 years ago. I was 29 years old.

Here is a picture of my grandmother’s handwritten story:


And here is the text of my grandmother’s story, which is a testimony of the Lord’s working in her life in a miraculous way. It was a story for her family. Never would she have imagined that this little story of amazing grace, wrought by the hand of God in the life of a humble farm wife, would be published today on this thing called the internet, where it is likely that hundreds, if not thousands, will read it.


Amazing Grace!

53 years ago this coming fall, as usual, the farmers were hurrying to harvest their potatoes before the freezeup. We had two hired men besides our family of 8 children ranging in age from 10 months to 11 years.

In the midst of all this didn’t I get the assurance that something was amiss with me? I had no pain but when I moved a certain way, I knew I had trouble. My husband said:”You know how you feel so make an appointment and get to see a Dr.”

Instead of calling our family Dr. in Fort Fairfield, I called Dr. Summerville in Mars Hill. I had no reason for doing this, but I’m sure God did. Dr. S. didn’t know me or I him but he told me to come down in 4 days from then, at 7:30 A.M.

“Good—that’s taken care of! Now I have to get ready to leave in 4 days.” Feeling fit and able I went for it: cooking three meals a day, washing, churning, cream separator, cleaning, baths, shampoos, etc. on and on and on. Strange to think of it: I was feeling “on top of the world” and “free as a lark.”

In those 4 days I can not recall that I set down to the table to eat one meal. I didn’t have time. I would grab a swallow of milk and a bite of this or that on the run. All this time I was praying on the run (not on my knees) “Oh God, please bring me back to my children.”

The morning of the 4th day arrived and the last thing before leaving I was making beds. The two little ones slept in cribs. Jean was in the habit of getting uncovered, so I was taking extra precautions to tuck the covers in so she wouldn’t get cold and was asking God to keep her covered and warm. Therefore Jean was on my mind when I left.

Anyway, I arrived at Mrs. Long’s home‚ the only hospital Mars Hill had at the time, Dr S. and Mrs. Long met me in her kitchen and started asking questions that I couldn’t answer except that I knew something was wrong. Poor Dr. S.—he must of thought: “What is this I have on my hands?” I told him about my children and how I wanted to get back to them.

Dr. S. finally decided I wasn’t “putting on” and said, “Well there could be one of several things, so, we’ll have to go in and take a look.”

The next thing I remember: Mrs. Long was on one side of whatever I was lying on and Dr. S. on the other begging me to breathe—breathe—breathe. I thought, “Why don’t they leave me alone—I feel so good and I’m not going to breathe!!” Right then Jean’s little face came up in space and a male voice said, “You have to breathe for her!” I started breathing and have been breathing ever since.

From there I must have slept 5 or 6 hours as when I awoke Dr. S. was sitting at the head of my bed wanting to talk. He said, “I want you to know what almost happened to you. When I started to make the incision, you started hemmoraging—the blood and matter went all over Mrs. Long and me and the room. I thought I’d lost you. The blood was so much that I couldn’t see a thing. Then I thought of what you had told me about your children and wanting to get back to them and I thought I’ve got to save her. It was all by touch! Before this you failed to breathe and I thought you weren't going to start!”

Dr. S. didn’t say, but you and I know that God was guiding his hand all the way—also his mind.

Oh Lord my God How Great Thou Art!


In the letter with the story, my grandmother wrote: “I want to tell this to all my children while I’m able, so that you will all realize how close God can be. You see, I wasn’t really doing anything—God had taken it all over. I think the male voice must have been the Holy Spirit.”



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My mother traveled to Tennessee to visit her "Mum" in August of 1999. By then Gertrude was in a nursing home and not well. I remember my mother telling me that she prayed with her unresponsive mother. She told her she loved her and that it was okay for her to go. Shortly thereafter, on September 6, 1999, sixty-five years after she died the first time—and didn't want to come back—Gertrude Lang Philbrick died again.

This story, giving glory to God, is a part of my grandmother's legacy.

Maintaining A 34" Washtub


One evening not long ago, my son Robert told me that he had not eaten any sugar all day long. He had intentionally avoided eating sweets. This is something new for him.

