The Deliberate Agrarian Update
30 October 2010

My son James

Time marches on and my youngest son, James, turned 16 years old in this October now past. That’s him in the picture above. He was still 15 when I took that picture. Fifteen years old and operating a backhoe. That’s James for you.

He borrowed the backhoe from a neighbor farmer he works for because he had a job to do. Behind our house, close to the drop-off that leads to a fast flowing, shale-bottomed stream in the woods, we had some remnant piles of sand and stone. James wanted to level the piles so he could have a good spot for his birthday party bonfire, and he did a fine job of it.

The birthday party was a success. I counted 14 kids but some came and went so there were more than that. James wanted steamed clams, which is something we’ve never cooked before. He got 200 of them, fresh from Nova Scotia, cooked them himself,  and they were all eaten—though Marlene and I didn’t have any (they remind me of chicken gizzards). Among other foods, Marlene cooked up a batch of chicken wings, which were from birds we raised ourselves, on the front lawn, and butchered a few weeks ago. I did eat a bunch of those. Then there was the birthday cake, which a couple of the girls who came to the party made, and I think they did a right fine job of it...

Bow-Shot Buck

My son Robert got to his brother’s birthday party late because he was bow hunting. It was the first day of bow season. Both boys were out early in the morning and saw several deer but none to their liking. Then Robert went out in the afternoon and came back after dark with the 8-pointer shown above. The shot was perfect and I, for one, was impressed with the feat, as well as the size of the animal. Robert looks at the rack, but I look at the meat, and there was a lot of meat on that beast.

I have to say, I was also impressed with his gutting of the deer—not that it was a particularly neat  job, but that he did the job, in the headlights of his truck, with the boy party goers looking on at length, and an occasional curious girl stopping by for a peek.

Processing Deer

James and I, with some help from Marlene, processed Robert’s deer for him a few days later. It was the biggest deer we’ve ever butchered. Lots of meat. This year, for the first time, we made venison cube steaks with most of the good meat on the hind quarters. Here’s James displaying his handiwork, having pounded the slices of meat thin with a tenderizing hammer.

Those little “steaks” cook up in the frying pan in about 3 minutes, and they’re quite good. Another especially good part of the deer is the backstrap, which is a long strip of meat on either side of the spine. We “butterfly” slices from the backstrap and cook them on the grill. Here’s what the backstrap butterfly cuts look like

It’s still early in the hunting season and we are hoping for another deer or two before its over.

Update on 
The Old Barn Treasure

In last month’s blog essay here I told you about a dream I had. In this dream I was directed to dig inside the southwest corner of the old, fallen-down barn on my stepfather’s property (which Marlene and I bought a few months ago). In my dream it was communicated to me that I would find some sort of valuable “treasure” that was hid there a long time ago. The treasure would be sufficient for us to buy ourselves a section of land to live on and husband beyond the little 1.5 acre homestead we now live on (we have no interest at all in living at my stepfather's place, for various reasons).

Well, that picture above is of the barn—what’s left of it. Come to find out, the stone foundation wall in the southwest corner has fallen in. It wasn’t like that in my dream. I would have to move a lot of rock and mortar to get to the “treasure” spot. So I decided  not to expend the effort, at least not now. Here is a picture showing the pile of heaved-over wall right where I am supposed to dig.

I was in 9th grade when my parents bought the barn and the house that goes with it, The house is still standing. My younger sister lives there, and my stepfather, a severe diabetic, who is currently in a rehabilitation center after having his leg amputated, is hoping to get back soon. 

It’s hard to imagine it when you look at the pictures above, but 37 years ago that barn was in good shape. Judging from the foundation remains, it measured around 24ft by 32ft. Though not an architectural treasure, like some barns are, it was put together with wood beams and had big roll-open doors in the upstairs.

It was a real thrill for me to move from a nondescript  little ranch house in a suburban housing project to an old place in the country with a barn. A Farmall F-20 tractor came with the place too. The previous owner showed us how to properly crank start it with a handle in the front.

I loved that old barn back then, and the tractor too. My stepfather had a garage-sale table saw in the dark, low-ceiling downstairs of the barn. Equipped with a dull blade, I used it to burn through old boards I found in the barn and I used the wood for different craft projects. I remember a haze of acrid blue smoke would hang in the air so densely that I’d have to stop sawing and go outside for some fresh air. I learned that there is often beautiful wood hidden inside ugly old lumber, and I spent hours in the barn at a bench with a vise, hammering and chiseling and gouging and sanding old lumber to make wooden spoons. I gave the first one I made to my mother, She cherished it, of course, and put it to good use over the years. Here is a picture of that spoon now:

Unfortunately, after I left home, the barn roof started to leak badly on the north end. Then the big back doors fell off their rollers, then came a wind storm, and a big gust lifted the roof right off. Part of it landed on the F-20, which was in the yard, and hadn’t been used for years.

