Acknowledging God
in His Creation

Dateline: 30 July 2013

"It's like I'm standing next to a statue of God's amazing grace."

The man in the picture above is Johann van der Ham, head of the Foundations for Farming ministry in Malawi, which is a small country in southeastern Africa. His 2-minute soliloquy about that sunflower he is standing next to is absolutely beautiful. If you worship the God of Creation, as I do, I'm sure you will be blessed by Mr. van der Ham's words and insights, especially his final comment.

To see and hear the excerpt, go to this YouTube link and scroll ahead to 4:39 in the film.

Buy Now,
Pay Later?

Dateline: 29 July 2013

Most of my Planet Whizbang sales are transacted online and the payment part of the transactions are conducted through PayPal. Last year I paid nearly ten thousand dollars to PayPal in fees, and I'm just one small online operator. That leads me to think PayPal must be one of the biggest internet cash cows out there.

I don't begrudge them their money because I appreciate the service they provide. PayPal has enabled me to be successful with my homestead-based business. I'm just saying—that's a lot of money for not doing any physical work.

I do enough business with PayPal that a real, live person called me on the phone a couple years ago to thank me, ask if I had any questions or problems, and give me a phone number so I can easily contact a real person if I do have a problem. I was impressed.

More recently, I got an e-mail from PayPal regarding their new BillMeLater program. They wanted me to offer my customers the option of buying stuff like, chicken plucker parts and cider press parts, without needing to come up with the money right away. I didn't need to read the e-mail to know I wasn't interested.

Then, a few days later, Marlene came out to my shop, phone in hand, and held it out to me: "It's PayPal."

The woman on the phone asked me if I had a chance to look over the BillMeLater e-mail she sent. I had forgotten about the e-mail and was a little surprised to get the call.

I quickly gathered my thoughts (not an easy thing sometimes) and told the woman that I genuinely appreciated PayPal, and I could see where it would make good economic sense to have a buy-now-pay-later option, but I wasn't interested because I didn't want to be responsible for putting people into financial bondage. "If someone doesn't have the money to buy something from me, I really don't want them to buy it."

Then I said, "I don't suppose you hear that very often."

I was taken aback when she said, "Actually, you would be surprised how often we hear it."

Ms PayPal didn't try to change my mind. I suspect she knew she was dealing with some firmly-held ideology. Instead, she changed the subject and told me that I could save some money on the fees I pay by filling out a particular online application. I filled out the application, and was glad she called.

As for the revelation that there were other PayPal "merchants" out there who didn't want to participate in the buy-now-pay-later scheme, I pondered on that for awhile.

I came to the refreshing conclusion that PayPal merchants are probably mostly people who own some sort of small business. And those businesses reflect the personal morality (beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad) of the owners. And the morality of many of those owners must surely dictate that buying on credit is not a good thing. And, though they accept credit cards payments through PayPal, they don't want to be a party to anything more than that. It's kind of a "people over profits" way of thinking, and I'm glad to know about it.

Then I did a Google search of "buy now pay later" and came to This Web Page, wherein I learned that:

Between 1840 and 1890, four products—furniture, pianos, farm equipment and sewing machines—spread credit financing through the world.  

And they had this great picture of an old plow advertisement...

Further on, I read:

The single firm that did the most to bring the installment plan to the world was Singer Sewing Machines. Singer's machines were neither the best nor the cheapest products on the market. But the firm's innovative credit plan, inspired by piano showrooms near company headquarters tripled sales in just one year. By the 1890s, Singer Sewing Machine agents were notorious for their hard-sell "dollar down, dollar a week" tactics. The company's aggressive salespeople and easy payments made Singer one of the first multinational corporations.

Interesting, eh? Here's a picture to go with that bit of history:

All of which leads me to conclude that Planet Whizbang will never be a prosperous multinational corporation.... and that's just fine with me.

