The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
May 2012

Dateline 31 May 2012

Me & Jaxson

In last month’s blogazine here I announced the birth of my first grandchild, Jaxson Kimball. This month, my son and his wife and Jaxson came to visit us from Oklahoma for nine days. As you might imagine, Marlene and I were delighted to see and hold and get to know this newest member of our family.

At six weeks of age, babies are not deliberately smiling or responsive, except to cry when they are unhappy. Jaxson wasn't unhappy very much. He got a lot of attention. It will probably be another year or so before we see him again, and that makes me sad.

A most-recent picture of our Jaxson
I believe that God created, defined, and ordained the family. I believe that families as God intended them to be are beautiful. And I believe that grandbabies are precious little embodiments of hope.
Clothespin Update

This is a prototype of my soon-to-be released "Classic American" clothespin.
It so happens that the spring clothespin was invented in America in 1853, but the style we are all familiar with came about in 1887. America made some great clothespins for over a century before cheap Asian clothespins flooded the market and put the American manufacturers out of business. The imported clothespins are, frankly speaking, junk.
Last month I wrote about my idea to start an American-made clothespin company. Reader response to my idea was surprisingly positive. It was so encouraging, in fact, that I have proceeded to make several clothespin prototypes. And I’ve also ordered 50,000 custom-made, stainless steel clothespin springs. When someone buys 50,000 springs to make clothespins, it’s a safe bet that they’re serious about the idea.

I’m still working out a lot of the details of the business, as well as minor improvements in the design, but I hope/expect to be able to have “Classic American Clothespins” for sale by the end of this year. I have purchased the domain names of and (there is no web site yet).

The clothespins will be relatively expensive (I’m thinking they will cost around a dollar each), so they will not be nearly as affordable as the imports. 

More prototypes: Classic American clothespins will be made of ash wood and have "grip grooves" on the handle end. Marlene says the grip grooves make removing the clothespin from the clothesline much easier.

Nevertheless, my Classic American Clothespins will be a good value for the money. They will be strong, dependable, and made to last for decades of use. They will actually be made better than any clothespin (old or new) that I have ever seen.

Cheap imported clothespins have skimpy springs like shown on the left. The spring wire is light gauge and there are only four coils. But the Classic American will have a spring made of heaver gauge wire and it will be tightly coiled (seven coils). The springs will also be made of stainless steel, which is an improvement over the galvanized wire springs used on older American-made clothespins.

In addition to selling clothespins, I intend to sell the springs, specifications, and a sample “Classic American” to hobbyist woodworkers who want to make their own clothespins. A free, step-by-step online clothespin-making tutorial is also an idea I’m considering.

Stay tuned.

I Took A Vacation

We drove over this covered bridge on our vacation..... six times.

I have been selling my down-to-earth books and project parts via mail order long enough to know that the volume of orders typically ramps up in mid May. Then it will almost overwhelm me for the next five months as I struggle to keep up with the multiple demands of the business, and everything else in my life. It is almost more than I can handle (and it is reason enough to leave my “day job,” which is exactly what I plan to do eight months from now).

With long work days looming ahead, Marlene encouraged me to take a little vacation in early May, and that’s what we did. We headed off to the Berkshire mountains for three days and two nights. Our main objective was to visit the Sloane-Stanley Museum in Kent, Connecticut, just a short drive down from our hotel in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. I am an admirer of Eric Sloane’s books and paintings and have wanted to visit the museum for a long time.

The Sloan-Stanley museum is off the beaten path and I think it is safe to say that it’s not a major attraction. But if you like Eric Sloane, you will enjoy his museum.

We arrived on the opening day of the 2012 season and were the first visitors of the season to sign the visitor’s book. No one else showed up for the over-two-hours we were there. I have a feeling that we were probably the only people to visit on that day. 

This cabbage slicer made with old scythe blades illustrates the resourcefulness and self-reliance of early Americans.
The museum consists of a couple rooms displaying Eric Sloane’s personal collection of old tools and agrarian artifacts. Some of his paintings are also on display. There is also a 1984 movie to watch about Eric Sloane that features a lot of excerpts of the man himself speaking about his art and his interest in the agrarian culture of early America.  It was the first I have heard Sloane speak. 

The museum also has Eric Sloane’s studio. It was moved from his home and replicated onto the museum after he died in 1985. A small gift shop sells his books, and I was surprised to see that they also offered a few signed prints.

This "dog mill & butter churn" from the Eric Sloane museum shows the inventiveness of early Americans.
I have misplaced my notes from that day but one of the things that I recall is that Eric Sloane was the first artist to do oil paintings on Masonite. He was also married five times and had no children. "God knows I tried" is the epitaph Sloane chose for his gravestone.

