Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #17

Futureman's First Shovel

Dateline: 30 April 2014

A man I know recently said to me that one of the best things his now-grown sons did when they were younger was get involved in organized sports. He told me that playing sports develops good character. That is a common refrain. But I'm not persuaded that it is entirely true, especially when I look at the character displayed by many (or most?) who are in professional sports these days. While sports participation can certainly be a good experience for children, I believe that doing productive and/or creative work on a farm or homestead can be much better for developing character and preparing children for their future life. That has been my own experience, and it has been the experience of two of my three boys. I believe God created us primarily to glorify Him by using our minds and bodies to do productive, creative, responsible work, not play games. And so it is that I was pleased to recently have my two-year-old grandson, with work boots and a shovel, "helping" me to bring some order to the southeast corner of my garden. 

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #16

Home-Based Marriages
& Home-Based Funerals

Dateline: 29 April 2014

We've all heard of home birth (instead of hospital birth), and home schooling (instead of government schooling), but what about home weddings and home funerals? Although I have heard of home funerals (or wakes) once being the norm in rural America, it never occurred to me that simple, inexpensive home weddings (instead of expensive, complicated church weddings) were also once the norm. The following quote comes from the book, Transformation of Rural Life—Southern Illinois, 1890—1990

"Despite its apparent physical autonomy and privacy, the farmstead was the location for many public events. The dead were laid out in the home, washed and dressed by the women of the neighborhood, and neighbors brought food to supply the bereaved family and those who came to sit with them. Marriages were [also] enacted in the home. As Edith Rendleman recalled of her wedding day in 1917, "You never heard of a church wedding in those day. They were mostly justice of the peace ceremonies. It was years and years before church weddings were for common people."

Simple (meaning small and inexpensive) home weddings make a lot of sense to me. What I don't understand from the above excerpt is why they had a justice of the peace perform the wedding instead of a minister.  The author of the book makes it clear that churches were an important part of the rural communities. So that's something of a mystery.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #15

Watching For Dandelions
As The World
Careens Towards Chaos

Dateline: 28 April 2014

Economic catastrophe. Government tyranny. Conspiracies on top of conspiracies. The crumbling American empire. Impending civil unrest. Wars and rumors of wars. It's a lot to consider these days. But I'm being as proactive as I can by thinking about this year's potato crop. In addition to my Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan, you may recall from This Past Essay that growing and storing a crop of potatoes is one of the smartest things a person, or family, or community can do to be prepared for the troubles that lie ahead of us. I have my potato seed. I have my Bulls-Eye Bioinsecticide. I have soil ready to plant. All I need now is a dandelion blossom. Dandelion flowers open here in the northeast when the soil temperature is just right for planting potatoes. If you plant potatoes before the dandelions blossom, they may rot in the ground. Don't plant by calendar dates. Plant when the dandelions blossom. 

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #14

Securing Permanent
Plastic Mulch

27 April 2014

(click to see an enlarged view)

In Snippet #13 I told of how I'm using black plastic mulch in my garden this year. The plastic is resistant to UV degradation and supposed to last 8 to 12 years (more expensive plastic is rated to last 20 years).When I put the plastic around my two rows of raspberry canes I employed two different techniques for securing the edges. Where the plastic meets my lawn, I dug a straight (using a string line), shallow trench to bury the edge, as shown above. For the plastic edge next to the raspberry canes, I didn't want to disturb the roots with a trench, so I used some homemade "staples," as shown below. The wire is 9-gauge. The staple is 8" wide and each leg is 8." I spaced them 24" apart. Now I expect the plastic to stay in place with no problems for the next decade. And I'll have approximately 60% less weeding and cultivating to do around my raspberries.

The screwdriver is pointing at a staple that has been driven into place.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #13

Plastic Mulch

Dateline: 26 April 2014

(click picture for enlarged view)

I have resisted using black plastic mulch in my garden for decades, but The Market Gardener (page 108) has prompted me to try it. I came to the conclusion that if I'm going to grow a large garden, with limited available time to work in it, I need some help. Black plastic should save me a lot of time and effort. And, unlike plant-based mulches, it does not promote the slug population. Some internet searching turned up This Plastic, which is UV treated and has a lifespan of 8 to 12 years. A 3' x 300' roll cost a bit less than $100 (shipping included). If the plastic lasts 10 years, that amounts to around $10 a year for 900 square feet of weed suppression. As the picture above shows, I "permanently" installed the mulch around My Raspberry Rows, and beyond. In tomorrow's snippet I'll show how I secured it from blowing away.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #12

