March was another blur of a month for me. In the midst of so much that I am trying to get done hereabouts, I decided it was high time I dug up the clamp…..
I Dug Up The Clamp
Back in my October, 2009 monthly letter I told of how I made a vegetable clamp in the garden. I had read about making clamps in Mike & Nancy Bubel's classic book, Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables. I made the clamp as an experiment. I wanted to see if it would actually work.
That was five months ago. It is now early spring here in Central New York state. For part of the winter, my clamp was exposed, or partially exposed, as the snow came and went. For the latter part of the winter, it was completely buried under snow. Then came the big thaw in this last month of March.
I could have dug up the clamp in the depth of winter. But I only made one clamp and I wanted to leave the vegetables there a good long time. Here is what I found when I dug up my clamp a couple weeks ago.
In the above picture you can see the amount of soil that was over the clamp, as well as the old straw and leaves that were around the vegetables. Also visible is the bundle of dry goldenrod stems that I used to make the ventilating chimney. Here is a picture of the “harvested” clamp…
Every single carrot but one looked to be as sound as when I put it in the earth five months ago. Same goes for the four big beets.
What do you do with your harvested clamp? Well, you load the bounty into your Planet Whizbang Garden Tote (Click Here for plans to make your own garden tote) so you can tote it to the kitchen…
And ten minutes later, you can have yourself some crisp, fresh-from-the-garden carrot slices…
Unclamped carrots and lined clothes.... a sure sign of spring.
(click to see an enlarged view)
(click to see an enlarged view)
Garden Clamps &
The Future of Food
The Future of Food
Storing vegetables in a clamp is profoundly easy to do, and it works. Not only does it work, it evidently works perfectly. No canning or freezing is required. No electricity is required. You don’t have to buy a single thing from the store to do this. You simply bury the food in the ground surrounded by straw and leaves and earth.
This is the way that generations of humans have stored food back through the ages. This is the kind of thing that we who have some inkling of what the future is bringing to our industrialized food system need to relearn and apply.
Many people are warning that the future of our food supply is precarious. Well, everything Americans have grown to depend on is precarious these days.
I recently asked a coworker if he was going to plant a garden this year, knowing that the fellow has a house with the land to do so. He laughed and told me “I get my produce from Birdseye,” meaning the grocery store frozen foods section. He said he had more important things to do than grow a garden.
My friend speaks for most of the people in this country. I smiled and told him that was no fun. But more than that, as I’ve stated here so many times in the past, it is folly to be dependent on the industrial food providers, especially in these days of impending societal collapse on so many fronts.
In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, published five years ago (it is a compilation of my earliest blog essays here—now removed), I have a chapter titled “The Theology of Food Independence,” in which I speak to the Christian believer, pointing out the anti-Christ arrogance of the powerful, centralized corporate food oligopoly that controls most of the food production and distribution in the world. I underscore how fragile this system is, physically and spiritually. Then I make this statement:
“...I believe Christians must understand how completely dependent they are on the ungodly culture around them for their daily sustenance. And, knowing this, they should begin to work harder towards providing for themselves, apart from industrialism.”
The primary way of providing for yourself apart from industrialism is to grow your own food; to at least have a garden. But even those people who do not have the land or the ability to grow food can distance themselves from the oligopoly and prepare for the looming food crisis by establishing relationships with local, small, family-size farm producers near them. Put the time, effort, and financial resources into finding these people, going directly to their farms, buying from them, getting to know them, letting them know you appreciate them. Do this with two, three, even four, different small farmers in your area. It will enrich your life far more than buying Birdseye food at the supermarket. But more than that, in the event that the industrial food system does fail, those local food-supply relationships will be more dependable than the grocery store. They could save your life.
My Take on
The New Health Bill
The New Health Bill
(see this link for story that goes with picture)
It was a long, difficult slog for President Obama’s health care bill but it has now been signed into law. A lot of people have opinions about it. I’m no exception. But I don’t know of anyone saying what I’m thinking, and what I’m about to tell you here. And certainly no mainstream pundit, or talking head is going to suggest what I’m about to suggest as the best course of action for my fellow citizens...
Some people think this new system of government-managed health care is good. Some people think it is bad. Some don’t know what to think. One thing is for sure—America is a nation in continuing decline as the masses look more and more to the government to solve all problems by granting “human rights” that never existed before and by handing out so much money to so many people—money that has not been earned. Money that must be taken from those who do work and earn, today and for many years to come. More than a “nanny state,” we have ourselves a messiah state.
The new health care bill forces all Americans to be more dependent on government. That’s exactly what the messiah state wants and needs to perpetuate itself—a population of helpless, dependent, subservient citizens.
