Joshua Sheats
&
Radical Personal Finance

Dateline: 31 March 2016

The Joshua Sheats family in 2015

I discovered the Radical Personal Finance web site day before yesterday. Joshua Sheats is the guy behind the web site, and central to the web site is a large archive of podcasts (311 of them so far).  

Radical Personal Finance interested me, and today, while working at some of the more tedious tasks of my business, I listened to four podcasts. 

Every podcast I listened to was well worth listening to. Joshua does an excellent job. I like his style.

But when I listened to Podcast #304, titled The Value of Full-Time Mothers and Fathers As Compared to Full-Time Wage Earners, I was blown away. 

I never expected a Biblically-grounded message to be presented. And I thought it was presented so incredibly well to a secular audience. 

But what really amazed me was that it was like Joshua Sheats had tapped into my brain, taken my exact thoughts, and expressed them with the spoken word better than I could ever dream of doing.

Joshua's explanation of the ordained responsibilities of a husband and wife in a properly-functioning Christian family is powerfully compelling. What he says is what my wife and I have believed and deliberately LIVED for the past 35 years of our marriage. And we have experienced a beautiful marriage as a result.

There is transcendent, life-changing wisdom in Radical Personal Finance podcast #304. 

Joshua Sheats. Radical Personal Finance. Check out some of his podcasts. I think you'll like this man.






Truth & Reality
In The Midst of Economic Lies

Dateline: 29 March 2016 AD



Our government routinely lies to us about the economy. The official Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers are just one example. In the above video, Ed Butkowsky explains his Chapwood Index, which is a more dependable gauge of true inflation in the United States than the government's lying numbers. 

With the help of friends all over the country, Butkowsky has been compiling the inflation numbers since 2011. You can see the numbers at The Chapwood Index Web Site.


If you go to that web site, you'll see that the 5-year average of price inflation across the country looks to be around 10%. That is NOT  10% over 5 years. It is an average of 10% every year. 


That is considerable, especially when, for example, the government says inflation in 2015 was less than 1%.

The problem with the government lying about the reality of inflation is that the CPI number affects the Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) numbers used to adjust many pension, payroll, and government beneficiary payments. If the government officially declares there is inflation, then a lot of people stand to receive an increase in their income. But if the government says that there is no inflation, and there actually is inflation, then all those people have a problem making ends meet. 

You probably know that already, but I learned about it today when I listened to This Excellent Interview with Ed Butkowsky at Peak Prosperity. The interview is well worth listening to. 

This matter of inflation, and the true inflation we are experiencing, is incredibly important to understand. It's important to anyone who has to work for a living, and who thinks they might want to retire from working someday.

Unless you have somehow been blessed with a lot of savings, and investments that pull in a reliable percentage of income above true inflation, you may be in for a rude awakening when it comes to retirement.

But inflation is only one concern. Pension programs all over the country are facing serious troubles. This Recent Article is pretty sobering, especially if you are one of the 115,000 retirees who are facing up to a 50% cut in their pensions. Thepension crisis will become more widespread in the years ahead.

The reason I bring this up is because the reality of inflation, and the likelihood of significant pension cuts is something that's much easier to deal with if you take them seriously now, as opposed to allowing yourself to be a victim of circumstances later (along with the vast majority of other victims).

So, what can we who are not financially "set for life" do to help ourselves now, so we are not in a crisis later? Well, when Ed Butkowsky was asked what people can do in the interview (mentioned above) he said people are going to have to just keep working at their wage slave jobs to continually generate income. 

I think he could have given some better advice than that, but it may be that he isn't aware of the other options....

For example, if someone eliminates debt, establishes themselves on a small section of tillable rural land, with friends or family around them (a.k.a., "community"), acquires fundamental tools of self-reliance, grows  much of their own food, lives well within their means, establishes some sort of skill-or-service-based part time home business that they can operate into their retirement years, and they live well below their means, I think that someone will have much more financial resilience in the face of inflation and broken pension promises. 

Think in terms of less consumption and more personal production. Think of it as "voluntary simplicity." Maybe even "voluntary poverty" (which is much nicer than involuntary poverty). 

The fact is, very little is needed for a happy life. But having very little on your own piece of land, while taking care of your own basic needs, is a whole lot better than having very little in a public housing apartment in the city, or so it seems to me.

