The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
November 2010

And The Winners Are...

The Deliberate Agrarian Haiku Poetry Contest for 2010 ended on November 25th. There were 268 haiku submissions. Choosing the winning entries was a difficult task— very difficult. A complete listing of all 16 prize winners (and several honorable mentions) will be posted to the contest web site tomorrow. I encourage you to go there and see for yourself the many examples of excellent and deliberately agrarian poetry. But, for now, it is my pleasure to announce the top four winners in the adult category right here and now. They are as follows:

1st Prize

Unfold before me
Yards of rich, loamy fabric
I'll sow something fine
Lisa Bolster
(Lisa has won a Planet Whizbang wheel hoe)
2nd Prize

Farmhouse kitchen morn
Cookstove fire warms bread and friends
Snow blows cold outside

Scott Alexander
(Scott has won a Red Pig half moon hoe)
3rd Prize

Downy cover white
blankets my garden bed
Sleep till spring awakes

Cindy Dougherty
New York
(Cindy has won a gift box of Marlene’s Morning Glory soaps)
4th Prize

Tragedy marked by
Lingering luminescence
Firefly Windshield Splat

Daniel G. MacNeal
(Daniel has won a Piggy Back Massage Roller)

Thirty Years!


Marlene and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary a few days ago. Back in 2005, I reflected on a quarter century of matrimony and recollected our story in an essay titled The Wife of My Youth.


In a comment to my blog essay last month a reader asked if Marlene and I have always been on the same page when it comes to living a simple agrarian-based lifestyle. The answer to that is yes. But I should point out that a lower-class lifestyle (a.k.a., simplicity) has pretty much been our only option. I have never had a high paying job, or a trust fund, or a big inheritance, or wealthy parents to help me (though my grandmother Kimball was, thank God, there to help when I really hit the financial skids in 1998—99). And I should point out that Marlene has not worked outside the home since our first son was born some 22 years ago.

Until the last three or four years, with the relative success of my Planet Whizbang business, we have never had much in the way of excess money. And now that things are financially easier (at least for the time being) we would never consider not living a frugal, down-to-earth lifestyle.

Reflections On The 
New Agrarian Era

Like grass and weeds growing up between cracks in the pavement of an abandoned factory parking lot, a new agrarian era is beginning to emerge. There is a resurgence of interest in frugality, simplicity, gardening, self-reliance, farm markets, off-grid living and decentralized government. These are all contra-industrial trends that dovetail perfectly with the agrarian way of life.

Five and one half years ago when I started this blog I wrote that I expected the industrial edifice to crumble, and the agrarian impulse to grow stronger. A few people told me, in so many words, that I was crazy to suggest that our modern industrialized civilization would decline to the point where we would once again become agrarian. Well, look around... it’s happening. We are in the nascent stages of agrarian revival— a New Agrarian Era is dawning.

There are, of course, still plenty of people out there (probably a vast majority) who would still consider such thinking on my part as crazy. Here and now, in the throes of economic decline—the bellwether of industrial collapse—such people are anxiously looking for a return to former prosperity, or some facsimile of it. Many have a strong hope in the promise of new “green technologies”. Some cling to every possibility of a new source of energy that will keep the gluttonous industrial machine chugging on forever, like some grand perpetual motion machine.

After all, industrial-minded technology and the wisdom of men will save us from collapse, or so the thinking goes. Never mind that industrial-minded thinking is largely responsible for the mess we find ourselves in.

Well then, call me crazy, but the hope and expectation of ever-increasing prosperity and higher-higher-much-much-higher standards of living in a world of finite energy and raw material resources is just plain delusional. Like it or not, the industrial era is waning. Oh, the crisis of industrial decline may level off a bit from time to time, and we may even see a little spike of “bubble prosperity” now and again (or not) but the trend is away from industrialism, into the new agrarian era, especially in the United States where the natural resource wealth of The Great Frontier has been largely tapped.

Now, in order to survive as a civilization, we must transition to a more sustainable paradigm, and the only truly sustainable framework for any civilization is the agrarian one.

The transition from industrialism to this new agrarian era is sure to be very difficult. Go to a busy mall (or a WalMart) and look upon all those people around you and ask yourself how many of them look capable of transitioning away from dependence on the industrial providers, back to a much more self-reliant lifestyle. How many would be able to provide for their basic necessities if the government was unable to subsidize them and/or the electricity went off for a long period of time, and/or the paper-money economy crashed? You might want to ask those questions of yourself too. I ask them of myself often.

