Deliberate Agrarian Update:
30 September 2009

September. Back to school. Fifth grade. Puppy love. Her name was Julie. I was too shy to talk to the girl. I just pined from afar. Then, one day, in the cafeteria, at lunch time, I came up with a plan.

I would wait until my beloved was done eating, and when she took her tray up to the window to turn it in, I would do the same. Then, while turning in our trays together, maybe, I would muster up the courage to say... “Hi.”

She got up from her seat. So did I. She started walking across the cafeteria, up in the front. I hurried to catch up. We were walking there, side by side, to turn our lunch trays in... together. It was a good plan. It was going to work. Then something I never expected happened.

The floor was wet. I slipped. My feet went right out from under me. My arms, with the tray and all that was on it, went up over my head. Everything, including me, was airborne. I landed on my back. My head hit the floor.

It was an amazing fall. I can still see it clearly in my mind’s eye. I can see it because the exact instant it happened, I turned to Julie to say something, and she slipped too. She was airborne too. Her tray and contents went flying up and behind her too.

It was a terrible, embarrassing, beautiful synchronistic choreography—the two of us, at the exact same instant, in mid air.... together.

I retrieved my tray and its scattered contents. Two “lunch ladies” hurried over to help and asked if we were okay. My head hurt, but I said I was okay. I made my way back to my seat. My friend Mike Burke had seen it all. I’ll never forget what he said: “Man Herrick! That was cool! You hit the floor like a B54!”

Strangely, that is one of the only memories I have of fifth grade, and I have no memories of elementary school prior to fifth grade. None. I don’t remember my teachers at all. I don’t remember anything I did in school. Maybe hitting my head was a mind erasing event. Almost all my school memories begin in sixth grade, in Mr. Quirk’s class.

Whatever the case, that episode in the cafeteria, forever etched into my memory 40 years ago, has, for some odd reason, flashed before me as I reflect back on this month of September 2009.

The Goal Of Education
Episodes of lovelorn adolescence are par for the course in the government school system. It’s practically part of the curriculum. But homeschooled children typically miss out on this kind of social interaction.

Some people think that homeschooled kids are deprived of “proper socialization.” That, in fact, seems to be one of their strongest arguments against homeschooling. What a laugh. Government school social interaction is nothing more than social indoctrination.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I can not help but look at education (including the social interactions of my children) differently than the mainstream. The primary focus of educating my children is much at odds with that of the secular world.

The government trains its children to get a good job. A good job is generally defined as one that makes a lot of money. The more you make, the more “successful” you are. Students who go on to ever higher levels of education, and actually do make a lot of money, are held up as shining examples. I dare say that, in practice, most of modern Christianity goes along with this perverted definition of success.

Few and far between are those who define success for themselves and their children apart from high paying jobs, the acquisition of material goods, and the social prestige that accompanies such status.

This subject is on my mind after reading a short essay titled, “Workin’ For Da’ Man,” by David Queener in the current issue of “Every Thought Captive,” a publication of Highlands Ministries. Here is an excerpt (the bold emphasis is mine):
For Christians, the goal of education is godliness. Whether we primarily use our heads, our hands or some combination thereof for snagging our daily bread, the primary goal is to glorify God vocationally with the works of our hands. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). Our desire should be to see our sons educated, and many of us post-college men re-educated, to be free men, not worker bees groomed for life in a secure, socialist hive, but prepared to aspire to that entrepreneurial liberty which grows out of spiritual liberty.

Of course there is nothing wrong with working for someone else, especially when that someone is a brother. A man named Onesimus comes to mind here. It’s noteworthy that the proper exercise of authority is first learned in submission to authority. As Jesus himself put it, the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served (Matt. 20:28). And that is part and parcel of the secret of success, whether in business as the owner or as a faithful employee.

Educated To Be A Free Man
I must say, I especially like that part about educating sons to be free men. Such fundamental and preceptual thinking corresponds with my instruction to my sons (which I’ve written about here in the past) to learn as many useful manual skills (including marketable trade skills) as possible so they don’t grow up to be helpless men—so they can care for and provide for their families without being totally dependent on the Industrial Providers. In time, a home-based business is the ideal. It is the yeoman principle that I wrote about in Chapter 29 of my book Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, and in the beginning of my blog essay titled Yeoman Furniture & My New Woodbox.

That said, I believe one of the best (if not the best) ways to teach sons to be free men is within the agrarian/homesteading/farmsteading way of life. Such a lifestyle, genuinely lived, provides plenty of opportunities for boys and young men to learn to be resourceful and independent. It is also a way of life that nourishes and strengthens families that pursue this path.

And there, in part, would be a glimpse into my culturally antithetical definition of success: to raise and nourish a strong family on the land, living simply, providing for your own needs, involving the whole family in this work, and having a home business. Bearing that in mind, my hope is that, in time, my boys will one day fully embrace and fully pursue, on their own, the simple, deliberate, Christian-agrarian lifestyle they have grown up living.

I’ve come to realize that all three of them will not do this right away. Perhaps none of them will. But one thing is for certain... they’ll never forget the rich, wholesome reality of being brought up within this way of life. The wisdom of it will, in its time, manifest itself to them much more clearly. This will, I have no doubt, bear good fruit.

