The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
September 2011

Dateline: 30 September 2011

Holland Congregational Church in Holland, Massachusetts (photo link)

On the 17th of this past month we buried the ashes of my mother (who died eight years ago) and my recently deceased stepfather. That’s a load off my mind.

My stepfather, a Marine Corps veteran, was buried with military honors. Before folding the flag, as shown below, a third Marine off in the distance played taps. 

Military honors for my stepfather, Richard C. Murphy
It was a lovely day to be buried, and the rural New England cemetery in Holland, Massachusetts provided a quiet, beautiful final resting place. I especially like that old stone wall in the background.

Pastor Bruce Plumley of the Holland Congregational Church (pictured at the top of this page) conducted a fine, God-honoring graveside service, with 8 family members and five old friends of my father in attendance. Though Pastor Plumley had not known my stepfather, he read my June blog essay and utilized some of the information therein.

Holland Massachusetts is really off the beaten path and I assumed the little old Congregational church was a small fellowship, struggling to keep the light shining, like so many little old rural churches in America. But it turns out that is not the case.

According to Pastor Plumley, "Holland Congregational Church was founded in 1765 by 80 local people who all signed a covenant to hold fast to the Word of God, to preach the Gospel and to provide a place of worship for families to be raised up in the faith.  At this time we have approx. 300 people that attend on Sunday with three services at 8,9:30 and 11."

After the short service, we enjoyed a nice luncheon in the Pineapple Room at the historic Publick House (General Lafayette visited there in 1824) in Sturbridge, only eight miles from Holland.

Marlene and I stayed two nights at the Publick House and spent one day together at Old Sturbridge Village. We’ve been to the Village a number of times but it had probably been six years since we were there last. Not much has changed. It is a Village frozen in time and that time is mostly around 1830. Here’s what the Sturbridge Village web site says...

The period portrayed by Old Sturbridge Village, 1790-1840, is of major significance because it was a time in which the everyday lives of New Englanders were transformed by the rise of commerce and manufacturing, improvements in agriculture and transportation, the pulls of emigration and urbanization, and the tides of educational, political, aesthetic, and social change.

I snapped this picture of Marlene in a garden gazebo by the Salem Towne house...

Marlene at Sturbridge Village
And here’s a picture of yours truly by the water-powered grist mill...

This place is an ideal vacation destination for deliberate agrarians.

That granite stone I’m sitting on caught my eye. It looked like it might make a good sink stone. I was thinking of sink stones because I had just been to the Freeman Farm house and saw this...


Granite sink at the Freeman Farm house (click to enlarge)

I don’t recall ever seeing a hand-carved granite sink like that before and it really struck my fancy. It reminded me of This You-Tube Clip from the great British series, Victorian Farm, in which they show the making of a granite sheep feeder. Wouldn’t it be something to make your own kitchen sink!

In the kitchen of the Freeman Farm house, three women in period dress were making cheese. I asked if they milked the cow that morning and it so happens they milked two of the village cows. I believe they are Devon cows. We met them a little later....

 Sturbridge Devons, viewed through the bars

The Freeman Farmhouse kitchen with its large fireplace was quite sparse. That’s because in 1830 the industrial revolution in America had not yet made so much stuff for people to buy and cram into their houses.

Ladies in the Freeman Farm kitchen. They are making cheese in the wood tub on the left side of the table. The one lady looks like she might be talking on her cell phone but I can assure you that was not the case.


Before I talk about making cheese at the Freeman Farm, I’d like to tell you about something that has been on my mind for some time and this seems as good a place as any to talk about it....

I’ve come up with a new/old idea that I hope to implement someday. I call it the post-industrial kitchen. Unlike the modern kitchens of our time, my post-industrial kitchen will have no fancy built-in cabinetry and countertops. It will have work tables and a few freestanding “yeoman furniture” cupboards.  Where will all the food and small kitchen appliances go? Those things will go into a walk-in pantry room immediately adjacent to the kitchen. The pantry will have an abundance of floor to ceiling shelves . There will be a place for everything and everything in it’s place, and everything will be readily accessible, not stuffed into so many built-in cupboards.

Speaking of which, Marlene and I have acquired an old, freestanding cupboard that would be perfect in a post-industrial kitchen...

The "Wainscot"
That big, homemade cabinet came from my parent’s house and we have always called it “the wainscot.” An auctioneer that came to the house told us the cabinet was made in the late 1800’s. He told us that a few years ago, when middle class people had more money to spend at his auctions, a wainscot cabinet like that would have sold for around $1,500. But these days, it might only bring $600. So Marlene and I kept it. 

See that hole in the corner of the drawer? It's a genuine mouse hole!

Years ago, my stepfather and I hauled the wainscot out of a run-down old house. It was in rough shape. Tin can lids were tacked over spots where mice had gnawed holes into the cabinet. My mother spent a lot of hours cleaning and refinishing the piece. So it has a lot of sentimental value.

