The Deliberate Agrarian Update
31 July 2010

I am ever-mindful of how blessed my sons are to have been born and live out here in the wide open rural countryside of upstate New York. They have not grown up in the squalid realms of a packed suburban housing development, as I did. Neither have they suffered the pains of divorced parents and all of that, as I did. And, being homeschooled from the beginning, they have not been institutionalized by years of government schooling. Furthermore, within this God-fearing, home-centered, agrarian way of life our family lives, they have been shielded to a significant degree from the pernicious feminizing forces of our popular culture.

So it is that  my boys have been able to run, and ride, and climb, and explore, and shoot, and trap, and fully experience the manifold thrills that are available within this fresh and free world of rural living. Such a childhood, once common, is now relatively rare in this nation where most of the youth are housed in urban or suburban centers.

Swimming in a farm pond with your friends on a hot July day certainly qualifies as a rural thrill, especially when the water is deep and there is a dock to jump off. The pond is in a field back behind our house and my kids swim there compliments of a good country neighbor.

The picture above shows my middle son, Robert, grandstanding for his brother’s camera. And this next shot is his brother, James.

And this next picture gives you an idea what these sons of mine often look like before they go swimming.

Such pictures warm my heart because this is the exact kind of life Marlene and I deliberately set out to give our children many years ago.

Some fathers want their sons to have a better education than they had so they’ll grow up to get a high-paying job. But those things are not big priorities to me. I wanted my children to grow up with a better childhood than I had. And, thank God, they have.

Barns & Memories

Garth Fout, the enterprising, multitalented Ohio artist and Etsy entrepreneur, has me thinking about barns here at the end of this short, hot, muggy month of July 2010. That beautiful barn pictured above happens to belong to Garth. Before I tell you about Garth’s barn, I want to tell you about a barn I remember from my youth.

No, it wasn’t in the crowded housing project. There were no barns there. Just houses—street after street of so many little one-story ranch houses, all pretty much the same.

The barn of my youth was in the veritable wilderness of Aroostook County, Maine, way up there near the top. You take US Route 1 north until the end of that road, then you keep going.

My grandfather, Percy Orlan Philbrick of Fort Fairfield, Maine, had a big white barn built into the side of a bank, with a cavernous, cool, dark  potato cellar underneath. His barn was full of stuff he had accumulated over a lifetime. I remember it was packed to the rafters in places and everything was covered with a layer of dust.

My grandfather’s barn was a great place for curious boys to explore and that’s exactly what my cousin, Peter, and I were doing the summer after Percy passed away in 1971. I was 13 and Peter was a year older.

Here’s a picture that my Aunt Irene, of Bridgewater, Maine, sent me awhile back. It is grandfather Percy and me, or so she thought. But I’m quite certain it is actually Peter. I can tell by the eyebrows.

Anyway, years later and all growed up, while exploring in our grandfather’s barn, in a drawer full of big old rusty bolts, Peter and I found something very exciting...

“What are these?” I asked Peter, holding the little paper cylinders up in the air.

“Those are firecrackers!” Peter exclaimed, while reaching to quickly take them from me.

I had never seen firecrackers up close, but I certainly knew what a firecracker was. Peter put them in his pocket... for later.

Squeezing between some old farm equipment in that barn, I snagged myself on a sharp piece of metal. It sliced deep into my thigh. The gash probably could have used stitches but Band-Aids sufficed. Today, the clearly visible scar is a reminder of that summer—the summer Peter and I found the firecrackers in our Grampie Philbrick’s barn.

A couple weeks later, back at Peter’s house in Springfield, Mass., we decided it was time to light one of the firecrackers (all the adults were gone). We had been eagerly anticipating the moment for a long time. Having no experience with fireworks, we were a little bit scared. It was decided that Peter would light the fuse and throw the firecracker away from us, on the blacktop driveway, and that’s what he did. 

We stood there, half turned away, fingers in ears, eyes squinted almost shut, watching the little object, anticipating the big bang.

The fuse quickly sparked down... and nothing happened.

The firecracker just sat there with a little smokey haze wafting above it.

"It’s a dud.” Peter said.

We walked over and looked at the firecracker. I reached down to pick it up.

Peter yelled, “Don’t touch it!”

I stopped, my fingers almost on the firecracker, and started to pull my hand back. At that instant, the firecracker exploded.

Had Peter not yelled, I would have been holding that little stick of explosives in my hand when it blew up. It was a close call.


I can not let the subject of my grandfather’s barn pass without telling you about the barrels. In a room under the barn, right next to the cavernous dark cellar made for storing the potato harvest, there was a small, stark room with a south-facing window (I just checked Google Maps for the direction). It was used by my grandfather as a workshop to fix damaged wood-stave potato barrels. Here is a picture of the kind of barrels I’m talking about.