Which brings me to a pertinent excerpt from the book, The Gift of Good Land, by Wendell Berry:
If we make our house a household instead of a motel, provide healthy nourishment for mind and body, enforce moral distinctions and restraints, teach essential skills and disciplines and require their use, there is no certainty that we are providing our children a “better life” that they will embrace wholeheartedly during childhood. But we are providing them a choice that they may make intelligently as adults.

An Example
I recently read an internet story about a man who had a job in a factory doing maintenance work. He was laid off from his job. But this man was not helpless. He started his own handyman business. He did not want or need unemployment insurance from the government. This man was equipped and motivated to enjoy what Mr. Queener terms “entrepreneurial liberty.” Here is a quote from A Lost Job and a New Life:
Of course, Patrick’s transition was possible because he has marketable skills. He works with his hands, owns the tools of his craft, and can meet the needs of people who are willing to pay for his services. Writers as disparate as Matthew Crawford (Shop Class as Soul Craft), Hilaire Belloc (The Restoration of Property), and Wendell Berry (The Gift of Good Land) have argued that there is a kind of independence that can be achieved through the manual arts and the ownership of one’s land or tools that is not possible when one is part of the so-called information economy. That independence is clearly a bracing sort of tonic, one that Patrick finds exhilarating.

Front Porch Republic
If you clicked on the link to the previously mentioned essay, you found yourself at an internet magazine titled Front Porch Republic (FPR). I bookmarked the site and have been perusing through past articles. There is an underlying agrarian and distributist philosophy in the social/political commentaries at FPR, which explains why the site has captivated my interest.

One of my favorite writers, Allan Carlson, a cultural historian and author of The New Agrarian Mind is a writer at FPR, as is Caleb Stegall, who formerly edited “The New Pantagruel,” which some of you may remember.

There is a particular style to the Front Porch Republic writing. I guess I would call it “educated” or "intellectual." Unlike my blog writings, which tend to be personal, unharnessed, unvarnished, and direct, FPR writing is much more proper, and the writers are far more erudite than I. Nevertheless, it would appear that all that education has not destroyed the collective common sense of the group ;-)

The Capitalism Debate
I sometimes listen to conservative talk-radio. More and more I hear capitalism being defended by these vocal conservatives against what they see as ever-expanding socialism. The rhetoric will undoubtedly increase in the days ahead as the Michael Moore movie Capitalism: A Love Story comes out in theaters. I understand the movie is an indictment against capitalism. Beyond that, I don’t know much—like, for example, I don’t know what Moore thinks is a good alternative to capitalism.

Personally, I grew up believing in the virtues of capitalism. It seemed to me to me that capitalism was as American as apple pie and morally superior to any other economic system. But, in recent years, I’ve come to understand that capitalism is a flawed economic system, and I’m not willing to defend it. That’s because Capitalism is, for all practical purposes, a failure. Recent events in the economy and the continuing crisis have made that clear. Capitalism is certainly not an economic system founded on biblical principles.

That isn’t to say that I think socialism or communism is better. Not hardly.

Conspicuously absent from this mainstream discussion of economic theories is any acknowledgment or discussion of distributism, which is fundamentally agrarian and appears to be far more biblical than any of the other contenders.

Distributism is nothing new. It was advanced by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc a hundred years ago. It was espoused by the Vanderbilt Agrarians in America in the 1930s. I dare say that if Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would be a proponent of distributism, not capitalism.

It behooves those of us who care about economic theories (and the subsequent real-world consequences of these theories) to better understand distributism vis-à-vis the other options. One way to do this is to head over to the aforementioned Front Page Republic web site. There is a fellow there named John Medaille who has written several fine articles about distributism. Fact is, I find within Mr. Medaille’s collective essays, a timely, clear, perspicacious, and powerfully compelling apologetic for distributism.

In his essay titled Building The Ownership Society, Medaille writes:
Since the current system is not sustainable, it will be reformed, one way or the other. The only question is whether we shall get out in front of the collapse and begin an informed movement towards sanity. Since the Enlightenment, the world has experimented with laissez-faire capitalism, socialism, communism, Keynesianism, and mercantilism. While each of these systems contains some partial truth, they are all insufficient to the whole truth. All of these systems have been weighed in the balance of history and found wanting. It is time to return to a more natural system, and that is system is, I believe, distributism, or something very like it.

In Capitalism as an Unnatural System, Medaille rightly points out that: ”...capitalism is the condition of dependence on the market for one’s very subsistence.”

Here is a quote from The Economics of Distributism (Part 1): Does Capitalism Work?
History shows, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the growth of capitalism and the growth in government go hand-in-hand. Big capitalism and big government are not, as in the popular imagination and the economic treatises, things opposed; rather, the one grows on the back of the other, and the more you get of one, the more you will need of the other.
Mr. Medaille's essays can be found At This LInk

Abe Lincoln: Anti-Agrarian
I must recommend one more Front Porch Republic article: Abe Lincoln and the Destruction of Place:
Abraham Lincoln had a clear vision for America that was embodied in the beliefs of the early nineteenth-century political party called the Whigs.
The Whig party defined itself against the yeoman, decentralized, small-scale republican perspective of Thomas Jefferson...
The Northern victory was a triumph of Lincoln’s Whig vision for the country. Economically, the South would need to reject their “backward” agrarianism and rebuild their economy by mirroring Northern industrial capitalism.

