The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
March 2013

Dateline: 31 March 2013

March was snowy, cold and grey.  This is 12A, the wagon I made from an old New Idea manure spreader last year. When the weather warms up, ol' 12A will be getting a lot of use.

Dear Friends & Other Readers,

There is an old agrarian admonition that you should make your hay when the sun shines. The opposite is true if you are an agrarian trying to write a book—you should make your book when it is cold and wet and dreary outside. That pretty much describes this past March. So I’ve been racing against time, trying to finish my book before the sun and warmth (and many outdoor demands) of spring arrives. The good news is that I’m pretty much done.

The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners needs a cover and I will meet with my graphic designer about cover design on the 9th of April. The 124 pages in the book will also need to be electronically formatted for the printer. This book was made the “old-fashioned” way, with each page being a collection of hand-drawn artwork and quite a few cut-and-paste inserts. It was an intimate and time-consuming creative process. Most of the book was written over a year ago (I started it last winter), but illustrating and composing an average page literally took hours. It was not unusual to spend three days putting together a 4-page chapter. 

Meanwhile, I had to take time off to figure my income taxes early in March (a dreadful task, made much easier this year by Marlene's help with the bookkeeping), and keep the Planet Whizbang mail-orders shipping out promptly. A typical day in March had me taking care of the mail order business obligations from 7am till noon, and then focusing on the book until 9:00 at night.

As a result, I’m throwing this month’s blogazine together the day before it is due. Please forgive me if this is a bit of a ramble.

More About The Book

I don't have a cover from my new book to show you yet, so I'll show you my earliest "Whizbang" book. This is one of the first 100 copies of the plucker plan book that I self-published back in 2002. They were photocopied at a local quick-print shop. I've lost track of how many copies of this book have now been sold, but it is over 25,000. And I've packaged up and mailed out nearly every one. My next book will feature the whimsical Planet Whizbang logo of a leafy beet with golden Saturnal rings.

I would guess that it will be a couple months before The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners is finally in print and ready to ship. I was hoping for sooner, but these things take time. I’m just glad the hardest part is behind me. When this book is published, it will be my 12th book. The first three were published by a big-time publisher (The Taunton Press), and the others have been self-published. At this point, I can’t feature myself ever writing a book for a book publisher other than myself.

I’m a seat-of-the-pants self-publisher. The plan books I’ve put together are clearly amateur productions. If there were a beauty contest for books, mine would be disqualified. But they deliver useful information, along with a measure of inspiration, and, overall, they have been well received. 

However, I’ll never forget the e-mail I once got from a reader of my chicken plucker plan book. The guy informed me that the book would have been a lot better if someone who knew how to write did the writing, and someone who knew how to draw, did the drawing.  And that particular book is, far and away, the best-selling book I’ve ever written.

I’ve read that the largest special-interest group in America is gardeners (there are more people who are interested in gardening that in plucking chickens). So I hope this next book will prove to be a good seller. There is a LOT of competition in the genre of gardening books, but my book will be very different from any other gardening book I know of. 

The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners will have plans for making solar pyramids, which are astonishingly effective cloche structures. There will be specifications for making the Whizbang wheel hoe, and the Whizbang wood-&-wire garden tote. You’ll also find plans for making a simple, inexpensive Whizbang shoulder yoke. I’ll explain how I make biochar and how I steam fryalize compost on a rocket stove (with plans for a unique, easy-to-make rocket stove). I’ll tell you about Steve Lonsky’s amazing siphon-tube rain barrels (they really are amazing!). I’ll present E.P. Roe’s excellent advice (from 1886) for "growing strawberries of the largest and finest quality" (I’ve heavily edited his wordy 17th century prose for clarity and easier reading). I explain the most excellent garden trellising system you've ever seen, and I reveal a much easier and better way to trellis indeterminate tomatoes (better than a wire cage). I tell how to find and restore a classic old garden hoe. I tell how to make “forever” plant tags, an excellent “pocket cultivator,” and a downright nice hoe hanger. I reveal my system for growing “easy carrots.” And I also discuss "tri-growing" carrots which is an absurdly nifty idea that I guarantee you have never seen before in your life. And that’s just some of the chapters in my new book.

Scattered throughout the book are ideas, advice (advice is a form of idea), insights and gardening commentary from the gardeners of yesteryear, which is to say, gardeners from over 100 years ago. I’ve selected many choice excerpts from my collection of old farm almanacs (from the 1800’s), and Cultivator & Country Gentleman newspapers. Those old-timers were serious gardeners, and resourceful people, to say the least. 