Percy was retired from potato farming by the time I knew him. His health was declining. But he made some money fixing potato barrels for other farmers. They would bring their damaged barrels to him by the truckload.

I was maybe seven years old when this recollection took place. I was visiting for the summer, staying some of the time with my Grandmother Kimball in town and some of the time with my Philbrick grandparents at their farm. Those were the good old days for me.

My grandfather would have his breakfast and then go to his workshop to fix barrels until lunch time. Some days he would work in the afternoon too. I tagged along. The shop was cool and he would start a little fire in a small stove, fueling it with broken barrel pieces.

He gave me a hammer and a big screwdriver and showed me how to use the tools to pry loose and remove cracked and broken wood cleats that were nailed under the bottom of the barrel. Any nails left sticking out of the barrel bottom needed to be pulled out with the hammer claw. The job suited me.

Percy worked quietly and steadily and methodically. In my mind’s eye, I see him sitting by the window, silhouetted against the light, a bunch of small nails between his lips, taking one at a time as needed to pound into the new bottom blocks.

Next to him, on an old workbench was a large-diameter rope attached to a ratcheting mechanism. He would put the rope around a barrel and turn a handle to tighten it. Once tight, the rope would hold the barrel together while he removed and replaced a broken hoop.

I have seen such a workbench once since then, in an agricultural museum here in New York. It was a tool from the 1800’s and I stood there a long time, looking at that old thing, thinking about my grandfather. 

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s he was using a tool that was probably a hundred years old to repair potato barrels, just like men in that region had done for generations.

I wonder if there is anyone anywhere still doing this. Probably not. Wooden potato barrels and hand-picking of the potato harvest is, for the most part, a thing of the past. We are, after all, now in the agribusiness era. The old skills have disappeared with the old ways.

I helped my grandfather on more than one occasion with the barrels and I know I was a good helper because he told me so. And I heard him proudly tell other people.

Many years later, my mother asked me if I remembered helping Grampie fix the barrels. Yes, I sure did. I don’t suppose I will ever forget it. 

It’s funny what events register clearly in a young boy’s mind—for the rest of his life.


The barrel hoops my grandfather used were split from tree saplings. They still had the bark on them. You can see such hoops on the barrel in this next picture.

Percy kept the hoops coiled up in galvanized washtubs full of water outside the workshop, under the eaves of the barn, taking a few at a time as needed. He would notch one end, wrap the long, wet hoop around the barrel, and mark the other end to notch. Then he would make that notch and use a hatchet to chop off any extra material on the end, before interlocking the notches and setting the hoop over the barrel. A hammer and a block of wood were used to drive the hoop down tight. Then some nails were used to secure the hoop there.

And, again, I wonder.... 

Did that youthful experience helping my grandfather fix musty potato barrels in a dark little workshop under his barn influence me so that, years later, I gravitated into a career as a carpenter and woodworker?


Here is a picture of me back in the day. I’m all spiffed up, a proper gentleman, on the porch at my Grandmother Kimball’s house in town. Grampie Philbrick called me a “little city slicker.”

Those summers of my youth spent in Northern Maine were a study in contrasts. On the one hand, Grammie Kimball was relatively well-to-do because my grandfather Kimball was a doctor and had been wise with his investments. Grammie Kimball had a fine home in town and drove a big Cadillac. She always dressed real nice, and bought me all kinds of things, including comic books, which I dearly loved reading. And she had a big color television, all the better to watch episodes of Daniel Boone and Bonanza . 

Then, on the other hand, my Philbrick grandparents lived a harder, more sparse lifestyle on the farm. They did not have much money.


One day my grandfather Philbrick took me with him to get a new supply of the barrel hoops. We did not get them from the woods. We got them from “the Indians.”

Knowing that I was going to go see real Indians filled me with anxious anticipation. My grandfather drove an old, beat-up, dark green VW bus. It was somewhat offbeat for a old potato farmer to be driving, but the big roll-open side door was practical. He rearranged his fishing gear and hip waders to make room for the hoops.

My grandfather drove slow and, like every farmer I’ve ever known, his eyes were continually surveying the fields, checking out the crops. This would inevitably lead him to gradually veer off the road, toward the ditch. But every time, just in time, he would come to his senses, realize that he was about to drive us in the ditch, and quickly steer back onto the road (I may have brought the impending crash to his attention a couple of times).

I remember telling two visiting cousins, Lisa and Jeff, as we were all about to ride with Grampie to the “Fairmont” country store (memorable to me for its creaky wood floors and lack of much to buy) that they needed to be aware that Grampie might drive off the road—and be prepared for the crash. Sure enough, he was watching the fields out the window to his left while slowly, gradually steering the VW towards the ditch on the right. But we never did go into the ditch. I know cousin Lisa still remembers that ride.

