A Quick Trip

1 August 2014

Grizzly store at the Lycoming Mall

Last Friday, about 4:30 in the afternoon, Marlene and I headed south. Our destination was the Grizzly outlet store , which is right next to the Lycoming Mall in Muncy, Pennsylvania. Muncy is three and a half hours from where we live. It was pretty much a spur of the moment decision. 

I was on a mission to buy a shaper to use for making my Classic American clothespins. Last year I used router tables. They did the job, but I am hoping to make use of a power feeder, and a lightweight router table won't support the power feeder. A shaper has a solid, cast iron work surface. It also has a motor that is more suited to running for hours at a time.

Marlene likes to take trips. She doesn't have to deal with making meals and housework when she is away from home. And with the kids all grown up, vacations are less work for her than they used to be. Me, I'm not big on traveling. It's a hassle, especially with a mail order business. As Marlene tells people, I don't get out much. So driving anywhere that requires an overnight stay is unusual for me. 

We drove as far as Corning, New York on Friday afternoon. Marlene made reservations at the Quality Inn. She likes the Quality Inn because the beds are comfortable, and they have really nice pillows. They also have a continental breakfast, which is important. We had dinner that night at a restaurant that makes pizza in a wood-fired oven. It was a good meal.

Next morning we got our continental breakfast. I ate some sort of pseudo omelet, with a strip of faux bacon, Dannon yogurt, like-orange juice, and a sad little blueberry muffin, while being entertained by FOX news on a big screen TV. I don't watch television, and I rarely eat fake food, so that was kind of different.

The weather was good and we got to the Lycoming Mall with no problem. We checked out the Mall for awhile. I bought a couple of summer shirts on sale, then waited patiently while Marlene shopped at some women's clothing stores. I don't think she actually bought anything.

For lunch we went to a Cracker Barrel. I like Cracker Barrel. The food is good and they have an abundance of old agrarian artifacts hanging all over the place. The restaurant is akin to an agrarian-themed museum. 

I had trout, turnip greens, cole slaw, and a couple corn muffins. I haven't had trout in years. I wonder where Cracker Barrel trout comes from? Maybe I don't want to know.

It occurred to me that the last time I ate at a Cracker Barrel was with Michael Bunker in Binghamton, New York. I checked my old blog posts to find out that was way back in June of 2006—long before Michael became a famous sci-fi indie author. 

It also occurred to me that I probably have enough old agrarian artifacts to outfit a small Cracker Barrel restaurant.

We finally got to the Grizzly store. It's a big place. I liked it. I got the tool I went there to get, and a few others besides.

We stopped at a Panera restaurant in Ithaca for dinner and got home just about exactly 24 hours after we left. 

Mission accomplished.

Marlene and I had a good time. She thinks I'm more relaxed and fun when I get away from home. She might be right. And she's already thinking about our next mini vacation.

Ash & Providence
(2014 Clothespin Update)

Dateline: 31 August 2014

$1,200 worth of ash lumber for this year's first production run of Classic American clothespins.

My goal to bring the manufacture of high-quality, traditional-style, wood-and-spring clothespins back to America is progressing (see ClassicAmericanClothespins). Last year's first two production runs of clothespins sold out pretty fast. 

There is clearly an enormous market for good clothespins, and many people are willing to pay a premium for them. The only problem is that I can't begin to meet the demand, especially since I am trying to make clothespins and operate an otherwise busy mail-order business selling how-to books and things like chicken plucker parts.

So I'm faced with the conundrum of trying to pursue what may be my best entrepreneurial idea ever by working at it part time. If I were the kind of person who put all his eggs in one basket, I'd drop everything else and just make clothespins. But I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to plug away at trying to make as many clothespins as I can, when I can, while making specifications and springs available to other wood crafters so they can have their own clothespin-making home businesses.

I have sold specifications and springs to several woodworkers, but not as many as I expected I would. There is opportunity in this idea. But it does require some professional skills and tools, as well as a lot of initiative to get the business going. Thus far, I only know of one person who is  making and selling their own handcrafted clothespins, and one other is about to.

It was my plan to start making clothespins for this year a month ago, but it hasn't happened (I've had a lot of hay down, if you know what I mean). So I'm scrambling to get on with it before the cold and wet weather of autumn arrives. 

Like last year, I'm making my clothespins outdoors, under a 10' x 10' tent. My little wood-frame workshop is crammed full of other Planet Whizbang business stuff. I am severely space challenged. When Marlene and I drive somewhere, I'm always checking out different barns along the way… "Look at that barn, Marlene! That would be perfect for the Planet Whizbang business."

If you're a long-time reader here you know that I will not borrow money to build a workshop-production-storage-shipping-retail building for my business. And you know that there is no room on the rural lot where my house sets to put up a such a building. And you know that I would not consider having my business location anywhere other than next to my house.