You will want a copy of this new book because, when you get done reading it, you will be a smarter, wiser, more-clever, and better gardener than before you read the book. Your life will be enriched by the experience, and you’ll be inspired—I think it’s a very inspiring book.

I will be offering my new book for $19.95 (postage paid) to anyone who buys a pre-publication copy (that offer is for U.S addresses only). It will sell for more than that when it is finally in print. I will have an online ordering button for pre-publication purchases starting about one month before the book is in print. If you are not yet on the Planet Whizbang e-mail list, you can Sign Up Here, and you will be notified when the book goes on sale.

Making Maple Syrup 2013

This is Marlene tending her sap evaporator. I put the 1/2-gallon jar of 2103 maple syrup in there to show you the golden goodness that comes from all the time and effort.

I decided that I would not have time to make maple syrup this spring. Focusing on the book project was more important. But that didn’t stop Marlene from taking on the task. She harnessed two of our sons to help her some. But she has done the lion’s share of the work, collecting sap and boiling it down. Two years ago we made 12 gallons of maple syrup. That was a good year. This year Marlene will make 5 or 6 gallons.

Click Here to read all about how we make maple syrup.

The Steve Solomon Interview

If you have read this blog for long, you know that I’m a fan of Steve Solomon’s book, Gardening When It Counts. Last September I posted here about Steve’s newest book, The Intelligent Gardener (note: for some reason is currently selling only the Kindle edition of the book. You really should have the paperback). It wasn’t even published but I was recommending it, and I confidently ordered a pre-publication copy.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed with The Intelligent Gardener. Fact is, it may be the most important gardening book I’ve ever read. It is all about intelligent remineralizing of garden soil to achieve greater nutrient density in the food you grow. Greater nutrient density translates into more nutritious food. More nutritious food leads to healthier people.

After reading the book, I decided that I had to include a chapter in my next book about remineralizing garden soil. It is just a 4-page chapter that introduces the concept of intelligent remineralization and provides insights into what is involved. But you may not want to wait until my book comes out to learn about this subject. You might want to go right now to Jordan Marr’s excellent podcast interview with Steve Solomon at THIS LINK.

I should warn you that there is one place where Steve Solomon uses the “f” word. That incident aside, the rest of the interview is very interesting, at least it is from my perspective as someone who has gardened for a long time (nearly 40 years) and who has grown up in the organic paradigm.

Solomon comes through as an intelligent authority on gardening—perhaps the most intelligent authority I’ve ever heard (or read). He is refreshingly honest, readily admitting mistakes he’s made in the past, and giving credit where credit is due for much of what he has learned (particularly about mineralization). He is also something of a curmudgeon, which makes for good listening. 

As I listened to the interview, It occurred to me that Steve Solomon is much like the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen story of The Emperor’s New Clothes

You may recall that the Emperor’s new clothes were nonexistent. He and all the people were scammed into believing that the clothes existed, and that they were beautiful. So the Emperor paraded in his underwear through the town showing off his fabulous new clothes. The charade falls apart when a little boy exclaims that the Emperor doesn’t have any clothes on.

When it comes to Steve Solomon, the Emperor is the organic movement as it was established and defined by J.I. Rodale and his magazine, Organic Gardening & Farming, back in the 1940’s. I grew up gardening in the J.I. Rodale organic paradigm. I still adhere to it, but not quite as much after reading and listening to Steve Solomon. Solomon equates Rodale’s compost-only organic philosophy to a fundamentalist religion. That isn’t to say Solomon is against the concept of organic gardening, because he isn’t. But he sure does have an insightful perspective on J.I. Rodale!

Steve Solomon’s interview is interesting to me because he exhibits a lot of qualities that I admire. He is a contrarian, not accepting the industrial world’s explanations, nor its expectations of how a person should live their life. He is largely self-taught. He is an entrepreneur, but not focused on making a lot of money. He lives relatively simply. He is compelled to teach others about what he has learned. And he’s a gardener.

On the other hand, Solomon's got his quirks, the oddest of which to me is his use of cannabis. In the interview he says he doesn’t think anyone under the age of 30 should use cannabis because he did and it wasn’t a good experience. But he uses it now, and I can’t help but wonder... if it’s not a good thing for someone under 30, how can it be a good thing for someone over 30? 

The interview is long (1 hour & 22 minutes), it tells much of Solomon’s life story (and it sure does ramble around) but I found it all of interest, and I think you might too.

By the way, if you do listen to the interview, you will hear Steve say that the book has only one typo that he knows of. It’s one number on one form. I know exactly where that typo is because I’m the one who found it and brought it to Steve's attention at his Yahoo discussion group. If you have the book, go to page 107. The number 6.2 on the bottom of the form, next to “zinc,” is incorrect. It should be 62. Me finding that typo is pretty amazing because I was born without the math gene. But it gives you an idea of how closely I read the book.