Laurie Neverman Has
Reviewed My New Book At
Common Sense Homesteading

Dateline: 28 July 2013

Laurie Neverman

Laurie Neverman, The Common Sense Woman, has posted A Great Review of my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners at her remarkable blog/web site, Common Sense Homesteading. She is also having a book give-away contest that you can enter. 

I was not familiar with Common Sense Homesteading until after I published my book and started searching the internet for high-readership blogs that feature useful information about gardening. I selected several such bloggers and wrote them, asking if I could send a copy of the book for possible review (I made it clear they were under no obligation to review the book on their blog). Only three bloggers responded to my offer. Two—Jane Bryan and Laurie Neverman—have now reviewed the book. And both are now on  my special-people list. :-)

After spending some time at Common Sense Homesteading, I can see why it's a high-readership blog. Simply stated, it's loaded with useful, down-to-earth, common sense information about living a more self-reliant lifestyle. Empowering and inspiring are also words I would use to describe the web site.

While I blog my scattered ruminations here at The Deliberate Agrarian, and many of them are lost in the unorganized lump of past years' posts, Laurie's blog is a paragon of focus and organization. Proof of this can be found in her blog's Table of Contents page (which should not be confused with the Contents page). 

Go to either or both of those links and you will discover an encyclopedic volume of useful and interesting essays. You can easily spend a few hours perusing through the information, and it will be a few hours well spent. I am inspired by Laurie's example, and think I will endeavor to create a Table of Contents page for my blog.... one of these days.

I must confess that, after seeing what a great job Laurie has done with her blog, I felt a little humbled (which is actually  a good thing to feel), but I was encouraged when I read her post titled, Confessions of a Messy GardenerIt so happens that Laurie doesn't present herself as a picture-perfect "rockstar" blogger-gardener-homesteader, like some garden-blog personalities do, and I find that to be another endearing aspect of her web site.

By the way, unlike every other garden book writer in the world, I've been known to have a messy garden too, especially around about the end of July when the weeds here in central New York state go into desperate hyper-growth, and I find myself more focused on other projects. But I also confess to harvesting a lot of wholesome, homegrown food from my garden, despite its late-season shabby look. 

Laurie Neverman has also published a book, and it's only right that I mention it, especially since it may be helpful to a lot of people who are having health problems. Common Sense Health came about after Laurie was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, a hypothyroid disorder. The doctor offered a pharmaceutical solution, but Laurie pursued a diet and lifestyle approach, and it has done wonders. 

In closing, I'd just like to say a big "Thank you" to Laurie Neverman at Common Sense Homesteading for reviewing my new book, and for posting a review at The Book's Amazon Web Page

Also, for the record, if anyone out there writes a gardening or homesteading book (especially if it's self-published) and wants me to review it, I'll be glad to do so.

Another Year
At The Route 90
Garage Sale

Dateline: 27 August 2013

My find of the day (click on photos to see larger views)

Today was our annual New York State Route 90 garage sale expedition. I first wrote about this family tradition back in August of 2005. And that was the year I found probably the nicest old agrarian artifact I've ever found. It was a "Classic American" chicken feeder. What a beauty! I've never seen anything like it before or since. You can see the feeder and read about how I found it at This Link.

Today's expedition was memorable for the little twig table shown above. It cost me $20. I debated at length with myself whether or not to buy it. In the end, I couldn't resist. It is old and weathered, but solid. 

How old, I don't know, but I pulled out a loose nail and it looks to me like a small casing nail. Casing nails are like finish nails but they have a slightly different shape to the head. I don't think that casing nails are used much these days, especially the small ones.

Here's another view...

View of the top

Whoever made the small table surely put a lot of time and care into the project. And they did a fine job. I admire this kind of handiwork. I like the idea of selecting some sticks from the woods or a hedgerow and, with nothing more than a few common hand tools and some little nails, making a piece of beautiful, functional furniture.

When I was still in high school, I read a magazine article about how to make chairs out of sticks, much like that table. They had bowed saplings for the back and arms. I put a lot of hours into making two chairs. 

