Welcome To The Deliberate Agrarian

After four years and hundreds of essays, I ceased writing for this blog in April of 2009. But my body of writings here remain as a relevant testimony to the wisdom and goodness found in a Deliberate Agrarian lifestyle.

I invite you to peruse the Deliberate Agrarian archive (links are on the right column of this page). There is a wealth of down-to-earth inspiration and how-to information to be found there:

Yours truly,

Herrick Kimball

The Ruminations End

This blog was established on the 18th of June, 2005, with an essay titled The Ruminations Begin. Now, nearly four years and more than 500 essays later, I am bringing the ruminations to a close. To paraphrase Solomon: There is time and a season for everything—a time to begin blogging, and a time to end blogging.

I felt strongly compelled to start this blog when I did. I dare say I even felt a calling from God to do it. My objective was to present myself, my family, our Christian faith, and the life we live here on our 1.5-acre rural homestead as a testimony to the goodness of God and the wisdom of living a deliberate agrarian lifestyle. My intention was to encourage, inspire, teach, and offer my life as a realistic example of one family pursuing Christian agrarianism.

Unlike some who pursue the agrarian life, our homestead is very small, my finances are very limited, and I am tied to a full-time factory job in the city. So this lifestyle is not well-funded, and it is not easy. It is also not a pie-in-the-sky lark of an adventure that we are “trying out.” It is the way I expect to live the rest of my days. In the final analysis, we do the best we can with what we have.

Yes, I do aspire to more and different things within the agrarian paradigm (and I have shared my dreams with you here), but I will patiently work and trust in the Lord’s provision regarding these things. He will give (or not) as it pleases Him, according to His plans for us. I am content in that. All the while, He meets all our needs abundantly and this family is exceedingly thankful to Him for all His blessings. I hope that has come through in my writings.

It was also my intention with this blog to warn other Christians about the dangers of living in full dependence on the industrialized, Babylonian system. Get out of debt, get out of the cities and suburbs, don’t trust a monetary system built on fiat-money schemes, develop a family economy, live close to the land, live simply, grow your own food, work with your hands and your heart to provide for your needs as much as possible.

I felt strongly that Christians needed to separate as much as possible from God-hating industrialism and pursue basic sufficiency because the industrial system was near its apogee. Collapse was imminent. The pride and arrogance of industrialism invites God’s judgment. The system is riddled with fatal flaws that are now coming to light.

I am persuaded that the world has experienced Peak Industrialism and we are now in the beginning stages of transition into a postindustrial era, which will look far more agrarian than industrial.

I am also of the mind that the Christian-agrarian movement is much more than a self-sufficiency and self-preservation response to pending hard(er) times. It is a sober realization that Christianity has, over time, steadily compromised with the industrial machine, with the industrial culture, in all its manifestations, that the mainstream Christian churches of the land have, by and large, allowed themselves to be molded into the industrial paradigm, and that such syncretism in the church has led to widespread cultural and spiritual impotence. In its purest form, Christian-agrarianism is a rejection of wicked syncretism, a movement of obedience to biblical wisdom, and an act of repentance.

So it was that I wrote my essays here. They flowed out of me with a surprising (to me) intensity and urgency. And it appeared that my words connected with many people. The feedback I got was so very encouraging.

I compiled a selection of my best essays from my first year of writing here into the book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. Said book never sold in large numbers but it seemed to connect with those the Lord wanted it to connect with. More than a few readers contacted me to say how much they liked it and how the overall message spoke to them. It was heartwarming.

Early on, Scott Terry (who was my inspiration to begin blogging) told me I should get a site meter, and I did. I remember thinking that it would be neat if 100 people a day stopped by. Well, I just checked the site meter and my average number of daily visits is now 790. The average number of page views a day is up to 1,983.

I unintentionally deleted my original meter and started a new one in January of 2008, but I wrote down the numbers. When I add those numbers to the ones on my current site meter, I end up with a page view count of just under a million.

That kind of readership is astounding to me, and it has also been a matter of some concern. Pride can easily enter into the heart of a man who develops a fairly large “following” of readers who tell him they appreciate what he has to say. Pride is the archenemy of a Christian life lived for the glory of God. Pride is a snare so carefully camouflaged, and the bait so innocently seductive.

Though it has been fun to watch the numbers climb, this blog has never been about building numbers and a following. My intention has always been to be faithful to what I perceived as a calling, and to Him who I believe equipped me for, and called me to, this task. That said, I have also been sensitive to the fact that God might one day impress upon me that it is time to stop. That is where I find myself now. I can not explain it. I dare not ignore it.

The realization that it is time for me to stop blogging came a little over a week ago. There is no crisis or other event that has precipitated this decision. Only a clear and compelling feeling that this is what I am to do at this time.

My agrarian family vision and personal agrarian pursuits will continue. Spring will soon be upon us here in Central New York. It will be time to plant the garden in a few weeks.

My desire to own and work a piece of land beyond my 1.5 acres is still there. My desire to leave the factory job and have a sustainable home business (a more complete family economy) is still there. My desire to remain faithful to my high calling as a father and husband is still there. My desire to grow in my Christian faith and bring glory to God through the life I live is ever on my mind. But now I will pursue these things apart from blogging, for at least the rest of this year and perhaps even longer. I really don’t know how long I will be gone or if I will ever come back.

I have poured myself into my writings here. I have spent countless hours putting the essays together. I have given you a part of my life. And it has been my pleasure to do so.

I have met a lot of decent, down-to-earth folks through this blog. I have met distant relatives I never knew I had. I have learned much. You have enriched my life and blessed me (and my whole family) in many different ways. It has been an amazing experience.

I will miss writing this blog. There is a degree of sadness and mild melancholy that comes with this decision. At the risk of sounding trite and melodramatic, I must tell you that this parting is such sweet sorrow.

God bless and keep you all,

Herrick Kimball

P.S. I have decided to discontinue regular blogging but I will, for the foreseeable future, post a monthly Deliberate Agrarian Update letter. These letters will appear here on the last day of each month for at least the rest of this year. They are a way for me to keep in touch with you and keep you updated on things like the Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe and other new or interesting developments, as well as some random observations. You will find these Deliberate Agrarian Updates on this site’s Home Page directly below this farewell blog.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

Deliberate Agrarian Update:
31 May 2009

Dear Friends,

That’s me in the above picture. I’m in my garden with my homemade Planet Whizbang wheel hoe. It is an appropriate picture for this monthly letter because, finally, after months of development and many, many hours of preparation, yesterday I launched my newest business endeavor. It is a web site dedicated to telling everyone in the world (who has internet access) how they can make their own affordable wheel hoe with an 8” oscillating stirrup hoe. The web plans and step-by-step tutorial are FREE. I invite you to check the site out at this link:



If you do check out the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe web site, and you think it is a worthwhile idea, I would appreciate your help spreading the word on the internet. And I thank you!


With the wheel hoe project now launched, I think I have reached full Whizbang capacity. I am completely maxed out. I have expanded my part-time home business, Whizbang Books, to the point where I can not take on anything more unless I leave my factory job and come home.

I would, of course, love to do that. It has been my goal right from the beginning. But the Whizbang business does not provide as well as the full-time factory job.

Having had a particularly bad personal experience in the not-so-distant past with lack of work, total loss of my life savings, and far more bills than I had money to pay them with, I’m hesitant to leave a job that now pays the bills, even if it is a job I am not happy with.

So, for now, I’ll continue to work my ”day job” and the part-time Whizbang business. The way the world is going, I have a feeling I may lose the full-time job before long. If that happens, then you’ll see more Whizbang ideas.


The Lovely Marlene has been assuming more of a role in the Whizbang business. She now takes care of daily mailings at the post office, thus saving me the time. She is also running errands and answering some e-mails. This is a tremendous help to me. Thank you, Marlene.


Earlier this past month I was in church listening to a sermon and the preacher asked: ”Wanna get rich?” Then he told how: “Count your blessings.”


I can honestly say that I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want a lot of “stuff.” But it would be nice to be able to keep more of what I earn, without the government taking it. I heard recently that more than 40% of Americans don’t pay any income taxes. I’m not one of them.

When I listen to the radio news and hear of all the money being spent (and wasted) by our government, it makes me very angry. When I hear of all the new taxes the government is planning to impose, it makes my blood boil. When I see the American dollar losing value and very high inflation looming, it is very sobering. We are not free in America. Government is not our servant. Americans are now servants to big, overblown, oppressive government. It’s like a bad dream, but it is reality.


I discovered Rural Patriot this last month.

It is written by some familiar names. Their stated purpose: We wish to return our nation to its roots, which is a Christian agrarian republic.

To which I say: “Amen!”

And it was at “Rural Patriot” that I read this excellent quote from Wendell Berry:

A person dependent on somebody else for everything from potatoes to opinions may declare that he is a free man, and his government may issue a certificate granting him his freedom, but he will not be free. He is that variety of specialist known as a consumer, which means that he is the abject dependent of producers. How can he be free if he can do nothing for himself? What is the First Amendment to him whose mouth is stuck to the tit of the “affluent society”? Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs. The most able are the most free.

Well, I guess I’m not a total slave because I agree with Wendell Berry. I don’t give a darn about “affluent society” and my objective as a “Deliberate Agrarian” is (and has been) to continually lessen my family’s dependency on what I call the “Industrial Providers.”

Reading a quote like that fills me with renewed resolve (it is a righteous resolve!) and brings clarity to my mind.

We are living in a time of significant transition. Industrialism in all of its manifestations is unsustainable. It has sown the seeds of its own destruction. It is painful to watch and experience. But it is also a fascinating thing to behold.

We are all tied to industrialism. We are all affected by it. We will all be impacted by the changes that are now happening, and yet going to happen. None of us can sit entirely on the sidelines. But those of us in the countryside who reduce our dependencies and pursue simplicity will, to the degree that we can do that, be less affected by the coming changes.


The above picture was a mystery. That string, all tangled in my grape vines had been a line that I ran between stakes in my garden for layout purposes. I used to be a carpenter and carpenters use string lines (and tape measures, and the Pythagorean theorem). I unhitched one end of the string and laid it on the grass. then I came out the next day to find it all tangled, as the picture shows.

I thought one of my sons must have tied it there like that. Or maybe it was the neighbor boy. Yeah, it must have been that neighbor kid. He’s always blasting through the field next to my grape vines with his annoyingly-loud fourwheeler (or his father is doing the same with his even-more-annoyingly-loud fourwheeler.) It is a nice field. Good soil. I used to grow garlic and potatoes there, until those people with their fourwheelers bought the place. All they know to do with that beautiful field is drive over it. Where was I.....

Oh, right, the string.

I was annoyed that someone took the string and tied it up like that. I untied it and brought it back over on the lawn by my garden. Then I worked in the garden awhile and Marlene came out and said “Look at that bird on the grape vines.”

I looked up and there was the end of the string up off the lawn, back up in the grape vines and a bird was working that string all around, tangling it up.

It was a Baltimore Oriole. We watched the bird for some time and came to the conclusion that it wanted the string but since one end was still tied to a stake, it couldn’t get it. I imagine that must have been annoying for the bird.

So I took several lengths (about 2-foot long) of the string and draped them along down the grape arbor. Then I went back to my garden work, looking up every so often to see if the bird was taking any. And it was!

The male and the female Oriole would fly to the arbor. The male would watch while the female grabbed the string with its beak and flew off into the woods, the long string trailing behind.

