The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
June 2012

Dateline: 30 June 2012

June was the month for strawberries, and some of my strawberries were jumbo size.

Seven Years.... 
.....and plodding
(a reflective ramble about blogging and agrarian visions)

On June 18, 2005 I established this blog. I subtitled it, One Man’s Ruminations About Faith, Family & Livin’ The Good Life. And I began with a short first post titled, The Ruminations Begin, which stated the premise and purpose of The Deliberate Agrarian. I made it clear in the first paragraph of that essay that I was a “Christian agrarian,” a term that many people had never heard before (and some were wary of it).

Now, seven years and hundreds of archived posts later, this blog’s title, subtitle, premise and purpose remain unchanged. I think that reveals something about my personality and approach to life. I’m not a mercurial person. I tend to consider and chart courses, then plod along. I define the verb "plod" to mean steady, patient, persistent, committed... deliberate. It is much the same approach I take to hoeing a long row of potatoes.

A lot of people have stopped by here in the past seven years. My current site meter has recorded visits over the past four years, and shows over two million page views. That is, of course, not many compared to some blogs. But for a simple, unknown guy with an offbeat way of thinking, the number astounds me.

Along the way, there have been people who encouraged me to spread my Deliberate Agrarian “message” by taking my show on the road, so to speak. But I have no desire to promote my Christian agrarian beliefs in any way beyond my writings. As a rule, I have decline all interview and speaking requests. I’m content to let my readership grow organically—by word of mouth, and people doing internet searches—not by any significant attempt on my part to promote the blog. I like it that way.

Though I have written extensively about my family, my life, and my beliefs, I am a private person. I discourage visitors, not so much because I’m antisocial, but because there are only so many hours in the day, and my days are full to overflowing as it is. Besides that, I know better than anyone that I’m not the kind of person who it is worth making a special trip to visit. Those who have stopped by to visit were thoroughly underwhelmed. Please read My Christian Agrarian Reality for further details.

In my first year of blogging here I was more “philosophical” than I am now. I was more intent on explaining and espousing my Christian agrarian beliefs with personal stories. Many of those first essays were compiled into the book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. Though it is far from a best selling book, I was pleased to recently discover a few more very nice reviews at (my sincere thanks to those of you who took the time to post a review). Oh, by the way, that book is required reading for anyone who reads this blog. :-)

As previously noted, I’m not a person who changes much, but in the course of writing this blog I’ve certainly seen some changes in my life.

From a personal perspective, my children, once fodder for much of my writing here, have grown up and are largely independent, pursuing their varied interests, none of which seem very agrarian. Which reminds me of that agrarian aphorism that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. As I’ve pondered that old saying vis-à-vis my children, it has occurred to me that, eventually, the horse will drink the water—when he realizes that the water is something he has known before, that is good, and that it will satisfy him.

Another personal change has been the arrival of a grandchild. “Family” in the subtitle of this blog has now taken on a whole new dimension. Anyone who has read this blog for long has surely read, What My Grandmother Did For Me, and you know that I am especially cognizant of the responsibility and opportunity that I have to make a difference in the lives of my grandchildren, beginning with this first one. Being a good grandfather is but another well-considered course that I have set for myself (part of my multigenerational vision).

Speaking of visions, early on in the life of this blog, I told you of my vision to acquire land beyond the little country lot we’ve lived on for more than 25 years. I wrote about it in May of 2006 in an essay titled, My Agrarian Family Vision. At that time, I did not have any money saved to buy land and I did not have an income that would allow me to ever buy land, but I stated that my vision was to own more land, and to own it debt free....

“I am painting the picture of my situation for you here because, in the event that the Lord does “bring us into the new land,” it is going to be a truly remarkable thing.”

Well, on the first of this month, six years after I wrote that, a truly remarkable thing happened. My my vision and dream of owning more land, debt free, became a reality. That which seemed nigh unto impossible six years ago has come to pass. God provided the right piece of land for us, and he provided the money to buy it.

The money didn’t come out of the blue, in a lump sum. It came little-by-slow, then little-by-faster-and-faster. Most of it came in the last three years, and it came largely as a result of this blog.

Once I became comfortable with the mechanics of online blogging, I used what I learned to create no-cost web sites using the Blogger format. I used the web sites to market down-to-earth project  plan books that I self-published (like how to build a chicken plucker). Then I started selling various parts that are needed to build some of the projects. I mentioned my books and other products here and many of you who read this blog purchased them. Internet search engines have directed people to this blog and my other blogs. My little home business, now called Planet Whizbang, prospered. We were able to save money like never before.

Although I have invested a lot of initiative and time and work into the business (and continue to do so), the fact is that I’ve worked hard and put a lot of effort and initiative into other business ideas in my life prior to this, and none of those efforts bore much fruit. And my self-publishing book business was started almost 12 years ago, but has only done well in the past few years.

