Looking Back on May 2010
This farmer is working hard, making his hay while the sun shines.
I am busy. Incredibly busy. I’m putting tremendous effort into keeping up with the multiple demands of my mail-order home business, Whizbang Books. Making parts, keeping inventory in stock, filling orders, and trying to answer e-mail questions. I have never been this busy with this business before. I am close to overwhelmed.
The Lovely Marlene helps me by getting postage on the orders and in other important ways. For example, she keeps me fed, runs errands, and is spending a lot of time helping to care for my aged and very sick stepfather. So she is busy too.
Our boys are active teenagers, less inclined to help dad and more inclined to help other men—one is doing construction and remodeling work full time and the other works on two different farms. I see this as a good thing. They are learning skills, being productive, stepping toward independence. That is what I want for my sons. I couldn’t be more pleased.
If I really need them, they are there for me. Otherwise, I plod along. In time, one or more of my boys will, I believe, see the value of getting more involved in their father’s business. They could take it over. I would like that. In the meantime, this once-little enterprise is, as I’ve mentioned, something of a challenge to stay on top of. But I relish the challenge.
Deliberate Agrarian HaikuLast month I posted a short poem that I wrote. It was about my head resembling a scrub brush. I like short poetry. So haiku is perfect for me. The rules are simple: Only three lines. Five syllables in the first. Seven syllables in the second. Five syllables in the third. No rhyming. That’s it. Here are four haiku poems I wrote in May. They aren’t profound. They’re just fun. And short.
Spring in my garden.
Hope and faith join the dark soil,
As I plant small seeds.
A hot summer day.
Mud oozes up between toes,
Swimming in the pond.
Fresh green timothy.Stiff stalk stuck between my teeth.
Big smile on my face.
Seeing as haiku poetry is so simple and can be so fun, I've decided to have a Deliberate Agrarian Haiku Contest. The contest details will be announced in next month's Update here. There will be age categories. There will be winners. There will be prizes.
Summer Haiku Poetry Contest
Mother made a pie.
Fresh strawberries and rhubarb.
Summer Haiku Poetry Contest
You can start thinking about (and even writing) your haiku poetry now, to officially submit later. The haiku poems you submit must be original. They must celebrate the beauty of simple, agrarian life and culture in some way. Gardening, farming, farm animals, the natural world, and the joys of family life lived in close harmony in a rural setting are all possible themes. Poems that evoke fond memories of cherished rural rites (old and new) are good. My examples of haiku poetry above give you something of an idea what I'm looking for. I'm sure you get the idea.
Amy’s Lasik Surgery
I have worn glasses since fifth grade, when the teacher realized I could not see the blackboard. I have never seriously considered getting Lasik surgery, and after reading of Amy Scott’s experience, I never will. She is now blind in one eye, and this is a must-read blog essay. God bless you, Amy.
The Difference Between Men and Boys
(Creating and Consuming)
Have you heard of the Art of Manliness? It is a book and a blog, authored by Brett & Kate McKay. Though silly in places, the blog is excellent in so many ways. For example, a recent essay titled Modern Maturity: Create More, Consume Less presents some thoughtful insights. Here are some excerpts:
Here we have a traditional man doing manly work.
He is a capable, creative, active man.
This man is to be admired.
"Boys try to find themselves in what they buy; men find themselves in what they do. Boys base their identity on what they consume; men base their identity on what they create."
"Men have an inherent desire to be creators, to change the landscape, to turn wood into furniture, to transform a blank canvas into a work of art-to alter the world and leave a legacy. It’s the denial of this aspect of manliness that is perhaps most plaguing modern men. Young men are taught to think of life past 30 as a certain death, a time when they have to stop being selfish and live for others. The paradox that’s never talked about is that consuming is the real dead end when it comes to happiness. Your mind gets caught in an fruitless cycle-new experiences initially give you intense pleasure, but the more you consume of it, the more saturated your pleasure sensors become until you have to ratchet up the intensity and quantity of the experience to get the same “high” you used to. And the cycle endlessly continues.