If I was Marty Stauffer I’d have a picture to show you of the female Oriole in flight, carrying the long string. But I’m not, so I’ll show you this one from Google images. What beautiful birds these are. (the picture is of a male Oriole)


I have added a couple of new bloggers to my “Stable of Agrarian Bloggers” (listed on the right side of the screen). One is Rural Revolution by Patrice Lewis who describes herself as: “a practical constitutional Libertarian stay-at-home gun-toting homeschooling cow-milking rural-living Christian mom.”

That’s my kind of people.

While you’re there, be sure to read The New and “Improved” Ten Commandments

I’ve also added The Sifford Sojournal. I was impressed with a recent post there about how to make a fat lamp using a Mason jar, lard and the string from a mop head. Good going!


One of these days I WILL get around to writing about my “Whizbang” system for easily making simple, durable, and inexpensive hoop tunnels in the garden. This year I attached some heavy-duty clear plastic to the hoops. This next picture is of a short section over some melons. The melons are planted in black plastic (garbage bags laid on the ground) and covered with the clear-plastic tunnel, which is open on each end so it doesn’t get too hot.


Our garden is just getting started. We have been eating spinach and rhubarb, but that’s it for now. I like to eat spinach by stacking a LOT of the leaves on a slice of bread, then I pour on a little bit of salad dressing (i.e., Thousand Island), and top it off with another slice of bread. It’s like a “salad sandwich.” Quick. Easy. And good for you.


In the “Family” department, my two youngest sons have been helping farmers with rock picking again this spring. Some days they pick rock for one farmer in the morning and another in the afternoon. That work is pretty much done now and the first cutting of hay will be happening next.

My 18-year-old son is finishing up his high school homeschooling and will work the summer for the same building contractor he worked for last summer. Upon finishing high school, I’ve told him he can then buy himself a vehicle. He has the money saved and wants a pickup truck. I told him that if he gets a pickup, he should start a light-hauling business. “Have Pickup, Will Travel.” He likes the idea.

My oldest son (and namesake) is now 21 and has enlisted in the Army. He goes to basic training in August. He needs structure and discipline in his life. So I'm pleased that he has made this decision, and hope it proves to be a life changing experience...for the better.


In the “Faith” department, I recently read an excerpt from the book, “A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of The Christian Life” by J.I. Packer. I think this excerpt is a whole chapter titled “Why We Need The Puritans.” You can read it at This Link.

Near the end of the chapter, Packer wrote about three different kinds of modern evangelical Christians, and I think his analysis is fascinating. You may be among these three:

”...three groups in particular in today's evangelical world seem very obviously to need help of a kind that Puritans, as we meet them in their writings, are uniquely qualified to give.

These I call restless experientialists, entrenched intellectualists, and disaffected deviationists. They are not, of course, organised bodies of opinion, but individual persons with characteristic mentalities that one meets over and over again.”

Packer first describes the “Restless Experientialists.” I know many of these kinds of Christians. You probably do too. Many are my good friends, but I have never been entirely comfortable with this kind of Christianity (probably because I'm not good at "bubbling over in the prescribed manner"):

”Those whom I call restless experientialists are a familiar breed, so much so that observers are sometimes tempted to define evangelicalism in terms of them. Their outlook is one of casual haphazardness and fretful impatience, of grasping after novelties, entertainments, and 'highs', and of valuing strong feelings above deep thoughts. They have little taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplined meditation, and unspectacular hard work in their callings and their prayers. They conceive the Christian life as one of exciting extraordinary experiences rather than of resolute rational righteousness. They dwell continually on the themes of joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction and rest of souls with no balancing reference to the divine discontent of Romans 7, the fight of faith of Psalm 73, or the 'lows' of Psalms 42, 88, and 102. Through their influence the spontaneous jollity of the simple extrovert comes to be equated with healthy Christian living, while saints of less sanguine and more complex temperament get driven almost to distraction because they cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner. In their restlessness these exuberant ones become uncritically credulous, reasoning that the more odd and striking an experience the more divine, supernatural, and spiritual it must be, and they scarcely give the scriptural virtue of steadiness a thought. It is no counter to these defects to appeal to the specialised counseling techniques that extrovert evangelicals have developed for pastoral purposes in recent years; for spiritual life is fostered, and spiritual maturity engendered, no by techniques but by truth, and if our techniques have been formed in terms of a defective notion of the truth to be conveyed and the goal to be aimed at they cannot make us better pastors or better believers than we were before. The reason why the restless experientialists are lopsided is that they have fallen victim to a form of worldliness, a man-centred, anti-rational individualism, which turns Christian life into a thrill-seeking ego-trip. Such saints need the sort of maturing ministry in which the Puritan tradition has specialised. What Puritan emphases can establish and settle restless experientialists? These, to start with.”

I know fewer of this next group, but I’ve run into them, and I’m sure you have too:

”Think now of entrenched intellectualists in the evangelical world: a second familiar breed, though not so common as the previous type. Some of them seem to be victims of an insecure temperament and inferiority feelings, others to be reacting out of pride or pain against the zaniness of experientialism as they have perceived it, but whatever the source of their syndrome the behaviour-pattern in which they express it is distinctive and characteristic. Constantly they present themselves as rigid, argumentative, critical Christians, champions of God's truth for whom orthodoxy is all. Upholding and defending their own view of that truth, whether Calvinist or Arminian, Dispensational or Pentecostal, national church reformist or Free Church separatist, or whatever it might be, is their leading interest, and they invest themselves unstintingly in this task. There is little warmth about them; relationally they are remote; experiences do not mean much to them; winning the battle for mental correctness is their one great purpose.

They see, truly enough, that in our anti-rational, feeling-oriented, instant-gratification culture conceptual knowledge of divine things is undervalued, and they seek with passion to right the balance at this point. They understand the priority of the intellect well; the trouble is that intellectualism, expressing itself in endless campaigns for their own right thinking, is almost if not quite all that they can offer, for it is almost if not quite all that they have. They too, so I urge, need exposure to the Puritan heritage for their maturing. That last statement might sound paradoxical, since it will not have escaped the reader that the above profile corresponds to what many still suppose the typical Puritan to have been. But when we ask what emphases Puritan tradition contains to counter arid intellectualism, a whole series of points springs to view.

Now we come to the category that seems to fit me more than any other:

”I turn finally to those whom I call disaffected deviationists, the casualties and dropouts of the modern evangelical movement, many of whom have now turned against it to denounce it as a neurotic perversion of Christianity. Here, too, is a breed that we know all too well. It is distressing to think of these folk, both because their experience to date discredits our evangelicalism so deeply and also because there are so many of them. Who are they? They are people who once saw themselves as evangelicals, either from being evangelically nurtured or from coming to profess conversion with the evangelical sphere of influence, but who have become disillusioned about the evangelical point of view and have turned their back on it, feeling that it let them down. Some leave it for intellectual reasons, judging that what was taught them was so simplistic as to stifle their minds and so unrealistic and out of touch with facts as to be really if unintentionally dishonest. Others leave because they were led to expect that as Christians they would enjoy health, wealth, trouble-free circumstances, immunity from relational hurts, betrayals, and failures, and from making mistakes and bad decisions; in short, a flowery bed of ease on which they would be carried happily to heaven - and these great expectations were in due course refuted by events.

Hurt and angry, feeling themselves victims of a confidence trick, they now accuse the evangelicalism they knew of having failed and fooled them, and resentfully give it up; it is a mercy if they do not therewith similarly accuse and abandon God himself. Modern evangelicalism has much to answer for in the number of casualties of this sort that it has caused in recent years by its naivety of mind and unrealism of expectation. But here again the soberer, profounder, wiser evangelicalism of the Puritan giants can fulfill a corrective and therapeutic function in our midst, if only we will listen to its message. What have the Puritans to say to us that might serve to heal the disaffected casualties of modern evangelical goofiness? Anyone who reads the writings of the Puritan authors will find in them much that helps in this way.”

I do think that we can learn a lot from the Puritans and I hope to read more of J.I. Packer.


As I mentioned last month, I planted a single hops plant in my garden. I’ve never grown hops. It is supposed to grow very high. Right now it is beside a T-post and seems to be doing well. I will chronicle this plant’s growth through my monthly letters here. This is what the hops plant looks like now, at the end of May. It is about a foot high. It has a long way to go:


See you next month...
Same deliberate time...
Same deliberate place...

Herrick Kimball

Deliberate Agrarian Update:
30 April 2009

Dear Friends,

As most of you know I officially “retired” from regular blogging here earlier this month. But my announced intention was to return here on this day and on the last day of each successive month, to post a little update. Thus, here I am. I must say it is good to be back, even if for this brief visit.

First, My Thanks
I sure do appreciate the comments many of you left on my good-bye blog, The Ruminations End. And I am equally appreciative of the e-mails that some of you sent me. Thank you all!

Post-Retirement Reflections
You might be wondering what I’ve been doing with all those hours of freed-up time that I would have otherwise been using to write blog essays. Well, mostly, I just sit alone and stare blankly into space, my mouth slightly agape, only occasionally blinking, thinking about what I would be blogging about, if only I were still blogging.

Such thoughts used to spark freely along the synapses and flow through my dancing fingers, out into the vast and bustling cyber-realms, there to be discovered (and mostly appreciated) by a precious few. Now, however, the sparks only short-circuit and ricochet about in my cranium. Marlene says my head has developed a slight Parkinson-like tremor.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying the retirement. It just takes a little getting used to. It is surprising, really, how much of one’s identity can get wrapped up in a blog.

Taxes & TEA Parties
In retrospect, April would have been an absolutely delightful month were it not for income taxes. Once again, I was shocked at the amount of money the government demanded from me. Once again, I was dejected and angry over the situation. Once again I questioned whether it was worth the effort to have a part-time business.

I am working the second business, Whizbang Books in order to make and save enough money to buy a section of land—debt free. That is the dream. That is the goal. I felt like I had made significant progress towards that goal last year. Then I got my taxes figured. Silly me.

America has not always had a graduated income tax system. It came into existence in 1913. (You Can Read a Short History Here) The country got along just fine for 137 years without this oppressive, immoral system that destroys personal initiative, creativity, and enterprise.

Yes, I went to my local TEA party on the 15th. The TEA parties are a populist movement founded on and united by righteous indignation. I got plenty of that inside me.

The Inside Scoop On Government Education
Almost as insane as the income tax is the government school system, which is used so very well to indoctrinate America’s youth by spreading the propaganda of statism and powerful special interests, not to mention promoting the secular humanist religion.

My state (NY) continues to spend ever more astronomical amounts of taxpayer dollars on education, even though the student population has been in decline for several years. It is yet another government scam perpetuated on the taxpayer under the guise of being good for children. I say all of this as introduction to a revealing book titled The Nightmare That is Public Education, written by Dr. Renato C. Nicolai, a former teacher and school principle that was involved in government education for 40 years.

The good doctor is to be commended for bringing to light flaws in the system. He has ideas for fixing government schools and improving government education. Personally, I’m all for the separation of school and state.

Huxley’s Book
I decided to read that iconic book, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I assumed that it dealt with cultural, sociological, and political matters, which it does, but I didn’t realize it was a science fiction novel. I’m not usually a novel reader. And I’m especially not a science fiction novel reader. But I gave it a try.

I waded about a third of the way through the book and I just couldn’t force myself to read any more. I can sum Brave New World up in three words: goofy, perverted, bizarre.

In all fairness to Huxley, I suppose that his novel (written in 1913) is intentionally goofy, perverted, and bizarre—that being the whole point of a world taken to the totalitarian extreme. Huxley’s Brave New World is the epitome of applied industrial thinking to all aspects of life and culture. Such a world is carefully designed to pacify the masses.