Another genuine mouse hole. That one had a rusty tin can lid tacked over it when my parents first got the cabinet.

Once the mice ate their through the door into the bottom of the cabinet, they proceeded to chew their way up through the two shelves above, as you can see in this picture.

How much do you think it would cost to make a kitchen with no built-in cabinets and fancy countertops? Answer: Wayyyy less than the average modern kitchen (the average mid-range kitchen remodel is now around $20,000)

I dare say my post-industrial kitchen, with it’s adjoining pantry room, will be very inexpensive to make. Yet, it will be functional and convenient to use. It will also be much easier to keep clean.

A hand-carved granite sink might be nice.

Another Detour

I hope to implement this idea of a post-industrial kitchen in seven years ( I will be 60 years old). That’s when I would like to build a new country home for Marlene and I— a “retirement” home, if you will, on a little more acreage than we now have. It will be a practical, functional country home. And it will be bigger than the little place we now have. Bigger so we can be a little more hospitable.

When I tell Marlene of this plan (which she likes), she wonders how I will ever find time to build another house. Good question. I can barely find time to keep the lawn mowed these days.

Well, maybe it won’t happen. I’m used to my plans not happening, and don’t hold too tight to any of them, but I still think it’s good to have plans. And now that you’ve endured my post-industrial kitchen idea, and my daydreaming, it’s time to get back to Freeman Farm....

Freeman Farm at Old Sturbridge Village (photo link)

As I was saying, the ladies at Freeman Farm were making cheese the day we visited. I asked them about rennet, which is what gets added to the milk to firm it up. The cheese ladies informed us that rennet comes from the lining of the fourth stomach of a cow. I must admit that, though I knew a cow has four stomachs, I did not know rennet came from the fourth.

Being the inquisitive reader that you are, I’m sure you are wondering what the names of the four stomachs of a cow are. Well, let me tell you... In sequence, they are the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. Now, I wonder if the old timer’s knew those names?

On the table was a short length of tree branch bent into a circle and a section of abomasum was stretched flat and tight with a web of string inside the circle (if you click on the picture of the cheese ladies above, you will see an enlarged view and the circle with stomach is there on the table). 

The old timers scraped some lining off the stomach and added it to the milk. I asked the ladies if that is what they were using and they reluctantly admitted that they used commercially available rennet tablets. But one of the ladies told me they once did use some stomach lining to make cheese. 

Vegetable storage bins in the Freeman Farm root cellar

In the basement root cellar of the Freeman Farm house we found a man with a candle sifting sand from one box to another. He was getting ready to layer vegetables in the sand for winter storage. Here’s what a sign at the top of the root cellar explained...
After the harvest, root vegetables like turnips, beets, and carrots were buried in bins of slightly damp sand to stay moist and firm. Potatoes keep well in bins without sand; their tough skins keep moisture in. Cabbages are strung from the ceiling rafters. The outer leaves shrivel around the cabbage head to provide a barrier that keeps the head moist.

Also on the sign was this quote...

The cellar...was a vast receptacle... In the autumn, it was supplied with three barrels of beef and as many of pork, twenty barrels of cider, with numerous kinds of potatoes, turnips, beets, carrots and cabbages.
Samuel Goodrich
Recollections of a Lifetime, 1857

Twenty barrels! That’s a lotta cider. And it’s not sweet cider that they kept in those barrels.

Before leaving the Freeman Farm I made sure to take the following picture...


Boot Scraper at Freeman Farm

I love practical little details like that hand-wrought iron boot scraper. Mud was, of course, much more prevalent in the old days.

Here’s another detail that I liked...

A stone gate post at Old Sturbridge Village

Split rail fences were the typical wood fence on rural New England farmsteads. The rails were commonly referred to as "bars." 

Agrarian Economics

Allan C. Carlson

In last month’s essay here I stated that modern corporate capitalism as an economic system is destined to fail. Some readers of this blog get a little bit miffed when I say something negative about capitalism. After all, we have all been brought up to believe that capitalism as we know it today is as American as apple pie. There are even people who think that modern capitalism is biblical!

The so-called conservative talk show hosts of America all love modern capitalism. In their minds the only other option besides such capitalism is communism or socialism, and if you don’t like capitalism, than you must be a socialist or a communist. These media talking heads appear to be completely ignorant about agrarian economic principles. And since most rank and file American "conservatives" get their information and talking points from the talk show hosts, agrarian economics is pretty much unheard of.

It behooves thinking people to understand what an agrarian economic system would be like because, as I mentioned last month, modern capitalism is not sustainable, and both socialism and communism are clearly unjust economic and political systems.

If this subject interests you as much as it does me, I recommend professor Allan C. Carlson's speech...

(if you click that link you can listen to a recording of Allan Carlson giving his speech to an audience at Washington State University back in 2010)

Family Based Economics

At the heart of any agrarian economic system is a prevalence of productive home economies. That said, it's nice to see Kevin Swanson at Generations Radio not only talking about “family economics” but  actually having a family economics conference...


