The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
April 2012

Dateline: 30 April 2012

It’s A Boy!

Jaxson Kimball at 2 days old

I’m pleased to announce that Marlene and I have been blessed with another child.... a grandchild. Our first. Jaxson Kimball was born at Reynolds Army Hospital, Fort Sill, Oklahoma on the 9th of April. As far as I’m concerned, all other events or news of the world in April 2012 pale in comparison to the birth of this child.

I know not what the future holds for little Jaxson, but I hope and pray that Marlene and I can be a godly influence and great blessing to him as he grows up.

A New Idea?

I have decided to start a new business making and selling wooden clothespins. It is my understanding that the last US clothespin manufacturer went out of business in 2002 ( The Penley Corporation of West Paris, Maine). So all the clothespins now sold in this country are Chinese imports. They don’t work very well and they fall apart easily.

I sense that this lack of a good quality clothespin has created a situation of widespread frustration among those who use clotheslines. There is clearly an unfulfilled need and I intend to pursue the idea.

When I informed Marlene of my clothespin-making business idea she said: “Don’t you have enough to do already?”

Well, I sure do. My plate is, as they say, full. Heaping full (and no one knows this better than Marlene). Speaking of which, yet another month has gone by and I have made absolutely no forward progress on my next book: The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. I guess I’ll have to put the project on hold until next winter. That will give me time to further prototype my ideas for gardeners in the upcoming growing season. And maybe I’ll find time to work on clothespin prototypes too.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and a new, made-in-the-USA clothespin manufacturing business (Home-based, and on the family-economy scale, of course) begins with one clothespin. So that is my challenge—to handcraft one clothespin.  Stay tuned.

P.S. I mentioned to my coworker, Tom, who happens to be mechanically inclined (and a certified organic farmer too), that I want to start a clothespin manufacturing business. He immediately grasped the concept (because his wife has complained about poor quality clothespins). Now Tom wants to make clothespins too.

I’ll bet that some of you reading this are thinking the same thing. If so, go for it. I think there is a lot of opportunity for local clothespin crafters.

I’m surprised that Lehman’s hardware in Ohio doesn’t sell Amish-crafted wood clothespins. They sell Chinese-made clothespins. That’s just not right!

My Rocket Stove 

The picture above is of my homemade rocket stove. I had just cooked myself a "black & blue" hamburger when my son Robert stopped by. I made the stove last year but it was the first that Robert had seen it.  He was so impressed that he took the picture with his phone. His phone takes better pictures than my camera. 

A few small sticks gathered from the woods will fuel the rocket stove and cook a burger lickety split. I also use the rocket stove to steam-fryalize compost.

What does it mean to steam-fryalize compost? Why would anyone want to steam-fryalize compost? How do you steam-fryalize compost with a rocket stove? How do you make a rocket stove? Those are things that I will explain in my next book, The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners.

There are all kinds of rocket stove designs on the internet, but I guarantee that you've never seen one like mine (except for the picture above, which doesn't really reveal the unique story of my stove design).

You'll have to wait for all the details until the book is finally published (I'm trying to build some suspense.... do you feel it?). What I can tell you now is that a "black & blue" hamburger is made with Black Angus meat and blue cheese (melted on top). Such burgers are really good when made the usual way, in your kitchen, but they're awesome good cooked over your homemade rocket stove in the back yard.

Leo Sprauer's Hop Hoe

Speaking of inventions and handmade tools (clothespins are tools), I have written an online review about the hop hoes made by Leo Sprauer who lives and farms in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Leo's grandfather, a blacksmith, developed the hop hoe design back in 1920. I have a feeling Leo's grandfather would be real pleased to see these hoes that Leo is making. And I think you'd be pleased to own one. I know I am.

Writing that review of Leo Sprauer's hop hoe got me to thinking about this here little monthly blogazine I publish. Some of you will remember that it was my teenage dream (a long time ago) to publish a magazine like the Mother Earth News magazine I used to read back in the 1970s (I wrote about my dream Here). This Deliberate Agrarian blogazine has been the fulfillment of my dream.