As I’ve noted in previous blog posts, our new land consists of 16 acres, right next to the 1.5 acres where we now live. Approximately two thirds of the land consists of field and the rest is hardwood forest with a beautiful shale-bottom stream running through it. It’s not a farm in the traditional sense, but it is a place where my family can be more self-reliant, and it can generate income if properly husbanded. It is a place where my grandchildren can explore, and discover, and in so doing, create great memories. There is also a doublewide house on the property and we are using it for Planet Whizbang business purposes.

From our perspective, this acquisition of land, debt free (the price being pretty much equal to our savings), is, as they say, "a God thing,” and that is exactly how I want to acknowledge it here. We are ever so thankful to God who has, in His time, provided for the vision that I believe He gave me so many years ago.

And I thank all of you out there reading this who have been, in a very real sense, part of the fulfillment of this vision, by purchasing my books and project parts, or making donations to my Agrarian Nation web site.

Before I leave this ramble, I want to say that there is more to my Agrarian Vision beyond the acquisition of land. Another part is the dream to come home from my wage-slave factory job and work full-time with my hands at a home-based “cottage industry,” and on the land. Lord willing, this will happen seven months from now. I’ll not leave the factory job because I have saved a lot of money to retire on (not hardly), but because, by the grace of God, I think I have a home business that should pay the bills.

The Deliberate Agrarian is my ongoing testimony about those things that matter most to me in life— my Christian faith, my family, and the integration of those things into a more self-reliant agrarian lifestyle (a.k.a., “Livin’ The Good Life”). It’s an ongoing process. It is a lifelong endeavor, and satisfaction comes, not in achieving some major goal, but in achieving many little goals in the journey. I will keep plodding along, and I’m pleased to have you join me in these monthly “blogazines.”

Why Food?

I have written an essay titled,
I invite you to read it.

Planet Whizbang 
Solar Pyramids

This Planet Whizbang Solar Pyramid contains a single tomato plant. It was planted at the same time as the tomatoes in the background, but it is twice their size. The tomato is also as healthy as a tomato plant could ever be. This single plant will be espalier-trained between two T-posts. Have you ever heard of espaliered tomatoes? I'll bet you haven't. I may have "invented" the concept. But maybe we've never heard of it because it just isn't possible. Well, I think it is and I'll let you know how it turns out.

Last year in one of my blogazine editions here I showed you a picture of some prototype solar pyramids I had in my garden. They were primitive but absolutely amazing devices for getting plants off to a great start in the garden. This year I refined my solar pyramids so they are easier to put up.

My solar pyramid idea is derived directly from Leandre Poisson’s Solar Cones® that are discussed in his book, Solar Gardening: Growing Vegetables Year-Round the American Intensive Way . Mr. Poisson’s cones are made out of Sunlite® plastic, which is a solid, sheet material that can be wrapped and joined together in a self-supporting cone shape. The only problem with Solar Cones® is that the cost for materials to make just one cone adds up to around $60.

Using Mr. Poisson’s solar cone pattern, I cut out a section of much-less-expensive greenhouse plastic and used a 4-pole frame to support it. Instead of a solar cone, I ended up with a solar pyramid. It serves the same amazing purpose.

Details of my system for making solar pyramids will be in my upcoming book, The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners, which I started work on last winter, and hope to finish this next winter. Here are pictures of how I used Solar Pyramids to get my zucchini plants off to a great start (click on any pictures to see an enlarged view)...

The picture above shows two solar pyramids over zucchini plants (courgettes if you're in Europe). I planted the seeds, erected the pyramids over them, and did nothing else. I didn't even water inside them. The plants grew healthy and lush.

This picture shows the plastic removed. Although the garden soil around the pyramids was dry and hard-packed, the soil inside the cone was still soft and moist just under the surface. All those tender weeds that grew up around the zucchini were easy to pull.

After cultivating the weeded soil around the zucchini plant, I spread a bucket of compost (full of wriggling little earthworms) around it, watered well, and mulched with straw. Lots of beneficial biological activity will happen under the straw mulch. This gets the plants off to a great start in life. By the way, I did the same thing with the tomato plant pictured at the beginning of this article—the one I'm going to espalier.

In Praise 
Of Garden Clamps

This fine specimen of a cabbage (picture taken on 6/30/12) was harvested from my garden nine months previously and stored underground in a simple clamp until earlier this month.

I’ve mentioned my garden clamps here before. Clamps are earthen mounds in the garden where northern agrarians can store their root crops over the winter months. Clamps are cheap and easy to make and they require no fossil fuel energy input. They keep some vegetables better than a refrigerator. I am a firm believer in the ability of garden clamps to keep food for long periods of time.

