Cleaning Sap Buckets in

Dateline: 30 June 2013

Tomorrow is July! It's high time I scrubbed out the maple sap buckets from last spring. I took the buckets down and pulled the sap spiles out of the trees as soon as we stopped boiling syrup, but the buckets have been outdoors under our wood shed since then, waiting for me to wash them out and put them away properly. I'm not usually such a procrastinator, but with my new book and other demands, I've let this little task go undone too long!

I heat water up in our makeshift evaporator pan, add some detergent, and scrub inside and outside with a green Scotch-brite pad. Then I stack the buckets on a pallet in the sun to dry...

All 25 sap buckets are accounted for. And 25 covers are in the evaporator pan, yet to be scrubbed. Unfortunately, I have only 23 sap spikes. The two missing ones are not in the trees. I'm sure of that. Maybe they'll turn up. 

Once thoroughly air-dried, the buckets and covers will be stacked up on a shelf in a shed, ready to use come next spring.

That's a good job done!

On Oatmeal

Dateline: 29 June 2013

It was exactly one week ago that I posted an essay here titled Strawberries of The Largest & Finest Quality (The E.P. Roe Way). I have been picking strawberries, grown the "E.P. Roe way" from my experimental hugelkultur tire beds every day since then. I am amazed at the amount of berries that I'm getting each day from only a few plants. And the berries continue to be mostly of a large size.

E.P. Roe really did know how to grow strawberries of the largest and finest quality, and I think he would be pleased to see his methods combined with the hugelkultur concept.

You can learn all about E.P. Roe's methods for growing strawberries of the largest and finest quality from The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. And once you have a copy, you'll find out how to get to the "hidden" online Resources web site for the book, where I show and tell more about my remarkably productive little hugelkultur tire beds.

Oh, and by the way, there really is some oatmeal under those strawberries.

Feedback From A Reader
(and a very fine story)

Dateline: 28 June 2013

This blog post is about much more than shrink-bagged chickens...

Over the years since starting The Deliberate Agrarian (this blog) I have been blessed to hear from a lot of readers. Some people ask me for advice (I don't think I'm the best person to ask for advice), but most folks send me words of encouragement, and tell me about their life and family. Such is the case with the following e-mail I recently received from a man named Ben. There are several endearing themes in Ben's "story" and I asked his permission to post it here. Those of you who are older, and faced with caring for your aging parents, will, I think, especially appreciate this....

Thank you so very much for the wealth of information you have so selflessly shared in your blog.

This spring, along with ordering some egg layers and exotic birds (to give my 87 year old Dad something to spark his interest) I ordered 50 Cornish Cross meat birds. After the experiences of my youth butchering chickens I had no intention at all of doing it myself this time. When the birds arrived I called a processor and made an appointment 8 weeks out for them. I didn’t really want to pay $3 a bird but I was still determined not to re-live the past. 

About that same time I came across your blog and began to learn a great deal about how the process should be done. What I was reading, in no way shape or form, matched my experience. The more I read, the more confident I became. Then I began to share what I was reading with my brother-in-law (I was raising 25 of these for him) who grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. He too processed chickens in his misspent youth and wasn’t all that thrilled to try it again either. After listening to me regale him with my new found knowledge derived from Planet Whizbang (and adding up $3 a head) he agreed we should give it a shot.

My brother-in-law and I set up and did 15 birds on a recent Saturday morning. We thought we did fairly well being really, really rusty, and plucking by hand. We had a lot of trouble bagging those first birds both with a vacuum machine and getting them to fit in gallon ziploc bags. So the following Monday I ordered a package of shrink wrap bags from you. We used them the following Saturday for the next 20 birds. Those bags are incredible! They are easy to use, fast, and fit skin tight around the bird. The bags made that part of the process fun. I even made a little design and printed it on the blank labels you sent. I ordered more bags and we finished the last of the birds this past Saturday (I attached a pic of one of our finished birds).

This experience has started a domino effect I did not expect. As I have begun to share my story of raising meat birds I have been asked if I have any for sale. I am meeting more and more people who would like to purchase locally grown, organically raised, pastured chicken. The birds I just finished I wouldn’t sell as “Organic” even though they were pasture raised. The feed they consumed came mostly from my local TSC farm store. However, today I visited an organic farm in my area and purchased an initial 200# of truly locally grown organic chick starter (for the next 50 birds already on the way.) Saturday I will be meeting with a group of people very interested in placing additional orders.

