Dateline: 28 October 2012
(a few days early in case hurricane Sandy shuts down my internet)
|Family Portrait: Marlene, Me, Jaxson & Leyland|
My grandson, Jaxson Kimball, and his mother were here from Oklahoma for a short and sweet visit this past month. Jaxson’s Army soldier daddy was away, in “the field,” for a month (in Arkansas). Jaxson is now around seven months old and a very happy little guy.
My Grandfather Kimball
|Dr. Herrick C. Kimball|
I’ve written in the past (Here, Here, and Here) about my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C. Kimball, of Fort Fairfield, Maine, the man I am named after. Fort Fairfield is a small rural town next to the Canadian border, in the northern reaches of the state.
My grandfather established his medical practice in Fort Fairfield in 1927. He owned and operated the first hospital in Fort Fairfield in the 1940’s. I think it was in a clapboard building—nothing fancy. In the 1950’s he was involved in the building of a new brick-and-mortar hospital for the community. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in the town’s newspaper:
Dr. Kimball's little hospital was replaced with what was to become Community General Hospital through a massive fundraising effort by the community. “He was the one that really initiated this. He was the largest fundraiser. At the time, the people in Fort Fairfield privately raised $230,000 to build what became Community General Hospital... [It] was a full service hospital, providing doctors, surgery, x-ray and all other common health care needs.
Community General Hospital, a hospital built by the community, was mothballed in the 1980’s. Locals have had to go to another town for their medical needs. But the community of Fort Fairfield is now building an new medical facility. It will be a primary health care clinic, owned by the town and leased to a health services provider. It will be called the Kimball Community Health Center, in honor of my grandfather. Here’s an article about it from the Bangor newspaper: Community Breaks Ground on Health Center
The Only Picture...
|H.C.Kimball and H.C.Kimball|
That is the only picture I have of my grandfather Kimball and me. It was taken in August of 1965. My grandfather does not look well and, in fact, he wasn’t well. He would die five months later, just shy of his 65th birthday.
I would like to know what book he was reading in that picture. I imagine it was a history book, and probably a Civil War history book. Perhaps it was Bruce Catton’s Never Call Retreat, which was published in 1965. I own my grandfather’s copy of that book, and several others.
I am attracted to the history of the Civil War, just as he was, though I am a Southern sympathizer. Perhaps he was too. Anyone who reads and understands the history of that time can’t help but be a Southern sympathizer, or so it seems to me.
I recall as a small boy once going with my grandfather to Community General Hospital in Fort Fairfield. It would have been maybe 1963, when I was 5 years old. I was lavished with attention from all sorts of people who I didn’t know. I felt pretty special being Dr. Kimball’s grandson. And I feel pretty special now, 43 years after his death, to be the grandson of this man who, unfortunately, I have only small memories of, and was never allowed the chance to really know.
I hope that I can live to see my grandchildren grow up and get to know them, and they me, and that their memories will be good. I will be 61 when Jaxson is 8 years old, the age I was when my grandfather died. One thing for sure, I will make certain that there are lots of pictures of me and him and any other grandchildren that may come along...
How My Grandfather Kimball
Saved My Life
(and my tonsils)
I beg your indulgence as I tell another grandfather story......The picture above shows my right hand, and the handiwork of my grandfather Kimball’s hands. Here’s the story behind that semicircular scar...
I figure I must have been three years old (1961). I was playing along the rocky beach in front of my grandparent’s camp on the shore of Cross Lake in northern Maine. I picked up a sharp piece of broken glass. It sliced deeply into my palm and wrist. I think I remember the event—the astonishment I felt at seeing the bright red blood, and so much of it, then the panic. I don’t remember any more than that (I’m pretty good about forgetting unpleasant events in my life.) But my mother recollected about what happened to me a couple times over the years.
I was bleeding profusely and we were at the camp alone, with no car. My mother rushed me over to Roger Hall’s camp next door. Roger’s wife, Max, was there. She had a car and she drove us to Fort Fairfield—to Community General Hospital.
My mother told me the Halls had a brand new Thunderbird automobile and it was equipped with an alarm that went off if driven over a maximum speed limit. I have done a Google search and, sure enough, the 1961 Thunderbird had a “speed warning buzzer.” I don’t know what speed it buzzed at, but those cars had 300 horsepower V8 engines with four-barrel carburetors. They were made to go fast. My mother said the alarm sounded most of the way.
With normal driving speeds, I think Fort Fairfield is about an hour from the camp, but Max got us there in record time. I assume my grandfather was waiting (telephones were around back then). In any event, when we got back to “the Fort,” I was wheeled directly into the operating room, and my grandfather sewed me back together.
