The Government Wants To Know More About Me

Late last year I received something that I didn’t much like in the mail from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. It was a 2006 Agricultural Identification Survey. It was addressed to both Marlene and I.

On the first page of the survey, I read these words: Response to this survey is legally required by title 7, U.S. Code., and This is our second request. Please reply within 10 days, and at the top of the page in bold capital letters: DUE BY JANUARY 29, 2007.

I don’t much like it when a government agency that I have never, to my knowledge, ever had any contact with (and don’t care to have any contact with) sends me a form to fill out and informs me that I must respond. And I especially didn’t like the kind of questions they were asking on their three page survey.

They wanted to know how much land I own, how much I rent, how much I rent out. They wanted to know what kind of land it was. How much woodland. How much pasture. How much crop land. They wanted to know if I grow hay or forage crops. If I grew berries. If I grew potatoes. If I grew vegetable or melon crops. They wanted to know the total storage capacity of all structures used to store whole grains or oilseeds.

They wanted to know the largest number of the following animals on hand at any one time: Cattle & calves, goats & kids, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, burros, sheep & lambs, hogs & pigs, meat chickens, egg chickens, and turkeys.

They wanted to know if I had an aquaculture operation. They wanted to know how many bee colonies I had and how much honey I harvested in 2006.

They wanted to know about any production contracts I had for livestock or poultry that I did not own. They wanted to know the highest number of hired agriculture workers, including paid family members, on the payroll on any one day.They wanted to know the expected gross value of expected sales for the year.

That’s a general overview. I’m sure you get the idea.

If I went to the government agency with my hand out, looking for a grant or some other such form of government enforced wealth redistribution, I could see them asking such intrusive questions. But that isn’t the case. I’ve never done that. I see the taking of taxpayer money, money that someone else earned, as an immoral act. If the government takes my neighbor's money by the force of law and offers it to me, and I take it, I am a willing participant in the crime. If anyone but government did that sort of thing, they would go to prison.

So, since I'm not asking them for a handout, it’s none of the U.S government’s business how many chickens I own or how many vegetables I grow. This survey as a complete and total violation of my privacy

I don’t even have a farm. But that doesn’t make any difference to them:

Your response to the enclosed questionnaire will help us determine your involvement in agriculture. We are asking you to take time to carefully complete the questions and return the form in the enclosed envelope. We need your completed form even though you may not be actively farming, ranching, or conducting any type of agricultural activity.

And they want me to be sure that I return their survey in the enclose envelope with the Bar Code showing through the window.

Well, this is my response to the USDA.....

No. I refuse to answer your wicked little survey. Leave me alone.

Did anyone else out there receive this survey in the mail?

Letter From An Albany Hotel Room

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you all well.

I am writing to you this evening from a Best Western hotel room on the outskirts of Albany, New York. My employer sent me here for a day of training, and another day of it tomorrow. Albany is 2-1/2 hours from my home. I do not like to be here. Fortunately, it is not something my job requires very often. In fact, this is the first time in seven years that I have had to stay in a hotel room for my work.

Coming to this heavily populated, thoroughly urbanized, area is a reminder to me of how loathsome such places are to me.

My room here is nice enough. It has a television that, believe it or not, I have not turned on, and will not turn on. When I checked in this afternoon, I saw a sign on the wall that said the hotel had complimentary wireless internet. That’s what I was hoping for. I have my laptop computer and I have something I don’t have at home…. FAST internet service. Awesome.

Looking in The Drawers
Whenever I stay in a hotel room, I check the drawers for a Gideon Bible. I’m glad to report that this room has one. The Gideons are a good organization. I have a black Gideon pocket bible that belonged to my great grandmother, Kate Towle. I remember her, but not well. The little Bible is worn. Inside the cover is a spot where it asks "When you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior?" There, in the shaky writing of an elderly person, my great grandmother wrote, "Many years ago."

A hotel chain my family once stayed at had The Book of Mormon in the drawer. That surprised me.

Years ago, when I was writing books and magazine articles for The Taunton Press, I made several trips to Newtown, CT. Sometimes I stayed in their guest house behind the main headquarters. Sometimes I stayed in a plain hotel down the road. The last time I was there, in 2000, they wanted me to write a book about kitchen remodeling. It was to be part of a new series of how-to books. They were putting a lot of money into it. It was a big deal. They invited several writers for the meeting. There was a guy from California, a guy from Alaska, a guy from down south. They put us up in a real nice hotel and fed us at real nice restaurants.

After getting to my especially fine hotel room I checked the drawer. There was no Bible. Instead, there were half a dozen pornographic magazines. I was shocked. Was this wickedness in the drawer of every room in the place? Or did they size me up at the counter and figure that I fit the profile of a person who would enjoy dirty magazines?

I let the place know what I thought of their warped sense of hospitality.

And, in the end, I turned the book deal down (not because of the rotten hotel room).

Deja Vous?
I think I have written the above before here at this blog. But maybe I only thought about it. Whatever the case, it’s a little unsettling to think that, maybe, I’ve come to the point that I’m re-blogging about things. Hmmmm… that may be a sign of old age (see previous post).

My Dream Job
I love to write. If I could make a living writing, that would be a dream come true. The fact that I can make even a part of my livelihood now by writing and self-publishing my own books, is actually something of a dream come true (and to be able to communicate with you via this blog is something so amazing that I couldn't have even dreamed I would be doing a few years ago).

I joke with Marlene that if one of my books ever does really well someday (100,000 copies would be nice), we will move to Vermont and buy an Inn, like Bob Newhart in that television show from years ago. You remember, the one with Larry, my brother Darrell, and my other brother Darrell. Bob Newhart was a how-to book writer in that show. Actually, though, I’d buy a farm.