But when you create instead of consume, your capacity for pleasure increases, as opposed to your need for it. Being a creator gives you a far more lasting and deeply satisfying happiness than consuming ever will."
Here we have a modern man amusing himself with cheap
thrills and vicarious virtual accomplishments.
This is an immature, helpless man. This man is to be pitied.
thrills and vicarious virtual accomplishments.
This is an immature, helpless man. This man is to be pitied.
"The reason I frequently mention video games in connection with the problem of arrested manhood, is not the games themselves, but what they symbolize.
Whereas men once fought as soldiers, they now pretend to be ones. Where men used to play baseball and football, they now control avatars who play for them. Where men used to play an instrument, they now press buttons on a plastic toy. Where we once created, we now consume.
Why play a plastic guitar for hours instead of learning how to play the real thing? The answer of course it that doing the real thing is harder. Struggling with something tangible, something without a reset button takes dedication and commitment. So why bother?
The labor one performs transforms something in the environment, which in turn transforms you. The act of creation shapes you as a man, refines your sensibilities, improves your strengths, hones your concentration, and builds your character.
Creating can take many forms. The traditional ones are still some of the best: creating in your job, creating a life of love with your spouse and friends, and creating children. But there are other ways to create as well. Service to your community. Hobbies like gardening, blacksmithing, art, and music. Inventing, writing, blogging, political participation. Creating experiences for other people. Creating a spiritual life. And simply creating your character every day."You can find your way to the article from which I’ve quoted at this link: Modern Maturity: Create More, Consume Less. And while you are there, I’m sure you will want to check out the rest of the web site.
Notes From The Garden
In the midst of unprecedented demands on my time, Marlene and I are managing to get the garden planted. She has nurtured lots of seedlings on the windowsill and then outside in a Whizbang Garden Cart, covered with clear plastic (a makeshift greenhouse).
We are eating spinach salads every day. Just-picked spinach leaves with walnuts, sunflower seeds, onion slices, strawberry slices, and dried cranberries. Drizzled on top is a simple dressing mix consisting of 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds. This is the kind of food we love.
I planted a patch of Winter Bloomsdale spinach and a patch of Space spinach. The Space (a hybrid from Johnny’s Seeds) is far and away the superior spinach. The Bloomsdale looks sickly in comparison to the lush Space. Both varieties were planted in the same soil at the same time, ten feet apart from each other, in the same wide-row bed.
I planted two rows of Alderman pea seeds in early spring when I planted the spinach and not a single seed germinated. These were new seeds from Territorial Seed Co. Very disappointing. I had visions of a full trellis of sweet shelling peas and .... nothing.
The Scarlet Nantes carrots and Early Wonder Tall Top beets (pictured above) that I planted in the early spring are doing very well. They survived a severe spring killing frost in late spring.
My hops plant, which I chronicled the growth of with pictures here last summer, has come up. It was sprawling across the ground in all directions. I pruned it and directed it up the strings of the trellis framework I made last year and it is growing just fine. The fastest tendril has already wound it's way around the trellis string 8 feet in the air.
Gazing upon my climbing hops plant, I mentioned to Marlene that Maybe I should start a grove of hops. I could sell the dried husks (or whatever you call them) on Ebay. She informed me that I have plenty to do already. Which made me think that I am much like a hops plant, wanting to sprawl out in a dozen different directions, and my wife is making sure I stay on course.
When I was little, and my parents had a garden in the back yard, I helped with the planting and weeding and harvesting. Back then I remember thinking, as I was working in the garden, that I couldn’t wait to get done so I could go do something that was more fun. Now, I find myself doing other work and thinking that I can’t wait to get done so I can go work in my garden, which I consider to be one of the "funnest" things in life.
I take my time, planting, weeding, thinning, and totally enjoying the process. To my way of thinking, it just doesn’t get much better than working in the garden.