I hazard to guess that at least half of Americans will be in dire straits as the decline of the industrial era intensifies. The unsustainability of their situation will prove deadly, especially if the interconnected grid of industrial support systems fails quickly, as has happened to highly refined civilizations of the past.

It would be much more merciful for us all if the industrial era continued to sputter and cough and progressively weaken over time, as has happened thus far. Then more people will be able to better adapt and accept their future; better able to transition to the new agrarian era. The smart and brave among them will embrace the agrarian zeitgeist of the new era before it arrives. They will roll up their sleeves, prepare and adjust.  This is already happening with many people.

Perhaps we could make an analogy between the Israelites of the Old Testament who left Egypt for the Promised Land of Cannan. Israel as a nation had grown (prospered) in Egypt. But it was time to enter a new land—a new era in their appointed history.

This transition from one land (era) to the next did not happen without hardship and difficulty. The story goes that they were in the wilderness, heading for this new land, but when they got to the border, they balked. They feared the new era. Though they had been slaves in Egypt,  they were well fed and knew what to expect there. So they longed for the former condition of slavery. Nevertheless, it was their destiny as a nation to move on. Even still, almost all of them refused to accept it.

Only Joshua and Caleb were eager to enter. Only Joshua and Caleb were willing to embrace the new era. Only Joshua and Caleb saw it a something better. And thus it was that only Joshua and Caleb, among that generation of transition, survived to enter in.

Okay, maybe it’s a stretch but I like the analogy. And to take it a step further, when the nation of Israel finally did enter their new era, they found the land was, indeed,  good.

Will this transition from the industrial era to the new agrarian era be a step backwards? No. I don’t think so. It all depends, I suppose, on what your idea of a good and proper civilization really is. I happen to believe that the New Agrarian Era will be a step ahead for mankind.

Now, right here in such a discussion as this is where the devout Moderns among us will bring up the old, pre-industrial agrarian era and point out that people back then lived miserable lives, working long hours to grub out a bare existence. Life expectancies were half what they are today, and people died wretched deaths. And... and... and dentistry was brutal in those days!

Well, it is true that life was harder back then. Industrialism has, at least near the end of its run, raised the comfort and leisure level of most people—those who live in the industrial nations. And many people do have longer life spans. And, truly, dentistry is much improved.

But the industrial era apologist fails to understand that the harder work required within an agrarian culture can be very gratifying work. Our bodies were made to work and most people would be healthier if they did a little more physical work, preferably in the soil (as opposed to some dehumanizing factory).

As for the misery factor, people who lived in the previous agrarian era were not all miserable people. Historical evidence does not bear that out. Of course there were some miserable people back then, but there are also miserable people today (lots of ‘em). In the final analysis, misery is more often a result of moral decadence and a condition of the heart than it is a condition of agrarianism vs industrialism.

As for the claim of extended industrial era life expectancies, that doesn’t impress me. Modern man seems to worship the idea of personal longevity. We should all be attentive to our health by living a healthy lifestyle (like, for example, an agrarian lifestyle) but this striving for longevity is a vain pursuit. We must all die one day. No technology will change that reality. I think our great challenge as created beings is not to live a long as we can but to live as well as we can in the relatively short span we are allotted.

As a Christian, I define a well-lived life as one that honors God by humbly acknowledging His sovereignty, loving His law,  and embracing the grace and mercy He freely gives. The outward manifestation of this kind of life is profound gratefulness, personal responsibility, forgiveness, and a  love for others. This kind of life can be lived within the agrarian era as well as, if not better than, any other.

Furthermore, even in the midst of so many advances in medical technology, millions of people in this industrial world still suffer and die wretched deaths from horrible sicknesses (if it isn’t one, it’s another). In many instances, modern medicine merely prolongs agony. And, in the end, the doctors will often prescribe an opiate-derived pain killer to comfort the patient. Opiates are an ancient plant-derived (agrarian) form of medicine.

There is a widespread belief that industrial era technology is good and worthy of veneration because it has saved millions of lives. I reject that premise. Such thinking fails to acknowledge that industrial technology has inflicted sickness, suffering and death on so many millions of people over the last couple of centuries. How many have been harmed or killed as a result of industrial toxins, or industrial accidents, or the ever increasing destruction of creation by the industrial juggernaut? No one keeps track of such a number but we can be sure it is enormous.

It is impossible to know how the New Agrarian Era will shake out. I don’t imagine that it will be exactly like the old agrarianism. The path of history is not circular. Though we may see circular patterns over time, the history of the world moves ahead in a straight line from its appointed beginning to its appointed end. No new era is exactly like a previous era. So what lies before us will probably be a blend of applicable industrial-era knowledge combined with agrarian sensibilities and practices.