It was a learning experience and they turned out really nice. They were even comfortable to sit in. My mother was amazed. So was I. Unfortunately, the chairs were left outdoors and fell apart after a few years. 

I gained skill, confidence and satisfaction by making those two chairs. I can't help but wonder....  if there were iPhones, and Facebook, and all the other electronic distractions that kids have today back when I was a teen, would I have still put the time and effort into making those chairs? Or would I have hand-carved wooden spoons out of old hardwood lumber pieces? Or would I have pursued all the other little hobby projects that were the foundation for eventually becoming a carpenter and home-remodeler, and, in due time, using my accumulated skills to launch the Planet Whizbang business? 

I know a man who quit his job working for Federal Express to pursue self employment as a twig furniture maker. He left the job years ago and makes a living selling his handcrafted creations. 

Are you looking for a "bootstrap" business that you can get into with almost no financial investment? Start teaching yourself how to make twig furniture. You don't need any power tools. You don't need a big workshop. Do some research. Invest some time. Making twig furniture could be a very satisfying and profitable endeavor.

Upside-down view

And The Winner Is....

Dateline: 27 July 2013

Well, that was a lot of fun!

I'm speaking, of course, about the Thy Hand Hath Provided Book Give-Away Contest that I launched here last Monday. Fact is, I don't think I've had so much fun on the internet since the Deliberate Agrarian Haiku Contest that I had sponsored three years ago.

It was a delight to read all the different food-related memories that you who entered the contest left in the comments section. 

To fairly choose a winner I first printed out all the comments, then cut each one out, crumpled it up, and put it in one of my homemade garden totes (plans for making the garden tote are available for $1.50 At This Link), as you can see in the next picture...

Then I reached in and.....

Crumpled and scrambled them some more. Then, without looking, I fished around, selecting a single entry paper, and....

And that's it! That's the winning entry! That's the entry that will win a free copy of Jane Bryan's excellent cookbook. Here's a close up view...

You're the winner, Donna Friend. Please contact me by e-mail with your snail-mail address:   (If I don't hear from you by Monday morning, I will draw another name)

Thank you everyone for making this contest so much fun. And thanks, Jane, for supplying the book. 

Remember, you can purchase a copy of the book for yourself, or as a gift for someone else, at This Web Page.

UPDATE: 31 July 2013
It is now Wednesday morning and I'm sorry to say that Donna has not contacted me with her address! So I have chosen another winner. It is MarieGray, who, years ago, with her sister in SC, made their own BigMac secret sauce. I see that Marie has a blog and I'll try to contact her through that. Congratulations Marie.

He's Baaack!

Dateline: 26 July 2013

Scott Terry (with a very large beaver in a conibear trap)

I'm pleased to announce that Scott Terry is restarting his weekly Christian Farm and Homestead online radio program. Version 2.0 will begin this evening at 8:00 eastern time. It looks like Scott has a great guest for tonight's program. You can read more At This Link.

If you are familiar with the program, you know what it's all about. For those who are new to the program, I encourage you to give a listen. Scott is far from a smooth-talking, professional broadcaster (he's a hard-working dairy farmer) but he is a great guy and I've enjoyed listening to his perspective, as well as the many guests he has had on the show. You certainly will not get this kind of "covenantal agrarian resistance" programming from the mainstream media!

As in the past, I am helping to sponsor the broadcast through my Planet Whizbang business. Planet Whizbang is all about supplying people with down-to-earth, how-to information, and inspiration for living a more self-reliant lifestyle. I think Scott's program is in alignment with that same objective.

An Excellent
Tick-Removal Tool

Dateline: 25 July 2013

Blood-swollen tick on a TRIX lasso pen (click to see an enlarged view)

Deer ticks are something of a scourge around these parts, and of great concern because they are carriers of Lyme disease. I've never had a tick on me but we have a friend who gets ticks practically every time she goes into her garden. 