In any event, I want to tell you about when I was asked to interview once for a couple of writing "dream jobs." First, the editor at "Fine Homebuilding" magazine asked me if I would be interested in interviewing for an editor position at that magazine. Then, a short while later, the editor of “Family Handyman” magazine (a Readers Digest publication) sent me a personal letter asking the same thing. I was flattered and amazed.

I had no formal training as a writer or journalist. I had never worked for a magazine (except to write some freelance articles). I was a total greenhorn… and they were interested in me. I thanked them, and turned them down.

Why would I do that? Because I had worked enough with magazine editors to know it can be very stressful and, in the instance of Fine Homebuilding magazine, the editors are always on the go, traveling away from home to meet with writers, take photographs, and attend shows. Sure, it’s exciting and appealing. But it did not appear to me to be a “family friendly” occupation. Besides, I would have had to move to Connecticut, near Newtown, which is an expensive and crowded place-- place much like the outskirts of Albany, NY where I find myself tonight.

No thanks.

Sweet Potato Fries
Have you ever had sweet potato fries? Tonight I went to a little restaurant near my hotel room and had them for the first time. They’re French fries made out of sweet potatoes. They were good.

I have friends who grow sweet potatoes here in upstate New York. The latest issue of Mother Earth news magazine has an article about growing sweet potatoes. This year I’m going to try it. I think I’m going to put in a 50 foot row. That ought to make a lot of fries.

Actually, though, I’ll be growing them for my family and as an experiment to see about the possibility of selling them. I’ll see how they grow and what kind of yield I can expect. I’ll see how much demand there is for them among the people I know. Many of our friends are health conscious eaters and sweet potatoes are especially good for you. My potatoes will be locally grown and Organich.

Do any of you northern sweet potato growers have any advice you can share with me on this subject?

Warm wishes from Albany, N.Y.,

Herrick Kimball

Meandering Thoughts
On Getting Old(er)

Dateline: 25 April 2007

At 49 years old, I’m on the brink of becoming an old codger.

I remember when I was a boy, my mother wrapped my lunch sandwiches in wax paper. Baggies were yet to be invented. Then came zip lock bags. We didn’t have plastic trash bags then either. But I do remember Tupperware. And my school lunch box was all metal. So that gives you an idea of how old 49 is.

I remember when I was a lot thinner too. I weighed 145 pounds when I got married almost 27 years ago. I’ve got a good 35 pounds more on me now. A couple years ago, I had to get bifocals. I can’t help but notice that my physical stamina is slowly but surely declining. I am healthy but my body suffers from little aches and pains. It does not heal so quickly. My lower back has become a concern to me in recent years. It is, I suppose, the normal rate of decline for a modern man, even one who is careful about what he eats and does not have any unhealthy habits.

It's difficult to grow old and realize you probably have less time ahead of you than you have behind. It's difficult to grow old when you still have a mind chock full of ideas and projects, most of which require physical effort. It's difficult to grow old and see time pass so quickly.

Everything takes longer to do and get done when you are older. So, to compensate, you get stubborn, and even a bit crotchety.

But, while my physical ability wanes, my wisdom and humility grows. That is not to say that I am especially wise or humble now. Only that I am more so compared to my younger days. It’s a relative thing.

With the onset of wisdom and humility, I find myself more spiritually aware, more spiritually inclined, and more cognizant of the various realities I find myself in.

The reality of death looms ahead. Hardly a day passes that I do not consider my earthly end. I wonder how it will play out. It’s not a morbid fascination or an unhealthy preoccupation. It’s just an awareness, and an acceptance.

There is the curiosity factor too. Will Marlene and I grow old gracefully? Will we be in good enough health to know our grandchildren and bless them with our time and attention? Will we even have any grandchildren? How many?

Will a heart attack usher me into eternity, as I suspect will be the case? Or will it be another physical malady, or maybe an accident? Things rarely happen in life the way I think they will. God usually has other plans. He doesn’t consult with me.

Will I die before Marlene, or will she go first? The selfish me thinks I would prefer myself to go first. The man in me desires to be able to care for my wife until she is called home. Then I'll get my turn.

I’ve been a Christian since I was in Jr. High School. From then to now, I’ve never strayed far from my core beliefs. But as I’ve become older, my Christian faith has become considerably more central to my life. It is more dear and important than ever before.

My Christian faith explains life, decline, suffering, death, and eternity. It explains the origins of man and my purpose for being. I do not understand these things fully. But I understand them sufficiently. I understand that God is sovereign and I am not.

I understand something of God’s grace and His mercy. I know the peace and transformation that comes when a heart is surrendered to Jesus Christ. I know that this act opens the door to greater understanding, greater clarity, and the ability to better deal with the difficulties of life. I know that knowing Him brings a great and comforting hope.

I guess the point of this meandering post is that the process of aging is always difficult to deal with, but it needn’t be depressing. Because there is always Hope.

I trust in that Hope more than science, or government, or the medical profession, or education, or philosophy’s, or material possessions,or any person, or any thing that fallen men can create or conceive of.

And I hope you will too.


The picture below is of yours truly. The Lovely Marlene snapped this photo three days ago. I am working at the kitchen table on my soon-to-be-published book. Specifically, I am tracing final drawings onto one of the book’s pages using a light box. A younger person would say I'm doing it the hard way. Computers will do that, you know? Yeah, I know.

You can see my glasses are on the table. This book is the first one I’ve illustrated where I must take off my glasses and position my eyes very close to my work in order to see it well.

This sight of me working on my book at the kitchen table is a very familiar one to my family. I’ve spent many hours there the past few months. "Don’t jiggle the table," I bark when anyone gets near.

Yes indeed, I'm an old codger in the making.

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Return of The Field Car

Longtime readers of this blog may recall last year’s blog about my boys and their field car. Later, I blogged about how the car had died... finally... or so I thought.