Here’s how Kevin Swanson introduces the conference at his blog:
“What if you didn’t have to rely on a big corporation to make a living? What if your family could work together to build an economy that not only provided for your needs, but even produced extra for you to give to others? What if you didn’t have to give the best hours of your day to support the vision of your boss, your bank, or some bureaucrat in Washington DC?

What if you had a fruitful family economy?

As the economies of the world teeter around us, more and more families are discovering the vision for work and economics that has existed for over 4,000 years. This vision is family-based production in the context of the household. Forget about world GDP, population implosion, or the CPI for just a moment, and consider the power of a family unit knit together in relationship, love, and honor—all diligently working toward the single goal of being productive for the kingdom of God."

I hope this Family Economics Conference is a great success. However, I have a feeling that "family economy" as it will be discussed at that conference will be defined and limited to a "family business." I may be wrong (and I hope I am in this respect) but if the conference emphasis is solely on making money in a family business in order to support the family by buying everything the family needs (or wants), that would certainly not be a "vision for work and economics that has existed for over 4,000 years."

Traditionally speaking, the 4,000 year history of family economies was something much deeper and more intimate than just a family business.

Of course, true family economies predated the industrial era. As industrialism spread, it destroyed the traditional family economy. First it lured men (husbands and fathers) away from family farms and home-based cottage industries to the cities and factories where traditional ways of life and work were exchanged for a narrowly-focused job and a wage. Sons & daughters and wives followed the menfolk into the industrial work world. Instead of working together, individual family members went their separate ways; the family economy was sacrificed to support the industrial economy. 

Traditional family economies involved immediate and extended family members all working together (and typically within small communities) to supply their subsistence needs for food, fuel, clothing, shelter, health care, education, entertainment (and so on) largely from the land, without being subservient to or dependent on any other economic system. A broad spectrum of skills, responsibilities, and interdependencies came into play. Yes, a family business certainly was part of traditional family economies, but only a part.

I applaud any effort to reestablish any semblance of the  family economy (this is a critically important thing to be doing, especially as the dominant industrial economy of the developed western world is now in decline), but to do so without embracing the richness and wisdom of traditional understandings is a mistake.

The Agrarian Urbanist

Richard Grossman, a.k.a., The Midland Agrarian, has a new blog titled The Agrarian Urbanist. If you have read Richard’s online writings (and the late, great “Granny Miller” blog of his wife) you know that the Grossmans have a very well informed understanding of agrarianism, both practical and philosophical.

I’ve never given much thought to the combination of agrarianism and urbanism because I've always believed that agrarianism and urbanism are opposite concepts. But I have no doubt that urbanism can be improved by applying agrarian concepts, and I'm curious to read what Richard Grossman has to say on the subject.

Also, I know that many people who read this blog live in urban areas and have agrarian inclinations. So you may find The Agrarian Urbanist of particular interest.

In the Agrarian Urbanits's first blog post, Richard mentions Andres Duany and provides a link to a web page where we learn...

"Duany believes the metaphorical asteroid -- call it peak oil, climate change, the collapse of complex structures -- is on its way. He's trying to push the body of planners and architects toward a small-town America that more closely resembles pre-1850 America than pre-1950."

Hmmm... this Duany fellow has my attention. Another quote from the same link...

Agrarian urbanism, he explained, is different from both "urban agriculture" ("cities that are retrofitted to grow food") and "agricultural urbanism" ("when an intentional community is built that is associated with a farm)." He was thinking bigger: "Agrarian urbanism is a society involved with the growing of food."

On Raising Children 

I support my family in part by writing how-to books, and I have a lot of ideas for books that I'd like to write someday, but I can assure you that I will never write a book about how to properly raise children. That's because, when you write a how-to book it's important to know your subject well and be good at it. I don't feel I am either of those things when it comes to parenting.

I'm compelled to mention this because I have received a number of e-mails over the years from parents who are concerned about their children and how to raise them so that, first, they follow the parent's Christian faith and, second,  they embrace the wisdom of agrarian life.

Parenting with such goals in mind is a high and important calling. It is also incredibly difficult to do because it is so downright countercultural. To make matters worse, numerous internet bloggers present their children and their family as remarkable examples of virtue and wisdom. I fear that I myself may have been guilty of this in past essays, and the thought of it prompts me to recommend a "disclaimer" essay I wrote a few years ago titled: My Christian-Agrarian Reality

I dare say, well-intentioned and God-fearing parents can get mighty discouraged when they compare their family to some of the "model" families found on the internet. I know this because I've compared, and I've gotten discouraged. I should know better. You should know better.

I mention all of this as prelude to the following excerpt from the essay, "Family Work," by Wendell Berry, and found in his book, The Gift of Good Land.

The point of Berry's message in this essay is the vital importance of passing on important family values by establishing a productive, family-centered, home economy (not, I hasten to add, defined as a "family business"). Though Mr. Berry presents the family-centered home economy as a healthy concept and fundamentally agrarian, it also happens to be biblical (and I'm sure he knows that). 

