The Prima Facie
Credibility of
Covenantal Agrarianism

Dateline: 1 September 2013

There was once an organization known as The Agrarian Foundation, headed by David E. Rockett. The Agrarian Foundation had a newsletter and a web site. The web site (now long gone) had some excellent articles by Mr. Rockett about Christian-agrarianism. The articles were helpful to me as I was looking for deeper understandings about Christian-agrarianism.

I contacted Mr. Rockett by e-mail awhile back and asked if I could republish his agrarian articles at this blog. He gave me permission to do so and gave me the e-mail of a man who could send me the articles. I didn't have any success getting the articles from the man, and I let the idea go.

But when I left my wage-slave job back in January, I cleaned out my 13-year accumulation of assorted magazines, papers, and books. Buried in a drawer full of papers I found a copy of The Prima Facie Credibility of Covenental Agrarianism, by David E. Rockett. It was written in 1999. I had printed the 8-page article from The Agrarian Foundation web site in March of 2009.

Now that I have the article in hand, I can type it out and get it online. But it will have to wait until I have more time later this winter. For now I will just present the following excerpt from the essay.

But before I give you the excerpt I need to explain the word, "Prima Facie." It is Latin and it means: Evident without proof or reasoning; obvious.

In the introduction to the article, Mr. Rockett writes...

"Here, I simply hope to lay some foundational pilings, or pillars which establish a prima facie credibility of Covenental, or distinctively Christian, Agrarianism."

Later in the article, under the discussion of "Covenant Community," Mr. Rocket writes:

"The Modern Church has rejected cultural antithesis. It cowers, paralyzed under the modern fear of being 'marginalised' or feeling 'isolated' from the world. It has opted for a total absence of covenantal identity. There is no social or cultural antithesis between the sons of God and the children of the devil. The social fear of isolation and being marginalised has led the modern Church to barter a rich and distinctive Covenant life—for conformity, assimilation in the social poverty of Modernism.
This brings us to a subject seldom considered in Christian social theory. Within the covenant community, we are told to 'work with our hands,' and 'owe no man anything but to love one another.' What should we think about the multitudinous dependencies inherent in modern society? Should the Bride of Christ embrace a social structure which yokes Her to, and ensnares Her children with, a dependence upon unbelievers for the basic sustenance of life? Why? The modern city and suburb, with its radical division of labor, relegates our families to a host of dependencies upon giant municipalities and corporations. Some Christian economists have taught us to call this progress. We might ask 'Progress for whom, and by what definition?'
Let's be more clear concerning our dependencies. Few modern Christians ever contemplate their all but complete helplessness to provide their most basic sustenance of life—shelter, food, water and clothing. We have become contented in our dependence upon government municipalities and giant corporations (agribusiness and grocery chains) for our food, water and shelter. What would your family do if the electricity stayed off for several weeks and no trucks came to restock the food at the giant grocery outlet? Christian man and pagan man are all too similar—both are Modern Proletariats. Rather than rise to some modicum of self-reliance to meet his family's needs, both have become wage laborers. The property he owns is largely unproductive—frivolous and useless in meeting any part of his essential needs of food, shelter and clothing. These are provided via exchange of money with strangers with whom he has no relationship other than economic. This has not always been the case. Indeed, it has gradually arisen over the last 130 years of Industrialism—especially in the last 50 years!
The story of the modern Proletariat is completely ignored today. Modern man would rather gush on about his progress, techno-toys and all his 'cool stuff.' But take a moment to contrast the small independent farmer and his community of 1948, 1848, 1748, and 1648... to his suburban counterpart of 1998. The Husbandman-Farmer produced a large portion of his food and water from his own skill and productive property, year after year. Modern suburbanites have no productive landed property—or the skill and ability to provide for themselves if they did.
The Husbandman-Farmer lived in a community of landed freeholders much like himself, who not only worked with him from time to time, but supplied most of what he lacked by trade, barter and sale. Note here that an Agrarian economy or market is socially diversified by 1) some modicum of self-reliance and self-sufficiency, 2) local barter and trade, 3) regional commerce and exchange.
Modern proletariats are completely swallowed by The Money Economy. His 'neighbors' are as equally helpless and dependent to meet their needs as he is. Rather than see him as a helpful asset committed to their well being, he is more likely viewed as an economic competitor. Nor should there be much more than a superficial relationship in modern neighborhoods. Most suburbanites are temporary transients. Their corporate employers, or career opportunities are likely to relocate them in 3-5 years. So they have little enduring attachment to Place or community. The Mall and the Stadium—economics and sports—are the only forms of 'community' in Modernism's nomadic status-quo. Without Covenant, there is no chance for real community. Life becomes largely reduced to economics, and that an all but exclusive monetary preoccupation.
Covenantal Agrarianism, contrary to some misunderstandings, however, does not champion an isolated sort of rugged individualism, where a man meets all his needs all by himself. Rather, Covenantal Agrarianism champions the historic ideal of a freeman, or yeoman property owner, who has the ability to meet many of his basic needs, and carefully limits his dependencies. Though he might purchase some non-essentials, his essentials are provided by local interdependencies."