This past month, after setting in the back yard for the whole winter, my son Robert got it going. A friend brought the battery from his field car and they hooked it up. The old Ford Taurus wagon fired to life again. Amazing car, that old Taurus.

Robert and his younger brother, James, removed the back doors. I’m not sure why. Probably because someone thought it was the thing to do. That’s the beauty of a field car. If you want to take the doors off, you take them off. The government isn’t going to do anything about it if you’re not on the government roads. Field cars are Libertarian vehicles. They are a wonderful expression of freedom.

The boys also taped a Superman logo on the front hood. And they have taken to driving alarmingly fast through the neighbor’s field. Fortunately, we have a very neighbor who doesn't mind boys being boys out on his land. A good man, that neighbor is.

It has been a wet spring. The grassy field is slick. The front wheel drive Taurus has remarkable traction but Robert is able to do a lot of sliding turns, frontwards, backwards, with mud flying. It’s a lot of fun to watch. I imagine it’s a whole lot of fun to drive too, especially when you’re 15 years old.

Marlene and I watched the show yesterday afternoon from the kitchen window. With motherly concern, she asked me if I thought he might flip the car. I told her I didn’t think so. But I was sure that Robert would eventually get the car stuck in the bottom corner of the field, where it is really soft. In past years, when the field was used to grow something other than weeds, I’ve seen tractors get stuck in that area. Once, I saw one tractor get stuck while trying to pull out another stuck tractor.

Sure enough, Robert drove to the edge of the wet land and bogged down. But, to my surprise, he managed a power turn and used the slope of the field to his advantage, spinning down to dryer land, where the front wheels were able to find purchase.

Back to the top of the field he motored and, then, again, he barreled down to the edge of the wet spot. With momentum and luck, he fishtailed his way out of the mire. Back to the top of the hill he went. Would he try again?

Certainly. The third pass, in a little further this time, was the last. The Taurus put up a valiant fight but it was too firmly in the clutches of the mud this time. The fun was over.

I think I see a Biblical analogy in this story.

I decided to walk up with my camera and record the event for posterity. The first picture is of Robert in the driver’s seat. He’s stuck in the mud but still smiling. The next picture shows the mud and the boys digging. Robert and his friends shoveled and pushed and tried putting boards under the tires, but it was to no avail. The third photo (notice the Superman logo on the hood) shows the crew helplessly looking at their situation. In the end, they decided to go fishing.

The car is still stuck. I don’t know how Robert will get it out. But I’m sure he will find a way. Stay tuned

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My New Whizbang Book & A Special Pre-Publication Price

Dear Friends,

As you who have been reading this blog know, I have been working these past months to birth a new Whizbang book. The work continues, but completion is in sight. With that in mind, I have posted at the Whizbang Garden Cart Blog telling all about the book. I'm also selling copies for a special, reduced, pre-publication price. And you can even read the book's introduction at the blog. You can get all the details here.

Thank you,

Herrick Kimball

Building Code Blues

When Marlene and I started building our own home back in 1984, we didn’t have plans drawn up by an architect and we didn’t ask any government agency for permission to build. I drew up my own simple plan and we just started building.

The house measured only 16ft by 24ft and was 2 stories high. To save money, I built on a foundation of twelve concrete piers. They measure 1ft square and rest on a 2ft by 2ft by 1ft thick footing that is four feet below the ground.

I decided that I would hand-dig the holes for each pier. I was 26 years old and full of enthusiasm for the project. After digging the first hole I came up with a better idea. I called a fellow down the road who owned a backhoe. He dug the rest of the holes in less time than it took me to dig the one.

Marlene’s dad told me he had an old cast iron cement mixer we might be able to fix up and use. It had been setting outside in a hedge row behind his house for a long time. I hooked an electric motor I bought at an auction to the mixer and it worked just fine. Marlene and I spent many hours shoveling stone and sand and Portland cement into that old mixer. It’s a great memory but the point I want to make is that we did all this, and built the rest of the house, without getting any building permits and without any building codes.

Every other house in our rural township, going all the way back to the 1700s, had also been built without asking the government for permission.

But those days are gone. If I were to attempt to build a home for myself now, without an architect’s plans, without filling out government forms and getting permission from the local authorities, without complying with a code book full of rules and regulations (that are always changing), without paying a fee, without getting regular inspections from the local code enforcement officer, and without getting an official "Certificate of Occupancy" before I moved in, I would be in violation of the law.

I would be taken to court and forced to comply. Or I might even go to jail. And if I did not comply, if I actually built my home without following the rules and laws, it might be torn down by the government. This scenario actually happened several years ago to a man not far from where I live.

Having once enjoyed the freedom to build my own home without government interference, it galls me that I must now ask permission to not only build a home, but to do any significant home improvement.

It is a sad thing to see such freedoms being taken away. Building a home is but one small example of a freedom once enjoyed but now lost to the monster of oppressive government. And, once gone, those freedoms are not easily regained.

One of the protestations of the early American colonists, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, is that the King has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

We ended up fighting a war for independence because, as The Declaration further states, The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Well, the swarms have returned with a vengence in modern-day America. Absolute tyranny by government is becomming a certain reality right before our eyes.


All of which brings me to a question for you...

Does anyone reading this live in a place where you still have the freedom to build your own home as you please, without asking permission of the government?


P.S. I did have to get an electrical inspection of the home by an independent inspector. It was required by the electric company.

My Simple Emergency Power Backup System

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A big spring storm has hit us here in upstate New York, and our
electricity went out....again.

The power usually comes back on after a few hours. But we never know for sure. If it doesn’t, we have a simple backup electrical system. It is one of many emergency preparations we put into effect here 8 years ago with the Y2k threat looming.

Back then a lot of people were installing whole house electrical backup systems. They were fairly expensive and elaborate. The idea was to be able to power up and run everything in the house, just like usual.