An Excellent
Garden Journal

Dateline: 25 April 12014

Keeping some sort of garden journal is a must if you're serious about gardening. A journal is where you can record things like first and last frost dates, what you planted, when you planted it, and all manner of other data. I have endeavored to keep various kinds of garden journals over the years, but none of them worked very well. Then, last year, I decided to turn a large wall calendar into a garden journal, and it proved to be an excellent idea. I've gotten the calendars for free from a vendor I do business with, but you can get large calendars for a dollar or two after the new year at many stores. I tape some file folders into the calendar to make pockets for holding receipts, articles and other pertinent information. Garden notes are made to some extent directly in the square (1-3/4" x 1-3/4") allotted to each day of the month. But most notes are made on a large blank sheet of white paper that I attach over the picture that is above the month. I number each entry of information on the blank sheet, and put the number in the calendar square for the day it relates to. This kind of journal allows you to see and analyze an entire month's worth of information at once. If you're looking for a simple, practical, inexpensive garden journal idea, this is it.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #11

By John Updike

Dateline:  24 April 2014

I sometimes fear the younger generation 
will be deprived 
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed 
by this simple exercise.

The dry earth like a great scab breaks, revealing
moist-dark loam—
the pea-root's home,
a fertile wound perpetually healing.

How neatly the green weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth new.
Ignorant the wise boy who
has never rendered thus the world fecunder.

—John Updike

“Fecunder” is a variation of the word, “fecund,” which is rarely used these days. Fecund means fruitful, fertile, or prolific. So fecunder would therefore mean more fruitful, more fertile or more prolific.

That final phrase, "ignorant the wise boy who has never rendered thus the world fecunder," appears to reflect the author's opinion that there is a connection between true wisdom and the work of agriculture. And that a more complete education for children would include working in the garden. I like that.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #10

A Tomato Seed Magnet

Dateline: 23 April 2014

(click to see an enlarged view)

I start tomatoes as explained in This Old Tomato Growing Manual (click link to read tomato starting instructions). To pick up the individual tomato seeds and place them for planting, I use a "seed magnet" like shown above. It is noting more than a toothpick. Wet the end of the toothpick, touch it to a seed, and the seed sticks. It will release easily enough after you place it in the soil where you want it. This magnet works for other kinds of seeds too. 

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #9

Redeeming The Dirt

Dateline: 22 April 2014

Noah Sanders, author of the book, Born Again Farming, and the blog, Redeeming The Dirt, is organizing a conference for Christian farmers, gardeners and agrarians. It'll be in Alabama, August 7-9. The main speaker will be Brian Oldreive, from Zimbabwe, founder of Foundations For Farming. Mr. Oldreive is a remarkable man, and the unique story of the Foundations For Farming ministry is powerfully encouraging. Alabama is too far for me to travel. Otherwise, I would be there. If you have the time and ability to get to this conference, I'm sure it will be a good time and a blessing. Click Here for details from Noah's blog.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #8

Ideal Garden Twine

Dateline: 20 April 2014

(click picture to see enlarged view)

I like to lay out garden beds and planting rows with string and stakes. I've used cotton and sisal strings in years past for this purpose. But after learning about Mark Albert's remarkable caterpillar cloche system (as explained in This Book) I decided to invest in a roll of polypropylene baling twine. Mark says the polypropylene twine can be stretched very tight, without breaking, and it will not sag once stretched. He's right on both accounts. I had to buy two rolls because that's how they're sold. It was 10,000 feet of twine, which should be more than a lifetime's supply for me. After a couple of years using this product, I can tell you it is truly ideal for gardening, and a lot of other uses around the homestead. If you want a lifetime supply of nonpareil twine, invest in a roll of polypropylene baling twine. I bought This Twine at Tractor Supply Company (I see it is now 9,000 ft. and the price has gone up a few dollars since I bought my rolls).

A simple knot  like this can be used to join two pieces of twine.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #7

Bean-Picking Stools

Dateline: 20 April 2014

Click to seen an enlarged view

My grandson had his second birthday last week. I made him the stool pictured above, with his name carved in the top (see Snippet #6). I made the other stool as a gift for a good friend's granddaughter. These stools are my own design. I made two of them over 20 years ago. One was a gift for my nephew (he still has it).  We kept the other one and it is now known as "Marlene's bean-picking stool." She used it one year to sit on while picking green beans and it has been utilized in the garden ever since. I've also used it as a mini workbench a couple of times. So it's worn and beaten, but as solid and functional as the day it was made.