In the area of religion, the new agrarian era may be ushered in with a genuine revival of spiritual reality. As earthly treasures and trusted earthly institutions fail, as people are stripped of their materialistic pride, many will repent of their industrial faith and once again acknowledge that, apart from the God who created them, life is always an exercise in vanity and misery—no matter how long or short it is.

Whatever the case, make no mistake about it, we are living in a time of epic sea change as the industrial era recedes and is replaced by a new agrarian era. Maybe we could call it Agrarian Era 2.0

Inc. Notices 
The Agrarian Trend

I don’t read Inc. magazine. But a friend of mine recently gave me an article from that publication. It was actually from his son, a recent college graduate with a business degree who is trying hard to find a job in a world where jobs for college graduates are now very hard to come by. Anyway, this article from the September 2010 issue discusses the “emerging postdownturn economy” and the “New Consumer” it has created. The “expert opinion” in the article comes from a man who “presides over the world’s largest database of information about consumer attitudes.” Here are a couple of quotes from the article:
When you consider layoffs, downsizing, delayed raises, and reduced hours, more than half of all American workers have suffered losses. This very real pain has driven us to reconsider our definition of the good life. People are finding happiness in old-fashioned virtues—thrift, do-it-yourself projects, self-improvement, faith, and community—and in activities and relationships outside the consumer realm.
Self reliance [is] a big thing. More and more consumers are moving from consumption to production. People are raising chickens in their backyards. Home canning was up during the recession. There’s a rise in the barter economy, where people are trading goods and skills instead of spending money. Sixty-four percent of Americans want to do more things and make more things themselves.

Tools For 
The New Agrarian Era

They don't make combines like this anymore. Too bad.

As the new agrarian era is emerging, there is a need for new tools to help individuals and families reestablish home and community-based food production enterprises—tools suited to small-scale farming and market gardening. There was once a time when these kinds of tools were more common.

The Planet Jr. company produced such tools for working the land with horses and manpower. In later years, Planet Jr. introduced motorized walk-behind tractors, precursors of the common garden rototiller.

Along this line of thinking I have recently learned about the Allis Chalmers Model 60 All Crop Harvester (pictured above) that came out in 1935. The beauty of this pull-behind machine was that it was small and relatively inexpensive to purchase, and it was incredibly versatile in that it would harvest 106 different crops.

A Google search on my part turned up one of these remarkable relics being sold in a Crags List posting in the midwest. The combine had been stored under cover for it’s entire life and the seller wanted $1,200. Personally, I’ll never need such a tool and I have no place to store it but things like that really interest me. I hope someone who will actually put it to use gets it!

Tools like the Allis Chalmers Model 60 are for farmers but I’m more inclined to the garden-scale, or  subsistence way of life (as discussed in last month’s essay). Thus, I’m enamored with the idea of harvesting grain with a scythe. Fact is, I love scythes, own a nice one, and when I was a teen I actually did harvest a small bit of wheat with a scythe.

In the hands of an experienced person, the scythe is an amazingly efficient tool. Unlike a Model 60 or any other machine with belts and gears and bearings and pulleys and such,  the scythe requires little in the way of maintenance or replacement parts. No gasoline is needed either. With a scythe, the greatest part of the “machine” is the scyther’s body. And properly swung, the scythe is not as tiring as you might think.

That said, there is definitely a resurgence of interest in scything (which goes right along with my new-agrarian-era hypothesis). 

I don't suppose these are American women.

For harvesting even smaller patches of grain, a sickle, like pictured above will do the job just fine.

Once the grain is cut, it needs to be threshed, which means the seeds are separated from the plant. I see that some inventive person is making foot-powered grain threshers. Here is a picture...

Foot-Powered Grain "Thrasher"

That thresher is available from Back To The Land Store and will set you back $780. I predict they will sell a lot of those in the days ahead. Here’s the link if you want to get one:  Wheat Thrasher Link

After threshing, grain needs to be cleaned. Fanning mills came out in the mid 1800s and they did a fine job of separating chaff, stones and weed seeds from threshed grain. Here is an old hand-crank fanning  mill...

This is a classic fanning mill
To a small degree, I have contributed to the need for tools in the new agrarian era. My affordable homemade chicken plucker and chicken scalder plan books have proved popular. Same goes for the Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press. And the Whizbang Garden Cart too.

Hand washing eggs at the sink is a fine job for the long as you have a small home flock.