A Voice From My Past

My Grandmother Kimball, visiting Hollywood, California, in 1967

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting at your computer and you receive an e-mail from someone you don't know that contains a link to a voice recording from 40 years ago of someone who was very special to you, but has been deceased for eight years. You haven't heard this loved one's voice for a long time, and there it is, unbeknownst to you, on the internet!

This happened to me this last month when a woman in Maine, while researching her family’s history, came across a recording of my grandmother, Mary Towle Kimball, of Fort Fairfield, Maine (thank you , Sheila). The woman remembered that my grandmother was Mary Towle from some blog posts I had published here a few years ago. 

So I clicked The Link, and I must say it was a profoundly emotional experience for me to hear my grandmother’s voice again. You will understand why when you read What My Grandmother Did For Me, which I posted to this blog back in 2006.

The online recording was made around 1972. I would have been 14 years old and she would be 64. My grandmother is reading a letter from 1888 that her grandmother, Mary Estes Towle, had written to her grandmother. Since she is reading, it is not my grandmother's normal conversational way of talking, but the voice and the way she pronounces some words are uniquely hers. 

Mary Estes married LaForest Valdessa Towle in 1865. He was a farmer and a deacon in the Baptist church. They lived in Fort Fairfield, which is way up in the northern region of the state. It was wilderness back then. LaForest cleared his land and built a home before he married. Mary Estes and LaForest’s son, Hiram, would grow up to be my grandmother’s father. He was also a farmer in Fort Fairfield.

Most anyone listening to my grandmother read the old letter would not think much of it. But if it’s your grandmother reading a letter from your great, great grandmother to your great, great, great, great grandmother, it’s downright interesting. And, it turns out, it was a blessing to, because, 125 years later, it provides insights into the Christian faith of my kin. Here is an excerpt from the letter:

“I should like to see you and the rest of the folks. If we do not meet on earth, I hope we shall meet in heaven, where there are many dear friends. I think of you very often and think you must be lonely, but I know you have a Dear Friend that is always with you. I often think, what should I do without that friend. When I look over my life and see the crooked paths I have made, I think what would my life have been without His help. I try every day to trust Him more and to say, what shall I render unto God for all his goodness to me? I feel he has followed me all the days of my life.”

The Rural-Urban Dichotomy 
A Fundamental Problem

Election results 2012 by counties. The red counties voted Republican and the blue voted democrat.

Thank you Lyle S. for sending me a link to The Disenfranchisement of Rural America at the  Hoover Institution web site. If you are a conservative-minded person living in a rural area of America, feeling more and more politically impotent, and watching your country slowly but surely relegate itself to the ash-bin of history, you ought to read the article. It’s very insightful and something that needs to be better understood, especially by rural folk.

The map above comes from the article. It reveals that most of America is conservative (to some degree), as shown in red. Even the states that voted Democratic in the last election are largely red if you look at it from the perspective of how the counties voted. But the urban centers, with their dense populations, determine who wins elections and who makes the laws that rural people have to live by.

This explains why 51 out of 62 county legislatures here in New York state have passed resolutions opposing our governor’s heinous gun control laws that were passed only a couple months ago.  The majority of the people in the majority of the state want the law repealed, but the larger minority in the smaller area of the state gives the governor his political power.

The same thing is happening in states where rural communities are being hydrofracked,  and forced to suffer with the manifold problems that particular technology brings. They have no effective political voice to oppose it. 

Yes, I know that America needs energy, and every so-called Conservative talking head is on the fracking bandwagon, but this isn’t a conservative/liberal issue—it’s a human rights issue. It’s a rural human rights issue. The vast majority of people living in rural areas do not want their communities hydrofracked. People in favor of hydrofracking would think very differently of the issue if it was happening next to their home and impacting their family. (Read This for more of my perspective on “hydrofracking & the mind of a true conservative.”)

This dichotomy between rural people and the urban masses also explains the radical social changes we are seeing. Take, for one example, the whole gay marriage debate. Generally speaking, rural people recognize the sanctity of traditional marriage, and they do not support the novel new concept of gay marriage. But gay marriage is an issue on the forefront because it is primarily driven by urbanites. And you can't have a civil discussion (or even just politely disagree) with gay activists—you must either accept their demands and conform to their way of thinking, or keep your opinions to yourself. But I digress....

Back to the Hoover Institute article....

"With each passing election, rural and small town Americans have ever less influence on their state and national governments and ever declining control over the governance of their own communities. Their lives are increasingly controlled from distant state capitals and from the even more distant Washington, D.C., by politicians with little incentive to pay attention to their country cousins. To some extent, their disenfranchisement is the inevitable result of a century of urbanization and economic centralization."