Being forewarned allows wise people to plan accordingly. Consider yourself forewarned. These are things to be seriously thinking about—and I'm seriously thinking about them.






The Agrarian Writings of
O.E. Baker
(Part 3)

Dateline: 29 March 2016 AD
(CLICK HERE to read Part 2 of this series)



I am continuing to post a selection of quotes from O.E. Baker, as I recently discovered them in the book, Agriculture in Modern Life (1939). 

One of Mr. Baker's great concerns was the loss of farms and farm families from generation to generation and, though he offers some suggestions for helping to reverse the trend, he acknowledges that there is no easy solution. Baker says that there needs to be more economic opportunity in the rural areas of the nation, not only in farming but in small-town industry and home industry. His point being that the rural (agrarian) setting is the best place for families to live and thrive, whether they are farming or not. But there must be opportunity for these people.

As a successful example of an agrarian people who have managed to survive on the land, he offers the following observation of the Amish. The last two sentences of this excerpt are an important observation. Amish parents are motivated by their religious beliefs, and they appear to be more concerned about their children and family cohesiveness than they are about pursuing the comforts and pleasures of urban life.   

###


Recently I spent several days in hilly Tuscarawas County, Ohio, visiting among others an Amish "bishop." He lived in a large white house, simply furnished mostly with excellent home made furniture, and ample in size to accommodate on the occasional Sunday the congregation of 300 people. These people have no church building but meet at the houses of their members. Nearly all clothing is made at home from purchased cloth. Some weaving is still done. Practically all the food is produced on the farm. Their religion forbids the use of automobiles, little light buggies being used instead for local travel. Tractors also are forbidden by most bishops, and regulations are enforced by excommunication, if necessary.

The families among these Amish apparently average about 7 children. The bishop I met had 12, of whom 5 were married and living on farms they owned. Two of these farms were mortgaged, but to Amish creditors. The bishop remarked that in his youth there were 6 districts of Amish in the area, and that now there were 24. The districts averaged, he believed, fully as  many members as when in his youth. Apparently these people have increased about fourfold in a half century. The children are not encouraged to go beyond the elementary schools, and are encouraged to remain in agriculture by the gift of a farm. Very few, I was told, leave the farms.

Among the conservative Mennonites, who are gradually selling their farms to the Amish, the children are encouraged to go to high school, and among the liberal Mennonites a few are sent to college. The highly educated pastor of one of these liberal churches in a nearby village told me he had remaining only 12 farm families, and probably in the next generation there would be only three farm families, the children going to high school and to college and then to town.

These Amish people have a philosophy which results in survival and in the expanding occupation and ownership of the land; while the Mennonites, to the extent that they are educated, tend to lose the land, go to the cities, and the families die out. Should education tend toward extinction? For a people, the ultimate criterion of success is survival, and to survive there  must be something worthy to live for. These Amish people are living for their God and their children.




The Agrarian Writings of
O.E. Baker
(Part 2)

Dateline: 27 March 2016
(CLICK HERE to read Part 1 of this series)

(click on picture to see a larger view)

This blog post is part of a series of quotations by Oliver Edwin Baker, from the book, Agriculture in Modern Life, which was published in 1939. Mr. Baker's writing is loaded with various agricultural statistics, but interspersed throughout are many pithy observations that I think are worth reading and ruminating on.

It is clear to me from O.E. Baker's Wikipedia biography that he was a well-educated intellectual, but he was also a deliberate agrarian, and a Christian-agrarian at that. And the collected quotations I'm presenting in this multi-part series could be titled, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, by O.E. Baker. 

###

"We need to understand that every civilization in the past has undergone decline, and the reading of history suggests to me that this decline has been associated with the growth of cities, the urbanization of the social ideals and economic institutions, the decline in the integrity of the family and then of population, and the spread of poverty and dependency among the rural as well as the urban people."