What is most curious about it all is that centralized control over the masses of carefully ordered classes is maintained not by force, but by pleasure. Sexual promiscuity, gratuitous entertainment, vacuous amusements, and copious amounts of the tranquilizer-like “soma” are effectively employed to pacify almost everyone.

Brave New World Revisited
26 Years after the publication of Brave New World, Huxley published a series of essays under the title of Brave New World Revisited. This small book (thankfully, it is not science fiction) was more interesting to me. I’m persuaded that Huxley was, in his personal life, something of a misled kook, but there are elements of his essays that are powerfully prescient. Here are just a few:

Many historians, many sociologists and psychologists have written at length, and with a deep concern, about the price that Western man has had to pay and will go on paying for technological progress. They point out, for example, that democracy can hardly be expected to flourish in societies where political and economic power is being progressively concentrated and centralized. But the progress of technology has led and is still leading to just such a concentration and centralization of power.
...a new Social Ethic is replacing our traditional ethical system—the system in which the individual is primary.....It’s basic assumption is that the social whole has greater worth and significance than its individual parts, that inborn biological differences should be sacrificed to cultural uniformity, that the rights of the collectivity take precedence over what the eighteenth century called the Rights of Man.
...no people in a precarious economic condition has a fair chance of being able to govern itself democratically.
They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies—the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.
But even in Rome there was nothing like the non-stop distraction now provided by newspapers and magazines, by radio, television and the cinema.
The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate as though he were a deodorant positively guarantee the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything.
Under a scientific dictator education will really work—with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.

”Plucking” Pigs?
This month the discussion over at the Yahoo group, WhizbangChickenPluckers turned to “plucking pigs,” with this post entry:

“We were processing a few of our piglets this weekend for our customers and some of them wanted them with "skin-on" which means we had to figure out how to remove the hair. Now this CAN be a VERY bothersome task, but I decide to apply the principals of chicken plucking and by GOSH, it WORKED! We killed, bled, scalded and then put it into the plucker. What a MAGNIFICENT job it did! Those 15lb piglets came out SHINY! A few scrapes with a knife blade to remove the rest of the residual hair and the piglet was done!”

New Whizbang Cider Essay
I made apple cider this last month so I could test out some new ideas. The ideas worked VERY well and I posted an essay about them here: New Techniques For Whizbang Cider Making

If you have purchased my book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press, you absolutely must read the essay.

Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe Update
I just did a Google search of “wheel hoe.” The number-one link was my essay titled, Introducing The Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe. That’s amazing. I love Google.

I had hoped to have the Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe Web Site fully functioning by now. But these things take time. The tutorial photos have been taken and I am in the process of writing the text. I’m also working to get the parts kits together and ready to ship out. Here’s a picture in my workshop of my metal bender and some bent parts.

I expect to have everything ready and online by the end of next month. Hopefully sooner. And, for those who would like to purchase the metal parts kit from me, I will be offering it at a significant discount for the first month. Stay tuned to the web site for details.

I Survived The Flu
Yesterday I came home from work feeling terrible. My head ached. My joints ached. I had chills. I had a fever. I had Swine Flu, or so I surmised. I managed to get through the long winter without getting even a cold, and now that it’s springtime, I got hammered by a virus.

I told Marlene that I loved her, and that we had a lot of good years together, and that she shouldn’t sell the Whizbang Books business for less than a quarter million dollars (I was delerious too). Then I went to bed to await my end.

But I decided to try something radical. I drank a whole four-ounce bottle of Nature’s Sunshine Silver Shield, which is an exceptional product made by American Biotech Labs. I sipped it down over a period of about four hours. And I stayed in bed with a heating pad and lots of blankets on me. To my amazement, I felt good enough to go to work when I woke up this morning. No fever. No chills, No aching joints. I felt like I had been through the proverbial wringer, but I was no longer sick. Did the colloidal silver do it? I don’t know. But I’m buying some more bottles.

I am just getting underway with the garden. I have spinach planted. Copra onion sets came in the mail yesterday. Marlene has tomato seedlings started. And I bought one hops plant from Territorial Seeds. Just one. It’s in the garden now. I’m anxious to see this plant grow 15 to 20m feet high. I’ll post pictures through the season.

Too Old For Arm Wrasslin’
My 18-year-old son challenged me to an arm wrestling contest this last month. Father vs son. He is young and strong. I am not. But I was once young and strong and I liked to arm wrestle. Though I was more on the nerd side in high school, I could hold my own when arm wrestling many of the jocks. If they couldn’t overpower me immediately, I could beat them. My secret? I didn’t give up. It might take 15 minutes, but the other guy would eventually give in. I arm wrestled a guy in college and it was a full half hour before he threw in the towel.

I attribute my pit bull wrasslin' tenacity to the remnants of Scottish blood that flow in my veins.

So I accepted the challenge from my son. With elbows bent across the kitchen table, we locked hands and began the contest. It was just him and me. No onlookers.

At first, we held steady at the 12:00 position. He asked me if I was trying my hardest. I replied that I was (I lied). He poured it on. My arm went to the 2:00 position before I was able to hold fast. That I was able to hold him back surprised me.

Back and forth we went for maybe a minute. Maybe two. I would power him to 10:00 for a few moments and he would drive me back to 2:00. At one point, my son said to me, with concern: “Dad, your face is really red.”

It occurred to me that, at 51 years old, and being out of shape, I really should not be arm wrestling this kid. But I sensed that he was running out of steam. I was too but I didn't let on. I powered him to 10:00 and held him there.

Then I gave the Rebel Yell.

When your opponent is on the defense, and tired, and you give the Rebel Yell, your face distorts into a most ugly grimace, your eyes become like those of a madman, an untapped wellspring of strength flows into your muscles, and hopelessness floods into your opponent’s consciousness; his will to win withers.

That is the story of how I beat my son at arm wrestling.

It was a good feeling. A very good feeling.... until, that is, the adrenaline surge subsided and my arm began to ache. It has not been the same since. I strained my arm to the point that I am now crippled. Two weeks after the glory of my victory, I am unable to employ my right arm to any significant degree without the pain flaring up.

Worse yet is the nagging suspicion that he let me win.

There will be no rematch.

Quote Of The Month
"We get too soon old and too late smart."

Census Question
A woman stopped by our house and took a picture of our front door. She was from the census and said she was taking pictures of everyone's front doors. This is very strange. Has anyone else had this experience?


Lord willing, I shall return to post another letter here on May 30, 2009. I hope you will stop back at that time.

Deliberate Agrarian Update
30 June 2009

It has been a whole month since I last blogged here. It will be a month before I blog again. Just as well... you may need the next four weeks to read all the way through this installment. Remember, you can take it a section at a time. Before I begin, I’d like to say that I sure do like coming back here periodically to write about what’s on my mind. And I thank you for stopping by.

Community in a Spinach Patch

The picture above is of Marlene harvesting spinach from our garden early in the morning. I planted lots more spinach than usual and it has grown exceptionally well in the cooler-than-usual spring we’ve had. I think the Complete Organic Fertilizer mix I got from Steve Solomon’s gardening book (which I wrote about HERE) has helped too.

We’ve eaten a lot of this spinach (fresh and steamed) and have frozen some too. But the really nice thing is that we have shared it with six other families, and they were very glad to get it. In most instances, they stopped by to pick their own. Yes, that’s the nice thing.

Thank You John Shuttleworth
The current issue of BackHome Magazine brought a surprising editorial that begins as follows:
”Though some of our generation may not realize it, much of the contemporary movement toward renewable energy, locally grown foods, and bootstrap self-sufficiency owes its existence to a farsighted farm boy from Redkey, Indiana. On March 29, 2009, John Shuttleworth, cofounder of the venerable self-reliant-living magazine The Mother Earth News passed away in his home in Evergreen, Colorado, after 71 years of intense and independent living.”
For those who don’t know, John Shuttleworth and his wife, Jane, started Mother Earth News back in 1970. They invested $1,500 in the venture and put the first issue together on their kitchen table. A mere nine years later, with a million subscribers, the Shuttleworth’s divorced, and the magazine was sold. It was never the same after that. And neither was I.

Here’s another BackHome quote:
”Born in 1937, John grew up on a small Hoosier farmstead, where his family had to make do for just about everything, including the electricity they generated from their wind turbine—which John’s father built himself, right down to the hand-carved wooden blades. If the depression was affecting the economy, it was hard to tell from the Shuttleworth farm, where, as John wrote years later, “the attic was hung heavy with home-cured hams, the root cellar was full of fruits and vegetables, and the pantry brimming with home-canned meats and crocks of pickles curing away... while we had all the fresh eggs, milk, and butter we could eat.” You almost got the impression that the self-made media mastermind didn’t survive the depression as much as he enjoyed it, having a leg-up on self-sufficiency right from the start.”
Later in the editorial is this sentence:
”By the age of 14, he was submitting cartoons and articles to national publications, competing with adults three times his age and earning some money while honing his communication skills.”
Well, John Shuttleworth certainly did have communication skills, and what he communicated through his magazine resonated with me as a young teen. No earthly book or publication has so influenced my life as did The Mother Earth News in its early years. None even come close.

I dare say, I learned how to write primarily by reading Mother Earth News magazine—every issue—from cover to cover, especially the first ten years worth. And Shuttleworth’s eight-page article in the September/October 1977 issue titled, How To Write For Mother stands, in my opinion, as the best thing I’ve ever read on how to write how-to.

Now, three decades later, I’ve written eleven books, numerous magazine articles, and a whole lot of blog essays, most of which have been instructional. Every so often, I’ll pull out my dog-eared photocopy of that old Mother Earth article and reread it. And I always come away from doing so with a fresh appreciation for John Shuttleworth’s plain & simple, yet pleasantly readable, ability to communicate with the written word. Here is an excerpt from the end of that article that gives you a feel for Shuttleworth’s style:
Then again, I know of no law that requires an author to limit him or her self to the same dull, dead, gray boilerplate that most of the rest of today’s “writers” deal in. Have we all turned into IBM machines? Does no one know how to sprinkle flecks of silver and gold into his or her copy? Are all the magical wordsmiths who once used nothing but paper and ink to conjure up misty moors, melodious chimes, and shimmering sunsets in the minds of their readers... all...gone....?

I think not. I hope not. I prefer to believe that such crafts men and women have only temporarily been forced to hide up in the cool, green hills... while the brutish mutants who identify everything by social security numbers and view the world through 18-inch screens and who lurch back and forth across the valley floor on clangorous trail bikes and snowmobiles and converse with such depthy expressions as “wow” and “you know” have their day. A short one.

And soon, those who value the texture and the color and the emotion and the feel and the nuances of the language will once again be able to practice and strengthen their craft. And today’s computerese will once again give way to living, breathing words that soothe and cradle grown people’s hearts in the mysterious and marvelous worlds that language can create.

In the meantime, the least you can do is try to brighten and focus and intensify every part of every sentence you write for The Mother Earth News. I expect nothing less.

Shuttleworth’s Mother Earth News was written for them that’s doin’. As a teenager, I wanted to be one of them. I was inspired to learn the practical rural skills needed for self reliance—skills that men, because they are men, should know, like how to build and fix things, how to grow and preserve food, and how to solve problems with roll-up-your-sleeves creativity. Then, having learned such things, how to live life without being engulfed (and enslaved) by the industrial system—without being fully dependent on the Industrial Providers.

In short, I did not want to grow up being a helpless man in a world system geared to crank out legions of dependent, helpless, modern men.