Over the years, people have sent me ideas for homestead-scale tools  to invent. I kept a list but have now misplaced it. The number-one item people have requested is a reasonably priced egg washer that does not work by water immersion. Well, the good news is that someone has now come up with such a tool. It’s called the Gibson Ridge Farm Portable Egg Washer. You can use it at the kitchen sink. It “will clean 28 eggs a minute and up to 300 eggs in 11 minutes.” Little online information is available but if that Gibson Ridge egg washer can do what they claim, it’s going to be in big demand.

First Pig

Sausage is easy. Sausage is good. We made a lot of it!
Marlene and I processed our first pig this last month. We didn’t grow the animal. One of our neighbors did, and we bought half of it. A local butcher killed and gutted and sectioned our half. He also kept the bacon slab and is smoking it for us. We cut out the pork chops with a meat saw. All the rest of the meat was ground into sausage. 

I don’t know much about how to cut up a pig. I have a lot to learn. So we just made a lot of sausage. Sausage is a versatile meat. It’s also quick and easy to make.

That LEM 3/4 hp electric meat grinder in the picture above is a great machine. We bought it because we figure we will make sausage of one sort or the other for years to come, and our kids will too.

My son Robert —who got himself a nice deer in October (pictured in last month’s blog essay)— has shot two more deer since. After getting the prime cuts out of the deer, the easiest thing to do with all the rest of the meat is to grind it up. Add 10% pork fat to the mix, along with some sausage spices, and you have yourself a decent venison sausage.

So the grinder will prove useful in the years ahead, as long as the electricity stays on. If not, we have a hand-crank grinder for backup.

Granted, it is a whole lot easier to just buy sausage and pork chops at the grocery store. That becomes very clear as you are dealing with big, ugly, raw-meat sections of a hog. But this hog is local and we know exactly what’s in our homemade sausage. That is important to us. Besides, this experience is part of a process. It is the first step in a journey. In time, we hope/expect to raise our own hog and butcher it ourselves. And we will cure our own bacon someday too. One step at a time.

Shooting Anvils

Anvil After Being Shot

“Anvil shooting has a long proud history in America.” It was common in pioneer days. I never heard of it until I saw THIS VIDEO. Amazing.

Victorian Farm

My thanks to Christopher Patton over at Reformed Yeoman blog for letting me know about the BBC television program, The Victorian Kitchen Garden. I found some snippets of the program on You Tube and very much enjoyed them. Here is a link to one of them: Victorian Kitchen Garden on YouTube

While I was looking at those YouTube clips I happened upon another BBC television series, Victorian Farm. Wow. Another great program! And the good news is that you can watch the entire series on YouTube. It is in 36 segments. I have watched them all and have enjoyed them immensely.

The Victorian era (late 1800s) in England was a time of significant transition in agriculture. It was becoming industrialized with the introduction of the steam thresher and other machines. Still, those were the old days and fascinating to learn about.

In one episode of Victorian Farm, the characters go rabbit hunting with ferrets. They put nets over the entrances to the rabbit den and put a ferret in one of the holes. If there are rabbits down there, they soon run out and are caught by the net. Amazingly, the program shows a man taking one of the live rabbits and skillfully breaking it’s neck to kill it. 

Ferret Rabbit Hunters

It turns out that Marlene’s great-grandfather hunted rabbits here in central N.Y. with a ferret. Her mother, now almost 96 years old, remembers the ferrets.

In another episode of Victorian Farm, they cook a pigs head.  The woman doing the cooking spoons boiled eyeballs out and puts them on a platter for the May Day celebration. Pig eyeballs were a delicacy she says. Then she informs the viewers that if you think you haven’t eaten pig eyeballs you’re just fooling yourself, meaning that they are in sausage when you buy it.

Do the characters in the show actually eat the pig eyeballs? Well, you will just have to watch for yourself to find out. I can not recommend victorian Farm enough. here is a link to the first episode: Victorian Farm on YouTube


An Amish Population Explosion

A small horse pulling a small Amish family

I have subscribed to The Budget, which is a national weekly newspaper for the Amish and Mennonites. I subscribed out of curiosity and to see if it might be an appropriate place to advertise my business.

The paper consists primarily of reports from “scribes” in Amish and Mennonite communities all over America and in some foreign countries. The news centers around things like who is sick, who has died, who is visiting, who got married, children that were born, who is preaching in church, who has been ordained, who has had an accident and so on. In some respects it’s kind of boring because I don’t know any of the people. But, on the other hand, it’s very interesting. In a future installment of this blog, I will post some of the more interesting “news” and you will get an idea of what kind of life these people live.

For this month, I want to tell you about something that fascinates me.... the obituaries. I have read elsewhere that the population of “plain people” is really growing. Well, if you read some of the obituaries in The Budget, you’ll know why....