The north half of the barn (where the roof didn’t leak) had been packed with all sorts of antique furniture and assorted junk my stepfather collected. When I heard the roof was gone, I went up and salvaged a few things of mine that were still in there. That was maybe 20 years ago. Pretty  much everything in the barn has rotted down with the structure. Now it’s just a pile of decay and rubble with overgrowth all around.

And under that rubble, in the southwest corner, the “treasure” lies, waiting for me to dig it up.

Then again, if I had dug in that corner this last month, and I did find a treasure, do you think I would tell everybody on this blog? Not likely.

Barn In A Barn

In the picture above, another from the barn I once knew, you can see the tenoned end of an old beam that has resisted decay better than the rest of the barn. There are other such beams under it. Those beams were actually not part of the structure of the fallen-down barn. They were part of a taken-down barn. I’ll explain...

In the summer of my 17th year, my stepfather, a Mutual of Omaha insurance salesman, was given a barn by one of his customers. The older woman who owned it said my stepfather could have it if he took it down and hauled it away. It was a perfectly fine timber-frame barn, sized about like our barn.

So he and I spent several long hot summer weekend days carefully disassembling that old barn. After the roof and weathered board siding were removed, we pounded the pegs out of the beams and stacked all the salvaged wood neatly.

If you have ever salvaged a structure, you know it’s a lot of work. And it’s an educational experience, especially with a post and beam frame. At one time, it was common in the rural areas of our nation to take old buildings apart and reuse the lumber on new structures. It was a practice that provides some insight into the practical frugality of our agrarian ancestors.

Once we had the barn apart and stacked neatly, my father had a friend with a truck come. We loaded it all on and drove it home. The truck backed up to our barn and we carefully stacked all the boards and beams inside. And there it all sat until the roof blew off. Now it has all rotted to uselessness.

There were enough good beams there to frame a nice post-and-beam house, and I wanted to use the beams for that purpose when Marlene and I built our house. I would go up in the barn and look at the beams and measure them and visualize how I would use them. But my stepfather could be a difficult person, and I decided to just let the beams be. Now I own them—or what’s left of them.

Of A Chicken Murderer


Not all my memories of that barn are good, and I can not let the subject of the barn pass without telling you this next story from years ago, though I should probably not....

The sky was Payne’s Gray and spitting flakes of icy snow—a portent of worse to come—when my mother called me on the phone: “Can you please do something with those chickens?”

They were old egg layers that came from who-knows-where earlier in the season. My stepfather may have brought them home from one of his insurance calls. The birds had run free for the months of good weather, pretty much fending for themselves, roosting in the barn at night, and laying eggs wherever they wanted. The flock amounted to around 20.

My mother wanted them gone because there was no feed, no money for feed, winter was coming, and the birds were going to suffer. I put her mind at ease when I told her I would “take care of it.”

Having never killed a chicken in my life, I decided that the best thing to do would be to shoot them. Marlene and I had been married a couple years at that time and I had just bought a Ruger 10-22 rifle. It was my first gun (many more would follow) and seemed like the right tool for the job. After all, .22-calibre rifles are good for killing varmints like woodchucks, and woodchucks are a lot tougher than chickens.

So, on that somber day, I loaded my clip and walked into the barn, looking for my first chicken to shoot. I aimed carefully at a chicken standing in the doorway. I pulled the trigger. The bird gave a startled jump. A little tuft of feathers blew out the other side and wafted in the air. Then the chicken just walked away like nothing had happened.

That wasn’t what I expected at all. I thought I would shoot the chicken and it would drop dead. That goes to show how ignorant about these kinds of things I still was back then. I now realize a head shot would have been more effective, and more sporting. But I had a lot to learn.

There were nine more bullets still in the clip and I took aim at the bird again. I shot and it dropped, but it didn’t drop dead. It laid on the ground and looked at me.

That was unnerving. I quickly unloaded the rest of the clip into the chicken.

Still, it lived.

The poor thing was suffering. I was shook up about it. I had to “do something” to put the bird out of its misery fast. So I grabbed a shovel and gave the chicken a mighty smashing blow to the head. That did it.

I had murdered my first chicken. It had not gone well. It was brutal. I was feeling badly. And there were a lot more chickens running around the barn. I still had to “do something” with them.

It was clear to me that, based on the previous experience, my box of 50 bullets would not be enough to do the job. So I used the shovel. It was crude but very effective. Whack a chicken. One by one took care of the whole flock. It was a grim scene. It was horrible. I felt lousy. I feel lousy just thinking about it now.