Mother Earth News was counter-cultural because it was counter-industrial, and as such, it was revolutionary. I joined the revolution when I was 15 years old and, though I have at times strayed from the path, I have not strayed far, and I have always come back to counter-industrialism or, more specifically, agrarianism, because, ultimately, I am attracted to truth and beauty and there is neither truth nor beauty in the industrial paradigm.

I eagerly awaited every new issue of The Mother Earth News because I was a willing student, looking for another idea to pursue or project to build. My teen years were one hands-on project after another from the pages of that beloved magazine. I taught myself everything from darning socks and threshing wheat, to making bent willow chairs and Prowley Snooker's Original Hot Apple Pie Sandwiches.

I still have most all of the early editions of the magazine. They are gathering dust in the attic over my workshop. But I will not part with them. The memories are too dear. Like an old photo album with snapshots from when I was a boy, evoking fond memories, I can spend hours looking through those old magazines. And someday soon I must do that.

Much of the focus of the early Mother Earth News was on encouraging bootstrap entrepreneurship, all of which fit into the anti-corporate/industrial way of thinking and living. It was, in fact, an article in Mother Earth that sparked my desire to have a mail order business. As a teen, I bought books about how to start and operate a successful mail order business. Then, in the early 1980s I came up with a “great idea,” or so I thought. It involved supplying information on a specific subject. I placed an ad in Mother’s classified section. The orders rolled in. People were sending me money. I sent out the information. And then I heard back from some upset customers. They felt I had ripped them off. I sent the money back and that was the end of my mail order business. But I learned from the experience.

Looking back, I needed a couple decades of life and work experience under my belt before I could come up with ideas and information that people would pay money for, and be pleased to get. Of course, the internet also made it a whole lot easier to start a mail order business.

Now, Whizbang Books is a thriving home business. A couple months ago, Marlene (The Wife of My Youth) said to me, “Well, it looks like you finally have the mail order business you always dreamed of.” Yes, it sure looks that way. And, in part, I have John Shuttleworth to thank for it.

It's also worth noting that my first serious foray into self employment came about after reading a Mother Earth article about the chimney cleaning business (I wrote about it HERE).

My environmental consciousness and love of the soil was cultivated by The Mother Earth News. My desire to own a piece of land (debt free) originated with Mother Earth News, as did my introduction to the principles of sound money, and my fundamental distrust of big government.

In short, Mother Earth News, under the vision and direction of John Shuttleworth, helped to mold and shape who I am and where I am today, as much, if not more, than my parents, and that is no exaggeration.

Here is how the BackHome article ends:
”If there were ever a definition of a Renaissance man, John Shuttleworth would have fit somewhere within it—wordsmith, artist, entrepreneur, engineer, and visionary ... and a true mold breaker, the likes of which are few and far between.”

The Sad Part About John Shuttleworth
John Shuttleworth has now passed away and I am sorry. I am not as much sorry that he died as I am sorry about how he lived his life, or how it appears that he lived it.

From what I have ascertained in various reports, John Shuttleworth was a very difficult and demanding man to work for when he was the editor of his famous magazine. And in a magazine interview (which I will write more about shortly), Shuttleworth says he had 80 to 100 different jobs in the ten years before he started the magazine. Those things make me wonder if he might have had some personality “issues.” The internet news reports say he was found in a hot tub at his home ten days after he died (of natural causes). His sister, quoted in one article, says she had not heard from her brother for years. He had no children. It would appear that Shuttleworth was a recluse and, more than likely, a truly miserable person.

As for myself, I admit to curmudgeonly and hermitic tendencies, but my life deliberately revolves around my Christian faith, family relationships, and my community, in addition to working to live simply and successfully apart from the industrial world system. The fullness and richness of this Christian-agrarian lifestyle stands in stark contrast to the apparent life that Shuttleworth lived. In a very real sense, this man helped me on my journey to where I am now, but he himself never knew such blessings. That is a tragedy if there ever was one.

The Plowboy Interviews
Before I leave the subject of John Shuttleworth, I want to tell you about the 1975 “Plowboy” interviews with him that appeared in Mother Earth News. In the first interview, Shuttleworth tells his life story, and it is worth reading (I provide a link below). Here is an excerpt:
”In my own case, I was doing useful work by the time I was three or four. As a matter of fact, Mom has photographs of me at that age sitting on the seat of our homemade tractor, steering it across a field while dad forked manure off a wagon that was hooked on behind.

Now I hasten to add that my father had that tractor geared down so low that it was barely creeping when I did this, so there was absolutely no danger involved. I also want to point out that I was not being exploited in any way. Quite the contrary! I thought that steering the tractor around was a glorious way to spend the day. The fact remains, however, that I was doing useful work and I knew it was useful work,and I knew the world placed a high value on such activity.

... Now that I think of it, I realize just how incredibly lucky I was to grow up that way. I was being taught what life is really all about from the first day I drew a breath. There was very little to distract us from the straight-and-uncut back then, no trash compactors or “convenience foods” or corporations telling us how nuclear power would save the throwaway society. We didn’t have a throwaway society. Every bit of string, every paper bag, every bread wrapper got saved and reused, sometimes five or six times.”
Shuttleworth goes on to tell the story of getting polio at 11-years-old and almost dying. He believed the Polio resulted from contact with DDT on the farm. You can read Part 1 of the Plowboy interview At This Link

And you will want to read Part 2 of the interview too. As I reread the second interview, which I first read when it was published 34 years ago, I was struck anew by some of the things that Shuttleworth said, and I was astonished to read him mention what is now commonly referred to as peak oil.

Shuttleworth tells the story of Walter Prescott Webb and his book, The Great Frontier, first published in 1951. The “Frontier” Web speaks of in his book is the last 450 years of New World discovery, exploration, and exploitation, which brought incredible wealth and social change. It sounds like the book is essentially an historical overview of the rise of industrialism.

But that Frontier is all discovered, and mostly exploited. What’s next? Energy supplies are dwindling. Most everybody agrees with that now. Will science and technology come to the rescue and preserve industrialism? Here’s what Shuttleworth had to say:
I think that one direct quote from The Great Frontier pretty well sums up what Webb thought about science’s chances of “saving” mankind. “Technology has given us the luxuries and comforts in a riotous holiday in which we can eat and breed, but all the time it is sawing off the limb on which it complacently sits, on which civilization rests.”
Again and again in The Great Frontier’s section on science, Webb sifts through hard facts and figures and arrives at one conclusion: Science creates nothing. It only accelerates the destruction of what is there.
When the interviewer asks Shuttleworth what Webb “saw” for the future, based on his historical thesis, Shuttleworth says:
He just said that if no substitute boom maker was found to replace the Frontier, we would be faced with “radical changes indeed.”
Then Shuttleworth elaborates:
Society will go through a process of "devolution and retrogression rather than evolution and progress". Rural life will become more important and the cities will become less pleasant places in which to live. Population will stabilize — too late, of course, and for the wrong reasons — and society will take on some of the steady state characteristics of the Medieval Age.

The democracy of the frontier will give way to socialism and fascism. Governments will become stronger and individuals less important. Capitalism will decline and prosperity will slip through the fingers of England, Europe, and — finally — the Americas.

As population expands toward its final balance with the land, food and clothing — the very basics of life — will become relatively more and more costly. As a result, we'll soon give up our efforts in name, as well as fact to feed the planet's hungry, defend the "free" world, and prop up the economy of every nation that sides with us.
We were all poor once but — suddenly, one day — we all got rich. And we stayed rich for 450 years. And then we all started to get poor again. And, since practically no politician or economist seems to have read Walter Prescott Webb, our "leaders" can't figure out why all the goodies have quit pouring in.

So they've resorted to magic.... They think that if they mutter the right incantations and fiddle with the discount rate or insure bank deposits or create investment tax credits just so... that, somehow, the Good Times will roll once more.

Well I got news for those guys. Magic — even in a business suit — ain't gonna do it. What we need is another Great Frontier. Another unmapped and untapped planet to swing right into orbit with the Earth so we can build a bridge across and start plundering all that wealth. And until that happens, it will do us absolutely no good to look back at the late 40's, the 50's, and the early 60's and think that our magic will ever recreate the binge we were on then. It'll never happen.
These next quotes from the interview —34 years ago—were remarkably prescient:
Terrorist activities will become far more desperate, far more violent, much wider spread, much more random, and increasingly directed against totally innocent bystanders.
Economically, there will be more and more violent swings in the price of commodities. The stock markets of the world will increasingly be run up and down by rumors, privileged information, and pure caprice. Inflation of every possible intensity will sweep the world, as will large and small recessions and depressions and purely chance mixtures and combinations of simultaneous inflation and depression.
And I’ll wrap this up with a proposed solution from Shuttleworth:
So we might do well to examine that last Dark Age in an effort to learn how we can survive the coming Dark Age with some comfort and grace. And, if we do, it seems to me we find that our best bet is the immediate construction of small, decentralized, self contained, agrarian communities.
You can read all of these quotes in context at the interview. Here’s The Link

I bought a copy of “The Great Frontier” on Ebay for four bucks and am looking forward to reading it. Shuttleworth didn’t foresee the dot-com boom of the 1990s. But such “prosperity” was, in the span of history, relatively short lived, and I don’t see where it did much except postpone the inevitable historical outcome. Amazing though it may be, the internet isn’t another Frontier from which to extract natural resources and wealth.

Save The Toads

I found the little fellow pictured above by my house, scooped him right up, and transported him to my garden. Some people think toads are ugly. I think they are beautiful. They are beautiful not for their looks but because they eat slugs.

Sometimes, when I am running my wheel hoe through the soil between rows in my garden, I will unearth a toad. The hoe doesn’t usually do any harm. It just displaces and disturbs the dear creature. And when that happens, I’ll take a moment to carefully pick Mr. Toad up and relocate him to a safe, shady spot. Now, if I cultivated my garden with a rototiller, I’d churn all the hapless toads up and see them limping off with mangled legs.

Save the toads..... Cultivate with a wheel hoe!

Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe Update

Speaking of wheel hoes, in my last monthly letter I finally took the wraps off my newest idea: the Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe. Response to the web site and the tool has been very positive. I sold 50 wheel hoe metal parts kits this last month. Several kits have gone to Canada. One went to Greece.

What I have enjoyed most about my new wheel hoe venture is the feedback that has come back from the Planet Whizbang Pioneers who have built their own Planet Whizbang and put it to use. You can read the feedback here.

The blog, Keep it Simple Survival wrote about the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe and that brought in a lot of traffic. A wheel hoe is, of course, one of the most practical peak-oil-end-of-industrialism-return-to-agrarianism tools you can own.

I believe that many people are making their own wheel hoes without purchasing the metal parts kit from me, and that is great. Some people can’t figure out why I would provide complete how-to instructions on the internet for FREE. They wonder why I don’t put the plans in an e-book and sell them. Well, I feel strongly that these plans need to be in the public domain in order to get the word out as fast and as far as possible.

Onions & Potatoes
That picture above is of my wheel hoe being directed between rows of onions. The onion rows are planted 16” apart. I can walk off to the side and comfortably operate the hoe along between the two onion rows. It’s a simple thing to cultivate down long rows with the wheel hoe. Very simple.

Those are Copra onions. I’ve written here before about how much I like the Copra variety because they not only grow so well for me but they keep so long in storage. We hang net bags full of the onions in our basement in the fall and use them all winter and into the spring. Fact is, the last week of June we took out the onions that remained in the basement. They had sprouted and were soft, but there were still several firm, usable onions in the bags—eight months after being harvested. That’s a good storage onion for you.