I was kind of surprised and pleased and asked why exactly he had decided to abstain from sugar. “It’s not good for you,” he replied.

Well, we all know that and I personally make a point of avoiding most all foods containing refined white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I have eschewed white sugar since high school, with varying degrees of conviction over the years.

Robert further informed me that he was on a diet, which surprised me because the boy is not overweight. It turns out that he is trying to “get in shape.” He further told me his objective was a “washboard” stomach and he is doing some sort of military workout that will give him the defined abdomen of his dreams. The workout stresses that refined sugars must be avoided.

My son is a chip off the old block. I think most 17-year-old boys are inclined to want to be in better shape, no matter how fit they are, and I was no exception. I was highly focused on fitness in my teens. I never played organized sports but I was into fitness. I told Robert that I had a washboard stomach when I was younger. But now, 30-some-odd years later, my washboard stomach has swollen into a washtub stomach.

Having just turned 51 years old, I am now fighting the Battle of The Washtub Gut.

I weighed 145 pounds and I think I had a 30 inch waistline when I got married at 22 years old. Now I am up over 185 pounds and my waistline is pushing 35. But my jeans are all 34 inches. I have determined that I will NOT buy jeans with a 35 inch waist. I will hold the line at 34.”

I used to work physically every day as a carpenter and remodeler. I did that for over 20 years. Then I got a supervisor job in a factory nine years ago. It is a sedentary job. In the winter months, I get home from work, sit at my computer, and write a book, or this blog, and do not get the consistent physical activity every healthy body really needs. It's a wonder the ol' washtub isn't even bigger.

If I can maintain the 34” washtub until spring, I’ll have garden work to do. Then I’ll be doing the kind of work this body was made to do. It's the kind of work that keeps a body trim and healthy. I always feel healthier when I’m working in my garden. I'm anxious to get back to the garden. I need the garden.

I am ready for spring.

William Clifton Kimball’s Story


Since I began blogging here almost four years ago, I have learned a lot about my family history that I never knew before. Kin from branches of my family have found me after reading essays I’ve written here, like What My Grandmother Did For Me.

My heritage is largely Scotch & Irish and, as I noted in my essay, My Puritan Roots, English. It was a real delight a couple years ago to receive the gift of a Kimball family history book from my newfound Canadian cousin, Reg Kimball, that was compiled and published by his brother Carroll.

All my life I have known my kin to be from Northern Maine but it turns out that the roots and branches of Kimball and Philbrick (my mother’s maiden surname) family trees crisscross back and forth between Maine and Canada.

Most recently is was my pleasure to hear from a hitherto unknown cousin, Donna, who lives in British Columbia, and sent me the picture above of our common relation, William Clifton Kimball. Donna received the photo from her Aunt Kathleen who is now 96 years old.

William Clifton Kimball was Donna’s great grandfather and he was the brother of my great grandfather, Leverett Gaylon Kimball (who I wrote about HERE). What that means is that Donna’s grandfather, Wendell Lee Kimball, and my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C. Kimball, were first cousins. And if I’m looking at this right, that would make my father, Dr. Philip R. Kimball and Donna’s father, Harry Lee Kimball, second cousins. And so Donna and me are third cousins. (someone set me straight if I’ve got this cousin thing wrong).

As an aside, I would like to note that the father of Leverett and William was Jedediah Kimball of New Brunswick. Great, great “Grandpa Jed” died of a heart attack at 70 years of age, in 1892. He had no will. His widow, Eliza, made an application to the probate court that states in part, “...Jedediah Kimball, late of the Parish of Wakefield, in the county of Carelton, aforesaid, Yeoman, departed his life on or about....”

That little quotation out of an obscure legal document is of particular interest to me because I have long had a real respect for Yeomen of the past. In fact I’ve written of them in my Deliberate Agrarian book (see sidebar at right) and in blog essays here. Now, lo and behold, I’ve discovered that I am the descendent of a bona fide Yeoman (and there were many others). I have the DNA of Yeomen in me. Now it all makes sense.