Getting back to the indian story.... 

We did go and get hoops from the indians but I was greatly disappointed when we got there. None of the indians I saw resembled Mingo, Daniel Boone’s sidekick on television (played by Ed Ames, who, it turns out, was actually Jewish). There was no village with teepees, no loincloths, no feathers in their hair, no tomahawks and no bows and arrows. The indians were dark skinned with black hair but they pretty much looked like regular people. Far as I could tell, they weren’t real indians.

Here is a picture of my grandfather and grandmother, Percy and Gertrude Philbrick, taken back in those days. 

Also, on the cover of this book, is a picture of Percy and me. It is the only picture I have of him and I together (because I’m sure that’s my cousin Peter in the other picture I showed you).

About Garth’s Barn 
Now I’ll tell you about Garth Fout’s barn. Garth’s barn might well be the most picturesque barn in all of Ohio. Back in 2003, an enterprising 23-year-old painter named Scott Hagan painted the Ohio Bicentennial logo on a selected barn in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Garth’s barn (not owned by Garth at the time) got two logos. If you go to this web site, you will find links to all the “Bicentennial Barns” in Ohio. Click on “Defiance” to see Garth’s.

And while you’re at it, you can go to this web site and see lots of other neat old (and some new) barns from Ohio and elsewhere. There is one category for “religious theme” barns. Like this one, in Stephenson County, Illinois....

Or this one in Lenawee County, Michigan......

Update On The Deliberate Agrarian Haiku Poetry Contest

Last month, when I told you about the Agrarian Haiku Poetry Contest I was sponsoring, I wondered if anyone would participate. Well, I’m not wondering any more. Thus far, 68 haiku poems have been submitted.

Every poem submitted thus far is a good one, but some are exceptional. At this point Marlene and I are in agreement about the best one of all. But that could change because the contest runs until November 25th and I hope/expect to have a lot more submissions by then.

Please stop by the contest web site and see which haikus you like the best. Then, if you have not done so already, I hope you will compose and submit some poems of your own. There are some great prizes, which brings me to a small announcement and a new idea....

Thoughts on the 2nd Annual Deliberate Agrarian Haiku Poetry Contest

The picture above is a functional artistic creation made by none other than Garth Fout, the fellow with the beautiful barn in Ohio. Garth calls it a “Piggy Back Massage.” Nice.

Garth has donated this agrarian-themed object as a prize in this year’s Haiku contest. You can see it listed with all the other great prizes at this link.

Garth’s offer to donate this prize has me thinking about prizes for next year’s contest. I’m thinking that other down-to-earth craftspeople from across the country could contribute items they create as official prizes in the contest. 

By next year, the contest will be really well known and really popular and a really LOT of people will be stopping by to check it out (I’m really thinking positive about this). So those who donate a prize to the contest would get some good online marketing exposure.

I'm not sure this is something I'm going to actually do yet. But if you have a home business crafting items of beauty or functionality (or both) and you might like to contribute a prize to next year’s contest, send me an e-mail:

Wounded in Action

My US-Army-soldier son, stationed on the DMZ in South Korea has been wounded in action—water skiing action. 

He took a bad fall and broke his tibia (or maybe it was the fibula—I can't remember right now). Doctors operated for two hours and used a metal plate with seven screws to put him back together. That was two days ago and he will be healing for awhile.

Our Annual Rt 90 
Garage Sale Safari

Last weekend was the annual 50-mile-long Route 90 Garage sale, which I’ve written about here in past years. We typically go as a family but this year Marlene and I headed out by ourselves, while Robert and James went together in Robert’s truck.

Marlene brought along some ice water, homemade tabouli salad, cucumber slices and homemade hummus for us to snack on. We took our time, enjoyed the beautiful day, saw some friends along the way, bought some fresh peaches and nectarines at an orchard overlooking Cayuga Lake, and had a good time. Here’s a picture of one place we stopped. I took it to show you the nice little barn in the background.

Of course, we found some great stuff along the way. Marlene’s best find of the day was a 1961 first edition, second printing, of Julia Child’s classic cookbook, “Mastering The Art of French Cooking.” It’s in great shape. She paid 50-cents for it and will probably sell it on Ebay (they typically sell there for $50 to $75).

I found a great book too. It’s titled How to Go About Laying an Egg, by Bernard Waber (published in 1963). Here’s a picture of the title page.

The book begins with “Rule 1: Make sure you are a hen,” and then proceeds to help you “decide whether or not you are a hen.”