Here is the link to another article by David E. Rockett: 

(click for enlarged view)

—John Maynard Keynes—
Economics From A
Homosexual Worldview

Dateline: 31 August 2013

I was listening to Why Economic Recovery is Impossible at Generations With Vision radio back on August 20th. The show is an excellent interview with Christian-economist, Dennis Peacocke about his recently-published book, On The Destiny of Nations: Resolving Our Economic Crisis. I bought the book, I read it, and I have mixed feelings about it, which I'll write about here in a future blog post. For now, I want to focus on John Maynard Keynes, who is credited with being the architect of our current global economic system.

From that radio interview I learned of a prior Generations radio interview with Dennis Peacocke titled, Doing Business God's Way, which I also listened to. At one point in that interview Dennis Peacocke says that John Maynard Keynes was a "flaming homosexual." After making it clear that he is not homophobic (he's theophobic), Mr. Peacocke said:

"The issue with Keynesian economics is that the homosexual community, in general, is not interested in generational transfer. That is, the accumulation of capital across family lines. And biblical economics is all driven by generational transfer. That is how God expects us to pass on skills to our children, who are then able to build off what we have created. The Keynesian economic model is debt-driven, and it basically assumes that a current generation has the right, if not the responsibility, to consume whatever level of assets it wants, even if it has to borrow from the future—borrow from children and grandchildren, born and unborn, in order to support that consumption level."

Biblical economics is driven by "generational transfer." That, in itself, really piqued my interest, and needs to be better understood, but I was downright intrigued by that "flaming homosexual" comment. 

What exactly is a flaming homosexual? Well, I would suppose it to be an openly "gay" person who is a promiscuous sodomizer, and whose conscience is seared.

With that in mind, I checked the Wikipedia page for John Maynard Keynes, and it appears that he truly was  a flaming homosexual. 

Now, it matters not a whit to me what Keynes did in his private life, but I was powerfully intrigued by the idea of how his homosexual worldview related to his now-dominant economic theory. Dennis Peacocke alluded to the connection between Keynes's moral depravity and his economics in the radio interview. Indeed, that was his reason for mentioning the homosexuality of Keynes in the first place.

My curiosity led me to do a Google search of "homosexual worldview." I found my way to Gospel Analysis of The Gay Worldview, by Dustin Conner. I found it to be an interesting read. Here's a pertinent snippet:

"The gay worldview largely reflects a post-modern mindset when it comes to knowledge. Knowledge is gained primarily through desires and inclinations that feel normal to each individual."

Well, that's interesting. My biblical worldview tells me that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). But I'm well aware that I'm countercultural in that respect. Then the Gay Worldview essay states:

"In a gay worldview, the individuals ethic is defined not by a transcendent universal code to be adhered to by all, but is instead defined by the preference of an individual or a specific community."

So, in other words, in the homosexual worldview, there is no higher moral authority than preference or feelings.  If it feels good, if it pleases me, then it is morally good. Instead of God giving mankind standards of righteousness to live by and to order civilization, the homosexual worldview believes that humans can make up their own standards of right and wrong. 

That was the worldview of John Maynard Keynes, and that is exactly what he did when he applied his worldview to economics.

In one of those aforementioned radio interviews, Dennis Peacocke makes the statement that there are fundamental God-created, economic laws (akin to physical laws, like gravity) that can not be broken. He then pointed out that we don't break God's laws...they break us. The point being, when men and societies stray from the transcendental truths of God's word, there will be a price to pay. Thus, economically speaking, our civilization will pay a heavy price for following the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. 