So I'm making do, and that's what I'll continue to do, until something else, in time, Providentially falls into place, or not. That's pretty much the story of my life.

I often get e-mails (or actual letters) from people who read this blog and lament that they do not have land, or enough land, or the right land, to live a simple, more self-reliant lifestyle. My advice over the years to such people is always the same: Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are, and be content with that.

It is another way of saying, "be faithful with small things." That is a biblical admonition, and it is one of the foundational precepts of the Foundations For Farming ministry that I have written about here a few times in the past. But I digress.

Day before yesterday I finally got some clothespin wood (pictured above). That is 300+ square feet of beautiful ash hardwood. It will make thousands of Classic American clothespins. But they don't come easy. I'll put 80+ hours into making precise little clothespin halves out of those boards. And I'll do it all under that tent in the background. If all goes well, I'll get another load of ash and get a second production run in before the weather turns too cold.

Then, after the cold comes, with thousands of halves safely stored in bins, I'll turn my attention to tumbling, sorting, oiling, assembling and packaging the clothespins.

To help facilitate the production of these clothespins, I'm trying to make a saw that will do in one pass what I have done previously in three passes. That will save a LOT of time. But I'm having a problem with blade wobble. A machinist is helping me to fine-tune the tool. Hopefully that will come together very soon.

So I'm narrowing my focus to clothespins for awhile. Bear with me. I'll probably be writing more on this subject over the next couple of months.

The Finished Product

Books On My
Bedside Table…

Dateline: 28 August 2014

I used to read blogs where the author would have information on the sidebar like, "What I'm making for  dinner," or "Books on my bedside table."  This was back before Facebook became so popular. I think that kind of running daily commentary has now migrated to Facebook. 

I don't do Facebook. Never have. Probably never will. But "Books on my bedside table" has always been something I've wanted to write about.

It seems to me that the usual "Books on my bedside table" list contains one or two titles. And when someone mentions the books on their bedside table (usually a woman) I envision a very neat and tidy bedside table, perhaps with a white starched doily under the books. 

Well, I'm here to tell you that my bedside table does not have a doily (and it doesn't have a book about doilies). 

My bedside table has the usual lamp, flashlight, 9mm handgun, a couple pens, Whizbang Pocket Notebooks, etc. etc., and a pile of books. When the book pile gets higher than the lamp, I start stacking books on the floor next to the bedside table. I could have a listing titled, "Books piled on the floor next to my bedside table."

My problem is manifold. I like books. I have a lot of books. I like to read books in bed. And my house is small with not enough room for enough bookcases to house my books.

I keep my books in boxes and a few bookshelves in a little room I added onto the back of my workshop years ago. When I want a book, I go out to my shop, find it, bring it in the house, then upstairs to the bedroom, and it usually stays there until the piles really annoy my wife, Marlene (who happens to love old doilies and actually does have one on her bedside table). 

Every four to six months I spend a couple hours boxing up the books, hauling them back to my workshop, and making my side of the bed all neat and tidy (for a little while).

One box of bedside books on the way back to my workshop.

In my dreams I will someday have a library room in my house. It will be a simple, cozy, man cave, with bookcases from floor to ceiling on a couple walls. An Eric Slaone print. Some family pictures. A writing desk. A comfortable stuffed chair. An ottoman to put my feet up on. A good lamp stand. A side table. It will be a relaxing space for quiet reading (and falling asleep). And every book will have its place. Yeah, I'm a dreamer.

If you click on the box of books picture above, you might be able to read some of the titles, and you'll discover that there is only one novel in there. I never finished reading it. I rarely finish novels. I'm just not much of a novel reader. I'm more interested in learning how to do something, or in better understanding concepts, issues and historical events.

So that's my "Books on my bedside table" blog post. Maybe someday I'll get around to the "What I'm making for dinner" blog post. I'm not much of a cook, so that ought to be interesting.

A Coming Jubilee?

Dateline: 27 August 2015

Few Americans realize that America’s famous Liberty Bell, made in 1752, is cast with the following verse from Leviticus (25:10):

“Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

It was, of course, not unusual to put Bible verses on government monuments and buildings back in the early years of America. We were, after all, a Christian nation. The evidence of this is overwhelming. Nevertheless, there are modern revisionists who totally ignore (or even dispute) America’s solid Christian foundations.

This is to be expected in the post-Christian America we now live in. Our nation no longer fears God. America no longer accepts God’s standards of righteousness as good. We are an apostate nation. Which brings to mind another Bible verse....

"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. How blessed are all those who take refuge in Him!”
Psalm 2:11-12

And that brings to mind Revelation, chapter 18, where an angel of the Lord laments the destruction of Babylon...