###

"In the cities the family is gradually failing to function as an institution for the reproduction of the race, the training of childhood and youth, and the support of the unfortunate and the aged. As the family fails to function the State has had to step in and carry much of the load. Take the relief of poverty, for example. In pioneer days, it was felt to be a family responsibility, and still is quite generally among the middle and upper classes. Then as churches were organized, the church members felt a sense of duty in regard to the needs of the less fortunate families. Those not provided for by the family and church were helped by the township trustees. Later this task was taken over by the county officials and "poor farms" were established. Still later the state governments established various institutions to care for those unable to care for themselves. Finally, during the last decade, it became imperative that the federal government shoulder most of the load."

###

"Probably most of the farmers a century ago were part-time farmers. They were carpenters, masons, shoemakers, merchants, teachers, ministers, doctors, lawyers. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were farmers and their wives manufactured or supervised the manufacture of the home-produced linen and wool into clothing, bedding, and other household fabrics. Gradually during the century preceding 1930 the towns and cities took away many functions from the farm family. First spinning and them weaving were transferred to the factory, then the making of shoes and clothing and many other things. This process persists."

###

"A quarter century ago the farmers sold several hundred million dollars worth of horses and mules a year [to city people].  In 1936 and again in 1937 the farmers paid city people nearly a billion dollars for power (tractors, trucks, automobiles, gas, oil, etc.). A large item of cash income has been changed into an enormous item of outgo."

###

"By advertising and in other ways the consuming public has been persuaded to pay high prices for many products originally of small value. Wheat costing 2 cents a pound is processed into puffed wheat and sold in a fancy package at 20 to 30 cents a pound."

###

"The future of the nation appears to lie largely in the hands of the rural people. Can they resist the disintegrating influences of certain aspects of urban culture and retain their familistic philosophy? "

###

"The State has accepted science, and in Russia, Italy, and Germany it has assumed also the ethical leadership of the people. The universities, as well as the elementary and secondary schools, are arms of the State. The youth are organized to serve the State. There is little left for the voluntary associations, such as the church, the fraternal orders, and the agricultural societies, to do. Individual freedom and the opportunities for the growth of personality are seriously impaired. Is this to be the ultimate result of the progress of science in America also?"

###

"Poverty is bearable, indeed it may be associated with happiness and pride, if there be basis for belief that it is temporary, and that by hard work and thrift, wealth can be acquired. Many of the pioneer farmers were poor and happy and proud, for the United States was a land of opportunity, and the people possessed the spirit of confidence in their institutions, in there own future, and in that of the nation."

###




The Agrarian Writings Of
O. E. Baker
(Part 1)

Dateline: 26 March 2016 AD



I like to buy old agrarian-themed books. I buy too many of them. Many times that are not as good as I expect they will be, but every so often one will be exceptionally good. Such is the case with Agriculture in Modern Life, which was published in 1939.

The book has three authors. O.E. Baker, Ralph Borsodi, and M.L. Wilson. I bought the book because of the Ralph Bosodi connection. Borsodi was a famous economist and agrarian decentralist who I expect to be writing about here in the future. But O.E. Baker wrote the first ten chapters of Agriculture in Modern Life, which I'm now reading. 

Prior to getting this book, I had never heard of O.E. Baker. And I didn’t expect him to have much of interest to say compared to Ralph Borsodi. But I sure was wrong about that!

Oliver Edwin Baker lived from 1883 to 1949. His Wikipedia entry is HERE This is an excerpt from Baker’s biography at the American Philosophical Society (which has his papers):

Baker … was a strong advocate of a “rurban” lifestyle that would combine urban employment with suburban living and part-time farming. This, he believed, would help preserve the rural values he so admired, including the “family ideal,” “the worth of the human soul, patriotism, the dignity of labor, the necessity of sacrifice, and the widespread distribution in the ownership of property,” .… Baker also believed that a “rurban” society would help improve land-use practices and increase the birthrate. He called for farm ownership over many generations, with one dwelling reserved for the older couple and one for the younger. Baker and his wife Alice Hargrave Crew, whom he married in 1925, practiced what he preached. The couple raised four children on a suburban property where they grew a garden and raised cows and chickens. Baker eventually bought a farm in Virginia with the intention of leaving it to his son.

This is what the book says of him in the preface:

“O.E. Baker for many years has been an agricultural economist in the United States Department of Agriculture. He is probably the foremost authority in America on agricultural geography and farm population. He is a lecturer and author. His background is Methodist and Republican though he is not now a member of any party or church.”