There is a story about William Clifton Kimball but before I tell it, I need to introduce you to William’s wife, Bertha Jane. Here’s a picture of Bertha:

Bertha Jane was born in Blissville, New Brunswick, Canada in 1855. William was born in Jacksontown, Carleton County, Canada, in 1853. They had three children. According to cousin Donna, “William farmed sugarbush and potatoes” as did his brother Bird (Burdon Hannibal Kimball) and Lev (Leverett, my great grandfather). Both brothers had left Canada and settled in Fort Fairfield, Maine, which is where both my parents are from.

That old picture of William shows a healthy, handsome young man. I particularly like his tousled hair. Was that the style of the time? Or was that an insight into William’s character? I have studied the picture of William, trying to find features common to the both of us. I think it may be the forehead. My son James says it's the definately the chin and ears. My son Robert says it's the eyebrows. Marlene says that my hair flips up like that sometimes. If my grandmother were still alive, she would be able to tell me for sure. Grandmothers are good at that sort of thing.

William and Bertha Jane both endured significant hardship in their lives. Bertha lost a leg to gangrene when she was eight years old. William died of Tuberculosis when he was only 37. He left his farm to his son, Wendell Lee (Donna’s grandfather) and Bertha lived there until she died at 96 years of age in 1951.

Donna’s Aunt Kathleen (the woman from whom these pictures came) grew up with her grandmother Bertha in the house and called her “Oldie.” Bertha related to Kathleen that “William was so sick with TB that she had to tie him to the plow lest he fall over whilst she led the horse through the fields.”

Imagine that.

Of that recollection, cousin Donna wrote me the following: “What a poignant picture that conveys, a dying man plowing a field, led by a young woman with only one leg! One has to admire the strength and determination of these people. Life was truly hard and if one did not work, one starved.”

So there is the story of William Clifton Kimball

It is difficult for people of this day and age to fully comprehend stories like that. There were few conveniences in the rural frontier of the late 1800s. That must have been tough. But there was no graduated state and federal income tax either. That must have been nice. For more complete historical and cultural perspective, I invite you to read the introduction to my blog, Diary of an 1892 Farmer’s Wife.

Was Jesus An Agrarian?


My sheep HEAR My voice, and I KNOW them, and they FOLLOW Me.
(John 10:27)

In my previous blog, Delmar Ain’t So Stupid, I wrote about the “dominion mandate” given by God in Genesis, and I explained that this was clearly an agrarian mandate to work the land, and care for it responsibly. All of creation shows God’s glory. We glorify Him when we choose to live within the paradigm of the mandate and work the land as co-creators with God. I am persuaded that this is the proper undergirding paradigm for living the Christian life.

For the record, I should make it clear that I do not believe for a second that agrarianism is the primary focus of Christianity. There is much, much more to the Christian life than choosing to live and work within the agrarian framework. But for Christians to ignore this aspect is a serious mistake.

Agrarianism is antithetical to the dominant “worldly” industrial system. Christians are called by God to come out of this system. Yet most modern Christians love the world and are dependent on the industrial providers and want nothing to do with the simplicity and humility and hardship that comes with living their lives and raising their families within the paradigm of the dominion mandate, as it is properly understood.

In response to my previous blog essay a person asked this question:

Was Jesus an agrarian?

I must say that I have never considered this question before. It got me to thinking. And I have concluded the following...

I would not consider Jesus Christ to have been an agrarian. Likewise, I would not consider Him to be a Christian. Other names for Jesus come to my mind and are appropriate:

My Lord and my God
King of kings
Saviour
Son of God
Redeemer
Master
Lamb of God
Messiah
Alpha & Omega
Prince of peace
Chief cornerstone
Bridegroom
Deliverer
Horn of Salvation
Light of the world
The one mediator between God and man
Lion of the tribe of Judah
Shepherd

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
(John 10:11)

There are other names for Jesus in the Bible.

But, no, I would not call him an “agrarian.”

Having said that, I would like to also point out that I would not call God the Father an agrarian either, but it was He who planted the first garden:

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden
(Genesis 2:8)

When Jesus was born, the Bible says that Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Most moderns don’t really know what a manger is. I didn’t know until I worked on a farm as a teenager. A manger is an animal feed box, typically found in a barn. He was born in an agrarian setting.