That said, I'd like to use  my blogazine to help promote small-scale, innovative, home-business people who, like Leo Sprauer, are crafting useful products. You may be such an agrarian craftsman, or you may know someone else who is. I'm looking for wood-crafters, metal-crafters, fabric-crafters, pottery-crafters,  and glass-crafters who make useful tools that can help people who are endeavoring to live simple, separate (separate from industrial dependency), more self-reliant, and agrarian-focused lives. 

The Mother Earth News magazine of the 1970s would promote such people and the products they made. The new Mother Earth News is a fine publication, with useful information, but it isn't as down-to-earth as it once was, and it does not feature the products of innovative craftspeople like it once did.

So read my article about Leo Sprauer's hop hoe and please let me know about any tools made by other agrarian craftsmen that readers of this blogazine would be interested in.     

I like Hugh

If you have never watched any of the popular British  River Cottage television programs, you should give them a try. They revolve around rural life, hunting, fishing, homegrown & local food, animal husbandry, cooking, traditional rural skills, and community. It's all very agrarian. Many episodes are on YouTube, and I really enjoy watching them.

The star of the show is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  Hugh is quite a character. I've not only been entertained by his adventurous agrarian and entrepreneurial pursuits, I've learned a few things too.

For example, in This Episode of Beyond River Cottage, I learned how to separate young cockerels from young pullets (the birds look the same when young) by "carding" the neck feathers. I also learned what a "chicken brick" is when Hugh has a local potter make some for him.  In the next episode, Hugh cooks ten of his cockerels (in the "chicken bricks") after leaving them to hang for a week.

I'm smitten with the chicken brick. It appears to be a British invention, and I've not been able to find a U.S. maker. So it looks like I may have to go into the chicken-brick-making business. Clothespins and chicken bricks. 

The only problem is that I know nothing about making and firing pottery (or, for that matter, making clothespins). Do any potters read this blog? If so, can you make chicken bricks like Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall's? Opportunity is knocking.

Some of my favorite River Cottage episodes are of the summer that Hugh, a lover of good fish and meat, leaves his "deeply ingrained carnivorous habits" to eat only vegetarian dishes. Hugh also has his long curly locks shorn in the vegetarian episodes (and looks a whole lot more respectable). Click Here to see the first episode in the vegetarian series.

I need to point out that Hugh and the River Cottage series are agrarian-focused, and mostly a lot of fun to watch, but they reflect a secular worldview. There are occasional risque´comments and a few scenes that some people will find objectionable.

When Joel Talks...

... people listen, and I'm glad they do, because what he has to say is so important and pertinent to the problems we face as a nation. 

Big Ag, with the help of big government, is waging a  continual war against small-scale farmers and localized food production. As the battle intensifies, Salatin has emerged as a defender of the small farmer. He has always been a good speaker, but I think he's getting better all the time, as evidenced in two online interviews I listened to this last month.

In The Food Police State, Joel speaks with Lew Rockwell about the regulatory attack on small-scale, localized farmers. He likens it to when, years ago, parents who wanted to homeschool their children were being harassed by the government. Back then the Homeschool Legal Defense Association was established (in 1983) to help defend the rights of parents (my family was a member of the HSLDA when we homeschooled our kids). Joel believes something similar is needed for the small farmer and he tells listeners about the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. If you farm and sell food direct to the public, take a look at the FTCLDF.

In that interview Joel also advises listeners to "opt out of the government-industrial food system," to take control of their own food supply, to "kick the supermarket habit." Such advice is essentially what I have advocated here for many years as I have encouraged people to break free of their dependence on the industrial providers, especially when it comes to food. But Joel is a far better spokesman than I could ever hope to be.

Another Salatin interview that is well worth listening to is
How to Prepare for a Future Increasingly Defined by Localized Food & Energy, with economic analyst Chris Martenson. If you are not familiar with Chris Martinson, check out his 45-Minute Crash Course, which you can watch online for free.

