They say that time goes faster as you get older. Older people know this to be true. Younger people will come to understand it one day.
I have a similar observation.... I believe the last months of a year go by faster than the first months.
I know there are 24 hours in every day, so I can't explain how these phenomenons can be true. I just know that they are.
And seeing as it's true, it helps to explain why I am scrambling to get this blogazine issue together just two days before publication deadline (I typically start writing it around the middle of the month). It may be a little rough around the edges this month, but here it is......
A GOOD GRAPE YEAR!
|Fruit on my vines! Thank you, Lord.|
October was the month for harvesting our grape crop and, WOW, what a harvest it was! After a couple lackluster years we had a bumper crop. Grapes are so lovely hanging on the vine, don't you think?
|We picked so many buckets of grapes like this!|
Marlene put up 13 gallons of concentrated Concord grape juice in pint and quart jars. We love to quaff down a glass of pure, unadulterated, homegrown fruit of the vine, and much prefer simple juice to the fermented option.
We had so many grapes that we were able to share them with five different friends, one of which repaid the favor with a couple of exquisite grape pies. If you have never experienced grape pie, you’ve missed out on something very special (Click Here for some grape pie how-to).
Inspired by the gift of grape pie, Marlene made sure to prepare and freeze several packages of the grapes specifically for pie. Oh, what a blessed man I am too have grapes, friends who make grape pies for me, and a wife who intends to make me grape pies!
For those who may wonder, we do use a Mehu-Liisa steamer to make grape juice (we've had it for several years). We have made grape juice with and without the Mehu Liisa and Marlene will tell you that it is much easier, with less mess and fuss to make grape juice with the steamer—it’s the perfect tool for grape juice, and built for a lifetime of use.
When it comes to apple juice (a.k.a., cider) the hands-down best way to make that is with a homemade Whizbang apple grinder and cider press. My cidermaking equipment has pressed well over 50 gallons of cider this season.
|After pressing, the juicy, cloth-wrapped layers of apple mash are reduced to a moist crumbly cake.|
Not all of the cider was for us. We spent a wonderful October afternoon with a younger couple from our church and their three children making 16 gallons of cider. And my son James and a friend of his have made several gallons on a couple of occasions.
|This is my son, James, grinding apples in the Whizbang apple grinder. He used to not mind having his picture taken for publication on this blog. But that's not the case any more (arms and hands are okay)|
I have as much fun seeing and hearing about people using my cidermaking equipment to make their own cider as I do making it myself!
Dear Mr. Kimball,
I wanted to write and tell you the TRIUMPH our family is having with the Cider Press and Grinder....My husband is a traumatic brain injury survivor from a ski injury when he was a teen and the part of his brain that was injured is the part that organizes things. I am an adult with attention deficit disorder, so though I can teach college and my husband runs his own painting business you can see we both need our own systems to get things done.
We get along quite well except for the one time a year where we both want to get divorced - or kill each other - for about 15 minutes, and that has almost always been about building projects. I have a vision in mind and in my addled state try to explain it to him and in his confusion he misinterprets my misinterpretation and we are off to the races.
THAT DID NOT HAPPEN THIS TIME! You have written the first set of cider press plans that not only presses cider extremely well, it improves marriages! Your plans were clear enough that we could both follow them without getting confused. Now THAT is an accomplishment.
|Some of my fingerling potato harvest in the prototype Whizbang garden tote that I made a couple years ago. Yes, I'm still putting it to use, and it's a downright handy homestead tool. One of these days I will publish plans.|
I think I always write about my potato harvest around this time of year. I can't help it. Homegrown potatoes are so beautiful when unearthed and collected. To mention them here is to announce that something amazing has taken place once again. Potatoes are like snowflakes in that no two are alike, thus they are objects of infinitely varied beauty.
I grew a whole row of fingerling potatoes this year. They're not big but we like the flavor and enjoy the novelty. Our basement is now well stocked with spuds for the winter. It’s always a good feeling to get the year’s potato harvest in.
The End of An Era In Our Family
|My youngest son, James, at the Ithaca, New York Farmer's Market, helping me sell "Herrick's Homegrown" garlic powder five years ago. He didn't mind getting his picture taken back then. I will say, he's not nearly as cute now. :-)|
My youngest son, James, turned 17 in October, and he also completed his “formal” homeschooling. That is a milestone on the path of life.