I'm persuaded that anything biblical is also contra-industrial and, therefore, as I've already stated, difficult to do. But spiritual conviction coupled with righteous indignation is a powerful force for industrial-world nonconformity, especially when we're talking about the sacred responsibility of raising children. 

Thus it is that so many Christian families in this day and age are coming to understand that establishing a healthy and functional agrarian-based home economy is profoundly and fundamentally important. In short, it's the right thing to do.

That said, I present the following perspective from Wendell Berry. This excerpt is only the end portion of a larger essay, all of which is well worth reading. The final two paragraphs sum up nicely what we concerned parents need to keep in mind, especially as our children get into their adolescent/teen years.

If we consume nothing but what we buy, we are living in “the economy,” in “television land,” not at home. It is productivity that rights the balance and brings us home....

[Home-based] productivity, however small, is a gift. If we are parents we cannot help but see it as a gift to our children—and the best of gifts. How will it be received?

Well, not ideally. Sometimes it will be received gratefully enough. But sometimes indifferently, and sometimes resentfully.

According to my observation, one of the likeliest results of a wholesome diet of home-raised, home-cooked food is a heightened relish for cokes and hot dogs. And if you “deprive” your children of TV at home, they are going to watch it with something like rapture away from home. And obligations, jobs, and chores at home will almost certainly cause your child to wish, sometimes at least, to be somewhere else, watching TV.

Because, of course, parents are not the only ones raising their children. They are being raised also by their schools and by their friends and by the parents of their friends. Some of this outside raising is good, some is not. It is, anyhow, unavoidable.

What this means, I think, is about what it has always meant. Children, no matter how nurtured at home, must be risked to the world. And parenthood is not an exact science, but a vexed privilege and a blessed trial, absolutely necessary and not altogether possible.

If your children spurn your healthful meals in favor of some concocted by some reincarnation of Col. Sanders, Long John Silver, or the Royal Family of Burger; if they flee from books to a friend’s house to watch TV, if your old-fashioned notions and ways embarrass them in front of their friends—does that mean you are a failure?

It may. And what parent has not considered that possibility? I know, at least, that I have considered it—and have wailed and gnashed my teeth, found fault, laid blame, preached and ranted. In weaker moments, I have even blamed myself.

But I have thought, too, that the term of human judgment is longer than parenthood, that the upbringing we give our children is not just for their childhood but for all their lives. And it is surely the duty of the older generation to be embarrassingly old-fashioned, for the claims of the “newness” of any younger generation are mostly frivolous. The young are born to the human condition more than to their time, and they face mainly the same trials and obligations as their elders have faced.

The real failure is to give in. If we make our house a household instead of a motel, provide healthy nourishment for mind and body, enforce moral distinctions and restraints, teach essential skills and disciplines and require their use, there is no certainty that we are providing our children a “better life” that they will embrace wholeheartedly during childhood. But we are providing them a choice that they may make intelligently as adults.

Cidermaking 2011

This picture shows my son James (part of him) feeding apples into our homemade Whizbang Apple grinder. The grinder will chew them up as fast as he can stuff them in, and the mash flows into a bucket, ready to be pressed.

If you have read this blog for long, you know that our family makes apple cider every year about this time. And you know that, after several years of development, I came up with my own Whizbang Cidermaking equipment. If you have a source of apples, I recommend cidermaking as a great family activity, and I can assure you that no other home-scale cidermaking equipment on the market is as easy to use and productive as my Whizbang system.

Yesterday morning my son James and I made cider on the back patio. We worked together for an hour or so to press a bunch of free-for-the-picking apples (maybe three bushels in all) that Marlene got from a friend earlier in the week.

My Whizbang cider press utilizes a simple 2x6 board and small hydraulic jack to press a basket of apple mash.

We ended up with about ten gallons of wholesome, unadulterated sweet apple cider. Eight gallons of that were put into jars and set aside to ferment into vinegar (just like I tell and show how to do in This Essay). 

With my Whizbang cidermaking system, a stack of pressing discs and cloth-wrapped bags of apple mash are layered up inside the pressing tub. Pressure is put to this "cheese" (a traditional cidermaking term) and the result is faster, easier, more thorough juice extraction. In this picture I am holding some of the just-pressed mash. No other home-scale cidermaking system on the market utilizes this very effective pressing technique.

Yesterday was our first cider pressing of the season. There will be more. And we will also be making Whizbanged applesauce!

Agrarian Nation

Shucking corn with grandma.... The traditional family economy in action!

I continue to post twice-weekly at my Agrarian Nation web site. Here are links from September...


Thanks for reading this edition of the Deliberate Agrarian monthly blogazine!


Tales From The Green Valley
(with episode links)

Anyone with an interest in agrarianism and history will appreciate the excellent 2005 BBC documentary series, Tales From The Green Valley.  Five people go back in time for one year and operate a typical 1620 English farm.