In early June I harvested a clamp of carrots, which were in excellent condition and made great carrot juice.  I also harvested a whole clamp of cabbages (eight of them). It was my first time clamping cabbages and I wasn’t sure how it would work. Well, it worked very well. A few outside leaves suffered damage, but the heads were firm and fresh. The picture above is proof positive that this can be done. I’m more enthused about clamping that ever.

Garden clamps are typically made with straw around the vegetables, and then a cover layer of soil. I’ve bought straw and used it to make clamps in the past but I’ve also used leaves, which are very plentiful around here in the fall, and leaves cost me nothing (straw bales are getting too expensive!). The only problem with leaves is that they don’t pack down like straw. But I’ve learned to make them work.

I’ll be writing about my simple, step-by-step garden clamp system in my upcoming book, The Planet Whizbang Garden Idea Book For Gardeners

Kitchen Gadgets
A Shaker Food Chopper
Last month I showed you pictures from my visit to Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts. I neglected to include the picture above. The Shakers grew, processed and preserved a lot of food. That chopper must have gotten a lot of use. I love practical old kitchen tools like that.

And speaking of kitchen tools, my Uncle Clyde Kennedy sent me a little kitchen invention he made. Here it is....


He made that thing to solve a problem he had in the kitchen. Can anyone guess what Uncle Clyde's invention is used for?

Send Me Books

I’ve stated here before that if anyone has a book that they think I might like, send it along. I’ve gotten books on theology (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment) and science fiction (Farmer in the Sky). 

This last month, Julie-Ann over at Hamptonvictorygarden's Blog sent me a copy of two books her brother, Jim Baumer, wrote. The first, When Towns Had Teams, is about when town-team baseball was a big deal in Maine. Those were the days.

Moxie: Maine in a Bottle is Jim Baumer’s newest book. Moxie is a soft drink that was invented as a tonic called “Moxie Nerve Food” by Dr. Augustin Thompson, of Union Maine back in 1876 (and carbonated in 1884). Thompson’s concoction was made with gentian root, and claimed to cure a variety of ailments. Another claim was that Moxie drinkers would be “able to stand twice the usual amount of labor with less fatigue.” I like the sounds of that.

I remember my mother, a Maine native, telling me about Moxie. She said it was bitter, and a lot of people didn’t like it. Some people describe the smell as “medicinal.” I understand that, upon first tasting Moxie, the natural reaction is to spit it out. The same goes for your second taste. But on the third taste, you start to like it.

You can’t get Moxie just anywhere. But one sure place to find it is at the annual Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls, Maine (July 13—15). Lisbon Falls sounds like a great place. I don't know for sure, but I'll bet Jim Baumer will be signing copies of his Moxie book at Frank Anicetti's Kennebec Fruit Store in Lisbon Falls sometime during the festival. Frank's place is the epicenter of Moxie in Maine.

Although I haven’t drank a soda in years, I intend to make an exception for Moxie. I just have to find me some.

I’m wondering how many people reading this have tried Moxie. And, if so, were you able to stand twice the usual amount of labor with less fatigue?

Thanks Julie-Ann.

Send all books to:

Herrick Kimball
PO Box 1117
Moravia, NY 13118

Champion of England 
Pea Update

Aren't Peas beautiful!.... My "Champion of England" pea vines are now 6-feet high. They have slowed in their growth because we are having a bit of a dry spell. But the vines are producing lots of good peas. My Planet Whizbang T-Post trellis (it'll be in the book) makes harvesting easy, and when harvesting is easy, it's more likely that the peas will get picked and eaten. I also planted Sugar Snap peas this year for the first time. The pods fill out and you eat the whole pod with the peas in it. Sugar snap peas are very, very good!


Brenda (Canada) said...

I feel guilty for reading your monthly blogazine for free. People pay good money for magazine subscriptions which offer far less of value than what is found here! You might want to consider offering it as pay-per-view blogazine :-).

I'm looking forward to hearing how you will develop your new land and generate income from it. I'll be looking for ideas, myself!

I would use your Uncle Clyde's mystery tool to secure an onion or tomato for slicing, rather than have them slip out from my fingers. I'll have to wait another month to find out its real use!

Thank you for another helpful, informative, and inspirational blogazine issue!

John D. Wheeler said...

I love your idea for a solar pyramid. I was seriously considering making Solar Cones, but I just couldn't justify the exorbitant price per square foot.

I hope you don't make your blogazine pay-per-view, but I look forward to buying your new book when it comes out. Cash is tight, but I did give you a plug on one of my blogs.

Julie-Ann said...