Same goes for potatoes. Most of the potatoes still in our basement at the end of June were sprouted and soft. But Marlene was still able to find several still-good spuds to cook with this month.

My Son James...
is only 14 years old but I often forget and think he is older. It’s an easy thing to do when, for example, he comes down the road driving a backhoe. James was helping our farmer neighbor and he had a lot of old, loose hay to get rid of. Knowing I could put some of that good organic material to good use, James brought me three bucketful's.

The farmer and his wife went to Ohio last weekend and James is taking care of the beefers. I wasn’t driving a backhoe and being trusted with the care of a herd of beef cows when I was 14 years old. This sort of thing really impresses me.

I Have a New Blog
As if I don’t have enough to do already, I established a new blog at www.WhizbangGardening.com. There is nothing to speak of there now. But, in time, I will edit and re-post all gardening essays from this blog to that blog. I am doing this because my gardening essays here are scattered throughout an archive of hundreds of essays. I want to gather the gardening writings into a more topic-specific place where they can be more easily found. I will also use this new web site as a forum to introduce readers to the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe.

One of the things I will be fully explaining in the new gardening blog is my Whizbang row cover hoop system. But I may not get it together until this next winter. The picture below is of a couple of summer squash plants getting a start inside the hooped row cover. Note that the leaves are not eaten by bugs. If I did not get these squash plants started under the protection of row cover, they would be under massive attack from cucumber beetles (those wicked little black & yellow striped bugs).

Marlene’s Disturbing Experience
My wife Marlene was buying some bedding plants at a local Mennonite family’s farm stand and observed something that disturbed her greatly. It was a 14-year-old Mennonite girl wearing flip-flops on her feet, carrying a pump-up sprayer, and spraying something along the edge of the driveway. Marlene asked what she was spraying and found out it was RoundUp, which is the infamous Monsanto herbicide. Her maternal concern roused, Marlene told the little girl to be careful not to get any of the spray on herself. To which the girl gave a polite laugh.

Monsanto asserts that their killer chemical is completely safe. It is not surprising that they say that. What’s surprising to me is that so many people believe it.

More RoundUp Information Here

Better Living Through Chemicals
One day, awhile back, a coworker of mine was snacking on some sort of “fruit-flavored” candy. He had a bag of the colorful little things. He told me they were really good and asked if I wanted one. I asked him if there was any actual fruit in the candy. He checked the ingredients and said, “Nope. No fruit.” I declined the offer and replied that it is amazing what they can do with chemicals these days. He thought that was funny.

I can live without candy, and pretty much do. But I admit to a weakness for Breyers mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Congrats Kevin
My friend, Kevin Ireton, has retired from being the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine. It was Kevin, as a “junior” editor who traveled here to Moravia to meet me and take pictures for the first how-to article I wrote for that magazine (or any magazine). That was back in 1992. Kevin was an encourager and his encouragement helped me realize that I had some talent as a writer. Before long he moved up to the Editor position and gave me lots of opportunities to write. I have been ever grateful for those opportunities and his encouragement.

In the current issue of Fine Homebuilding, Kevin writes that he wants to live a “slower, quieter, more contemplative life.” That is, in my opinion, a fine reason to leave.

In a recent e-mail exchange, Kevin commented on this blog (which he had just discovered) and wondered if I had heard of or read any of the writings of his former college professor... Wendell Berry. Wow. That was a surprise. We who hold agrarianism dear, all know who Wendell Berry is, and greatly appreciate his writings.

Wendell Berry Takes A Stand
I also appreciate what Wendell Berry recently said at a NAIS public hearing in Kentucky. You can Read About It Here. And if you go to that link, you can also hear Mr. Berry’s actual testimony in which he says he will refuse to participate in the program, even if it means going to jail.

Speaking Of Civil Disobedience
Personally I can’t see myself ever registering any farm animal I own with the government. And likewise, I will refuse to fill out the U.S. census questionnaire that is coming out next year. The questions are far too personal. I seem to remember this happening the last time the census was done. I refused to answer the intrusive questions then too.

I heard recently that census information was used after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to round up Japanese Americans for the internment camps. This time they’ll probably use it to round up everyone who doesn’t answer their questions

The Most Beautiful Place...
What is the most beautiful place you have ever been to? That question was asked of the church congregation I was in one Sunday recently. Several people answered with places like the Grand Canyon,Yellowstone Park, or Hawaii. Then someone said that this area where we live here in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is really very beautiful. What came to my mind right away, and what I offered in reply to the question, was that I think being at home, in my garden, on a summer evening, with the sun setting across the valley, is about as beautiful as it gets.

Orlav’s Latest Essay
Dimitry Orlav, you may recall, is a Russian-born engineer who experienced the Soviet collapse of the late 1990s. He has written about that period and how he believes the United States is heading for a similar collapse. His most recent blog essay is a long one but it is a cogent big-picture analysis of the situation the world currently finds itself in, and where it is going. I recommend the essay to you but I’m going to provide a few quotes here, and make an observation at the end...
”...the economists are discussing the exact timing of economic recovery. Mainstream opinion ranges from "later this year" to "sometime next year." None of them dares to say that global economic growth might be finished for good...”
”We continue to listen to economists because we love their lies. Yes, of course, the economy will recover later this year, maybe the next. Yes, as soon as the economy recovers, all these toxic assets will be valuable again. Yes, this is just a financial problem; we just need to shore up the financial system by injecting taxpayer funds. These are all lies, but they make us feel all right. They are lying, and we are buying every word of it.”
”We may never run out of oil, but we have already run out of money with which to buy it, at least once [meaning last summer when the price went so high], and will most likely do so again and again, until we learn the lesson. We will run out of money to pump it out of the ground as well. There might still be a few gushers left in the world, and so there will be a little bit of oil left over...But it won't be enough to sustain an industrial base, and so the industrial age will effectively be over, except for some residual solar panels and wind generators and hydroelectric installations.”
”I think that the lesson from all this is that we have to prepare for a non-industrial future while we still have some resources with which to do it. If we marshal the resources, stockpile the materials that will be of most use, and harness the heirloom technologies that can be sustained without an industrial base...”
”Once the maintenance requirements of the industrial infrastructure can no longer be met, it quickly decays and becomes worthless. To a large extent, the end of oil means the end of money.”
”Now, I expect that a lot of people will find this view too gloomy and feel discouraged. But I feel that it is entirely compatible with a positive vision of the future, so let me try to articulate it.”
”First of all, we do have some control. Although we shouldn't hold out too much hope for industrial civilization as a whole, there are certainly some bits of it that are worth salvaging. Our financial assets may not be long for this world, but in the meantime we can redeploy them to good long-term advantage.”
”Most of the wealth is in very few private hands right now. Governments and the vast majority of the people only have debt. It is important to convince people who control all this wealth that they really have two choices. They can trust their investment advisers, maintain their current portfolios, and eventually lose everything. Or they can use their wealth to reengage with people and the land in new ways, in which case they stand a chance of saving something for themselves and their children. They can build and launch lifeboats, recruit crew, and set them sailing”
”Those who own a lot of industrial assets can divest before these assets lose value and invest in land resources, with the goal of preserving them, improving them over time, and using them in a sustainable manner. Since it will become difficult to get what you want by simply paying for it, it is a good idea to establish alternatives ahead of time, by making resources, such as farmland, available to those who can put them to good use, for their own benefit as well as for yours.”
”The problem is, what to do with financial assets before they lose value. The answer is to invest in things that will retain value even after all financial assets are worthless: land, ecosystems, and personal relationships.”
In a nutshell, Orlav is calling people to drop out of the industrial system because it is unsustainable. The handwriting is on the wall. And what is the bottom line? Agrarianism. Returning to the land and “heirloom technology” (I love that wording). It sounds a lot like my Agrarian-Style Economic Self-Defense Plan that I wrote about last year.

A Smart Man
I drove into Syracuse New York (an hour from my home) a couple weeks ago to pick up a shipment of idler pulleys, which I resell to people who are making their own chicken plucker. While there I happened to have a conversation with a man who told me that he purchased 300 acres of rural woodland in a remote area of New York state 30 years ago. He bought it for recreational purposes and has a small hunting cabin on the property. He told me his yearly taxes amount to $800. In order to purchase the land he took out a loan but paid it off a long time ago. He actually paid the loan off with money he earned from the sale of some selectively-harvested timber. Then a few years back, he had a portion of the woodland logged again and made over $100,000 from it. That's pretty neat, but here's the part of this guy's story that I really like...

The man told me that the 300 acres and every cent he has made off that land is in a trust. He has it set up so that when he dies his children will be able to use and enjoy the land for many generations, without any financial input. Sustainable harvesting of the timber will be more than enough to pay the taxes...forever. That's a smart man.

In Praise Of Probiotics
Did you know that in the colon alone, there are 100 trillion bacteria—enough to fill a quart-size jar? Well, now you do.

The current issue of The Natural Farmer is all about probiotics and the important role they play in human health. Industrialized food is mostly dead, mostly (or completely) void of nutrition, and mostly bad for you. Live foods that promote healthy "gut" organisms (probiotics) are good for you and the subject is fascinating. I'm sure many who read this know more about the subject than I do and, yes, I have Sally Fallon's book, "Nourishing Traditions" (but I have not read it much yet).

In any event, I just wanted to mention the subject because I've written about making sauerkraut here in the past and the Natural Farmer article had this little factoid:
"A visit to the Civil War cemetery and Pest Home in Lynchburg, VA describes the success of Dr. John Hay Terrill in treating smallpox. Giving his patients sauerkraut reduced the death rate from 90 percent to 5 percent."
Along these same lines, the idea of homemade lacto fermented "artisnal" sodas sounds downright interesting and Here is a nice little article on the subject

Surviving Off Grid (A New Book)
The incomparable Michael Bunker is writing a book about "surviving off-grid." It is a book directed primarily towards Christians and the "grid" as Michael explains it is not just the electrical power system. You can read the book's Introduction at this link: Surviving Off-Off-Grid.

Neither John Shuttleworth, Walter Prescott Webb, nor Dimitry Orlav look at the end of the Industrial era with a biblical worldview. Michael Bunker does. I don't know of many Christians who are addressing this situation, and it is good to read. I recommend it to you while it is still online. Chapter One and Two are currently there too. Here are a couple of quotes from the Introduction:
"The “advancements” of Rome (those accomplishments that allowed hundreds of thousands of people to live in an artificially built society, separated from the means of production) actually served to cripple and mentally enslave the people who became addicted to city and suburban life."
"Governments and the prophets of urbanization provide entertainments to keep the mind numbed and fractured, and always new trinkets and wonderments to keep the soul anaesthetized. New products must always appear on the shelves in order to stave off boredom – and the manufacture of eternally useless baubles serves to maintain an ever increasing need for jobs, employment, and growth."
" It is a sublime spiritual irony that, had man remained within God’s declared will as to the manner and means of life and living, he would have not been so susceptible to the massive and destructive threats that face him today… and at the same time, having remained within God’s will, he would be less likely to be facing wrath as a result of his rebellion."
"... it is inarguable that this colonization of the Western mind took place. Thousands of years of history and successful living were thrown out, the baby with the bathwater. Over a period of 100 years, the Agrarian mind was overthrown and the Industrial and Urban mind was developed. Independency was replaced with dependency. Individuality was replaced with a horrible fake of the same name. The whole mind was fragmented and compartmentalized so that the man or woman can be forced into specialization – like an ant or a bee in a colony"
"The connection that ties people into this modern Babylonian system is the system we call "the grid". That grid consists of physical and spiritual connections and services that intertwine us with the world, and cause us to rely on the world system instead of on God. There is a huge difference between utilizing some aspect of the world system, as necessary, for the purpose of further separating from it...and loving the world by being tied to it - so do not let naysayers and illogical barkers convince you that if you believe in separation, that this separation must be complete, total, and immediate -else you are a hypocrite."