Funny how something I did simply to engage my Dad has snowballed. He thinks it’s great and it’s really brightened him up. I wanted you to know that Planet Whizbang has played a key role in this process and I am very grateful.

I also will be ordering a Whizbang Chicken Plucker kit as soon as the funding becomes available. I am not gonna try and pluck few hundred chickens by hand before winter!

Thank you again for all you do,


Do you sense the excitement in that letter? And did you catch the part about Ben's elderly father being brightened up by the chickens? When I wrote back, asking permission to publish the story, Ben told me more...

Please feel free to use any or all of what I sent any way you like. You have blessed my family and me more than I can express. My father is relegated to a wheelchair and had pretty much given up and disconnected from life. I decided to get a few chickens to try and pull him back, and as I mentioned, one thing has led to another. We now have 20 laying hens, 10 assorted Polish chicks and 6 Bourbon Bronze turkeys that will die of old age around here. When I ordered the next round of meat birds I also ordered 15 assorted Phoenix chicks. Dad really gets a kick out of rare and unusual animals and is now enjoying sitting outside and watching the birds run all over the yard.
When I was growing up we had many different unusual animals at one time or another. We had Angora goats, Scotch Highland cattle, Belgian Draft horses, hogs, just about any variety of bird you can think of, the list goes on and on. When I was a teenager we had a big hen turkey (she was supposed to be the star of our Thanksgiving dinner.) She would come and sit next to dad on the porch swing. They would sit there and rock back and forth for hours. Well the week of Thanksgiving my dad gave my sister a $20 bill and said "go to the store and get us a turkey we don't know." I don't know how old that hen was when she finally succumbed, but she definitely got all the years God allocated for her species.
You are correct concerning my graphic designing past. I was in the graphic design/sign business for more than 25 years. That business became a casualty of the economic downturn during the last decade. I took that opportunity to become an over the road truck driver. I had wanted to do that since I was old enough to know what a truck was. After 4 years of that (more than enough time to quench that desire) I came off the road so I could be home to help with my dad. I did that as much for mom as dad. Mom is 83 and still very active and involved but cannot (and should not) handle the heavy lifting that is involved with dad. I am blessed to be in a position in my life where I can be here to provide the care dad needs and allow him to remain in the home he has lived in for more than 50 years.
I'm very glad I came across your site. It's reassuring when I read the stories and musings of people like yourself, it lets me know there still are good Godly people out there doing their thing, in spite of the lunacy.

Well, I have to say, I'm blessed and reassured when I read stories like yours, Ben. 

Thank you!

Life is Like a Fresh Garden Salad...

Dateline: 27 June 2013

...You never know what you're gonna get.

How To
Shrink-Bag Chicken Parts

Dateline: 26 June 2013

Yesterday morning we parted and packaged a dozen chickens. This essay will show you a great way to shrink-bag chicken parts.

We raised and processed our own meat birds for many years, but last year and this year we have purchased chickens from a friend. I hope next year to again raise a small batch of the Cornish-X chickens, but buying locally-raised birds from someone you know and trust is the next best thing.

We bought 12 chickens last week and 12 more this week. My friend processed the birds at his farm. I stopped by with a cooler and ice, brought the whole birds home, and let them age in the cooler until the next morning. Then we "parted" and froze them.

We used to freeze a lot of whole birds when we had three boys to feed, but they are grown, and Marlene is cooking more meals for just she and I. Having the chicken packaged and frozen in bags of legs, breasts, and wings is perfect for us.

You can see how I part chickens at Step 10 of my at my How To Butcher A Chicken web site.

As part of our Planet Whizbang home business, Marlene and I sell poultry shrink bags for whole birds. You can learn all about the bags at And if you look over on the right sidebar of that web site, you will see a link for a tutorial explaining how to use the bags we sell to package chicken parts.

That tutorial shows how we use an inexpensive ($40) impulse sealer to  turn our big-chicken bags into bags for smaller parts. I was experimenting with oven-shrinking of the bagged parts when I put that essay together. Near the end, I mention the possibility of using a heat gun (instead of the oven) to shrink the bags. I also show how we used the bags and a heat gun to bag up some fresh-picked blueberries for the freezer. 