Removing a tick is something of a challenge because the wicked little creature attaches itself by means of a barbed hypostome....

Tick hypostome (photo link)

If you try to pull the tick straight out, the barbs dig in. If you pull hard enough the tick will often separate, leaving the hypostome in the skin. That's not a good thing at all.

Another close-up view of the tick and hypostome (photo link)

I did some research on tic removal methods and tools and came to the conclusion that the TRIX Lasso Pen is the most intelligent and effective way to remove a tick. I bought two of them last year—one for my family and one for our tick-attracting friend. I bought them from 

The lasso goes over the ticks head, then tightens. To remove the tick, you twist the pen and lift away the tick. The barbs in the hypostome can't resist the unscrewing motion, like they do a straight pulling motion. See what I mean by an intelligent tool?

Our friend has removed many ticks (even very tiny ones) with the TRIX lasso pen and she says it works perfectly. The tick in the picture above was in one of our cat's ears. It twisted right out with no problem.

I think every family living in an area where ticks abound should have one of these excellent tools on hand at all times.

Picks His First Raspberries

Dateline: 24 July 2013

Futureman reaching for a choice raspberry

As many of you already know, I have, by the grace of God, escaped wage slavery (six months ago) and am now working at home. That means I'm home every day, and that means I'm here to see my grandson when he comes here, which is just about every day. My son and his wife have lived practically next door for over a month—since his discharge from the Army. Seeing my grandson every day is a very good thing. It is one of the reasons I wanted to come home to work.

His name is Jaxson, but I like to call him Futureman. I call him Futureman because he will one day grow to be a man. And when you have the perspective of age that I do, you realize that he will grow to be a man relatively quickly. The name of "Futureman" is a continual reminder to me of this fact of life.

I firmly believe that the character of future men, like Jaxson, is shaped and molded when they are yet children, even as little as 15 months old (Futureman's current age). That being the case, one of my primary purposes in life, from here to the end, is to do what I can as a grandfather to help shape the character of my grandchildren, beginning with Futureman. 

Futureman relishing a raspberry

I alone will certainly not do this. Marlene will play her part as a loving grandmother. And Futureman's parents will certainly play their important role. And then there will be the uncles and aunts. It doesn't take a village to raise a child. It takes an extended family—that's the way God designed it.

But I can tell you that none of the family members have the perspective on this work of a family that Marlene and I have. And I, especially, am keenly cognizant of the role that grandparents can play in the life of a grandchild, and the lasting impression they can make (read, What My Grandmother Did For Me). Marlene's grandparents were either deceased or too old to have much impact on her life.

Futureman usually shows up here in the mornings, and his Grammie will make him breakfast. I'm typically working in my shop when he gets here. When I come into the house I make it a point to greet him with a big smile and spend a few moments interacting with him. Sometimes I help feed him breakfast. But it is becoming something of a custom for us to go out into the garden and see what's happening there. 

I introduced Futureman to strawberries about a month ago when they were coming on nicely. We sat in the straw mulch and I showed him how good the berries were by picking and eating them. But I didn't just eat them, I relished them in an exaggerated manner. I gave him one and he put it in his mouth, but then threw it away.

I mashed some strawberries up with a fork and tried to convince him that they were good that way. He tasted but quickly made a face and spit them out. Then I sweetened the pulped berries with a little homemade maple syrup. That solved the problem. He swallowed them down and opened his mouth wide like a hungry little bird wanting more.

When the raspberries came on, I introduced Futureman to the bushes, bejeweled with their lovely red fruits. I showed him how to pick a raspberry and relish it. Then I gave him one. He put it in his mouth, chewed it up, and swallowed it down. He liked it!  And he wanted another. 

I was downright pleased with that.  Then I started holding ripened berries on the bush out for him to pick himself. He grasped the concept and proceeded to pick and eat a dozen raspberries in no time. That's when I got Marlene and the camera to take these pictures.

Futureman stuffing another berry in his mouth, and eyeing up the next one.