Side view and end view
of the bean-picking stool

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #6

Simple Letter Carving

Dateline: 19 April 2014

click to see an enlarged view

It has been more than 20 years since I carved letters in wood. I figured out back then that I didn't need any special (or expensive) chisels for simple letter carving. A basic utility knife with a sharp blade will do the job just fine. If you have an interest in letter carving, I encourage you to give it a try. It's a little tedious but not hard to do. The lettering above is part of a gift I made from my grandson's 2nd birthday. I carved it on the kitchen table one day while he was taking his nap upstairs. I'll show you the finished product in the next Deliberate Agrarian Snippet.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #5

Pocket Notebooks

Dateline: 18 April 2014

Occasionally someone will wonder how I manage to get so much accomplished with my home business and homestead. Well, in addition to things like focus and determination, not watching television, and having a wife who helps me, I would have to give some credit to pocket notebooks. If you want to be more organized, efficient and productive, get a pocket notebook, and put it to work. I have a pocket notebook on me at all times. It is on my bedside at night. These days I use my own Planet Whizbang Pocket Notebooks. Click that link and check out the whole new web site I've just created for this useful new product. While supplies last, I'm giving away a free vintage pencil clip when you buy a package of 20 or 30 pocket notebooks. 

Click Here to learn how I use pocket notebooks

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #4

Economic Analysis

Dateline 17 April 2014

Greg Hunter

Greg Hunter has a web site called USA Watchdog . He features in-depth interviews with people-in-the-know who are rarely heard in the mainstream media. His guests talk  about economics and politics. I enjoy listening to different people's viewpoints, especially about the economy. There are always different opinions among different people when it comes to figuring out where the economy is headed, but there appears to be a general consensus that very difficult realities are inevitable, and dead ahead.  This Recent Interview with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is a good one. This interview with Dmitry Orlov provides an insightful Russian-American perspective on the Ukraine situation and the future of America. This interview with Professor William Black, a former bank regulator, makes it crystal clear that there is widespread, systematic fraud being perpetrated by the largest banks in the world. And, worse than that, the U.S. government is a partner in the fraud. If you are an amateur economics wonk, like me, you will want to tune into Greg Hunter's interviews. You might well be hearing prophetic words and future headlines.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #3

Futureman Gets Stuck

Dateline: 16 April 2014

Now that warmer weather is here my grandson (a.k.a., Futureman) can spend more time outdoors. The more time a two-year-old boy spends outside, the better. Futureman likes to climb up on Leyland (my tractor). He climbs up, sits in the seat awhile, then gets down. It's one of his favorite things to do when he is outdoors. A small tractor can be something like a playground to a rural child. I was recently stacking firewood nearby when I heard Futureman saying "Oh. Oh. Oh." to himself. Upon investigation I found he had snagged his coat getting down off Leyland, as you can see in the picture above. I am making more of an effort to keep my camera close by when I'm outdoors, and this was truly a Canon moment.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #2

Sheet Metal Mulch

Dateline: 15 April 2014

click picture to see a larger view

Yesterday was overcast, so the picture above is a little dark. But it shows the red metal roofing walkway that runs through my garden. The walkway is 39" wide and 71' long. I can easily walk and easily push my garden cart down this central walkway, and I will not have to be concerned with weeds growing there. Sheet metal roofing as mulch makes sense in a practical garden (as opposed to a "show garden"). I bought that used roofing back in 1999 after seeing the amazing garden my friend, Steve Lonsky, grows using old sheet metal as mulch. I wrote about using metal roofing in the garden back in This Old Blog Post. Check it out, and be sure to click the link at that post to see an amazing picture of Steve in his garden (with sheet metal roofing mulch in the background). Steve is the best gardener I know. Sheet metal roofing mulch is one of his secrets. 

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #1

Making Raised Beds

14 April 2014

Click picture to see an enlarged view

In Jean-Martin Fortier's excellent book, The Market Gardener (click to read my past review), he explains how he grows vegetables on permanent raised beds that are 30" wide, with an 18" walkway between them. I already have some raised beds in my garden that are 42" wide with an 18" walkway, but I think I will like the 30" width better. So I have made 14 such beds in part of my garden. Two are pictured above. The one on the right is raked off and finished. The one on the left needs to be raked. I rake first to shape the mounded soil with an aluminum landscape rake (visible in the background), then finish with a metal leaf rake. The just-made beds are 9" above the walkway, but they will settle in time to half of that. 

Time For A Change...

Dateline: 13 April 2014

Sap buckets, washed and air-drying before being put away for another year.

The last two weeks have been a vacation from blogging. I spent the time focusing on homestead and home business projects. 