A lot of people use a FoodSaver vacuum sealer for shrink-bagging food that will go into the freezer. We have one of those. Been there, done that.  The problem with the FoodSaver is that the bags are very expensive, the machine is temperamental, and the packages often lose their seal over time. Shrink bagging is cheaper, easier, and better—and that's a fact!

Further experimentation with shrink-bagging of chicken parts has proven to me that using a heat gun to shrink the bags is absolutely the best way to get the job done, as the pictures that follow show.....

A chicken breast, bagged and ready to shrink with a heat gun.

In the picture above, you are looking at a chicken breast that is sealed in 1/2 of one of our standard 10" x 16" poultry shrink bags. The other half of the bag will also be used—we get two parts bags from one full-chicken bag. The bottom seal of the bag is the factory seal, and the top seal was made by Marlene with the impulse sealer.

Holding the bagged breast in one hand, I direct the heat gun onto it, around the edges first. I flip the bag over in my hand and shrink it all over, as evenly as possible, until it's into a bubble, like shown in this next picture...

The bag has been shrunk with the heat gun until it is like a bubble around the meat, then a vent hole is pierced with the tip of a knife.

I try to pierce the bag in a section where it will be fairly flat. The label that goes on to seal the hole will fit best on a flatter surface.

The breast is nicely shrink-packaged. Note the vent hole that was made in the previous photo (click to see an enlarged view). You can also see my old heat gun that I used to do the shrinking.

There is a little bit of a learning curve to using a heat gun to evenly shrink-seal the bag to the meat, but it's not hard to do. I have found that the heat gun needs to be on a hot setting. A hair dryer will not do the job.

Here's the flip-side of the breast shown above. The bag shrinks tight, air exits the vent hole, and the meat is well-protected from freezer burn.

Marlene bagged and sealed the chicken parts and I took care of the shrinking. The process is simple and fast.

This isn't the best of pictures but it shows the 25 packages of chicken from 12 birds, all bagged and ready for the freezer. Freezer-adhesive labels have been applied and they serve to seal the vent holes.

I did the math on those 12 chickens pictured above. Twelve birds at $15 each came to $180. We ended up with 12 packages of legs, 12 packages of breast meat, and one package of wings, which amounts to chicken for 25 meals, costing $7.20 a meal.

The total weight of the meat shown in the above picture is 39 pounds. What isn't shown is the chicken backs. They weighed 14 pounds and were made into seven jars of canned chicken stock, which equates to seven more meals from the birds, bringing the cost per meal to $5.63.

To read the essay-tutorial I wrote about making chicken stock from backs, Click Here.

Bagged & frozen chicken parts for 2013

I love
Beet "Celery"

Dateline: 25 June 2013

Some beet greens in my 2013 garden

If you have seen my Planet Whizbang logo, you would not be surprised to learn that I like beets. Beet greens are especially lovely to me. Steamed beet greens (with a little homemade cider vinegar dripped on top) are something pretty special. But I think garden-fresh beet "celery" is pretty special too.

Beet "celery"

Beet "celery" is my term for the succulent, stems of beet greens.  They are celery-like when they are just-picked, and they are delicious.

The best way to enjoy beet-celery is to pull up a beet plant when it is lush with leaves but the beet root is not yet formed, like shown in the picture above. Then break off a stalk at the base and, with the leaf in your hand, feed the stalk into your mouth, while chewing it down—like Bugs Bunny chews down a carrot. 

As you crush the stem with your teeth, the earthy-sweet, raw beet-stem juices are easily released, and that's what it's all about. Stop when you get to the leaf, and start "juicing" another length of beet-celery into your mouth.

As with the familiar celery-celery, beet-celery has some internal "strings," but they are no problem at all. You can spit them right out after extracting the stem-juice, or you can just chew the strings for awhile.

You can't buy good beet-celery, even at the best of farmer's markets. That's because beet stems go limp soon after picking, and there is nothing particularly good about limp beet-celery (but limp greens can be successfully steamed). The only way to truly experience beet celery at its very best is to chew-juice the stalks within a few minutes of picking. Within a few seconds is even better. I typically enjoy a few stalks of beet celery right in the garden, and they are best in the morning.

