Tomatoes in August
Summer is a time for vacations. But I’m not taking a vacation. There is far too much to be done around my home, especially with the home business. I’m not complaining. It so happens that I like my home and I like having things to do. Besides, I take mini-vacations. Like having lunch or dinner with Marlene out on the back patio. That’s kind of like a little vacation. Or when I drop into bed at night, exhausted. Sleep is like a vacation. Sleep is sweet.
These are Juliet and Tommy Toe tomatoes from our garden.
Around the middle of the month I start thinking about this blog—I start thinking of what I’ll write for this single, end-of-month post. And then I start typing a little bit in the evenings or in the mornings. That’s kind of like a vacation too.
This month I’d like to begin with a letter and picture I received. People send me letters and pictures fairly often. It is always encouraging and inspiring to get positive feedback. To read such feedback is kind of like an enjoyable little vacation in the middle of my day.
A Letter From Rebecca
(in the United Kingdom)
Hi Herrick,Rebecca’s story of making a Planet Whizbang wheel hoe with her father is powerfully endearing to me. It underscores one of the nice aspects of making things yourself. Rebecca could have bought an already-made wheel hoe but there is no joy of creation, no fellowship, no lifetime memory in just handing over money for a product.
I've been meaning for several weeks to get in touch to tell you that I've built my wheel hoe, and to send you a picture. It was a great project to work on with my Dad, who has considerably more carpentry skills than I. The handles are made from cherry from a tree that used to grow in our garden, many years ago, and we managed to get a wheel from the dump (municipal garbage and recycling station) after considerable bureaucratic hassle. The photo was taken on its inaugural hoeing session, and it has since made a great addition to my tool collection. So thank you very much for taking the initiative of designing a more affordable hoe, and your generosity in sharing the design and making kits available.
...the whole process has been a pleasure, and I now have a tool that I will treasure, and will bring happy memories of working on it with my father. I hope you are doing well at selling them in the US. You certainly deserve to.
With thanks and best wishes
I have heard numerous times over the years from people who have built one of my Whizbang chicken pluckers with their kids, or, as in Rebecca’s case, fathers have helped daughters, or friends have helped friends. Such feedback really brings a smile to my face.
You fathers out there: If you want to make great memories with your children, make something together. Something that will last—that they will look back on years later with fondness, remembering the time that you worked together to make it.
Thinking About Clotheslines
If I had a nickel for every time my wife, Marlene, has told me she loves the pulley-and-cable clothesline I put up for her a few years ago, I’d be a.... well, I’d have a dollar, I’m sure.
The line extends from a corner of our house to a tree in the woods out back. It is 80-feet long and the end in the tree is 20ft off the ground. Marlene delights in hanging laundry neatly and orderly and seeing the line full. Her mother had a similar kind of clothesline when Marlene was a little girl.
I was inspired to put the clothesline up after a trip our family took many years ago to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where we saw so many long pulley clotheslines on the Amish farms.
When Amish families started moving into our area a few years ago, people in a nearby town got upset because they were hanging their laundry in the front yard. It was unsightly, or so some thought. This happened in a small rural township and the offending clotheslines were out of the town, on a country road. Some citizens actually complained to the town board about it.
Clothes out on the clothesline are considered by some people to be a symbol of poverty. There are laws against them in some areas of the country because, if your neighbor has clothes on the line, for all to see, it lowers property values.
Property values are a pretty big deal to some folks, but maybe now that property values in America are dropping like a rock, and a lot more people really are in poverty (or headed there) because of the recession/depression we’re in, it will become more culturally acceptable to hang your clothes to dry outside in the air. This might be a harbinger of the widespread return to agrarian life in America. :-)
After all, what could be more agrarian than letting the sun and air dry your washed clothes? Of course it’s more economical too. It is estimated that an electric clothes dryer will use $1,530 worth of electricity over it’s lifetime. Besides that, line-dried clothes last longer. They smell truly fresh too. And it gives you a good feeling when you put on line-dried clothes
I was surprised to see that there is an online petition to the White House about clothesline drying of clothes.