I’m sure it was a traumatic event for my mother, she being 25 years old at the time, and I being her baby. As for my grandfather, I’m sure it was all in a day’s work for him. But still, maybe there was some anxiety in tending to a serious cut on his little, firstborn grandson. Or maybe there was more anxiety in the waiting, and then relief once I was there and he knew better what he was dealing with.
The only other medically-related incident of personal significance I recall involving my grandfather Kimball was a discussion in his office with my mother about my tonsils (I was prone to yearly bouts with strep throat when I was younger, and I think that may have led to the discussion).
My mother seemed to think that it was best to have my tonsils removed. I wasn’t very old but I was old enough to have an opinion on the subject, which was that I didn’t want any surgery. I listened quietly and carefully to the words being exchanged, and I recall being very relieved when my grandfather told my mother that he thought it best to keep my tonsils in place. I think I remember him saying that they served a purpose.
My mother always spoke with great respect for “Dr. Kimball” (as she called him). More than once in my lifetime she told me that “Dr. Kimball was a good man.” When she said that, it was always in a reflective manner, with emphasis on the “good.”
That’s how I came to keep my tonsils, and I’m glad to have them.
A “Moron-Proof” Apple
|Goldrush sounds good to me (Read About it Here)|
I am thinking about planting apple trees on our new land next spring, and I’ve been reading a lot about how to properly grow apple trees. I have settled on the Budagovsky 118 rootstock, which makes a cold-hardy tree 80% to 95% full size. I’ll buy from Cummins Nursery in Trumansbugh, N.Y., which is not far from me. I will place my order soon. It will be for only six trees. I hope to plant six more the year after. Twelve trees is enough for me to take care of and should, in time, provide plenty of apples.
The fun part about contemplating the apple trees one will grow is choosing among the many varieties. One variety, Goldrush, caught my eye at the Cummings web site. The description says of it:
Fruit is conic-round, medium large, a deep uniform greenish yellow. Flesh is hard, very crisp and breaking, flavor intense and memorable. Both sugar and acid levels are high (soluble solids seldom below 17%), the balance slightly favoring tartness at harvest, then mellowing in storage. Length of storage almost without parallel, in excess of six months, good texture out of a household refrigerator as late as July or August. .... Ed Fackler, fruit consultant in Indiana [says] “it’s one of the easiest things to grow in my life.” .... “This is just a moron-proof apple,” he said.
Moron-proof? That’s quite the sales pitch. I’ll definitely have one of those!
|Pastor Beck and his homemade Whizbang cider press|
.Early in this month I received a real nice e-mail from Toby Beck, pastor of Evergreen Bible Church in Vancouver, Washington. He was in the process of making a Whizbang Cider press, according to the plans I provide in my Whizbang Cider Plan Book. Pastor Beck told me that the story of finding my plan book and making a cider press made it into one of his Sunday sermons. He provided me with This Link to listen to the sermon online.
Pastor Beck's comments about my book and the cider press are about one minute into the sermon. It was a lot of fun to hear his excitement about discovering and building the press, and his comments about me.
Then, just a few days ago, Pastor Beck wrote me again with an update. I asked if I could share his e-mail and pictures here and he graciously gave me permission to do so...
Toby Beck here again. I’m the pastor in Vancouver, Washington who got inspired to build an apple grinder and cider press using your very helpful book. I just had to let you know how much fun this has been; not just for me but for dozens of people. Because I mentioned it in my sermon, many have been asking about the progress on the press. A lot of guys are curious about the design and quiz me about how it works. Others heard what I needed and supplied necessary parts. (Like a motor!) A sheriff’s office detective said her colleagues would like to see the press. Apparently they had been talking about it at work and she told me that in the midst of all the horrific stuff they have to deal with on a daily basis that it is medicinal to talk about something simple and good like cider. I mentioned it to a pastor friend at a conference and he’s all excited because their church participates in the local community cider pressing event but they don’t have a press yet. He’s fired up to find someone in their church to build one.
And of course, my family has enjoyed watching it come together. It was a great joy last weekend as we had our first pressing party. My folks came to visit and we had a great time squeezing cider. It was truly a harvest party! And of course, I just had to include it in my sermon. And it was great fun to offer everyone a taste of fresh cider at the end of the worship service. We served out 6 gallons; it was a hit!