Lincoln had his good points. But destroying the agrarian culture of the South was not one of them. The Civil War was principally a war of Northern industrial, political, and cultural aggression. Slavery was, of course, immoral and a tragedy, but it was beside the point. The South had a right to leave the Union. That’s the way I see it, and I’ve looked at it pretty closely.

Cultivating Freedom
Joel Salatin has been in the media a lot lately and it is good to see. I recommend you read an article about him in the current issue of “The American Conservative” magazine. Here is an online link to the article: Cultivating Freedom.
“The research coming out of the land-grant universities is a mouthpiece for the corporations,” says Salatin, who argues that conventional models don’t account for energy consumption: “We can produce more per acre on a fifth of the fuel as the industrial food system.”
Surveying his customer parking lot, Salatin says, “It’s absolutely typical to have three Obama bumper stickers alongside three that say, ‘Abortion stops a beating heart.’” He is encouraged by the movement’s broad appeal, but laments that he cannot convince more of his fellow churchgoers not to “stop for happy meals on the way home from the pro-life rally.”
Moreover, agribusiness, like so many sectors of the economy, is dependent on the foreign oil that keeps America entangled in the Middle East: “We’re fighting a war on the other side of the side of the world to maintain cheap oil so we can maintain an energy-intensive industrial food system,” he says.

Scott Moved & More Joel
Scott Terry, who inspired me to start blogging years ago, has up and moved his blog to a new location. The change corresponds with his family’s move to another farm in northern New York state. His old blog was titled “Homesteader Life.” It is now, North Country Farmer (not to be confused with Tom Scepaniak’s blog, “Northern Farmer” which is now Christian Farm And Ranchman).

I recommend you bookmark Scott’s blog and check in every so often. His recent post about the tomato blight here in NY was of great interest to me because my tomato crop was devastated too. But Scott had one heirloom tomato variety that was totally unaffected by the blight.

Another post by Scott provided a link to an interview of Joel Salatin by Franklin Sanders. It is an excellent interview and you can read it here: Rebirth of The Family Farm and the Household Economy.

“Household economy” is another term for what Allan Carlson calls the “family economy” and I have written about that subject in Chapter 11 of my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, titled “Returning To The Family Economy.” That chapter begins as follows:
We live in an industrial economy. Some say we are actually now in an information economy. If so, it is still part of the industrial paradigm. In such an economy, the typical family is not a producer of goods. It is a collection of individual consumers. This is the way the industrial providers like it to be. They want everyone to be dependent on them. But that is contrary to the historical pattern. For hundreds of years prior to the industrial revolution, families were self-reliant, integrated units of efficient production. This historical model of family-based production is referred to by historians and economists as the family economy.
There are direct connections between this subject of the family (or home) economy, education, homesteading, learning manual skills, and even having a home business. It all ties together.

(And, amazingly, if you read the two Salatin links above, Joel mentions both capitalism and Abe Lincoln!)

Oh, by the way, I’ve written here (back in 2005) about Franklin Sanders: The Agrarian Moneychanger

Basic Training Report
Those who are regular readers here know my oldest son is in Army basic training in Oklahoma. He will graduate next month. Judging from the letters and a few phone calls, basic training has been a good experience for my son. Among other things, he is learning about submission to authority (see the David Queener quote above).

Letters from home are very important to a recruit in basic training. They are also an opportunity for this father to communicate things that I have not been able to communicate in recent years. With almost every letter, I’m including selected blog essays I’ve written here in the past. This son has not read my blog much. Now he is. The first blog essay I sent him was The Sermon I’ll Never Forget.

When I last spoke with him on the phone he told me he is sharing some of my blog writings with a couple of friends. He told me that “One Step At A Time” (from "The Sermon I’ll Never Forget) is how he is getting through basic training. He said that when it gets difficult, he thinks to himself “One Step At A Time.” This makes my heart glad.

I have shared with him numerous essays about our family history, like, What My Grandmother Did For Me and The Story of My Grandfather’s Ring (I will one day give the ring to this son). I sent him my personal testimony found in A Reflective Ramble About Salvation & Prayer. And I was able to communicate my beliefs about money in A Missive on The Prosperity-Driven Life.

He told me on the phone, “I like your letters Dad. Please keep sending them.” Yes, this military experience is getting off to a good start.

(By the way, This 3-minute You Tube Video by John Piper (I’ve mentioned it before) remains the most powerful denunciation of the “prosperity gospel” that I’ve ever seen. I watch this short clip often.)

Thinking Back
When your boy grows up and joins the military, you can not help but entertain a reverie of memories. In one letter from home, I told my son that I remember when he was a newborn baby, upset and crying, and I rocked him to sleep in the old rocking chair my grandmother gave me. She told me that my father had rocked me in that rocker when I was a baby. And that my grandfather rocked my father as a baby in it too. And that my great grandfather rocked my grandfather as a baby in the same rocker.