This room at the Eric Sloane museum is a replication of Sloane's last art studio (click to see an enlarged view). There is a large stone fireplace out of view to the right. It;s a cozy room jam-packed with early American artifacts.
After immersing ourselves into the world of Eric Sloane we headed back to Massachusetts and toured the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. We had been there years before and enjoyed it. Rockwell was a remarkable artist and to see his paintings up close was a real treat.

It occurred to me that while Eric Sloane painted cloudscapes (his first cloudscape was purchased by the aviatrix, Amelia Earhardt) and rural landscapes featuring barns and covered bridges, Norman Rockwell never, to my knowledge, painted an agrarian scene.

Early the next day, before heading home, we visited Hancock Shaker Village. I like the Shaker motto (hearts to god, hands to work) and their self-reliant, community-centered agrarian lifestyle is endearing to me. But their religious beliefs were well entrenched in Spiritualism. They contacted the spirit world through clairvoyants and mediums and took direction from the spirits. That’s not something that I would ever want to be associated with.

All the tools in this woodworking shop at Hancock Shaker Village are run with water power. A water turbine under the floor spins a main shaft, which spins smaller shafts, and the tools are belt-driven.
This man is opening a valve to direct water from a pond-fed pipe into the turbine.

After leaving the Hancock Shaker Village, we headed back to New York and happened to drive by a sign for the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village. I turned around and headed down the road.

I knew from reading Charles Nordhoff’s 1875 book, "The Communistic Societies of the United States: From Personal Visit and Observation" that the Mount Lebanon Shaker community was home to an enormous stone barn. The book says...

“As you drive up the road from Lebanon Springs, the first building belonging to the Shaker settlement which meets your eye is the enormous barn of the North Family, said to be the largest in the three or four states which near here come together, as in its interior arrangements it is one of the most complete. The huge structure lies on a hillside, and is two hundred and ninety-six feet long by fifty wide, and five stories high, the upper story being on a level with the main road, and the lower opening on the fields behind it.”

I think I have mentioned this enormous barn in this blog before, but I have never seen it in person, so it was great to "discover" it for myself. It was the first building that met my eye...

This famous Mount Lebanon barn (what remains of it) is close to the road, but a chain-link fence surrounds it. I nosed my car up to the fence and stood on the hood to get a clear picture over the top of the fence.

Unlike Hancock Shaker Village, Mount Lebanon is not really much of a tourist attraction. There is no entry fee and no people in period costume to talk to. The buildings are in various states of decay and repair. I think the plan is to restore the whole place and open it to the public someday. Until then, I guess it’s okay to be a little nosey and take pictures, which is what I did.

This view from the opposite end of the barn shows the five stories of height.

One side of the barn is stabilized with I-beam braces. I would love to see this barn all restored, but it will cost a small fortune to get the job done

I found an interesting YouTube video that discusses the various ways that water was stored, moved and used by the Shakers at Mount Lebanon. They had a complex series of a mill ponds, dams, sluices, underground aqueducts and so on. They also collected rainwater from the roofs of their buildings and diverted it underground to supply livestock needs. They ran water pipe up chimneys to heat it and keep it from freezing. Water was collected in cisterns for domestic use. Click Here to learn more about the Mount Lebanon waterworks.

This sign is in front of the Mount Lebanon Shaker meetinghouse (pictured below).
If you want to see a picture of the great barn when it was still all together, Click Here and you will see an aerial view at 58 seconds into the you tube movie. And the rest of the movie tells more about the community.  

This picture shows the Mount Lebanon Shaker meetinghouse. The roof is curved. Charles Nordhoff called it a "boiler roof." This building is now part of the Darrow School. In fact, the Darrow School logo is an end view of this building.

New Land Update

"Whose woods these are, I think I know..."  I took this quick picture from behind our house this morning. The woods, and stream, and field beyond will officially be ours after today.
Tomorrow, June 1st, 2012, Marlene and I have an appointment to sign papers and buy the 16 acres of woods and field that I have told you about here in past blogs. I actually handed my attorney the check to pay for it all yesterday. It's the biggest check I've ever given anybody, and the money didn't come easy. But it's a trade I'm comfortable with. My pretty-much-lifelong dream of owning a greater section of debt-free land will, Lord willing, be fully realized in a few hours. 

Champion of England
Pea Update

My Champion of England peas are growing very well.

I've been chronicling the growth of my Champion of England peas here over the past two blog posts. This old variety is supposed to grow ten feet tall. This month they really jumped and are now 28 inches tall. But they still have a long way to go....

My T-post trellis is 8-feet tall. I hope to see it chock full of Champion peas!
That's it for this month's blogazine. 
I hope to meet you here again at the end of June.