I didn’t have the financial resources to consider whole house electrical backup and I didn’t see where I needed it. My primary concerns were heating the house, cooking food, and keeping the well water flowing. Life would be good if I had all those luxuries.

We already heated the house with firewood, so that was not a problem. We got rid of the electric stove and put in a propane stove (and a 500 gallon propane tank), so that took care of cooking. To keep the water flowing, I bought a small (2500 watt) generator.

The photo above (taken this afternoon) shows the generator in my Whizbang Garden Cart, hooked up to the house. Instead of buying an expensive house disconnect switch for the generator, I simply wired a plug for the female end of my extension cord to the outside of my house. 12-gauge Romex wire goes from there to two duplex electrical receptacles in my mud room, and to an outlet above the water pump pressure tank in my basement. So what I have is small electrical circuit in my house that is completely separate from the main electrical system.

Today, when I came home from work to find the power out, my son Robert and I put the generator in the Whizbang Garden Cart and wheeled it out behind the house. I started the generator, plugged one end of the yellow 12-gauge extension cord into the house and the other into the 110 volt outlet on the generator (a 2500 watt generator has only 110 volt output). That gave us power to the outlets in the mud room. We used an extension cord from there to supply power to the refrigerator in the kitchen.

In the basement, above the pressure tank, there is a cord plugged into a wall outlet that powers the 110 volt submersible well pump (I installed a 110 volt pump instead of the usual 220-volt because I wanted to be able to run it off the small generator). Right next to that wall outlet is the one powered by the generator. So, in order to change the pump from house power to generator power, I just unplugged it from one receptacle and plugged it into the other.

This basic emergency electrical system is very simple to understand and use. Since it does not integrate in any way with the main house electrical system, I consider it very safe. It takes only a few minutes to hook up and we have put it to use many times in the last 8 years. If the power were to go out for several days (a real emergency!) we would run the generator intermittently and, as long as we had gasoline, get through the crisis with relative ease.

There are all kinds of different backup electrical options. This is just one possible example. It works for me. :-)

P.S. I couldn't be happier with the Honda generator. It always starts easy, runs very quietly, and is fuel efficient. You can't go wrong with a Honda.

Shooting Dad’s Handgun

Dateline: 15 April 2007

It was two years ago when Marlene called me at work one day to ask if, on my way home, I would pick up her sewing machine that she had dropped off to get repaired. The vacuum cleaner and sewing machine store is located in an, old, nondescript, two-story wood frame house along a busy street on the outskirts of the city. The place is hemmed in by a Wendy’s on one side and a carpet store on the other. A busy shopping center is across the way.

I went in the front door of the old house and spoke with "Big Al," the owner. I happen to know Al from a home show we were both in at a local mall many years ago. I was in the kitchen remodeling business then and he was selling sewing machines and vacuum cleaners. I’ve since moved on to other work, but Al is still in the same business. I think he does well at it.

Anyway, as I was paying for the sewing machine repair, the phone rang. Al answered and I overheard him talking about some guns he was selling. It happened that he had sold the rifle the guy on the phone was calling about. When Al hung up I said, "You selling some guns, are you?"

Al explained to me that he had been a gun nut since he was a kid and he had collected guns for many years. But now he was selling all of them. He told me he had placed an ad in the newspaper and sold thousands of dollars worth of rifles over the past two weeks. All he had left was a 20-gauge Sears shotgun and an Ithaca .22 with a scope. Then he said, "Hey, you don’t happen to have a pistol permit, do you?"

I replied in the affirmative. He raised his eyebrows and said, "Follow me. You’re going to like this."

I followed the big guy up a set of creaky old wood stairs. At the top we turned into what had once been a bedroom and was now obviously Al’s office. He walked over to a built-in bureau along one wall and opened the wide, shallow, top drawer. It was crammed with hand guns. There were probably 20 guns of various makes and models in there. "I’m selling them all," he declared.

I scanned the drawer looking for a Glock but there wasn’t one. My eyes settled on a Ruger P89 and I picked it up. It was in nice shape. Al praised the virtues of the gun and I asked him, "How much?"

"Two hundred dollars," he replied.

I bought it. I also bought the rifle and the shotgun for $175.

Imagine my wife's surprise when I got home. She asked me to pick up her old sewing machine, and I came home with $350 worth of guns. Sometimes life is exceptionally good like that.

In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, there is a story about my sons titled, Woodchuck Hunters. There I write:

I think it is important that boys learn gun safety and shooting skills when they are young. This could even be considered among the most important of agrarian skills.

Besides that, shooting guns is just plain fun, especially for a dad and his sons (daughters too, but I don’t have any of those). I taught my boys how to shoot starting when they were around six years old. That sort of thing makes some people these days uneasy. But I firmly believe that if every father taught his children how to safely and responsibly use, and enjoy the use of, guns, the world would be a better place.

Now, I will admit that the combination of guns and boys around this homestead makes Marlene a little uneasy. That is understandable. It makes me a little uneasy sometimes too. But guns are a reality of life. They are a part of growing up and living in the country. Learning to properly use a gun and shoot it straight is an American tradition. It is a rural rite of passage.

All of which brings me back to Big Al’s P89. I brought the gun home, put it away and didn’t shoot it for a year. Then, last summer, I bought a box of 9mm ammo and we menfolk did some shootin’ in the back yard.

That's a nice thing about livin' in the country with country folks around. We shoot our guns off in the back yard and nobody much cares. They do the same thing.

James was 11 years old last summer. The pictures that follow are of him shooting my P89 for the first time. As you can see from his facial expressions and the action of the gun, the P89 is a powerful weapon.

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If you like hunting, trapping, guns, and stuff like that, I invite you to read some more of my essays...