Jesus did not grow up in a city. He grew up within an agrarian culture, working with his hands, and with his father, learning to build with wood. It is probable that this family had animals and grew some of their own food. He was familiar with the cycles of sowing and reaping, with vineyards, and with sheep and shepherds and fishermen. As far as we know, Jesus lived and worked quietly within this paradigm for something like thirty years before he left to begin his ministry. This agrarian culture was a type of incubator that helped prepare Christ for the redeeming work he came to do. Later, when Jesus began his ministry, he taught his disciples using many agrarian parables, simple in the telling, but of deep spiritual significance.

People of that day did not use the word “agrarian” but for Christians living today within an industrialized culture, trying to understand how Christianity should be properly lived, agrarianism is an appropriate word. It is the opposite of apostate Industrialism.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, summed it up nicely:

”Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12


Delmar Ain't So Stupid



I recently had occasion to watch that movie, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” Chances are you have seen it. It is a popular movie with a famous actor named George Clooney. Him and two other men play the role of hapless, comically stupid convicts who have escaped from a chain gang in the Depression-era South. They play their roles so well that I’m sure these men must be stupid in real life.

The three escapees are in pursuit of a 1.2 million dollar treasure. Meanwhile, the law is continually on their trail.

On the one hand, this is a clever and funny movie. Like I said, the actors play their roles well and are endearing characters. And there is a lot of great, down-to-earth southern music in the soundtrack, much of it Christian.

But the movie was profoundly disappointing to me because Christianity was repeatedly made fun of. In fact, That seemed to be the focus of the whole movie. Sin is celebrated while salvation is mocked. Christianity is twisted and misconstrued. Southern culture is also misconstrued and mocked. And there is a steady stream of cussing.

But there is one notable part of this movie. Most viewers wouldn’t give this part of the movie a whole lot of thought. It could be that I am the only person in the world who has watched this movie and extrapolated from this scene what I am about to tell you...

The three stupid convicts are relaxing around a campfire at night. They are in a reflective mood, looking less like imbeciles and almost like normal humans in the light of the fire. One of the three asks the man named Delmar (Delmar O'Donnell) what he is going to do with his $400,000 share of the treasure when he gets it.

Delmar is the one in the middle of the picture at the top of this blog. He is portrayed as the dumbest of the three throughout the movie. But Delmar is clearly the smartest. It is, after all, Delmar who understands more than the others that he is a sinner in need of salvation. In one scene of the movie, Delmar runs, without hesitation, eagerly into the river, ahead of a long line of white-robed faithful, to get himself baptized.

But it is the scene around the camp fire when Delmar reveals what he will do with his treasure money that provides some real insight into Delmar. Here is what he says, as he lays on the ground, in the dancing firelight, staring off into the darkness:

”I’m gonna visit those foreclosing son-of-a-guns at the Indianola Savings & Loan, slap that money on the barrelhead and buy back the family farm. You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land”

That phrase, You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land, has been running through my mind. Does land, the acquisition of it, and the implied working of that land, make a man more of a man than those men who never own land and/or never work the land?

My first thought was, no, of course not. A man doesn’t need land to be a man; to know the fullness of manhood. But then I thought again....

God created Adam and showed him how to plant a garden and then entrusted the garden to him. God told Adam to care for it. That was the work that God gave man to do. And then, out of Adam’s side, he created the woman to help Adam in his work. Could Adam, the first man, the model man, have fulfilled his calling without land? Not for a second. The land, the garden, tending it, that was an integral part of what it meant to be a man... to be God's man.

God calls man to exercise “dominion” in Genesis. Dominion is another word for responsible stewardship of the land and all of creation. That is the fundamental corporate calling of all mankind. It is a clear agrarian mandate.

A mandate is "an authoritative command or instruction". Agrarian means "relating to or concerning the land and it’s ownership, cultivation, and tenure." Tenure is "the fact or condition of holding something, as real estate," which is to say, the condition of owning or being responsible for..... land.