What do you do with a flock of chickens that you’ve just shoveled-bashed to death? I piled them into a wheelbarrow and wheeled it way out into the frozen swamp behind the barn. I left them in a pile out there in the middle of nowhere. And I’ve never been back.

That was then. I’ve come a long way since. Now I don’t murder chickens with a gun, or shovel. Instead, I put them upside down in “killing cones,” proficiently slice their necks and let them bleed to death. And the birds are not thrown away. I “process” them, and they go into our freezer. My family eats them. We’ve even eaten the gizzards (see last month’s post for gizzard eating details).

If that’s not amazing enough, I have taught two of my three sons how to properly kill, scald, pluck, and butcher chickens. My youngest, James, the Birthday Boy, was “processing” chickens when he was 11 years old (Click Here to see the pictures).

Food Prices, The Federal Reserve, and Deliberate Inflation

I don’t know if you have noticed but basic grocery store food prices have gone up significantly in the past two years. I’ve read reports of increases of 25% and more. Some food items have not increased in price as much but the amount of product in the package has been reduced. This has happened during a period of time in which we are being told by the financial gurus that there has been little to no inflation.

If you are one of the 60 million people in this country that receive Social Security payments, you know by now that you are not going to get a cost of living increase in your monthly payments for a second year in a row because the government says inflation is so low.  

But what about those food prices?

Now I understand the Federal Reserve is concerned about the lack of inflation. Perhaps Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernarke’s mother called him one cold October day and said: “Can you please do something about the economy?” (see my story above).

So now the Federal Reserve is going to perform its new “quantitative easing” trick, which amounts to creating several hundred billion dollars out of thin air and using the so-called money to buy debt in order to flood the economy with more so-called dollars. In time, the economy will figure out that an infusion of more dollars has diluted the value of all dollars. This is the definition of inflation and, believe it or not, it is actually the desired goal of the Federal Reserve.

Now, mind you, inflation is a wicked thing for any high official to plot because it is a subtle but very real type of theft. The purchasing power of your money will not be lost to inflation— it will be stolen by premeditated inflation. And real people are greatly harmed by the effects of inflation, especially the poor, but also the hard working middle class.

Nevertheless, evil and immoral as it is,  Ben Bernarke feels that a dose of inflation is just what our economy needs right now. How could this be needed? Well, it so happens that consumer spending is way down. People who have any money are saving like they have not done in years. The savings rate is up in America. This is good for those who save, but it’s not good for the economy as a whole because we have an economy based on mass consumption.

Therefore, if the Federal Reserve can create inflation, and the people who are saving their money realize it is losing value, they will be motivated to spend it. And once they start spending it, the economy will once again return to prosperity, or so the thinking goes.

It is a perverse solution. Those who understand this and have the financial resources to do so are buying gold and silver to protect their assets. The best time to have done this was years ago when these metals were comparatively cheap and all the mainstream investors discouraged it.  Now, as the realization of our financial situation really sinks in, and the desperation rises, precious metals are soaring and will continue to do so. We have seen a bubble in the stock market and the real estate market. Now it’s possible we will eventually see a bubble in precious metals too.

But you can’t eat precious metals, and if food prices have risen dramatically during two years without inflation, how high will they go when we finally do see inflation?

We will find out the answer to this very soon. But perhaps there is a glimpse of the answer in the Bible. Revelation 6:5-6 speaks of a time when a quart of wheat will cost a day’s wages. That’s inflation and scarcity for you. For those who live wholly dependent on the industrial suppliers, grocery stores, and the money economy, the scenario should be especially frightful. Which brings to mind another verse in the Bible: Proverbs 27:12, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” (New Living Translation).

Farming vs Garden-Scale Living

It is not unusual for me to get e-mail letters from people who have come to the realization that difficult times are upon us and that the wise course for them is to return to the land. This has always been the wise course, but it always becomes clearer when times get tougher. Such people want to be more self-reliant and they tell me they want to farm. The only problem is that they know nothing about farming or self-reliance. And they ask me for suggestions about how to learn everything they need to know.

I feel a little like the Maine farmer standing outside Sutherland’s IGA one day in that old Bert & I skit. A passing motorist asks, "Which way to Millinocket?" After considering a couple of possible routs, the farmer concludes: “You cahn’t get theyah from heyah.” (Click Heyah to listen to the story)

Which is to say that, on the one hand, moving from dependence on the industrial providers to dependence on a section of land, the work of your own hands, the down-to-earth goodness of rural community, and God’s grace is not easy—especially if you have little in the way of necessary skills, knowledge, and tools. But it is certainly not impossible because a great many people have been, and are now, making such a life change. Where there is a will, there is a way.