Wendell Berry Talks
of Boomers, Stickers & Affection

Wendell Berry, from the New York Times Article

Speaking of agrarian voices, I see that Wendell Berry was in the New York Times this last month. And from that article I found my way to Mr. Berry's 2012 Jefferson Lecture, wherein he speaks of  "affection" for land and place as the antithesis of industrial capitalism. Such affection lost, must be rediscovered by individuals and communities of individuals if we are to ever know the fullness of life that it is possible to know. That is my take on the lecture. If you are a Wendell Berry fan, you will not want to miss those links. Here are a few quotes from the Jefferson Lecture:

[M]y teacher, Wallace Stegner, ... thought rightly that we Americans, by inclination at least, have been divided into two kinds: “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers, he said, are “those who pillage and run,” who want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street,” whereas stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.”
“Boomer” names a kind of person and a kind of ambition that is the major theme, so far, of the history of the European races in our country. “Sticker” names a kind of person and also a desire that is, so far, a minor theme of that history, but a theme persistent enough to remain significant and to offer, still, a significant hope.

The boomer is motivated by greed, the desire for money, property, and therefore power. ...Stickers on the contrary are motivated by affection, by such love for a place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.
My grandfather, on the contrary, and despite his life’s persistent theme of hardship, took a great and present delight in the modest good that was at hand: in his place and his affection for it, in its pastures, animals, and crops, in favorable weather.

He did not participate in the least in what we call “mobility.” He died, after eighty-two years, in the same spot he was born in. He was probably in his sixties when he made the one longish trip of his life. He went with my father southward across Kentucky and into Tennessee. On their return, my father asked him what he thought of their journey. He replied: “Well, sir, I’ve looked with all the eyes I’ve got, and I wouldn’t trade the field behind my barn for every inch I’ve seen.”
The problem that ought to concern us first is the fairly recent dismantling of our old understanding and acceptance of human limits. For a long time we knew that we were not, and could never be, “as gods.” We knew, or retained the capacity to learn, that our intelligence could get us into trouble that it could not get us out of. We were intelligent enough to know that our intelligence, like our world, is limited. We seem to have known and feared the possibility of irreparable damage. But beginning in science and engineering, and continuing, by imitation, into other disciplines, we have progressed to the belief that humans are intelligent enough, or soon will be, to transcend all limits and to forestall or correct all bad results of the misuse of intelligence. Upon this belief rests the further belief that we can have “economic growth” without limit.
We have had in only about two centuries a steady and ever-quickening sequence of industrial revolutions in manufacturing, transportation, war, agriculture, education, entertainment, homemaking and family life, health care, and so-called communications.

Probably everything that can be said in favor of all this has been said, and it is true that these revolutions have brought some increase of convenience and comfort and some easing of pain. It is also true that the industrialization of everything has incurred liabilities and is running deficits that have not been adequately accounted. All of these changes have depended upon industrial technologies, processes, and products, which have depended upon the fossil fuels, the production and consumption of which have been, and are still, unimaginably damaging to land, water, air, plants, animals, and humans. And the cycle of obsolescence and innovation, goaded by crazes of fashion, has given the corporate economy a controlling share of everybody’s income.
The cost of this has been paid also in a social condition which apologists call “mobility,” implying that it has been always “upward” to a “higher standard of living,” but which in fact has been an ever-worsening unsettlement of our people, and the extinction or near-extinction of traditional and necessary communal structures.
The losses and damages characteristic of our present economy cannot be stopped, let alone restored, by “liberal” or “conservative” tweakings of corporate industrialism, against which the ancient imperatives of good care, homemaking, and frugality can have no standing. The possibility of authentic correction comes, I think, from two already-evident causes. The first is scarcity and other serious problems arising from industrial abuses of the land-community. The goods of nature so far have been taken for granted and, especially in America, assumed to be limitless, but their diminishment, sooner or later unignorable, will enforce change.

"I have debts. 
I can't stand this anymore!"

That was what 77-year-old retired Greek pharmacist, Dimitris Christoulas, exclaimed before shooting himself in the head in front of the Greek Parliment building in Athens, back on April 4th. His government pension had been cut and he was in dire straits. Mr. Christoulas was reportedly to the point where he would have to scrounge food from city dumpsters to feed himself. The reality of such poverty was more than he could bear. 

Mr. Christoulas is surely not the only person in Greece to commit suicide because of financial loss (the suicide rate is way up with the current economic turmoil), but he appears to be the only one to do it in public. It's a sad story and I don't want to let it pass without making some comments...

