Time & Work & Family & The Struggle

When I went into self-imposed blogging exile several weeks ago, I stated that I would return on this day. And so I have.

I’ve missed blogging. I love to share with you here about the Christian agrarian "good life" my family experiences on our little section of land. But I must confess.... it is a love-hate relationship that I have with this modern means of communication.

Five Hours a Day
There is a dark side to blogging. It is a thief. It takes time away from faith, family, and livin’ the good life. When I blog, I blog alone, while my children and the Lovely Marlene do other things.

It would be different if I were home with them all day, but I am not. For now, I work a regular, non-agrarian job away from home. I wake up (without an alarm clock) at 5:30. I leave for work when everyone is still asleep in bed. I get home around 4:30 in the afternoon. I go to bed around 9:30. That means I am away from home 11 hours each day and I have 5 hours in the evening to do everything that, while I was work, I wish I were home doing. To make matters worse, I’m usually tired when I get home.

Five hours a day.

Choosing Hardship
Agrarian life is full of hard work and responsibility. Ideals are embraced. Plans are made. Creativity is harnessed. Projects are pursued. I’m talking about down-home projects. Projects in the garden. Projects in the woods, Projects in the shop. Projects in the kitchen. Projects that require initiative and effort. Projects that produce sweat and sore muscles.

Agrarian life is a life of home-based activity. As such, it is the antithesis of Modern life, where comfort (and amusement) is the high goal. Moderns slave away at a regular job longing to spend leisure time at a spa, or on the beach, or at some sporting pastime, or on a cruise, or at Disney World, or whatever. Many Moderns dream of a retirement dedicated to the pursuit of leisure, ease, and comfort.

Curiously, none of those things appeal to me.

Instead, I slave away at my industrial job and dream of being home, working on my land, or in my shop. Working until I’m physically exhausted. Until I’m zombie tired. It’s a wonderful feeling to have worked so hard on the land. It brings satisfaction and sleep— sweet sleep. Factory and office work doesn’t do that.

The garden is on my mind. The thought of working hard in the earth is so pleasant to consider in the depths of winter weariness. Soil. Sun. Compost. Cultivating. Planting. Fresh air. Summer rains. Golden sunsets. Fresh green growth. Hope springs with the thought of spring. This is especially true on this cold day in March, with a deep blanket of snow over my land.

The Forgotten Commandment
I have taught my children the Ten Commandments. In the process of teaching my children, I learned them too. Do you know them?

I think it is safe to say that the average Christian in the pew on Sunday morning cannot recite the Ten Commandments. I say that because I was a Christian almost 30 years before I committed them to memory.

Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” That is known as the Fourth Commandment. The Fifth Commandment is to honor your father and mother. But hold on. Between the fourth and fifth there is another commandment: Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work. (Exodus 20:9)

God specifically commands his people to work for six days. And the Bible says nothing about retirement in the modern sense of the word. Six days shalt thou labor.

What, I wonder, did God’s people labor at? Did mothers and fathers leave their homes each day to work in factories, shopping malls, and office complexes, while their children went off to day care or public school? Of course not. What an absurd thought.

The culture of that time was family and faith centered. The predominant work God’s people labored at was the work of home and subsistence.

When Israel moved into the Promised Land, the culture was family-centered and predominantly agrarian. God’s people were herders, planters, and craftsmen.

Finding Family Quality Time
In a recent internet article by Gary North, he answers a man who asked him how, within the demands of his job and the busyness of modern life, he can spend more quality and quantity time with his family.

Dr. North responds by pointing out that the Bible says nothing about spending quality time with your family. This issue is a modern day concern brought on by the consequences of the Industrial revolution. People in Biblical times did not have such a problem.

In the Biblical (agrarian) model, children grow up within a family where, as previously noted, mothers and fathers are home. As the children grow up, they are taught to do the work of the family. Sons went with their fathers to the fields or the shop to learn a craft. Daughters contributed to the family as they helped their mothers and learned to be keepers of the home.

Gary North states: “Quality time was always mostly work. It was devoted to teaching children how to work.”