I figured you should know something of the joy and blessing that your investment/idea has sparked. Have a blessed autumn,
Feedback like that is powerfully endearing to me. Thank you, Pastor Beck, for giving me (and now all my readers) a glimpse into the good fun and great memories that can be made when family and friends get together, and work together, towards a common goal, like turning apples into sweet cider.
|Pastor and Mrs. Toby Beck, enjoying some of their homemade cider.|
Marlene visited a high school friend earlier this month in Lancaster, PA. One of the things they did was visit the Lancaster Central Market, which is the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in the country. That’s kinda neat.
At the market Marlene bought me a jar of Long’s horseradish and a jar of Long’s horseradish mustard. I’m always interested in value-added food products that are made by individuals or families and direct marketed, as opposed to food products made in factories and sold wholesale to supermarkets. Small-scale free enterprise appeals to me. I am, after all, a small-scale, home-based, free-enterprise, and down-to-earth entrepreneurship kind of guy.
So I looked up Long’s horseradish on the internet and discovered that it’s a 5th generation family business (started by the father of the current owner’s grandfather’s uncle). If a business has been around five generations, you have to think it has been, and continues to be, successful, which is to say, it makes sufficient money to justify the effort.
I don’t think it would occur to most people that grinding up horseradish roots, adding a little salt and vinegar, and packing it into a jar would be a successful home business. But the Long family has been doing this for some 70 years.
I believe there are lessons to be learned by budding agrarian entrepreneurs in the Long’s horseradish example. One lesson is that you don’t necessarily need a unique new product. The other lesson is that you don’t need to have a complicated manufacturing process. It looks to me like the Long’s horseradish-processing operation consists of an old grinder that they feed the roots into by hand. So it’s a low-investment, low-overhead business. Very nice.
I was talking to a man this month who asked me, “Can you really make money selling homemade garlic powder?” It wasn’t the first time someone has asked me that. My answer was that, yes, you can make money selling garlic powder if you put the necessary effort into it and invest the time it takes to become established. The fact is, you can make money selling any farm/food product if: 1) your product is good, 2) you keep your investment and overhead low, 3) you give it time.
We live in a culture where entrepreneurs want to see immediate and significant financial return on their business ventures. This rarely happens with any new value-added food product. But if you stay the course, you’ll build a customer base. I doubt that great grandfather Long was an instant business success with his horseradish sauce when he started out back in 1901.
By the way, what I’ve just written holds true for other home-crafted products. I’ve seen it with my wife’s handcrafted soaps. If you get truly good feedback from customers of your product (and they are repeat customers), then you probably have a winning product and just need to stick with it.
Another thing that I think is important when selling a value-added food product is to make it affordable. A jar of Long’s horseradish cost $3.00. That’s affordable.
The only thing about Long’s horseradish that disappoints me is that the Long family no longer grows their own horseradish roots. Grandfather long would, I suspect, not approve.
Also, I understand there are plans to start selling Long’s horseradish in supermarkets, on a national scale. I wonder if the supermarket jars will be as fresh as the jars you can get at the Central Market? It’s not likely. So the most distinctive quality of Long’s products would no longer apply. Were it sold in grocery stores, it would be just another supermarket horseradish—nothing special. And I doubt it would be hand-ground on that old grinder any more. Too bad.
But I have an idea.... The proprietors of Long’s horseradish products could make and sell their product inside certain select supermarkets one day a week, or one day a month. This would be a unique draw for the store and I think people would respond well to it. This would be a way to expand the business without compromising on the hallmark freshness of their product.
My Political Opinion
|Turns out it was just another case of irrational exuberance|
I rarely talk politics here, though in November of 2008, after the election of our current president, I wrote: Obama: America’s New Hope. We’ve come a long way since then, and what I wrote is what I still think.
Beyond that, I’d like to opine that I’m not for getting more people to vote, which seems to be a bigger focus these days than I ever remember. Way too many immature, ignorant, addled, utterly selfish, and easily manipulated people are voting. How can the remaining fragments of our democratic republic survive that?
It’s interesting to look back and see that after the last election, 78% of Americans thought Barak Obama would solve the economic crisis. That statistic proves my point about ignorant, addled and easily manipulated masses.
None of these politicians are going to solve the serious problems of an economy built on debt, fiat money, and the necessity of perpetual growth. All any of them can do is delay the inevitable day of reckoning.
Which is a perfect lead-in to this next story....
Walter Prescott Webb
His Life and Impact
|Professor Walter Prescott Webb|
I just finished reading a biography of my favorite historian. Walter Prescott Webb: His Life and Impact was published in 1976. I was most interested in reading any insights into professor Webb’s remarkable book, The Great Frontier wherein he presents his compelling “Boom Theory of Modern History” (which I have written about Here).