Dimitris Christoulas appears to have bought the industrial lie— hook, line, and sinker. The lie is that the industrial system will take care of you and provide all your needs. Trust in government. Trust in your pension. Trust in your financial investments. Trust in the supermarkets. Trust the industrial providers to supply all your needs—to give you peace, and prosperity, and security. 

It was a misplaced trust.

All of that, and the acquisition of personal debt, is what makes people into typical industrial-world subjects. It is part of what it means to be a Modern. The majority of adults in America are as dependent and helpless as was Mr. Christoulas. They just don't know it yet.

It's easy to look on and speculate with wouldas, couldas and shouldas when it comes to those who find themselves in a situation similar to Mr. Christoulas. But most Moderns will do their speculating from the perspective of their well-ingrained industrial worldview. That is, I believe, a mistake. It is a mistake because true solutions to industrial-world problems are not found within the industrial world deceptions and illusions.

True solutions to the manifold problems of industrialism are only found in the antithesis to industrialism, which is, of course agrarianism. To further distill the matter, I  believe the truest of solutions are found in Christian agrarianism, which is to say, Christianity lived within the agrarian paradigm.

Let us suppose, for the sake of brevity, that Mr. Christoulas had read my essay titled, An Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan, which I posted to this blog back in January of 2008, several months before the economic unpleasantness that occurred later in that year. Four years later, the essay is now a little bit dated, but the six points of the plan are still as valid and important as they ever were. If Mr. Christoulas had read and understood the wisdom of the plan, and had pursued it in earnest, he would not have found himself in dire straits this past month.

To those who have bought the industrial lie— hook, line and sinker— my little economic plan will look extreme, and even foolish. It might be viewed as too hard, too demeaning, too lower-class, too crude. Such people still trust the government-corporate-industrial system to meet their needs. But that system is a lie, as Mr. Christoulas and a great many others in his country have come to see.

Some Good Things 
On The Internet in April 2012

When you have a few minutes to spare, here are a few things I've found on the internet that you might like...


Patrice Lewis over at the Rural Revolution blog has just published four very informative (and inexpensive) e-books. Three are about canning and one is titled, "How to Move to the Country." Check them out at This Link.

Julie-Anne Baumer is the the volunteer coordinator at the Hampton Victory Garden in Hampton, New Hampshire. She also writes the Hamptonvictorygardens Blog, which is about things like her own gardening exploits, the Red Sox, her family, and her dreams. Julie is a talented writer and her blog is fun to read. Check out Kale-afornia Dreaming and  Kohlrabi From Outer Space for examples of Julie's more imaginative writings.


Steve Donahue, father of junior agrarian blogger, Graham Donahue (a fifteen year old homeschooled, Libertarian, Christian, Confederate, Agrarian, farmer, country boy) has started The Legacy Podcast, which is dedicated to Helping You Build a Multi-Generational Legacy of Abundance.  A couple of agrarian-focused podcasts are Stewardship Farming and Family Farming as a Means to Building a Legacy


Long time Farmer-Blogger, Scott Terry, inspired me seven years ago to start The Deliberate Agrarian. Scott has now started Christian Farm & Homestead Radio and has had five programs so far and they are archived so you can listen to them when you get a chance (click the link).


The Plan of Education

It was This Post at Patrice Lewis's Rural Revolution blog that introduced me to Charlotte Iserbyt, an 82-year-old woman who lives in Camden, Maine. Mrs. Iserbyt was the head of policy at the Department of Education during the first administration of Ronald Reagan. She has a remarkable story to tell about the true objectives of education in America (it isn't about reading, writing and arithmetic).

Every thinking American (the few who are left) needs to hear what Charlotte Iserbyt has to say. Her perspective is fascinating. 

I have no problem believing that there is a corporate-industrial-government conspiracy to centralize power and control over people and nations, and  that the government schools are serving as primary change agents to accomplish this objective. 

I also believe it will ultimately fail, but it may well lead to some unpleasant experiences, especially for those who refuse to conform (and Christian-agrarians, like myself, are, by nature, not inclined to conform). We should be wise about the path we are being led down by the industrial schemers.

Please listen to Charlotte Iserbyt's whole story, as told by herself in the YouTube clip above. 