How Not to Shoot The Bull

Trapping Class

The Charging Woodchuck

Going to The Trapper's Convention

Boys Will Be....Warriors (Part 1)

Boys Will Be...Warriors (Part 2)

Rabbit Hunting Boy

Life Lessons From an Old Maine Woodsman

Needed: More Americans With Guns

How to Butcher a Chicken

The Fun, Fast Way to Skin a Deer

A Journey Home Film-Share List

A couple blogs back, I wrote about the Christian-agrarian documentary, A Journey Home. At that time, I offered to share my copy of the DVD with any bloggers out there who would like to see it and mention it on their blog. I call
it a film-share. I’ve done this before with another documentary movie, The Future of Food.

Tomorrow, I will send the DVD out to the first blogger on the film-share list below. My thanks to these bloggers for participating in this little effort to spread the good news about A Journey Home

ND Homekeeper

Get The Seeds out of The Barn...

Tabletop Homestead

An Agrarian Journey

To The Hilt

View From an Iowa Homestead

Colossians 3:23

On My Mind

A Christian-Agrarian View of Genetic Modification (GM)

The following letter was posted in response to my previous post in which I spoke of genetic modification (GM) and the possibility that the mysterious and widespread death of thousands of bee colonies might be connected to "Frankenpollen" from GM crops”


My grandfather is a Christian agricultural scientist, and I have asked him about genetic modification: we have been "genetically modifying" plants since the dawn of man. Every time you cross one kind of tomato with another kind of tomato to get a third kind of tomato, you produce, by the general definition of the phrase, a genetically modified tomato. All it means is that the genes have been modified to enhance or exaggerate a particular trait (say, firm flesh), and every single one of the fruits and vegetables we eat to-day has undergone some kind of genetic modification. That doesn't sound dangerous at all. In fact, it isn't. If it was, the Ancient Egyptians would have killed off all their honeybees.

I assume what you mean by "genetic modification" is *chemical* genetic modification; that is, by some laboratory procedure involving the injection of something rather than natural cross-pollination (although, it might be good clarification to know whether they are injecting genomes from another plant - which wouldn't be dangerous - or synthetic chemicals, which might). Perhaps you might wish to clarify your terms, to prevent confusion?

A fellow agrarian


Fellow Agrarian,

Thank you for questioning my terminology. Yes, I will clarify…

While it is true that traditional, selective breeding of plants and animals, as you describe in your first paragraph, is indeed a form of genetic modification, such modification is achieved through the natural order and is not the same thing as what is now commonly referred to as Genetic Modification or GM.

GM plants (as the term is now commonly understood and applied) have had their genomes altered through very unnatural laboratory genetic engineering techniques (gene splicing) that have only been in common use since the 1990’s.

With the current GM technology, it is possible to "cross" plants and animals. Scientists can, for example, splice genes from a fish into a tomato, or from a tomato into a butterfly, or from a butterfly into a maple tree, or from a maple tree into an ox. Not only is it possible, such things are being done. The possibilities are almost endless. The door is now opened up for genetic splicing of animals or plants with humans.

The Bible says in Genesis that God created plants and animals "after their kind." Traditional selective breeding practices are a form of husbandry that works within the natural order God created. The modern GM scientist does not acknowledge any God-ordained order or boundries. The genetic engineering they are doing is genetically violent in its unnatural combinations

We have seen a veritable explosion of new laboratory-generated GM creations in recent years because of a modern-day ruling by the US supreme court that allowed, for the first time, the patenting of new life forms for commercial purposes. Since than, a handful of huge corporations have spearheaded the genetic engineering of new life forms for profit purposes.

As I wrote in my recent book:

God created and gave freely for His glory and the good of mankind. The industrial providers[the corporate food oligarchy] take God’s creation unto themselves, recreate it for their own glory, and charge money for the good of their bottom line

I also offer the following quotation from Ignacio Chapela:

Dr. Erwin Chargoff, eminent biochemist, often referred to as the father of molecular biology, warned that all innovation does not result in “progress.” he once referred to genetic engineering as “a molecular Auschwitz” and warned that the technology of genetic engineering poses a greater threat to the world than the advent of nuclear technology. “I have the feeling that science has transgressed a barrier that should have remained inviolate.” he wrote in his autobiography, Heraclitean Fire.

Modern science, under the control of international corporate giants, with the approval of our corrupted government agencies, has transgressed the barrier and they are foolishly steaming ahead without considering all the consequences of their technology.

Honey bees do not die as a result of men working within God’s order to breed new plants. The food chain is not polluted by agrarian scientists working within God’s order to develop improved varieties of plants "after their kind." People do not develop allergies and sicknesses from plants and animals bred over the course of lifetimes by traditional husbandry methods.

Soil Therapy, Dying Bees, & Watching The Whizbang Plucker on YouTube

I am cramming to finish my next Whizbang book by the end of this month. There are so many details and loose ends. The project drags on, and so do I. Taking this time to blog here gives me a little break.

My next book will have its own Blog. You can check it out here: The Whizbang Garden Cart Blog

Them high-fallutin’ factory-made garden carts don’t have a blog.

(I'm going to have fun marketing this book....when I finally get it done.)

Soil Therapy
A little article on the internet titled Getting Dirty May Lift Your Mood got my attention. It states: "Bacteria found in the soil activated a group of neurons that produce the brain chemical serotonin."

In other words, scientists have now discovered that when men do what God created them to do--cultivate the earth and make it fruitful-- they feel better. Amazing

I have dubbed this phenomenon, "soil therapy" and I’m badly in need of the treatment. You can read the article here

Closed on Easter
In the small town near where I live there is a small-town grocery store named "Modern Market." The store is owned by Mr. Murphy, who lives in the town. His father started the business a long time ago and has since passed on. Some of the older folks call the store "Murph’s." The store does a pretty good business.

Last weekend, Easter Sunday, as we were driving to church, we were on the road that went by Modern Market and my son, Robert, asked me if the store was open on Easter. I told him I was sure it wasn’t. Then he asked me if the new chain drug store that came into town a couple years ago would be open. I replied that I’m sure it was. As we passed Modern Market, we could see that the parking lot was empty and the store was dark.

