(A Book Review And A Rant)

Dateline: 28 February 2014

A debt-free diamond in the rough rural home!

Yesterday I posted a review of Mark Hamilton’s Excellent Poultry Waterer. And I mentioned that Mark’s wife, Anna, has written numerous books. If you go to Her Amazon Page, you’ll see that Anna currently has 26 books, 25 of which are self-published e-books. That’s impressive. 

One of Anna’s books really intrigued me. I bought a copy of Trailersteading: Voluntary Simplicity In A Mobile Home because I was curious. Though I have not lived in a mobile home myself, I have an interest in low-cost housing options (and the book is only $2.99). Also, I know at least two people in my community who have debt-free homesteads largely due to the fact that they chose to live on their land in old mobile homes that cost them next to nothing. 

Anna’s book is truly a groundbreaking literary effort. I mean, has anyone else written such a book? Not that I know of. I e-mailed Anna to tell her that I enjoyed Trailersteading and planned to write about it. She wrote back... 

When I first wrote that ebook, I almost didn't publish it because I thought people would tear it to pieces.  Since then, I've been pleasantly surprised to find that, although it does get more negative reviews than my other ebooks, it also is snapped up at a startling rate.  Trailersteading has only been out for a bit over a year and has already sold about 5,000 copies, which makes me think that there is a huge population out there itching to find a way to become more independent, even it if means being labeled trailer trash.

Anna and Mark’s trailersteading adventure began when they went looking for a cheap mobile home to set up on their their 58-acre Virginia homestead. They ended up finding a 500 square foot 1960’s model with all the windows removed. It was free for the hauling. Anna’s book tells the story of how they found the trailer, moved it, modified it and made it into the debt-free home they now live in. If you go to their blog, Walden Effect, and look at the picture at the top of the page, you’ll see their home. Anna’s book also tells the stories of other people who have opted for the mortgage-freedom that comes with living in an inexpensive older-model mobile home. 

In my  essay titled Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense one of the things I say is that “I’ll take a humble little country home on a little piece of paid-off country land over a big, fancy, comfortable house with a mortgage any day.” If you feel the same way about not being a slave to debt, and you’re looking for cheap housing options, read Trailersteading. It will not only inform you of the possibilities (along with an honest assessment of the pros and cons), I'm pretty sure it will inspire you too.


Now, with mobile homes in mind, I’d like to go off on a bit of a rant...

I live in a rural township in upstate New York and I’ve served as a councilman on my town board for 14 years, More than once over that period of time the subject of “eyesore” mobile homes has come up. There are people in my town who want to outlaw mobile homes, (as has been done in a more upscale nearby town). Every time the subject comes up I vocally oppose it.

I make it known that I happen to know some of the people in our town who live in old trailers. They don’t have a lot of money but they’re good people. I’d rather live next to good neighbors in an eyesore trailer than I would bad neighbors in an expensive house. People who live in trailer houses are living the American dream on their own terms. Live and let live. There’s more important things in this life to be focused on that using the force of law to harass people who live in mobile homes, especially people who are our neighbors. It’s discrimination. That’s the Cliff Notes version of what I say.

And then someone will bring up the most objectionable mobile homes... the ones with things like junk cars, wood pallets, and appliances in the yard. The question get’s asked... “Can’t these people have a little pride and keep their places clean?”

One time when this concern was raised I said that the guy up the road from me (my next door neighbor, in the rural sense) has a regular house with a yard like that. At the time, he had an old porcelain toilet setting in his yard. It hadn’t moved in months. But the man was a great neighbor. He let me grow garlic in part of his field and wanted nothing in return. The fact that he had a cluttered yard was no big deal. Fact is, there are times when I’ve had a junk car, wood pallets and an old appliance in my own yard (I’ve got an old gas stove and  my kids’ junk snowmobiles out there now. Oh, and wood pallets too). 

Besides that, we often don’t know what families who are living in those places are going through. It might be that they barely have the money to keep their bills paid. There are mobile homes in our town with single mothers trying to keep their family together. When someone is struggling to keep the bills paid, the last thing on their mind is keeping their yard nice and tidy looking. Until someone has been in that kind of situation, you can't understand what those people are dealing with (and no one who comes to the town board and complains has experienced real poverty).

I came close enough to poverty, with a family to support, one time in my life, and I can tell you that it gives you a whole new perspective on the subject. If the uppity busybodies with the nice houses could walk a mile in their less fortunate neighbor’s shoes, they would not be asking government to enact laws that target and harass the poorer among them.

