The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
December 2012

Dateline: 31 December 2012

A view of woods & stream on the new land we bought in 2012

Well there goes another year. It was a memorable year because my first grandchild was born, and the fulfillment of my long-held vision for land (without going into debt) became a reality. My Planet Whizbang home business has also grown and, in less than a month, I will finally leave my wage-slave job to work at the home business full time. That will be something pretty special for me.

I love this machine!

And 2012 was the year I bought myself a snowblower. I've never owned or even used a snowblower before, and I never thought I'd buy one, but my aging back  and a second driveway to clear (on the new property) has brought me to this point. 

I bought the snowblower in early November, back when the weather was nice and everyone was wondering if we might have another winter like last year, in which the snow barely made a showing.

But that question has been answered. It has snowed a LOT here and I actually enjoy "shoveling" with a 30" wide snowblower.

The only problem I faced was getting it from my home to the new place down the road where we have a doublewide trailer packed with Planet Whizbang inventory. But I solved the problem with that sled you see in the picture above. It doesn't look like much but it gets "Mr. Ahriens" down and back very nicely.

My People

Kate Towle, My Great Grandmother

I was looking through some old pictures this past month and came across the one above showing my great grandmother Kate Towle, of Fort Fairfield, Maine. The picture was taken in 1964 by my grandmother Kimball (Kate’s daughter). My grandmother wrote on the back: “This is rug Mother made for me.”

My grandmother Philbrick (on the other side of the family) was also from Fort Fairfield, and she crafted beautiful braided rugs too. The rugs were made from woolen material that was salvaged from old clothing. I recall my grandmother Philbrick braiding fabric that had been cut to an even width and sewn into long rolls.

I don’t think I have ever known anyone besides my grandmothers to make braided rugs. Marlene and I have often thought we would like to try it. Have any of you reading this made a braided rug?

The Hiram Towle, Sr. Family of Fort Fairfield, Maine (1932): Front row- Kathryn, Hiram, Jr., Kate, Hiram Sr., Clara, John. Middle row- Donald, Helen, Mary, Ruth, Everett. Back row- Arthur, Charles

The picture above (click to enlarge) shows Kate (32 years younger than in the previous picture) seated next to her husband, Hiram Towle.  Hiram and Kate were married in 1907 and they had 11 children. My grandmother (Mary) was the oldest of the bunch. Hiram was a potato farmer and their farm was on the Hoyt Road. Everyone in that picture is now deceased, except my great aunt Clara.

Looking into the young faces of my kinfolk, in a picture taken 80 years ago, is kind of odd. I remember many of those people. It leaves me with a poignant and melancholy feeling. Life is so very short.

The First Time 
The N.Y. Times 
Wrote About Me 

This picture from  the Grassroots Project in Vermont, 1976-77, was probably taken by Ruth Biro. I wrote on the back: "Gordon (from the Times), Dawn, Tilda, & Beth."

Back in the fall of 1976 I was enrolled in "The Grassroots Project" at the Sterling School (now Sterling College) in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It was a life-changing year for me in many ways. One of the funny things that happened that year was a reporter from the NY Times came to the school for a week to gather information for an article. That wasn’t so funny, but what he wrote—about me—was kind of funny, primarily because it was completely untrue.

Here is what the article said:

Herrick C. Kimball, a recent product of Choate, is equally enthusiastic. He likes the way the faculty shifts quickly from theory into practice. “I learned more about botany in one day here,” he says, “than in a whole year at Choate.”

I am not a product of Choate, and I never said what I was quoted as saying in the article. But my classmate, Harry Miller, was a product of Choate and he said those words. The mixup apparently came because Harry’s real name was Andy. And the reporter was apparently given a list of the names of the students in the program. When he went looking for “Harry” in the names, he assumed that Harry was Herrick. But Harry was actually Andy (I’ve never been called Harry).

Harry (or Andy) was the one who told me about the article when it came out, and he was a little miffed that I got quoted in the NY Times instead of him. 

All of this was in my mind when I recently came across the old picture above. I wondered if I could find the original Times article. All I knew was the reporter’s first name. After about ten minutes of searching I found the web site of Gordon Sander, and there was the article: The Subject is the Land and the Sky and Yourself.

The internet is truly amazing!

P.S. How I came by that picture is kind of interesting. I had no camera back then. But a friend who did showed me the school’s darkroom one day. There was exposed film hanging all over the place. The film contained pictures that he and some other students had taken. My friend showed me how to use the film and the equipment in the room to develop my own pictures using photographic paper. I ended up buying a package of the paper and spent an afternoon developing pictures from the film. That was the first and last time I ever did that. 

Now we have digital cameras, darkrooms are pretty much a thing of the past, and I’ve become an old-timer.