Here is what I remember clearly (and told my son): When I rocked him as a little baby in that rocker I spoke the words of Psalm 91 to him (I memorized the whole Psalm when I was in my early 20s). I patted his back, and rocked, and thanked God for this precious firstborn child, and I spoke Psalm 91 to him...and he would calm down and listen. On several occasions I did this. I told him as a baby that it was his life verse. And I told him as a 21-year-old Army recruit that it was his life verse.

I sent him a copy of Psalm 91 and I told him that the part I liked best is in the end, when God speaks:
“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high,
because he has known My name.
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

Whizbanged Applesauce

If I were less rooted in a place, and more driven by the desire to be wealthy, I might go on the State Fair circuit. Ginsu knives and Magic Chamois can’t hold a candle to my Whizbang apple grinder. It easily grinds apples to a fine mash for pressing in the Whizbang cider press. But that’s not all..... LOOK..... It even makes applesauce!

Whizbang Business Notes
My part-time home business, Whizbang Books, has, by the grace of God, grown to a point that pleases and surprises me. It is not prosperous enough that I feel I can (or should) leave my full-time job, but it is getting to that point.

This last month I added Whizbang cider press parts to the list of Whizbang items I make and sell by mail order. My Whizbang cider press plan book was reviewed in the latest issue of the MOFGA newspaper. And GRIT magazine is selling the book in their current issue.

Better yet, the current issue of Mother Earth News magazine has a letter from Gina Underwood in Nebraska recommending my Whizbang chicken plucker. And Mother also published a letter from me recommending people to my web site,

As noted in previous blog essays here, I dreamed about having my own mail order business even as a teenager. Now I have it and I can tell you that such a business, operated from a rural home, employing inexpensive marketing and selling options on the internet, is a viable way to bring in some income. Mail-order is, in fact, an ideal business for rural dwellers.

Plucker Finger Entrepreneur
Three years ago I helped my son Robert get started selling rubber plucker fingers by mail order. I posted this essay telling about his new business. And then I posted this page to my Whizbang Books web site.

Well, some days Robert gets more orders for fingers than I get for all my other Whizbang products. His little plucker finger business, closely linked to mine, has been remarkably successful, and a great learning experience in many ways. He has not spent a cent of his plucker finger earnings in three years (except to pay taxes) and now has enough money to pay tuition to just about any trade school he wants to go to (he’s thinking he would like to learn to be a welder), or he has a nice nest egg to invest in some other enterprise. This simple mail order chicken plucker business has been a real blessing!

I have told you this to encourage you if you have an interest in starting a home-based mail order enterprise. The internet makes it easier than ever.

Remembering Lyman Wood
Most people don’t know who Lyman Wood was. I dedicated my book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Garden Cart too Mr. Wood. Here (for those who do not have the book) is what I wrote:
This book is dedicated to the memory of

Lyman P. Wood

Lyman Wood was a down-to-earth mail order entrepreneur. In the 1960s he helped found the Garden Way manufacturing Company.

In the 1970s, under Lyman Wood’s leadership, the Garden Way Company expanded to supply a burgeoning back-to-the-land movement with books and informative bulletins about country living. Garden Way also marketed a variety of practical tools, including the Troy-Bilt rototiller, and the distinctive two-wheel Garden Way cart.

Mr. Wood developed and promoted the concept of Garden Way living, a philosophy of life that combined basic Christian principles, with rural self-sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, environmental responsibility, and Jeffersonian agrarianism.

At the foundation of his Garden Way philosophy were Lyman’s Five Rules For a Happier Life: Be thankful always. Be giving always. Be forgiving always. Be self-helpful always. Be faithful always.

Garden Way was a remarkable success story. I remember, back in the mid 1970s, going to the Garden Way store in Burlington Vermont. That’s where I bought a Garden Way cider press kit. I bought several garden way books. I even bought a Troy Bilt tiller from Garden Way. Then the company wasn’t there any more. I always wondered what happened to it.

I found out what happened a couple years ago when I bought a copy of the book, What a Way to Live and Make a Living: The Lyman P. Wood Story.

If you have an interest in the mail order business, get yourself a copy of the book. It is not a complete how-to. It is more of a biography of Lyman Wood and of his businesses (most notably, Garden Way) but there is a lot of advice from Lyman about getting started and being successful in mail order.

For example, beginning on page 136, you will find Lyman’s advice for how to move into mail order successfully. Here is #1 of eight “suggestions to remember”:
Start small. Don’t give up your job. Work out of your house. Don’t borrow money or sell stock if you have to give up control of your business. Test on a small scale before you launch a big business.

There is a cart-load of valuable wisdom packed into those few sentences. Lyman Wood speaks from experience when he says not to sell stock and give up control of your business. That was the undoing of Garden Way. The company was hugely successful (reaching 1,100 employees and 100 million dollars a year in sales) when, in 1982, there was a carefully-planned coup. At the annual Class A stockholder meeting, the first order of business was reelection of the board. A board member announced: “I represent 51 percent of the shares of the company and we are presenting a new slate of directors.” Translation: “We are taking over this company.”

A vote was taken. The meeting adjourned. The new directors went to an adjoining room and elected new officers. They returned shortly and handed out termination notices. Lyman was given the choice of resigning within the month. He chose not to and was terminated....from his own company.