It is a silly little book that people are paying $10 to $20 for on the internet. I bought it because of the chicken art. I’m sure my friend, Jax Hamlin, the chicken folk artist from Nonesuch, will love the book.

My best find of the day was a  strap-on, one leg milking stool...

There was no price on this simple, functional old tool and I asked an older lady at the sale how much she wanted for it. She asked if I was an antique dealer. I said no. I told her I planned it use the stool—that I was going to strap it on my wife so she could sit down while picking beans in the garden.

The woman said I could have it for two dollars. I didn't feel right paying two dollars. I gave her five.

The stool was made in Holland. I asked how long ago it was last used. She said they used it back in the 1940’s when they were milking 17 cows. But then they got a milking machine and didn’t need the stool. Today the farm milks 85 cows.

On the way home, while discussing our different sale finds, I asked Marlene if she would be so kind as to model the stool so I could show all my blog readers how it straps on one's rear end. She just laughed.

But I have strapped it on myself and I can tell you it is a very comfortable seat. The base of the leg has a spring that acts like a shock absorber.

Speaking of beans, here’s a picture of Marlene (taken by herself) after picking green beans on a wet July morning...

Breakfast in July

Yogurt with granola, topped with lots of just-picked raspberries (I guess you would call it a parfait, which sounds very French to me, but I do not find "parfait" in the Julia Childs book). That, along with a cup of coffee, outside on our patio, in our back yard, in the stillness of the early morning, here in the rural countryside where we live, is one of the best examples of “the good life” that I can think of.

Our raspberry canes have yielded very well and been such an enjoyable treat in this July now past.

In addition to the weekends, I’ve been home for such breakfasts two weekday mornings each week because I’ve been working only three and a half days at the prison job and the rest of the time at my Whizbang Books & project parts business.

Marlene and I have  also been spending a lot of time tending to the various needs of my ailing stepfather. One of those needs in July was to buy his house. We don’t intend to ever live there, but buying the place was the right thing to do under the circumstances. 

I can tell you that we would not have ever been able to do such a thing were it not for the relative success of the Whizbang business. And I can’t help but think what an awesome, sovereign orchestrator of events God is by providentially foreseeing the need and providing the financial resources for this purpose.

Land Update
It has been months since I announced here that we were probably going to buy 1.5 acres of field and woods right next to us. We had offered the owners an exceptionally good price for this section of their property. They accepted out purchase offer. We were thrilled at the prospect of doubling our acreage.

And then we waited... and waited... and waited. We waited a lot of months. Well, now the waiting is over. It turns out we are not going to purchase the land.

The owner has just re-listed the whole property (house, barn, and all the land) with a new real estate agent. At this point, we could re-offer to purchase the section of land, but we are feeling that we should not. We will just wait some more (we’re good at waiting) and see what develops.

They have put a high price on the property. Too  high, if you ask me. There are other, much nicer properties around us for considerably less. I will be surprised if it sells. They can come to us if they want to sell the section. We would still buy it—but not for the exceptional price we offered before.

So now we will do what we have always done, which is to say, we will do the best we can with what we have, right here where we are, while being content, and waiting (always waiting) to see what Providence has in store for us next. 

Update On The Planet Whizbang Garden Tote

Back in January of this year I showed you a picture of the wood and wire tote that I made. We have been putting that tote through the paces around here and I can report that it is a very handy homestead tool. It’s also has an attractive tool.

In the picture above, the tote has a variety of gardening tools in it, and even a sledge hammer. Hanging over one end are numerous wires that were used to make tire sidewall cloches which are part of my Whizbang Squash Planting Secret.

You’ll also notice a long-handled hoe resting on top of the tote (it rides there very nicely). The tote will carry all of those things comfortably, with room to spare, and I’m very pleased with the tote’s durability and usefulness.

That particular tote happens to be my 5th prototype; I made four different versions earlier this year and scrapped them all. After putting some use on this tote, I’ll make some additional minor modifications when I put together a final version this winter.

It is my intention to publish inexpensive, step-by-step directions for making these homestead totes. (Update 4/14: Plans for making the tote are now available at This Link)

Uncle Clyde’s 
Just-Published Memoir

My uncle, Clyde Kennedy, out in Ohio is 87 years old and, with the help of his children, has just published an autobiography of his life during the years of the Great Depression. It’s titled, The Hard Surface Road.

I read about half the manuscript around ten years ago (he has been working on the book a very long time) and knew then that Clyde’s experiences and recollections were an important historical chronicle of that difficult era—an era that precious few people alive today can relate to.

Uncle Clyde (who married my mother’s sister, Dawn, back after WW2) was a child during the Depression years but his memories of those days are clear and poignant.