With all of this in mind, I’d like to offer some first-step suggestions to those readers here who are looking to make the personal journey out of industrial-world dependence.

1)  Read my January 2008 essay titled, An Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan, and take it to heart.

2)  Buy and read The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. It’s a remarkably useful reference book.

3)  Assemble a small library of gardening books. Start with Steve Solomon’s Gardening When it Counts. Solomon will not only tell you how to grow your own wholesome food, he will tell you how to do so with a minimum of investment in tools.

4)  Acquire top-quality basic gardening tools. A good shovel and hoe are fundamental and if that’s all you ever have, that will be sufficient, as Steve Solomon’s book explains.

5) If you have it in your head that you want to be a farmer, read Joel Salatin’s book, You Can Farm. I read it when I was around 45 years old and it convinced me that it would not be wise for me to go into farming, at least not on a large scale, and think that I could make a living at it. It would be a much different story if I was 19 or 20 years old.

6)  Plant a garden. Just do it. And get some egg-layer chickens. Then get some meat birds. Then plant some berries and brambles and grapes and fruit trees. Then, maybe, you could even raise a couple of hogs.

There is much more that I could say to the neophyte agrarian looking to pursue self reliance, but it all boils down to starting with a garden. Get your hands dirty. Learn by doing. Start small and go from there. One step at a time.

What I’m talking about here is a garden-scale approach to living one’s life. This ideal is summed up very nicely in the description of a workshop that will be given at the 2011 NOFA-NY Winter Conference. Read this:

The 1/4 Acre “Farm”

Join veteran homesteader Larry Siegel for a comprehensive look at a garden that produces enough food to feed a family, sell at market, and barter for almost anything with neighbors. Larry will share his detailed schedule for food production based on 32 years of experience. And folks, if he can do it, anyone can.

I think Mr. Siegel has the right idea. This kind of “farming” is not what you typically think about as farming. It’s more like homesteading, or maybe farmsteading. Whatever you call it, the scale and diversity of 1/4 acre “farming’ is suited to self reliance more than large-scale farming. And if you are new to self-reliance—especially if you are new to self-reliance—this garden-scale approach is what I recommend.

How Much Is An Acre?

Unless you are a farmer or a surveyor with some years of experience under your belt, it’s hard to visualize how much land an acre is. It doesn’t help to know that an acre is about how much land a double-yolk of oxen can plow in a day. And it isn’t any help to know that an acre is 43,560 square feet. What does help most modern people to best visualize how much earth-space an acre occupies  is to picture a football field.

Most every government high school in the nation has a football field. It measures 160 feet wide by 300 feet long (not including the 30-foot-long end zones). Do the math and that comes to 48,000 square feet. So a football field is a bit more than an acre in size. If you subtract 27.5 feet from the length of the football field, you have an acre.

1/4 acre would be just over 68 feet along the length of a football field.

I own 1.5 acres of land. Most of it is woods. I figure I have 1/8 of an acre for garden and 1/4 acre of lawn and area for my house and shop. That’s not a lot but we have been able to produce a lot of food on this little spot. Truth be told, we could make it even more fruitful if we put more effort into it.

What can not be done on this little acreage is pasture a lot of meat birds or grazing animals like a cow, goats, or even hogs. I don’t have enough room for much of an orchard. There isn’t enough room to leave my garden fallow for a couple of years and grow in another spot (this is important). There is not enough room for a larger workshop and showroom for my Planet Whizbang home business. And there is not enough woods to sustainably harvest a supply of our own firewood every year.

Those are some reasons why we are looking for a larger place and it’s something to keep in mind if you are looking for a place in the country.

I think ten acres would be nice, with most of it in woods. But 25 acres would be even better. And if I really wanted to try my hand at  genuine small-scale farming, I’d like 50 to 75 acres.

Acquiring a lot of land (debt free) may be an economic obstacle to many (it is to me, for now) so the idea of a smaller landholding is more attainable and practical. But if you have enough money, then go for the bigger size. And if you have a LOT of money, you may as well be a gentleman farmer. I can think of no better way to spend a lot of money.

Which reminds me of the farmer who was asked what he would do if he won a million dollars in the lottery. His reply: “I’d farm until it was all gone.”

With all of that in mind, here is a picture I took this last month while on my roof cleaning the wood stove chimney.

That garden space is all I have for a garden. It is the extent of my "farm." There is a row of grapes beyond the garden and that is my property line. The field beyond is where I once grew garlic (and lots of potatoes) back when I was in the garlic-growing business. That is also the land we expected to purchase a section of last year, but the deal fell through.

This next picture shows the view across my front yard to the field across the road.