My Opinion...
When I read the writings of the different people above, and others of the sort, then stand back and look at the world as it is around me today, I am persuaded that Western culture is, indeed, on the cusp of radical transition. Powerful trends are playing themselves out. A new reality is emerging. Prescott's Frontier is gone, and with it must go the unprecedented prosperity of the last four hundred years, which is really just a small blip in the historical time line. The "American dream" of ever-greater wealth and leisure for each new generation will give way to a harder and leaner existence for the average man.

We will all be swept along by the inevitable tide of history. None of us can stop it. As a Christian, I have no problem with that because I see history as the unfolding will of the sovereign God I serve. It is all according to His will and for His glory.

My responsibility is to live and act with wisdom and prudence, according to the laws of God, no matter what happens. With that in mind, I am more convinced than ever that I need to continue to work on eliminating material wants and perceived needs, along with my industrial-world dependencies. Such simple living, coupled with providing for as many of our physical needs as is possible, while living close to and dependent on the land is not easy, and it is not accomplished overnight.

In the months ahead I intend to begin getting rid of so many unnecessary and sentimental worldly possessions which I don't use and which, collectively, weigh me down to this place.

In addition to that, I'm going to start seriously educating myself about off-grid, low-energy options.

First comes the awareness. Then the conviction that a change is needed. Then comes the thoughtful consideration of all possible options. And then we take steps in the right direction. I don't see myself selling this little place and moving into a yurt next month, but I'll start laying the groundwork for that possibility (or some other significantly simplified way of life) now.

Broiler Chicks To The Left Of Me, Beagles To The Right, Here I Am, Stuck In The Middle Making Chicken Plucker Parts

My son took the above picture of me working in my shop. When I saw it I wondered who that old guy was. My hair is getting whiter by the day. And without my beard, I'm afraid that I resemble a chicken without its feathers.

Speaking of which, I'm working on a "featherplate," which is a part needed to make a Whizbang Chicken Plucker. I sell these parts to Whizbang chicken plucker makers. In the background is a Whizbang Garden Cart filled with 62 Cornish-cross chicks. Out of sight is a cage where we store Marlene's two beagles every evening. If we don't cage them inside and, instead, keep them tied in the back yard, they bark into the night, nonstop. I don't much like beagles, even if they are really cute.

In addition to dogs and chickens, my little shop is crammed with plucker parts, wheel hoe parts, books, packaging supplies, and so on. Trying to fit all these necessary components of a growing home business into a small space is a real challenge.

And this last month it has been a real challenge to keep up with orders. I have spent just about every spare minute (and plenty I didn't have to spare) in my shop during the month of June. Every so often, I'd take a few moments to work in the garden. Thankfully, I have a wheel hoe to keep the weeds in check. ;-)

Hops Plant Update

My hops plant really grew this past month. I extended the t-post with a length of metal conduit outfitted with wood blocks and lengths of sisal twine (as you can see in the picture). I pruned the plant to four stems, the highest of which is now almost 6ft tall. I have a feeling the plant will really grow in this next month of July, as will the whole garden.

I'll post another hops picture in next month's letter. See you then.....

Deliberate Agrarian Update:
31 July 2009

This last month was like a rural crossroads town that you drive through on your way to somewhere else. I checked my speedometer and adjusted the air conditioner. When I looked up, July 2009 was in my rearview mirror. It seemed like a nice little month....

Plastic or Galvanized?
”I can’t think of anything I really need. So I don’t see any sense in going.”
That’s what I said to my wife, Marlene, one day this last month when she asked me to go with her to a nearby antique shop that was hosting a weekend flea market. Her reply:
”But you might find something that you don’t know you need.”
Well, I ended up going, not because of her tongue-in-cheek reasoning but because we needed to take a break from the daily grind and do something a little different, together. Besides, I do enjoy “window shopping” at antique stores and flea markets.

But then, within five minutes of our arrival, I had bought something that I didn’t know I needed...

I spotted that old galvanized-steel watering can from afar. It drew me, past tents and tables loaded with flea market treasures and refuse, to itself like a magnet. It was love at first sight. I handed over $28, and couldn’t be more pleased.

I already have two other galvanized watering cans. They serve their purpose and earn their keep. But they have no grace or character beyond mere function, as does this newest can.

Besides that, my two plain-jane watering cans suffer from collateral damage. They happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, innocent victims of a son shooting rats with 20-gauge bird shot on a dusky summer evening. He put a little pile of chicken feed in the driveway in front of my shop, then waited patiently for his prey to take the bait. The watering cans were out of the way, but not far enough.

Shooting rats in the driveway is good fun. It’s an example of what kids can do when they grow up in the country. It’s much more fun than watching television or manipulating the controls of a video game.

As for little shot holes in the watering can, I sealed each one up with drops of candle wax.

My “new” can reminds me of the stylish Haws watering cans from England. The Haws even has something of a pedigree: the name goes way back, sort of like Wellington boots (a.k.a., "Wellies"), which are named after Arthur Wellesly, the 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852).

I once considered spending the big bucks for a Haws can. But better sense prevailed. Now I don’t have to struggle with such watering can fantasies. All of which goes to prove an oft repeated axiom in my family:

No matter what you want, if you wait, you’ll eventually find it at a garage sale (or flea market) for a whole lot less money than you would otherwise pay.

All of this brings me to the notable fact that my “new” watering can is fabricated from eleven individual pieces of sheet steel that were carefully formed and soldered together before the whole assembly was dip-galvanized. Machinery was surely utilized to make the can, but a fair amount of hand work was also involved. I have respect and admiration for well-crafted, functional tools like this watering can.

I ask you....How much handwork is involved in making one of those plastic watering cans that are sold at WalMart? Answer: Just about none. And is it possible to have respect or admiration for plastic watering cans that are spit out in vast quantities by some industrial machine? Answer: No. Only indifference and loathing.

Speaking of Television
I understand that the switch to digital television happened last month. I didn’t notice because I don’t submit to television. But I’m delighted to know that our little garage sale tv is no longer capable of emitting the visual and mental trash that it once did. Perhaps I’ll set it in the driveway and let my kids shoot it. I could tie a rope around it and drag it along. That would be a little more sporting. But it’ll be a long rope.

The Big Party
It has become something of a tradition for my family to have us a 4th of July party. Independence and freedom are worth celebrating, even if those things are now, for the most part, like this last month (in the rearview mirror). I’m of the mind that most Americans really don’t want personal freedom from big government. That would entail personal responsibility. People would have to suffer the full consequences of their poor choices and the hardships that naturally come with life. Yes, life in general would be a lot more difficult for a great many citizens if the government did not intrude and take from some to give to others. And that just wouldn’t be fair. Life has to be fair, right? Surely that’s in the Constitution. So it is that a great many Americans give lip service to the idea of freedom and liberty, but they don’t really want it for themselves because, ultimately, they couldn’t handle it. Or so it seems to me. But I digress.

Our 4th of July parties are typically low-key events (because I’m a low-key person) with a few close friends and their children in attendance. But this year we had our party a week later and it was a much larger affair. That’s because we were celebrating more than just Independence Day. We were also celebrating the graduation of one son from high school (homeschool high school), and the fact that another son is leaving soon to be an Army soldier.

I can tell you it was a beautiful party. After a week of overcast skies and rain, we were blessed with a clear and pleasant day. As the sun was setting, the just-harvested hay field across from our house was bathed in clear, golden, summer-evening light. Illuminated, oversize round hay bales were silhouetted against a deep-blue eastern horizon. At one point, we all stopped to admire the surreal image.

Just as beautiful was the fact that so many of Marlene’s girlfriends had volunteered to help her get ready for the party. They helped clean the house and prepare food and decorate the cakes. It was community in action, which is always endearing. And Marlene was blessed by these special friends.

We ate good food and had good conversation. The kids played good games on the front lawn and in the field across the road. When it got dark, I lit the bonfire which consisted of an alarmingly-tall stack of wood pallets. Later, the older boys provided everyone with a fireworks display. That was the highlight of the night for them. Here is a picture of my son Robert’s grand finale fireworks setup. He had one, long, main fuse that, once lit, fed all the individual fuses:

It was an impressive down-home pyrotechnic exhibition that, afterward, upon reflection, elicited this heartfelt response from an appreciative 17-year-old neighbor boy (who was way too close to the action): ”It was like being in ‘Nam!”

Hmmm. Not quite. But close enough.

My Garden in July 2009
I have a hard time imagining my life without a garden. And when I say “garden” I’m speaking of a vegetable garden. I have nothing against flowers at all. I just like to grow things I can eat. Yes, I know some flowers are edible. But no flower can compare to a fresh carrot or cucumber right out of the garden.

This year’s garden has grown very well. I utilized my Whizbang row cover hoop system to keep the bugs off my squash and cucumber plants until they were grown and starting to blossom. Here is a picture of two zucchini plants a day after removing the floating row cover material.

Once the plants are established like that, a few bugs don’t make much difference. Here’s another shot of a zucchini plant with blossoms:

And here’s a close-up of a lovely baby summer squash. Again, there is no insect damage to speak of on these plants because they were well protected by the row cover through their formative growth period.

Isn’t this cabbage the picture of health and vitality! the thought of fresh coleslaw and homemade sauerkraut from cabbages like this makes my mouth water:

And here is an absolutely beautiful beet with large, leafy, tasty tops.

The Difficulties Of Old Age
Juxtaposed against bucolic scenes and sentiments, and the youthfulness of my sons, is the reality of my stepfather who was once again admitted to the hospital this last month. Added to a list of serious chronic ailments was a new one—pneumonia. He is 77 years old and his health is declining steadily. Some days he can get around slowly with a walker. Some days his legs won’t move for him.

Marlene and I visited my father in the Veterans Administration hospital. He was lying in bed, his skin white-yellow and waxen. His arms and hands still functioned but there was little strength in them. And there was no strength in his voice. Only despair. It was a pitiful sight being played out in a dreadful place. And, suspended on a bracket from the ceiling at the foot of his bed was a television. As my stepfather’s life was drawing yet closer to its end, healthy, energetic people with beautiful smiles were only a few feet away, hawking junk food, and some gangster was shooting another in a parking garage in Los Angeles.

We got a hospital bed for my father to use at home. He did not want it because when my mother was sick and dying of cancer a few years ago, we got her a hospital bed, and two days later she was dead. Nevertheless, the bed is now there, right where my mother’s hospital bed was.

After a week at the VA hospital, my stepfather came home. He used his walker to get into the house but it took a very long time and I had to help hold him up when his legs would not. A long, clear tube now supplies him with oxygen 24 hours a day.

The “oxygen man” came to set up the necessary equipment and show us how to operate it. With his voice louder than normal, he said to my father: “What war were you in?”

My father, sitting in a chair, head in hands, gasped: “Korea.”

Oxygen man: “Oh yeah? Well we hauled your butts all over the place.”

My father: “Huh?”

Oxygen man (his voice even higher): “I was Navy. We hauled you jar heads all over the place. And we fed you too.”

The old Marine lifted his head, forced a weak smile: “Yeah.”


A week after getting home my father was doing very well. He had bounced back. He has always bounced back from such things. He is a fighter. But he no longer bounces back as fast and to the same degree of vitality.