Dear Herrick,

Thank you so much for promoting the state of mind which us folks from Maine call Moxie. I can't think of anything exceptionally clever to say except "OF COURSE we can stand twice the amount of labor with less fatigue!" I just saw Frank yesterday and he would tell you the same thing!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Brenda,

I appreciate the idea but I don't think I would ever do a pay per view Deliberate Agrarian blogazine.

I would, however, like to do some specific pay-per-view how-to articles. But I haven't yet figured out how to do that. Do you (or does anyone reading this) know of a simple way to create pay-per-view web sites?

As for Uncle Clydes gadget, it could be used to hold a tomato, but not an onion (the toothpick prongs are not strong enough for that). That isn't what he made it for though.

One important thing we will get from the land to begin with is firewood. I've been buying my firewood for a lot ofl years and now I have enough woodland to be fuel self-sufficient. Marlene is focusing on blueberries, and I think berries in general will be part of our focus, as will a few beef cows on pasture.

John D. Wheeler,
Thanks for the plug. You are a certified permaculture designer!? I'm impressed. I've been reading about permaculture and it makes a lot of sense to me.

Herrick Kimball said...


Well, if that's the case, I'm renting a U-Haul and heading for Lisbon Falls today!

jean@pilgrimscottage said...

Your blog is very interesting and I have a feeling I would not feel undewhelmed in visiting your homestead, although I wouldn't be doing that (homesteading and farming is a busy life). You live much like my husband and I do and while it is a lot of hard work, it is very simple and free of debt. That in itself is freeing. We thank the Lord for His provisions. May the Lord continue to bless and provide for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

hi again congratulations on the land I think that it is good that your children are off doing something else saves you from pride and the narrow 'our way is the only way' that many groups get and as you develop your land they will see the good life! I can not stress enough that you should get as much permacluture info that you can we live in bill mollison country and you can learn so much from him and others that have embraced this sytle of planting also PLANT TREES I'm sure you would anyway but plant valuable hardwoods for those grandchildren and quick growing firewoods for an everlasting self sufficiant supply when I think about all you could plant --you must be like a child in a sweet shop oh and take before and on the journey photos you never know the Lord has a use for them Happy planting ( and walking and breathing and rejoicing as you must be) grace

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks for your comment.

We are not doing anything with the land for the first year, and in that time I'm absorbing a lot of permaculture information, especially as it relates to forest gardens. I did transplant three maple seedlings from the woods to a clearing on the edge of the field early in the spring, before we actually owned the land, and they are doing very well. There is so much that can be done. Thanks for the encouragement.

sailorssmallfarm said...

Oh, I am so glad that the 16 acres came to be yours. From following your blog for the last couple of years, I know how hard you've been working toward being ready for such an opportunity. Great to hear that the Whizbang business is building momentum. I truly pray that your dream to work at home will come to pass.

Philoponus said...

Dear Mr. Kimball,
May I ask you what strawberry cultivar(s) you have? Your strawberries in the picture are beautiful. Do you do anything special as regards fertilization?
I hope that one day our strawberries (we planted a bunch this year) will look as good.

Also, I want to thank you for blogging. As a new farmer, I have found your blog very encouraging. It is always exciting to read a new blogazine!

Lastly, I think it is fascinating that you are researching permaculture and forest gardening.
Have you read any books about forest gardening in particular?
I have heard that the books by Dave Jacke and Martin Crawford are quite good.

Have a great month,


Bonnets and Boots said...

Thankyou for the great post, as always. Thought you might be interested in knowing that gentian stores large quantities of condensed oxygen in its roots. It revitalizes from physical exhaustion and although it is bitter it is usually easy on the stomach.

Muns said...

That's what you'd call a pickle spear. No doubt about it.
Great news regarding your accomplishment of self-sufficiency. You're really an inspiration.
Regards - Muns

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you!

I don't know the variety of those berries. I should know but have forgotten. I usually put a marker in with a planting because I know I'll forget, but I didn't do it.

I can tell you that they came from Nourse Farms, which I consider to be a very good plant supplier.

Also, the funny thing about those strawberries was that they were one of two strawberry beds I planted. One bed got a lot of attention with pruning runners and cultivation and mulch, and the other didn't get much attention at all. The best, and the most, berries (the ones pictured) came from the bed that I neglected.

I recently bought the Martin Crawford book and will probably have time to read it this winter.

Bonnets and Boots—
That is interesting to know. Maybe I'll just have to get some gentian root since I didn't follow through and get to Lisbon Falls with a U-Haul. The root by itself might not be as fun as drinking a can of Moxie, but on the positive side, I'll avoid the high fructose corn syrup.

Well, it's a spear of sorts, but not for pickles. Uncle Clyde made that tool so he could reach down in the toaster slot and pull out short pieces of toast.

Muns said...

How about this thingamajig for pay per view blogging -