Whizbang Cider-Making

Dateline: 31 October 2013

Does anyone know what kind of apple this might be?

This has been the best apple year I can remember, and my Whizbang cider-making equipment has gotten a real workout.  Well over 150 gallons of fresh apple cider has been processed so far this fall with my grinder and press. 

After loaning the equipment out to several neighbors, Marlene and I made 16 gallons of cider the weekend before last with Ken and Mary, two friends from high school (way back). Then, last weekend we made cider with our friends, Tim & Rose (from Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery), Ron (from Digging into Freedom's True Meaning), and Sandy (who doesn't have a blog or web site). It took us three hours on the back patio to press out 36 gallons, and it was a fun time. If you are looking for a way to make great family memories and have a good time with friends, I recommend Whizbang cider making  It's a great community activity.

I'll be loaning the equipment to another friend next weekend so he can make cider with his family. But, before that, I needed to make cider with the rest of the apples we had. The apples were all free, either given to us or picked at a friend's place. In the pictures that follow I will show you how the Whizbang cidermaking system works. I was working alone for this final pressing, but that was fun too. The sun was shining and the temperatures were mild. I love to make cider!

Click on any of the following pictures 
to see an enlarged view

The picture above shows the apples I used to make cider. There were at least four different varieties. A blend of different varieties makes for a better cider. The apples have been washed. That's the most tedious part of this whole procedure. The apples will be fed into the motorized Whizbang apple grinder. The apple mash will flow out and into the plastic pails.

The picture above shows the Whizbang cider press, which I designed and tell how to make in my book, Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press. That press may not have the charm of a traditional-looking cider press, but it is much more efficient at making cider, as you will see.

The above picture shows buckets of apple mash. You can see how the mash is white when it first comes out of the grinder, and soon oxidizes brown. The mash from all the apples I had filled five buckets, though I had to top them all off more than shown here in order to make it all fit.

The top of the Whizbang apple grinder has an apple corral around it, so you can fill the corral up and quickly feed the apples into the grinding mechanism. If the apples are big, you have to cut them so they fit into the 2-7/8" diameter opening. Cut apples self-grind in the chamber. If the apples are whole, you will need to use the "persuader" to push them down into the spinning mechanism. If the apples are big and whole, you may have to pound them down with the persuader. I didn't cut a single apple when I made cider for these pictures. I pushed and pounded them all and filled the five buckets in short time (I didn't keep track but I'm sure it took less than half an hour). Grinding apples with the Whizbang apple grinder is exciting.

The picture above requires some explanation. What you are looking at is a large stainless steel bowl on the seat of a patio chair. A "mash form" made from the bottom 3" of a plastic bucket is inside the bowl. I layer a 30" x 30" piece of cider pressing fabric over the form and bowl. Then I fill the form with mash. The corners of the fabric are gathered up and tied with string. This creates a mash bag....

The picture above shows a mash bag in the pressing tub. The white "pressing disc" will go into the tub on top of the bag. My Whizbang cidermaking system is different from every other home-scale cidermaking system in that I recommend making a stack of mash-filled bags separated by pressing discs. This is a more traditional approach to pressing cider. It is also an extremely efficient way to extract juice from the finely-ground apple mash. It is far more efficient that just filling a tub with mash and putting pressure to the top.

Please note in the above picture that a lot of juice is flowing into the catch-pan even before pressure is applied. It's not unusual to get more than a gallon of juice before even putting pressure to the tub.

There (above) you can see the tub all set up for pressing. In the tub are five bags of mash and four pressing discs, with a pressure plate on the top. I figure the tub will hold the mash from a bushel of apples.

When the 6-ton jack is fully extended (as shown in the picture above), I place two screwdrivers in the pressing shaft holes, under the cross beam, as you can see above. This holds the pressing shaft down while I release pressure on the jack and position some blocking under it, as you can see in this next picture...

There you can see that I placed three blocks under the jack and am reapplying pressure to the stack. A hydraulic jack is a wonderful tool for applying pressure. It's much faster to use than a traditional ACME screw. If the old-timers had hydraulic jacks, they would have used them. I should make it clear that a lot of pressure is not needed to press juice out of mash that is in bags, stacked between discs. Furthermore, when pressing bags of mash as shown here (and explained in my book), there is very little outside pressure on the tub. That means the tub doesn't have to be built with iron hoops and heavy wood slats.

My plan book tells how to make a traditional-style, wood-slat pressing tub but the tub shown in these pictures is simply a piece of 1/8" HDPE plastic. I made it last year to see how it would work, and it works just fine.

Seeing as I was making cider by myself, I didn't want to take the time to fill jugs, so I filled plastic pails. Most plastic pails you buy in a hardware store are made with food-grade plastic. You can tell by the triangle symbol, with a 2 in the center.