My little sister and my Marlene, with a little help from me, are going to do what they can to take care of my father in his home (not a nursing home) for the rest of his days. It is not an easy thing to do. God help us all.

The Question of Facebook & Twitter
The Amish are famous for evaluating new technology and deciding how such technology, were they to utilize it, would affect them. If they decide that some technology would be destructive to their faith-family-work-and-community-centered culture, they eschew it. Whether you agree or disagree with their conclusions, you have to respect their intentions. And their example is inspiring to those of us who are cognizant of the virtual destruction of godly agrarian culture by modern mankind’s eager, unquestioning adoption of virtually all technological newfangledry.

Thus it is that I approach the matter of my participation in things like Facebook and Twitter. Do I or don’t I get involved in these ever-evolving manifestations of information and communication technology?

Well, no, I don’t. After giving it some thought, I’m persuaded that Twitter, Facebook, et al. are not consistent with my ideology, philosophy, or theology.

My primary reason for arriving at such a conclusion is the time that pursuing these mediums would take from my life. Lord knows, I’ve spent hundreds of hours over the past four years writing essays for this blog. And I have now reduced my blogging time significantly (to one posting a month). I justified blogging because it allowed me to write in depth, communicating important ideas and how-to information (peppered with a fair amount of trivial commentary....like this). Along the way, I came to realize that the numerous essays I’ve written were being discovered by web surfers on Google searches, and they were contributing to sales of my various self-published books. I must say that I do like that outcome. But the time factor involved in blogging as I once did was no small matter. Now that I’ve pretty much broken away from the blogging habit, I don’t want to take up another time consuming internet activity in its place.

Besides that, I’m not impressed with the ephemeral nature of twitter and Facebook writings. It strikes me as mostly pointless electronic socializing, kind of like a long, never-ending virtual party where everyone takes turns at being “the life of the party.” Granted, all of this can be mildly exciting and amusing but I’m wary of modern amusements. I feel like there are more important and rewarding things to be done with the short days I have. Thus it is that this deliberate agrarian has decided to steer clear of Facebook and Twitter.

Please understand that I am not disparaging those who do use and enjoy Facebook or Twitter. Not at all. Everyone’s situation is different. Besides, I’ve always been something of a party-pooper. And opinionated too. I think I'm especially opinionated this month.... which brings me to another matter:

So Long Suzy Shortnose
Those of you who have been reading here for awhile may recall that my wife, The Lovely Marlene, bought two female beagle pups last year. They were sisters. We named them Lucy and Susan, after the sisters in the Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy has a long nose and Susan has a short nose. That’s how we distinguish between the two.

I have not been particularly happy with these canines because I’m partial to bigger dogs and—dare I say it—more intelligent dogs.

Of the two, Susan was more wayward and a bad influence on her sister. So, this last month, Marlene gave Susan away to a good home. The new owner is an older man in our community who, for reasons I can’t fully understand, has a fondness for beagles.

Lucy Longnose was lonesome for a few days but we gave her a lot of special attention and she’s doing just fine now. One beagle is far more tolerable than two.

We still have our old mongrel, Annie. When she passes on someday, I hope to fill the opening with a “real” dog, preferably a cur of the black-mouth variety.

Your Money....Or Your Life
I’ll take my life, thank you. Starting next week something new is happening that I’m pretty excited about. I applied for and was granted a 20% work reduction at the factory where I am employed. That means I volunteered to work one less day a week and not get paid for it. My coworkers think I’m either crazy or rich. Well, I might be crazy but I’m sure not rich.

The fact is, I live differently than most people, and I look at the world differently, and my attitude about money is not mainstream either. I drive to work in a rusty old Nissan Sentra that I paid $600 for a few years ago. I love the car because it is dependable and economical (and it has a stick shift). Appearance (and lack of a fifth gear) is beside the point. My home, which I built with my own hands, is basic and paid for. I don’t take frequent or expensive vacations. I don’t golf or gamble or eat out at fancy restaurants, or buy expensive new clothes, or speculate in the stock market. I don’t have a bass boat or a mistress or a condominium in Florida. I live a simple, low-consumption, no-debt, rural existence, and I live this way deliberately.

All of which is to say that I don’t need a lot of money.

And then there is Whizbang. In recent years my part-time home business (Whizbang Books) has, by the grace of God, grown to the point that it brings in some money. But the business also demands a LOT of my time. So I won’t be sitting by the pool (if I had one) sipping Pina coladas (if I drank them) on my day off. There is plenty of Whizbang work to be done. I do, however, look forward to a quiet lunch date with my wife on our back patio on those days.

There is something of a drawback and conundrum for me in this move to a four-day factory work week. If I subsidize my day off with Whizbang money, I give up thousands of dollars a year that I could earn and apply to buying some land.

To own and husband acreage beyond our 1.5 acres is my life dream. But I do not feel, as stated here in past essays, that I should go into debt to purchase the land, and I have nowhere near enough money to buy land now.

So, it would appear that giving up the money I could be earning at my factory job is counterproductive to achieving my dream. But the dream is so far from probability that it may never happen. And I refuse to be consumed by this dream. I do not want it to be an idol in my life. For now, I feel that coming home one day a week is a step in the right direction, and I am thankful for it.

Now, as I write this, I am wondering to myself why I feel compelled to tell you about it. I think the answer is that, as a Christian man living in 21st Century America, I have to deal with the same spiritual/material tensions that most other Christian men (and women) deal with. Material desires (in my case, for a larger section of land) vs. financial limitations, coupled with the desire to live a life that is in accordance with scripture, which is to say, pleasing to the Lord, is a real balancing act.

I’m a firm believer in working diligently, but not to the extreme. Is striving to acquire abundance far beyond basic needs pleasing to the Lord? I think not. In the final analysis, I think we Christians who live in this materialistic civilization need a lot of grace and wisdom to deal with it all. I don’t know but that maybe my struggles and attitudes, laid out here, will prove useful to others who are also looking to find the proper balance.

Agrarian Medicine
I’ve written here before about comfrey. This amazing plant derives its name from the latin, conferveve, which means to heal or grow together, and that is exactly what it does!

I’ve related about the time I got something in my eye and scratched it (or the underside of my eye lid). The irritation and watering was considerable so I decided to apply a blended mash of comfrey leaves to my closed eye. After an hour on my back, with the mash setting there, I removed it and opened my eye. It felt perfectly fine. All irritation was gone. It was amazing.

Now I can report another comfrey-induced healing: I had a pain between my neck and right shoulder. The pain ran down my arm, depending on how I used it. After awhile, I self-diagnosed the pain (which had worsened) as an inflamed muscle tendon. The tendon attaches to my shoulder bone. I have an image of the tendon and muscle in my mind because I’ve butchered deer and they are put together much the same way. The attachment point got extremely painful and sensitive. It was also swollen. Sleeping on the shoulder was painful enough to sometimes keep me awake at night. After a couple weeks of this ailment, I decided to try a comfrey poultice.

I placed a walnut-size glob blender-mashed leaves directly over the inflamed spot on my shoulder. On top of that I placed a large gauze pad, followed by a small plastic sandwich bag. Then my son, Dr. James Kimball (he is 14 years old), crisscrossed some medical tape over the poultice to hold it in place. I went to bed, and the next morning, less than eight hours later, my shoulder felt a lot better. I removed the poultice and went to work. The pain was hardly there. Over the next couple of days, without any more applications of the poultice, the pain went away completely.

Pain was so significant and which had bothered me for so long, was gone overnight. I would not believe this was possible if I didn't experience it with my own body.

As I reflect on the wonders of effectively healing a body ailment with nothing more than a glob of wet, ground-up leaves, gathered from a plant that grows so easily (almost wild) here on my little homestead, it occurs to me that people go to medical doctors for hurts like I had. And no government-approved medical professional would prescribe a comfrey-leaf poultice to heal a sore shoulder. He would, instead, prescribe some sort of synthetic chemical pharmaceutical manufactured in a factory. And when the chemical cure did its job (if it did its job) the person who received the relief from pain would, figuratively speaking, sing praises to the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical and its creator.

But when you just use a plant that grows in your yard to do the same thing, who gets the recognition and honor and praise? Well, I’d say He who created the plant with its amazing healing properties deserves all the credit. That’s one of the great things about natural “medicine.”

This isn’t to say that natural cures negate the usefulness of doctors and modern medicine. But it’s pretty neat when you can get the same (or better) results without going to a doctor. And I, for one, prefer the natural options.


I’d also like to say that we feed the coarse, hairy, nutritive comfrey leaves (blended with a little water into a paste) to new chicks. Later, we hang entire leafy stems in their cage for them to peck clean. If you give them a taste of comfrey when they are little, they will eat it when they get older. We believe that this “comfrey treatment” results in much healthier birds.

Here’s a picture of my current batch of broilers feeding on some stalks of comfrey. If you just toss the comfrey on the ground, they don’t eat it that well. But if you hang it up, they’ll eat it all except the hard central stem.

And I found out this year that chickens also like broccoli that has gone to flower.

Modern Public Education Is A Failure.....
...especially in New York State. I heard on the radio today that my state spends $15,981 per student to give them a “free” government education. That’s per year. We here in N.Y. have the highest per-student cost of government education in the nation. The national average is $9,600.

Marlene and I (mostly Marlene) have homeschooled our three boys. The oldest went to a private Christian school for a couple years (and that was, in my opinion, a mistake). The way I see it, we saved the State of New York at least a half a million dollars by educating our own children.

Remarkable Children Are Reading This Blog
Naomi and Jeremiah, who are sister and brother, ages 12 and 10 respectively, each wrote me a letter this past month. I remember feeling a bit down the day I got the letters and they really picked me up.

Naomi is the oldest in her family of five children (with another on the way). She wrote telling me about her family and the beautiful rural area where she lives in the Pacific Northwest. And she gave me some good feedback on the two Planet Whizbang wheel hoes her family purchased:
”...we have a few gardens that we use our Whizbang wheel hoes in—they work great! We can get alot more done in a short amount of time than with regular hoes. Thanks a lot! I’m reading your blog nearly every day and eagerly awaiting your next update—they all have thought provoking articles. Thanks again.”
Well, thank you, Naomi, for such a nice letter. It was a pleasure to get it and to know that you and your family are not only readers of this blog, but satisfied Planet Whizbang users.

I was equally pleased to get Jeremiah’s letter, which is a work of art. Here’s a picture to prove it:

For those who may not be able to see the letter, it shows all the parts of a Planet Whizbang wheel hoe and there is a drawing that shows the completely assembled tool. Here is what Jeremiah wrote:
Dear Mr. Kimball,

We bought two Whizbang wheel hoes. They work very very well. They were pretty easy to put together. We have already saved more time than it took to make them.

My name is Jeremiah. I am ten years old. I really enjoy reading your blogs.

love Jeremiah
Thanks Jeremiah. I sure did appreciate getting your letter. Your printing is very neat and I like your drawings. Maybe someday when you are a little older, you can use your writing and drawing talents to publish your own books, kind of like I do.

Children Butchering Chickens
One of the most read and most maligned internet essays I’ve written is Backyard Poultry Processing With My 11-Year-Old Son.

