Summer Felicity 2008

Strawberries and blueberries and raspberries are all beautiful in their own way, but they just don’t compare to clusters of grapes on the vine.

I grew up in the suburbs eating supermarket grapes—the juicy, seedless kind grown somewhere other than around here. It would be sometime in my teen years before I experienced a New-York-grown grape right off the vine. The center was more slimy than juicy, and it had seeds. Ugh! Who would want to eat those dreadful things?

Well, my tastes have changed. Now I prefer a homegrown grape to those prissy storeboughts. And the earthy, undiluted, sweet juice from those berries is, in my opinion, the quintessence in fruit-of-the-vine beverages. Far better than wine.

The above picture is of my Concord grapes in July. They will ripen from green to blue-black and we will harvest every last grape. Not one will go to waste.

Summer delights here are more often than not, simple, like dill pickles in the making. The cukes are, of course, homegrown, as is the dill.

The ever changing interplay of earth and sky and sunlight is something that we here in the countryside notice and appreciate every day. There are times, when the sun is setting, that the light is especially rich. Such was the case when I took the above picture.

I grabbed my camera and ran outside, hoping to capture the scene of billowing cumulonimbus clouds in a blue sky, with golden hay stubble and big bales on the ground. My son was riding his four-wheeler in the field and I waved him over for a picture. He is a lean, tawny, country boy and a blessing to his parents. His name is Robert E. Lee Kimball (note the stars and bars by his knee).

Once again, summer hereabouts means little chickens in a “chicken tractor” on our lawn. These cute little featherweights will grow up to be plump roasters that we will harvest and load into the freezer.

We went to the New York State Pageant of Steam again this summer. I think it might turn into a family tradition. It was a good time. In addition to old tractors, and steam engines, and saw mills, and a flea market, and such, they had a few old pickups. I happen to like old pickups. When we saw the 1947 Ford in the above picture my son Robert said, “I’m going to buy you a truck like that someday, Dad!” I don’t need a truck like that but I liked hearing him say those words. The lad in the foreground is my 13-year-old, James—yet another blessing.

You never know what surprises you’ll find at the steam show. Last year there was a genuine Crosley Icy Ball ice box. It’s hard to beat a find like that. But this year’s surprise find was even better. That thing in the picture above is a Quadractor. I had never seen a Quadractor outside of a magazine picture. What a thrill.

Another part of summer that I enjoy is library book sales. Fifty cents for any paperback and a dollar for any hardcover. At the most recent sale in Moravia (my hometown) I spent an hour blissfully absorbed in searching the tables for books that interested me. I ended up spending five dollars for the books pictured above. They are:

How to Keep Hens For Profit (copyright 1913)

Virginians at Home: Family Life in the Eighteenth Century

George Washington’s Horse Slept Here
(about a family that bought an old barn in Long Island in 1950 and turned it into a house)

The Yankee Peddlers of Early America
(“An Affectionate History of Life and Commerce in the Developing colonies and the Young Republic”)

Letters of E. B. White

I have started reading the letters of EB White first. Elwyn Brooks White was born in 1899. Back then there was no e-mail. People communicated to far off family and friends by putting words on paper and sending the letters through the mail. Evidently they also saved the letters they received, at least they did the ones from EB White.

Back in 1976, as many letters as could be found were rounded up and put into the book. It is a 686-page compilation of White’s life story, along with so many personal letters, beginning with some from when he was nine years old. It makes for a surprisingly entertaining book that I am enjoying far more than I ever expected.

You may recall that E.B.White’s most famous book was “Charlotte’s Web.” Almost of equal popularity is “The Elements of Style,” a book about how to write well which he co-authored with his Cornell professor, William Strunk, Jr.

E.B was an entertaining writer, and I like his style. I am currently up to 1937. White had been working at the New Yorker magazine and yearned for the country. He didn’t like the city because “the pavements were hard and they didn’t have any broody hens.” So, at 38 years old, he decides to quit his job, take a year off, and live at his summer home in North Brooklin, Maine.