The pail above shows the amount of cider I got from a single pressing. It is at least 4 gallons, and that is typical when using the Whizbang apple grinder and pressing system. I've used other apple grinders (the turn-by-hand kind) and pressed tubs of the coarse mash (instead of layered bags full of fine mash) and the juice yield is not nearly as much.

The picture above shows the apple pomace (pomace is squeezed-out apple mash). You can see that it has been squashed flat and has very little juice in it. 

The five pails of apple mash made three pails of cider, as you can see in the above picture. I covered them with plastic wrap and left them outside overnight. The next day I dipped out and poured the cider into plastic jugs for the freezer (filled part way to allow for expansion when freezing). Putting the cider in 5-gallon pails for awhile before transferring to smaller containers allows some sediment to settle.

In addition to freezing many gallons of cider, we are drinking cider every day, and we have seven gallon jars of cider vinegar fermenting. CLICK HERE to see and learn how we make cider vinegar.

I think the ideal situation for having apple cider to drink for several months out of the year would be to keep a supply of apples in cold storage, then simply press a bushel or two every couple of weeks. This would be better than pressing and trying to freeze a lot. In the winter months, jugs of cider will keep just fine outdoors.

Someday, Lord willing, I would like to build a retirement home for Marlene and I. It will have a full basement (something we don't have now) with a walk-out entrance. One section of the basement will be dedicated to year-round cider pressing. If the equipment is all set up, ready to use, out of the weather and cold, making cider would be no more work than, say, making an apple pie.

Clothespin Break
Update #4

Dateline: 30 October 2013

It took me exactly a  month, working in my "spare time," to finish cutting out my 2nd production run of Classic American clothespins. That's them and me in the picture above. It amounted to a LOT of hours. I reckon there are somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 clothespins (once assembled) in the three tubs. 

Those clothespin halves will be samples that are sent out as part of a "starter kit," along with springs and specifications, to woodworkers who are looking for a unique little woodworking project. But that aspect of my fledgling clothespin business will not be ready for another month or so.

Before that, I have the 1st production run of clothespins almost ready to sell as assemble-your-own clothespin kits. The kits will finally be ready to sell and ship out in just a few days. I will have a total of 225, 20-clothespin kits to sell. That's 4,500 clothespins total. More details will be posted here soon.

I will give advance notice of when the clothespin kits are going to be online for sale the day before they go on sale. If you are signed up for my Planet Whizbang newsletter, you will be getting the advance notice.

Stay tuned.....

How To Get Through
The Coming Hyperinflation
(Part 6)

Dateline: 29 October 2013

It is high time I finished off this series on how to get through the coming hyperinflation. What follows is a collection of  closing thoughts related to this subject...

After Hyperinflation

I had the pleasure of speaking with Noah Sanders after his recent trip to Zimbabwe, where he learned about the remarkable Foundations For Farming (FfF) ministry. Some truly amazing things are happening in Zimbabwe in the wake of their recent hyperinflationary period, and I hope that what Noah saw and learned will get out to a wider audience soon. America can learn a lot from what has happened in that country, especially when it comes to rebuilding after economic disaster.

Foundations for Farming has, for many years, been focused on teaching the poorest of the poor to be faithful with little and, using Biblical principles, to supply their needs by growing their own food. 85% of the ministry's focus is on teaching people to "wholeheartedly follow Jesus' perfect example in all of life" and 15% of the teaching is on basic, sustainable agricultural principles. 

The effectiveness of the FfF  approach has been recently noticed by the Zimbabwe government, which is asking the ministry to bring their teaching to schools and other institutions within society. The goal of the government is to improve the food security of the nation.

I believe the Christian-agrarian vision of Foundations for Farming in Africa is the exact same vision that America will need in the years ahead as we rebuild after our hyperinflationary collapse. Solutions will no longer come from a centralized, all-powerful government, they will come from families working the land, from families working together in communities, being faithful with little.

To the modern, westernized mind, such a vision is a nightmare. What could be worse than grubbing an existence out of the earth? Well, Noah told me that, though the native people he met had very little in the way of material possessions, they had joy. I have heard this same report from a friend who went on a missionary trip to South America. He went to a village where the people had nothing but they were the happiest people he had ever seen. 

How can poor people possibly be full of joy? The answer is, of course, found in the religious faith of those people. Yes, I truly believe that proud, materialistic Americans can learn a thing or two about joy from poor, humble Christians villagers in Zimbabwe.

A Potato Strategy

If you've grown potatoes before, and the Colorado potato beetle has been a problem, you need a strategy to deal with it. For a small patch of potatoes, the beetle and eggs can be hand-picked. But the best way I know to deal with the beetle is to move your potato patch to new ground every year or two. If the new ground is far enough away from the old, the beetles will not be a problem.