In 1620, King James I was on the throne—the same King James that commissioned the famous King James translation of the Bible.

This period in English history is of particular interest if you admire the Mayflower Pilgrims, as I do. 1620 was their era. The Pilgrims were simple rural farm people before fleeing to Holland, and it was the exact year of 1620 that the Pilgrim separatists set sail from Holland for America in the Mayflower.

Tales From The Green Valley does not portray a Pilgrim farm and does not reflect the Separatist beliefs (for example, the Pilgrims did not celebrate Christmas), but it does a fine job of explaining (and showing) the typical rural culture of that time.

For a perspective on the Pilgrims that you may have never heard (they did not come to America primarily for religious freedom), I recommend my essay titled, Pilgrims and the Christian-Agrarian Exodus of 1620

The entire series of half-hour Tales From The Green Valley television programs can be viewed on YouTube in 15 minute segments. Below is an organized list of links to all the episodes. I hope you and your family will enjoy these as much as I have.

Episode 1
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 2
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 3
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 4
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 5
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 6
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 7
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 8
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 9
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 10
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 11
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 12
Part 1
Part 2


The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
August 2011

Dateline: 31 August 2011

I was driving to my job in the city early one morning and saw a sight that etched itself deeply into my mind. I wished I had a camera with me. The picture would have told a story— a story of so many elderly people in this nation as the economic depression deepens, if not of the economy itself.

What I saw was a thin, aged, white-haired man, tall and stooped, both hands on a walker in front of him,  carefully making his way across the street. That in itself was not so unusual, but what the man was carrying shocked me. Slung crosswise over his left shoulder and hanging against his right side was a dirty canvass newspaper bag. The old man was delivering newspapers!

The harsh reality of our failing economy is settling itself into the heart and mind of America. Remember the masses who swarmed to see and support the silver-tongued politician? They  hoped in his message of hope, based on political solutions, and now they are profoundly disappointed. The gullibility, the blindness and the abject ignorance of so many people in this nation is utterly astounding.

What these masses do not and can not bring themselves to understand is that the industrial era is drawing to a close. The Industrial party is almost over. Everything will change (is already changing). So-called “conventional wisdom” will no longer apply. It’s time to embrace traditional wisdom....

Agrarian Nation 2050

Professor John E. Ikerd

Earlier this year I started a new blog titled Agrarian Nation. Twice a week (every Monday and Friday) I post an excerpt from the pre-1900 agricultural writings (mostly from old farm almanacs). The premise of Agrarian Nation is that the industrial age is drawing to a close and we as a nation will, of necessity, revert back to a more agrarian way of life. That has, in fact, also been an underlying theme of this blog which I started over six years ago.

I considered giving my Agrarian Nation blog the title of Agrarian Nation 2050 because it seemed to me that by then we would be well into the epic cultural transition that lies before us. (I also thought Agrarian Nation 2050 would make a great t-shirt slogan, but I don’t wear t-shirts with slogans).

So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered a speech titled, Back to the Future: Small Farms in the Year 2050, that was given in May of this year by John E. Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics at the University of Missouri. Professor Ikerd and I are clearly on the same page in many ways. I will provide a link to the full text of his speech but first I want to share some excerpts...

I believe the changes of the next fifty-years will be at least as big as those of the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s
The economic growth of the industrial era was made possible by an abundance of cheap energy – first the old growth forests, then surface mining of coal, and for the past 100-years, by shallow reservoirs of oil and natural gas. There was plenty of energy to support two centuries of economic growth. However, the old growth forests are gone. We are blowing up bedrock and mountain tops to get the remaining coal and natural gas. We are drilling for oil deep beneath the oceans and in the remote corners of the world.  We are not out of fossil energy, at least not yet, but we are quickly running out of cheap energy.
The industrialization of agriculture, and the government policies that supported it, have been an absolute failure. Our current systems of farming and food production are not sustainable. A larger percentage of Americans are more “food insecure” today than during the 1960s. Those who can afford to buy enough food are far less healthy. We are not meeting the needs of the present and certainly not leaving equal or better opportunities for the future. An industrial agriculture is not sustainable. Fundamental change in agriculture is not an option; it is a necessity.
Thomas Jefferson believed strongly that the “yeoman farmer” best exemplified the kind of “independence and virtue” that should be supported by the new democratic republic of the United States. He believed financiers, bankers, and industrialists could not be trusted and should not be encouraged by government. In light of our current financial situation in the U.S., “Jeffersonian Democracy” still makes a lot of sense.
The farms of 2050 will be smaller than most of today’s commercial farms because sustainable farms must rely less on fossil energy and more on management and labor, meaning more smaller farms and more opportunities for farmers.

Professor Ikerd foresees that America will return to a nation of many small, independent, sustainable farms that supply the food needs of local populations, just as was once the case in this nation.

In order to get from here to there Ikerd says that the nation must “create a new vision of a better future.”