There were no unemployment benefits back then—no food stamps—no social services of any kind to speak of. There was, however, family and families helped each other. But Clyde’s family on his father’s side, were one rough bunch of Eastern Ohio coal country moonshiners.

The book is dedicated to Clyde’s mother, Anna Statzer Kennedy. Chapter 1, titled, Homeless and Adrift, begins with these words:
The stubborn pace of time cannot erase from my mind how fate, in one of its bleakest forms, set our family adrift in the throes of the Great Depression. Born on the first of January in 1923, I was seven years old when the Roaring Twenties curled up and died. Dad lost his job, the bank foreclosed on our mortgaged house, and our good life vanished like a dream at sunrise. Dad’s brute strength, craving for work, and devotion to Mom kept our heads above water as we battled those cruel hard times. I wonder, though, what in the world would have become of us boys had it not been for our indomitable mother, who stood at the helm with her trust in the Lord.
If and when this book is published in a more affordable format, I’ll be letting you know about it here. You can learn a bit more about the book at this link.

The Next Depression....

Speaking of economic depression, the talking heads on radio (and probably television, which I don’t watch) are continually worrying about the economy. They are now suggesting that we may be headed for a “double dip” recession. That’s a laugh. A double-dip recession is mild compared to what is more likely in store for America. Double-dip recession is like a head cold compared to terminal cancer—with terminal cancer being the kind of economic outcome we’re likely to encounter.

Some people interpret such a prognosis on my part as much too negative, and pigeon hole me as a “doom & gloomer.” Well, I don’t consider myself that. I’m just a guy who has enough historical perspective to know we are not immune to collapse, and I understand pretty well the fundamental economic flaws inherent in our debt-money system.

I also know very well that human nature is flawed too. So we have flawed people trying to save a floundering, flawed economic system. It’s just not gonna happen. They can stretch out the inevitable, but not forever—and then what?

God only knows. But I can’t help thinking it’s going to be very, very difficult—primarily because we live in a civilization that, for the most part, has disengaged from the land, is not accustomed to hardship, and is so incapable of providing for its own needs.

There is sufficient reason to believe the upcoming economic crisis will be worse than the Great Depression (this short article provides some pertinent insights).

Faced with such a scenario, the question always arises... What about me? How will I and my family fare in an economic collapse?

None of us knows these things. But I can tell you this much... If you are living a lifestyle that is totally dependent on the government, the industrial providers, and/or your fiat-money reserves, you are in a dangerous position.

If you don’t have access to a debt-free section of land to live and grow food on, you are in a dangerous position.

If you lack the tools and hands-on skills needed for  self-sufficient living, you are in a dangerous position.

If you do not have a stocked larder, you are in a dangerous position.

If you don't have contingency plans for living without running water and electricity, you are in a dangerous position.

If you do not have a network of family and friends that you can depend on in difficult times, you are in a dangerous position.

If you lack the faith-based worldview needed to comprehend and accept the ugliest of scenarios, and to sustain yourself through them, you are in a dangerous position.

That said, it is my contention that Christianity, properly understood and lived, can sustain a person through any crisis he or she will ever face here on this earth—bar none—right to the end.

But I can also tell you that Christianity, properly understood and lived, tells it’s followers to sever their dependencies on the dominant world system. 

Precious few of those who profess to follow Christ seem to understand this. They limit their response to this biblical call for cultural separation because, frankly, they love their bondage to the world system—they have no desire to pursue the harder way of life that naturally follows the active pursuit of separation.

To a degree, I must admit to being among these “worldly” Christians—but only to a degree. The fact is, I have the tools, the skills, the land, and the spiritual resources to accept and deal with the coming adversity. I may not survive it, but I’m equipped to deal with it.

This is all something to think about as the myopic talking heads blather on and our government feeds us a continual stream of economic data skewed to make the situation seem better than it is (and that’s getting harder to do all the time).

A New Vision For 
The Retirement Years

I have read Gary North’s writings for a long time. In a recent essay titled, Two Bad Investments: Stocks, Bonds, North reiterates something he has been saying for many years, which is that your average person can not rely on conventional investments for financial support in their “retirement years.” In the recent article, after explaining why stocks & bonds are a bad investment, North states the following:
The average American has no pension. He has Social Security: a political claim against the future wages of people just like he is, only younger. His security is no better than Federal Reserve monetary policy, Congress's ability to persuade younger workers not to revolt, and his children's willingness to bail him out when the first two prove to have been false hopes.

The median net worth of Americans 55 and older is around $200,000. That was before the housing decline..... Think about this number. If a man is worth $200,000 at age 60 or thereabouts, or maybe $230,000 at 65, how much passive income will this generate at today's bank CD interest rate? Under $2,000 a year. So, he will have to sell his equity. But wait! The bulk of that $200,000 is the equity in his home – or was. So, he will have to sign up for a reverse mortgage. He will sell his house in stages.