A Southern Perspective
(on education)

I've been re-reading the iconoclastic 1930 book, I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, buy the Twelve Southerners. It is a contra-industrial manifesto brimming with insights into the industrial menace and especially the damage wrought on Southern agrarian culture by Northern industrial forces.  One essay in the book, by John Gould Fletcher, discusses education, and how traditional education changed with the industrial era. 

Fletcher makes some very interesting observations, not the  least of which is that present-day schools are "a receptacle for dullards." He said that in 1930. I wonder what he would think of the government school system in America if he could see it today! Here are some quotes to chew on (bold emphasis is mine)...
 "...our knowledge of history teaches us this much: that the object of public education in the American Colonies and the later states up to 1865, was to produce good men. The system may have been imperfect in detail but its aim was correct. Today the object of American education is to turn out graduates—whether good, bad, or indifferent we neither know nor care. Formerly, quantity had to give place to quality; today it is the reverse."
 "That the human being is nothing without education may be taken as an axiom; but what is education, or rather what is the purpose of education? It is to bring out something that is already potentially existent in the human being. Thus we may be educated simply by using our own natural faculties of observation, comparison, and application to the utmost; and many great men in the course of the world's history have been thus educated. Or we may go through school after school and college after college and emerge more a fool than the meanest farm labourer, who knows, with precision, from the lore handed down from his father, when it is likely to rain, when to sow and reap, and what to give his cattle when they are ailing."
 "The American craze for simplifying, standardizing, and equalizing the educational opportunities of all... received a new great impetus in the South after the successful revolution promoted by Horace Mann during the years 1836-48 in the public schools of Massachusetts. It must be remembered that the reason why the system promoted by Mann succeeded first in the North was precisely because the North during those years was becoming industrial, with large urban populations, composed of European immigrants, while in the South the population remained homogeneous and still predominantly rural. The South was not, as was charged by the North before and after the Civil War, indifferent to education. She simply preferred the older schemes of education which were best suited to her own rural populations, to such novel methods as Mann's, which were non-sectarian, non-religious, urban and egalitarian in scope."
"...the purpose of education is to produce the balanced character—the man of the world in the true sense, who  is also the man with spiritual roots in his own community in the local sense. The public-school system inaugurated by [Horace] Mann... ignored local and functional differences and resulted in producing a being without roots, except in the factory."

My Little Legacy Plan

I think most all grandparents would like to do something to help their grandchildren financially when they get older, and some grandparents have the financial resources to really invest. I’m not one of those grandparents. Instead of money, I hope to invest time and personal attention in the lives of my grandchildren. But I’d also like to do a little something financially too.

As I’ve mentioned here in the past. My Grandfather Kimball started a passbook savings account for me a few days after I was born (Click Here to see the passbook and read the story). The $4,000 I got from that account 20 years later (equivalent to $14,073 in 2012 dollars) was a big help to me at that time in my life.

It is with that in mind that I’ve decided to do something roughly similar (but profoundly different) for my new grandson, and for other grandchildren that follow. My idea begins with an initial entry in a slim, leather-bound journal, and one silver dollar.

The first entry in the journal explains the idea. My new grandson, Jaxson, will read what follows when he is 20 years old....

21 April 2012

Dear Jaxson,

As I write this, you are twelve days old and I am 54 years old. You were born in an Army hospital in Oklahoma, and I am in New York, so we have not yet met. But we will soon, and I am looking forward to seeing you!

I was born on January 31, 1958. When I was twelve days old my grandfather (your great, great grandfather), Dr. Herrick C. Kimball, of Fort Fairfield, Maine, started a passbook savings account for me (he was, by the way, 55 years old at the time). The initial deposit in that savings account was one dollar. My grandfather put more money into the account at different times over the next nine years, before passing on in 1966.

When I was 20 years old, I learned of the savings account from my grandmother. She sent me the old passbook and the money that was in the account. It amounted to around $4,000. That was a lot of money to me back then. I used it to pay for some schooling and to buy tools so I could start my own business as a chimney sweep.

That savings account (and the old passbook) was a real blessing because it was nice to have the money, but it was also nice to have a tangible legacy of love from my grandfather to me.

Though I do remember my grandfather, I do not remember him very well because I was only 7 years old when he died. But I learned something very important from the savings account he started. He was obviously a man who believed in saving and giving, and providing for his family. With his example in mind, I have decided to do something similar for you.