Just writing about beet-celery makes my mouth water with anticipation. It's now 6:00 in the morning. Birds are singing their morning songs outside my window. The day will be hot and muggy, but it is still morning-cool. Everything is fresh outdoors, including the beet-celery. The beet-celery is beckoning me......

P.S. Beet celery is not something you eat a lot of. One bunch of celery stems from a single beet is just enough for me. It's something of a garden tonic. Try it and see what you think.

The Kimball
Community Health Center
Is Dedicated

Dateline: 24 June 2013
By: Herrick C. Kimball II

On Friday, June 21, 2013, the Town of Fort Fairfield, Maine, had a dedication ceremony for its new Kimball Community Health Center. The facility is named after my paternal grandfather, the late Dr. Herrick C Kimball (1902-1966). He was a doctor in that little rural town for virtually his entire professional life.  

I have written here in the past about my grandfather Kimball (The Story of My Grandfather's Ring and How My Grandfather Saved My Life), and about the passbook saving account he started for me 12 days after I was born. I've also written a tribute to my Grandmother Kimball, who was a tremendous influence in my life—more than she probably ever realized. Then, after writing about my grandparents here, I was pleased to hear from Kimball kin I never knew about, and I posted the essay, New Discoveries About My Family History.

In the picture above, my father (also a Dr. Kimball) and my aunt are doing the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon. The attractive, smiling young woman in the red dress is my half sister (all together, I have 6 half-siblings). 

I would like to have been at the dedication, and the family reunion/ birthday party that was celebrated later on for my Aunt Clara (95 years old), but it was nigh unto impossible. I suppose that if I had a "regular job" I could have just taken some vacation days and headed to Fort Fairfield (740 miles from where I grew up and still live, here in New York), but I no longer have the luxury of vacation days.

My Planet Whizbang homestead-based mail order business is in full swing at this time of year. It demands a lot of time and focus to keep up with the orders.  I have no employees to run the business in my absence. It's just me and Marlene, with some occasional help from our boys. 

It has occurred to me that operating a small-but-very-busy mail order business from my home is sort of like dairy farming—the chores have to be done morning and evening, and there is an endless amount of supporting work to be done in between. For a break from the routine, I head to my garden. That's kind of like taking a little vacation.

Marlene and I keep telling ourselves we should take an "overnighter," or even go antique shopping for one day, just to break away from the business demands, but there is no time for that. The orders will slow down later in the year. 

I think it is remarkable that, 47 years after the death of my grandfather, the town he once dedicated his life to serving has remembered him in this way. And I'm thrilled to see it.

I will admit that there is a definite poignancy for me in the event too. It reminds me of the loss of my grandmother eight years ago. It reminds me of the loss that came long before that, with divorce and the separation of so many miles—separation from "my people" and that place where my family roots go so deep and wide. 

Of The Largest & Finest Quality
(the E.P. Roe Way)

Dateline: 22 June 2013

This photo, taken a few minutes ago, is now my screensaver picture!

Today I picked the first strawberries of this year from my garden. None of them were small. I'm sure some of the future berries I pick will be small, but these first ones are remarkably large, as the picture above shows. And there are plenty of large ones now ripening.

I've grown strawberries in years past, and I've grown large strawberries in years past, but I've never had strawberry plants with so many berry clusters and so many large berries on them.

What is different is not the variety of berries I am growing. Fact is, I don't remember the variety. What is different is that I grew these berries from plants that I transplanted last summer, and I employed E.P. Roe's single-plant system in growing them. I also grew them using a hugelkultur experiment of my own devising. 

E.P. Roe lived from 1838 to 1888. He was the preeminent berryman of his day. E.P. Roe knew strawberries. He knew how to grow strawberries of the largest and finest quality. Those berries in the picture above are proof that E.P. Roe's single-plant system works.

In The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners (my just-published book) I present E.P. Roe's system, in his own words, though edited by me for the modern reader. The book also gives E.P. Roe's advice on summer planting of berries. And another chapter explains my hugelkultur idea.

If you have already purchased a copy of the book, you can go to the book's "hidden" online Resources web site (see the last page of the book for how to get to the web site) and see pictures of my Roe-grown strawberry bed, starting early in the spring, when the berry plants were not much to look at.

I'll be posting some further insights about these strawberries and Roe's system at the Resources web page later today.