And I’ve asked the question: “Where are the people and families going to go when you outlaw their houses?” “Are they going to move to town and live in an apartment or some sort of public housing?” “Would anyone here want to live and raise their families in that kind of environment instead of out in the country?” “Personally, I’d rather live in a hole in the ground on a piece of land in the country than I would an apartment in the city.”

Then, invariably, the subject of property values comes up. This is the biggest reason why some people don’t want mobile homes in their neighborhood. They complain that the trailer down the road is making it so their nicer house isn’t worth as much money as it would be if their wasn’t a trailer down the road. 

To which I have replied that I don't think it is the job of government to protect property values. Show me that in the Constitution. Government has a legitimate purpose to protect people from evildoers and to punish evildoers. Government has the court system, guns and jails to serve that purpose. To target people who simply live in eyesore mobile homes with the intimidation and force of government is just plain wrong. 

The good news is that folks in my town are still free to set up a mobile home and live in it. But there are state and local codes that would never permit an old mobile home from the 1960’s. And there are all kinds of other requirements and restrictions, the most expensive of which is the septic system. A new septic system around here now requires a plan drawn up by a licensed engineer. A septic system will end up costing several thousand dollars. 

In one memorable meeting our town’s code enforcement officer told the story of an Amish family that moved into a mobile home in the town next to us. He related that there were some serious problems with this family not complying with the codes. I asked what was the big problem?

He said they didn’t have a septic system. Another board member asked what they did for a bathroom. The code enforcement officer replied that they used a bucket for a toilet. He was appalled at the idea of it, and  expressed concern about the welfare of the children. And then there was the matter of disposing of the waste. There was a stream out behind the trailer. He thought it was probably being contaminated.

I listened to this Amish “trailersteading” family being maligned by the code enforcement officer because they didn’t have a government-approved septic system, and I finally had to say something... 

I explained that, for hundreds of years in this country, rural families did not have septic systems. They had outhouses, and it was not in any way, shape, or form considered child abuse to have an outhouse. Furthermore, the bucket being used was probably what is known as a sawdust toilet, which is a perfectly legitimate alternative to a conventional toilet. There is even a well-researched book about making and using sawdust toilets (The Humanure Handbook). I said I was sure that the Amish were not dumping the buckets into the stream. They were composting it.

Even if they didn’t compost the humanure, even if they simply spread it on their land, the land can easily handle the waste from one family. Upon hearing this, one board member then exclaimed that he wouldn’t want it running onto his property! To which I replied that local dairy farmers spread tons of cow manure on land around him and he’s not getting excited about that.

And then I told the board that in the summer of ’99, when we had a bad drought, and my backhoe-dug well went dry, my family used a sawdust toilet for two months. I composted the humanure and, two years later, I used the compost on my garden. Well, that pretty much took the cake. Everyone shook their heads in disbelief. Someone said, “That’s just not right,” and we went on to other business.

I could rant and ramble more on this subject, but you get the idea. It’s tough to be a freedom-loving advocate of trailersteading in New York State. But I’m glad to know things are different in other parts of America, and I feel a whole lot better now that I’ve had my say on this subject.  :-)

Mark Hamilton's
Excellent Poultry Waterer

Dateline: 27 February 2014

Mark's EZ Miser Poultry Waterer

My family kept chickens all the years our kids were growing up, but it has been awhile since an egg-layer graced our homestead. That is, however, going to change. Even though we have access to lots of inexpensive, fresh local eggs, I miss having the birds. Besides that, I’ve got a grandson now. He’s just about two. All grandfathers need to keep a few hens, if for no other reason than to fascinate the young’uns and get ‘em properly introduced to the basics of agrarian life.

Having kept chickens in the past, I know the drawbacks, and I’m going to avoid those drawbacks when I reestablish a flock. First, I’m going to limit the flock to six or less. We’ve had up to 50 hens at a time (with roosters) in the past. That many birds are a big expense to feed. And I’ll only have hens in my flock this time—no roosters.

Next, we’re going to keep the chickens in a simple, movable chicken tractor. I’ve used homemade chicken tractors when raising meat birds but my egg layers always stayed in a chicken house with an attached yard. They frequently escaped the yard and ran all over the place. A big flock of chickens can make quite a mess. Six hens (or less) in a cage, moved to a patch of fresh yard-grass every day is not going to be any problem.

And finally, I’m going to make watering the chickens real easy. In the past we used a galvanized fount-style waterer for our egg-layers. Such waterers were pretty much the standard for small flocks years ago, but, even though they are still sold, I wouldn’t consider using one of those things ever again. That’s because Mark Hamilton makes a simple poultry waterer that puts those old fount waterers to shame.