One of the first things EB does is go see the town smith, Mr. Allen, to have him make an ax head. Then he sets about making his own ash ax handle. In a letter to his wife, Katharine (who is still working at the New Yorker) he says: “I have had an entirely new feeling about life ever since making an ax handle.” He is also raising ten turkeys and various other animals.

I believe Katharine and their young son will join him shortly. And, of course, he will go on to achieve literary fame in the years ahead. I still have a lot of book to go.

Speaking of writing and taking time off, it is time for me to once again take leave of blogging, as I said I would a week or so back. This will be Phase II of my summer break from blogging. I would really like to head up to my summer home on the coast of Maine (which reminds me... E.B. White, feeling poorly in one letter, says that he would rather feel bad in Maine than good anywhere else in the world) but there is much too much to be done here.

I still have plenty to say and share with you about “Living the Good Life,” and whatever else strikes my fancy. I hope you will stop back.

See you then.....

The above picture is titled: "Overachiever"


VoiceInTheWilderness said...

I suppose this means we'll be perusing your archives during your break... Hate to see you go again so soon, but we totally understand.
We don't watch tv- blog surfing provides much of our entertainment. Yours is one of our favorites!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Maine, I saw this the other day.


- Ethan from poststop

AndrewASell said...

Preach it brother! We love your blog; it inspired us to start our own! And kudos on the lovely photos. I can tell you really put thought into them and don't just point and shoot. Really illustrates your journal well. Visit us sometime at
We would be honored by your visit!

PS: Will be purchasing your books sometime soon. About to dive into some major poultry action!

Rebekah Sell
of Foxwood Farm

Anonymous said...

Hi thought I would drop by and read some more of your blogs. Really enjoy all that you have written. Oh to let you know I have nominated you for a bunky award. Thats an award that Michael Bunker is giving out on His site. I nominated your for: Greatest Agrarian Posterboy Blog. This award will go to the blog that is most likely to make industrialized city people chuck it all and move to the country. I hope you don't mind. Its all in fun.
Blessings Debylin

Ian said...

Hi Herrick,

I feel bad about asking something off you at such a busy time of year, but the reason I am leaving a comment is because I run a blog (completely and entirely non-commercial) called Farm Blogs From Around the World.

At Farm Blogs I am trying to gather in one place the very best of global blogging about farms, farming and rural life.

You can find the blog roll, sorted by country (and a General Interest section).

My posts are made up of the blog recommendations from farm bloggers and I also post regular stories about world farming.

All blogs have been recommended to me by other bloggers or identified by me during my occassional browsing.

You were recommended by Marci at Amazing Graze Farms and you can see my posting about you at the link below.
(If you'd just like to see recommendations please use the label 'Recommendations'.)

I have a pretty broad definition of farming - if you're producing food, you're a farmer, to my mind at least.

So blogs range from ranches to part-time smallholders, and resources for them.

Once recommended, I add them to the blogroll and then contact the bloggers (just as I am contacting you), asking them to send me a few words about their farm/small-holding and their blog and, critically, to recommend their favourite farm/farming blogs (just as Amazing Graze Farm recommended you).

And so it goes and grows.

So, I've added you to my blog roll and I would very much appreciate it if you could please consider:

a) writing to me with a brief description of your blog along with permission for a once off only use of a couple of photos from your blog, so that I can make a posting about you;

b) writing to me with your favourite farming/rural blogs recommendations;

c) add a link on your blog, if that's possible, to; and if you can find a moment even make a posting about and how this blog is growing organically accross the world from other farming bloggers.

d) please feel free to send me the odd photo, both now and on an on-going basis. The blog tries to pick up different seasonal activities in different parts of the world at different times, so any photos would be much appreciated - they also help drive traffic to your site.

Very much hoping to hear from you,

With kind regards,