I don't think Futureman will remember picking his first raspberries with his grandfather. But I do believe, that in these simple experiences of life, important foundations are being built—one little experience, routine and personal interaction at a time. And I am so very thankful for these moments.

Thy Hand Hath Provided
Book Give-Away

Dateline: 22 July 2013

In all the years I've blogged here I don't remember ever having a book give-away.

I did, however, have a House Give-Away Contest back in July of 2008 (And The Winner Was...).

So I reckon I'm long overdue for something like this, and I've got a great book to give away to one fortunate reader. The "contest" I have in mind should be a lot of fun, but let me tell you about the book first....

This give-away has come about after Jane Bryan, over at Thy Hand Hath Provided blog, asked me to consider reviewing her Thy Hand Hath Provided cook book (pictured above), after I asked her to consider reviewing my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners.

One good turn deserves another, and reviewing Jane's book is something I have no problem at all doing because it so happens that she has self-published a remarkably nice book.

Now, mind you, I am not much of a cook myself, but I have spent some time with Thy Hand Hath Provided, Recipes & Preserving, and I'm impressed with how well it is organized, presented, indexed, and cross referenced. As a self-publisher myself, I know something about how much work goes into producing a book, and I can tell you that Jane has done an excellent job with the overall composition and presentation. Fact is, her book is better "crafted" than most of my books.

As for the recipes, well, they are, of course, the best part. This excerpt from the book's Preface, gives you a general idea of what to expect...

"This collection of recipes is the result of seeking out meals that allow our family to eat from our garden, pantry and freezer without getting bored. In this cookbook, I will show you how to preserve many basic fruits and vegetables as well as provide suggestions as to what you can make with them, once they're chilling in your freezer or looking lovely on your pantry shelves. My hope is that this book will prove to be very useful as you harvest, preserve, plan and make delicious homemade and homegrown meals for your family."

Words like that appeal to the deliberate agrarian in me!

Thus far, Marlene (my wife) has made the Hummus and Tabouli recipes (we happen to love hummus and tabouli). Both were delicious, and I'm sure Marlene will make both recipes again. 

The hummus recipe required tahini, which is made from sesame seeds, and the recipe for that is also in the book. We have never made tahini but followed the recipe ( I helped) and it came out perfectly. You can see and read Jane's blog post about making Tabouli and Hummus here: Tabouli and Hummus

By the way, Jane's book also has a recipe for Beet Hummus. Wow. That's something I'm looking forward to trying!

Being the pie-lover that I am (I'll take pie over cake any day) I was attracted to the "Pies" chapter. Jane gives her pie crust recipe and tells how she makes several crusts at a time and stores them in the freezer until needed. Strawberry pie. Red Raspberry pie. Ground Cherry Pie ("recipe from my Grandma"), Sweet Potato Pie, Grape Pie (!), and others all sound good to me. But over in the "Vegetarian Main Dishes" chapter there is a recipe for Tomato Pie. That's a powerfully appealing, mouth-watering food to consider as I am waiting for the still-green tomatoes in my garden to ripen.

If you are a pie-lover too, you'll want to read Jane's blog post titled, The Pie Party. I've never been to a pie party. I hope that, someday, before I depart this earthly realm, I can go to a pie party.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. This book presents a broad range of tried-and-true, down-home-cookin' recipes. It is the kind of cookbook that you'll have fun using, will use to for years, and will want to give as a gift to any friends who love to cook, and/or are learning to cook.

Only one person reading this is going to "win" a copy in this give-away. The rest of you will have to buy yourself a copy, but the book is reasonably priced (and worth every penny). You can learn a lot more about Thy Hand Hath Provided cookbook, and purchase a copy, at this link: The Cookbook

The Give-Away Contest

To be entered in this contest you need only to post a comment below. In the comment you need to tell about your most memorable food experience. It can be a good experience, or a bad experience. It can be about something you ate that was especially good, or bad. It could be about a cooking success, or failure. It could be about something unusual that you ate, or an unusual place where you ate something. The common denominator is food, and a memorable experience.