And my wife, Marlene, has also completed an important work in her life. After 18 years, her responsibilities as homeschool teacher to our three boys is now over.
Life is full of beginnings, endings and transitions, and they are often bittersweet. Maybe, though, after going through algebra for the third time, with boys that don’t much care about algebra, this transition for Marlene is all sweet with no bitter. There was surely sweetness in the journey, and in many memories of that journey.
It is a remarkable feat, especially in this day and age, for a mother to teach her children without ever sending them to the government schools or, for that matter, to a Christian school. Marlene wholeheartedly assumed responsibility for this task in our home.
She recently said to me: “I remember the first day when I started homeschooling. I cried.”
She cried because it did not go according to her expectations. That is typical. Marlene had some things to learn herself. But she was faithful to the calling and held fast to what we both believed was right before God and best for our children. I am so very thankful for her faithfulness
As for myself, I can take little credit for the formal home education of our children beyond that of co-conviction, support, encouragement, and provision.
My sons can read, write and cipher. They know the difference between right and wrong (as defined biblically, not culturally). And they have a good work ethic. I thank God for such an outcome.
I should note that our oldest son did attend a “Christian school” for his last two years. We were persuaded from that experience that Christian schooling is not in any important way equal to, or better than, homeschooling, and we did not make the mistake of sending our other children there.
With this subject of our homeschooling experiences in mind, I feel compelled to say that it grieves me when I see young Christian parents give their little children over to the government schools, and even to Christian schools. Worse yet is when a mother is willing to teach her children at home and her husband will not support her in it. Yes, it is surely harder to homeschool (especially for mothers) but that is to be expected... doing the right thing usually is harder.
I do not relate any of this to condemn, but to affirm and encourage young Christian parents in their biblical calling to teach their children at home.
How To Debone A Chicken
Speaking of education, it gladdens my heart when my children desire to learn new skills and educate themselves. Home schooling is, after all, just a beginning. There is so much more to learn, and enjoy in the learning, like, for example, how to debone a chicken....
James is working as a cook at a popular diner in the rural village of Moravia, which is six miles from our home. In such a position he has far more responsibility than I ever had at his age, and he loves the job.
It occurred to me that I might encourage my youngest son in his cooking pursuits by getting him a DVD titled, The Complete Pepin: Techniques and Recipes. It’s a 5-hour cooking course by the famous French chef, Jacques Pepin.
My kids can tell you that it is typical of me to give gifts that are educational in nature, and, more often than not, my ideas of what they might find interesting and fun aren’t really all that interesting or fun to them. Still, I try. And every so often, I succeed....
Such was the case with the Jacques Pepin DVD. James watched it, and liked it, and has put some of it to good use. For example, he has de-boned a chicken, and cooked it—just like Jacques Pepin!
Like Grandfather, Like Grandson
|I don't know who this grandfather and grandson are but I like the picture.|
The diner where James works is called “The Gathering.” It is popular for its home cooking. Every so often James will call his mother for cooking advice. The other day he called to get Marlene’s potato soup recipe. That pleased her to no end.
A lot of “regulars” come in to the diner every day. By now, the older folks know James and several know he is the grandson of Jay Myers (Marlene's dad). Jay was a man that a lot of people hereabouts knew and remember. He was a dairy farmer, and a cattle trucker in his later years, after he sold the farm. He was a big man, a hardworking man, and a decent, down-to-earth man.
James does not remember his grandfather Jay very well because he died in 1997 when James was only three years old. But it so happens that James is a lot like his grandfather.
It is a powerfully good thing for a grandson, who never really knew his grandfather, to grow up in the same community where his grandfather lived and to hear good things about the man. James has been blessed with such an experience.
The industrial culture we live in, so focused on material success, has, for over a century, encouraged young people to leave their rural homes and go to the cities, or to far away places so they can make a lot of money. And so, the pursuit of money has trumped the preservation of cohesive extended families in small rural community. I have never wanted that for my children, or encouraged it in my family.
Do you remember Pepper, the cat that came to us a month or so ago? Well, she evidently came to us impregnated. Before Marlene could make an appointment to get her “fixed” she swelled up and had seven adorable little ones.
|The two handmade, Depression-era quilts in this picture sold for around $30 each. I don't know where my mother got them.|
We had an auctioneer come to my now-deceased parent's house and take anything they felt had value. They took a truckload, cleaned it up and sold it all in a few hours earlier this month.