Marlene uses olive oil almost exclusively when cooking and baking. She buys it at a Greek store in Syracuse, NY called Samir’s Imported Foods. She says the store is little and packed full, with narrow aisles and barrels of different kinds of olives (strong smelling). There are dates and figs, glass jars of nuts, and other Mediterranean foods. She buys several gallons at a time of the inexpensive, low-grade olive oil to use in her homemade soaps. But for us to eat, she buys a much higher grade of olive oil.
If you want to know what makes for a good olive oil, ask a Greek grocer. As you might expect, he will tell you that Greek olive oil is far better than olive oil from Italy or Spain. Besides that, there are three things that you need to look for. First, it needs to be “Extra Virgin.” Second, it should say “First Cold Pressing.” Third, it should have low acidity.
The sooner the olives are pressed after picking, the lower the acidity. The lower the acidity, the smoother the flavor. Higher acidity olive oils are bitter. “You can feel it in your throat,” the grocer says as he pinches the skin over his Adam’s apple between thumb and forefinger and tugs repeatedly.
Many olive oils do not list the acidity. But some do. The olive oil that Marlene buys (on the recommendation of the Greek grocer) says: “Acidity=0.0%—0.5%”
At the web site for the olive oil we use (pictured above), there is a short blurb about the Mediterranean diet. I like the sounds of it:
What is the Mediterranean diet?Over time, the Mediterranean population, in which olive oil plays an integral role, has shown a much lower incidence of diet-related diseases, such as heart disease and breast cancer, than North American and Northern European populations. So what do the people of the Mediterranean typically eat? Their diet is based on fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, breads, pasta, potatoes, a wide variety of grains, fish and olive oil. Red meats and wine, both in moderation, round out the diet dubbed "Mediterranean" by nutritional experts. In the "Mediterranean diet," olive oil is the principal source of fat.
Reflections On My Home Business
My Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe
Besides the marketing value of telling you about such things as homemade chicken pluckers and homemade cider presses, there is the inspirational value. Which is to say, if I can develop a small home business and bring it to a satisfying level of success, then there is a real good chance you can do the same, if you so desire.
The internet presents us common folks with an incredible opportunity to compete in the free market, especially with narrowly focused niche products—and on a global scale. Developing a successful mail-order business to sell your ideas, your knowledge, your crafts, and other products is doable like never before in history. For someone living in a rural area of the country, it can be an ideal way to bring in needed income.
I’ve found that it is possible to create an online web presence using the same blogger.com format that you are reading this blog on—for absolutely no money! All my business web sites are in the Blogger format. Check out www.WhizbangCider.com for example.
My only investment with such sites is the yearly cost of the unique domain names. Blogger will assign you a unique domain (URL) for free, but it will be longer and harder to remember than your own simple URL. For example, the Blogger-assigned URL for www.PlanetWhizbang.com is http://planetwhizbang.blogspot.com/. It’s easier for people to remember just PlanetWhizbang.com
So I simply purchase the domain name I want from www.GoDaddy.com. It takes a few minutes and a few clicks, and a few dollars (less than $10 a year) to buy a domain name at GoDaddy. Then I adjust the GoDaddy settings to direct people to my blog when they go to www.PlanetWhizbang.com
That’s how, for example, I am able to create web sites with my own domain name for less than $10 a year. And making changes as needed to the sites can be done very easily and quickly using the Blogger.com format. I once spend several hundred dollars to have a web site made by a pro. It was nice but I can do just fine making my own Blogger.com web sites. You can do the same.
Furthermore, it is possible to add PayPal ordering buttons to your blog/web sites. It costs nothing to do and PayPal takes a fee only when someone buys something.
This is my Whizbang workshop in May 2010
The fact that I am doing what I am doing with my Whizbang business, working out of my home, and a small, very crowded, garage-size workshop is nothing short of amazing to me. People who visit are completely underwhelmed at my operation. There is nothing impressive about the International Headquarters of Whizbang Books. Mine is a simple, low-budget operation, yet it is prospering.
Now, having said all that, I must quickly add some more details: First, I have pursued and failed at previous entrepreneurial ventures.