I can tell you the berries tasted as good as they look. Marlene and I savored these first berries together after I took some pictures. Which reminds me of a little essay I posted to this web site back in 2006: Sharing The First Fruit

Here's to lovely, delicious strawberries of the largest and finest quality! 

With thanks to E.P. Roe.

A Great Old Book,
And a High Compliment

Dateline: 21 June 2013

When I was 16 years old I bought myself a copy of The Mother Earth News Almanac. I had never heard of The Mother Earth News but the book caught my eye in a bookstore, and as I flipped through the pages, I was enthralled with all the down-to-earth information and ideas. That book resonated with me in a very profound way. It still does. It prompted me to subscribe to The Mother Earth News magazine, which was a life-changing experience.

I learned a lot of things from the old Mother Earth News magazines. One thing I learned is how to write how-to articles. In fact, one of the old articles in that magazine was titled, "How to Write For Mother." I still think it is one of the best things I have ever read on the subject of writing a good how-to essay or article.

John Shuttleworth, the man who started Mother Earth News, was, in my opinion, a master when it came to communicating with the written word. He didn't win a Pulitzer and his name isn't considered with the great authors of history, but, I'm telling you, he knew how to engage readers. The following excerpt comes from an old issue of Mother Earth News and served to introduce readers to the then-new Mother Earth News Almanac (published back in 1973)...

The crew that puts together LIFESTYLE! and THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS was given a special holiday present last fall: In addition to its usual average of about 56 hours of work a week, it was presented with the chore of nailing together (in its spare time) a 384-page paperback book for Bantam. 
September, October, November, December and the first few days of January—in other words—were pretty brutal for some of the folks around here . . . and I'm afraid they didn't have much of a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's celebration at all.
Why did they do it . . . why did nearly a dozen individuals work themselves (for very little more than minimum wage) until they were so exhausted that—at one time or another—they all actually became physically sick? Because they're damn good people who want to get THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS Research Center built for the (we hope) subsequent benefit of the planet and all of us. They knew that, by putting together a book that Bantam could mass-market, they'd be helping to spread MOTHER EARTH NEW's word just a little further and—if all goes well—putting a few more dollars into the Research Center fund. I'm dang proud of 'em all.
And the book? Oh yes, the book. It's called THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS ALMANAC and it's packed with tables and formulas and recipes and tips and hints and weather lore and wild food ideas and organic gardening information and land-finding methods and recycling projects and alternative power concepts and all kinds of things. A few (actually a very, very few) of the book's subjects are shown on these two pages just to give you the tiniest idea of the wealth of knowledge crammed into the paperback . . . all written and illustrated just for the book.
Look for THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS ALMANAC wherever paperbacks are sold . . . or order out a copy direct from MOTHER EARTH NEW's bookshelf. The money, as they say, is going for a good cause . . . and I betcha you'll like the book too!

I am prompted to tell you about The Mother Earth News Almanac today because my newest book, The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners, is starting to get a few comments and reviews (favorable ones, for which I am thankful) and the following comment was posted at the new book's "hidden" online Resources web site:

"The book is great! It reminds me of the old Mother Earth News Almanac, but very focused."

That little bit of feedback is high-praise, indeed, and it made my day to read it. 

For those of you who have not seen The Mother Earth News Almanac, you can find old copies for sale at a reasonable price on the internet. It is a remarkable book. Though it is now 40 years old, and some of the information is dated, it is still well worth getting a copy if you want a good dose of down-to-earth inspiration.

Cherokee Purple

Dateline: 18 June 2013

A Cherokee Purple seedling

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will recall the above picture, posted back on May 10th, in my blog post titled: Cherokee Tomato Will Survive. I wrote about how we start tomatoes from seed, without grow lights or a greenhouse. 

I planted four of those Cherokee seedlings under Whizbang solar pyramids, in between a Whizbang T-post trellis span, in my garden, as shown below.

Whizbang solar pyramids.... remarkable solar cloches.

The plants have grown nicely (as they always do in a solar pyramid) and I have just removed the covers. Here's one of the tomatoes now...

So far, so good. I'll mulch these and finish assembling the trellis span. The tomatoes are off to a great start. The "growing weather" is upon us. Now the plants should take off and fill the trellis. I'm looking forward to fresh Cherokee Purple tomatoes!