In the November 17 issue, the obituary for Mr. Ralph Yutzy, a Mennonite man of 86 years,  a farmer and a cabinetmaker in his day, tells us that he left behind 13 children, 152 grandchildren, and 438 great-grandchildren. I’ll do the math for you. It’s 603 children from this one man in a relatively short span of years. Not every obituary is like Mr. Yutzy’s but his is not an oddity.

The Virts Family Tradition

Men of the Virtz Family getting together in November to process their hogs.

In reading The Budget, I came upon a short report of an 8-year-old boy who had accidentally fallen into a kettle of ponhaus and was not doing well. Ponhaus? What is ponhaus?

I Googled the word and soon found myself at an internet page for a web site about the descendants of Wilhelm Wurtz. The page was titled, “A Virtz Country Butchering.”

I discovered that ponhaus is a combination of lard and other hog parts that is boiled in a large kettle. The finished product is also known as scrapple. I said a prayer for that little boy and read the story...
November was the time for butchering hogs.  It has been a fall tradition in the Virts family for well over 100 years.  The Raymond E. Virts family on the Long Lane in Lovettsville, Virginia always butchered on Thanksgiving day.  You might consider the butchering day as a family reunion held several times each November as this even would bring together siblings, cousins and friends.  There was always a friendly competition amongst Raymond's brothers to see who had the largest hog.  It was not uncommon to have a hog have a dressed weight of over 400 pounds.  Such a hog would produce over 40 pound hams that would be sugar cured.  Most local families had a butchering and would usually slaughter form 2 - 14 hogs, depending on the size of the family. Butchering  is nearly extinct today.  You will only find a hand full of families that still carry on the tradition.   Hardly anyone even knows how to do it anymore.  I would have to say it is a dying art.
There is a resurgence of interest in home hog butchering but the old-timers who know how to do it are  mostly gone. So those who wish to resurrect the custom are faced with the obstacles of ignorance, which can only be overcome with deliberate determination. Also needed is a younger generation that shares an interest in the adventure. Can hog butchering compete with the latest video game?

You can read and see the story of “A Virts Country Butchering” at THIS LINK.

[Last minute updated information: I sent an e-mail to the Virts Family asking if they still butchered hogs. The reply....”Our last butchering was in 1998.  We sold the farm in 2000.”]

Men Teaching Boys

Click the picture to see an enlarged view of men and boys on the farm in the late 1800's

When you look at the pictures of the Virts family butchering hogs together you see that they look to be from the 1970s, and a lot of older men are working together. I see no boys in the pictures. That leads me to suspect that the Virts family no longer does this annual activity. And this has me thinking...

How did those older men in the pictures learn the dying art of hog butchering? Did they watch a television program on the subject? Did they read a book about it? Did they attend a seminar? No, they learned it from their fathers and grandfathers, brother-in-laws and uncles, starting when they were just boys.

When America was an agrarian nation, boys learned to do the work of men— and be men— from participating in the hands-on productive work of men. There were plenty of opportunities for this within the world of farming and homesteading. To begin, the younger boys watched and absorbed the ethos of the men doing their work. In time, they would be included in the work,  doing small but necessary and important tasks. As they grew older, they boys would be entrusted with more responsibility. 

This farm boy from the past has been entrusted with a lot of responsibility. He is contributing to the important work of getting the crop in. He is working with men, doing a man's job.
Working within an extended family and local community of men, doing the work of men, work that was so full of rural rites of passage, was the once-common pattern for raising boys. It is the ages-old agrarian way. It produced men who were capable, confident, and responsible.

What about today? How do boys learn to be men these days?

Methinks the average modern boy grows up in a home where there is no practical work for him to do beyond clean his room, and take out the garbage. Maybe, just maybe, he mows the lawn. Then what? Watch television? Well, of course. And boys today certainly form ideas about what it means to be a man by watching television...

A Modern Boy, absorbing the ethos of modern manhood from the television.
Or they do things like play video games, watch NetFlix movies, constantly send text messages to their friends and hang out at the mall. Where is the work of substance? There is none. Theirs is a  life of amusement and entertainment.

And where are the men?

Fathers and grandfathers and uncles and brother-in-laws are all heading off every day, all day, for their industrial-world jobs, away from their boys (who are shuttled off to government schools for instruction). Men now sit in cubicles staring at computer screens. On the weekends they watch sports on television or go golfing. And their boys are watching, learning what it means to be a man. 