It was a fun and sad at the same time to see everything get auctioned off. If you read my July blogazine issue, you may recognize the man in this next picture as Earl Murphy.
|Earl & the Victorian sisters— my stepfather maintained that the ladies in the print were distant kin on his mother's side of the family. The woman who won the bid for the sisters had bright green hair.|
Earl’s picture sold for seven dollars. The two Victorian-era sisters in the gold frame above Earl sold for $35. We went intending to buy two items and we bought both. One was the hanging lamp in this next picture. It went for $125. I would have paid more, but I would also have paid less that day were I not bidding against a call-in bidder that saw this photo online.
|This adjustable hanging oil lamp was once owned by my stepfather's parents, Earl & Marion Murphy. It is brass with a hand-painted glass shade. It hung for many years in their summer camp at Holland, Mass. I have always liked it.|
That lamp was one of the highest priced items of the whole sale. The other item we wanted was an old wicker rocker. It too came from the Murphy camp in Holland. It’s comfortable. My mother liked it very much. Ten bucks.
|We bought my mother's blue wicker rocker for ten dollars. Sentimental value, yes, but it is also very comfortable to sit in.|
I was satisfied with the auctioneer and how he handled the sale, but things went real cheap. The economic decline has hit auctions and antiques hard.
Have you ever heard it said that antiques are a good investment? That might be true when the economy is good and people have money to spend. But not now. Furniture that used to bring $250 or $300 now sells for maybe $50. As a result, the estate realized very little money from the sale. The curse of poverty that seemed to dog my stepfather through his life has extended even to the sale of his possessions.
So we are in the final stages of cleaning out my parent’s house. A very large dumpster is in the driveway. It is the second one we will fill too the brim this year. That’s what happens when your parents die and leave you with a house full of stuff— you sell some, you keep some, you give away some, and then you send two massive dumpsters chock-full of what’s left too the landfill.
And in the process of this task, you evaluate (once again) your own personal accumulation of stuff. You wonder to yourself what of your life’s accumulation your heirs will keep and what they will throw in a dumpster.
For example, what of the wood-burned artwork pictured above? I did that when I was maybe six years old. I clearly remember finding the scrap of board in the basement and deciding to use a woodburning pen to make a picture (it is a cowboy sheriff, of course). Then I painted it with watercolors and presented it to my mother. She was delighted, as any mother would be. My mother kept it and, in later years, hung it in the kitchen. Will my children cherish that?
Had I grown up to be famous like, maybe, Pablo Picasso, it would be a different story (I dare say, Pablo could have created such art at six years old). My children would then sell the board for a few million bucks, which just goes to show how foolish people with a lot of money can be.
Would I sell it for a million bucks?.... Well of course I would.
The board has no value beyond that of well-seasoned firewood. Or perhaps I could repurpose it into a piece of “yeoman furniture,” as my son Robert and I once did with a broken down old desk. But I resolved to throw out the sheriff and brought the board to Marlene to proudly announce my decision.
To my surprise she said: “Noooo. Don’t throw that out!”
Marlene (who is also in the serious stuff-purging mode) had announced to me earlier in the day that she decided to toss the now-worn-out quilt she made and gave to me for Christmas back in 1976. I was shocked. So there I was making a similar difficult stuff-purging decision, and she told me not to do it.
A friend of mine once told me, “It’s a lot easier to save things than to get rid of them.” And this same person also said, “It’s a lot easier to buy something than it is to sell it.” I don’t know if those statements make sense to you but they sure do make sense to me. The bottom line is that stuff-purging is just plain hard.
Where Have All
Homesteader Blogs Gone?
I'm picking up on a rather troublesome trend. I've had the dream of homesteading for a few years now but due to financial issues it has remained only a dream. Within the past two months a property has come available to us that will allow me to pursue this dream FULLY. Feeling a renewed interest in this endeavor I decided to go back and start reading some of the old homesteading blogs that I used to read for inspiration. To my surprise... THEY'RE GONE! Reading back through your blog over the years I would say 3/4 of the links to other blogs inside your posts lead to pages that no longer exist. Have you noticed this too? Have these people just moved and I'm looking in the wrong place now? Or has there been a drop off in the number of people writing about homesteading and Christian-agrarianism? If so hopefully its just a drop off of people BLOGGING about it, and not actually doing it.