I propose that our American money would be more honest if it stated “In Government We Trust.”
Even the Tea Party movement, for all its talk of the Constitution and responsible spending, is composed of people who, more than likely, if the truth were revealed, are on the government dole to some degree. In other words, they are criticizing the government for spending too much, but they are getting their piece of the government-handout pie. Which means they are part of the problem. Don’t get me wrong here—I agree with the Tea Party protests ( I attended one near me last year) and the rhetoric. But the hypocrisy is undeniable.
Pick your nation-destroying poison... Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, a government-backed home mortgage, government college loans, government grants of so many kinds, government farm support, government subsidized disability, government-supported unemployment insurance, or some sort of government employee pension plan. Or maybe its “cash for clunkers.” Few and far between are those American citizens who do not ask, do not expect, and will not take any form of handout from the government.
To the degree that we take from government, we are dependent on government. And part of the bargain we make in our taking is to hand over our privacy, our independence, our freedom.
Thus, we are all seeing the inevitable fall of a nation that was born and rose to tremendous heights of prosperity and accomplishment in the heyday of the Frontier paradigm. Spread out before the early settlers of this continent was incredible untapped wealth in the form of vast unsettled lands filled with natural resources—all for the taking. Now that the Frontier is mostly tapped out, we are seeing the long, slow, decline from prosperity to scarcity...and with it the loss of individual freedom.
This was so well explained and foretold in Walter Prescott Webb’s 1952 book, The Great Frontier. I’ve mentioned Prescott's groundbreaking thesis before on this blog and have recently created a separate web page about his amazing book. I can not recommend The Great Frontier enough to anyone who is wondering, on the big-picture-scale, what went wrong and where America is headed as a nation. Professor Webb’s “boom hypothesis” of history was and is absolutely spot-on.
How long will it be before we see masses of government-dependent Americans protesting (or worse) in the streets of our urban centers because the messiah state can no longer provide them with the handouts they have grown to depend on; that they feel they have earned and have a right to? The handwriting is on the wall. The taking and the giving and the borrowing by government is unsustainable. We all know this. And we know the day of reckoning is coming. It may even be upon us. There is no stopping it. The best that messiah government can do is obscure the reality and delay the inevitable.
How then shall people who are cognizant of this eventuality live their lives? I say (as I’ve said here before, but I feel it needs repeating) that it behooves us to disengage as much as possible from the dependencies, ASAP.
Simplify your wants and needs. Steer clear of the bondage of debt. Provide for your needs of food, heat, and shelter as much as you can with your own hands and backbone. And, most fundamentally, turn your eyes from the false messiah state to the true Messiah. This response is as much spiritual as it is physical—at least it is for me.
What I am talking about is a return to the American pioneer spirit, characterized by a firm reliance on the God of the Bible, hard physical work, thrift, self-reliance, subsistence, and the family economy.
While it is true that the Great Frontier, with all its uninhabited land and untapped natural resources is now, for all practical purposes, gone, the land remains. And if properly husbanded, the land can still sustain pioneer families in this new century, fraught as it is with impending shortages and instabilities.
Living on a section of land and working to make it productive will not bring wealth sufficient to satisfy the average modern American who is conditioned by our culture to spend, borrow, consume, and spend, borrow, waste. But in the days ahead, those people who have returned to the land, have equipped themselves with the tools and knowledge to make the land productive, and who are secure and content with little, these people will provide a valuable example for the helpless, discontent, and confused all around them.
I dare say, the pioneers among us today (many of their blogs are listed on my sidebar at right) are already a valuable example. If you yourself feel that “pioneer urge” in these times, don’t resist. Pioneering is totally contrarian to the spirit of this age, but it is a positive, refreshing, satisfying course of action. To my way of thinking, it is the only appropriate personal response in the midst of the crisis we find ourselves in.
The Other Greeks
Back in my December '09 monthly letter, I told you about The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization, a book by Victor Davis Hanson, that I was reading. I told you of how, according to Hanson, the early Greek Mycenaean culture was a powerful centralized government bureaucracy and technologically advanced for its time. Yet, it mysteriously and suddenly crashed, as all such civilizations in history have done.
After Mycenaea, with the central government no longer functioning, the nation reverted to decentralized agricultural communities. While agriculture prior to the collapse had been topdown directed, it went bottom-up. Which is to say that the land, once owned and operated by the government and the wealthy, was acquired and operated by individuals and families who lived and farmed their own small sections. According to Hanson, this new arrangement was the solid foundation for amazing cultural advancements.