O.E. Baker’s major themes in his part of Agriculture in Modern Life are the loss of land ownership and the declining birth rate in America. Unbeknownst to Mr. Baker, the declining birth rate would get fixed in the soon-to-come post WW2 baby boom. But the loss of land ownership, particularly of rural land ownership, and the attendant loss of rural family life would continue to this day.

In short, O.E. Baker saw trouble ahead for America as the nation’s rural families were decimated by the continuing industrialization of agriculture. He has some truly insightful comments, especially considering that he was writing in 1939. I think that much of his perspective is pertinent to the current countercultural trend towards agrarian revival in this nation. 

With those thoughts in mind, I’m going to provide a few quotes from the book here now. And I will continue to share the agrarian writings of O.E. Baker in future blog posts. I hope you enjoy Mr. Baker’s writings as much as I do.

Please Note: I have taken the liberty of italicizing some sentences.

This is from the first paragraph of the first chapter of the book…

“I hope in my part of this book to help those who are interested in the national welfare, particularly the farming people and their leaders, to understand more fully the values in rural life, the great contribution which the rural people are making to the national welfare, and the even greater contribution which they can make in the future, provided they can recover the ownership of the land and faith in themselves. The evidence indicates, in my opinion, that the destiny of the nation, indeed of modern civilization, lies primarily in the hands of the rural people, especially of the mothers as they teach their children by precept and example.”

###

“It is natural for man to own property, particularly the means of livelihood for himself and his family. Such ownership contributes not only a sense of economic security, but also a sense of dignity and responsibility. It is dangerous for a nation to develop attitudes and institutions that deny a feeling of dignity to a large proportion of its citizens.”

###

“Prudent people must have economic security if they are to accept the responsibility of raising children. This economic security must be based on widespread ownership of productive property by private persons…”

###

“I doubt if there can be … liberty without the widespread private ownership of property. A man immediately dependent on his job for a livelihood cannot with safety publicly differ with his employer, whether that employer be an individual, a corporation, or the State. Only the sense of economic security can make men wholly free. This is one of the great values of the private ownership of land by farmers.”

###

“Indeed, probably nothing less than the partial abandonment of the prevalent materialistic philosophy of life, especially monetary measures of success, will be necessary, in my opinion. and the acceptance instead of a philosophy centered on the family. … The great problem, upon the solution of which the destiny of our nation, indeed of our civilization, depends, I believe, is the alteration of our complex economic systems and social ideals toward greater dependence upon the family.”

###

“…Present trends indicate that in some way more families must be raised in a rural environment, where conditions are more favorable to family life than in our large cities."

###

“But, in general, the public schools in my opinion, quite unconsciously weaken the family as an institution for the reproduction of the race, the education of children, and the transmission of culture; and tend to strengthen the other economic systems, particularly the socialistic. The schools, almost of necessity, are preparing children for jobs, for urban economic dependency.


###

“But now the need is to strengthen the family, and those who determine school policy should realize that the more the children are separated from their parents, the weaker the family ties are likely to become…”








New Agrarian Writings
From
Howard King

Dateline: 25 March 2016


(painting by Walt Curlee)

Every so often I take a few minutes and Google search "Howard King" to see if I might find something new from him on the internet. Howard King, for those who don't know, wrote about Christian agrarianism back in the mid 1990s. 

I learned about his writings from a couple sample issues of Patriarch magazine that were handed to me outside RFK Stadium in Washington DC, back in 1995.

I was a Christian and I was an agrarian back then, but I never put the two together, and Howard King's writings opened up a whole new way of thinking. In fact, I started this blog back in 2005 with the specific purpose of promoting the concept of Christian-agrarianism.

If, perchance, you are Christian who has never considered the biblical basis for Christian-agrarian culture, I recommend these original essays from Howard King:








And now... I'm pleased to say that I have found two relatively new essays by Howard King that anyone who is interested in Christian agrarianism will find to be well worth reading. The first is titled How a Biblical Agrarian Social Order Supports the Biblical Family, and the second is Cultural Confusion: A Critique of "Plowing in Hope" by David Bruce Hegemony.