”We, the undersigned, ask the First Family of the United States to line dry their clothes on the White House lawn during a one day photo opp. This symbolic act will send the message to America and the world that our nation is ready to regain energy independence.Imagine that. The web site’s stated mission is as follows:
”To promote line drying as a symbol of patriotism, intelligence, and environmental activism, rescuing it from the symbol of poverty and despair it seems to represent to many Americans today.”
It’s a pleasant web site and a nice little cause (and I like their banjo background music). Check it out at: right2dry.org
Agrarian Haiku Poetry Contest UpdateAgrarian haiku submissions continue to come in, though not as many as when the contest was first announced here. There are currently 82 adult submissions and 7 submissions in the children's category.
Not a single teen submission came in so I have joined that category with the adult category and the teen prizes will be given out in the adult category. So there will now be 8 nifty agrarian prizes awarded in the adult category.
If you have not yet submitted a haiku poem, you still have time. The deadline is November 25. Stop by The Web Site and check out the many fine submissions, many from people who tell me they have never written a haiku poem before.
Focus on the Family Economy
Industrialism has been a culture-modifying Behemoth. In the relatively short span of a few generations it has reordered our entire way of life. Whereas America was once populated by people and families that were largely self-reliant and independent, now we have a civilization of industrial minions.
A minion is an “obsequious follower or dependent.” Obsequious means “full of or exhibiting servile compliance.” Servile means “slavish in character or attitude.” Slavish means “characteristic of a slave.” (I do love dictionaries)
One huge casualty of industrialism’s war of cultural domination has been the autonomous traditional family. Family structure has been coerced to conform to the industrial ideal, in order to best serve the industrial machine.
The traditional family existed and thrived within an agrarian culture. It was characterized by a healthy “family economy.” A family economy is what you have when a family works together to supply the needs of the family. Growing food, harvesting, and putting it up is a fundamental and important aspect of the agrarian family economy. So too is the preserving and cooking of food in so many ways. A host of manual domestic skills and seasonal “customs” are at work in a productive family economy. Everyone, from young children to older grandparents, contribute to this economy. Everyone works as they are able. Everyone is needed.
A family economy is the one and only unit of society that can and should legitimately operate according to the dictum: “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need.”
In the best examples of a family economy, there is also a family business that is integral to the support of the family. Small family farms afford an excellent opportunity for developing and perpetuating a healthy family economy. This ideal can also be achieved on homesteads and smallholdings.
Within families that have created a healthy family economy there is interdependence. Such families are typically strong and vibrant. And and when you have many of these families, you have a strong, vibrant, interdependent social order—you have a community of like-minded people (the Amish come to mind as a still-surviving example of this). Such communities were once the warp and woof of our American national fabric.
But these kinds of families and communities are a hindrance to Industrial Behemoth because they are not needy enough. The monster must have helpless, servile, consumer-families in order to perpetuate it’s domination.
A picture of family economy can be found in the following excerpt from Wendell Berry in his book, The Gift of Good Land:
Let us take a healthy marriage for example: a man and a wife who produce from their own small farm or homestead or town lot as much as possible of what they eat, and provide on their own as far as possible for other needs; who therefore have work at home for their children; who therefore have “home life” and all that implies. Such a couple may contribute immeasurably to the health of the nation, even to its solvency. But they are not good for the nation’s business, for they consume too little.
If this man and wife were to get divorced, their contribution to the economy would increase spectacularly. Their household, with all its productive motives, means, and energies, would be dissolved, and its members would live by consumption. Their dependence on the industries of food, style transportation, entertainment, and so on would be greater. So probably would their dependence on the industries of drugs, medicine, psychiatry, counseling, and the like. They would be worth far less to themselves, to each other, to their community, and to the world—but far more to the economy.
Wendell Berry is well known as a champion of agrarian values. But, as the above excerpt illustrates, he is also a champion of biblical values. This is because,when you promote agrarian values, you can not help but also promote biblical values.
Notice that Berry begins with an example of a healthy marriage. In so doing, he recognizes the institution of marriage as the foundation of a healthy family. That marriage is between a man and a woman. Notice too that children are a part of this healthy family. And, of course, the family economy is integral to the vitality of the family. This order, this unity, this purpose gives health and adds worth to all within the family, as well as the society at large.