Here we have a modern father teaching his son how to be a cubicle worker just like he probably is.
It is a life without the work of subsistence, which requires men and their wives and their children to all work together to provide for their needs. It is a lifestyle with a weak or nonexistent family economy. It is a lifestyle that is fractured and, as a result,  a great many little boys grow up into helpless, insecure, and irresponsible men.

Without men teaching boys to be men, as was once the agrarian tradition, we now have untold numbers of grown men who have been effectively emasculated by modern culture. They are increasingly feminized (or, worse yet, confused about their gender). They are self-centered, immature and uncertain about what it means to be a man.

Do you think an upbringing like these agrarian boys are experiencing, and the modern boy watching television in the picture above will produce two different kinds of men? I sure do.
Subsistence Pattern

Photo From Subsistence Pattern Web Site

I have discovered an ambitious, inspiring, down-to-earth blog that is loaded with useful information for people who are interested in the gardening facet of self-reliance. It’s called Subsistence Pattern and I encourage you to check it out.

While there, my eyes latched onto the following quote:

"Maybe a person's time would be as well spent 
raising food as raising money to buy food. " 
-- Frank A. Clark

You may not know who Frank A. Clark is but I’ll be telling you about him and giving you some more of his quotes in a future “edition” of this monthly blogazine.

Morning Glory Soaps

Last month I mentioned that we are now selling gift packs of Marlene’s handcrafted soaps. Several people have ordered them, and Marlene appreciates the orders. The gift packs are still available as long as the soap supply holds out, and you can learn more at this link: Morning Glory Soap Gift Boxes


That’s it for this month’s installment. Lord willing, I’ll return with another Deliberate Agrarian blogazine post on the last day of next month. Here’s wishing all of you who celebrate Christmas a blessed holiday.


Christopher T. Patton said...

"Here and now, in the throes of economic decline—the bellwether of industrial collapse—such people are anxiously looking for a return to former prosperity, or some facsimile of it."

Remember Revelations 18 when the merchants are weeping over the destruction of Babylon. Some people will still be lamenting the demise of industrialism until the end.

The men raising boys article raised an interesting point that I recently wrote about a paper about for school. In a sense, it was the rise of public education and the notion that "formal" education was more practical or important than the natural and God-ordained education of being raised on a farm that contributed to the dearth of manliness we see today. When men left the agrarian economy to participate in the industrial economy everything fell apart. In an agrarian economy, men share the responsibility of raising children with their wives. When men leave the home, women raise boys. Is it any wonder that men are more feminine today? I shutter to think about how my own generation will cope with being raised with two parents outside the home.

odiie said...

Thanks for another great post. I had to laugh when I read the article "Tools for the New Agrarian Era". See that combine, we have one like that and we use it to combine our oats and wheat. The picture of the old fanning mill? Well, we have one exactly like that, but unfortunately, it need too many repairs and is currently sitting in the middle of our yard looking for a home. We have another fanning mill, newer, 30s style, with all the parts and pieces. We'll be using that next harvest, Lord willing. We also have scythes and sickles. We have a cradle scythe for harvesting our wheat, which is our back up should our new fangled old combine break down. We just considered all of our equipment low budget farming. Maybe we're trendsetters.....

vdeal said...


Great blog as always. I used a fanning mill (we called it a wind mill - really a winnowing mill) when I was young and my brother and I inherited it when our grandfather passed away. That thing works great. Gene Logsdon posted plans on how to build one in his book "Small Scale Grain Raising".

I completely agree with your observations on men and boys. As a boy who grew up on a beef and then dairy farm we were always involved to some extent in the daily farm activities and given more responsibility as we grew older - it made us better men. BTW, we used to butcher hogs just like in your essay. I learned along with my grandfather, father and uncles.

Ivy Mae said...

I really enjoyed reading this month's installment. It's great encouragement to me as I contemplate our family, which runs on very little money since I stay at home with our son and my husband took a big pay cut when we moved away from the city and onto family property over the summer. Now, though we have just enough money to function, our son gets to see his grandparents every day, spend lots of time with both parents, and watch us work in the garden and on the land. Reading stuff like your essays helps me remember that our lifestyle changes were the right way to go and are worth it!

The bit on the Mennonite obituary was really poignant for me, especially the part about how many children and grand/great grandchildren that man had. What a blessing! When most people hear that sort of thing, they think, 'oh, it's because they didn't have any television or birth control.' But, as adoptive parents who don't own a television, my husband and I often wonder what deeper spiritual and environmental issues are at play generationally when you compare a family like that man's to the widespread infertility plaguing most of our country. Guess we'll only know when we get to heaven!

Anyways, thanks!

Kevin Kossowan said...