Second, the measure of success I am now seeing has been a long time coming. I started by publishing 100 copies of a chicken plucker plan book at a copy shop ten years ago. Since then, the business has grown slowly—one step at a time— as I’ve reinvested profits, while working a full-time factory job to support my family.
My initial investment of less than $1,000 (to get the book printed and mailed off to some magazines for review) has been the only “upfront” money I’ve spent. I haven’t borrowed a cent. No debt.
Third, I have invested countless hours of my “spare time” into developing this business. I don’t watch television. I don’t golf. I rarely travel. I’m a homebody, and when I’m home, I’m focused much of the time on this business. But the nice thing about my business is that its related to home-centered ideas and activities, which I involve my family in. And when I’m home, I’m here for my family. This is important to me. If this business required me to be away from my home and family, I wouldn’t do it. That would defeat the purpose.
Fourth, God has blessed me in this business. That may sound trite to some, but I am very serious when I say that I did not achieve anything of significance apart from Him imparting to me this small measure of success that I so richly do not deserve. I am ever-cognizant of that and continually thankful for the blessing.
The success of this business has been my heart’s desire, not because I want a lot of money, but because I want to come home, live simply on a section of land (a little bigger than the 1.5 acres I now have would be nice), and work with my hands, crafting and creating products, providing for my family from the land and a cottage industry. It is also my desire to provide an example of godly, home-based entrepreneurship for my sons.
As dreams of success in this world go, mine is really very simple. But, ten years ago, it was a distant and unlikely dream—more so than you might think. Now it is remarkably close to reality. Nevertheless (and here is the important part) my modest but tangible success in this Whizbang endeavor could slip from my grasp in short time. I'm no "name it and claim it" prosperity gospel guy, confident that God owes me material success. Not at all.
Rather, my attitude regarding this subject (and so much else in life that comes and goes—including life itself) is summed up in the attitude of Job in the Old Testament. We are all, to some degree, a Job. He knew success and failure. He enjoyed good health and then terrible sickness. And, as God’s servant (so-called by God Himself), Job knew his place in this world. Two verses from the Book Of Job, which are words spoken by Job, are foremost in my mind. I do not echo these sentiments in some dismal acceptance, expecting the worst to happen to me at any time, but in humbleness and thankfulness, with the assurance that God is in control and, as one of the "sheep of His pasture," he will not leave or forsake me. That assurance is worth far more than any material prosperity.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.
Job 1:21 (NIV Bible)
Job 1:21 (NIV Bible)
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him...
Rambling About Oil & Creation
With untold thousands of barrels of crude oil spewing uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico it occurs to me that our highly industrialized, oil-dependent civilization is unique in the history of the world for the unprecedented destruction it has inflicted (intentionally and unintentionally) on the earth.
That being the case, it is worth reminding ourselves why the corporations of the world plunder, poison and destroy creation. The bottom-line reason is to make a profit for their shareholders.
As a Christian, looking at such issues through the lens of my biblical worldview, I cannot help but be opposed to malevolent technology and the wanton, unsustainable appropriation of God’s creation. Yet, when all is said and done, I’m afraid I’m in the minority (once again). Most who call themselves Christians are, truth be told, comfortable with creation-destroying technology.
Oh, they are as dismayed as anyone at environmental disasters. But they believe that we in the industrialized nations of the world must maintain our unprecedented high standard of living (and consuming) and continue to grow the economy. These objectives are higher on the list-of-important-things-in-life than is responsible stewardship of creation. After all, they might reason, didn’t God give us the earth to use as we see fit?
Well, no. I’m quite certain He did not. And I’m also pretty well convinced that any technology that ravages God’s creation (anywhere in the world) is immoral, which is another way of saying, “sinful.”
This kind of attitude is enough to get you labeled a liberal, left-wing environmental wacko (which no God-fearing modern American fundamentalist Christian would ever want to be mistaken for) except that Liberal Left-Wing Environmental Wackos don’t usually take God and his word (the Bible) seriously. Alas, there is no pigeon hole for conservative, right-wing environmental wackos. That’s an oxymoron, or so it would appear, to the multitudes of mainstream, world-compromising, modern-Christians.