There is undeniable beauty in Berry’s example of a biblically sound family economy. The beauty is there because such a family order was created and sanctified by the God of all creation. It is part of His order.
But in the second paragraph of the above quote Wendell Berry presents us with a picture of the destruction of a biblically-ordered family through divorce. We see the ugliness and sadness of the juxtaposition. It is undeniable (especially if you've experienced it) and it is what you get when you fracture a family. To a very large degree, our industrial-minded culture encourages and condones such ugliness.
It is popular and largely acceptable nowadays to redefine and/or alter God’s created order for the family. But whenever this is done, the beauty fades. Of course, there are many who will disagree with that statement. There are always those who will deny the obvious, usually to justify their own acts of rebellion against God’s order.
I dare say that agrarianism and biblical Christianity fit hand-in-glove. Thus, to embrace the agrarian way of life is to embrace a way of life that naturally nurtures Christian values which translate into individual integrity. I hasten to point out that agrarianism in itself may or may not produce people of high moral character. But when a sincere and true Christian faith is pursued within an agrarian framework, the families that result are bound to produce exceptional examples of individual Christian character.
Certainly, one can be a Christian and raise a family to the glory of God outside the agrarian paradigm, but I contend that it is harder to do—kind of like growing a garden in a gravel parking lot.
That said, I suspect that most Christians who live and raise their families within the agrarian realm will agree with me on this. And, likewise, I suspect that a great many Christians who raise their families in the industrial realm would strongly disagree with my agrarian-minded conclusions. This is to be expected when communicating ideas that are outside the mainstream; most modern Christians are pacified by the industrial meme and defensive of their industrial alliance. Or they are simply blind to it.
I find it interesting that there are Christian organizations dedicated to preserving families, yet they miss the agrarian/home economy connection. Can you imagine the well-known parachurch ministry Focus on the Family encouraging families to separate from industrial-world conformity; to return to the land, to grow their own food, to pursue domestic crafts and domestic production—in short to develop agrarian-based family economies?
That’s not likely to happen.
But, maybe, someday, someone will catch the vision for a new ministry to families, and they will name it Focus on the Family Economy. Such a ministry would encourage families to develop self-reliant, agrarian-based economies where everyone—fathers, mothers, children, and even extended family members—deliberately pursue the wisdom of God’s order for the family.
I have thought of expanding on this subject and writing a book titled, Focus on the Family Economy. But I think about writing books about all kinds of things. :-)
Beyond Capitalism & Socialism:
Rebuilding An American Economy
Focused on Family and Community
Dr. Allan C. Carlson
The above title goes with a speech delivered earlier this year by a man whose work I greatly admire. I was first introduced to Allan Carlson, Ph.D.., through his book, From Cottage to Work Station: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age. Then, a couple years later, I read Carlson’s, The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America. And then I discovered many of his speeches and essays at The Howard Center web site.
If the Focus on The Family daily radio program ever did want to interview an agrarian-minded man with a well-researched understanding of the importance of developing agrarian-based family economies, they would do well to start with Allan Carlson.
In the above-mentioned essay, Mr. Carlson begins by pointing out that capitalism is not really synonymous with conservative ideals. That is a common misconception these days among so-called Conservatives.
”Indeed, a curious aspect of political labeling in America has been the conflation of the word “conservative” with the interests of the great corporations.”
Then Dr. Carlson points out that there are political thinkers and activists who are more truly conservative in their thinking; who are, as he puts it:
”...seekers after a “Third Way,” a social and economic system that in important respects would be neither capitalist nor socialist.”Relatively few people in America are aware that there is an alternative to capitalism and socialism. That’s because the industry-of-mainstream-media does not discuss it. Carlson defines this Third Way as:
...an alternate Conservatism for the decades ahead, one combining a preferential option for the natural family with a more decentralized, human scale economy and a curtailing of the “national security state.”It is worth emphasizing that the quest for this Third Way will not come from mainstream industrial-corporate-capitalist thinkers. It will not come from the top down. This Third Way will percolate from the bottom up—from common people who see and understand that capitalism is an oppressive, exploitive system, just as is socialism and communism.