You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land

After the flood of Noah’s day, the agrarian mandate was still in effect. In Genesis 9:20 we find that Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard. “Husbandman” is an old word typically applied to farmers who practice “husbandry,” which is “the cultivation of crops and the breeding and raising of livestock; agriculture.” Another dictionary definition of husbandry is “good, careful management of resources; economy.” Therefore, husbandry is the responsible stewardship of the land. It is the dominion mandate. It is the agrarian mandate. It is all the same. It is part of what men were created to do.

I can find no place in scripture where this first, fundamental, undergirding agrarian calling for man is revoked or altered by God. If it is, someone please tell me. And if it isn’t, then Christianity, and Christian men, have strayed from God’s calling. They have been seduced and waylaid by the Industrial Siren (“siren: deceitful, seductive woman, temptress”).

You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land

Please understand that Noah, a man who lived a life of obedience to God, did not construct a city, which is an anti-agrarian culture of landless men. Please note that obedient Abraham chose the agrarian life while his disobedient nephew, Lot, chose to live in the city. Please note that God delivered His people out of a centralized, urbanized Egyptian culture (where they were enslaved) and brought them to the fertile, productive land of Canaan. In order to be the men of God that they were created to be, in order to fulfill their corporate calling, those men needed land.

You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land

The earth, the land, all of creation, was made to display God’s glory and men were put in the midst to glorify their creator-God by being co-creators with Him through the work of planting and tending the land. By making it fruitful. By making it beautiful. By drawing sustenance from it. All for the glory of God. All in accordance to His plan and calling. When men veer away from this God-ordained purpose, they miss something vitally important.

Our industrial culture draws men away from the land and their God-ordained purpose. Modern industrialism sees the land and creation only as something to exploit for maximum profit. The concept of Biblical husbandry is a joke to the industrial mindset. Industrialism says: “Forget the land. Let us join together to organize the means of production and increase our "standards of living." Our purpose is to pursue personal pleasure, ease, and fulfillment within in the urban/industrial paradigm. The acquisition of money and power and prestige is what men were made for. Possessions make the man. You were created to make money. The land is only important if you can use it to extract wealth to feed your temporal pleasures.”

And so we live in a world where men who build personal empires of wealth and prestige are exalted as examples of success. Men who can hit or throw or kick a ball with skill and accuracy are heroes. Men who have well sculpted muscles and great physical strength from mindless exercising and vain bodybuilding are looked upon as "real men." It is all a perversion of truth.

I’m more impressed by a man who can cultivate and hill up a patch of potatoes, with a simple hoe, in the hot sun, than I am by any Olympic athlete.

I’m more impressed by a man who can grow gorgeous tomatoes, and is married to a plain woman who can make a good meal with those tomatoes, than I am with a man of the world who has a gorgeous “trophy” wife that can’t cook anything unless it comes already half prepared from a supermarket.

I’m more impressed with a resourceful, self-reliant man who knows how to use his hands and his mind to build and craft and fix all kinds of things for himself and his family than I am by a man who knows only how to do one or two specialized things in a factory or a cubicle.

I’m more impressed with a simple man who can teach his children well, than I am with a highly educated and credentialed professor who teaches at a great university.

I’m more impressed with a man who focuses his life on caring for and responsibly managing his family, a section of land, and his livestock than I am a man who can manage a fortune 500 company.

I’m more impressed by a man who drives a 15-year-old common vehicle that he knowingly maintains himself than I am with a man who drives an expensive, fancy, new car and can’t even change his own oil or a flat tire.

I’m more impressed with a man who lives simply and within his means, “owing no other man” than I am with a man who “has it all” and is wallowing in financial debt.

I’m more impressed with a man who has work-swollen, callused hands and tattered work clothes than I am a man having soft hands and carefully trimmed fingernails, wearing a tailored suit.

All of these characteristics; these things that impress me, are common to men of the land—men who live and work close to creation. Men of the land are self reliant. They are not helpless in the world, not entirely dependent on the industrial providers for their every need. Theirs is no pseudo manhood. It is a full and difficult and rewarding manhood. Men and land and the work and hardship of working in the land go together. They were made for each other.