I ask you.... Does the ends (profit and prosperity and a high standard of living) justify the means (creation destroying technology)? Of course not. That is the deluded, arrogant mindset of our neo-Babylonian civilization.
There is an interesting verse in the Bible that gives us some insight into what God thinks of all this. You may recall that when He finished creating the world, as told back in Genesis, God proclaimed that it was good. In other words, He was pleased with his creation. It is therefore only logical to conclude that destroying God’s good work is an affront to Him. And this is exactly what we discover in the last book of the Bible (Revelation 11:18). There we find talk of judgment. “Those who destroy the earth” are mentioned...
The nations were angry, but the time for your wrath has come. It is time for the dead to be judged- to reward your servants, the prophets, the saints, and all who fear your name, both unimportant and important, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.
I realize that there are no mainstream preachers saying anything about this. And I wonder why not. But of course.... they wouldn’t be mainstream preachers any more if they did.
Clearly, all of us in the industrialized nations share in the destruction because we use the many products of the destroyer-corporations. But I think there is a difference between using the products and profiting from the destruction. That isn’t to justify profligate consumption. On the contrary, this subject should give us all pause when we make lifestyle choices and purchases, or so it seems to me.
And before you stone me verbally for my hypocrisy, I understand that I am profiting from the destruction when I operate a company that sells products made using raw materials that come from big corporations that destroy the earth (i.e., plastic). Yes, in a roundabout way, I am guilty. I admit it. It is this realization that leads me to my concerns.
Frankly, I don’t know how to “fix the problem.” In the end, my answer is to do as I have advocated here for years— Live simply, consume less, grow and make more of my own needs, reduce my dependencies of the Babylonian civilization I live within (step by step), and responsibly husband the land I have been entrusted with.
John Seymour’s Thoughts
John Seymour (1914—2004) was an advocate of simple, sustainable, responsible, living. I’ve not read any of his books but I happened upon an essay of his titled, The Age of Healing, and I liked much of what Seymour had to say. Excerpts are below, and a link to the essay at the end.
Upon reading John Seymour’s biography (on the same web site as the essay) I learned that “his ideas for a better way of life... included 'distributism', a movement championed by Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton.” I’ve mentioned distributism in this blog before. It is a little-known economic and social philosophy that is, to a pleasing degree, biblical and agrarian. It has been promoted mostly by followers of Catholicism, so most Protestants (of which I am one) tend to dismiss it offhand. But I'm of the opinion that Protestantism and distributism are not mutually exclusive. Distributism is well worth understanding and you can get a basic introduction at This Wikipedia Page.
Here is John Seymour:
"The Age of Plunder was the natural successor to the so-called Age of Reason: the Age in which humankind decided that it knew better than God. For 200 years now the greedy and ruthless have been plundering the planet but their time will soon be up. The whole thing is going to come crashing down.
It could not have gone on much longer anyway - because soon there will be nothing left to plunder. The forests have almost gone from the Earth, the fish of the sea are all but exhausted, the air surrounding us and the waters of the Earth will soon be able to take no more poisonous wastes and, most serious of all, the soil is going. For we soil organisms this could be terminal. As long as the oil reserves last agribusiness will be able to produce the agrichemicals needed to keep some sort of production of vitiated food going from the eroded soil, but the oil deposits - that Pandora's Box of evil things - will soon be exhausted and then the final account, long deferred, will come up for payment. The bailiffs who present it will have strange names, like Famine, Pestilence and War.
But, thank God, maybe the old Earth will not have to wait for this to happen. The whole great edifice of international trade and finance - the whole mighty plunder-machine - is quite likely to burst like a balloon that has grown too big. The whole thing is becoming unsustainable: it has grown too huge to manage.
Owing to the incorrigible tendency towards cannibalism by the huge industrial corporations - the tendency of the bigger ones to swallow up the smaller ones - these molochs are becoming too large for humans to control or the planet to support. Ten years ago no economist would have predicted the complete collapse of the mighty Soviet machine that had engulfed half the Earth. International capitalism will follow.