Garden Way was never the same. A few short years later, the company was completely liquidated.

Personally, I wouldn’t want the headaches of a huge business like Garden Way. All I want is a home-based mail order business with no employees, except my family. Even with such a humble goal, I felt Lyman Wood’s story, as presented in the book, was full of inspiration and useful advice.

You can read more about the book and Lyman Wood at this web site.

My “Wife-Slave” & Redneck Family
As noted here in the past, the most-read internet essay I’ve written is Backyard Poultry Processing With My 11-Year-Old Son (he is now 14). It is also the most commented-on essay. And it is the most contentious essay. This came to light again in the following comment that was posted there last week:
Your 'kid' is going to grow up and maintain that same sexist, sadist "real man" attitude you are forcing down his throat now. It is a shame that you allow these animals to bleed out while they are thrashing in pain. You are a sick family and that goes for your son as well. I hope someday your 'wife' slave wakes up and sees you for the lazy, cheap, no talent thing that you are.

Animals have the same pain tolerance that we do, just because you are larger gives you no right to torture them as you are doing. I will be reporting you and your son to the HSUS as well as checking into the zoning and slaughter regulations in NY. If memory serves, you have to be following some very strict guidelines as well as health/safety rules as well.

Possibly an education and real future for your kid may be in order instead of giving him the life of a backwoods redneck like you have settled for.

Real men don't have to compensate for what they 'lack elsewhere' by torture and violence, but again, I guess in the redneck world, they use what they can, right?
As you might imagine, this comment was a source of lively conversation in our household. There is a lot of entertainment value there.

Marlene found the “wife slave” terminology amusing and has used it in conversation a few times. I myself now occasionally (and fondly) refer to her as “wife slave.”

Marlene wondered what the guy would think of this essay (with pictures): The Fun, Fast Way to Skin a Deer. My son Robert commented that: ”I’d rather be a "real man" than eat lettuce and rice the rest of my life.” And there was some general confusion among both my sons who consider the term “redneck” to be something of a compliment (“That guy thinks calling someone a redneck is like an insult?”).

What’s a Redneck?
Here’s one definition I found on the internet:
In modern usage, redneck predominantly refers to a particular stereotype of whites from the Southern United States. The word can be used either as a pejorative or as a matter of pride, depending on context.

The redneck stereotype:
The term redneck is seen by some people to be both racist and classist, as it was originally used to describe a person of pale skin that has been sunburned doing outdoor work or field work, and disproportionately applies to the poor. Today, a redneck is a stereotypical southern United States socially conservative, fiscally liberal, rural, working class white person with northern European ancestry.

The popular etymology says that the term derives from such individuals having a red neck caused by working outdoors in the sunlight over the course of their lifetime. The effect of decades of direct sunlight on the exposed skin of the back of the neck not only reddens fair skin, but renders it leathery and tough, and typically very wrinkled by late middle age. Another popular theory stems from the use of red bandanas tied around the neck to signify union affiliation during the violent clashes between United Mine Workers and owners between 1910 and 1920.

Some historians claim that the term redneck originated in 17th century Virginia, when indentured servants were sunburst while tending plantation crops.

A redneck is usually typified in popular culture by a straight male with a beer belly that consumes cheap American beer such as Busch or Miller by the case (Pabst Blue Ribbon in more traditional settings) as well as Jack Daniel's. They are generally distrustful or dislike anyone not like them or the government. The stereotypical redneck lives in a trailer, and drives an old, large, beat-up pickup truck with a gun rack in the rear window. He generally wears a stained, sleeveless t-shirt, blue jeans, and a trucker hat.
That definition covers a lot of bases and includes, to some degree, every hard working country man.

I would define “redneck” for myself and my boys apart from the emphasis on alcohol drinking and beer bellies. My kind of redneck is someone who is a resourceful, conservative-minded rural dweller, familiar with the outdoors and hard work, and who knows how to take care of themselves without being dependent on the industrial providers. Which means they are not hesitant to butcher chickens (and other critters) for eating. Such people are surely countercultural and are, therefore, fair game for ridicule, especially from people who are almost total slaves to the industrial system.

That said, I admit to enjoying a lot of redneck jokes, like this 29-second YouTube movie of a a redneck swimming pool in motion (that looks like fun!).

This discussion brings to mind a redneck fellow I know who likes to demolish old concrete farm silos with a sledgehammer:

One man.
One sledgehammer.
No heavy equipment.
No ropes.
Just a sledge hammer.
Less than half an hour later.
And the silo is down.

You can see what I mean at this 29-second You-Tube movie. Only a redneck would do this sort of thing.

We’re From The Government And We’re Here To Help You
As you know, H1N1 is all over the news. For some historical perspective, I recommend that you check out this old 60 Minutes television segment about the 1976 Swine Flu vaccination program. Mike Wallace discovers that the government lied (gasp!) and vaccinated Americans knowing full well that the vaccine would cause neurological problems in some people.

Homegrown: The Movie
A Central New York neighbor e-mailed me to ask that I inform my readers in this area about the free showing of the documentary movie Homegrown, which is a documentary about the Dervaes family, who are urban farmers in Pasadena California.