If I were to show a picture of the other two directions, you would see woods fairly close to the house. We like our location because it is rural, private, the soil is very good,  and the house is sheltered from the worst of winter winds. It just isn't very much space when your agrarian inclinations grow bigger.

The Piggery

photo from The Piggery web site

Marlene and I like to visit the farmer’s market in Ithaca, NY at least once every summer. When we were there this year there was a line of people waiting to purchase from one vendor. Something like that at a farmer’s market really catches your eye. It is every farm market vendor’s dream come true. The people were lined up, waiting to purchase pork products from a farm in Trumansburg NY that calls itself “The Piggery.”

I have told you about exemplary farms here before. Such farms are, to my way of thinking, small-scale (The Piggery is 70 acres), organic (though not necessarily certified), and diversified. Exemplary farms focus on producing high-quality, value-added products which are sold directly to people in the community or region. Exemplary farms operate in a manner completely contrary to the conventional, agribusiness model that relies on a huge economy of scale and/or is at the mercy of global markets and commodity prices.

Agribusiness, also known as industrialized agriculture, is an unsustainable paradigm for long-term farming success. This will, in time, become much more clear. Meanwhile, carefully run small-scale farms will thrive. In other words, the term “economy of scale” will take on a meaning completely opposite to it’s current understanding. That’s what I believe, and I’m always glad to see it happen.

So stop by The Piggery web site and get a look at the future of farming in America.

Feeding Hogs in 1910
(Aroostook County, Maine)

Speaking of swine, the following information comes from the 1906 edition of Dudley Leavitt’s Farmer's Almanac:
Profitable Feed For Swine

An Aroostook county, Maine, farmer, who has great success with hogs, writes a farm paper as to his system of feeding. He says: "I raise peas, buckwheat and turnips for my hogs. I boil the turnips and peas together and mix the buckwheat with them. A few raw pumpkins are cut and fed each day in addition to the grain ration. I never had hogs do better than on this class of feed."

What is Agrarianism?

In my essay titled What is Agrarianism? What is Christian Agrarianism? , written back in 2007, I provided links to four essays by David Rockett of The Agrarian Foundation. Unfortunately, the links no longer work and The Agrarian Foundation web site has vanished. 

I am in the process of trying to recover and host David Rockett's essays at this site. Thus far, I have managed to get his essay titled What is Agrarianism? posted. You can Read it Here

From Wage Slave 
To Freeholder

While trying to locate the “lost’ Christian-agrarian essays of David Rockett I found The League of The South web site and a notable essay by Franklin Sanders (which I’ll tell you about shortly). The League of the South appears to be an organization dedicated to restoring the best aspects of traditional southern culture. Southern  secession and personal cultural secession are also part of the LS objective. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the League of the South a white supremacist movement. I’ve looked their web site over pretty well and I don’t believe that accusation. I’m all for seceding from the mainstream industrial culture (I have written about it here for years), and if a league of Southern states wants to leave the Union, I think they have the constitutional right. Just as long as they let me move down there when it happens.

But this isn’t about the League of the South. It’s about Franklin Sanders’ article on their web site. Sanders, a Christian agrarian living in Tennessee, I man I've mentioned on the blog before, and a man I respect, wrote an article in which he urges Southerners to get out of debt, get away from wage slavery, and get back to the land as freeholders where they can work to produce their own needs and help supply the needs of their communities.

With that in mind, Sanders tells the story of how a big factory (Murray Manufacturing) moved to a rural Tennessee county in 1954. The farm people of that area worked a shift in the factory while still operating their farms. “Owning their own land, they were able to build up an estate for their children.”

But things changed in the next generation as Sanders explains in a section of his essay subtitled: “Down to Egypt.”
The second generation was content to work at the factory and let the land go. If they stayed, they limited their farming to raising cattle or trees. Most of the land wound up in the hands of paper companies.

The third generation depends completely on their factory jobs.
In a county once covered with independent freeholders—self-sufficient farmers and small business owners—most people have become propertyless employees
The story goes that after fifty years the factory went bankrupt and the major employer in that area was gone. The third generation employees (wage slaves) found themselves removed from the land and their traditions of self reliance. Worse yet, they were debt slaves too...
Over the same fifty years, a people who trained their children to avoid debt have become addicted to debt. Where once father and mother laboured their whole lives to pass on a farm or business to their children, mortgage and debt free, the children are now mired to their chins in debt. Not only have government schools and agencies taught them that no one can succeed in business or farming without constant borrowing, but the consumer society has also seduced them into mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, and borrowing of all kinds. Where once only Daddy worked, now Mama must work, too, to make the payments, so the children must go to daycare.