A Man Called Peter

I watched the 1955 movie, A Man Called Peter, a few days ago. It is about the life of the Presbyterian minister, Peter Marshall. It is based on the book of the same title written by Peter Marshall’s wife, Catherine. Somewhere packed away I have a copy of the book, signed by Catherine, that I picked up from a past bookhunting expedition. I think I’ll have to read it because I enjoyed the movie. It was something of a blockbuster back in ’55 (three years before I was born). I know my mother was a big admirer of Marshall, probably from seeing the movie. If you have an opportunity to see A Man Called Peter, I recommend it. One thing for sure—they don’t make movies like that anymore.

Peter Marshall 
On Womanhood

Peter Marshall died of a heart attack in January of 1949 . He was only 46 years old. In November of 1949 Catherine published a book of her deceased husband’s sermons. Mr. Jones Meet The Master was an instant best seller. 

There is a chapter in the book titled “Keepers of the Springs” which I found particularly interesting. It is about Christianity, and womanhood, and the importance of godly mothers. Here are some excerpts from that chapter.

“[God] ushered woman into a new place in human relations. He accorded her a new dignity and crowned her with a new glory, so that wherever the Christian evangel has gone for nineteen centuries, the daughters of Mary have been respected, revered, remembered and loved, for men have recognized that womanhood is a sacred and noble thing, that women are finer clay.... are in touch with the angels of God and have the noblest function that life affords.”

“It remained for the twentieth century, in the name of progress, in the name of tolerance, in the name of broadmindedness, in the name of freedom, to pull her down from her throne and try to make her like a man. She wanted equality. For nineteen hundred years she had not been equal—she had been superior. But now, they said, she wanted equality, and in order to obtain it, she had to step down.”

“No nation has ever made any progress in a downward direction. No people ever became great by lowering their standards. No people ever became good by adopting a looser morality. It is not progress when the moral tone is lower than it was. It is not progress when purity is not as sweet. It is not progress when womanhood has lost its fragrance. Whatever else it is, it is not progress!”

“The modern challenge to motherhood is the eternal challenge—that of being godly women. The very phrase sounds strange in our ears. We never hear it now. We hear of every other kind of women—beautiful woman, smart women, sophisticated women, career woman, talented woman, divorced women, but so seldom do we hear of a godly woman—or a godly man, either, for that matter.”

“The world has enough women who know how to be smart, It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need women, and men too, who would rather be morally right than socially correct.”

Social Commentary

if you happened to miss my mid-month commentary about the Sandy Hook shootings, you can Read it Here

Another commentary on that sad event that I recommend is, Where Does The Blame Lie?. That essay, written by my friend Ron Woodburn, contains the congressional testimony of Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Joy Scott, who was killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Mr. Scott does NOT lay the blame for his daughter’s death on guns or the NRA.

Even if you don’t take the time to read Ron’s essay, you should still click the link above to look at the picture he has posted with the essay. The unusual picture is a profound essay and commentary in itself.

Standing Stone Honey

Ronald Woodburn, of Standing Stone Honey products, Locke, New York

Ron Woodburn (mentioned above) is a young man of exemplary Christian character. I’ve been blessed to know him, and his whole family. Ron has also been a beekeeper for several years. He works a full time job in the city and in his spare time he is building a home-based business around the honey that his bees make for him. In other words, he’s an agrarian entrepreneur. That’s something I have a lot of respect for, especially in younger folks (which, from my perspective, is anyone under thirty).

With all of that in mind, please take a moment and stop by Ron Woodburn’s web site, Standing Stone Honey Products. Check out what he has to offer. Ron's business and his products reflect his personal integrity. You can buy from him with complete confidence. ‘Nuff said.


That's it for this month. 
Here's wishing you all a blessed year in 2013!

On Sandy Hook

Dateline: 18 December 2012

I feel compelled to comment on the recent school shooting in Sandy Hook.....

Newtown, Connecticut, is a place that I’ve visited numerous times in years past, when I was writing articles and books for the Taunton Press. On a couple of my visits I stayed in the guest house tucked away behind Taunton’s main headquarters. There are trees around the house and railroad tracks run past. I’ll never forget, the first time I stayed there, one of the editors advised me to make sure that I locked the door at night. “I don’t want to scare you, but there is an insane asylum right next door, on the other side of the railroad tracks.” I thought he might be kidding me, but he wasn’t. 

One of the buildings at Fairfield Hills Psychiatric Hospital in Newtown, Connecticut.

Newtown is truly a pleasant (and prosperous) New England community, but from 1931 to 1995 it was also home to the ominous-looking Fairfield Hills State Psychiatric Hospital. 189 acres in size, Fairfield Hills housed as many as 4,000 patients in it’s day. One interesting feature of the place is that the numerous buildings are connected by a network of underground tunnels. 

One can only imagine how convenient the tunnels were after, say, giving a lobotomy or a shock therapy session (both of which were done at Fairfield Hills)—the patients could be whisked underground from building to building. Out of sight, out of mind. 

After the closing of Fairfield Hills, the property passed to the town of Newtown., and they have worked to dig up or seal the tunnels.

I have had some minimal exposure to state psychiatric hospitals as a state employee in my current job. In one instance, I went to a day of training at the former Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane. During a break in the training, I wandered through the cavernous and deserted building. It gave me the creeps.