The free showing will be October 3rd (next Saturday) at the Wescott Community Center. Complete details can be found AT THIS LINK.

Hops Update
My previous monthly blog installments have chronicled the growth of a single hops plant that I planted in one corner of my garden last spring. It grew very well and I harvested the hops cones last weekend. They are air-drying in my workshop.

I read an article about a local man who grew, harvested and dried 15 pounds of hops and sold it for $500. That sounds like a lot of money for 15 pounds of dried vegetation. So I did some research and found out that there is a worldwide hops shortage.

Perhaps the growing of hops could be a nice little niche business for the homestead. That’s what I’m thinking. I just need a bit more land. But maybe we are close to getting that problem solved.....

Update On The Land
Last month I mentioned that we were going to offer to buy three acres of land (mostly field, with some woods and stream) that borders out cramped 1.5-acre homestead. We have desired this land for many years but the owners (four different ones since we’ve lived here) have not been willing to sell, or, when it was available for sale, we could not afford it (without getting a bank loan which I am opposed to doing).

Well, we made a purchase offer for the three acres. We offered an amount far in excess of what anyone else would ever pay for such a lot. It is at least double the “fair market value.” As this blog installment “goes to press” we are awaiting word. We think there is a good possibility that our offer will be accepted. I’ll have more to say about this next month.

Thanks for stopping by.


C. Hays said...

Greetings, Herrick! As usual, lots of food for thought here, and I will have to re-read and contemplate, especially on capitalism, distributism, etc. But what I must comment on immediately is Psalms 91! I have my son's name written in the margin of my Bible right next to that Psalm. Every morning I pray those words for his protection and safe-keeping. Great minds think alike, hun?


Herrick Kimball said...

Speaking of rednecks and YouTube videos, my son James asked me today if I had seen the redneck noodling movie on YouTube. I said no and Marlene chimed in to tell me that I really had to see it.

Well, James just showed it to me.


You really have to see this...

Redneck Fishing

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Carla,

It's good to hear from you again here in the comments section. It looks like we think alike on the really important things.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the interview link with Joel Salatin and Franklin Sanders. Those two are among the men in the world that I truly admire for their gumption, intelligence, and stubbornness.

C. Hays said...

Oops! That should have been "Great minds think alike, huh?" I hope Marlene doesn't think I was sweet-talkin' you. :)

Anonymous said...

I think that the person who commented on your chicken processng essay is simply jealous b/c he/she has not yet attainted the status of "chicken whisperer"!

I find myself anxiously awaiting the beginning of the month to read your updates - keep up the inspiring work.

I couldn't agree more with your assessment on homeschooling and thank the Lord every day (while I'm away from home at work) that my wife is able to homeschool our sons. We are very blessed.

You have provided a lot of food for thought regarding distributism and I look forward to commentary as more people read the links you posted.

Keep up the excellent work!

Anonymous said...

Herrick, distributism is where we came from. Until the agribusiness machine collapses, the small farmer will continue to be squeezed out.

Unless there is a devastating economic worldwide collapse, I don't see the US de-volving back to a distributist type economy, which is really a third world economy.

The information age, the banking/credit systems and the industrial/government complex is, well, too complex and institutionalized.

But, this ideal you are hoping for is attractive to me also, but one that I'm afraid we will probably never see.

Instead, I believe we will see our country continue to slide towards more and more centralized authority.

Why? Because people want security more than freedom nowadays.

Paige said...

Keep up the good work with the homeschooling! I'm certainly a success story--12 years of homeschooling! Not to toot my own horn, but instead to acknowledge the successful investment my parents made in my life--I'm only 8 months away from graduating with my master's as a physician assistant. College proved no obstacle and I learned invaluable self-management skills from homeschooling that has been key.

I'm not sure that I would say that it's well-suited to every family or child, but it is a wonderfully viable option! Good work!

Anonymous said...

You should read "Flee to the Fields", all about the Catholic Land Movement in the UK, 1930's. Also good is the "Rural Solution" and Fr. Vincent McNabb's "The Church and The Land" (Fr. McNabb was one of the principle figures supporting Distributism in the 1920-30s) Distributism is rooted in the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII - "Rerum Novarum". Worth the read. Many Traditional Catholics (Latin Rite) support the concept of Distributism because of Rerum Novarum and other Papal Encyclicals. As one of those homeschooling Traditional Catholics who believes in the family and the land... I appreciate what you and your family stand for, reagrdless of denomination. You are spot-on in much of your dialogue here, as well as fair and balanced. All the best to you and your family. (Carlson is also someone I admire!)

Anonymous said...

Your agrarian lifestyle is only made possible because of the wonders of capitalism. Almost every tool you use in farming is the product of capitalism. Your computer and this website are also the products of capitalism. Because of the riches of capitalism America has been able to afford to equip your son better than any nation to defend us against aggressors.

You said that in the past families were self-reliant. Did they not trade with others? Where did the whale oil in their lamps, the iron in their tools, the pages in their books and the lead in their guns come from? Humans always benefit from voluntary financial exchange. That voluntary part is the “free” in “free market” capitalism.