The point is, if he lives for 20 more years, and his wife outlives him, they will be in poverty at death. He will have to sell at least $10,000 in assets each year to supplement Social Security. Inflation will speed up this process as the dollar depreciates.

His medical bills cost the government about $1,000 a month. Can you see why people hold placards at political rallies: "Don't touch my Medicare"? They are trapped. If they had to pay for their own medical care, they would be in poverty within a decade of retirement.

This is the reality of pensions and retirement. Yet the people on Tout TV do not tell listeners, "Sell your stocks. Start a home business. There is no way that you can retire in comfort with money in the stock market."

People want to believe that they can write a check each month and forget about the future. They delegate responsibility for their future to experts who get paid whether or not their investments pan out.

This is madness. It is universal.

Such reasoning from Gary North was like a kick in the pants when I read it years ago. It was a powerful incentive for me to begin a home business writing and self-publishing Whizbang books, and to start selling various project parts, while still working a full time “day job.”

I did not undertake my home business with fast money in  mind, I did it with my older years in mind. I also did it because I hoped it would eventually enable me to come home from my prison job.

I have no money invested in stocks or bonds. It is invested in inventory, marketing, new product ideas, and, hopefully, a good name in the minds of my customers.

My concept of retirement is not leisure and non-productivity. It is continued simple living and frugality combined with hands-on work and creative pursuits—but not working in a conventional job for someone else. Lord willing, I’ll be realizing this kind of retirement soon and will be productive at it for many years to come.

I’m telling you this because I think Gary North is right on with this idea—it makes incredibly good sense to develop a home-based business, with your retirement years in mind. You can read the above-mentioned essay and several other Gary North articles at this link.

In The Final Analysis

Unemployment. Inflation. Deflation. Recession. Depression. Societal collapse. Whatever. History marches on and you and I are not going to change the historical course.  It does no good to worry about outcomes. But it does us some good to respond wisely.

And to my way of thinking, the wise response is a deliberate and agrarian one. If there is a common theme to my writings over the past five years, this is it....

Humble yourself. Ground yourself in the spiritual sense (see above). Ground yourself in the physical, earthy sense so you can grow some of your own food. Stock the pantry. Eliminate debt. Downsize. Simplify. Make do and be content with less.  Learn the various hands-on skills of self-sufficient living. Establish one (or more) small home businesses. Embrace the little pleasures of life. Thank God for His blessings....

....Like, For Example, Tomatoes

Last year was not a good tomato year around here. There was a blight. It was very discouraging. But the tomatoes are looking better this year. 

Those four beautiful tomato fruits shown above are of the "Tommy Toe" variety. They are indeterminate tomatoes, which means they grow up in the air instead of bushing out, so you can grow them on a trellis.

Trellised tomatoes are easy to take care of and very satisfying to grow. Here's a picture of these trellised tomatoes...

That trellis section is 6ft long and 5ft 6 in. high. I planted three Tommy Toes in the span. The trellis structure itself consists of two t-posts, topped with two of my Whizbang T-Post trellis fittings (not yet available) which support a length of sumac tree trunk. 

Sumac is pretty much a weed tree and I cut it out of the hedgerow across the road from our house. This is actually the second year I've used that particular length of sumac to span t-posts. Strings are tied top to bottom for supporting the tomatoes and grass clippings around the bottom keep the weeds down.

I have let the tomato plants grow to about 6 ft high. Now I'll prune them as needed to keep them that height while the tomatoes start ripening (they ripen from the bottom up).

Another Kind of Trellis Structure

Marlene likes to grow morning glories. They are a flowering vine and I have come up with another Whizbang idea, which you can see in the picture above. I call them Trellis Triangles.

Trellis Triangles are little triangles designed to hold short or long lengths of dowel. You screw the triangles to your house or garage or barn. Then slide in a length of dowel and tie strings between the dowels. The strings support your climbing plant.

At the end of the season, simply snip the strings and leave the triangles with dowels in place for stringing again the next year.

As you can see in the picture above, you can attach a longer dowel to the underside of a soffit and fan the trellis string out.  I'll show you a picture of this same support next month.

Here is another view, looking down, from triangle support to triangle support, by our patio in the back of the house. The black you see is tar paper "siding."

I'll have more to say about these Trellis Triangles (Whizbang Trellis Triangles, that is) later this year. They are made of HDPE plastic so they're impervious to the rain and cracking and all of that, like wood would be.

One Last Barn

Probably the most remarkable old barn I've ever been in is at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass. Here's a picture of the outside.


That's all for this month. Thanks for stopping by. I enjoy posting these monthly Updates and I hope you enjoy reading them. 