In one room I came upon boxes of old file folders, some broken and scattered across the floor. I’m an inveterate reader, and had an hour to kill. The files were full of old “accident” and incident reports. They revealed horrors. The place was once a living hell.

Sign on a wall at Fairfield Hills

In another instance, I visited a state psychiatric hospital in Rochester. It was a more modern facility. Very high security. Some remodeling had been done. No patients were in the area where I was. I spoke with a woman who had worked there for years. She was nice enough, but she was hardened, and she was a survivor. She had stories of being attacked by patients. She said that you couldn’t trust them. You couldn't turn you back on them. She told me that, years ago, they had strapped the violent ones down, but these days drugs are used more to control violent behavior.

There was a section of the building where I could look through a window and see into a populated wing. It was for mentally disturbed youth. I looked through the window, and I felt very sorry for those kids. There, but for the grace of God, went I.

Another view of the Psych hospital at Fairfield Hills in Newtown

Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Sandy Hook school killer, was, by all accounts, a loving mother. The thought of putting her son in a psychiatric hospital would have been a source of tremendous anguish for her. And yet, she knew her son better than anyone else. Recent news reports indicate that she was in the process of having him committed.

Nancy Lanza’s son was, no doubt, on doctor-prescribed psychotropic drugs. And its likely that he was on such prescriptions for many years. These drugs are a common denominator with many of the horrific killings that have been committed in recent years, as this eye-opening YouTube clip explains.


It’s a sad, sad story, this killing spree at the Sandy Hook school, and some people are struggling with the question: "How could God let something so horrible happen to those young and innocent children?”

I think that’s a legitimate question to ask, as long as it’s not asked in the manner of putting God on trial. The question is, however, not one that we will ever get an answer to, at least not in our present state of existence.

The bottom line is that God does as he pleases for His own purposes. He is the potter, we are the clay. He does not, and will not, justify his actions to mere men. It is not given us to know the answers to all questions about God and his purposes.

That being the case, I think that there are two very different responses that people take when something as wicked as this collides with their belief system. The two responses are nothing new. They are played out in the Book Of Job in the Old Testament. 

You may recall that Job was a greatly blessed man, and a good man (as men go). But all of that changed for awhile. God allowed Satan to torment Job in a way that few people have ever been tormented since. Job’s children were killed. His considerable wealth was taken. He became sick. All of this happened in a very short span of time. (you can read the story HERE).

We can only imagine Job’s distress. He probably wondered why all of the tragedies had happened to him. It’s only natural to wonder. And Job’s wife responded in a way that was also only natural. She advised him to “Curse God and die.”

But Job’s response to his troubles was much different. I dare say it was not natural. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Job’s response to personal tragedy was profound, simple, and theologically rock solid: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

This kind of response from Job, and this situation at Sandy Hook, brings to my mind a 3-minute YouTube clip I have linked to here before. It is by John Piper and it is about the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is not pertinent to this discussion, but at 1:24 into the clip, Piper says something that grabs me every time I hear it. He talks about the worst kind of tragedy, and then he presents the proper Christian response. It's powerful. Watch it Here.

People who declare that they could never follow a God who allows children to die in such a brutal manner are like Job’s wife. They do not know God. If they did, they would trust Him.

To trust Him is to know Him. To know Him is to trust Him.

Besides that, those who judge God for allowing evil to happen fail to recognize (or take into account) His incredible love, His mercy, and His grace, all of which were manifested through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The wickedness of this world pales in comparison to the goodness of God.

Faith and trust in Jesus Christ are the keys that begin to unlock the mysteries of God (not all of them, but enough of them). Faith and trust in God, through Jesus Christ, are what best equip a person to deal with all the difficulties of life, including even the unbridled terrors of hell that erupt from time to time through the actions of evil men.

That’s how I look at this event. 

But I’m not done yet.......

There is a horrible irony in this mass killing in Newtown. Some people will not appreciate me pointing it out. But it is so obvious to me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to see it. 

Twenty beautiful young children shot dead in one day at a school is nothing compared to the 3,000 to 4,000 beautiful babies that are murdered by abortion doctors in this country every day of the week, fifty-two weeks a year. That reality is, frankly, more horrifying to me than Sandy Hook.

I’ll bet that there are plenty of people in this country who are appalled and disturbed by the Newtown shooting, but who declare that they are "pro-choice." These people don't much care about unborn children that are literally ripped from their mother’s womb’s. Many of these unborns are fully formed, fully alive, fully innocent. And yet it, in the minds of so many people, this killing of children is acceptable.

I don’t understand. 

And I also do not understand how Barak Obama,who, as senator, voted to legalize the most gruesome of abortion procedures (on full term babies) can shed tears in public for twenty children shot dead. Are there no tears for the millions killed by the abortionists?

I don't think it is exaggerating one bit to say that abortion doctors and  misguided politicians are responsible for the murder of far more children than were killed by one psychotic boy in Connecticut.