You can provide details, or not, but please try to keep it somewhat brief. One entry per person, please. Make sure you close your comment with a name. It doesn't have to be your actual name, but you need to identify yourself. That way, if you win, I can identify you. 

On July 26 (this Friday) I will print out all the comments, cut them up, put them in a hat, and one will be chosen at random. I will announce the winner in a blog post here Friday evening (or Saturday morning). If you see that you are the winner, you will need to contact me by e-mail with your mailing address by Monday morning. If I don't hear from the winner by Monday morning, another winner will be chosen.

And them's the rules.

UPDATE: 27 July 2013
This contest has ended. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Click Here to see who won the cookbook.

Spring Planting
In July

Dateline: 21 July 2013

Summer Squash in July

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs, back in the 1960's and early 1970's, my family had a garden. A lot of people in the housing development had gardens. Everyone planted their garden in the spring, and that was it. As far as I can recall, people did not plant seeds in their garden in July. But I think gardeners these days have become a lot more savvy about planting later in the year.

I have planted some summer squash, zucchini, beets, carrots, cabbage and chard in this month of July. I was going to plant some kale but when I opened the top of the seed packet I looked in and there were no seeds. There were no seeds because the bottom of the packet had somehow opened itself. The seeds had all fallen out and were somewhere on the ground, but I couldn't find them. That was a first.

The fledgling summer squash plants pictured above were planted in a large Whizbang sidewall cloche. Sidewall cloches (small and large) are discussed on pages 45-47 of The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners, (and for those who have purchased a copy of the book, you can see and learn more at the book's hidden online Resources web site).

Sidewall cloches are a simple, inexpensive contrivance I developed several years ago. Gardening without them would be hard now that I have grown to depend on them to get so many plants off to a good start.

I planted the seeds about 1/4" into an "1899 Violet Purton Biddle puddle" (see page 60 of the book), and covered them with some vermiculite I had left over from when I made my Planet Whizbang rocket stove for steam fryalizin' compost (page 109). Some steam fryalized compost would have worked just as well, but I need to make another batch.

The seeds were planted 9 days ago. They haven't needed any watering and, as you can see, they are not being bothered by any insects. By the time the plants grow to fill the cloche structure, and I remove the cover, they will be off to a great start. They will be able to withstand any insects that might take an interest in them. But, by then, the insects that might have terrorized them in the spring will not be around.

Planting late to avoid insect damage is a very old gardening technique. On page 2 of my Idea Book For Gardeners is a short but wise quote from the 1892 edition of Leavitt's Farmer's Almanac:

"Squashes planted late are not so likely to be infested by insects."



Dateline: 19 July 2013

Taylor raspberries, ripe for the picking.

"...thousands would exchange their sallow complexions, sick headaches, and general ennui for a breezy interest in life and its abounding pleasures, if they would only take nature's palpable hint, and enjoy the seasonable food she provides."

—E.P. Roe
Success With Small Fruits


Strawberry season has passed here in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of New York, and the raspberries are now coming on strong. 

We thoroughly enjoy our raspberries, fresh, in season, and frozen out of season. Just-picked-and-frozen raspberries are the next best thing to fresh. And freezing berries is a no-brainer way to "put them up," which means even I can do it.

Marlene is the picker. She picked four quarts of berries first thing this morning. Once that was done, I set myself up on the back patio...

My job is to inspect each and every berry, reject the less-than-desirable ones, and then bag the good ones for the freezer. 

I do this by dumping a few berries at a time into my left hand, inspecting, picking out the undesirables (they go on the paper plate), and depositing the approved fruit in the bowl. 

It's a simple process and it moves along quickly once I get started. Along with blemished berries, I am looking for bugs. With that in mind, I look inside the hollow core of every berry. I do that because I've found Japanese beetles (like shown below) nestled out of sight inside the core of picked raspberries. Biting into a raspberry with a Japanese beetle inside is not something I ever want to experience.