I took the opportunity to point out that Modern Market was closed because it was owned and operated by a local man who respected and honored the Easter holiday by shutting down his business and giving his employees the day off.

But the drug store is owned by a corporation from out of town. To that corporation, Easter is another holiday that they can use to sell cards, or decorations and make more money. They aren’t about to shut down their business to honor the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because that would mean the loss of a day’s revenue. To a big corporation, it’s all about money.

The new drug store sells a lot of the same things you can get at Modern Market. But I’ll always shop at Murph’s before I go to that drug store.

Whizbang on YouTube
My family went to Marlene’s mother’s house in Moravia for Resurrection Sunday dinner. I brought my laptop computer because I can tap into wireless internet in town. Up here in the countryside where I live, we only have dial-up internet service. It’s too slow for downloading much of anything.

And so it was that my son Chaz introduced me to YouTube. I’d heard of it but never saw it until last Sunday. Wow. You can find movies on YouTube about just about everything. Why, we even discovered a movie showing a man plucking a chicken in a Whizbang Chicken Plucker!

I developed the Whizbang Plucker back in 2000. I wrote the planbook a year or so later. I took the pages, with hand drawn illustrations on them, to a quick print place and my first printing was 100 photocopied, comb-bound copies.

They weren’t very impressive looking, but I mailed samples off to several magazines. I started a Yahoo discussion group called WhizbangChickenPluckers. I don’t think I was smart enough to realize such amateur publications don’t have much of a chance. And I’m sure I was too naïve to be embarrassed by my homely-looking book. But something amazing happened.

God blessed my effort. People started making their own Whizbang pluckers. They were amazed and delighted to see that the machine really did pluck a chicken clean in a matter of seconds. The word spread. The book, Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker has now sold almost 5,000 copies. That’s a modest success as far as books go, but there have been the less tangible rewards too. I’ve heard from so many good folks out there who have built their own plucker and are thrilled with it.

And now it’s on YouTube. Whoda thunk it? This link should take you to the movie: The Whizbang Plucker on YouTube

The Bees Are Dying
Have you heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? Millions of bees are mysteriously dying. I understand the national news has been talking about it.

When I first heard about this problem a couple months ago, I said to Marlene that it’s probably caused by pollen the bees collect from genetically modified plants.

Well, the latest issue of Lancaster Farming newspaper has a front page article about CCD which states: "While an exact cause for the disorder has not been determined, scientists believe CCD may be caused by a number of different factors including travel stress, other insects, pesticides, genetically modified plants and pathogens."

Oh, but surely the big corporations that create these genetically modified plants must have tested their effects on the honey bee. And surely our government, which has allowed these corporations to release their GM creations over the land, made sure they were safe for the honey bee. (Insert sarcasm if you didn’t already read it in those last two sentences)

Well, if it does turn out that the bees are dying from FrankenPollen, you can bet the scientists will "fix" it. Those "benevolent" corporations will just create a new GM strain of bee. Problem solved.

And we are left to live with the consequences of their foolishness.

Low Land Prices on The Horizon?
Kelly Klober, a regular columnist at Small Farm Today magazine wrote in the March/April 2007 issue:

One study shows that real estate prices tumble 90% at roughly 200-year intervals since the year 1000. In 1959 we bought 120 Missouri acres for $10,500, and I would not be surprised if I live to see it happen again.

On the one hand, I shudder to think what will happen to precipitate such a radical decrease in real estate prices. On the other I look forward to the ability to afford farmland. In any event, if anyone in the state of Missouri, (or anywhere else where it’s good for a family to put down roots) sees a 120 acre farm selling for $10,500, please send me an e-mail ( Thanks in advance. :-)

A Journey Home (Movie Review)

I refuse to have cable or satellite television service. That’s because I loathe television. I almost never watch it any more. But I like to watch an occasional movie or documentary using the VCR. And, as I’ve mentioned here in the past, my family enjoys watching Little House on The Prairie and The Waltons DVDs (of which I believe "Little House" is a far more edifying program).

And so, a few weeks ago, I bought a documentary movie titled A Journey Home from Franklin Springs Media. I bought the movie because a couple of people mentioned to me that I should see it. Well, now that I have, I’d like to tell you about it...

A Journey Home is about Tommy and Sherri Waller and their eleven children (seven boys and four girls). Years ago, right out of college, Tommy got a job working for Federal Express. He was a manager, putting in 80 hours a week. It was a great job and a great career. But Tommy made a decision to walk away from the job, the career, and the typical suburban lifestyle.

The Waller family moved to Russell Creek, a secluded area in rural Tennessee where most of their neighbors were Amish and Mennonite. The Wallers lived without electricity and became organic farmers.

Why would a man with a successful modern career and all the conveniences of modern life walk away from it and take his family to a backwoods place like Russell Creek? Well, according to the movie, Tommy Waller went home to unite his family. And the Wallers moved away from the influences of mainstream society in order to be a closer family. What, you may wonder, was the fundamental motivation to do such a radical thing? They were motivated by their Christian beliefs.

The movie presents a visual montage of scenes from the Waller family’s life on the farm at Russell Creek. Milking the cow, homeschooling, cooking meals, preserving food, plowing with horses, planting, splitting firewood, the children playing in the woods and in the pond, the family worshiping and making music together. The images of rural life and family closeness are delightful and powerfully endearing. Indeed, they are beautiful! And they are compelling.

The movie also tells the story of the Waller family selling their produce and home-baked goods on Thursday afternoons at a farmer’s market in Leiper’s Fork, TN. The entire family works at the farm market and, in so doing, makes an impact on the people of that community. This weekly event of selling at the farmer’s market is presented as another positive aspect of the Christian-agrarian lifestyle they have chosen to pursue.