It so happens that his boom hypothesis developed out of a prior book, Divided We Stand: The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy (1937), which I wrote about Here. Webb’s groundbreaking thesis came as a result of his “insatiable curiosity” and 15 years of study. Webb's biographer sums up the boom theory and The Great Frontier as follows (bold emphasis is mine):
Published in 1952, the book was Webb’s fourth historical adventure, and one that he felt might ultimately prove to be his greatest. In what he called “the boom hypothesis,” he proposed that new lands discovered by Columbus and other explorers precipitated a boom in the Metropolis (Europe). Accompanying the boom came the rise of modern civilization, great wealth, and new institutions such as democracy, capitalism, individualism, and the acceleration of progress. By 1900, the new lands disappeared, the frontier closed, and new institutions were placed under stress. With depressing clarity of expression and a hint of prophecy, Webb analyzed contemporary questions and attempted to alert society to problems of today and tomorrow. He suggested that the frontier and its wealth had created an abnormal period of prosperity for western civilization. Since it had ended, society was faced with adjustment. Despite the fact that we continually search for new frontiers, Webb bluntly proclaimed that most of these frontiers were “fallacious.” In the fifties, such gloom-spreading was considered un-American and resulted in a half-serious effort for his dismissal. Webb himself realized that The Great Frontier could not be judged by standards of his times, but suggested that around 1990, the “thinking public” would reevaluate the boom hypothesis.
I find it amazing that professor Webb not only postulated a theory that explains exactly why we are having the problems and issues we are having today, but he understood that it would be another 40 years before it would start to resonate with the “thinking public.” Webb saw a very broad and pertinent historical trends that no one else was seeing.
Also, I learned from the biography that The Great Frontier was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
|These three (Ruth, Alex and Peter) are accomplished time travelers, and a lot of fun to follow.|
From reading your blog I know that you have enjoyed the "Tales from the Green Valley", "Victorian Farm", and "Edwardian Farm" series. Well, there is a fourth in the series entitled "Wartime Farm" which profiles what life was like for farmers during WW2. Go to youtube and type in "E1 Wartime Farm" and you'll find the episodes. As half of my family is from England (grandfather served in the Navy during the war, grandmother worked in a factory during the day and put out fires from flare bombs at night, came over here early 1950s post war). This series gets more into areas of life besides farming, but is interesting nonetheless. What is particularly interesting is the near-draconian control that the government imposed on the populace in all areas of life. Here they were combatting the Nazis and acting like Nazis themselves in some instances. I understand the motives, but wonder (1) if the country would have survived with less intrusive controls and (2) how our country would react with such an approach?
Tim from Ohio
I’ve watched Episode 1 and enjoyed it very much. For those who don't know (and I didn't know until I watched episode 1), the challenge for England during the war was to raise enough food to feed themselves. German ships were blockading imports, and the country was far from food self-sufficient. They needed to double their production!
Planet Whizbang Product.
|This might be a medical device..... but I developed it as a very useful gardening tool.|
The growing season is now over here in Central New York State. Except for cabbages, chard, kale, and some fall-planted garlic, my garden is tilled and planted to a green-manure cover crop. I appreciate the seasons—a time to plant, a time to harvest, a time to think and plan before planting again.
With that in mind, one of the most useful new gardening ideas of my 2012 growing season was using bucket irrigation and fertigation. It was an exceptionally dry summer here but my garden produced well, due to the bucket fertigation ideas I learned from Steve Solomon’s gardening books.
The simple, inexpensive, low-tech method of bucket irrigation and fertilization led me to develop a bucket irrigation hardware kit, a Planet Whizbang version of which I now make and sell.
You can learn all about bucket fertigation and irrigation (and read Steve Solomon’s wisdom on the subject) at my newest web site, www.BucketIrrigation.com
By the way, I typically sow a cover crop of rye on my garden in the fall. But when I went to the local feed store, they had no rye seed. There is a shortage! So I planted wheat. And it turns out there is a hay shortage this year too.
Old Farm Almanacs
From Mummy Rags?
|A farm almanac from my collection (photo link)|
As many of you know, I collect old New England farm almanacs from the 1800’s. The paper used to print many of the older almanacs I have is of an unusual texture. I now know why. It was made from the recycled wrappings from Egyptian mummies.
This is a bizarre but evidently true story that I think you will find very interesting. It turns out that they used Egyptian mummies for other practical purposes too (things you would never guess). This article gives new meaning to the topic of natural resources.... Unwrapping the Connection Between Egyptian Mummies and Maine Papermaking.
Tomato Espalier Project
|Espaliered tomato after the frost (click for closer view)|