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball


Carla Hays said...

Herrick -

All I can say about the land "deal" is that it wasn't meant to be. It was meant for you and Marlene to be in a better position to purchase her step-father's home, and that's just the position God put you in. It's wonderful how these things work out, especially when, down the road, you see the beauty and practicality of God's handiwork.

I'm sorry about your son's injury, but as a mother, I'm thinking that will keep him out of harm's way for awhile! When my son Nick plays football (he's QB), I just pray for the moment he gets rid of the ball. I don't care if he throws it to the left, to the right, or out-of-bounds, just so he throws it, because in truth, it doesn't matter to me who wins or loses, only that he stays safe, and doesn't get "sacked". If he runs with it, I just can't watch - I pray! So Marlene will understand my thinking on this, I'm sure! :) I'll be praying for your son's recovery, and that he suffers no lingering effects from this little setback.

Speaking of laying eggs and chicken art, is my print ready? No hurry, but didn't know if I had missed the deadline of when to order it?

Loved the grandparent memories, and loved the discourse on the state of our economy. So much to think about, but as you say, we shouldn't obsess over it. We put our faith in God, and try to be prepared for the worst.

Things are busy here. I guess my home-based business would be my cooking. Not many people (Marlene excluded here) still cook from scratch, and with fresh ingredients. I do these things for our restaurants, but could do it from home just as easily. Only thing is, if everything collapses who would be in the market for it? At least I'll be able to feed my family, already being accustomed to doing without pre-made mixes and fast food. There are many folks I know who wouldn't eat if it weren't for microwave meals, fast food, and stuff out of a box, so they'll have some adjusting to do, for sure! We do own a lot of land, and both of us have the ability to grow things, and we have a pond to fish from. Don't own any animals though, except our faithful dog, Kurt!

Thanks, as always, for your update. Always look forward to reading it.


G00dc00k said...


Great post, I usually need to read them over twice to get everthing out of them.

Have you seen this on MSN Another farmily farm goes up for sale. I whish I could buila a legacy like that for my family...

May God bless you!..Pete in Kalama

Lynn Bartlett said...

Hi Herrick,
Your Whizbang business has certainly been a blessing to us. The parts for Jonathan's plucker arrived on Tues., and the guys have been busy ever since with putting the thing together. They are trying to have it ready for butchering the end of the week. Their next project will be a Whizbang scalder! It will make our butchering days go much smoother, considering by the end of the season we'll have butchered almost 600 chickens. Thanks again, and love my new cutting board!

Ryan K said...

Received this link and noticed that some of the pictures are from Aroostook County which you've mentioned here. Thought you might enjoy them:

Julie-Ann from NH said...

Are those grass clippings under your tomatoes?

Anonymous said...

amazing as always! :) -Jackie

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Carla-
Thanks for the response. I always enjoy your comments.

Wait until your son tells you he wants to buy a motorcycle....and get into motocross racing...and one of his friends who does this recently crashed and broke a bunch of bones. :-)

I have not forgotten that you wanted to purchase the Jax Hamlin drawing of the chicks on the bowl with indigo stripes. That will be available later this year, when things slow down on the Hamlin homestead.

Hi Lynn-
I think you all are going to really appreciate what that Whizbang plucker will do for you on processing day. 600 chickens is a LOT. I didn't realize you were raising so many. And I'm glad to know you are enjoying your "chicken plucker plastic cutting board."

Ryan K.-
Thanks for the link. Those are some great pictures.

Yes, grass clippings are a great mulch for tomatoes.

Kelle at The Never Done Farm said...

As always, we wait and watch for the month's end to see what your going to write about :o)

Love all of your family memories and sharing of wonderful photos.
We too are following in the footsteps you wrote of; building small home business( actually two, selling produce and animals, as well as small farm cylinder repair)This way Mike can RETIRE from his "prison job" and come home to work. Retirement is a part of Industrialization; look back in history people worked up to the day they died or could no longer work, families supported one another, working together to insure a good life for everyone. It's the industrial mindset that has torn this apart and indoctrinated families into thinking as independents, rather than dependents( on each other for a strong working family unit)
Sadly my folks are of the mindset they've worked and DESERVE to be retired, this includes doing NOTHING in their day to day lives but sit and watch TV :o( They are miserable and yet still the continue on in their retirement journey. They feel ashamed of our lifestyle because we don't fit into today's way of thinking( We take that as a compliment) As you may or may not know Mike and I felt led, to allow them to build a home on our property, due to my Mom's deteriorating health and metal state, as a help and support to my Dad and so Mom wouldn't have to face a nursing home at some point. It hasn't been a picnic by any means and as stated above they want no part of our life, nor want to feel obligated to help in anyway( not that we've asked, knowing this is how they feel) They refuse to take produce, eggs or meat because they didn't help in raising it and don't desire to either( falls under they are retired and don't have to work anyomore). My Dad shopped at Costco all last winter, buying potatoes, onions, carrots and whatnot, all the while we had a cellar, fully to overflowing and yet they would NOT use any*sigh* We know that they will be taken care of and they won't starve, even if they don't like taking it.