North’s advice to the man was, essentially, to have his wife quit her job and stay home with the children. Homeschool the children. Unplug the television. And manage his time better so he can spend more time with the family.

Such advice is good but I’d like to suggest a few more things that would help. Move to a rural location where your family can be closer to the beauty and reality of God’s creation, where every day the entire family can share in the wonders of it.

Pay off debt and live more simply. Work together as a family to provide more of your basic needs. Grow a garden. Raise some animals for food. Work at preserving your own food. Start a home business. Take a hike in the woods. Shoot an animal and cook it for dinner. Do what you can to break away from total dependence on the Industrial Providers.

The shared work of these activities and family learning experiences equates to wonderful quality and quantity time. They add a richness to family life that is hard to beat. And the kind of life I am describing makes childhood memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

It’s Called The Family Economy
What I’ve been talking about here is known as the Family Economy or the Home Economy.

Only in recent years, as I have begun to understand the wicked cultural consequences of the Industrial Revolution and the redeeming qualities of agrarianism (Christian agrarianism in particular), have I come to know what the family economy is and how absolutely necessary it is to building strong families and restoring Biblical culture.

A family economy is, very simply, when all the members of a family work together as a unit sharing and providing for the needs of the family. Everyone works and contributes, from young children to older grandparents. Each has a role to play. Each is needed. Each is loved.

Homesteading and small-scale farming are ways of life in which the family economy can take root and flourish. Indeed, I know of no other lifestyle that is so perfectly suited to developing and sustaining a family economy.

Restoring The Home Economy Essay Contest
Scott Terry over at Homesteader Life has a contest going for kids, 18 and under. Check it out here: Home Economy Essay Contest

Here’s A Real-Life Example
Two years ago a Mennonite family bought a 300 acre farm about a mile down the road from me. My friend Ken lives across the road and has become friends with them.

Ken says that they homeschool their four boys. They have no television. They have no computer or internet. They don’t even listen to a radio. The family is working to establish an organic dairy. They also have chickens and pigs and a large vegetable garden.

I drive by the farm everyday on my way home from work so I can see what they are up to. They are often working in the field or garden. I see the sons working with the father, and often I see the mother too. If they are out by the road they give a friendly wave.

It is a beautiful thing to see a family work together and bring a neglected farm back to productive life.

Marlene (who has met the family) told me that the oldest son just turned 16 and he is now done with formal homeschooling studies. He will now focus more on working the farm with his father.

This family appears to be a remarkable model of modern cultural separation and home-centered Biblical agrarianism in action. I related the story of this family to a man I work with. His response (and I quote): “Those people are just stupid farmers!”

The Remnant Shall Take Root
History is a record of God’s sovereignty. Nations and cultures have come and gone. Each has had its season in the sun. Some have grown prosperous and powerful. But pride and rebellion against God’s laws eventually leads to moral decline, which is an invitation to divine judgment. And God obliges.

America has a rich Christian heritage, but we are now, sad to say, a post-Christian nation. We think we might be the exception to historical precedent. Maybe, we reason to ourselves, we aren’t that bad. But that depends on your perspective. I imagine it’s what those long lost cultures once thought too.

Whatever the case, this nation will get what it deserves. I dare say we already are. The handwriting is on the wall for those who have mind to see it. Will divine judgment eventually lead to revival and the restoration of a God-honoring and moral republic? Or will God’s judgment lead to utter destruction? I pray for the former scenario.

One thing is certain. God has always preserved a remnant of His people, and He always will.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah laments to the Lord that “the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword and I, even I only, am left and they seek my life to take it away.”

But Elijah was wrong. He wasn’t the only one left. God told him, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”

Yes, God always preserves a remnant. The remnant are those who refuse to compromise with the ungodly culture around them. They are the few, the humble, the lowly, and the repentant believers who have not bowed their knee to the various types of Baal throughout history.

I dare say that the corporate, industrialized culture we live in and depend on is a modern god to the multitudes of people. So is the bureaucratic and tyrannical government of this nation. They are modern Baals.

Why does God preserve a remnant? God’s remnant is preserved in order to rebuild.