I think that reality about capitalism is becoming more obvious with the deepening economic crisis we find ourselves in. People are now more receptive to Third Way ideas as they are introduced to them, primarily over the internet.
In his speech, Carlson goes on to introduce three American writers and activists, each a Third Way thinker. First comes Ralph Borsodi
Of Borsodi, Carlson says:
”..he saw modern finance capitalism working mightily to eliminate the free market. The real “competition” among corporations, Borsodi said, was a quest “to secure [political] privileges which enable their possessors to operate outside the competitive market.” He indicted not only state-granted franchises and subsidies, but also licenses, tariffs, special corporate tax breaks, and nationally-advertised trade-marks, all of which—he said—conspired to raise prices, crush diversity, handicap the small producer, and favor extreme centralization.
In his best-selling 1928 book This Ugly Civilization, Borsodi more directly attacked the status of joint-stock corporations. He emphasized that they were neither an natural nor an inevitable development. They rested instead on a grant by governments of legal privileges, ones denied to families and individuals.”
Not long ago I wrote here about professor Walter Prescott Webb and his book, Divided We Stand, published in 1937. It was an expose on the growing power and wickedness of the giant joint-stock corporations. It seems this may have been a widespread concern in the first half of the last century. But nowadays that has all changed. Mega corporations are considered as American as apple pie, and absolutely necessary to realizing the “American Dream.” And so, now when they go bankrupt, our government helps save them with infusions of our hard earned money. Thus we have “Business Government” which will be mentioned shortly.
In his speech, Carlson quotes Borsodi:
”Against the family...the factory wages a ruthless war of extermination.... Industrialism seeks to root out individual devotion to the family and the homestead and to replace it with loyalty to the factory.”
Factories in this country are are not now what they were in Borsodi’s day. Now we have large office complexes and acres of Dilbert cubicles, reminiscent of animal stalls in a barn, or perhaps battery cages of chickens in a modern poultry operation. It’s still a form of factory.
Notice that Borsodi mentions the family. This is important, and an agrarian connection emerges when Carlson focuses on Borsodi’s answer to the problem.
” So, what was Borsodi’s alternative? The working home, the economically functional home, he said, had to be restored; and this needed to be done in a revived countryside. As he argued, “Man, no matter how often he has tried to urbanize himself, can only live like a normal human being in an essentially rural place of residence.”
Herbert S. Agar
Carlson introduces another Third Way thinker, Herbert Agar, a historian and Pulitzer prize-winning author who
... drank deeply from the well of Distributist ideas. Briefly, this idea-system was rooted in a rejection of socialism as immoral and unjust. Its proponents rejected as well modern capitalism, which – the Distributists said – tended toward monopoly and toward a peculiar alliance of the great corporations with government: what Chesterton called “The Business Government”; or what his collaborator Hilaire Belloc called “The Servile State.” According to Belloc, The Servile State existed when productive property was concentrated in a few hands and when most adults derived their livelihood strictly from a wage, tied in turn to government benefits, or the welfare state.
As Chesterton framed the matter, the Distributist alternative rested on the premises that public life exists to defend private life, that property secures liberty, and that “all political and social efforts must be devoted to securing the good of the family.” Put another way, the Distributists held that private property in a home, some acres of land, and basic tools were so important that every responsible family should have them. Again, this broad distribution of property was the Distributists’ answer to both the “wage slavery” of monopoly capitalism and its close partner, the welfare state. Chesterton was also a fierce foe of British imperialism. Adventures abroad, he believed, always came at the expense of the common people at home; local communities would be sacrificed to globalist dreams.
The final American Third Way thinker that Carlson introduces (and the only one now living) is Wendell Berry.
Pervious to this discussion, I gave you an idea of Wendell Berry’s view of the importance of the agrarian-focused family economy vis-à-vis the industrial family.
There is a common theme among Carlson’s Third Way thinkers and activists—each of them understands that any social, economic, or political system that fractures and weakens the traditional family is fundamentally immoral. True conservatism is not schizophrenic, championing the family on one hand, while also championing an industrial-capitalistic system that has done so much to destroy families on the other.