Some people just don’t feel comfortable with me teaching my young son how to butcher chickens. They consider it something akin to murdering humans. Several people have gotten downright angry and foul mouthed in their response to that article (and I've deleted those comments). So it’s always good to hear from someone else who sees the value of teaching their children how to butcher chickens when they are youngsters, as in this e-mail I received last week:
Thanks for your great website.  We processed chickens for the first time this year and used your tutorial [www.howToButcherAChicken.com] for a guide.  Next year we are definitely building a Whizbang chicken plucker!  I appreciated your post about processing chickens with your son.  My oldest son is 3 and he had a blast processing chickens.  I helped him hold the knife to slit the throats.  My favorite memory is Elisha holding a chicken in his arms and saying "Daddy, can I kill this one?"
Love your books.  As an engineer, I appreciate your simple practical designs.  Creativity is not my strength, but I am learning to think differently than the industrialized norm.
I have a question about the apple grinder.  We have made apple sauce for several years.  Last year we used our Vitamix to transform slightly heated or raw apple chunks into mash.  We want the most healthy applesauce available so we include the skins and small chunks.  I saw your design and instantly thought -- apple sauce!  Is the consistency of the mash OK for apple sauce?  I see much less processing time in our future....
Let me first say that the image of little Elisha asking his daddy if he can kill the chicken in his arms is not only endearing, it’s also downright funny, primarily because I know how horrifying such a scenario is for the rabid animal rights crowd, as well as squeamish Moderns who are completely disengaged from the reality of where their food comes from and how to feed themselves without being dependent on the Industrial Providers.

It is a wonderful thing to know that this dear child, Elisha, will grow up eating wholesome chickens that his family grew, and he helped to butcher. Elisha will surely not grow up to be a helpless man in a modern world full of helpless men.

Now, about the question of using a Whizbang apple grinder to easily make a lot of applesauce, I think it is a real possibility, and I intend to give it a try in a couple of months when apples are ready to harvest.

Whizbang Cider Update
In addition to applesauce, I’m looking forward to once again making lots of fresh-squeezed, raw (unpasteurized), unadulterated (no preservatives added) sweet apple cider.

As many of you already know, I developed my own Whizbang home cidermaking system after four seasons of experimentation. And then I published a Whizbang Cider Plan Book earlier this year. I also established the web site, www.WhizbangCider.com, and the Yahoo discussion group, Whizbang Cider Makers.

This last month, Mother Earth News purchased a quantity of the books to sell. My assumption is that they will be featuring it in an upcoming issue of the magazine. That is good news for this little self-publisher, and welcomed affirmation that my Whizbang cidermaking system is filling a void in the area of practical home cider production information. There really is no other home cidermaking equipment that comes close to that of the Whizbang apple grinder and press for simplicity, affordability, ease of use, and efficient cider production.

I Have Read “The Great Frontier”
In last month’s letter I mentioned the Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb and his 1955 book, “The Great Frontier.” Since then, I have had an opportunity to read the book and it is an eye-opener. I will give you an overview here because this understanding of history bears heavily on our current world situation.

The Great Frontier is, essentially, an explanation of Webb’s Boom Hypothesis of Modern History. This hypothesis is well worth reading about and understanding. It begins with what Webb calls The Metropolis, which is pre 1500 Western Europe. Apart from Asia, Western Europe was all the known world. The Metropolis was unified in culture, densely populated, and static. It was a civilization of well-defined classes and customs. It was a period in time and place that was defined by limitations. As Webb writes:
The population pressed hard on the means of subsistence. There was not much food, and practically no means of escape for the people living in a closed world. the idea of progress had not been born.
As a subsistence civilization, there were no corporations or joint stock companies. There were no banking institutions. Money was scarce. Work was limited to the tasks of subsistence... or war—plundering other nations was the time-honored way for kings to acquire more wealth.
Then came the miracle that was to change everything... Europe, the Metropolis, knocked on the door of the Great Frontier, and when the door was opened it was seen to be golden, for within, there was undreamed of treasure, enough to make the whole Metropolis rich. The long quest of a half-starved people had at last been rewarded with a prospect beyond human comprehension.
This Great Frontier was the newly discovered and almost vacant lands of North America, South America, Australia, and numerous smaller islands. These new lands were rich with natural resources and it was all an incredible boom for the Metropolis.
You can get everything of a material nature you want, more than you ever dreamed of having, from gold and silver to furs and foods, and in any quantity you want, provided only that you are willing to venture and work. And something you never had within your historical memory will come to you as a byproduct, and that is an extraordinary degree of freedom.
Did you catch that? Freedom. Personal freedom and democratic forms of government were one of the many fruits of the Great Frontier. In a static civilization, confronted with limitations, civil liberty and individual freedom for the masses was unheard of. But all that changed with the Great Frontier.

Here, in the following quotes from the book, Webb provides more insights into the Boom Hypothesis. Intimations of what it means to us in 2009 begin to emerge:
When this great area was made available to the crowded and impoverished people of the Metropolis, they swarmed out like bees to suck up the nectar of wealth, much of which they brought home to the mother hive. This sudden, continuing, and ever-increasing flood of wealth precipitated on the Metropolis a business boom such as the whole world had never known before and probably can never know again.
This boom began when Columbus returned from his first voyage, rose slowly, and continued at an ever-accelerating pace until the frontier which fed it was no more. Assuming that the frontier closed in 1890 or 1900, it may be said that the boom lasted about four hundred years.
Assuming that there was a boom, and that it lasted four hundred years or more, it follows that a set of institutions, economic, political, and social, would in that time evolve to meet the needs of a world in boom.
Therefore, these boom-born institutions, economic systems, political systems, social systems—in short, the present superstructure of Western civilization—are today founded on boom conditions.
Wow. So the superstructure of Western civilization is founded on boom conditions. But, as is painfully obvious to anyone in Western civilization these days, the boom is over. Fact is, for the most part, it has been over for decades. We’ve been coasting on the momentum of the 400-year boom. Is the current economic depression we are experiencing an indicator that we s a civilization are dangerously close to running out of momentum? What does the Boom Hypothesis “predict” for the future? In Chapter Thirteen of the book, titled Conclusion, Webb writes the following:
If there is no substitute boom-maker, or one that is much less effective than the Frontier was, then we are faced with radical changes indeed. The society we have would tend to go through a process of devolution and retrogression rather than evolution and progress. It would lose much of its dynamic character, just as a boom town does when fortunes are lost there and not made.... Rural life would tend to become more important, and city life less alluring. Theoretically, society might become somewhat medieval in character, and new ideals would have to be formulated to make that life tolerable.
Though there is much talk of new frontiers, a careful examination of those suggested reveals that most of them are trivial, and none will compare in magnitude or importance with the Great Frontier. The most plausible claims are made in the name of science and technology. There is no doubt that science has made and is making valuable contributions to the luxury and comfort of those who have the price, but the tendency is to overate what science can do.
The last two sentences of the book:
Our challenge consists in finding out what modifications should be made, and our opportunity will come in making them. Our inspiration may come from history, in looking back to the early 16th century when the lamp was lifted beside the golden door of the Great Frontier to change the destiny of mankind.
My translation (and I’ve said this before): The modern industrial age is drawing to a close. We are not necessarily heading back to the “dark ages.” But history is moving ahead to something very different. It will be a civilization without excess and ease and relative opulence, which modern man has grown accustomed to. In other words, the future will, of necessity, be far more agrarian-centered than it is now. And I don’t see that as a bad thing. But making the transition could be particularly difficult for many Moderns.

The Great Sovereignty of God
As much as I enjoyed reading Walter Prescott Webb’s, “The Great Frontier,” and as much as I think he is right on with his “boom theory,” I must make it clear that Webb’s worldview, as presented in his fine book, leaves out any acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over all of history. Though Webb does mention religion and the changes wrought by the Great Frontier on religious institutions, as a secular historian, he is incapable of understanding that every jot and tittle of history is a manifestation of God’s almighty providence; that all of history serves its divinely-ordained purpose of glorifying God.

It is, therefore, necessary for we Christians to “read between the lines” of such secular books using our biblical worldview and that, of course, makes any history book all the more exciting.

Those who are given to understand something of the absolute sovereignty of God really don’t look at anything that happens in this world as chance or happenstance. It is all orchestrated, as I’ve said, by our sovereign God for His glory and that right there is a message that the sheep of His flock must never forget, which brings me to another book that is my “reading project” for next month:

I have been meaning to read A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God for some time. Michael Bunker recently mentioned the book at his blog and provided THIS LINK to an online copy. That has prompted me to finally read the book.

As I started reading the Introduction, I found myself thrilled with Pink’s writing and his exhortation. As long as I live, I will never tire of hearing or reading of God’s sovereignty, so I am really enjoying what I have read so far. Here, to give you a feel for the book are the first two paragraphs of Chapter One, titled God’s Sovereignty Defined:
The Sovereignty of God is an expression that once was generally understood. It was a phrase commonly used in religious literature. It was a theme frequently expounded in the pulpit. It was a truth which brought comfort to many hearts, and gave virility and stability to Christian character. But, today, to make mention of God's Sovereignty is, in many quarters, to speak in an unknown tongue. Were we to announce from the average pulpit that the subject of our discourse would be the Sovereignty of God, it would sound very much as though we had borrowed a phrase from one of the dead languages. Alas! that it should be so. Alas! that the doctrine which is the key to history, the interpreter of Providence, the warp and woof of Scripture, and the foundation of Christian theology should be so sadly neglected and so little understood.

The Sovereignty of God. What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is "The Governor among the nations" (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the "Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.
In the third and fourth paragraphs of Chapter One, Pink proceeds without delay to apply this doctrine of God’s sovereignty to one of the most egregious tenents of “modern Christendom.”
How different is the God of the Bible from the God of modern Christendom! The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence. To say that God the Father has purposed the salvation of all mankind, that God the Son died with the express intention of saving the whole human race, and that God the Holy Spirit is now seeking to win the world to Christ; when, as a matter of common observation, it is apparent that the great majority of our fellowmen are dying in sin, and passing into a hopeless eternity; is to say that God the Father is disappointed, that God the Son is dissatisfied, and that God the Holy Spirit is defeated. We have stated the issue baldly, but there is no escaping the conclusion. To argue that God is "trying His best" to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let Him save them, is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent. To throw the blame, as many do, upon the Devil, does not remove the difficulty, for if Satan is defeating the purpose of God, then, Satan is Almighty and God is no longer the Supreme Being.

To declare that the Creator's original plan has been frustrated by sin, is to dethrone God. To suggest that God was taken by surprise in Eden and that He is now attempting to remedy an unforeseen calamity, is to degrade the Most High to the level of a finite, erring mortal. To argue that man is a free moral agent and the determiner of his own destiny, and that therefore he has the power to checkmate his Maker, is to strip God of the attribute of Omnipotence. To say that the creature has burst the bounds assigned by his Creator, and that God is now practically a helpless Spectator before the sin and suffering entailed by Adam's fall, is to repudiate the express declaration of Holy Writ, namely, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain" (Psa. 76:10). In a word, to deny the Sovereignty of God is to enter upon a path which, if followed to its logical terminus, is to arrive at blank atheism.
Athiesm! How’s that for an accusation to wake smug evangelicals out of their stupor! This, my friends, is a powerfully compelling book. It could change your whole view of God.... for the better.

Debt Slavery
Speaking of Michael Bunker, chapter four of his book, Surviving Off Off-Grid is now available online. I’m enjoying this book-in-process very much. You can read the new chapter here: Debt Slavery.

Hops Update
My hops plant, (the growth of which I have been chronicling in these monthly reports) did very well in July. it has grown to the top of it’s 11-foot pole and has another three feet of vine at the top, looking for something to cling to. I have learned that hops is not a vine, is is a bine. I’ve never heard of a bine before. If it has support, the hops bine can climb up to 50 feet. And hops is a relative of hemp. Here’s a picture of my hops plant showing the “cones” that are forming.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next month........