Sometimes I put perfect whole berries on a large tray and freeze them, then bag the solid fruits, but most of the time I mash them with a fork...

Mashed berries don't take up as much room in the freezer. I don't put a lot of effort into mashing; I just smoosh them a bit. Once I have a plate-full, like shown above, I put it in a Zip-lock bag.

Those four bags went directly into the freezer and they will be used primarily to make raspberry smoothies this winter. Sometimes we put the mash on our morning oatmeal (with maple syrup).

And That's all there is to it.
My Raspberry Rows

The picture above (click to see an enlarged view) was taken on May 9th of this year. It shows my two rows of raspberries. Killarney Red on the right and Taylor on the left. I planted the rows around 6 years ago.

The tall canes are the strongest canes from last year's cane growth. I went down the rows last fall and cut out all old canes, along with new canes that were weak or grew outside the row. It amounted to an enormous amount of pruning, but that's the way it's supposed to be done if you grow raspberries in a row, or "hedge."

The selected canes were tied with string to the pole that runs down the row. It's a neat arrangement, but it is NOT an arrangement that I recommend. For one thing, the horizontal bar is too low. When the canes put out top growth and bush out in the spring (as they are starting to do in the picture above), they are prone to bend over and break where they are tied. If they were tied off to a taller pole, it would be a better situation.

But I don't even recommend that you grow your raspberries in a hedge, as I have done. I'm persuaded that "bush planting" of raspberries is the better way to go. E.P. Roe, the famous berryman of the 1800's recommended bush planting and, after understanding his approach, it makes a lot of sense. I can clearly see the sense of it after growing in rows. Live and learn.

In The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners I explain E.P. Roe's bush-planting approach. I hope to bush-plant a few different raspberry and blackberry varieties next spring. They will be much easier to take care of, and no less productive.

For some perspective, the following picture, taken today, shows those same two rows in the above picture (and taken in about the same place). It's quite a contrast, eh? 

This fall, after the canes have yielded their fruit, I will, once again, go down the rows and prune out all superfluous vegetation. I will tie the selected canes to the horizontal bar. I will cultivate the soil and add some fertilizer. The rows will be neat and orderly again.


I Have Received
A Very Pleasant Surprise

Dateline: 18 July 2012

Last month I blogged here about the dedication of the Kimball Community Health Center up in Fort Fairfield, Maine. The health center is named after my grandfather, the late Dr. Herrick C. Kimball. I figured that blog post was the end of the story, but it isn't.

A few days ago, the mailman delivered a box to my house. The return address indicated that it was from the Town of Fort Fairfield. Inside the box was the old, framed photograph of my grandfather that is shown above.

Included with the picture was a letter from Dan Foster, the Town manager. The letter explained that the picture had been given to him for possible use in the new medical center, but it was decided that another picture would be used instead. So Mr. Foster (who indicated in the letter that he has read some of this blog) decided to send the picture to me.

I'm so pleased to have the old photo, because I don't already have anything like it. But I was equally pleased to read what Dan Foster wrote me about my grandfather Kimball...

"Your grandfather was an extraordinary community leader but more importantly he was a very caring man. He was our family physician for a time and delivered me and my brother and sister. He was very kind to my mother and revered by my grandmother who was a nurse for many years at the hospital."

To make the receiving of the picture and letter even more special, my oldest son, Herrick Kimball the 3rd, happened to be here when the box came, and I had him open it. I started reading the letter out loud to him, but got a little choked up when I got to the paragraph above. So my son finished reading it out loud to me.

At 25 years old, my son has no recollection at all of his great grandfather. But, thanks to Dan Foster's kindness, he has been given a glimpse into the remarkable legacy of his namesake. I think that recollections about a man's character mean a lot more to a grandson when they come from someone outside the family.

Thank you, Dan Foster!