After I received Dennis Peacocke's book and got to reading it, I found more discussion about Keynes:

"I am citing [the homosexuality of Keynes], not out of moral concerns in this discussion, but rather out of the obvious effects his orientation had on his view of economic theory. He clearly cared very little for future generations, based on the debt levels he was willing to create for them by borrowing from the current generations, hoping to create added employment through government spending or higher levels of consumption to stimulate the economy. The point of these effects relative to his sexual orientation was that his parental concerns or views regarding children were non-existent in his conversations, and his books featured strong attacks on the "traditional life-styles" as he called them, of traditional society and traditional family morals."

The Bible makes it clear that actions have consequences. Actions are based on beliefs. Beliefs are built on fundamental presuppositions about the world we live in, about our origins, about what is true, about reality, which is to say that beliefs come out of a person's worldview. I find it fascinating that an economic theory, based on the perverted worldview of one man could be so universally accepted.

But the more important thing to be considering is what kind of economic system should prevail when the Keynesian economy finally collapses.

My (Regrettable) First
Mail-Order Venture

Dateline: 30 August 2013

Marlene and I (in the blue coats) with some high school friends, in the winter of 1976, We were about to go skiing at Greek Peak in Cortland, New York. None of us were any good at skiing, but that just made it all the more fun. Those blue coats figure into this tale.

I think I can now safely say that I have a successful mail-order business. My definition of successful is that the business makes enough money to pay the bills (without me or my wife working another job) and provides some beyond that. It is a business that I can run from home, and that is something I've desired for a very long time... Thirty-nine years to be specific.

The fact is, I've wanted a mail-order business since I was 16 years old. I bought books back then about how to start and run a successful mail order business. I studied mail-order ads in magazines. I put a lot of thought and vision into the idea. My problem was that I couldn't think of anything that I could sell with my limited resources.

Then I came up with an idea. 

It was an idea shaped by the times I lived in. Mother Earth News magazine was in it's heyday. A lot of people were looking to be more self-reliant. They were embracing the whole concept of working with their hands, of learning new skills and crafts, of making things themselves.

One of the things Marlene did back then was sew. Her mother had taught her to sew. She was in 4H and had sewn her own clothes for 4H projects. She enjoyed sewing. 

Back in those days, enough of America's population either sewed or was interested in sewing that a mail-order company by the name of Frostline became very successful selling sewing-project kits. The kits contained pre-cut fabric, thread, buttons, zippers, and such, along with instructions. Folks could buy Frostline kits to sew their own camping gear, like backpacks and tents and sleeping bags. Frostline also sold kits for making goose-down coats. The company had big ads in magazines and was very successful. I'm sure that many of you reading this remember the Frostline company. Here's a Frostline kit for a goose-down vest:

(Click here for information about the Frostline company)

Marlene bought Frostline kits to make matching goose-down coats for she and I, and we are wearing them in the picture at the top of this page. She also made me a sleeping bag as a gift when I was in school in Vermont. Even I sewed together a Frostline kit. It was a pair of gaiters that I could wear when snowshoeing.

I don't know what has become of those Frostline coats Marlene made. We wore them for many winters. But the sleeping bag, I know where that is. In the winter months, I use it like a blanket (the zipper has long been broken) under the bedcovers. It is over 30 years old but still very warm, and I couldn't imagine a winter without it.

All of this is background to the mail-order idea I devised...

I was enamored with the natural insulating properties of my Frostline goose-down coat. It was light in weight, puffy and oh so warm. Goose-down was very popular back in those days. And, for Marlene and I, so was going to estate auctions. We went to auctions a lot. I bought a fine old treadle sewing machine at an auction. It worked perfectly (I sewed my Frostline gaiters on it). We bought a lot of stuff at auctions, and one day at an auction I paid a couple bucks for a big, old, feather tick mattress. 

I brought the mattress home and opened it up and it was full of small feathers.... and down. Down was expensive to buy but for a couple bucks I had bought a mattress full of it (along with small feathers). That's when I got the mail order idea.

I can't remember the exact year. I think it was sometime between 1979 and 1982. If I took the time to sort through my stacks of old Mother Earth News magazines, I could find the single classified add I placed, and I could tell you exactly what it said. Nearly as I can remember, it went something like this:

Down & Feathers—ten cents a pound. FREE sample. Full Details. 
$2 with SASE. 

My mailing address was tacked on the end, and shortly after the magazine issue came out, envelopes with $2 in them started arriving in my rural mailbox.

For $2 I sent people a two-page printout that explained how I bought the old feather tick at an auction, that it was full of beautiful down and feathers, and that they could do the same thing. I included a small "baggie" with a sample of down & feathers from my old feather tick. 