So on the state level we have a tyranny of the majority (and the monied interests) over the rural minority. 

But it wasn’t always this way. 

According to the Hoover Institute article, prior to a 1964 Supreme Court decision, most state legislatures included one house apportioned on the basis of population and a second chamber apportioned on the basis of counties or other geographical regions.”

The article further states:

“While one person/one vote was widely accepted as the appropriate standard for lower state legislative chambers, most states defended their geographically apportioned upper houses by drawing a parallel to the U.S. Congress in which the Senate is apportioned on the basis of states rather than population. The Supreme Court rejected their argument...”

And as a result...
"Inexorably, the values and ambitions of urban America have been imposed on small town and rural communities. Despite the often broad agreement among their citizens, the rural communities of red county America have gradually lost control of their own destinies at the hands of statewide majorities marching to a different drummer. In many states, rural areas have become playgrounds, refuse dumps and planning laboratories for urbanites at the expense of viable and prosperous local communities."

Question Authority

I don’t wear t-shirts with slogans or advertising on them. That’s just not me. But a lot of people do, and I knew a guy (many years ago) who wore a t-shirt that said “Question Authority.” That shirt got me to thinking...
When it comes to government, politics, and manmade institutions I think it is imperative that all thinking people continually question those authorities. Question why they do what they do. Question the veracity of every word they say, of every statistic they quote. Question their right to do what they’re doing. Question their ulterior motives. Question their allegiances. Question who stands to benefit financially from decisions they make. 
Question it all, because it is the nature of the government and politicians to lie. They routinely manipulate facts and figures and draw perverted, self-serving conclusions. I'm not talking about just Democrats, or just Republicans. Anymore, there is little difference between the two parties. Question them all.
And don’t just question the political authorities. Question the media authorities. Question the scientific authorities. Question the medical authorities. Question the educational authorities. Question pop culture. Question the establishment. Question the whole industrial system. Question everything they say and do for all the same reasons you would question the government and the politicians.
And what of religion? Should we question religion? Sure, why not? There is nothing wrong with questioning religious authorities. There are all kinds of religious authorities. Even those who espouse atheism are religious (because they believe, by faith,  in the non-existence of God). 
We should question the actions and words of men and manmade institutions in order to discern truth. I am not saying we should question all authority as an act of continual rebellion or disobedience. We should do it to determine if the authority is legitimate and deserving of our trust. To critically question and seek the truth is a key element in thinking for ourselves. It is what free men and women do. And it is necessary for a nation to survive, especially this nation at this time in history. 
Ben Franklin (and every other founder of this nation) questioned authority. Here's what he said...
“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”
I'd like to see a picture of Ben Franklin wearing a t-shirt that says "Question Authority." 

Why Do We Need 
Economic Growth?

If you listen to the news you'll hear talk about "economic growth." It's a big topic of concern with economists and government people. Everyone seems to agree that economic growth is important. Economic growth is continually being evaluated and gauged. But why is economic growth so important?

I mean, why can't we just have an economy that chugs happily along at a steady pace, without needing to continually grow and grow?

Well, the reason that continual growth is necessary is that we have a debt-based economic system.  With our fractional reserve banking system, all money is loaned into circulation, but  the interest to pay for the loans is not. Thus, in order to make the money to pay the debt, the economy (which is the total volume of sales and income earned from economic activity) must continually expand.  

Check out This YouTube Video for an engaging and entertaining explanation of how fractional reserve banking works and it's evils.

How To Always Be 
In Easy Circumstances

The following excerpt comes from the Maine Farmer's Almanac of 1849. That was 164 years ago! But the advice is pertinent to our day and age.

Would you like to know how you can always be in easy circumstances? If so, here—take the recipe: 
Subdue every unnecessary want or desire, and buy only such things as will add to your real comfort and convenience. It is the extreme of folly to think you must buy every thing you see or have everything that some of your rich neighbors have.
If they have attained their wealth by their vices, their exhortations and rogueries, do not try to ape them, but despise alike their means and their ends. If they have acquired their riches by their virtues, their fair dealing and activity and honesty, in business, as only the truly self-made men, the great and excellent of the earth ever do, they deserve your regard and esteem—they are to be honored—they are worthy of their success, and the community at large will benefit from their prosperity. You will not envy them, but pursue the even tenor of your way in right-thinking and right-acting, as these noblemen have done before you.
The frog, in trying to swell to the size of the ox, burst— a certain end to all artificial greatness. Whenever you find you can curtail your expenses, you must summon the resolution to do it.

March, 2013, on our new land.