V.D. Hanson’s book is a scholarly study, so thorough that it is, at times, ponderous, yet the underlying thesis is profoundly insightful. In short, as I understand it, the author concludes that the greatest achievements of Greek culture came about as a natural result of the widespread, equitable distribution of land, owned and worked by a large middle class of small farms. The communities and the forms of government (many aspects of which were adopted centuries later by the founders of our American Republic) were profoundly egalitarian and worthy of our understanding.
The modern mind cares nothing for this aspect of Greek culture and the lessons we can learn from it. That is because, as Hanson puts it, every culture is “chauvinistic” in that it believes it is far better than any other—that it is the historical exception. I think it is safe to also call it arrogance and pride. Or maybe "learning the hard way"...... again.
This book was long and somewhat difficult to read (delving into the tactics and differences of Greek warfare and Hoplite warriors, and so on), but Hanson's well-researched work offers clues to the future of our modern-day civilization as the historical aberration of the Great Frontier draws to its inexorable close.
There are so many quotes from this book—little gems among so many words—that I would like to share with you but they are all long, so I will conclude this with a single sentence from the Epilogue (page 419):
”Historically there has been a cyclical sense of agrarian rise, fall, and reawakening, as societies themselves waxed and waned.”
And right there is the main point I want to make. To borrow a technological phrase, I'm persuaded that we are headed back to the “default setting”—to the original "settings" (ways of life) established by the “Manufacturer.” In other words, we are going back to the agrarian mandate for man that was clearly laid out in the book of Genesis.
The Agrarian Kitchen
Affectionately known as "Boss Hog," Lee Christmas is The Agrarian Kitchen's Pig Expert
The Agrarian Kitchen is a sustainable farm-based cooking school in Tasmania. It is a fine idea that I'm sure could be done here in the states too (probably already is). The one class that interested me the most is called The Whole Hog and is described as follows:
"...we begin with a whole carcass and learn the ins and outs of cutting and utilising a pig, from nose to tail, including making sausages, slow roasted pork belly in the wood-fired oven, pigs trotter and potato pie and pig’s head terrine. Guests will take sausages, rillettes and bacon home with them."
Last year, my employer (the state of N.Y.) offered its minions a voluntary work option. When I found out I could take a day a week off, get paid 20% less money, and still keep my job, I immediately signed up. I like to say I'm doing my part to help the state in it's time of dire fiscal crisis. But, truth be told, I looked upon this option as an opportunity to take a step away from my prison factory job, and have more time to devote to my Whizbang home business.
That work reduction option was like an answer to prayer. My hope is to one day completely leave the state job and come home to work full time here. That is the goal, the dream, the vision I've had from the first day I started the prison job.
So it is, with that in mind, this last month I started taking a 30% work reduction (1-1/2 day a week). It amounts to another step away. Unfortunately, 30% is the maximum amount I can take. So the next step will be 100%, but I'm not sure about when that will happen. For now, I'm thankful for the 30%.
A lot of people think that if I take 1.5 days a week off from my job, I'm not working. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Whizbang business is much more demanding physically and mentally than the factory job. But, and this is the important thing, it's a whole lot healthier and more satisfying.
& Old Stories
& Old Stories
I’ve been blogging here for just shy of five years now and I’m finally getting to the “old photos stage,” wherein I post some pictures of myself from years ago. This comes as a result of recently getting a scanner. Please forgive me…..
That’s little Me in the late 1950s. I am relatively new, healthy, happy, cute, and totally unaware of the seriousness of life before me.
The sign says “Chateau Kimball.” It was made by Roger T. Hall, the good friend of my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C Kimball, M.D.F.A.C.S. I now have that sign.
When that picture was taken my parents had divorced. My mother had remarried, and we had moved to New York state. But I spent many summers of my boyhood with my grandmother Kimball (and some of that time at my mother’s parent's farm) in Aroostook County, Maine.
Those summers with my grandmother were, I now realize, instrumental in shaping my character. My grandmother Kimball influenced my life in ways I’m sure she never realized, and she did this by giving me her time and attention at an early age. The situation of divorce and remarriage created instability and insecurity for me, but my grandmother was a rock that I could depend on.
If you are a grandparent, or expect to be some day, you have a tremendous opportunity to influence and shape the lives of your grandchildren; to be a force for life-changing good in their lives. I dare say, grandparents have a responsibility to do this, and my grandmother took this responsibility very seriously. Please read my essay, What My Grandmother Did For Me (I posted it here years ago but have just added some pictures).
That’s me at my grandmother’s house with my Aunt Carolyn. She was, and still is, a stylish and vivacious woman. As you can see, I was also stylish in my little suit, but that phase was very short-lived, as this next picture will attest:
There I am a little more grown. “Cute” as a description of myself at that time is no longer appropriate. Though not dated, I suspect the goofy-looking Me is 11 years old because fifth grade is when the adults around me figured out that I needed glasses—all the better to watch television with, and I did a lot of that. The baby is my sister.