Mark Hamilton, and his wife, Anna Hess, a dynamic duo
of  homestead creativity and entrepreneurship. 

Mark and his wife, Anna, are carving a homestead out of 58-acres of overgrown marginal land in southwestern Virginia. They support their agrarian lifestyle with different entrepreneurial ideas. Anna has written numerous books (Click Here to go to her Amazon page) and Mark is what I would call a “shade tree” inventor. He is always looking to develop new and/or improved ideas for homesteading. Mark and Anna chronicle their homesteading ideas and adventures at their popular blog, Walden Effect. You can read a bio of the couple at This Link.

I think it’s safe to say that Mark’s best idea yet is the new EZ Miser chicken waterer. The EZ Miser is a second generation waterer. It is an improvement over his first generation Avian Aqua Miser. CLICK HERE to learn about both waterers. In the video below Anna tells all about the new EZ Miser waterer they make and sell.

Either of Mark Hamilton’s chicken waterer designs is a huge improvement over the old fount-style waterers. That’s because the fount-style waterers offer an open “dish” of water for the chickens to dip their beaks into. The open water always gets fouled with chicken manure and bedding that the chickens scratch up into it. Many times, the “dish” is fouled within just a couple minutes of cleaning it. So the birds end up drinking out of a contaminated water source. That’s not good. Chickens need an ever-present supply of clean water in order to stay healthy and be efficient egg layers. 

The EZ Miser totally solves the problem of fouled water by using poultry nipple waterers. The nipples are nothing new; they’ve been used by large-scale poultry operations for over 20 years. What is new is the idea of adapting the nipples to portable backyard waterers. Mark Hamilton’s Avian Aqua Miser was the first portable nipple waterer manufactured and sold for backyard poultry flocks. 

Nipple waterers can be used with day-old chicks and older chickens. They are “activated” when the bird touches her beak to the end of the nipple and a drop of water is released. It seems like only a drop would be something of a tease for the chickens; that they would want a more satisfying flow. But, as I noted, the poultry industry has been using these nipples for a long time and they allow the birds to get sufficient water. The fact is, chickens figure out how to manipulate the end so they get more than just a single drop at a time.

I’ve searched the internet to see if there are disadvantages or significant problems with poultry nipple waterers. From what I gather, sometimes the simple “valve” mechanism in the nipple will get plugged with some small bit of debris, or debris will get stuck and not allow the valve to seal (so the water drips out when a chicken isn’t there to drink it). Also, if you have hard water, mineral buildup may eventually keep the nipple from sealing properly. A vinegar soak will remove mineral buildup and small clogs can be flushed clean. In the final analysis, neither of these disadvantages are significant enough to offset the poop-free advantage of a nipple waterer. 

Winter, and freezing water, presents some challenges with a nipple waterer, but the same holds true of any style poultry waterer. There are different ways of dealing with water icing, and the EZ Miser web site offers Lots Of Ideas for keeping the water flowing in freezing conditions.

Mark and Anna have a lot of information and customer feedback on their web site and I like that (be sure to check out the Chicken Waterer FAQ while you’re there). I also like the fact that they offer different options. You can order DIY kits or already-made waterers. In this next video Mark explains how to use one of their EZ Miser kits to make your own poultry waterer.

I’m looking forward to putting my new EZ Miser poultry waterer to use. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this little homestead tool is going to save me a lot of trouble. And it sure will be nice to see my chickens drinking always-clean water!


I'm Looking For More
Homestead-Crafted Tools

I think Mark Hamilton makes a downright useful product. It is my hope that this article will help him sell more of his poultry waterers, and I would like to help other homestead-based small businesses promote their products.

This blog has been in existence for nine years and, though the number goes up and down, I am currently getting around 900 visitors a day. I have a readership that would like to know about and support small-scale, agrarian-centered home businesses.

Do you know someone with a home business who is producing 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.

For examples of other homestead businesses and products that I have reviewed and promoted here in the past, check out Leo Sprauer’s Hop Hoe and WaterBoy Well Buckets.

The Industrial Era
(Passing Like a Kidney Stone)

Dateline: 22 February 2014

An agrarian-industrialism time line
(click to see a much larger view)

A reader of this blog (Matt B.) sent me the timeline above. He made it to get some historical perspective regarding agrarianism and industrialism. The timeline assumes a 6,000-year  “new earth” span of history. Green represents around 5,800 years of agrarianism while the red represents around 200 years of industrialism. If your faith is such that you think the earth is older than 6,000 years, no problem—just picture the line longer, with more green.