If they lose their jobs, they lose everything, because they own nothing.
This is not only a Southern problem. Such is the lament of all America. And Franklin Sanders offers a solution that is, to my way of thinking, the only wise course for a nation in decline, which is where we find ourselves now.
Thru public education industrial capitalism (not free enterprise) has turned a nation of freeholders into a nation of employees. To reverse our people’s present economic serfdom, then, we must reverse what modernism has done. We have to turn employees into freeholders
This begins by breaking the chain of debt slavery. Then comes the acquisition of land and the long, difficult journey back to self reliance and personal independence.

But the whole industrial system is aligned against agrarian-based independence. Burdensome government regulations and excessive taxation are tremendous obstacles. Yet, this change can be made and is being done by individuals and families with the focus and determination. Again, where there is a will, there is a way.

You can read Franklin Sanders’ entire essay at THIS LINK

Anna’s Example

Back in my younger years, I started a chimney cleaning business. Though not much of a money making enterprise, it was a learning experience in many ways. Every chimney I cleaned was a challenge and something of an adventure. And every person whose chimney I cleaned was uniquely different. I met some of the nicest, most inspiring people back then. One such person was an elderly Ukrainian woman named Anna (that's not Anna in the picture, but close enough).

The old woman lived alone on a back country road. Her white-clapboard house was tidy but far from modern. A barn and outbuildings were in disrepair and the land around was overgrown. Anna did not speak English well. Winter was coming. A neighbor of hers had called me and was there to make sure I understood what I was supposed to do.

Anna and her husband (then deceased) had once farmed the land. I found nothing especially remarkable about the old woman or her home... until, that is, she led me down the stairs into her basement where the chimney clean-out door was.

Anna’s basement captivated me because it was whitewashed clean and it was stocked with a variety of vegetables. There were numerous kinds of winter squash neatly arranged on shelves, there were some potatoes in baskets, onions and garlic were hanging from the ceiling joists. Cabbages too. There were some carrots and turnips in boxes. Some home-canned jars of food were on the shelves too. It was not a lot of food, but there was such a variety of homegrown, from-the-garden foods and certainly enough for an old woman living alone. I was impressed.

This elderly woman, bowed and slow with age, was not helpless. She had grown and stored the food in her basement herself.

Clearly, Anna had been growing her own food and stocking up each year for a very long time— probably her whole life. It was a natural, normal thing for her to do.

There was a time not so very long ago when just about everyone grew their own food and stored it away for the winter months like Anna. It was something that had been done for centuries. People were self reliant because they had to be self reliant. But this custom of self reliance fell by the wayside with the rise of industrialism.

However, the convenience and ease of just buying supermarket food is a historical aberration. It isn’t a God-given right. There is no guarantee that such convenience will always be there. And, I dare say, there is a good chance it will not be there someday soon. So Anna’s example is one we need to keep in mind, as I have for all these years.

Potatoes and POWs

Fresh From The Earth Fingerling Potatoes From our 2010 Garden

I have a special fondness for potatoes because, for one thing, I am the descendant of potato farmers. I have written about potatoes here several times over the past five years. This year, once again, Marlene and I dug our homegrown spuds and they are now stored in the basement. They will be an integral part of our diet through the winter months.

Speaking of which, the current issue of the MOFGA 
newspaper has an interesting article about how American prisoners of war in WW2 fared under different diets. Prisoners of the Japanese were fed rice, while prisoners of the German were fed potatoes. According to the article,  28% of prisoners of the Japanese died in captivity and 90% of the survivors needed to be hospitalized when they returned home. But only 4% who were prisoners of the Germans died in captivity and 10% needed hospitalization afterwards.

There were surely factors besides diet involved in these statistics but a diet consisting primarily of potatoes is nutritionally superior to a diet primarily of rice by itself, and this is believed to be a major factor in the statistics.
Also in the article is this historical tidbit about the lowly spud:
Frederick the Great, King of Prussia from 1740 to 1785 and one of the few hereditary kings to be an authentic genius, encouraged his people... to plant potatoes at every opportunity, because potatoes produced three times more nutrition than wheat or rye and flourished better in northern Germany and eastern Germany’s sandy soil.
Furthermore, I learned from the article that Adam Smith, the 18th century economist, noted in 1776 that the potato-based diet of Irish immigrants produced beautiful women and athletic men.

So, if the idea of potatoes as survival food doesn’t appeal to you, remember that potatoes could also make you smart, attractive and physically fit. 

Another Viewpoint on Potatoes

 Potatoes have not always been so highly appreciated, as the following quote by Englishman, William Cobbett, in 1822 attests.
"...on account of the modern custom of using potatoes to supply the place of bread, it seems necessary to say a few words on the subject, which in another work I have so amply, and I think so triumphantly discussed. I am the more disposed to revive the subject for a moment in this place, from having read in the evidence recently given the Agricultural Committee, that many labourers, especially in the west of England, use potatoes instead of bread to a very great extent. And I find from the same evidence, that it is the custom to allot the labourers "a potato ground" in part payment of their wages! This has a tendency to bring English labourers down to the state of the Irish, whose mode of living, as to food, is but one remove from that of the pig, and of the ill-fed pig too."