Making Maple Syrup
2016

23 March 2016
click on pictures to see enlarged views


I took the above picture this morning. Marlene and I are in our sugar shack, boiling maple sap into syrup. Our sugar shack is actually something like a wood shed, right next to our house. It has a real campy atmosphere to it. Here's a picture of our evaporator in the shed...


We've used the same stainless steel evaporator pan for a lot of years. My friend, Steve Lonsky made it using some stainless steel pieces I salvaged out of a factory back when I was a contractor. 

The firebox is an old one that was given to us a couple years ago. I have it lined with firebrick. It's a step up from the 55-gallon metal drum that we used to use for a firebox.

I have thought about getting a real evaporator to make maple syrup (like This One). But I'm sure we will never get one. It's too high class for us. Here's a picture looking at the sugar shack from outside...


And here (below) is a view looking down on the operation. In the right side of the picture you can see a plastic pail with some sheer curtain material spring-clamped over the top. That's my sap bucket this year. I have used a 55-gallon plastic drum in years past to hold sap. But this year I'm just storing our sap in pails, then pouring them into the pail in the picture, from which the sap trickles slowly into the pan.

That  pail is actually a Whizbang Bucket Irrigation Pail. 



In this next picture you can see the end of the hose, with a brass trickle (of my own design)...


Our first boil netted 6+ quarts of syrup. The picture below shows five of them. This morning we made 2+ quarts. And as I write this, we are boiling another batch. This will be a less productive year for maple syrup than some other years. The reason being, we got a late start, and the sap flow hasn't been all that good.

We've made 5 to 7 gallons of syrup in past years, and one year we made 13 gallons.  We use four or five gallons a year.  

When we had kids at home, boiling maple sap was a family affair. These days it's just Marlene and me. 










Leaf-Bag Clamp Partial Failure
2016

Dateline: 22 March 2016
click on pictures to see larger views

A hill of tri-grown carrots

I've been interested in the concept of storing root crops over the winter in clamps for some time, and I've written about it at this blog over the years. Then, back in 2014 I showed an idea I had for a leaf-bag clamp on YouTube (Click Here To Watch).

Last year I decided to try keeping some of my tri-grown carrot crop in a leaf-bag clamp outside the back door of my house. It would be more convenient to get to than a garden clamp.

Here's a picture of the clamp as I was making it last fall...



As you can see in that picture, I have a bundle of goldenrod stems in the center. That is something different from my previous clamp. I figured the bundle would act as a ventilation shaft for the carrots, which is a feature I've seen in old books, though they typically used twisted straw for the ventilation chimney. 

I went out to the clamp in January, took the cover bags off, and harvested some perfectly preserved carrots. Then, today, (March 22) I decided to harvest the rest of the clamp. Here's what the clamp looked like before opening it...



As you can see, there are no carrots in the uppermost section of the uncovered clamp. They were removed in January...


I expected to find perfectly preserved carrots, just like I've always gotten from my clamps, but that was not the case. The carrots were all mushy, as this picture shows...


The carrots froze and turned to mush. They are mushy just like if I left them in the garden over the winter and did not cover with any insulation. Very discouraging. 

But the clamp contents were not a total loss. As I picked the mushy carrots out, and got nearer the bottom of the clamp, there were several unfrozen carrots. They were firm and unaffected by the freeze. These carrots were at or below soil level (much of the clamp was above soil level).

So, I was able to get some good carrots, as you can see in this picture...


When I harvest carrots from a clamp, I bring them indoors and wash them. But I don't scrub them. I just rinse and hand-rub them to remove most of the soil.

After they are thus cleaned, I put them in ventilated plastic bags, and from there into the crisper drawer of the fridge. They will keep very well there for several weeks.


I had some carrot rust fly damage to my carrots last year. But it wasn't too bad, and it isn't a big deal. Perfectly nice looking vegetables are not a necessity when it's food for our own use. Even still, I'm going to have to do some research on how to prevent that.

As for the leaf-bag clamp idea, I still think it's a valid option. But I guess my goldenrod stem chimney is not a good idea. It lets the cold in.

I read recently that Eliot Coleman stores root crops in a small galvanized garbage can that is buried in the ground. He lines the cover with a piece of styrofoam. And he puts a bale of straw over the top. Sounds easier than making a leaf-bag clamp. That's what I'm going to try doing next year. But I'll pile some leaf bags on the top instead of straw. A bale of straw is expensive these days, unless you're a farmer.