Allan Carlson’s entire speech can be read at this link
Contemplating Chicken Gizzards
My family has raised our own meat birds for over ten years. And, of course, we harvest the critters ourselves in the backyard using our homemade Whizbang chicken plucker. It is a good feeling to have a year’s supply of chicken from birds you have carefully and responsibly husbanded all the way from day-old chicks to wholesome meat packages in the freezer (and canning jars of golden chicken stock in the pantry).
But for all those years I’ve never eaten any of the bird’s organs. That’s a shameful confession for a man who calls himself a deliberate agrarian.
The thought of eating livers and hearts and gizzards has never appealed to me, nor to Marlene. I don’t know what her excuse is but in my case I think it goes back to my mother.
My mother was a very good cook. No one could make a better pie crust than my mother. And her homemade bread was pretty special. However, my mother did not do so well when it came to liver.
When my mom cooked liver it was dry like shoe leather. As a little boy, faced with liver for dinner, I found that I could cut it real small and swallow the pieces down whole with milk, thus bypassing the need to chew, or taste, the dreadful meat.
But, as time went on, I came up with a better solution to my liver problem... When my parents were not looking, I slipped the liver pieces into my pocket, and flushed them down the toilet later.
I should mention that not eating the liver was not an option. I was expected to eat everything on my plate. I was not allowed the luxury of being fussy. I remember once not eating something my mother had made for dinner. I had to sit there at the table long after everyone else had finished and left, but still I didn't eat whatever it was (and whatever it was wasn't in a form that would fit well into my pocket). Mother put Saran Wrap over the plate and saved it for my breakfast.
The only time I didn’t have to eat something as a little boy was when it was so bad that my parents didn’t like it either. Like the time my mother cooked tripe in some vomit-like sauce. She cooked the tripe because my stepfather had fond memories of eating tripe when he was a kid. But it was bad. Real bad. No one could eat it. For those who don’t know, tripe is cow stomach.
As a result of my youthful experiences having to eat everything on my plate (except tripe) it is rare that I don't eat everything on my plate at meal times now. And if Marlene doesn’t eat everything on her plate, I’ll often finish it up for her. But I digress. This is about chicken gizzards....
This year when we process our chicken flock (in early October) I have decided that we will NOT throw all the birds’ innards into the gut bucket, which typically gets carted downwind a long ways and thrown into the hedgerow for the coyotes to feast on.
This year I will deliberately set aside the hearts and gizzards and, yes, even the livers. And I will cook up and eat the gizzards and hearts. I might even eat the livers, but I’m not so committed to that idea, at least not this year. Maybe next year. As I’ve said in the past, the agrarian journey is a step-by-step process. This year, gizzards, next year, livers! Maybe (childhood trauma, you know).
I feel powerfully convicted about eating chicken gizzards this year because a friend of mine—a city guy who has never raised a chicken in his life—told me the following chicken gizzard story:
I mentioned to my friend that I had seen him a few days before on a certain street in the city where he lives (he was actually the mayor of the city at one time). He asked me if he was driving his van when I saw him. I said yes, and then he informed me that he had just picked up 240 pounds of chicken gizzards.
I thought maybe I didn’t hear him right. “Did you say chicken gizzards,” I asked. he replied in the affirmative and I asked the next logical question: “Are you kidding me?”
Well, it turns out he was serious and really had loaded 240 pounds of chicken gizzards into his van. Furthermore, it turns out he has been buying chicken gizzards in quantities like that for a lot of years.
It so happens that my friend has a clambake catering business that he took over from an old guy named “Smokey” a long time ago. He learned the clambake business from ol’ Smoky and Smokey always served chicken gizzards at his clam bakes.
Maybe this is a widespread custom. I don’t know because I’ve never been to a clam bake in my life. And maybe my friend made this whole story up. But I don’t think so.
Anyway, he told me he was catering a clambake at a church in the city and those people ate 200 pounds of his chicken gizzards. My friend had bought 240 pounds of chicken gizzards with the intention of serving 125 pounds at two different clam bakes. But those churchgoers ate more chicken gizzards than he thought they would.