I thought I was pretty clever, collecting my $2 and sending back the information and sample. But a couple customers were not pleased. I got a letter from a woman who was very angry. She said my ad was deceptive and she demanded her money back. Then another angry letter came in the mail.

My conscience was pricked. I had convinced myself that selling the "information" was was worth a couple bucks, but I came to realize that I was ripping people off. I sent everybody's money back with an apology.

It was a learning experience. Nobody besides Marlene (and my mother) has ever known about it. It has been the only serious skeleton in my closet. Now that I've confessed it here in public, I feel a lot better. Now, if I decide to run for high political office someday, I don't have to worry about some researcher digging up this sordid tale from my past.

The Irony Of 
My Eventual Success

My dreams of making it in mail-order were put on hold for a lot of years after that down-and-feathers scheme. Then, in 1997 I got the idea of starting a newsletter for kitchen remodelers, with a focus on cabinet refacing (I had just written a book on cabinet refacing for The Taunton Press). That was a mail-order sort of operation, and I provided legitimate information. Subscribers liked my newsletter, but the idea was a complete (and costly) financial failure. Fact is, the financial failure of that newsletter venture led me to a very low point in my life.

The newsletter was, however, another learning experience, as was writing the three how-to books for Taunton Press. The common denominator with the old down-and-feathers idea, the books, and the newsletter, was that I was providing written how-to information.

Then in 2002 I self-published a plan book about how Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Chicken Plucker. That idea proved to be a winner, and it was the beginning of my now-successful Planet Whizbang mail-order business. 

Do you see the ironic common denominator between my shameful first foray into mail-order and my eventual success in mail-order?  

Both ideas relate to down and feathers!

Feather Ticks For Sale

(photo link)
The down and feathers pictured above came out of an old feather tick. They are fluffy, and soft. If you would like to buy an old feather tick for the feathers, they often come up for sale at Ebay and on Etsy.

Buy A Deliberate Agrarian Book,
(on sale)
And Support
An Agrarian Documentary

Dateline: 28 August 2013

Vulnerability comes with centralization and complexity, and our current global economic system has never been so centralized and complex. Thus it is that Western civilization has never been more vulnerable to collapse. Any honest look at the macro economic situation that America is facing leads to only one conclusion... life as we have known it is going to change dramatically in the years ahead. The handwriting is on the wall.

People who have a lot of money, and live their lives totally dependent on their financial wherewithal to buy their necessities of life, will face great hardship. At the other end of the spectrum, people who are totally dependent on government pensions, social security, or any other form of government handout, will also face great hardship. People who are totally dependent on supermarkets and restaurants to feed themselves and their families, will face great hardship.  People who are in debt will face great hardship. There will be great hardship all around as the modern socio-economic support system that most modern people have grown to depend on, fails them.

This coming collapse will be the end of the world for so many modern people who live totally dependent on the industrial system.

But there will also be many people who, seeing the handwriting on the wall, endeavor to change their lifestyle, lessen their dependencies and become more self reliant. They will eliminate all debt. They will reduce their needs and wants, eschewing materialism and simplifying their lifestyle. They will move out of the urban areas, to a section of land where they can grow some of their own food, harvest water as needed, and cut firewood to heat their homes in the winter. They will invest in  tools of self-reliance and home production.  They will establish family economies involving everyone in the work of meeting the needs of their family. They will establish home businesses to support their way of life. They will focus on strengthening family relationships, and relationships with those in their community. They will humble themselves before God and repent of the vanity of modern life and the foolishness of modern culture. They will embrace God's grace, and His mercy, and love His law, and live accordingly. I call this way of life, "Christian agrarianism." I did not invent the term by any means, but I have adopted it and promoted it.

In the spring of 2005 I started this blog with the primary focus of sharing and promoting my Christian-agrarian beliefs. Few people back then were familiar with the word "agrarian," let alone "Christian-agrarian." I have encouraged fellow Christians who've come to these writings to reexamine the mainstream industrial worldview and their conformity to it. It is a secular, man-centered, proud, science-worshiping world view. It is not a worldview acceptable to God, and the way of life built on that worldview is not appropriate for God's people. It is also, as I've already noted, not sustainable.

My earliest writings at this blog contained foundational Christian-agrarian precepts. They provided  groundwork to build on. They charted a course out of industrial dependency. They cast a vision for a lifestyle that is more in line with what God intended for His people to live.