In Isaiah there is a verse that recently caught my eye. God uses an agrarian analogy to say that He will use an agrarian remnant to rebuild a God-honoring agrarian civilization: And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. (Isaiah 37:31)

I wonder.... Is God now calling His people out of the modern industrial world to live simply, separately and deliberately for His glory and for the purpose of one day rebuilding a culture that has suffered the consequences of His judgment? It wouldn’t be the first time. It’s something to think about.

The Biblical “Home Economy”
It is crystal clear to me that when a family works together within at least some form of a home economy, the ties that bind become much stronger. There is another family-strengthening activity that does this too.

When a family reads God’s word together and prays together, the family grows closer and their shared faith grows deeper.

I confess that family devotions in my family have been hit and miss for years. When we’ve done family devotions together it has been very good. But for a variety of reasons, we’ve always slacked off and gone through long dry spells. One of my objectives in the recent blogging exile was to reestablish family devotions. We have done that and it has been a joy.

Our approach has been less ambitious than previous times. We start with a bunch of "sword drills" which is a game to see who can look up a given Bible verse the fastest. The kids love "sword drills" because they are boys and boys love the competition of seeing who can win the most drills. In the process they are learning where to find all the books of the Bible.

Then we read. We started in the book of Matthew, reading one chapter together each evening after dinner. After that, we went to the book of Acts. Next we will go to an old testament book. We divide the chapter up and each of us reads several verses. We briefly discuss what we’ve read. Then each of us prays aloud. We are also working on memorizing Psalm 1:1-6 together. If I’ve read or heard something interesting that is instructive, I’ll share it during our time of devotions. That’s basically it. We are usually done within 1/2 hour. I know we could, and probably should, do more, but this is working.

I did not have family devotions in my family when I was a child. Marlene didn’t either. We are trying to establish a family “tradition” that my boys will one day carry on in their families. That is my hope and my prayer.

Two Century Farm
I recently met a man from New Jersey who has a 200+ acre farm that has been in his family for 199 years. imagine that!

Authentic Agriculture
John Mesko has come up with an idea that I believe is divinely inspired. It’s called Authentic Agriculture. You can read about it here: Authentic Agriculture

Agrarian T-Shirts
I have an old sweat shirt that says, in large capital letters: MAINE. Then underneath, in smaller letters, it says, “The Way Life Should Be.” I’ve thought to myself that a shirt saying: AGRARIAN: The Way Life Should Be might be kind of nice.

I Had a Birthday
I turned 49 years old back at the end of January. I don’t want to talk about it.

My Son Had a Birthday
My oldest son turned 19 this month. I think it is a difficult time for a boy. I remember it being so when I was his age. I wasn’t sure what I "wanted to do." I couldn’t imagine how I might fit into the world. I was unsure of myself. It was that way for a few years.

But I had a lot of energy and was not afraid to work. I also had all kinds of interests and projects going. I was gardening, hiking the woods and gullies around my home, and doing small woodworking projects. I was also an avid reader. I subscribed to Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening & Farming magazine. I bought all kinds of homesteading and country skills how-to books.

I mentioned to Marlene a few days ago that if Joel Salatin’s books were around in the 1970’s, when I was 19 years old, I would have read them all and probably started raising chickens on pasture. I would have made my way to Virginia to be an apprentice on his farm and learn from him. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that I would have done that, or something like that.

Marlene replied by saying, "Yes, you probably would have!" She knew me back then. She knew my agrarian passion, and my angst.

Whizbang Books is Growing
Those who have read this blog and know something about me, know that I write and self-publish books as a part time business. I also make and sell chicken plucker parts and some other things. My hope is that I can continue to add books and products and grow the business into a serious home enterprise. I’d like to make enough money that I can purchase a section of farm land, debt free. Perhaps I might even be able to leave the factory job.

Well, Whizbang Books had a profitable year last year. I made enough money that, for the first time, the government is going to take a good portion of it. That makes me angry. And it is very discouraging. But that is the price of success, even a small success, which is all I’m really talking about here. The dream of purchasing land is still far off but I am being blessed in this enterprise and I thank God for it.