That new vision must begin with the realization that we don’t need more economic growth.
The challenge for Americans today is not to try to restore unsustainable economic growth, but instead to learn to live “wisely, agreeably, and well.” We already have enough “stuff.”

No economic growth? No economic growth! Professor Ikerd must be some sort of fringe lunatic. It’s just plain un-American to say (or even to think) that we don’t need economic growth. This man dares to disagree with industrial orthodoxy? Heretic!

The only thing worse than saying that we don’t need economic growth is to say something negative about capitalism, especially if you are a Christian conservative and have been a registered Republican for the past 35 years (that’s me). But modern corporate-capitalism is the spawn of industrialism, and this industrialism has only been possible because of an abundance of easily obtained natural resources, and it won't last. 

To put it in more agrarian terms: the taproot of modern industrialism feeds off of abundant, inexpensive natural resources. Starve the root and the plant will get weak and sick, and eventually die. 

Thus it is that capitalism as we have known it is not sustainable because infinite growth in a world of finite resources is impossible. So capitalism as we have known it will fail. To cling to capitalism is to grasp at straws.

The days of resource abundance are over. This fact  is very clear when you understand Walter Prescott Webb’s boom hypothesis of modern history. It is becoming clearer every day as the reality of resource depletion increasingly makes its way into the news reports. Perpetual growth is a myth. I’ll say it again... modern capitalism will fail. It is inevitable.

Nevertheless, the powers that be will do (are doing) all they can to preserve the current economic system. We are seeing unprecedented cooperation between multinational corporations and governments to advance the profit and control goals of the corporations. This includes the banking sector, of course. Government is now a more effective tool than ever in the hands of the corporate giants. It is government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

Millions of people are still hoping in the empty promises of blathering politicians, inept economists and a modern news media that is focused less on the truth and more on entertainment.

Many millions of people can’t comprehend what will be because they are so attached to what has been. Yet, those who hope in the industrial institutions and the industrial promises will be continually disillusioned in the years ahead.

The system will eventually collapse.

In light of the emerging reality of, first, economic collapse and then, eventually, systemic collapse, I believe it behooves us all to question every premise of corporate-industrial-capitalism. Where we live. How we live. The kind of work we do. How we raise and educate our children. What we value as important in life. What we spend our money on. What we eat. How we acquire our food. What we expect of government. How we invest our time and resources. And, most importantly, how we relate to God. All of these facets of our life must be seriously reevaluated.

We can ask these questions now, and make voluntary changes now, in our individual lives, so that we are far less likely to be harmed by the collapse. We can do this now, regardless of collapse, because it is the right thing to do. We can eschew materialism, embrace simplicity and place our hope, not in failing institutions, but in God’s grace and his mercy.

We can work with our hands, our hearts, our families, like-minded friends and what resources we have to learn the fundamental skills of agrarian life; to be less dependent on the industrial system. And we can be eternally thankful for the most basic of blessings, as we should be.

John Ikerd speaks of hope and vision for the postindustrial era. Hope and vision are essential to making a successful personal and family transition. They are essential to living a full, rich, happy life, industrial collapse or not.

Please understand that collapse is not synonymous with the end of the world, just the end of the world as we have known it. I believe that 2050 could look much like 1850. There were people in 1850 who lived full, rich, happy lives. There were also people in 1750 who lived full, rich, happy lives. And before that.

Yes, people certainly lived more primitively compared to today, and they worked much harder to provide for their sustenance, but it wasn’t necessarily a terrible existence. Sure, some people had terrible situations, but some people today have terrible situations too.

In 2050 there will still be beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The birds will still sing their songs. There will still be the joys of seed time and harvest. Billowing clouds and sparkling stars and little babies will still delight us. Life, and love, and hope, and friendship will still exist. In other words, the essential blessings —God’s common graces—will still be here for mankind.

If this collapse happens in my lifetime, and it is given to me to survive the difficult political and social transition, and God allows me to live to 2050, I will be 92 years old. It is possible that I will see the fall of industrialism and the establishment of a new agrarian era. What an exciting time to be alive.

(You can read professor Ikerd’s speech at This Link)

Higher Education Scam?


The established conventional wisdom  of the industrial paradigm tells us that a college education is necessary; that it is is an essential key to success and prosperity and happiness. But in the topsy-turvy era of postindustrial transition that we find ourselves in, the old rules no longer apply. This is certainly the case with higher education. If you are considering college, or know someone who is, check out the YouTube movie above. It provides a countercultural perspective on college education.  The movie has been on the internet for less than three months and has nearly two million views already. It is one hour long. I’ve watched it twice

My Advice 
To The Younger Generation

I have told my sons that one of the best careers they can get into is growing food. I’m not  talking about large-scale, industrialized, debt-bondage farming with its many dependencies. I mean small-scale, diversified, sustainable farming with a horse or two, selling food to a local market (like Grant Gibbs and so many other “New American Farmers”).