The end of the movie is a a real surprise because it is such a contrast. After six years of seclusion and the simple life at Russell Creek, the Wallers pull up stakes and head to Israel. We see them at the airport, in cities, using cell phones and computers to communicate with people back home. They went to Israel (and are still there today) to live and work with Jewish settlers on the West Bank. They are planting, tending, and harvesting crops. They are Christian-agrarian missionaries.

I have watched the movie five or six times and I’ll watch it a couple more. I like it very much. The DVD also has some bonus features like the ability to watch the whole movie while listening to a running commentary from the producer, Ken Carpenter. The commentary provides a lot of interesting insights about the Wallers and how the movie came to be made.

There is, however, one huge question in my mind after watching the movie. How, I wonder, could this family do what they did and make ends meet? I wonder that about a lot of folks who are turning their backs on modern life in order to live a full time, family-focused, home-based agrarian lifestyle. Money is still needed. Where does it come from?

At one point in the movie, Sherri Waller comments that you really can sell enough produce to live off the land. This is amazing to me. Pictures of the Waller’s farm show a relatively small planting. And we are led to believe that the primary means of marketing their products (of making ends meet) is through the Thursday afternoon farm market.

My wife sells bread at a farmer’s market on Thursday afternoons. We know people who sell produce. You can certainly make money at such an enterprise. But making enough for a family of 13 to live on at a single market is difficult for me to feature. They still have to pay property taxes, and auto insurance on their van. Do they have health insurance? The costs of living, even living simply, can add up pretty fast. Surely, there must be some other source of income.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not being critical. Tommy and Sherri Waller are remarkable and inspiring people. What they have done is exemplary. The movie is absolutely wonderful. I just can’t help being curious about the nuts and bolts of how they did what they did and were able to make ends meet.

Click on this link to order the movie: A Journey Home

Inherit The Land
On a different but related note, I see that Franklin Springs Media intends to release another documentary called Inherit The Land sometime this year. According to their web site, "Inherit The Land examines the rewards and the growing movement toward agrarian lifestyles and the benefits that families can gain from farming endeavors, large and small."

That is exaclty what I have endeavored to blog about here for almost two years now. So I think that sounds like an excellent movie and I can’t wait to see it!

Another Internet "Film Share"
Last year I blogged here about a DVD documentary called The Future of Food. I liked the film so much, and felt that its message was so important, that I decided to send my copy to any other blogger with an interest.

The concept was that other bloggers could watch the movie and write about it (thus spreading the good word), then send the movie on to the next person on the list. The idea has worked moderately well. Several bloggers have written about the movie. The only problem is that it has not made the rounds as quickly as I had hoped it would. I (the last person on the list) should have gotten the movie back months ago and it’s still out there, but that is not a major problem. I believe it will still make its way back to me... someday.

I’d like to do a similar "film-share" with my copy of A Journey Home. If you are a blogger and would like to see this movie, simply send me your e-mail, your blog name, and your postal mailing address (my e-mail is:

I will compile a list of not more than a dozen people and send it to the first person on the list. You can take a week or, at most, two to watch the movie and then send it to the next person on the list.

All I ask is that you mention it on your blog with a link to Franklin Springs Media. You needn’t do an extensive review unless you want to. A simple mention and endorsement (only if you like the movie, of course) on your blog will fulfill your end of our film-share “agreement.” If you want to get on the list, e-mail me by April 12. I’ll announce the reviewers here, and send the movie out.

Other Agrarian Documentaries
Do you know of other out-of-the-mainstream documentaries that would be of interest to the Christian agrarian community? If so, please let me know about them and I will endeavor to review them here.

Pruning Vines, Critters in the Hen House, And My New "Agrarian Abs” Video

Drifts and banks of snow have been in retreat for the last couple of weeks here on the high ground where I live in Central New York State. Small remnants of the once-great force that dominated this landscape now cower on the north sides of hills and in ditches and other hollows.

Hunkered down, away from the sun, crusty, cold platoons hang on, waiting for reinforcements. But their days are numbered. None will survive. And I am glad of it.

Winter is a metaphor for hardship, pain, loss, disappointment, and sorrow. Such things come, like the cold and snow, for their season. But the Son has the power to melt through the pain. To bring new life. To bring healing. I am grateful for that.

God chose to create this earth we live on presicely distanced from a fiery orb that we call the sun. His sun is a metaphor for His Son, Jesus Christ. The sun brings light and life into a world that would be otherwise dead. His Son brings light and life into the lives of people who are otherwise dead in their sins.

And the moon is a metaphor for God’s people. Like the moon, we do not, in ourselves, have the ability to produce light—only to reflect the light of the Son.

Remember that the next time you look up at the moon. Remember that all of creation reflects His glory.

Last month, on a cold and windy day, I pruned my grapes. Pruning is a work of agrarian artistry. We become co-laborers and co-creators with God when we prune a fruit tree or bush or vine.

And there, within the grape vine and the act of pruning, we find yet another spiritual metaphor. God is, after all, the Master Pruner. It is a sobering thing to consider:

I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. John:15 1-2

It took me about 45 minutes to prune my short row of grape vines. They are Concord grapes, which make a most delectable juice. We can it in quart jars. Nothing but grape juice goes in the jars. We ration it through the year. We pour it into small glasses to sip and savor. Some of us dilute the concentrated goodness with water. Some of us sweeten the natural tartness with a bit of maple syrup. Not me. I like mine straight out of the Mason jar.

When I was finished with my pruning work, I wished there was more to do. I would love to have spent a whole day pruning a whole vineyard of my own grape vines. Perhaps even a whole week of pruning would be better. It is the kind of work I believe God intended for men to do. It is harder but far more satisfying than your average non-agrarian job.