“Woe! Woe to you great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour your doom has come.”

Personally. I’m inclined to think that the modern, industrialized, technocratic, city-based world system we all live in is the great Babylon spoken of in Revelation 18. I might be wrong, but that’s what I think.

Anyway, back to the Liberty Bell verse...

Leviticus 25:10 is about the Year of Jubilee that God instructed the Israelites to observe in the Old Testament. The Year of Jubilee was to occur every 50 years. On the Year of Jubilee all debts were forgiven, all slaves were set free, and all land reverted back to the families it was originally given to.  

The Year of Jubilee came to my mind a couple days ago when I listened to This YouTube Interview with Bix Weir at USA Watchdog. At around 19 minutes into the interview Bix starts to talk about the derivatives market and the banking system and the incredible mess that a derivatives bubble is creating. The bottom line is that a big crash is coming. That’s nothing new. Plenty of other economic prognosticators are saying the same thing. But Bix Weir thinks the coming crash will result in the erasure of all debt.

Bix Weir doesn’t use the word, Jubilee, but what he envisions is, in part, a Jubilee event of epic proportions. All debt will be forgiven. Greg Hunter, who is interviewing Bix, expresses some doubt about this ever happening but Bix explains his reasons for thinking the way he does.

One of the reasons is that banks don’t hold mortgages like was once the case. Mortgages are sold and bundled into securities, which people invest in. Bix says these mortgages and stocks are sold multiple times and there is no one owner. He says most of the mortgages and stock certificates in the world are held by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC). What Bix says about the DTCC is kind of incredible. If you are into conventional paper investments, like stocks, you might want to listen to the interview.

So, Bix thinks the major banks of the world have created such a confusing mess that they will have to start all over. I’ve listened to a lot of different ideas about where different economists think the economy is going, but the erasure of all debt is new to me.

Bix might be right. I sure don’t know. If nothing else, it’s something to ponder. 

If Bix is right, should we all go borrow a lot of money to buy a lot of stuff, so that when the banking system implodes, and all debt is erased, we will still at least have more stuff? After all, if the value of fiat money goes to zero (which Bix also says), material goods (stuff) will still retain a degree of worth.

Well, you can go borrow a lot of money, but not me. 

I still maintain that debt is the worst kind of poverty. And borrowing without paying back or, worse yet, borrowing with no intention of ever paying back, is not ethical. It brings to mind  the biblical admonition given in Psalm 37:21....

"The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives."

More than ever, I contend that my Agrarian-Style Economic Self-Defense Plan is the best course of action for people who want to be best prepared for the collapse of modern Babylon.

What many people don't fully realize is that the collapse is now in progress. The foundations of the world economic system are cracking as you read this. The Vested Interests are frantically trying to shore up the edifice.

Woe, woe to you Babylon.

A Family Sorghum Business

Dateline: 25 August 2015

My sorghum crop in August
(click to see a larger view)

I've never seen a field of sorghum growing in New York state, but I'm pretty sure it will grow just fine here, and I decided to grow a small patch this year in my garden. So far, so good. 

I'm excited to harvest the seeds and try cooking with them. I may even try juicing the stalks in my Whizbang apple grinder (made from a kitchen garbage disposal).

Sorghum is, of course, a common crop in the more southern states. While doing some research on sorghum, I came across Muddy Pond Sorghum in Middle Tennesee. If you live down that way, I'm sure you must know about Muddy Pond sorghum.

Muddy Pond is well worth mentioning on this blog because it is a multigenerational, agri-preneurial business. It is also a business in a predominately Mennonite rural community. The folks who own and work the business are Christian agrarians.

As more and more Christians are looking to get back to the land and establish multigenerational, agriculture-based family enterprises, they are finding it is not an easy thing to do. But the Guenther family at Muddy Pond appears to be doing it, and it's nice to see.

This Article explains the Muddy Pond story very well, and the following three YouTube videos provide some insights into the business. I found these videos to be a delight to watch.

If you have an interest in growing sorghum, check out this web site: American Sorghum

Four-Day Carrots
Part 2

Dateline: 24 August 2014

"Four-day" carrots, at 46 days old

My very first YouTube video, Four-Day Carrots, is getting a lot of views. So I've made a follow-up video, and I uploaded it to the internet a few minutes ago. Here's the link…  Four-Day Carrots, Part 2

Part 2 shows the progress of the tri-grown bed of carrots from 6 days to 46 days. I show how I scissors-thin the carrots, answer a couple of questions, and give some concluding remarks.

I don't know if I will make a Part 3. Perhaps this winter I will dig some carrots out of the bed and make a glass of carrot juice. That would be a good conclusion to the story.