One year after starting this blog, I took many of my early essays off the internet and compiled them into a book titled, Writings of A Deliberate Agrarian. In the book, I define Christian-agrarianism, and I promote this counter-cultural way of life.

If you are a Christian, if you are new to this blog, if my writings here resonate with you, and if you don't yet have a copy of the book, now is the time to get yourself a copy. Now is the time because I'm selling it at a special, significantly-reduced price, for a limited time, and for a special reason.

For the next week (until September 7) you can purchase a copy of Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, using the order button below, for only $8, postage-paid. I normally sell the book for $12.95.

For every copy of the book sold between now and September 7th, I will donate $5 to support production of the independent documentary film, Beyond Off-Grid.

Back on July 2nd I blogged (HERE) about the Christian-agrarian, Beyond Off-Grid documentary project.  Then, today, as I was working in my shop, I listened to the August 16 edition of Scott Terry's Christian Farm and Homestead radio program, where he speaks with Jason Matyas to get an update on the film. 

I really like the message that is being communicated through this film. I have donated to the project. I hope you will donate directly to the project too. But here is an opportunity to donate in an indirect way, and get something tangible in return. I'd like to sell at least 40 books, and send at least $200 to the project. 

Will you help support this idea?

(Add To Cart Button Has Been Removed)


September 7, 9:00 pm
This Fundraiser Has Ended
Number of books sold
87 copies
(That's $435 to support the documentary project)


Online Reader Reviews of 
"Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian"

We're Making Clothespins!

Dateline: 27 August 2013

My son and I are focused heavily on getting our first production run of clothespins made. My son is enthused about making clothespins. That pleases me. It is tedious work and he wants to get through them fast, but I keep stressing that making clothespins is a marathon, not a sprint, especially when making a lot of them, as we are doing.

The process of making clothespins involves some basic woodworking power tools but I would not classify this as a basic woodworking project. Everything has to be done just-so. The pictures that follow were taken by me last year when I was prototyping my clothespin design. I have changed the overall design slightly from what these pictures show, but the process is pretty much the same. These pictures give you an idea of what we've been doing under the "clothespin-making tent" outside my workshop.

(click pictures to see enlarged views)

The wood is ash. Boards are planed down to 3/8" thick. Each board is crosscut into pieces 3.5" long. I call these pieces clothespin "flitches."

Each clothespin flitch is machined just-so before the clothespin halves are cut. In this picture you can see the three "grip grooves" that have been cut with the table saw.

Various other cuts are made in the flitches using a router mounted in a router table.

Here you can see the machined flitches

The flitches are clamped to a "flitch sled" for ripping on the table saw, as shown here.

The mouth end of the flitches is ripped down with the blade at a slight angle. Then the flitches are flipped 180° and the handle end is ripped at an angle. The second ripping cut is shown here.

The final cutting step is to rip the clothespin halves out of the machined flitches, and that's what is happening in this picture.

After the halves are cut out, they are put in plastic bags and tumbled for a period of time. This tumbling action serves to "sand" the sharp edges smooth. Then, pieces of terrycloth, dampened with linseed oil and turpentine are added to the bags and the halves are tumbled some more. After the second tumbling, the pin halves look like you see here. After air-drying, they will be assembled with stainless steel springs.

Our first production run of clothespins will be offered for sale on this blog. First come, first served, until they're gone. I still don't know what the price will be. That depends on our total yield and the labor we've invested in making them. I'm looking forward to showing you the finished product.

How About A
Wood Oven Pizza Biz?

Dateline: 25 August 2013

The Forno Bravo Primavera 60 (photo link)

Marlene and I visited the Ithaca Farmer's Market in Ithaca, New York yesterday. We try to get there at least once every summer. It's a great place to just sit and watch the happy mob of diverse humanity. And it's a good place to eat. Our primary objective was to get a pizza cooked in a portable wood oven.

The thin-crust pizza for $7.50 was good, but it would have been better with more toppings, though I don't think thin-crust pizza is structurally suited for holding a lot of toppings.

It happens that we were at the market for "business" purposes as much as pleasure. We are thinking that a mobile wood-fired pizza business might be ideal for our youngest son, James, to pursue. He likes the idea, and was supposed to come with us to the market, but he had to work. He works at a local diner in town.

James isn't much interested in going to college, and I'm okay with that. Why go if you're not interested? Besides that, the whole paradigm of higher education is changing. Kids are going to college, incurring enormous debt to get a degree, and a lot of them can't find a job afterwards. Many end up working in a restaurant.