That picture was taken in the kitchen of my family’s little ranch house in the suburban development that we lived in outside Syracuse, N.Y. It was not a good place to raise a boy-child. Sad to say, I have precious few good memories of the nine formative years of my life lived in that place.
Relax. That’s not me. I was going to post my high school senior class picture but it’s very painful to look at. So I have substituted Marlene’s class picture (now we're back to cute). She is 17 years old. I found myself attracted to that girl and, incredibly, she to me. In due time, we were married. Now, 30 years later, I still love The Wife of My Youth.
Thankfully, my family had moved out of the seedy suburban environment when I was in 9th grade. We moved to the country, to an old drafty farm house with 25 acres of land and a barn and fields, and woods, and gullies, and streams—stretching out far and wide. Here’s a picture of the suburbia where I grew up from first grade to ninth grade...
And here is a view of the Finger Lakes countryside we moved to....
The only good thing about living in that housing project was the perspective it provided—I grew up with the firm belief that no child of mine would grow up as I did in such a place.
Marlene and I Have only a few pictures of us from “the old days” and they are in terrible condition. This one above is overexposed, faded, and battered but it shows how beautifully radiant Marlene was as a teenager. It was taken in our “college era” before getting married.
And while I'm at it, here is a picture of Marlene from that era that I especially like. She was lifeguard while in college.
We married when we were both 22 years old. Our wedding reception was at the Grange Hall. Not a very fancy place compared to where most of our friends had their weddings, but it was just right for us. In fact, it was perfect. The only glitch to the whole thing was afterwards. Our college friend who took so many wedding pictures for us called a couple weeks later with the news that every picture and negative had been ruined by the developer. So we have only a few snapshots of the day.
After we were married, I plunged into my work as a carpenter and home remodeler, learning the trades, building a reputation. I worked for two different contractors in my town for ten years before going into business for myself for another ten. In the picture below, I am 29 years old. I had contact lenses and managed to grow some facial hair. My kids say I look Mexican.
When I look at that grainy picture of myself, I am reminded of those years when I drove myself so hard doing demanding work for long days. By then I was taking on remodeling side jobs around town, doing the work after my regular work day and on weekends. And I was trying to finish the little house Marlene and I had built. I was going in a lot of directions, expending a lot of effort. I could not work now with the sustained physical intensity that I did in those days. It would kill me. In fact, after 20 years of it, I pretty much burnt out. But I won’t go into that.
As I recount in my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, after Marlene and I saved enough money to buy a little piece of land, we borrowed $10,000 from her father to build our house. It took a couple of years to get it finished to the point where we could move in. We lived with her parents during that time. In the above picture, I’m using a long stick to push the button on a camera clamped to a step ladder.
Our original house measured 16ft wide by 24ft long and had a 10ft by 10ft section on the back. It wasn’t big and it wasn’t fancy but it was our own little home in the country. After seven years of marriage, we started having children and the house got small fast. It has undergone a couple of additions and numerous changes to accommodate our needs and we still live in it now, 25 years later.
And speaking of children, here (below) is a three-generation picture, taken in 1991 while we were visiting at my Grandmother Kimball's house. She is 83. I am 33. My oldest son (in my arms) is 3 yrs old.
And here is a picture of that little boy that was in my arms not so very long ago...
The Other Boys
My sons Robert (my grandmother is holding him above) and James continue to enjoy their four-wheeler, as these recent pictures attest:
Jax Hamlin Offers His First
Limited Edition Original Chicken Art
I’ve been writing here for a few months telling about my desire to be a whimsical chicken artist and to market my chicken art under the pseudonymous personage of Jax Hamlin. I was going to do this beginning next year but have decided to wade into my new career starting right here and right now, with the introduction of the first Jax Hamlin Limited Edition Original:
(click to see larger image)
The above picture is the first limited edition (250 copies) Jax Hamlin Original to be offered to the public. The drawing was commissioned by Garth Fout of Ohio. I am much obliged to Garth for his patronage and encouragement.
With all of this in mind, I have established a new web site to tell lovers of chicken art all around the globe about Jax Hamlin, and to market his Limited Original Originals. Now you too can be a patron of the chicken arts. Complete details (and online ordering buttons) can be found at www.JaxHamlin.com
Next month I hope to unveil another Jax Hamlin Original here, and it will be available for sale at the Jax Hamlin web site. Jax hasn’t decided yet for sure, but thinks he will bring out either A Dapper Dorking or Chick on a Chocolate Eclair. Stay tuned. This is chicken art that you won’t want to miss!
See You Here Next Month