For your pig cutting inspiration:

Here's my posts on bacon - you'd like my setup, as it recycles a used bbq for smoking.

If you have any question on either topic, I'm happy to help. I do both lots.


CJ said...

Mr. Kimball,
I'm currently reading a book I think you might enjoy (if you haven't read it already). It's called The Town That Food Saved written by Ben Hewitt.

As a side note, I taught myself how to butcher, cure, and smoke our pork. If you skin the hog instead of scrape the hide, it's a very simple process. You could probably even use the same trick that you use for the deer.

Anonymous said...

for reference on boys learning from men, I cannot recommend highly enough the series written by Ralph Moody about his upbringing in the early part of the 20th century. horse breaking, cattle driving, dealing with injury and making a living, you name it. at age 10 ralph is more of a man than most grownups are today.....

the titles are:
1. Little Britches
2. Man of the Family
3. The Home Ranch
4. Mary Emma & Company
5. The Fields of Home
6. Shaking the Nickel
7. The Dry Divide
8. Horse of a Different Color

Anonymous said...


I really enjoyed reading this post this month also.

Evidently some people must be waking up out of their sleep as I ordered from the following the month of November, 2010 all three of the places which I will give the web site if anyone wishes to check it out, all three places said they could not believe how people are ordering the Country Mill, Seeds,and Grain they all replied it is really unusual for this time of year.

Pleasant Hill Grain

Wheat Montana~ Wheat Montana Store

Heirloom Organics NonHybirdSeed

Also found one just 7 miles down the road from where I live for the Mill.

Michael Bunker aslo the month of November had on his blog a book.

James Wesley, Rawles founder of

How to Survive Ehe End of The World As We Know It.

Again really enjoyed your post and the pictures.

Pat Tolbert

Mountain Walker said...

As a mother of 3 boys (and a sweet girl, too) I worry EVERY day about how to teach my boys to be men. With my husband working out of town, they don't have the exposure to their dad that other kids do. I struggle with finding "meaningful" work for them during the school year and in the summers. (How many times can a kid mow the lawn or take out the trash?) This year is going to be different, hopefully. We finally purchased our own home....with a wood burning fire place/ stove, on ten acres of usable land.Cutting wood through the summer and raising animals for the freezer will help them learn food independence. Other than this, I'm struggling to find other "man-jobs". Do you have any suggestions?


Herrick Kimball said...

Very well put. I can tell that paper was a good one. Hope you got a good grade on it.

Excellent. Yes, you are clearly in the vanguard of the new agrarian movement!

You were blessed to have such an upbringing. I sold my old copy of Logsdon's Small-Scale Grain Raising a couple years ago for almost $100 when I read that he was coming out with a newer edition. But I have yet to get another copy. I'll get it from Cumberland Books at This Link

Your testimony here is inspiring. It sounds like you and your husband have made some wise choices for your family and your children especially. I have no doubt that great blessings will come as a result.

Great web site. The video clip did not come through clearly but I watched it all the way and enjoyed it. You are ahead of me in the hog-butchering learning curve!

I have not read The Town That Food Saved but I know about the book and understand the town is Hardwick, Vermont which is in a wonderful region of that state known as The Northeast Kingdom. I spent one of the best years of my life there when I was 18 years old and a student at The Sterling School (now known as Sterling College). The school was in Craftsbury Common which is maybe ten miles from Hardwick.

Kudos for teaching yourself the craft of hog butchering. I had not considered Golf Ball Skinning a hog.

While on this subject I want to mention a previous blog of mine titled, How To Butcher A Hog which is about the Mesko family and the excellent DVD they put together.

I agree. Those Ralph Moody books are very good. Thanks for mentioning them. I wrote about an excerpt from one of the books in my essay titled, Two Kinds of Men

I am encouraged to see the "waking up." I think the sleep you mention has been more of a torpor which my dictionary defines as "a condition of mental or physical inactivity or insensibility. lethargy. Apathy."

Thanks for the links.

Thanks for this comment. I'm sure that a great many mothers share your concern. I will attempt to put some thought together to answer your question of "man-jobs" in next month's "blogazine." For now, suffice it to say that your family has taken a very positive step in the right direction by moving to the land where you and your husband (to the extent he can) can proceed to live a more down-to-earth and self-reliant lifestyle. You may find that the man-jobs just come naturally as you settle into a new lifestyle.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Hi Herrick,
I read your portion of grain harvesting with interest. A couple of companies have made front end loader mounted seed harvesters for relatively small tractors. They are made for specialized seed (like rare plants or research plots) They got me thinking that somebody could maybe convert a push-behind snowblower into a half decent grain harvestor. Add a means to raise the front end to grain height (Or a series of stationary strippers on front) and maybe add cutting wires to the pickups. I am putting the idea out in case somebody with more time wants to experiment with this concept.