Thanks for the question Matt. Come to think of it, you're right. A lot (probably most) of the early Christian-agrarian blogs that sprung up around the time of The Deliberate Agrarian (birthdate: 6/18/05) are inactive or gone. Some have "reinvented" themselves. This blog is one of the exceptions.
I suspect that most of the blogs that are no longer around are not here because of the time involved in producing a blog. It's requires a surprising lot of hours, and in many instances people get discouraged because of low readership. Or they get discouraged because they realize they are spending so much time on the internet when they have more important things to do!
As for "Christian-agrarian" bloggers, there was an initial spasm of excitement about the term, followed by a wave of concern that it wasn't a good thing to call oneself a Christian-agrarian. I think that came about because some people adopted the term who were not the best of examples, and others thought, "If that's Christian-agrarianism, I don't think I want to be associated with it."
And then some people thought that maybe by calling oneself a Christian agrarian, it was taking something away from Christianity—that Christianity should not be associated with anything but Christianity.
One blogger derided Christian agrarianism as something suspiciously bad that he didn't want to associate with, and then reinvented his blog and named it Christian Rancher (or Christian Farmer, or something like that), which really befuddled me.
So Christian agrarianism is something that many Christians are hesitant to associate with, even though they are, for all practical purposes, Christian agrarians. Whatever.
As I've said in the past regarding this issue, what you call yourself is beside the point. As for myself, I'm a Christian and I'm an agrarian, and I don't mind putting the two together. In fact, I find it a beautiful combination that is honoring to the Lord. After all, the agrarian calling for Christians is entirely biblical.
That said, there are several newer blogs by Christians who take their Christian and agrarian calling seriously. Some can be found on the right side of this page. One of the newest is Redeeming The Dirt: Encouraging Born Again Farmers to Pursue God-Glorifying Agriculture, by 23-year-old Noah Sanders down in Tennessee.
A Letter From
I get some of the nicest letters from people who read this blog and have read my books. Some are e-mailed and some are handwritten. I am humbled by the kind and appreciative letters I get. But I am also a little troubled because it is getting harder and harder for me to reply to everyone. It isn't that I get THAT many letters, it's that I am just flat-out busy with my regular job and my Whizbang business and so many things I have on my plate these days!
Please understand that I read your letters, I am greatly blessed and encouraged by your letters, and I set them aside with the intention of responding—but then I get pulled into the busyness of my life, and months go by and I feel worse and worse that I just can't find time to respond. I say this as an apology to those of you (and you know who you are) who have written and not heard back from me.
And I especially apologize to Kathryn who wrote me the following letter back in July.....
Dear Mr. Kimball
This morning, as I sat weeding my bean rows, I was reminded of your book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. My mind recalled the chapter you wrote on thinning a bed of carrots.
My late father came across your book four years ago, and soon after, I picked it up. I enjoyed your book then, and I still pick it up now and again.
This morning, with the sunrise in front of me, and my fingers dark brown from the dewy dirt, I decided I'd do something I've wanted to do for a while now: simply write to you to let you know what a joy it is to hold your book in my hands and read about a complete stranger, and yet, in sharing the same sentiments about many things, feel as if we could have been lifelong friends.
This is a simple thank you from a 19 year old who is grateful for all your hard work and willingness to share personal stories with us.
May God bless your family,
The words and sentiments that you have expressed in your letter reveal to me that you are a sweet, sensitive young woman. That is a rarity and so nice to see.
I'm sure that you were a great blessing to your father, and I am truly sorry for your loss.
I don't know if you have seen the movies or read the Anne of Green Gables books, but there is a part in the story where Anne says to Marilla (the old woman who has adopted her):
"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
I dare say, Kathryn, that even though you and I have never met, we are kindred spirits, and it is splendid to find it out! As far as I'm concerned, we are lifelong friends.
This belated response to you is from a 53 year old who is most grateful for your thoughtfulness in writing me.
God bless you,
As this issue of The Deliberate Agrarian is going to press there is an unexpected positive development to report....
We may be purchasing a section of land. Sixteen acres of field, and woods and water. I’ve talked of buying land a couple times in the years since starting this blog, and it hasn’t amounted to anything. But this time I have a pretty good feeling about it.