God provides an abundance of agrarian illustrations in His word to communicate truth to His people. Can one who has never pruned a grape vine understand a Biblical lesson in which God speaks of pruning a vine? Yes, of course. But the act of actually pruning brings His word alive: it brings a greater depth of understanding.

Agrarian object lessons from His word are something to consider while doing the work. Such thoughts lead to reflection and, ultimately to praise and thanksgiving.

Dilbert cubicles and factory environments do not lend themselves to such reflection.

A Possum Tale
This is the time of year when possums are on the move. We start seeing them along the road, dead and alive. One moved into our hen house the other night. The hens, normally quiet through the evening, were greatly alarmed and making a ruckus. My sons, Robert and James, sprang into action. They headed out into the dark with a gun and a dog.

Annie the dog went into the hen house first. The possum played possum. Annie sniffed and ignored it. So James shot it. Mr. Possum, with his 50 needle sharp teeth, had killed one chicken before meeting his demise.

A Raccoon Tale
My friend, Steve, has something of a reputation for daring feats. He once told me about the time he responded to a nighttime hen house alarm when he was a teenager. Armed with a baseball bat and a flashlight, he opened the hen house door and shined the light in. The glowing eyes of a big coon looked back at him. What would you do if you were in such a situation?

Well, Steve went in and latched the door behind him.

He told me that, until that night, he didn’t know raccoons could run across ceilings, upside down. The critter was running circles—up the wall, across the ceiling, down the wall, across the floor, again and again, very fast, until Steve finally nailed it.

Imagine that.

Stuck on The Roof
I could tell you stories about my friend Steve. Here’s one:

Steve and I were in the home remodeling business together for several years. Once we were both up on a two-story roof, checking out the shingles. A gust of wind came along and blew our ladder down. No one was home and we were out in the country with no neighbors around to yell to for help. What would you do if you were in that predicament?

As we were assessing our situation, Steve walked to the edge of the roof, looked down at the ground and bent his knees, as if he were going to jump, and that is exactly what he was going to do. Against my protestations, he assured me he could do it. He had been a paratrooper in the U.S. Armay (82nd Airborne Division). The Army taught him how to jump.

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that he could, and would, jump off the two-story roof. I had to talk him out of it. A few minutes later Steve came up with another option. He reached around, hugged the sides of a concrete block chimney with his arms and knees, and slid to the ground.

A Bear Tale
With spring about to break, I feel like I’m coming out of hibernation. My winter lifestyle has been way too indoor-focused. But I’m not a possum coming out of hibernation. I’m more of a bear. An overweight bear. Once again, I’ve gained some unwanted winter weight about the stomach area. It’s nothing that some hard work around the garden and homestead won’t rectify.

I always come out of winter craving physical work in the outdoors. Not exercise. Work. There is a difference. Exercise is a shallow and unfulfilling substitute for working physically in the midst of God’s creation. Which gives me an idea....

The Deliberate Agrarian Weight Loss Program
There are so many diets and exercise programs for helping people loose weight. I think I should develop my own. I’m going to come up with a special "new" agrarian weight loss program for the masses of overweight Moderns.

For advertising purposes, I’ll take a "before" picture of me coming out of hibernation with a flabby gut. Then, next to that picture will be another of me after a spring, summer, and fall of working around the homestead—-hoeing the soil, digging, forking compost, chopping firewood, moving chicken tractors, and hauling feed. In the "before" picture I’ll look sad, tired, bored, pale-skinned, and badly in need of a haircut. But in the "after" picture, I’ll be toned and tanned with a radiating healthy appearance.

For the diet part of the agrarian program, we will eat heavily from the garden. It will be homegrown, local and always Authentic food. We will also eat things like wholesome whole-grain breads, homemade granola, raw milk, eggs from the hen house, meat from home-raised animals, and cultured probiotic foods like yogurt. We will satisfy our sweet tooth with maple-syrup-and-honey-sweetened, homemade-from-scratch desserts. For our thirst we will eschew any drink that lists as it’s second ingredient (right after water), "high fructose corn syrup." Ice cold well water will suffice, perhaps with some lemon squeezed into it.

Oh, what a diet program! Oh, what a life!

But wait....There’s More!
Order The Deliberate Agrarian Weight Loss Program now (operators are standing by) and I’ll include (absolutely FREE!) a special Agrarian Abs workout video showing how you can develop the lean abdominal muscles of a hardworking farmer. No, not a modern tractor-jockey-farmer with a computer and GPS in the cab of his air conditioned mega tractor, but a real, down-and-dirty, hoe-in-hand farmer—an organic farmer. A Grade-A Certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic farmer.

Agrarian Abs will feature tried and true techniques for lifting and throwing hay bales. This new video will also reveal long-lost hay bale handling secrets of the old timers. And that’s not all... You’ll learn how to fork manure from the ground up into a wagon. You'll start by forking lightweight aged horse manure and work your way up to soaking wet cow manure with straw bedding right out of the barn gutter!

Yes, you can and will develop organic agrarian abdominal muscles in no time when you watch and follow the workout techniques in my Agrarian Abs video. Hurry. Order today........

My Newest Book
Well, on second thought, I think I’ll just stick to finishing up the agrarian how-to book I’m currently putting together. It’s not nearly as exciting as a new weight loss program. But I think a lot of gardeners, homesteaders, and small farmers out there will find the book of great interest and I’ll have more to say about it in the days ahead. It looks like I’ll be working on the for another month yet. Good things take time.

But if you are able also to be free...
Terry Carnes has written an essay that resonated with me over at his blog, An Emergent Agrarian. It is about spiritual bondage, financial bondage, occupational bondage, and finding freedom. I recommend it to you. Click Here to read the essay.

I’m Back
Even though I am not done with my book project, this blog entry marks my return, after a two-month absence, to the world of Christian-agrarian blogging. I will probably blogg less frequently than before, but I will be blogging. It's good to be back.