Yeoman Furniture
2016

Dateline: 19 March 2016 AD

Rustic Yeoman Furniture

Way back in 2006 I posted an essay here titled Yeoman Furniture & My New Wood Box, in which I defined what yeoman furniture is. Then, in 2007, there was Yeoman Furniture Part 2.  Then in 2009, I posted pictures of a freestanding yeoman cabinet I made for our bathroom. Here are a couple pictures of that piece...



I haven't written about yeoman furniture here since 2009 because I haven't made any more. It isn't that I don't want to make any more yeoman furniture.  The problem is that I don't have the space to do much of anything in the way of serious woodworking any more. My small workshop is piled high and tight with Planet Whizbang inventory, and part of our house is too (it's becoming a real problem).

But day before yesterday I decided I had to take the time to make a piece of yeoman furniture, and that rustic yeoman bench in the photo at the top of this page was the result. 

My objective was to make a bench that was a little higher than a stool and a little lower than a standard chair. It will serve as a place just outside the door of our house for me to sit and put my boots on (or take them off). I used a piece of 33" long poplar mulch log for the top and some well seasoned pieces of fallen maple branches for the legs.

I didn't want to spend a lot of time on the project. Two hours was my objective. It ended up taking three. But I still have wood chips all over my driveway and lawn that need to be cleaned up.


I made a stool much like that when I was a teenager. It was in my parent's house for a lot of years. I also made a couple of nice bentwood chairs using saplings harvested from the edge of the woods. I had a LOT of energy back then. Now I have LIMITED energy. I had to sit in my recliner for awhile to recover after I made that stool (and I almost fell asleep).

There was no internet when I was a teenager, no Facebook, no iPhones with instant messaging. I thank God that stuff wasn't around when I was a kid. I mean, really!

But if there was an internet when I was a kid, you can bet I would have been using it to figure out ways to sell the stuff I made. Like, for example, that yeoman rustic bench. Between all the free natural resources to be found in the woods, and the free marketing possibilities on the internet, all a kid on a rural homestead needs these days to make some money is imagination and initiative.

Fact is, I know a man who makes a living crafting rustic furniture. He sells it for big bucks. He even left a good job at FedEx to pursue his craft. He started out making simple furniture (but not as simple and rustic as my bench), and now he makes furniture that is really something else. You can check it out at this link: Abiding Branches in King Ferry.












A Very Poplar
Garden Mulch

Dateline: 16 March 2016


I have a few poplar trees in my woods. They grow straight and tall, then a wind comes along and breaks the tops off. It happens sooner or later with all of them, and that's what happened to the tree in the picture above. The end of the tree in the foreground is where the top broke off months ago. I cut the tree down at the other end a couple weeks ago.

Poplar is a soft wood that isn't good for home-heating firewood because it burns so fast. I have quite a lot of it cut up and under a tarp to use when we boil maple syrup. I have enough. So what do I do with a tree like that?

Well, I was watching David The Good's movie about composting last weekend and I got the idea to use the tree as a compost around my elderberry bushes.  So I cut the trunk in 33" lengths and split them in half...


Then I trucked the halves to my garden...


I have four elderberry bushes. A T-post is by each one. There is a permanent ground cover fabric on either side of the bushes, spaced 30" apart. I decided to layer on some leaves (worm food) before putting the poplar chunks down...


In this next picture you can see the bushes all poplar-mulched...


Cutting that wood, splitting it, and carrying to my truck tuckered me out more than I expected. I probably won't be using poplar mulch elsewhere in my garden.

#####

I kept one piece of the wood for something else. Something I've been wanting to do with a chunk of poplar tree for a long time. I'll put that chunk (below) in my shop for a year, or two, or three...


Eventually, I hope to carve a poplar dough bowl with that piece of wood. Just like Mr. Chickadee has done in the picture below. Check out Mr. Chickadee's web site. I like the stuff he does.


Some people have "bucket lists" of things they want to do in their life. Go Bungy Jump in New Zealand. Swim at the top of Victoria Falls in Africa. Stuff like that. But me...  I want to carve a poplar bowl.  Someday.