My boys aren’t interested. Few young people are. It is, after all, hard work for little pay, and it isn’t a very popular vocation. But if you are inured to hard work, love the land, have an independent, countercultural, bootstrapping spirit, are stubborn in you convictions, and focused on learning and succeeding, long term, you will succeed, especially if you start when you are young. Joel Salatin’s book, You Can Farm, is the first textbook I recommend.

Of course, you must also eschew materialism and embrace voluntary simplicity. Unless you are fortunate enough to be tapped into a trust fund or some other inheritance, you will not be able to afford a large modern home with so many modern conveniences and entertainment devices. You will not be able to afford new vehicles and clothes and vacations. You will not be able to afford shopping carts full of convenience foods and frequent visits to restaurants. You will not, in other words, appear successful like all those people who pursue the modern American vision of success.

But I’m talking here about a different kind of success.

Young people who embrace the postindustrial paradigm of success and personal independence now, who learn how to grow food for themselves and their communities, who learn the skills of subsistence and how to live in a sustainable manner, will be ahead of the curve— they will be valued for their skills and contributions in the years ahead. They will be vibrant, integral components in the reemerging Agrarian Nation.

The Toxic Gasses 
of Materialism

I am a supporter of Ligonier Ministries and receive their monthly magazine, Tabletalk. The current edition has some particularly good articles. One is an interview with Paul David Tripp.  The magazine asks Mr.Tripp...

What do you believe to be the most serious issues plaguing the modern Christian family?

His answer...

One of the greatest challenges to the Christian family is rampant, culturally-institutionalized, media-promoted, hero-driven materialism. Maybe more than ever before, our culture has embraced the delusion that life can be found in the physical, material creation. The created world has no ability whatsoever to satisfy the cravings of our hearts. The creation is meant to be a finger that points me to the one place where real life and rest can be found—God. Because this materialism plays on the deepest idolatries of our hearts (Romans 1:25), it leaves us fat, addicted, and in debt. As a culture, we spend too much, we eat too much, we try to experience too much, and we are way too busy, all in the vain hope that we will find life where it cannot be found. It is hard to be a family living in Western culture and not breathe in the toxic gasses of its materialism.

The Challenges 
Facing Christian Youth

In the same Paul D. Tripp interview mentioned above, Mr. Tripp is asked...

What are the biggest challenges facing Christian adolescents today, and how should the church be involved?

His remarkably insightful answer (in part)...

You could argue that the struggles of teenagers today are exactly what they’ve always been. Teens don’t tend to hunger for wisdom and correction. They tend to be legalistic (arguing about where the boundaries are); they tend to be unwise in their choices of companions; they tend to be susceptible to sexual temptation; they don’t tend to live with the future in view; and they tend to be blind to the true condition of their hearts
For us, these struggles are reinforced by three things in our culture. First, our teens live in a culture where biblical faith and values have a very small place in the cultural discussion. Second, they are told again and again every day that life really can be found in material things. And finally, they live in a culture where intensely intrusive and constantly available media puts the philosophy of the culture in their face. All around me I see teens in Christian families assenting to biblical belief buy buying the idols of the surrounding culture.

The emphasis on that last sentence is mine. I think Paul Tripp really nails it in this summation of the current state of Christian adolescence. Sadly, I see it to some degree in my own family. I’m sure many of you parents can relate. I find it interesting that Mr. Tripp answered only the first part of the question. “How should the church be involved” was not addressed. Perhaps it was edited out to save space.


Get Wisdom
('bout media)

Phillip Telfer of MediaTalk 101

It’s funny how one thing leads to another on the internet, and before long you discover something that is especially good. That was the case with MediaTalk 101. It started with when I decided to search for sermons containing the word, “farm.”  

That took me to a list of sermons, one of which was Is The Family Farm Viable in the 21st Century?  by Kevin Swanson. But that wasn’t actually a sermon. It was a “radio program” from Generations Radio. I listened to some of the programs there and found them far more thought-provoking and interesting than anything on my Sirius satellite radio. 

One of Kevin Swanson's interviews was with Phillip Telfer of MediaTalk 101. So I went to the MediaTalk web site and ended up buying a copy of the DVD, Media Choices: Convictions or Compromise?

Did you know that every time you watch a movie, you are hearing a sermon? The same holds true for watching a television program, or playing a video game, or listening to a song, or reading a book, or a magazine article, or, even... reading a blog. It’s all media and no media is neutral—all of it communicates a message. All media speaks to us when we submit ourselves to it. And all media does not, as I’m sure you are aware, preach a good sermon.

That’s the premise of the Media Choices DVD I bought, and Phillip Telfer does an excellent job of speaking to teens about this subject. Like Paul D. Tripp’s comments above, Phillip Telfer sees clearly that media entertainment has become one of the biggest roadblocks to the spiritual growth of young people.