I looked into starting a passbook savings account for you at the bank, but the interest rate is only .15%, which is almost nothing. I’m sure the current rate of monetary inflation in this nation is far more than that, and I suspect there will be much more inflation in the years ahead. So a passbook savings account would lose value.

Speaking of inflation, the inflation rate between 1958 and 2012 has been 693.7%. Inflation is an evil thing because it silently, but surely and steadily steals the value of money that people have worked hard to earn and save.

That being the case, I’ve decided to start your “savings account” with one silver dollar, instead of one paper dollar (or an “electronic dollar” transaction based on paper dollars). Silver dollars are a type of “real” money. Silver will always have value, but the same can’t be said of paper (fiat) money. History shows that paper money has always been inflated, and eventually becomes completely worthless. That’s why the founders of America decided that gold and silver coin should be America’s “legal tender,” and they wrote this into the Constitution (Article 1, Section 10).

The value of a silver dollar will always go up and down because the value of silver is always fluctuating, but a silver dollar will never completely lose it’s value.

It so happens that my grandfather Kimball also left me some silver dollars, just like I’m going to buy and save for you. Back in 1958 silver dollars were worth one dollar (an ounce of silver could be purchased for 89¢ back then). My grandfather didn’t specifically save the coins for me, but after he died there was among his possessions a bright red bank bag with a dozen Morgan and Peace silver dollars. My grandmother gave the bag to me when I was 12 years old. It was a real thrill to get those dollars! I foolishly spent a couple of them, but I still have most of them.

My plan is to buy and save a silver dollar for you every month until you are 20 years of age (if silver dollars get too expensive for me, I’ll substitute a silver coin of lesser value). I hope and pray that I will be able to do this, and that I’ll live long enough to give you this legacy twenty years from now.

If I die before that time, be it known that my dying wish is that your grandmother Kimball  save the dollars (and this book) to give to you when you are twenty years old. If Marlene passes on before that time, then it is my wish that your silver dollars go to your father and that he give them to you (along with this book) when you are twenty years of age.

If my plan goes well, and plays itself out as I would like, you will inherit 240 silver dollars from me. I don’t expect that the value of those dollars will be enormous, but it should be sufficient to help you in some way. I pray that you will use the money responsibly. When (or if) you sell them I’d like to suggest that you save the first silver dollar (or a few of the first ones) to give to your grandson (or granddaughter) someday.

Each silver dollar I give you will be put in a cardboard “flip” holder. I will write your name on the holder with the date. Each dollar will be recorded in this journal. I will note what I paid for the coin and I will write a little personal note to you. Lord willing, you will get 240 silver dollars and 240 little letters from me to you.

Love always,
Your grandfather Kimball

I have told you about the above idea so you might consider doing something similar for your grandchildren. The leather-covered journal cost $12 (Staples). Three-hundred flips, with 100-flip storage boxes, cost $12.00 (Ebay). The first Morgan silver dollar cost me $ 34.95 (Ebay). This should be fun. I especially like the idea of 240 “little letters," which give me an opportunity to share little bits of wisdom.

Would you like to have some "fun" with inflation? Go to This Inflation Calculator and type in the year you were born to see how much value a dollar has lost between then and now.

 I'll Take Care Of That...

The current United States debt is just under 16 trillion dollars, an amount that the average brain can not fully comprehend. This debt is growing by the second. It will never be paid off by legitimate means.  The industrial-economic schemers will inflate, devalue and probably even default in order to pay such debts. 

But I'm thinking that I'll just pay it off with that genuine One Hundred Trillion Dollar Zimbabwean reserve bank note that I'm holding in the picture above. It is signed by "G. Gono, Governor" and it says "I promise to pay the bearer on demand..." 

So I'll pay off the US debt and the government will have 84 trillion dollars left. Keep the change. Isn't paper money fun!

One Of The Best Investments

Last month I showed you the Champion of England pea seeds I had pre-sprouted and was then planting. The picture above shows the progress of those pea seeds one month later. We had a spell of warm weather when I planted the seeds, then came the frosty cold. A couple weeks ago there was 6" of snow on those little pea plants. They don't seem to be bothered by snow and cold. Once it warms up, they'll start growing.