A Biblical worldview that ignores the agrarian mandate is unbalanced. Modern Christianity that eschews its fundamental agrarian responsibility is missing the mark. Christian men who neglect their call to be husbandmen are neglecting their responsibility as men of God.

It’s all as clear to me as a sunny day in May.

Thank you, Delmar O’Donnell.

Fifty One & Done



I’ve made one more revolution around the sun. The last day of January was my last day as a fifty year old. Marlene made a nice dinner. Instead of a birthday cake, I enjoyed a brownie with ice cream and a bunch of candles on it, as you can see in the picture.

I won’t cry on your shoulder about getting old. I think I may have done that last year. I’m a blessed man, and I’m very thankful to the Lord. He is the source of my blessings. They all come from Him, and they are all undeserved. I don’t think a day goes by that I do not count my blessings and thank God for them.

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This blog is but one blessing for me. I have an opportunity to share with so many about my Christian faith, my family, and the agrarian “good life” we experience on our little patch of rural earth.

And I get such nice letters from so many readers. You tell me how you are blessed by the ruminations of this Deliberate Agrarian. Isn’t it nice how the blessings flow both ways? Yes it is.

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I bought myself a birthday present... back in December... and I’m still waiting for it. I had hoped to have it for my birthday. Now I expect to get it sometime this month.

It is not an unusual item but it is a very unusual item for me to buy myself. Perhaps it is indicative of a mid life crisis.

I ran the purchase by Marlene to get her approval. She raised her eyebrows and uttered a little laugh. I proceeded to justify my purchase. She said she had nothing against it. She was just surprised. So are my kids. So am I.

“How much?” Marlene asked me. I told her. She raised her eyebrows again. I started to justify myself again. She told me it was okay. “Go ahead and get it if you really want it,” she said. She's humoring me. (it isn't really that expensive. It's just an unusual extravagance, at least in this family)

So I ordered it. I put money down. It is being made for me by a craftsman in Virginia. That’s all I can say for now. If/when I get it, I will tell you about it and show you a picture.

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My birthday and my mysterious birthday present are not the really big news around here. The really big news is that I have finished my book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder And Cider Press. I handed it off to the printer day before yesterday... forty-eight pieces of paper, carefully wrapped in a protective sleeve of cardboard, bound and tied with a length of sisal twine, the culmination of several hundred hours of focus and determination.

My self-imposed goal was to have the manuscript done by the first of February and, by the grace of God, I was able to do that. I was encouraged to meet that goal by the faith and trust of so many people who have pre-purchased a copy of the book. I’m pretty sure I’ve pre-sold more copies of this book than any of my previous books. That is a good sign; another blessing.

I gave the pages of my new book a final look before bundling them up for the printer. As I did so, I thought to myself that putting a plan book together is such a big task, and it was such a big relief to have that part finally done. I also thought to myself that people should like this new book. It delivers. The subtitle is: Simple Plans For A Remarkably Productive Home-Scale Cidermaking System.

I have purchased the domain name, www.WhizbangCider.com. You can go there now and learn about the book. You can also pre-purchase a copy at a significant discount until the end of this month (February 2009).

By the way, I asked my printer to try and have the book done by the first of March. He thought that would work out. Stay tuned.

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Now I will move on to my next Whizbang project. First, I intend to provide HDPE cider press tub hoops, precut and pre-drilled, complete with stainless steel screws. These will make the job of assembling the pressing tub very easy. And I expect to also provide drain rack kits, ready to assemble. More cider products may be added in time. Photos and details will be posted to www.WhizbangCider.com when they are available.

Then there is the matter of my next Whizbang product. I will introduce you to it sometime this month. It is an ambitious endeavor for me to launch this idea with my little home shop, working part time. It will be my most ambitious project to date. I hope I can get it together by spring time. If not, it may have to wait until next spring. But I will reveal it this month. If you are serious about growing food, you will want this new Whizbang “Mystery tool.”

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Perhaps I’ll just have to retire. Retire at 51 years old, from the factory job. Not so I can relax... so I can work at least twice as hard as I now do, at something I really enjoy. It’d be a Whizbang retirement. Hey, you never know. Things like that sometimes happen.

Well, I think that’s enough mystery and suspense and daydreaming for one blog.