Now that is a pretty amazing story and it got me to thinking real seriously about chicken gizzards. Clearly, my friend must know how to cook chicken gizzards real well. In fact, I figured the guy has to be some sort of chicken gizzard cooking master. When you meet somebody like that, you should learn from them.
“So, how do you cook chicken gizzards?” I asked, thinking that he would probably tell me it was a secret.
To my amazement, he told me how he cooks those things. I asked lots of questions and he answered them all. He told me the secrets. And I have them all. They’re locked in my brain.
Now I’m excited about the whole idea of cooking chicken gizzards. I think about it every day. I go over the recipe in my head. I ponder all the steps in the process of cooking chicken gizzards. And when I feed and water my little flock of growing meat chickens I think about their gizzards. Every one of those chickens has a gizzard, and not a one of them is going to go to waste this year. Me and my family are going to feast on those delicious internal organs.
So, of course, I told Marlene all about this. I think she is excited about the gizzards too, though she doesn’t show it. She told me I can cook ‘em. I said “Okay. I’ll cook ‘em” And you’re gonna’ love ‘em!”
I was talking about chicken gizzards to my sons one day. To my surprise, Robert informed me that he loved chicken gizzards. I was shocked. “Where did you eat chicken gizzards?”
He told me he had them up to Mr. Flynn’s Fourth of July fireworks party. Well, that figures. Our country neighbor, Kean Flynn, is a real agrarian guy. The genuine article. I should have known he was a gizzard eater. I’ll be sure to ask him how he cooks his gizzards next time I see him.
At this point, you’re probably wondering if I’m going to share Ol’ Smokey’s chicken gizzard recipe with you. Well, sure I am. But not right now. I’ve blathered on enough about gizzards already. I’m going to let the anticipation build for a month or so. Then I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you the secret recipe. Yes. I sure will.
The Christian-Agrarian Movement
I have discussed, explained, promoted and celebrated a worldview and way of life that I like to call Christian-agrarianism here on this blog for the past five years.
My book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, published back in 2006 is something of a Christian-agrarian manifesto and, as such, it was groundbreaking. Here is an excerpt from the back cover of the book:
In response to the myriad ills of our industrialized culture, a growing contingent of dedicated believers is taking steps to restructure and refocus their lives. They are going back to God’s original mandate: back to the garden, back to simplicity, back to self-reliance, back to family, back to community, back to the basics of the faith. These are the Christian agrarians.The book has not sold in large numbers, but it has served an important purpose as has this blog. That purpose has been first, to point out the obvious problems that anti-Christian industrialism has created in our civilization—particularly in the family. And, second, to present a sound solution, which is the deliberate pursuit of Christian life within the agrarian paradigm.
With a newfound respect for the past, and assured hope in the future, these new Christian pioneers are reforging the old paths and embracing the virtues found only in the agrarian way of life. In the current age, their countercultural beliefs are nothing short of revolutionary.
I have endeavored to do this, not by declaring doctrines, but by presenting my own life and family as a testimony. As I have said in the past, I and my family are NOT the best example of a Christian-agrarian family (I rarely, if ever, speak of my failures and disappointments—some bitter— in this regard). But I can tell you that my Christian-agrarian worldview is central to the way I think and live my life.
My thoughts on this subject are not original. I’m not that smart. I was influenced greatly by the writings of Howard Douglas King. King is a Reformed minister. He helped me to see that the Bible was an agrarian book, written for an agrarian people, and that industrialism in its many manifestations is not a biblically sound framework for living one’s life. Kings writings on the subject of Christian-agrarianism revealed a truth that I knew intuitively but never knowingly put together.
It was clear to me before I began writing this blog that I was not the only deliberate Christian-agrarian “out there.” I knew something was up when I was selling my chicken plucker plan book to so many people who were Christians. I knew this from the notes they wrote and from so many checks with Bible verses that I received. I remember telling Marlene that it was amazing how many Christians were buying my book.
I perceived that these people—so many of them— were serious about their faith AND about pursuing a more agrarian-centered, self-reliant lifestyle. They were people just like me.