You can click the picture to see a larger view, but cramming the span of history into a short line doesn’t translate to a lot of clarity. Nevertheless, what is clear is that the industrial age we now live in is a relatively new phenomenon. You could say it is a historical anomaly.

When I look at that timeline I’m reminded of professor Walter Prescott Webb’s Boom Hypothesis of Modern History. If you are not yet familiar with Webb’s macro understandings of history (and the future that lies ahead of us), please go now and read about it. 

Once you understand the Boom Hypothesis (and it’s very easy to understand) you will not only know how the industrial age came to be, you’ll also know that it will surely end. And you’ll probably realize that it is ending before our very eyes. Walter Prescott Webb saw this back in the 1950’s. 

Also, once you grasp the simple reality of the Boom Hypothesis of Modern History, you will have better insight into our current world situation than all of the mainstream economists, politicians, and media talking heads. 

Those people seem to think that the Great American Consumer Economy is going to rise again. A little adjustment here and there and we’ll get that old perpetual prosperity machine restarted. Just you wait and see. 

Well, maybe, but I really doubt it. Humpty Dumpty has fallen. All the king's men and all the king's horses will not be able to put him back together again. A new economy will emerge. It will be an economy based less on complexity and more on simplicity. It will be based on limitations. It is inevitable. Professor Webb's hypothesis is now less of a hypothesis and more of a present-day reality. The sooner you grasp it, the sooner you can adjust your thinking and actions to embrace it.

It is human nature to not recognize and embrace new realities, especially when they involve enormous cultural and economic paradigm shifts. This is especially the case when the mainstream media is so cleverly manipulating, amusing, pacifying and leading the masses. And the government is manipulating the numbers. 

Propaganda and blatant lies flow continuously from the highest levels of government. How can you tell if Obama is lying? Just watch his lips. If they are moving, he’s telling another lie. Lying and deceiving the people is not just politics, it's an industrial-era science (do a Google search of Edward Bernays, the father of media manipulation).

If you judge the economic health of this nation by the stock market, you are deceiving yourself. Back when I had my satellite radio and was a FOX news listener, I remember  one afternoon when Shepherd Smith was reporting that the stock market was way up. He was beside himself with excitement. The man was downright giddy. Nothing else mattered at that moment. The national debt didn’t matter. Quantitive easing didn’t matter. America’s trade imbalance and lack of industrial base didn’t matter. All that mattered was that the stock market was heading up in a big way that afternoon. Shep was thinking that the old perpetual prosperity machine was working again. Such is the shallow, short-sighted, sound bite economics of the mainstream media, and those who rely on it.  

I’m persuaded that there is no fix for the current economic distress America finds itself in. The mainstream economic planners are in uncharted territory. They don’t have answers. They have  best guesses. Listen to This Interview with a long-time central banker if you think the economic planners actually know what they’re doing.

Our economy has passed the Rubicon. There is no turning back. Chaos and radical change lies before us. The government social support systems are unsustainable. The so-called American dream of ever-increasing wealth and convenience for each new generation is coming to a close. 

This is inevitable because America has built its economic edifice on the presumption that there is no limit to resources and growth. But, in truth, we live in a world of limitations. All remaining valuable natural resources (the raw materials that nurtured and sustained the industrial era) are scarcer, harder to extract, and more expensive. Worse yet, much of creation—water, land and air—has been poisoned and ruined by the industrial quest for perpetual prosperity. Yes, there are limits. 

The industrial anomaly will pass much like a kidney stone... with pain, and suffering, and prayer, and humility. 

Most people will go through the five stages of grief as the industrial age crumbles: Denial (where our civilization is now), anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance (and hope). But there are many people who will bypass the first four stages. They will go directly to acceptance and hope. These are the people who have the courage to face reality now, who refuse to cleave to the industrial paradigm now. 

How does one refuse to cleave to the industrial paradigm? By not being a slave to the industrial masters. By doing more for yourself. By living with less. By seriously questioning the expectations of all industrial-world institutions. 

It is difficult to make decisions and plan for something when you do not fully understand all the factors that are involved. It seems there is always more than meets the eye. This is especially the case with so many media news stories. But some things are fundamental, and they have always been true and trustworthy.

What is fundamental and true and trustworthy is that there has always been a great measure of security within a family, living on the land, eschewing debt, knowing how to do things for itself, like planting seeds and growing a garden.