Things were not better in the past, they were different. We are living at the greatest time in human history. Never before have the necessities of life been so cheap. Never before has poverty been to rare. Unfortunately never before has the hand of government been so heavy on our backs. Americans revolted against Britain for far less harm than they now willingly put up with from their own elected officials. The problem is not capitalism, it is government medaling in and prevention of free market capitalism.

The current system that is broken is the socialist system. The excesses of socialism have caused the current mess we are in. Every large company that failed was under heavy government regulation and control. These controls were imposed against the capital owners will purely for political gain.

We cant avoid capitalism. All countries ever existing are/were capitalistic in that someone always owns capital. It depends on if the capital is owned AND controlled by the person or the government. Russia fell because they mismanaged the capital they had. It lead to them being uncompetitive and national bankruptcy. American defeated Russian Communism solely because the capitalistic sector. Americans out worked and out preformed the Russians not because they wanted to win the cold war, but because they wanted to make money.

The difference is who controls the capital and how that effects incentives to perform. I will explain the difference using agrarian examples:

SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes one of them and gives it to your neighbor.

FASCISM: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

COMMUNISM: You have two cows. The government takes both and gives you spoiled milk.

REDISTRIBUTIONISM: You have two cows. Everyone should have the same amount of cow. The government takes both cows, cuts them up, and spends more than the cows are worth giving everyone a little piece of each cow.

CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. You breed them and soon you have a herd. Then you hire your neighbor who's cows died because he forgot to feed them. Everyone prospers.

Only "free market" capitalism has any moral authority as an economic system. In a capitalistic system no one may use physical force, fraud or government powers to force anyone else into a binding contract. What is now failing is government capitalism. The government has interfered in the system and is using force to prevent the free market from functioning.

The greatest means of production is and always has been human ingenuity. God does not distribute it evenly. We have different levels of prosperity because some people are smarter than others, some are harder workers than others, some a have better up bringing than others. Some choose to pursue fame and fortune and others pursue Godly devotion and family life.

Herrick Kimball said...

We knew what you meant. No problem. :-)

I'm delighted to know you were homeschooled. And I'm impressed that you are going to be a Physician's Assistant. What an accomplishment that will be!

You will be helping people who need help and that is such an honorable thing to do with one's life. I'm sure you will be an exceptional PA.

I'm going to indulge in a story that comes to mind.... I work with a man who told me his grandfather was an orphan who was left with a Shaker community near Albany NY when he was a young boy. His mother had died and his father couldn't take care of him. The Shakers would take in children like that.

His grandfather lived and worked and grew up in the Shaker community. When he got older, they paid to send him to college. He decided that he wanted to be a doctor and the community paid to send him to medical school.

After medical school he went on to have a medical practice, marry, and have a family. He did not stay with the Shakers. I asked my friend if the Shakers were disappointed with that. He said he didn't think so, and that it was not uncommon for the community to invest in a child's education, not expecting anything in return.

We got into this conversation because I was talking about using my scythe to cut grass. He told me his grandfather, the doctor, had a scythe and he remembers him using it. It turns out the doctor also had a big garden and lived a very agrarian life.

I don't suppose, being a doctor, that he had to live that way. But he must have seen the value of such a lifestyle, learned (and probably appreciated) from a young age.

My thought here being, that even white collar "professionals" can wisely choose to live and enjoy an agrarian lifestyle, even though few of them do these days.

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball

Herrick Kimball said...

To Anonymous who wrote defending capitalism:

What you have stated is exactly what I would have stated ten years ago. I would have shot down distributism simply because it was not capitalism, and because I knew that capitalism was superior to anything else because it has produced so much prosperity and raised the standard of living in America.

But I have come to realize that the cost of all that prosperity has come with a price that I believe is fundamentally immoral.

It seems to me that capitalism inevitably progresses to corporate industrialism. Huge corporations have irresponsibly destroyed the environment. Thousands of examples all across American and around the world could be given. Corporate industrialism has also ruined the health of its workers directly, and vast numbers of other people indirectly.

Corporate industrialism has evolved into monopoly control over numerous segments of the economy, like, for example, agriculture. As a result, rural families and communities have been greatly harmed. The result of Agricultural capitalism is increasing control, and unprecedented power over food supplies by a handful of huge corporations

Small towns and small shops and small businesses by the thousands have been driven out of business by competition from huge corporate businesses like WalMart.

Capitalism is all about making money. To "succeed" in the capitalism game, corporations use their money and the influence that their money brings to "buy" politicians and influence legislation to their advantage. Our government is largely controlled by corporate special interests. This is the result of capitalism taken to its logical conclusions.

Look at the banking system and money system America has. It is corrupt to the core. That is what you get with capitalism.

I would strongly disagree with you when you say that the government has interfered with free market capitalism. On the contrary, corporate capitalism has interfered with the government, and the government is now a tool of the capitalistic, monopolistic special interests.

Thus, I've come to the conclusion that government-as-it-is is totally incapable of "fixing itself." And it seems obvious that the path we are on as a nation is unsustainable. There will be changes ahead. They will be significant. It seems to me that the advanced stages of Capitalism and socialism are much the same.