Those of you who subscribe to Countryside magazine or Backyard Poultrymagazine may have seen my Whizbang advertisements in recent issues. It may interest you to know that it cost me about $1,600 to place a small display ad in three issues of Countryside and six issues of Backyard Poultry. That is a huge amount of money to me and it is an experiment that I think may be paying off.

The advertising directs people to my very simple web page (www.WhizbangBooks.com). From there, people can find their way to a selection of stories I’ve written here on this blog. A steady stream of folks have been coming here and they are reading the poultry processing stories I wrote last year. Many of them are buying my books. I’m getting a lot of inquiries about plucker parts. And I’m selling a lot more parts now than I did last year at this time.

So this is a good thing, but it is just a little frightening....

Five Hours
Every day when I get home from work I check my e-mail, looking for book orders, parts orders, and inquiries. I answer and process the orders. Some days, this computer work can take well over an hour (especially with a dial-up modem). Then, if I have orders (and I usually do), I package them up for mailing the next day. On average, I’m sure I spend over an hour every day doing this. By the time I eat dinner with my family, and we have our devotions, there is little other time left. I have only 5 hours each evening before I run out of steam (to borrow an industrial term) and drop into bed. Some days I can hold out longer.

Yes, there are weekends. I have been spending most weekends in my shop making parts—staying ahead of the orders, stockpiling for the expected spring surge in sales. Two of my sons help me with this shop work. They make money and we get some quality time. There are other projects around the home and with the kids that take my time.

On top of it all, I am trying to write, illustrate, and publish another Whizbang Book. My goal is to produce one book every year. If you’ve ever written a book, you know it is a tremendous endeavor, requiring a lot of time. That is why I took time off from blogging for the past several weeks. But the book is not progressing quickly.

Last weekend, as I was bemoaning the fact that my book was not coming together like I would like it to, as I was complaining to Marlene that I can’t get nearly as much done as I used to (before I turned 49), she paid me a compliment. She said, "Herrick, I don’t know of any man who does as much and gets as much done as you do."

Now, I didn’t tell her at the time, but those words had a powerful effect on me. Men crave the admiration and affirmation of their wives. I was encouraged and felt a renewed sense of determination when she said that to me. Thank you Marlene.

And so it is that I must return to blogging exile. I have charted a course. I have set a goal. There is still much work for me to do here. I will get my book done. I must get it done. Spring is, after all, coming and there will be other work to do. The garden will need me, and I will need it.

My son James said to me the other day that he can’t wait for spring so he can plant his garden and grow things to sell at the farmer’s market. Ahhh. Music to my ears. More family quality time.

Lord willing, I will return here one month from today. Perhaps I will tell you all about my newly-published Whizbang how-to book. Or maybe I’ll tell you that it’s still not finished. Whatever the case, I look forward to touching base with you then.

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball
(a.k.a., The Deliberate Agrarian)

P.S. Today’s blog has ended up being a ramble. The point of it all is, I suppose, that I am a man struggling with competing interests and responsibilities, not to mention the onset of age (The white hairs on my head now outnumber the black).

I know there are many other men like me out there. We are, to varying degrees, trapped within and battling against an industrial civilization that is antithetical to what we know is right and best for ourselves and our families.

But struggle is not so bad. And men were created to do battle in its various forms. I am certainly not one of the better warriors. I often tire. I often falter. I often fail. And I often get discouraged. But make no mistake about it. I have always rallied and returned to the battle. Overall, I relish the fight.

The notable Southern Agrarian, Richard M. Weaver, in his seminal book, Ideas Have Consequences makes the point that toil and trouble is inseparable from the human condition. He says: ...an ordinary man living in Magalopolis (Weaver’s term for modern urban society)... has never been brought to see what it is to be a man. ...that man is the product of discipline and forging, that he really owes thanks for the pulling and tugging that enable him to grow.

Yes, as difficult as it often is, I thank God for the pulling and tugging.

And then Weaver makes an interesting observation: "The spoiling of man seems always to begin when urban living predominates over rural."

Which brings to mind another quote I once heard and like: For every comfort, there is a loss of excitement and wonder. Think about it.

End of ramble!