For now, we have choices. Choices about how we will face the future. But the choices will become less and less as the sun sets on this industrial era. Then what? Well, then we will have a new day. It will be the dawning of the age of neo-agrarianism. Embrace it now, while you still have choices.


For those who are new to my agrarian writings and wish to learn more about how to embrace the cultural and economic sea change that is coming, I recommend the following essays:

Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense

How To Get Through The Coming Hyperinflation

The Jeffersonian Solution

Reflections on a Medical Career
(And The Collapse of Health Care)

Dateline: 20 February 2014

When I was between 12 and 14 years old, I thought I wanted to be a doctor (like my grandfather and my father) and I fully expected to be a doctor. In fact, I remember being very focused on being a doctor during those years. But, as is the case with many youthful aspirations, that changed, and I'm glad it did. 

I don't think being a doctor is all it's cracked up to be. It's a demanding profession that can take a heavy toll on the doctor's family. A lot of people begrudge doctors the money they make, but I don't. There is a price tag that comes with the financial success. I wouldn't want to pay that price. And I don't have a problem with anyone who expends time and effort (a.k.a., work) in making their money, especially when they are in a profession that helps other people. I don't care how much money a good doctor makes. I'm not into class envy like that. Now, if we were discussing bankers… that would be different.

Well, anyway, I'm pretty sure that any doctor in America, who has "practiced medicine" for thirty years or more, will tell you that the medical profession isn't what it used to be. Not hardly. And I've read the opinions of several doctors that are saying that the American health care system is near collapse; that Obamacare will bring the death knell of this country's once-remarkable health care system.

A recent example of this is Dr. Robert S. Dotson, an opthamologist, who has written Reflections on a Medical Career. That link will take you to Dr. Dotson's essay posted at the web site of Paul Craig Roberts. 

As an aside, if you have not heard of Paul Craig Roberts, I suggest that you check out his bio and listen to some of the interviews at his web site. Mr. Roberts is an economist and former establishment insider. Among many accomplishments, he was Ronald Reagan's Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.

Paul Craig Roberts has some amazing insights into this time in our history. His economic and political analysis does not conform to any "party line." He strikes me as a credible and brave voice in a world of government-and-corporate media disinformation and mind-manipulation.

Now, back to the essay of Dr. Robert S. Dotson. I encourage you to read it. If you don't have time, I'll give you a couple of excerpts…

In reflecting back over my many years in the field of ophthalmology (as of this writing, I am 63 years old and feeling pretty shop-worn), I am staggered by the changes that have occurred. When I opened my practice in 1982, Medicare approved surgical fees for cataract and implant surgery were near $1200. By 2012, that approved charge had dropped to about $570 in Tennessee. (There is some variance within states based on rural versus metro areas and between states where some are declared to have higher costs of doing business.)
Additionally, the US dollar has declined in value an average of almost 2.5% per year over the past 30 year period. Needless to say, overhead operating costs – salary, rent, insurance, personnel costs, taxes, and normal business expenses – have exploded during this same 30 year period. My office rent was raised 20% in the Fall of 2011, for instance.
To further illustrate the absurdity of the situation, it is worth recounting an anecdote. Several years ago, a patient excitedly told me of the vision restoring cataract surgery that her poodle had received at the local veterinary college. It “only cost $2600 for both eyes!” At the time, Medicare was paying about $1400 for two eyes in a human – including work up, surgical fee, post-op care for 90 days, and the very real liability associated with being a physician in a litigious society.
I do not begrudge my animal doctor friends their success, but surely the worth of human care should at least approximate that for a poodle. Although I know veterinarians who are struggling in their own practices due to the economic recession, at least they do not have to deal with government fee-setting and the liability and costs associated with treating humans. They are able to price their services sufficiently to keep their practices open and to provide for their own health care and retirement.

Near the end of his essay, Dr. Dotson advises

Avoid contact with the existing health care system as far as possible. Yes, emergencies arise that require the help of physicians, but by and large one can learn to care for one’s own minor issues. Though it is flawed, the internet has been an information leveler for the masses and permits each person to be his or her own physician to a large degree. Take advantage of it! Educate yourself about your own body and learn to fuel and maintain it as you would an expensive auto or a pet poodle.

Dr. Dotson then lists 17 things a person can do to avoid as many medical encounters as possible. If nothing else, go to the end of his essay and read his 17 suggestions.
On a related note, another essay worth reading is Paul Craig Roberts' Obamacare: The Final Payment—Raiding the Assets of Low Income and Poor Americans. In a nutshell,  many more low-income people in this country are going to be herded into medicaid by Obamacare, and when they die, their assets will be taken by the state. This "estate recovery" already happens to some degree (that's how I ended up buying my late step-father's home the state was going to take it if I didn't), but it will now happen on a much larger scale, or so Paul Craig Roberts says. Is anyone else talking about this?