Also, I'm of the mind that, historically speaking, capitalism rose to prominence because of the incredible abundance of natural resources (read this previous monthly essay in which I discuss Walter Prescott Webb's book "The Great Frontier"). After all, capitalism is a great consumer of natural resources. Now, as the worldwide capitalistic demand for natural resources is beyond the ability of the earth to supply abundantly, capitalism itself is in danger or crumbling.

Your example of the cows is clever and I have read the expanded versions. But your example of redistributionism is NOT distributism.

You seem to think that distributism is just another name for socialism which is a means to bring everyone down to the same level by taking from some and giving to others who have not earned it. That is a great misunderstanding.

There is plenty of room for personal industry, ingenuity, productive businesses, and business success within distributism. And the free market can work much more freely within distributism than it can within capitalism.

That is the way it looks to me. I might be wrong, and I'm no authority on the subject. And I'm not a dogmatic distributionist. But I see the flaws in capitalism. I don't like socialism. And distributism, as I've come to understand it thus far, appears to be a very "right" option.

It matters not to me that distributism has no chance of ever happening. What matters to me is what is morally right. I'm not seeing that in the actual outworking of capitalism.

Paige said...

Mr. Kimball,

My husband and I cannot wait until graduation day arrives. We have decided to have a bit of a homestead, raise our own food, and teach our family the value of hard work. I could go on and on about my frustrations of children raised without enough exposure to "good clean dirt," our current system and it's contribution to antibiotic resistance, obesity, and diabetes, but I digress. :)

You and your wife are an inspiration to us and a means of scratching our itch while we wait for our homestead. We have received multiple odd looks from classmates and co-workers when we tell them we're living in a travel trailer with some friends on their farm for a year while we find our land and rid ourselves of all the debt incurred by school.

Owning a home and piece of land free of debt and building a home with our own hands is something we've been planning on since our teenage years. My husband has aspirations of building our home and a carpentry business. And it will be a source of pride and joy being able to put food on the table that I knew the exact source and quality.

Being a PA fits wonderfully into all of this as I'm not "married" to my work and feel like I'll be able to be an adequate mother, when that season arrives. Yet, I'll have useful skills that will allow me to help others and will be welcomed during some planned missions trips.

As George Bailey would say, "It's a wonderful life!"

Can't wait for October!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the discussion on the merits of capitalism I would argue that the problem is not how capitalism ultimately manifests itself (Mr. Kimball you conclude, as would I, that it has lead us to corporate industrialism) but rather the morality, or lack thereof, of those operating within the system. If we drill down to the root cause of our problems they have less to do with how corporations operate and interface (or influence) the government and more to do with the values of those at helm.

Ash said...

I really enjoyed your comments about capitalism and distributionism. I am an Agricultural Economist by training, and can't agree with you more. A Broad group of people, businesses etc, controling the means of production is the best way to run the economy. It provides security, stability, resiliancy, etc.

I think historically you see a version of distributism when you have a large middle class. When people can work and make a decent living. In our modern times we have seen an increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, the gap continues to grow. This cannot last.

I've enjoyed your writings, and musings. I've whole heartedly agreed with some and mildly disagreed with a few. But I have great respect for your efforts. Thanks.

Elaine said...

Oh, Herrick, it breaks my heart to have to disagree with something you've said. I always love to read you and spend so much time on your blogs. Sigh... capitalism has not failed, as we do not have capitalism. In other words, we do not have free market capitalism. We have megatons of regulations, which by their very definition, removes the possibility of there ever having been free markets (in recent times, at least). To top it off, we have an internationally, privately owned FR bank which takes our taxes from us with absolutely no oversight.

A true free market economy would not allow government intervention in our lives. We would be free to conduct our business as we see fit (small scale ex. ... restaurants would allow a smoking room again in my state if they so desired) and consumers would be free to choose whether or not they were our patrons, based on their own personal choices, whether they be guided by morality, ease of use, or pocketbooks.

I highly recommend to anyone interested in markets that they spend some time on and learn a bit about how free markets are supposed to work. They have a wonderful site with daily articles, interviews, and even online books and audio media.

That being said, I am striving to live an Agrarian lifestyle myself, but am working on debt first. (stupid me) So, I hardly disagree with you there. :) Thanks again for a great monthly post and God bless you and your family.

Herrick Kimball said...

Anonymous & Ash-
Thanks for your feedback here.

"Farmer" Elaine-
We can disagree and still be friends. ;-)

I appreciate von Mises. Here, for those who are interested, is a hot link to the site: Ludwig von Mises Institue.

Another site with articles that reflect the Austrian school of economics viewpoint is I go to this site often.

Barry W said...

Yeah, I was disappointed to read this post and discover that i would have to disagree with you :(

- We don't have capitalism. We have capitalism festering with socialism boils. The government regulations cripple capitalism, then the socialist programs bleed it dry as it tries to hobble away.

And I won't go on at this point because, though you have demonstrated yourself to be quiet intelligent, I enjoy a bit of psycho-analysis in my free time, and your last post had a few verbal quirks that often indicate a firmness of stance that is no longer open to change. You're more or less certain of your stance to a point where debate will garner nothing by rebuttal.

So, we'll just have to agree to disagree :)