Mia said...

Mr. Kimball,
This post was brilliantly done, as always! My family recently finished the 'Victorian Farm' series (which was excellent, and I too was enlightened by the hog eyeball comment!!lol)
And I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the 'Agrarian Era'--and while modern society seems to woefully depend on a life of convenience,I'm finding a ray of hope in the rising up of organic/small farm businesses. Local (and even online) communities getting together and supporting each other and the "back to the land" lifestyle.
I'm glad you addressed the "Men teaching boys" subject--very well said, and rings resoundingly true.


Gina said...

We are one of those hand full of families that continue the hog butchering tradition. This year we will be doing four hogs to split between several families. At one time we had a lot of "old timers" come and help but now most of them are gone. Thankfully, my dad and brothers have absorbed their knowledge so we'll be making lard, ponhaus (though not quite how you described) and sausage. Your welcome to come join us this year on December 18th at the crack of dawn in southern PA.


Christine said...


A quick question: what is the name of the painting at the beginning of your post (the one with the man scything)?

I've just skimmed the post as I'm at work and should be paying attention to that, but I can tell it's a good one!

You are a blessing!

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks for the comments. I am glad you watched and enjoyed The Victorian Farm. Anyone who likes living history villages and museums (as I know you and your family do) would appreciate the program.

Excellent! That is encouraging to know. I appreciate the invitation. You are certainly close enough for me to actually take you up on the offer, but I will not. Perhaps you will provide some pictures and details on your blog? I have added "Home Joys" to my sidebar so if you do blog about your hog butchering day I'll enjoy the experience from afar. :-)

The painting is by Winslow Homer and he painted it in 1865, shortly after the end of the Civil War. It is titled, "The Veteran in a New Field."

You can see several of Winslow Homer's paintings at the Haiku Poetry Web Site (or do a Google image search). I really enjoy his agrarian themed paintings.

Jackie said...

Hello Mr. Kimball,

Incredible post as always! You always seem to awaken and bring to life the thoughts I have in the back of my head. I just bought and read an autographed copy of your book and it is great. I have a question though: How many chicken tractors do you have for your flock and how big are they?


littlegreengardengal said...

It is interesting to see the resurgence of interest in an agrarian way of life. I just finished reading Flight From the City by Ralph Borsodi, and although that was written in the 1930s so much of it could be talking about today - the economic problems, the problems of factory foods, and on and on.

Thanks for another very interesting post!

Jackie said...

Mr Kimball,

I just posted a comment but forgot one thing. I just read the book, like I said in the previous comment, and noticed all the different quotes throughout the book. Here is a link to a website with very good quotes, and some of the same ones you included in your book. :)


Anonymous said...

Mr. Kimball:

First off, merry Christmas and God's continued blessings to you and yours.

I first started reading your blog about a month ago and have thoroughly enjoyed it. So many thoughts, so much to react to . . .

Like you and many others, I've been reexamining our entire modern (post-modern?) paradigm, including the industrial idea of "progress". What exactly is progress? Where are we, in the industrialized idea anyway, progressing to? Okay, we have some pretty advanced technologies and conveniences, but so what? How is it we as mankind have progressed? As far as I can tell, we're the same old sinners as we've been for millenia, only with some more sophisticated toys.

I'm not a complete Luddite; our technology has doubtless provided some vital aid over the centuries (Of course who's to tell how the pursuit of some technologies over the years provided help in one area, but caused unseen pain and suffering elsewhere. Sort of a variation on Bastiat's "broken window"). However, how does, say, texting on my cell phone make me any more human? Is all technology morally neutral? If I become dependent on it, have I surrendered some of my humanity, my freedom?

Unless I'm a total gnostic and/or believe I'm just waiting around for Jesus to come back and rapture me (It's all gonna burn anyway, don't you know, so why take care of it?), I need to be a good steward of the creation God delegated to me. Now, I don't suppose all of us can go back to the farm; however, I think more of us need to, or at least take a serious part in the production of our own food. I keep thinking more and more that this is God's idea for us in His Great Economy.

There's more, but I'll hold off on that for now. It's good to read someone who's thinking some of my same thoughts.

Grace and blessings,
David Smith

Bruce said...

Herrick and Marlene,
My wife loves the Morning Glory soaps she got for Christmas.
Thank you both for doing the things you do and putting a friendly face on Christian Agrarianism.