From The Agrarian Lexicon:

William Cobbett's disdain for the Irish caught me off guard when I first read it. Curiously, the English and the Irish are still at odds. I know a man who is half Irish and half English. He told me hates himself. The Irish were second class citizens when they came to America after the Irish potato famine of 1845 to 1852. They were often depicted as monkeys in newspaper cartoons of the day. Some of the New England farm almanacs of that era actually have some jokes about the Irish. The Irish have come a long way since then. But I digress....

William Cobbett, in his 1822 book, Cottage Economy, discourses at length about how much more sensible it is to grow an acre of English wheat (for making bread) than it is to grow an acre of potatoes.

In addition to the food value of the wheat itself, Cobbett points to the value of the wheat straw. He writes: "...while the wheat straw is worth from three to five pounds an acre, the haulm of the potatoes is not worth one single truss of that straw."

Upon first reading the passage, my brain rested upon that word, haulm. I had never seen or heard it before. Would it be in my modern dictionary? It was.
Halum (sometimes written as halm is pronounced as if it were written, "hawm." It means: "the stems of peas, beans, potatoes, or grasses."

I hope you enjoy learning about this old agrarian word as much as I did. And, perhaps, we will find occasion to put it to proper use.

The Agrarian Haiku Contest 
is About To End

The Deliberate Agrarian Haiku Poetry Contest is about to conclude. November 25th is the deadline. There are currently 172 entries. Marlene and I are still in agreement about the first place winner but it is going to be a very difficult job to decide on the winners from there. Nevertheless, winners will be chosen and the very nice prizes will be  awarded on December 1st.

I have decided that I will not have an Agrarian Haiku Contest in 2011(maybe in 2012). So be sure to get your submission into this year’s contest. If, perchance, you have sent me a submission and it has not been posted, and you have not received a reply from me about it, please resend it because I probably missed it. I don’t want to miss any entries.

Little Bits 
From Planet Whizbang

The pace of business slows down a lot here at Planet Whizbang around this time of the year and, though I would rather be shipping books and project parts out to people, the slowdown is an opportunity for me to get some other things done. Now I can finish the bathroom remodeling project I started a year ago. That’s what I told Marlene I would do, and she’s very glad to hear it.


When that is done I hope to pursue some new projects. There will be another piece or two of Yeoman furniture that we can use around here. Then, I'm hoping, another book. I have one in mind that I’ve wanted to put together for the past few years. It will be a blend of history and agriculture and and some how-to. I envision a large book at around 250 pages. That’s all I can say for now.


Marlene's Morning Glory Soaps Are Now Available 

I have finally convinced Marlene to make some of her excellent handcrafted soaps to sell at Planet Whizbang. We are offering a gift box of four of her best selling varieties. Orders will be taken through November and shipped on December 2nd. Quantities are limited. You can read about her soaps and the gift box (and order online) at this link: Marlene's Morning Glory Soaps


As anxiously expected (by me), Mother Earth News magazine did mention my Whizbang cider press in their October/November issue. But it was disappointing because I was led to believe they were going to publish a “little article” about the cider press and apple grinder I developed.  I told a friend about the “article” that was going to be published. She bought the issue and then e-mailed me to say that she couldn’t find it anywhere. Yeah, that’s kind of disappointing. The “article” is cetrainly little and it is not specifically about my cider-making equipment. Worse, it is located in a spot that most readers will just flip by and never notice (see page 68).


Much less disappointing was a review of my cider plan book in the current (Nov/Dec 2010) issue of BackHome magazine. The editor, Richard Freudenberger wrote:

"Kimball’s plan books have always been above average in both written and graphic presentation, and The Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press is no exception. The 46-page plan book goes into explicit detail with an abundance of clear, simple line drawings and straightforward verbal descriptions. Yet the author has a knack for actually making the read interesting, with a fair sprinkling of anecdotal information and worthwhile tips throughout.”
Years ago, when I first published my chicken plucker plan book, I sent a copy to BackHome magazine. Richard Freudenberger was the first magazine editor to take my humble homemade book seriously by reviewing it. Then a few years later, I found that he had posted a review for the book at Amazon. Here is what he wrote there:
As someone who has made a living writing technical and how-to articles, I can really appreciate Herrick Kimball's work in this book. The parts-sourcing and construction procedure is well explained, the graphics are well illustrated, and the cost won't break the bank. If you've ever priced the "real" mechanical pluckers--even the tabletop models--you'll appreciate what Herrick has done here. We should probably all be sharpening our how-to and build-it skills and work to become more self-sufficient than we are.
I’m much obliged to Mr. Freudenberger for his kind and encouraging reviews. Here’s a link to the BackHome magazine web site: BackHome magazine


Speaking of my Whizbang cidermaking book, I discovered another YouTube movie that shows the press and grinder at work (Here is the LINK). What I like most about this  particular movie is that the people took my plans and made their own unique modifications, which is always interesting to see. And in the end of the movie they provide a tally...