I'd rather help my son start an entrepreneurial business than help to pay for an education that is a waste of time and resources. So we're looking for an entrepreneurial idea that suits James' personal inclinations.

I like this business idea because I like pizza, and so does most everyone else. I like the idea because it can involve a whole family working together to contribute to the success of the business. I like the idea because it is focused on serving local people and contributing to local community. I like the idea because it can utilize locally-raised foods in season. I like the idea because it doesn't involve a significant "brick-and-mortar" investment.

The Fire Within is a company that trains and equips people to run their own mobile pizza business. But the 3-day training is expensive, and the mobile ovens are very expensive. I would finance both of those things if I thought James would take the business seriously. But he is 18 years old (almost 19) and, though he is a responsible kid, I'm not ready to put my hard-earned and limited resources into a business idea that I'm not absolutely certain will be taken very seriously and pursued with passion and commitment.

So, for now, we will pursue this idea one step at a time. The 2nd step (after discussing it and doing some initial research) may be to buy a small wood-fired pizza oven, like the Forno Bravo oven pictured above. That oven is only a one-pizza oven (but it cooks in less than 2 minutes). It weighs 450 pounds and costs nearly $3,000, delivered. That's a lotta money to cook a pizza!

But I wouldn't buy it to cook pizza as much as to see if James can learn and master the craft of making pizza (I'm sure he can), and (more importantly) to see if he will develop a passion and greater vision for the mobile, wood-fired pizza idea.  He has a family and a lot of friends who could help critique his pizza-making efforts, and help him if he does make it a business.

Beyond that, at 450 pounds, I see no reason why that oven could not be configured onto a small trailer and made into a mobile catering oven for small events (look at this little mobile oven).

We will take this idea one step at a time, and if the passion and vision doesn't develop, well, then we have a practical outdoor oven that we can use. It wouldn't be a total loss.

Does anyone reading this have any experience with wood-fired pizza ovens, or with a mobile wood-fired pizza business?

Obama &
The Wisdom Of
Martha Washington

Dateline: 24 August 2013

Martha Washington, as she looked when she married George

I am doing well at maintaining my mainstream media fast. Oh, I may glimpse a headline when I do a Google search, but, for a season, I'm refusing to submit myself to the media manipulators. I can report that it is a liberating experience.

Were it not for my son telling me last night, I would have completely missed the news that the president of the United States of America was in "the neighborhood." 

He was in Auburn, New York, a small city about 20 minutes from my home. He stayed at the Holiday Inn, which is sort of right in front of the state prison where I used to work.

From what my son told me, it is a big deal. Security is, of course, tight. The airspace over the city was shut down. Roads were blocked off. And people are swarming into the area hoping to see the president. 

Silly people.

You will never see me among the masses fawning for a glimpse of any president or politician, or any movie star, or any singer, or any sports star, or any of so many other just-people who have achieved mainstream "superstar" popularity. If the presidential circus happened to drive by my place out here in the countryside, I'm sure I would watch the show go by, and even give a friendly wave, but I don't have the time or the inclination to get any more excited than that.

You are probably wondering, from the title of this blog post, what exactly Obama has to do with Martha Washington? The answer is, exactly nothing. My intention with this post was to share a quote (and the interesting picture above) with you, only to be interrupted by the news that Obama was in town. 

I happen to admire George Washington (I do not admire Obama). I admire Washington because of his Christian character, his love of farming, and his exemplary manliness. And I have long suspected that Martha Washington was an admirable person too. She is, however, something of a mystery. But I recently read a quote from Martha Washington that I think is really good, and it provides a glimpse into her character. Here it is...

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds, wherever we go."

It would appear from that snippet of a letter that Martha Washington had to deal with some difficult situations in her life. And she chose to deal with them as a Christian should. Her quote is an echo of the apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:11-12...

"...I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content."


The picture of Martha Washington at the top of the page is from the cover of Martha Washington: An American Life. It was forensically derived from a painting of her in old age that her family said was a very good likeness. You can read about the picture and the younger Martha at This Link.


Update: 25 August 2013

The Midland Agrarian has added some good thoughts and quotes about mainstream-media fasting at this post: Info Fasting

Tomatoes in August

Dateline: 23 August 2013

I've been heavily focused this week on making my first production run of clothespins (as explained HERE). If all goes well, I will have clothespins for sale by September first. Meanwhile, the tomatoes are ripening nicely. We are eating fresh tomatoes every day!