Also, I'm wondering. does anyone reading this have personal experience and opinions about the decline of health care in recent years, and/or with the implementation of Obamacare?

Clothespin Factory
Ruined By Flames

Dateline: 25 May 1936
Moravia, New York, USA

As most of you reading this already know, I started an American-made clothespin business last year. I call it Classic American clothespins. Some of you have bought them. And I thank you.

I’ll have more to say about my clothespin business in an upcoming blog post. For now, I’d like to tell you about the article pictured above. It was sent to me by my high school friend Roger Phillips (Moravia high school, class of ’76).

Roger is president of the local historical society. If you go to This Wall Street Journal Link and click on the little movie clip, you can see Roger talking about Millard Fillmore. Millard was 13th president of this United States and grew up here. I’m pretty sure his wife was a Moravia girl.

Anyway, Roger found out I was making clothespins and he recalled that there was a local clothespin maker around here many years ago. He did some research and found the newspaper clipping above. 

The business was in Dresserville, which is a little rural crossroads town a few out of Moravia, and a few miles down the road from where I live. Roger checked a 1936 map and pinpointed the Robinson property (just about half way between Fillmore and Brockway Roads, on the west side of Lake Como Road.)

Not much is known about the local business, except, as the 1936 newspaper article states, it burned down. But Roger knows all the old timers around here. He asked a woman from that area about the clothespin company. She remembers walking by the place on her way to school (a rural one-room school house, of course) but she doesn’t remember the fire. She would have been 9 years old at the time, and she says that the clothespins were the peg kind (mine have springs).

I find it amazing that there was once a small-scale clothespin company right down the road from me. Were rural people more enterprising 78 years ago? Yes, I’m pretty sure they were. I think everybody was. It is easier to be more enterprising when there are practically no government regulations to speak of. And hiring some locals to help out probably didn’t require much (if any) paperwork. Besides that, I don’t think the government paid people who didn’t work (like they now do) so more people were motivated to work and create their own opportunities. I wish I could go back and see that old clothespin-making operation

Here’s the text of the article....

Clothespin Factory 
Ruined By Flames

The clothespin factory and woodworking shop owned by Merle Robinson in Dresserville, seven miles east of Moravia, was destroyed Monday afternoon by a fire of undetermined origin, causing a loss of $7,000. The building was protected with only $200 insurance, according to Mr. Robinson.

Six men were working in the building and they declared that everything in the shop was all right when they left for lunch at noon. The fire broke out shortly before 1 o’clock, before the men had returned to work. A telephone call brought a motor pumper from Moravia Fire Department but the flames had spread rapidly and nothing could be done to save the building.

Pumping water from a nearby creek, the Moravia Firemen assisted by neighbors saved the homes of Mr. Robinson and William Rhodes, north and south of the plant, from being added to the loss. Both houses were threatened time and again by flying sparks. The firemen worked under the direction of Brand Flowers, chief of the Moravia Fire Department.

The shop was equipped with machinery for the manufacture of clothespins, and also with complete woodworking machinery. Mr. Robinson had been engaged in the woodworking business in that locality for the last seven years, and for the last year in the manufacture of clothespins.

Linda Holliday's
Excellent Clothespin Bags

Dateline: 18 February 2014

This is the clothespin bag I bought from Linda Holliday.  
It has Classic American clothespins in it.  
Note the heavy wire hanging hook, the inner liner... 
and the nifty pocket.

(click pictures for larger views)

Linda Holliday is a downright talented person. So is her husband, Darren. They have a homestead-based business in Missouri called Well WaterBoy Products, where they make and sell things like the remarkable WaterBuck pump, durable well buckets (one of which I own and blogged about HERE), a pedal-powered PTO, and SolarBuck plans. 

Linda (a.k.a., Mrs. WaterBuck) writes Her own Blog, writes articles for the American Preppers Network, and blogs for Mother Earth News. She is also a cartoonist. And she crafts Homestead Sewn Preps on her White Family Rotary treadle sewing machine (circa 1914). That’s a whole lotta work and creativity!

I happen to own an old White treadle sewing machine myself. I bought it at an estate auction in 1981, back when my wife and I were just-married and living in a little apartment. I had a real interest in old tools—tools that would work if the power went off. Yes, I was thinking about such things way back then. 