It is in the nature of a limited company that it can have no responsibility either to the environment around it or to the people who work for it. It is no use blaming the directors - if they do anything that might reduce profits for the shareholders they will quickly be replaced. And the shareholders not only have no liability for debts incurred by the company - but they take no responsibility for the world of nature around them. If the directors can secure bigger profits by dumping poisons into the nearest river - they have to do this. If they do not, they will very quickly be replaced. If they can make more profit by halving the work force - they will have to do so or again they will be replaced. If both shareholders and directors suffer from that most uncapitalist thing - a conscience - to the extent that it interferes with profits - that company will be swallowed up by another giant that has no such inconvenient scruples.
One of the most dramatic effects of the Age of Plunder has been to drive most of the world's population into vast conurbations. These huge assemblies of uprooted people, called cities, are not only ugly but also dangerous. The billions who live in them can only be kept alive by an enormous system of transport which brings water, food, power, fuel and all the necessities of life, often great distances. Any breakdown in the supply of all this would be disastrous. And the great plundering molochs of companies which run it all get fewer and fewer, and bigger and bigger, and more and more people find themselves out of work, not needed, redundant and disempowered.
And meanwhile the tiny scattering of people left on the land, which is the only source of true wealth, have been forced by their paucity of numbers to resort to more and more destructive methods of producing the huge amount of food needed to sustain these billions. They have been forced to ignore the laws of husbandry, which could have retained the fertility of the soil as long as the world lasted, and farm instead with chemicals and huge machines. The soil is becoming poisoned and eroded. The only beneficiaries of this have been the huge chemical companies but they will destroy themselves in the end because they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs."
"Refuse to work for the plunderers. Refuse to buy their shoddy goods. Give up the ambition of living like a Texan millionaire. Boycott the Lottery, not because you think you won't win it, but because you don't want to win it!You Can Read John Seymour’s entire essay at THIS LINK
Refuse to shop in the plunderer's "supermarkets".
Work, always, for a decentralist economy. Support local traders and producers - try to get what you need from as near your home as you can.
Take part in your local politics - boycott the politics of the huge scale, the remote and far-away."
A Day On The Cheese Trail
The Finger Lakes region of New York state where I live has, in recent years, become notable for it’s wine. There were no wine makers here thirty years ago. Now there are many. So many that they have a “wine trail.” People can get a map and go “vineyard hopping” along the trail. Marlene and I have never done that and don’t have a lot of interest in it. But when I heard that there is now a “cheese trail”.... well, that’s something different. Micro dairies and artisnal cheese-making appeal to my sense of agrarian rightness and goodness.
This Link tells about the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail. Day before yesterday was the first of three cheese-trail open houses scheduled for this year. Seeing as We’ve been so doggone busy with this Whizbang business and so on, Marlene and I decided to take a day off and hit the cheese trail. We only went to three of the dairies, but we had a great time stopping at every garage sale we came to along the way (and there were a lot of them).
Our most enjoyable stop on the trail was Finger Lakes Dexter Cheese Creamery. I think they are currently milking six Dexter cows and they make a probiotic kefir blue cheese that is absolutely remarkable (it is pictured above). Their web site describes the cheese as “ooey-gooey rich and pungent, zingy, saliva popping Kefir blue!!!” That pretty much sums it up. The cheese is alive!
Marlene and I are fans of the Dexter cow. They are a traditional homestead meat and milk animal. You can read about the breed at the Dexter Creamery link above. If we ever get ourselves enough land, we would like to raise a few Dexter cows.
James Madison Gets The Final Word This Month
James Madison, fourth president of the US (and a pre-industrial-era, pre-14th-ammendment-corporation Virginia farmer) said the following:
“The class of citizens who provide at once their own food and rainment may be viewed as the most independent. It follows that the greater proportion of this class of the whole society, the more free, the more independent, and the more happy must be the society itself.”
I couldn't agree more, Mr. President.
I couldn't agree more, Mr. President.