However, unlike Mr. Tripp’s short reply in Tabletalk magazine, Philip Telfer provides solutions to the problem of worldly media. Telfer is a gentle, wise warrior for the truth, and he effectively communicates to teens how and why they should be careful and discerning about their media choices. His message is clearly biblical. I recommend this DVD to any parent with a preteen. Better yet, get Mr. Telfer to come to your church or homeschool group to present his message personally.

By the way, this message of Christian compromise with media is not just for adolescents. Did you know that the average age of video game players is 35 years old? That is an incredibly sad statistic.

And did you know that the average American watches 4.7 hours of television each day? And after living the average life span of 77.9 years of age, the average American will have spent 15 years of his life sitting in front of the television

That’s so incredible that I did the math myself. It actually comes out to 15 years and a few months, and it must assume that television watching starts on the first day of a person’s life. Close enough. 

I’m pleased to be able to report that I am well below average in this television-watching statistic because I almost never watch television and haven't in years (and I despise video games). Even still, there are ungodly mainstream media “sermons” of various kinds that I have submitted myself to and Mr. Telfer’s excellent message has led me to renewed conviction in this area of my life.

R.C. on 9/11

The aforementioned Ligonier Ministries is headed by Reformed Theologian, R. C Sproul. In the current issue of Tabletalk magazine (also aforementioned here), R.C. provides a perspective on the 9/11 tragedy that you certainly will not hear or see from any mainstream media. That’s because the mainstream media does not have a biblical worldview, as does Mr. Sproul. Here, in part, is what  R.C Sproul wrote...

When two evangelical leaders, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, suggested that 9/11 may have been a divine judgment upon our sinful culture, they were hissed, booed, and shouted down to the point that they issued public recantations. The American psyche has no place for a God who judges people or nations. God can bless us, but God forbid He ever judges us.

We are like Habakkuk, who, in his consternation over the fact that God used a foreign power to chasten His own people, stationed himself in a watchtower, demanding an answer from God as to how He could allow such wickedness to prevail. Unlike Habakkuk’s reaction when God answered that question in His Holy Word, our lips do not quiver, our legs do not shake, our bellies do not tremble, nor does rottenness enter our bones (Hab. 3:16). Rather than repent in dust and ashes before a holy God, we continue to shake our fists in His face, demanding a more benevolent providence from His hand.

But God does not say to us as Americans: “My country right or wrong.” God requires nations as well as individuals to repent of their attempts to be autonomous, sovereign rulers, trying to displace Him. Any nation that seeks to supplant God’s sovereignty with its own is doomed. It is doomed to failure, it is doomed to destruction, and it is doomed to insignificance.
My fear is that we haven’t learned very much from 9/11. On 9/11, ten years ago, more babies were destroyed in the wombs of their mothers than people were killed in the terrorist attack in New York. That destruction continues to this day. The greatest attacks on the sanctity of life come not from al-Qaeda but from those who destroy their young. God will not continue to tolerate any  nation that practices that culture of death and barbarism.

What is most tragic is that when we were given a wake-up call ten years ago on 9/11, we pushed the snooze button and went back to sleep.
 You can read the entire editorial at This Link.

A Great Agrarian Read

If you missed my posting here a couple days ago about John Stewart Collis and his delightful book, The Worm Forgives The Plough, please check it out at this link: In Praise of John Stewart Collis

More Books...

Patrice Lewis, over at the blog, Rural Revolution, asked me a few months ago if I would be interested in reviewing her new book, Simplicity Primer. Well, I'm interested in reviewing any book, but finding the time to actually read the book is often difficult. So I perused Patrice's book and read a few of the essays and came to the conclusion that it is less a book about simplicity and more a book of opinionated good advice for making wise decisions and living a wholesome, happy life. It occurred to me that Patrice would make a fine advice columnist, and probably be better than any other advice columnist out there.

Since Simplicity Primer is a book of short, readable essays, I thought it would make a fine "bathroom reader," and that's where I put it. My hope was that maybe my sons would pick it up and some of Patrice's wisdom would impact them (the book is especially good for young people to read, or so it seems to me). Since then, My wife, Marlene, has said to me on two different occasions, "I really like that Simplicity book."  

And now, as I am writing this, I just went upstairs to fetch the book, but it wasn't in the bathroom.... it was on Marlene's bedside table. 

Get yourself a copy HERE.


Michael Bunker is now writing a futuristic novel titled, The Last Pilgrims. You can read much of the book online. If nothing else, check out the 4-minute movie trailer for the book (at the web site). It's impressive.


And speaking of movies, the amazing Bartlett brothers up there in North Dakota are now making a movie of their own. You can check out their trailer and learn all about the production at the official Excelsior  movie web site.

(the poem)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I discovered the following Longfellow poem (written in 1841) when I was in 11th grade (1975). Excelsior spoke to me at that time because it was about a young man of strong convictions on a journey. He faced difficulties and temptations along the way but stayed the course. I memorized the poem back then and have thought of it often over the years.

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,

"Try not the Pass!" the old man said;
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!"
And loud that clarion voice replied,

"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast! "
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,

"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,

There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell like a falling star,