The sewing machine had been well cared for and worked perfectly. I used it one winter to make some Teddy bears. And I made little plaid Pendleton shirts for the Teddy bears. I love that sewing machine. It's a mechanical marvel. I haven’t used it in 30 years. It’s packed away in a storage shed. But I digress.

It was a little overcast when I took this picture, but you get the idea.
The bag hangs right on the clothesline. But, as the previous
picture shows, it can also be set on a flat surface. The stiff wire
around the top holds the bag open and the clothespins are accessible.

I decided to buy one of Linda’s clothespin bags for my wife. Linda calls them Granny’s Clothespin Bags because they are modeled after the clothespin bags her mother made when she was little. Linda’s clothespin bags are made using recycled fabrics (like I did with those little Pendleton Teddy bear shirts I made). I think they’re very reasonably priced for a handcrafted product.

The bag arrived and I gave it to Marlene. She looked it over really well and was impressed. In fact, these are Marlene’s exact words (I wrote them down) “Wow. She did a really nice job on this.”  

My wife knows good sewing when she sees it. She told me she learned to sew back when she was around 10 years old. Her mother taught her and then she learned some in home economics class in school (do they still teach sewing in the government schools?). Marlene says that she made a LOT of her own clothes when she was younger. For Christmas of 1976 (the year I was going to school in Vermont) she sewed me a patchwork quilt. That was real special (and I bought her a hope chest that Christmas). She also made me a Frostline sleeping bag to use when I lived in a tent in Vermont during the summer of '77. I sleep in that sleeping bag every winter, under the bed covers (have done so for over 30 years). The zipper doesn’t work anymore so it’s something like a blanket. But I digress, again.

Oh, one more memory... Marlene was in 4H and she sewed different projects for 4H competitions. I was in 4H for a short while too. I remember, before I really knew Marlene, being at a 4H fair where people were bringing in their different projects and putting them on display. Marlene was there with her mother. I was across the room watching her, with interest, if you know what I mean. Later, when she and her mother left the room, I went over and looked at her sewing project. I think there was some sort of cooking project there with her name on it too. I thought to myself.... “hmmm, she sews, she cooks, and she’s cute.” That was powerfully appealing to me. :-)

Anyway, back to Linda Holliday’s excellent clothespin bag.... It is 7” in diameter and 12” tall, with a stiff wire hoop sewn into the top. The wire hoop has a hanging hook. The bag is triple-thick, which is to say, there is a double inner lining. So it’s almost like three clothespin bags sewn together! Then there is that outside pocket—a very nice touch.

By the way, I asked Linda where she learned to sew and she wrote back...

"My mother began teaching me to sew at about age 11 on my great-grandmother's Singer treadle.  Before that, I could only use a needle and thread—until my mother was brave enough to let me sew on her machine.  As I recall, my first project was a Raggedy Ann doll, and I only sewed through my finger once.  
My mother never had an electric sewing machine until she was almost 50.  In my opinion, even with all their fancy stitches, a typical electric sewing machine for home use cannot compare to the strength and reliability of the old treadles."

I suspect that a lot of women reading this can relate to learning to sew from their mother and the superiority of a good treadle sewing machine. I asked Linda if she sewed in home economics class in high school. I figured she probably did because I think it was required (back in the day), though not for boys. Most of the boys took wood-shop. I made a paper towel holder that my mother cherished and used for the rest of her life. Here’s what Linda said about home economics class

"Funny you asked about Home Ec.  Yes, I took the class, and sewing was  my favorite segment.  We lived in the country and my mother didn't drive, so I had to rely on a neighbor woman to go to the fabric store for the materials for our first sewing project -- a smock top.  I bet Marlene remembers those.  They weren't figure-flattering at all.  But I suspect we had to learn to make one because the project offered the opportunity to learn to gather, sew on decorative binding and match seams, etc.  Anyway, my neighbor picked out red rickrack and Raggedy Ann fabric.  The fabric had a white background and then colorful, cartoonish Raggedy Anns all over it.  It would've been cute if I was 6, but I was in high school.  I wore it anyway, and even showed it to my neighbor.  She was quite pleased, as I recall."

My Granny’s Clothespin Bag will hold 100 of my handcrafted Classic American clothespins. They are beefier than the imported, junk clothespins you get from the dollar-store. Linda says the bags will hold a couple hundred of those el-cheapos.

I've been a carpenter most of my life. Hanging tools off my belt is
real convenient for me (and clothespins are tools). So I was
pleased to
discover that I could hang a "Granny's Clothespin Bag" 
on my hip. But I won't be doing this very often because
Marlene tells me I don't  hang clothes right. In fact, it bothers
her to see a load of laundry that I've hung on the line. :-)

Hey, if I was still doing carpentry work, I think I could find some
practical uses for these bags besides just holding clothespins!