I recognized this Christian agrarianism as a movement and called it such. Some Christians took offense at that, like I was promoting something new and extra-biblical. But I have never done that.
What I have promoted is something old—an old path that was lost (or almost lost) in the blinding fog of industrialism’s cultural sweep. And far from being extra biblical, Christian agrarianism is entirely biblical because, for one thing, it is a secessional path away from dependency on the dominant anti-Christ world culture, to a greater dependency on God’s grace.
Some have equated Christian-agrarianism with legalism, but it is only legalistic if you make it legalistic. I simply equate it with wisdom.
Mine has certainly not been the only voice for Christian-agrarian renewal. Not at all. Others have promoted their own ideas of this worldview on the internet. More followers of Jesus Christ are doing this all the time. Many are doing this without using the term, “Christian-agrarian” and that’s fine.
For example, I recently came across a web site called Sustainable Traditions, which is clearly Christian and agrarian in its outreach. At another web site, Christian Exodus, I learned of another group that is combining Christian-agrarian thinking with the Christian-patriot-survivalist movement, or so it appears to me. Political action is an important aspect of the group as is radical separation.
I think it is safe to say that the Christian-agrarian “movement” is expanding and being adopted by different groups of people. Along the way, it is inevitable that Christian-agrarian thinking will be misunderstood or misapplied by some people and some groups, just as Christianity without agrarianism is.
Which reminds me of a woman in the past who was excited to discover the whole concept of Christian agrarianism. Then one day she wrote to inform me that she believed Christian agrarianism was a cult and she was repenting of it. This came as a result of heresay accusations on the internet about a group which espoused Christian agrarianism. I told her I could not comment on the group and the situation because I had no firsthand knowledge. I told her I respected her decision but I thought she was throwing the baby out with the bath water. Nevertheless, she had made her mind up.
That was a sad and sorry outcome but it has been more than offset by the many letters I’ve gotten over the years from Christians who tell me they are energized by the Christian-agrarian worldview—that it resonates with them. I know the feeling.
On a personal level, I am rarely (if ever) dogmatic about the joining of Christianity with agrarianism. My attitude can be summed up in a phrase I recently read in Tabletalk magazine regarding matters of Christian doctrine:
In the essentials, unity. In the nonessentials, liberty. In everything else, charity.[for those who may not know, “charity” is the biblical word for love, or brotherly love.]
As one who calls himself a Christian agrarian, I see the Christianity as essential, not the agrarian. And when I say Christianity, I am referring to orthodox biblical essentials like the holiness and sovereignty of God, the inherent natural sinfulness and separation of all mankind from Him, and God’s amazing plan of redemption and salvation (from an eternity in hell) by grace through the shed blood of his son, Jesus Christ. Further essentials would be the deity of Christ (a part of the Trinity) and the clear biblical teaching that there is no other way to forgiveness, salvation and restoration of fellowship with the Father, except through faith in His son, Jesus Christ.
Such a declaration of essentials, once commonly understood and embraced in America, is sufficient in itself to separate me from most of the 300 million people in this post-Christian nation. But when you add in my anti-industrial, agrarian beliefs, I am even more of an alien.
One might think it all a recipe for misery—to be so different—but there is a peacefulness, a contentedness, a joyfulness, and a gratefulness that comes with all of this. And so it is that I continue to define, discuss, celebrate and promote the Christian-agrarian worldview.
Dan & Paige Built A Cabin
I've told the story before about how, many years ago, Marlene and I worked and saved to buy a piece of land with cash. Then we borrowed $10,000 from her father and that, along with some of our remaining savings, is what we built a house with. It measured 16ft by 24 ft and had two stories, with no basement. We still live in the house. Though it has been remodeled and added onto a couple times, the place is still relatively small. It was paid for years ago. We never had a mortgage.
This is a reconstruction of the cabin that Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States, was born in. It is located in Fillmore Glen state park, which is a few miles from where I live. Small cabins like this were once common houses in this country. We've come a long way, haven't we?
I will admit that our house has been too small at times and we have long dreamed of a bigger "farm size" house. But if I had it to do all over again, I would build small to start and not borrow very much—if any— money. I have no regrets about that. Here's why...