You can learn all about Whizbang solar pyramids and Whizbang T-post trellis spans (and a whole lot more) from The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners.

The Books Are Shipped!

Dateline: 17 June 2013

This morning I took all the pre-ordered copies of The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners to the Moravia, N.Y. (my hometown) post office. My son and I offloaded the lot of them at the loading dock in back and I told him I wish I had brought my camera. He informed me that he could take a picture with his phone, and proceeded to do so. Isn't modern technology great?

Now the National Security Agency (NSA) can put this picture in their all-seeing databank.

I don't usually take the daily mail-order shipments to the post office. Ricky, the mailman stops at my house every day. He's a great guy and seems to have a good attitude about picking up all the mail I put out for him (some days it's over a hundred pounds of packages). But I didn't think he would appreciate picking up all those books.  

My son says I look like a cowboy gunslinger, ready to draw, in the picture. Well, that's funny. I'm even bow-legged like an old cowboy. But I'm much too fresh-faced and happy for being a cowboy gunslinger.

I actually drew for the last three days, though not with a gun (note to NSA... I said NOT with a gun.... relax). I drew "garden chicken portraits." One for each pre-sold book copy, to go with my signature. It's a little something different, and kind of special, for the almost-300 pre-sold books that shipped out this morning.

Notice the big smile on my face. I'm smiling because I'll not be drawing any more "garden chicken portraits." And all those books are on the way......

Thanks again to all of you who bought copies of the book.

Father's Day
Breakfast Salad

Dateline: 16 June 2013

It is an overcast morning with more rain in the forecast (80% chance). So I spent some time transplanting Spretnak romaine lettuce from a nursery tire bed to a raised bed in my main garden. 

In addition to getting that task done, I took pictures to illustrate the process. The photo-essay will be posted to the hidden online Resources web site for readers of The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners

The photo essay will show the nursery bed, the transplanting process, and the unique way I washed the baby salad greens pictured above.

The salad, with fresh strawberries, chopped almonds, and homemade balsamic salad dressing, was a breakfast delight.

The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners is on sale until tomorrow morning.

My New Whizbang Book
is Now in Stock!

Dateline: 15 June 2013

A picture of the Planet Whizbang packaging room, where I am signing pre-sold copies of the book.

The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners is finally in print. The picture above shows just some of the pre-sold copies that I am in the process of signing. I will be signing and packaging books all weekend with the goal of shipping all pre-sold copies out on Monday morning.

I have almost two TONS of these books in stock! 

The pre-publication, reduced-price offer for this book will remain in effect until Monday morning. Click the web site link above for details.

I am numbering the pre-publication, first-printing copies, and they will, of course, be signed too. 

Also, next to my signature I am drawing a "garden chicken" portrait. These pre-publication, first printing copies are the only ones that will ever have a hand-drawn "garden chicken portrait."  

For some perspective on the value of signed artwork in books, check out Original Artwork From Famous Folks. There you will discover that a hand-drawn picture of a little dog in a 1970 book is selling for over $12,000.

Just think.... if a 40-year-old drawing of a little dog is worth over $12,000, what will a hand drawn chicken portrait, in a book for gardeners, written by the guy who invented the Whizbang chicken plucker, be worth 40 years from now? 

Yes, indeed, that's something to think about, and, in the meantime, you can enjoy the contents of the book, learn from it, be inspired by it, and put the things you learn to good use.

Thank you again to all of you who have re-purchased a copy of this new book. 

On My Newest Book

Dateline: 7 June 2013

I'm pleased to report that The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners will be in stock and ready to ship next weekend. I have been a little overwhelmed by the number of copies that have been pre-ordered (far more than any other book I've written). My plan is to spend a good part of next weekend signing books and getting them packaged so that all pre-publication sales are mailed out on Monday the 17th of June. 

If you have not yet pre-purchased a copy of the book, you can still do so (and save some money) until Monday the 17th. Details and online ordering buttons are at

Purchasers of The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners will be getting more than just a book of great ideas for gardeners. You will also be getting directions to the book's hidden online resources web site.

My idea for the resources web site is that it will provide lots of photos, additional information, updates, and internet links for each subject/chapter in the book. It is my way of packing more value into your book purchase.