Champion of England pea plants are supposed to  grow up to ten feet high. So those little seedlings have a long way to go!

I don't know how many pea pods a 10ft. pea plant will produce but I know it's a lot. And it all comes from a single pea seed. Better yet, you get to eat all the peas, except for a few that you save for planting again next year.

Seeds that are saved and planted in the ground are a good and wise investment. They are part of God's economy. It's a simple, beautiful, abundant, soul-satisfying economy. 

When the selfish, foolish economies of the industrial world flounder and fail, the fundamental agrarian economy of seedtime and harvest that God created in the beginning will remain.... 

And I reckon that's enough ruminations from me for this month!

Leo Sprauer's
Hop Hoe

Dateline: 28 April 2012

Note: This article is the first in what I hope will be a continuing series about useful tools made by agrarian craftsmen.

(click on any picture to see a  larger image)

Leo Sprauer’s grandfather was a blacksmith and he made the first hop hoe in the Willamette Valley of Oregon back in 1920. The tool soon became popular with hop growers and was adopted to other uses by farmers and gardeners in the region. After Leo’s grandfather passed on, another local blacksmith made the hoe up to around 1980. Then, back around 1987, Leo started making hop hoes. So I think it’s safe to say that making hop hoes is a Sprauer family tradition that is still being carried on.... 92 years later.

I like stories like that, and I like Leo’s handcrafted hop hoe. It feels good in my hands and I’ve yet to find a weed that the sharpened blade won’t slice through with ease. Though I’ve only had the tool for a couple weeks, I’ve used it to slice off suckers trying to grow outside my raspberry rows. I’ve also used it to slice through stout thistle and burdock in the field next to my house that I’ll be buying next month (my future pasture). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hoe so well suited to chopping and slicing as Leo’s hop hoe is.

When I realized what a remarkable tool the hop hoe is I decided to call Leo Sprauer and ask him some questions about his hoe. What follows is a synopsis of our conversation. And if you would like to have a hop hoe of your own, I’ll tell you how to get one at the end of this article.

The Original Purpose 
Of A Hop Hoe
I asked Leo Sprauer what the original hop hoe was designed to do for hop growers. He explained that when hops were harvested in the fall, it was customary to cut the vines off around three feet above the ground. Leaving that length of growth on the plant helped the roots to better store nutrients for surviving the winter. In the following spring, the 3ft. lengths of vine were dry and hard. A hop hoe, with its sharpened blade, easily sliced away the old vines.

I don’t know if hops are still harvested that way, but I have a single hop plant that I’ve grown up a pole in the corner of my garden for several years, and I typically cut the vines down to ground level in the fall. This year, however, I’ll cut them high, and in the following spring I’ll use my hop hoe for what it was originally designed to do. But my hoe will see a lot more action than that because, as I’ve noted above, it is perfectly suited to any chopping/slicing work that needs to be done.

Leo’s Hoes Are 
Leo Sprauer is a farmer. He works the land his parents bought in the early 1960’s. Back then, they grew hops on the farm. These days, Leo grows boxwood nursery stock on the land. Making the hop hoes is a sideline to farming. 

A Truly 
Handcrafted Hoe
Leo Sprauer’s grandfather made the original hop hoes from old automobile leaf springs, but Leo uses T1 steel, which is a tempered steel, three times harder than common mild steel, and well suited for a hoe blade.

The finished blade is 12” long and has a gentle radius bend to it (as you can see in the photos). It is 4” wide on one end and 1.25” wide on the other. Both ends are sharpened.

The handle on Leo’s hoes is made of kiln-dried red oak, which Leo carefully selects. He cuts and shapes the handles himself and they are true to the traditional style. Instead of being round in cross section, as is the case with most every other hoe you’ve ever seen, the hop hoe handle is more of an oval shape, with two flat sides. 

With the flat sides, you don’t have to grip the handle as hard as you do with a typical hoe, and the hoe is easier to work with as a result.

The “farrow” or handle socket (5" long) is tapered, as it should be on any good hoe (to best hold the handle), and it is welded to the hoe head. The handle fits securely in the socket and is held in place with one short nail through a hole in the side of the socket. The nail goes only half way into the handle.