If we had borrowed a lot to have a big house from the start, Marlene would have had to work to help pay the mortgage. That would have been counterproductive because we felt very strongly that our children should have a full-time mother. That was more important to us than a nice big house.
Cabins are like small houses. I tell my kids that if they just get some land, they can then build a cabin to live in. Then they can save money to build a house. Avoid the mortgage. Don't fall into the trap of debt. Don't expect your wife to go to work and help support your family. Make sure your children have a full time mother at home like you had. Yes, I have strong feelings about this subject. But, again, I digress...
I was impressed with Dan and Paige a young married couple who recently built themselves a simple 14ft by 16ft cabin with a 6ft porch and sleeping loft. They built it in 12 days. And it's a nice cabin!
No, it's not their house. Their cabin is at a church camp, with a lot of other little cabins. I'm not familiar with church camp cabins, but it looks like a neat concept.
You can check out Dan & Paige's new cabin at this link: Cabin de Rohe
At one time, there was a suggestion that an official Christian agrarian organization should be started. I resisted this because, in part, it violates the biblical and agrarian tenet of decentralization. Besides that, when you create a centralized "authority-organization" you create a target, and then you have to spend precious time defending it.
I think it is far better for this movement to be low-key and spirit led, which brings me to a new proposal. It comes from Liberty Hyde Bailey, sort of.
For those who don’t know, L.H. Bailey was an agrarian-life advocate of some acclaim, and the author of several books back around the turn of the last century (early 1900’s). Having read one of his books, I don’t think I would label Bailey as a Christian agrarian. He was more like a spiritual agrarian.
Anyway, Bailey once proposed a “Society of The Holy Earth” which, offhand, I don’t know anything about. But I recently happened upon the words of his proposal for this society and I saw that they were just perfect for my idea of a “Society of Christian Agrarians.” Therefore I am appropriating the words, and here is my proposal:
I propose a Society of Christian Agrarians. Chapters and branches it may have, but its purpose is not to be organization and its practice is not to be the operation of parliamentary machine. It will have nothing to ask of anybody, not even of Congress. It will not be based on profit-and-loss. It will have no schemes to float, and no propaganda. It will have few officers and many leaders. It will be controlled by a motive rather than a constitution. The association will be a fellowship of the spirit.
News From Planet Whizbang
Plans for the Planet Whizbang wood-and-wire garden tote
(shown above with 33 cukes—and room for 33 more)
will come out next yearSpeaking of a family economy, Marlene and I are working together more and more to develop our Planet Whizbang business into something more substantial. As I think I mentioned last month, Whizbang Books is fading into history and Planet Whizbang is emerging to take its place. We have great hopes and dreams for this home business. Here are some insights into what’s going on around here lately:
—Planet Whizbang now has a new internet look. I invite you to stop by the web site and see the new Planet Whizbang logo.
—Word has it that Mother Earth News magazine has a brand new, homemade Whizbang apple grinder and cider press displayed in their lobby and that they will be telling their readers about the Whizbang cidermaking system in their next issue. With that in mind, I have been busy making and stocking up on my inventory of cider press parts.
—After a surprising amount of time and effort, we have located a source for high-quality cider pressing fabric. It is due here any day and we will be able to offer this to our cider-making customers.
—Another reliable report I got is that the good folks at Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association have made a Whizbang chicken plucker and it will be on display at the Common Ground Country Fair in September. I'd love to be there. We had a wonderful time the one time we went a few years back.
—I am in the process of making minor revisions to and reprinting the book that started our Whizbang family adventure—Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker.
—I am working to develop an accessory attachment for the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe that will accommodate cultivating teeth and a plow point.
I probably should not show you the following video because it is an unsafe example of boy craziness. But it gives you some idea of what Marlene and I have to deal with around here.
This video was taken by my son, Robert, (he is the filmographer and narrator) and the kid on the ATV is my other son, James. A neighbor boy is standing with Robert and can be heard speaking and laughing. The cell-phone movie quality is not very good but you'll get the idea. This was spontaneous, zany fun. A short while later they were helping the neighbor load hay into his barn.