6 people

3 dogs
2 apple trees
516 pounds of apples
20 pie fillings
20 pints applesauce
10 gallons hard cider
28 quarts canned cider
and still some apples to process!

That goes to show how productive just two apple trees can be, not to mention how versatile the apple is. Of course, two (or more) apple trees will fit on a 1/4 acre farm.... and hogs will eat apples too.


If you have thought of getting a copy of my Garlic Powder profits report, I want to let you know that I have less than 30 copies left and will not be reprinting it again when these copies are gone (though I may put it in an e-book someday). Click Here for details.


My son Robert, In addition to hunting deer, works part time for a local building contractor with a very large maple syrup operation. He also goes to a local technical school full time (four days a week) for auto mechanics. Robert sold rubber poultry plucker fingers by mail order for about three years and did well enough to more than pay for his current schooling. It was a financial blessing and a great lesson in bootstrap entrepreneurship. But I have now taken over the finger business.  And I have created a new web-site-in-a-blog just for selling plucker fingers. You can see it at

By the way, if you have purchased any of my books in the past, and you liked them, and you would like to help me with my home business, I sure would appreciate your book reviews at the web site.

Our Cemetery

Our little 1.5 acre homestead here also includes part of an old family cemetery, as shown in the picture above. The family name was Mowry. The stones date to the 1830's. There are no families named Mowry in this area anymore that I know of. Below the cemetery, in the woods, is another head stone, this one more recent. It marks the burial spot of our dog that died last month. My son Robert carved the stone with a wood chisel.

Remember The Pilgrims

With November at the doorstep, it's time for thoughtful people to once again reflect on the Pilgrims of 1620 and the remarkable example they provide us.

The Pilgrims were, of course, Christians. They were also known in their day as Separatists (which is a little like being a secessionist). Though many modern Christians don't like to hear it, the Pilgrims were also Calvinists. From what I've read they were what some these days would call hyper-Calvinists.

These Separatists believed they were God's chosen people and that they were called to establish a civilization that would be a shining city on a hill, which is to say, an example to the world. The Pilgrims were willing to die for this belief, and many of them did.

[By the way, that phrase, "shining city on a hill," was actually used by John Winthrop, a Puritan, not a Pilgrim, who came to America nine years after the Pilgrims. But the Puritans and the Pilgrims were theologically similar (both were Calvinists) and their objectives in establishing a colony in America were the same.]

By today's standards the Pilgrims would be considered religious zealots or extremists, or even a cult, and yet we celebrate these people and what they did.

In establishing their little outpost on the shore of Cape Cod bay, the Pilgrims laid the groundwork for something new in the history of the world—the idea of men joining together into a "Civil Body Politic" for the purpose of governing themselves. Their Mayflower Compact was a significant first step on the American continent toward what would one day become a Constitutional Republic (also something new in the history of the world). 

If you go to that Mayflower Compact link, you can read the document. It's short and sweet, and right in the beginning they give the number one reason why they had come to this wild new land: "for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith"

The American Constitutional Republic that eventually came into being, founded as it was on biblical principles, was, for all intents and purposes, truly a shining city on a hill—an example for all the world to see and emulate.

But that was then, Sadly, the nation has strayed so far from it's foundational origins. Like a ship without a rudder, we are adrift—Spiritually adrift and morally adrift. As a result, we are a nation in decline. 

Yet, in the face of this decline, America is proud.

The Mayflower Pilgrims were not proud people. They were people of contrition and humility. They knew their place in the hierarchy of heaven and earth. They knew that God was sovereign Lord over all of His creation and that His law was the only legitimate standard of righteousness. They knew that righteousness exalts a nation. They were not perfect people, but they knew these things, and they acted accordingly.

America today could learn a lot from the example of the Pilgrims.

Back in 2005, the year I started blogging here, I wrote an essay titled, Pilgrims & The Christian-Agrarian Exodus of 1620.  Read that essay and you will learn something about the Pilgrims that few modern Americans know.


Well that's the good, the bad, and the ugly for another month. Let's meet back here again on the last day of next month. Have a nice Thanksgiving.