Leo says that the handle wood is well dried and should not shrink, but if the handle ever loosens in the socket, all you have to do is grind the nail head off, and set the nail down into the handle just a bit. Then refit the handle deeper into the socket and secure it with another nail.

If I were to reset the handle, I’d be inclined to use a screw instead of a nail. But the point is that repair or handle replacement is no big deal.

The total length of the handled hoe is just under 60", and I see that as a big plus. Long-handled hoes are a whole lot easier to work with than short handled hoes.

Total weight of the tool is just a skosh over three pounds.

Leo told me there are 32 steps in making the blade, farrow, and handle. And he typically makes 100 hoes at a time.

It’s Not a Grub Hoe
Leo Sprauer says the hop hoe I have is a “medium duty” hoe, which is to say that it will work well, and last a good long time, under normal working conditions. But if the tool is used as a grub hoe for digging, or for hammer-chopping in rock-hard soil, it will eventually break.

However, if someone expects to be using the hoe for extra hard chopping conditions, Leo makes a reinforced version of the hoe that will hold up longer under extreme use. 

Keep It Sharp
All garden hoes work best when they are sharp and I think this is especially true with a hop hoe. I put some small nicks in the blade of my hoe (that field I’m buying is really rocky) and had no problem sharpening the blade with a 12” bastard file. Leo uses an angle grinder to keep his blades sharp.

How To Get One Of 
Leo Sprauer’s Hop Hoes
Leo sells around 200 hop hoes a year. Some years he has sold as many as 400 hoes. Now that I’ve introduced his hoe to the world in this little article, I expect that 2012 might be an 800 hoe year. :-)

If you live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, you can find a Leo Sprauer hop hoe at your local TrueValue hardware store. Some nurseries and tractor supply stores in the area also have Sprauer hoes for sale.

Those of you in other parts of the United States can get a hop hoe directly from Leo. There is no web site with easy online ordering buttons (yet), so you’ll have to contact Leo by e-mail ( and make arrangements to get a hoe.

A Leo Sprauer handcrafted hop hoe will cost you $48. Figure another $30 for UPS shipping and you’ll end up paying a total of $78. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable price for a handcrafted tool that, if properly used and cared for, will serve you faithfully for a great many years.

A Medieval Weapon?

I showed Leo's hop hoe to my son, Robert, and told him all about it. His response was, "It looks like a medieval weapon." I hadn't thought of that, but it does look like a medieval weapon. So if you ever need a medieval weapon, a hop hoe should do the job.

The Short Version

(photo by Leo Sprauer)
The picture above shows a short-handled (approximately 20") version of the hop hoe. The head is scaled down in size too.

A Little Disclaimer
I’m impressed with Leo Sprauer’s hop hoe and am pleased to be able to tell you about it here. I want to make it clear that I am in no way benefiting financially from writing about this tool, and I am not receiving any money from Mr. Sprauer for hoes that he sells as a result of this review.

Also, though I have spoken with Leo Sprauer, and I have a good feeling about him, I do not know Leo and I can not vouch for his integrity as a businessman. Therefore, if you contact Leo Sprauer and purchase a hop hoe from him, I can not, and do not, guarantee your satisfaction.

That said, if you do purchase a hoe from Mr. Sprauer, I would appreciate it if you came back to this web page and provided some feedback in the comments section below. Your feedback will serve a valuable purpose, helping others to decide if they want to purchase one of Leo's hop hoes.

I’m Looking 
For More Useful Tools
I think Leo Sprauer makes a downright useful product. It is my hope that this article will help him sell more of his hoes, and I would like to help other agrarian craftsmen (and women) sell their products.

This blog has been in existence for six years and gets over 500 visitors a day, every day, 365 days a year. I have a readership that would like to know about and support such craftspeople. 

Do you know someone with a home business who is crafting a unique and/or useful tool that can help people to live a more self-reliant lifestyle? A “tool” can be for the garden, the barn, the kitchen, or the workshop (I’m not including books as tools for this kind of individual review). If so, send me an e-mail about it:

I may request a sample of any product I write about here, but there will be no expectation (or acceptance) of financial remuneration in any way.