We'll be looking for you to let us know more about your Uncle's book, we certainly would like a copy. My Grandmother kept a diary most of her life and my Dad's family had much of it published into a book( for just the family) It's a wonderful gift and I'm finding out things about my Grandparents that I never knew.:O)

Blessings to you and yours,

Jimsimply said...

Waiting for the end of the month seems like torture. But your posts are always worth the wait.

Many blessings.

Unknown said...

I agree with and appreciate your comments on the state of the economy. I too have heard, "Gee that sure is a negative outlook." I am reminded of this quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: "This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it." There will always be opportunity, but I know I sure would not want to be learning all I have learned about gardening these past two years when my survival depended on it! Forget gold, I'm sticking my money into buying canning jars and learning how to fill them.

Great blog! I'm grateful for the effort you put into it. Thank YOU!

foutfolk said...


I am actually in shock that it worked! Here's the Creative Industries site that has them.

Mine is not new. An artist friend gave it to years ago because I threw pots more than she did. I have hauled it around the country for 5 or so years before using it now. :)

It has a 1/2 horse power industrial motor and a variable speed peddle and runs up to 240 rpm's. I am not EVEN going to pretend like I know anything about motors. All I know, is that it spins round and round and now plucks off ALL the feathers of our birds. To my delight! And I can still make pots on it.

Great post on the barns. I am sure that my children are going to make fond memories in the Big barn that we have here. (I also have four other barns/buildings on the property as well for them to venture in)

I think I cut too may holes as well. I will be ordering some more fingers soon. :)


Jim Curley said...

I loved the milking stool. I have seen pictures of them, but never the real thing. I may make one someday as we milk two cows everyday on our homestead (milk for us and for the pigs.)

Enjoyed your update as always. I have 2 friends now in the process of making WB Chicken pluckers.

Jim Curley

Anonymous said...


I ran across this photo and thought you might enjoy it for several reasons. Supposedly, it was taken in October 1940 in the vicinity of Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine.

I enjoy your blog.

Warm regards,

Doug H.

Kristin said...

Thank you for writing every month! I really enjoyed reading about Uncle Clyde's book (may order it for my Ohioan 89 year old grandfather) and love you assessment of the supposed "double dip" recession. Your articles are always a reminder to be prepared, which my family and I are working on! Thanks again, and God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Dear Henry and Marlene,

Thank you for sharing your experiences.
We, My husband and I enjoy it.
Especially when we see your children grow up, so Fri
We wish your son get well with his leg.
Is he still in S. Korea? We heard through the media that there is restless.
So nice to see the stool racers, because my husband has still a milking stool in his youth. Yes, we are Dutch!
Idd it is useful for picking beans.
Warm greetings Margriet

Herrick Kimball said...

I appreciate your comments. I think we would be good neighbors. :-)

Thank you. I look forward to my once-a-month blog post here too. I thought my readership would dwindle significantly when I went to the monthly format but I think it has gone up.

Great quote. Thanks for sharing it. You are a wise person.

Thanks for the info. For those who don't know, Garth made a chicken plucker out of his potter's wheel and blogged about it, and I commented at his blog.

I noticed that some fingers were missing. Let me know how many you need and I'll send them right out.

Hey Jim—
The best part of that old milking stool is the spring on the bottom. It really is bouncy-comfortable. Lehman's sells a milking stool with a solid single wooden leg. It looks solid but very uncomfortable.

Thanks for the photo. Three or four people e-mailed me a link to that picture. Thank you, and thanks to the e-mailers too.

I never picked potatoes in Aroostook County, Maine but my mother and all her siblings did, from an early age and she told me about it.

When I was 18 I had an opportunity to pick potatoes for an older man up the road from us who planted a few acres. I picked for two days, into wooden crates instead of barrels. It was hard work and it gave me some idea of what kids up in Aroostook County experienced.

Your 89-year-old grandfather has really seen some changes in his life. My mother-in-law is 95. She grew up on a farm and still has her memories. She and Marlene's dad married during the Depression. They started out with nothing but there was farm work to be done and they had food, shelter, and work to do. Thanks for posting here.

Hi Margriet—
I don't think I have ever had a Dutch comment here before. :-)

Yes, my son is still in Korea. He is healing well. Thanks for asking and for commenting here.

Best wishes to you.