I know you shouldn’t leave a clothespin bag outdoors in the weather, but what about when it’s not being used? Linda told me she hangs hers on a hook inside a closet door. I like that... a place for everything, and everything in its place.


A Sad But True Story From Linda Holliday: 

"I stopped in a Walmart recently just to check the quality and price of their clothespin bags. I couldn't find them so I asked an employee, a woman of about 60. She said they no longer carry them. She said customers would ask her, "What's a clothespin bag?"


I'm curious Do any of you reading this sew? Where did you learn to sew? Did you take Home Economics in school? Do you use a treadle sewing machine? 


One last thing. I want to make it clear that I purchased this clothespin bag and I am not getting any money for recommending it here. I just think it’s a real nice handcrafted product and I like to support any entrepreneurial home business that makes real nice down-to-earth products.

And while I’m on this matter of recommendations, I want to let it be known that I have never taken money for any product review or recommendation on this blog unless, that is, you click on a link that takes you to When you do that, and make a purchase, I get a little commission on the sale. If you’re curious, it amounts to around $200 a year.


17 February 2014

Futureman making bread

It has been a year and a month since I left the “security” and future pension benefits of my government job to come home and work the Planet Whizbang home business. I can report that I have had no problems at all adjusting to this “new life.” And, thus far, sufficient income is coming in to keep the bills paid.

I mentioned this year-plus anniversary to Marlene the other morning and she replied that, “We couldn’t do this if you didn’t come home.” The “this” she spoke of was helping to take care of her 99-year-old mother, her 76-year-old sister (in declining health), my disabled sister (MS), and our grandson, a.k.a., Futureman (when his parents are working).

There are others who are helping, but Marlene bears a large amount of burden—more than most hereabouts realize, or can relate to. The fact that I am home and can help some makes things a little easier. I’m of the mind that God orchestrated the time of my “retirement” from wage slavery to coincide with the family demands that would arise. 

Futureman, is a ray of sunshine in the midst of the sadness and hardships we see in the lives of many around us. He is here at our home almost every day. Just short of two years old, he is very busy, but he has a good nature and is a lot of fun.

This morning at breakfast I juggled three clementines for him. He, sitting in his high chair eating blueberries, watched for a moment and burst out laughing. That made me laugh too. Simple pleasures. When he is older I’ll tell him I learned to juggle when I was in the circus. ;-)

The picture at the top of this page is Futureman “helping” Marlene make oatmeal bread. I think I’ve posted a picture here before of him making bread with his grandmother. Hopefully, he will be around here for a long time, and Marlene will be making bread for a long time to come, and he will remember. Such memories are important.

When it comes to grandchildren, I’m persuaded that our job as grandparents is to love and focus, be godly examples, and create memories. My grandparents did this with me (my Grandmother Kimball especially), but the time I had with my grandparents was limited to some summer vacations early in my life. They were in northern Maine, I was in Central New York. That’s not the best arrangement for grandparenting. But even just a few summers were enough to make a big difference in my life.

In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, I have a quote from Karen Hart that speaks to the importance of grandparenting...

“Having a loving relationship with a grandparent makes children feel special. It builds their self-esteem to know there is an extended family that loves them. A sense of identity develops as children learn about their roots. They discover that grandparents have time to listen with interest, to play, to let them help with ‘real work,” such as cooking or gardening. In quiet, unhurried moments, questions about faith and life are answered from the knowledge of experience. In these ways grandparents pass on their faith in God while helping build confidence and self-worth."

That quote is, essentially, my credo for grandparenting. It is a large part of why I think I am here on this earth.

Speaking of “real work” I put Futureman to work awhile back counting rubber chicken plucker fingers. People buy these in boxes of 125 to make their own Whizbang Chicken Plucker. They are counted out with the help of a “counter” with 126 holes, one for each finger, and one extra. Counting and packaging plucker fingers is something productive that I can do on the kitchen table while Futureman is taking his nap.

Futureman grasped the concept quickly. He tried to put the first finger in upside down and it wouldn’t fit, so he turned it around. I thought to myself, what a smart boy! 

What he didn't get is that once the fingers are in the holes, they need to stay there; taking them out was as much fun as putting them in. 

I think these things—making bread with grammie and counting chicken plucker fingers with grampie—are little examples of a family economy in action. And so is spending time to help other members of the family that are going through a hard time.