One of the garden projects I most enjoy each year is growing tomatoes on a tall T-post string trellis. If you have a copy of my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners, you already know this. You also know how to make the trellis and train the tomatoes to grow on the strings.

The picture above shows a cluster of Juliet tomatoes that are on one T-post string trellis. Here's a larger view of the Tommy Toe string trellis...

click to see a larger view

That T-post trellis is 7' 6" high and 5' wide. It has three plants and they are trained on 9 strings. Click Here to learn how I make a tall, sturdy T-post string trellis.

String-trained Tommy Toe tomatoes. You can see an orange string on the left and right of the picture.

Old Master Craftsmen

Dateline: 21 August 2013

John Forshee

I have an idea for a new product I want to make for gardeners. It will involve working with tin or galvanized steel. So I went to the internet looking for some how-to information. In so doing I found my way to a wonderful ten minute You-Tube movie about a third generation tinsmith.

John Forshee was 89 years old when the movie was made. He lived his whole life in Cincinnatus, New York, which is a small town not far from where I'm located. It appears that he worked in his dark basement, using tools a hundred years old, crafting objects of utility and beauty, with tin and skills that are mostly lost. I am attracted to the stories of old craftsman like Mr. Forshee.

He passed away a year after the film was made. He took the knowledge of his craft with him. I can't help but wonder what became of his tools and patterns.

If you appreciate old crafts and old craftsmen, you will like this little film clip. Here is the link: Tinker: John Forshee

Harvey Ward

One thing leads to another when looking around the internet and after finding the John Forshee film, I came upon another ten-minute clip about 87-year-old Harvey Ward who learned how to make wooden scoop shovels from his father when he was a boy, and was still making them in 1974, when the film was produced.

Though I don't have any personal interest in making a wooden scoop shovel, I found this film absolutely fascinating. At 87, Mr. Ward wielded a double-bitted axe with remarkable skill. He uses four hand tools to hew shovels out of sections of tree, and he does it in short time.

Here's the link: The Last Shovel Maker

The Puritan
Theology of Suffering

Dateline: 18 August 2013

In yesterday’s blog post I wrote about the contra mundum Christian worldview, of how it has resulted in the persecution of believers in times past, and will likely lead to persecution of Christians in the days ahead. 

Persecution for holding fast to one’s religious beliefs is one form of suffering, but there are many other forms of suffering that Christians (and unbelievers too) have to face in this life. Suffering can come from any number of things... sickness and accidents, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, etc. Suffering can be mental, or physical, or spiritual. 

We have all had to deal with suffering to some degree in our lives. There are people reading this who are suffering at this moment. And it is almost certain everyone reading this will face some sort of personal suffering in the future. Suffering is a part of life in this fallen world. 

But it turns out that suffering for a Christian is something much more than just a hard time. It has a purpose, which brings me to a book I have just read titled Suffering and Sovereignty, by Brian H. Cosby. The subtitle is “John Flavel and the Puritans on Afflictive Providence.” I learned about this book from this online interview with the author: A Right View of Suffering.

I should preface what I’m about to say by noting that I have attended some form of fundamentalist or evangelical church for most of my church-going life. The Puritans are pretty much never mentioned in such churches and I think this is a shame. The more I read from the Puritan writers, the more I realize that Puritan spiritual maturity far, far exceeds that of the average modern evangelical. This book is but one example of that.

On page 2 of Suffering & Sovereignty it says...

This book aims to present a Puritan theology of suffering by looking at one of Puritanism’s greatest leaders, writers, and sufferers—John Flavel. In particular, it will examine Flavel’s theology of suffering within the seventeenth-century context to show his understanding of the origin and nature of suffering, how God is sovereign over suffering, why God ordains suffering,how the believer ought to respond to suffering, and how biblical doctrine can bring comfort and consolation to the believer in the midst of suffering.

As for the personal sufferings of John Flavel (1827-1691), the book explains that his parents were arrested and put into prison for holding an unauthorized worship meeting. While in prison, they contracted the plague. Though released, they both died shortly thereafter. This was an early and difficult loss. Later in his life, Flavel’s first wife died in childbirth, as did the baby (a son). Flavel would marry two more times and those wives also died. A fourth wife outlived him. Flavel was a “nonconformist minister,” and, as such, he was hounded and persecuted by the authorities. Though not martyred for his beliefs, Flavel was burned in effigy, and his writings were collected and burned by those who opposed his theology. So John Flavel was well acquainted with this subject of suffering!