Maple season is over for another year. The buckets have been washed, rinsed, dried and put away until next season. We ended up with 8 gallons of syrup, which is enough to get us through the year (we typically use 6 or 7 gallons in a year). 

Beyond that, I've been working at cutting some willow and poplar wood off our land. Both woods are soft and not the best firewood for heating a house, but such wood will work just fine for boiling maple syrup next spring. I'm splitting and stacking as I have time, but the focus now is on the garden. Growing food is a top priority with me this year.

Bearing that in mind, I have come to the realization that in order to get done what I need do get done around this little homestead, I must cut way back on my blogging. The time has come for less talk and more action. 

I'm not going to stop blogging, but I'm going to stop posting blogs that are long and require a lot of time on my part. For the rest of this year (and maybe longer) I will be posting a series of "Agrarian Snippets." These Snippets will have one or two pictures with no more than one paragraph of text.

Such a format should allow me to still post regularly, without putting anywhere near the time and effort I have put into writing here in the past. 

I suspect that most readers of this blog are also very busy, so I think you will appreciate this new format. Reading my Agrarian Snippets will not take a lot of your time. You could  think of them as little postcards from me to you, instead of longer letters.

The Agrarian Snippets format will commence tomorrow.

Cliven Bundy
& Naboth's Field

Dateline: 12 April 2014

I hope you are following the story of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his battle against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is stealing his cattle and taking away the grazing and water rights to the land his family has ranched since the 1870’s. This is a significant story for rural, and freedom-loving Americans.

The mainstream media is portraying Mr. Bundy as nothing more than a scofflaw who has not paid his grazing fees to the BLM in 20 years, and now owes nearly a million dollars. But, as usual, there is so much more to this story than is being reported. This is a matter of Nevada state’s rights and land theft by the federal government. Mr. Bundy has said that he will pay any fees he owes to his county or the state of Nevada. He is not resisting the federal government’s stealing of his family’s rights to use the land because of some fees. Principled men do not put their life on the line over money alone.

One of the best sources of information on this story can be found at Prison Planet. Reporter David Knight is on the ground at the Bundy Ranch. Prison Planet is an alternative news source that I check daily. 

One organization that is standing in support of the Bundy family is Oath Keepers. You can read their full statement about this dispute At This Link. Here are a couple of quotes from the Oath Keepers statement:

This is not about cattle.  This is about power, and the trampling of rights.  It’s about a systemic power grab and abuse of power by the federal government as it runs roughshod over the rights of honest, hard-working rural Americans and over the rights of all the Western states.  This is not an isolated incident.  It is but the latest in a long train of abuses aimed at subjecting rural Americans to absolute despotism while destroying the property rights, economy, and independence of the rural West, in particular, and eventually wiping out all of rural America.  
Unless We the People begin to take a meaningful stand now, in full support of our patriotic state public servants who are willing to lead us, the domestic enemies of the Constitution will not stop until the West is a land of ghost towns, devoid of people, and we are all crammed into city slums, totally dependent and weak, with no protection of our rights, like third-world urbanized peons under the arbitrary and capricious control of corrupt dictators. 

That last sentence gets right to the point, and it is an important point.


This situation reminds me of the story of Naboth’s Field, found in 1 Kings 21...

Ahab, the King of Israel, coveted Noboth’s grape field. He tried to buy it but Naboth would not sell his field. Naboth said, “I will not give you what I have received from my fathers.”

The family land was more important to Naboth than money. He would not sell at any price, just as Cliven Bundy’s land rights came to him from his fathers, and he has refused to sell his rights to it.

Land rights are no small matter in the Bible. Ahab the king could not just take the land he wanted. So he pouted over it and he got the land through the subterfuge of his wife, Jezebel. She arranged to have Naboth falsely accused for a crime he never committed, and Naboth was put to death. Once Naboth was dead, Ahab was able to get the land.

Our Federal government is Ahab. The federal courts, judicial bureaucracy, BLM and FBI, along with the mainstream propaganda media are acting as Jezebel, destroying an honest, hardworking rancher in order to acquire his land rights. 

The Bundy family, I should add, are peace-loving people. They are not militia people and they are not looking for violence. But they are resisting tyranny, plain and simple.

This wickedness by our federal government is, I believe, on par with the wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel. It should not be overlooked.

If you have an interest in this situation, the very least you can do is fire off an e-mail to the County Sheriff and the governor of Nevada, both of whom can step in and stop the federal government from perpetrating their immorality on not only the Cliven Bundy family, but all Americans.

Sheriff Gillespie:

Governor Sandoval: Click Here