Our Now-Old Canner
The Seasons of Life

Dateline: 17 July 2013

I've written here before about when Marlene and I were married back in 1980, and we lived in a small apartment in the rural village of Moravia, in central New York state. Our rent was $155 a month. We both had jobs and we were living frugally. Our goal was to save enough to buy a small section of land, then build our own home and and pursue a more self-reliant lifestyle. We were focused and serious about achieving the goal....together.

Before long, we had saved the money to buy a 1.5 acre lot on a quiet country road, six miles out of the village. We built a shed on the land, bought a Toy-Bilt rototiller, and started gardening.

We wanted to can a lot of our homegrown food so we bought an All American pressure canner. It was an expensive purchase for us at the time but the All American canner was a homesteading tool that looked like it was made to last a lifetime.

Marlene thinks we paid around $65 for it. I seem to recall it was more like $100. Whatever the case, the  same All American canner now sells for $200.  Marlene found an identical All American canner at a yard sale a few years back and paid TWO DOLLARS for it. Canning with two canners is a lot more productive than just one.

We learned together how to use the pressure canner in our little apartment. We started with green beans. I remember the thrill of hearing the lids snap as the jars cooled down. And it was a good feeling to see the shelves I put in the kitchen all filled with our canned goods.

Back in 1980 Marlene and I had the vitality that comes with youth and shared goals. I marvel now at the stamina and physical ability I had, and what I was able to accomplish in my 20's and 30's. 

In 1988 our first child was born. Two more followed. All boys. We poured ourselves into the work of raising our children. We all worked together as a family to make our little homestead fruitful. The All American canner really got a workout in those years.

In that raising-a-family stage of our life, Marlene was a devoted homeschooling mom and I worked a regular job as a home remodeler to keep the bills paid. They were financially difficult days, but good days, because our family was all together.

Then came the stage of family life where the boys got cars, and jobs, and girlfriends. It wasn't the same. Our children became more independent. They didn't need us like they once did. And they weren't around to help with the work of the home nearly as much.

Around the same time, my mother got sick. Much of our time (especially Marlene's time) was focused on helping to care for my mother. Shortly after my mother died, my stepfather started needing more care, and, again, Marlene stepped up to the plate to help. It takes a lot to help care for a sick family member. There are continual doctor appointments and various emergencies that arise. I'm sure that many who are reading this can relate.

Those years of self-sacrifice, helping to care for sick family members, took their toll on Marlene and our home life. The old canner didn't get as much use because there wasn't a lot of time.

These days Marlene is now spending a lot of time each week, away from our home, helping to care for her 98-year old mother. When she isn't doing that, she helps my sister who has advancing multiple sclerosis. At 43 years old, with no husband, no children, no parents, no home, no job, and no money, my sister is going through a rough time. And maybe you thought you had it bad?

So life is much different these days. As other people's difficult situations (and I haven't mentioned them all) merge into our lives, we are dealing with responsibilities and concerns that are physically and emotionally draining. We are less connected to the work of our homestead. We find ourselves relying on the grocery store more than ever.

The good part is that we—Marlene and I—are, like a pair of old workhorses, still harnessed and pulling the load of life together. We are thankful that we have each other. We are thankful for a home that is a quiet refuge in the midst of turmoil and difficulty.  We are thankful that we have the ability, the resources, and the time to help others. We are thankful that God has orchestrated our life the way He has, though we never dreamed it would be this way back when we were first married, back in our little apartment, learning how to can green beans.

These thoughts came to my mind the other day as Marlene was canning some chicken stock. She had the pressure canner going early in the morning, and shut it down before she headed off to her mother's house for the day. On the way out the door, she told me to watch the pressure gauge—to make sure I released the valve and removed the jars when the gauge dropped down to zero. She didn't have to tell me how it was done. I know the routine. 

All of which is to say, I suppose, that each season of life has it's challenges, and "livin' the good life" isn't always peaches and cream.  


Today's post brings to mind another essay I wrote here back in 2006: My Christian Agrarian Reality