The resources web site is a work in progress and will be for the next year or so. That means it won't be completely finished when the book is in print next weekend. But you will be able to go there and get a lot of information right away. You will also be able to sign up for a newsletter that will inform you when updated information is added to the web site.

My sincere thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered a copy of this new book! My hope is that it will truly inform, inspire and encourage you in your gardening pursuits.

Unusual Discharge Papers

Dateline: 5 June 2013

As I noted in my previous post, my son is now out of the Army. He spent a year in Korea and the rest of his four years in the the U.S. He decided he had enough of the Army and got out just before his unit was sent to the Middle East. All in all, I would have to say the Army was good for him. And, except for a severely broken ankle, he came out of the experience physically and mentally undamaged. Unfortunately, he has friends who were not so fortunate. 

Getting out of the military is something of an ordeal. A lot of paperwork and other things have to be done. When they're all done as required, the final step is to get your DD214, which is a "Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty." When the Army gives you that form, that's it—you are officially out of the service.

When my son went to the proper place, at the proper time, on the appointed day, to finally get his DD214, he met with a man who took care of issuing the final paperwork. He was a civilian employee of the Army, but my son said he was "an older veteran." 

The man explained what he needed to explain, and issued the DD214. All of this was the usual protocol. But then the man broke with protocol and handed my son another piece of paper. He said, "Here's some hope for the future."

That piece of paper is shown above. You can click the picture to see an enlarged view. But here is what the paper says...

Are You Concerned About 
The Future? Don't Worry!
You're in Good Hands!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

The old veteran then shook my son's hand and thanked him for his service.

My son wants to frame the paper. 

I was blessed to hear this story—to know that there is an old veteran out there who is ignoring political correctness and giving true words of hope to the soldiers he is discharging back into the civilian world.

I'm Happily Recovering....

Dateline: 4 June 2013

I haven't posted here for over two weeks because I've been focused on an important project. I decided to remodel the 40-year-old bathroom in our double-wide house/business property. My original plan was to get the new bathroom in before August of this year. That's when my son was scheduled to get out of the Army.

The plan was for him and his wife and baby Jaxson to come here and live in 1/2 of the house, while we consolidated our Whizbang inventory of poultry shrink bags, chicken plucker fingers, cider press parts, and books into the other half of the house. The beauty of this plan is that our only grandchild (pictured with me above) would be living practically right next door to us.

My mind was set on August. There was no real rush. I had already gotten a little start in my free time. Then the plan changed...

My son ended up getting discharged at the end of May (a few days ago). The reality of this came to me early in May. I had a LOT of work to do, and not long to get it done. To compound the problem, it's the busy season for our mail order business. The orders are coming in steady and I typically work from 6:00 am to 1:00 or 2:00 pm every day to get the orders filled. As soon as that work was done each day, I changed gears and focused on the bathroom project.

The good part is that I've remodeled hundreds of bathrooms (and kitchens). I was a home remodeler for 20+ years. I know how to do the work and do it right. 

Though I haven't remodeled a bathroom for probably 15 years, it is not a skill that you forget. It's kind of like riding a bicycle in that respect. But I will confess that I'm not as fast and efficient at the work as I once was.

I started from scratch, which is to say I completely gutted the space. The new bathroom would be larger (8ft by 7ft) with a new window. The old floor was 1-1/2" out of level. You can't have a nice new bathroom on top of an unlevel floor. I leveled the ceiling and plumbed the walls too.

I drove myself hard, working every day until I was totally exhausted. I worked harder than I've worked in a lot of years, and I worked myself sick. I guess my immune system just couldn't keep up with the demands I was putting on it. I didn't get seriously sick. It was more like an achy flue-like sickness. I burned myself out. But I kept at it (I just worked slower).

Yesterday evening my son and his family arrived. They had driven from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, with tornados literally following them out of the state. I could hear the car coming up the road. They were beeping the horn to announce their arrival. They were glad to be home.... finally. 

As for the bathroom, well, it's pretty much done, along with some other minor remodeling alterations that we decided to do. And I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. The only problem now is that there is no water. I just stubbed the water and drain lines into the basement. Now I have to hook everything together. I will be revamping the whole plumbing system and installing a new water heater too. But not today, and not tomorrow either. I'm in recovery mode for a couple days... recharging my batteries, so to speak. There will be water by the weekend.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my grandson....