But the writings of Flavel were very popular among the Puritans and they have survived to this day. I dare say that God has preserved them, and I’m grateful for that.

God is Sovereign

Fundamental to the Puritan theology of suffering is the sovereignty of God over all of His creation. 

The world, according to the Puritans, “Was not a machine that ran automatically according to an initial plan.” Rather, God created the world and subsequently orders and governs His creation by His providence.

According to Flavel, God is immanent, active, and involved in every movement of a cloud, every flight of a bird, and every “motion” of humanity.


“Providence” was understood by the Puritans to be the personal outworking of God’s sovereign will in everyday life.

Flavel argues that the providence of God is “holy,”which means that it is morally righteous.

Flavel... sees divine providence as a supporting and encouraging doctrine for the believer, especially in times of suffering. He adds this doctrinal conclusion: “It is the duty of the saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of providence for them in all the states, and through all the stages of their lives.

So it is that Flavel taught that God is sovereign over all things, including suffering. He believed that such suffering in a believer’s life was, therefore, “afflictive providence.” 

"In all the sad and afflictive providences that befal you, eye God as the author and orderer of them.”

Flavel asserts that the afflictions that come in a believer’s life are, in themselves, evil, but...

...Flavel is careful not to assign evil to God. Rather, God permits it, restrains it, and overrules it—for His glory and the good of His people.

Thus Flavel calls afflictions that are used by God in the lives of the elect “sanctified afflictions.”

Stating it positively, God permits evil [through afflictions]. Stating it negatively, God withholds the restraints of evil. Either way, Flavel argues, God remains holy.

Afflictions Are Not Eternal... 
For God’s People

The Puritan theology of suffering, as expressed in John Flavel’s writings, made a clear distinction between afflictions that come into the life of believers and unbelievers. 

When afflictions come into the life of unbelievers, they are a foretaste of God’s wrath and the punishing judgement to come; those who die without Christ will face eternal affliction. Flavel offers no comfort or hope for those who live and die without Christ.

But affliction in the life of the Christian is totally different. 

While sin first brought affliction into the world, eternal affliction was taken out of the world by the affliction of Christ for all who receive Him as Savior and Lord.

When suffering comes into the life of a believer in Christ, the affliction is temporary, and it is allowed by God for specific purposes. It is not punishment, but fatherly discipline. Such sanctified afflictions actually come from the love of God for His people and should be seen as blessings.

Now that’s probably a hard theology “pill” to swallow for most modern evangelicals. After all, it is contrary to the health-wealth-and-prosperity “gospel” that has infiltrated the American church. It also conflicts with the various healing ministries that teach that God doesn’t want us sick or suffering in any way.

The Blessings 
Of Affliction

In the book Suffering and Sovereignty, Brian H. Cosby, presents John Flavel’s answer to the question of why God ordains suffering in the lives of His people. There are eight reasons, and God’s ultimate purpose in these afflictions is twofold—to bring Glory to Himself and ultimate good to the Christian believer. 

I will only list the eight reasons here. If what I have written thus far resonates with you, I encourage you to get the book so you can read and better understand these reasons for afflictive providence.  The text that accompanies these eight reasons is the “meat and potatoes” of this excellent book. In understanding these reasons, I believe every Christian will be greatly edified and better equipped (spiritually) to handle them. 

1.  To reveal, deter, and mortify sin.

2.  To produce godliness and spiritual fruit.

3.  To reveal the character of God.

4.  To relinquish the temporal for the eternal.

5.  To produce a sincere faith, devoid of hypocrisy.

6.  To encourage fellowship with God through word, prayer, and the sacrament of theLord’s Supper.

7. To bear witness to the world.

8.  To cultivate communion with Christ, the greatest sufferer.

There is much more to this book that I would like to discuss  and quote, but I will close with the following (which is found in the book under point 5 above). This quote speaks to the matter of affliction in the form of persecution, which the Puritans were familiar with, and which I believe the church in America is going to become more familiar with in the years ahead...

”Affliction is a furnace to separate the dross from the more pure and noble gold. Multitudes of hypocrites, like flies in a hot summer, are generated by the church’s prosperity; but this winter weather kills them.”

The unbeliever—who Flavel calls a “false professor”—experiencing suffering often “quits religion to save himself.” While suffering causes the elect to “cleave to [religion,]” it causes the unbeliever to “forsake” it. God ordains suffering to produce a greater sincerity of faith and to separate the Christian from the non-Christian.