Another strategy is to spray an insecticide. I've been an avid organic gardener practically my whole life, so when I say you can "spray an insecticide" I'm getting into a paradigm change. But the insecticide I'm going to recommend is a "bioinsecticide," which means it's kind of organic. 

Bulls-Eye bioinsecticide was recently recommended to me by a friend. He happens to be one of the best gardeners I know, and he knows how important it is to have a supply of potatoes in the root cellar every year (he also has the nicest root cellar I've ever seen). My friend is anticipating an economic collapse and told me he bought enough Bulls-Eye to last for six years. "It's expensive," he said, "but it really works!"

I've bought some and will be giving it a try this year. 

Fiat Money In France

Back in 1876, Andrew White, the first president of Cornell University, wrote a book titled Fiat Money Inflation in France. It's not a long book and it reads pretty well. The link above takes you to a free online copy. Or you can watch the two YouTube clips below. I find it fascinating that a country that experienced the collapse of fiat money once would allow itself to go down the same road again, as France did in the 1700's. 

As Andrew White writes in his book, patience and self denial are the rarest products of political wisdom when it comes to solving a nation's economic problems. "Few nations have ever been able to exercise these virtues; and France was not one of these few."

To go back to Part 1 of this series

How To Get Through
The Coming Hyperinflation
(Part 5)

Dateline: 25 October 2013

This series of essays has been inspired by the book, When Money Dies, which is about the hyperinflation that occurred in Germany in the 1920's. The book presents a scenario of chaos, despair, desperation and violence. 

In learning of the history of the event, we can learn some very useful things about how to get through such a crisis, and that was the subject of Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series. In this essay I'd like to discuss the importance of maintaining a proper perspective as America appears to be hurtling headlong into an economic crisis.

Proper perspective is, of course, a subjective thing. My idea of proper perspective comes from my Christian faith and biblical worldview. People who have a different faith-belief will have a different worldview perspective.

It may well be that America's economic crisis will make the hyperinflation of 1920's Germany seem mild by comparison. There are certainly a lot of economic prognosticators who are promoting the idea that we're headed for some form of apocalypse. The internet is awash with prepper and survivalist web sites. Sometimes I read what they are predicting and, frankly, it resonates with me.

It resonates with me because, as a Christian, I can see that America has become a wicked nation in so many ways. I see the industrial era, and the modern, centralized civilization that has grown out of industrialism, as being more Babylonian than ancient Babylon ever was, and we are, therefore, more deserving of God's judgement. Beyond that, I have long recognized that Professor Walter Prescott Webb's Boom Hypothesis of Modern History is spot on. When you understand Professor Webb's hypothesis, it's not hard to see that we are in for something epic.

Please don't mistake me for a doom-and-gloomer. While I'm concerned about my country and the troubles that may lie ahead for myself and my family, I'm looking at the big picture, and when I do that, I'm optimistic. When I look at the big picture, I actually feel pretty good about things.

The big picture is what the big picture has always been—that God is sovereign over all of His creation. Proud earthly empires come, and proud earthly empires go, but God's kingdom is eternal. And God rules his kingdom with wisdom and power, perfectly and beautifully, according to His good pleasure, and His eternal plan. Not one single thing will happen in the history before us that God doesn't decree through His providence. That's powerfully comforting to me. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, it should be powerfully comforting to you too.

That said, I know that when I read those survivalist web sites for long, or even news stories about how our government is becoming more tyrannical, it's easy to become fearful. There are so many terrible scenarios, and there is a tendency in the human mind to imagine so many horrible possibilities. When this happens, the big picture gets little; God fades out of our consciousness. A fear of man comes. Anxiousness and depression come from the fear of man. The fear of man is a snare (Proverbs 29:25).

So, when it comes to scenarios of the future, my advice is to keep the big picture in mind. God is at work. The Great Maestro of the universe is orchestrating the history of the world, down to the smallest details. 

Bearing that in mind, I'd like to point out that When Money Dies is not the whole story about the history of  the Wiemar hyperinflation. No book can tell the whole story, which is to say, no book can tell the experiences of all people and families through such a crisis. When Money Dies explains the history of this hyperinflationary event by presenting only incidents of deprivation, rioting, theft, cruelty, greed and hopelessness. While I appreciate knowing about these aspects of the history, there isn't a doubt in my mind that there is another side to the story.

That side would, of course, be the story of God caring for His people in so many ways in the midst of crisis, as He has always done, and will always do. Were it possible to fully know and tell this kind of history from the German hyperinflationary years, we would hear stories of love and kindness, of self-sacrifice, providential protection, and miraculous blessings.

Remember this.... When a crisis arises, and there is no place to go, but to God, that is not a disaster. 

This isn't to say that God does not, at times, according to his will, take His people through tremendous hardships and suffering, even unto death. That has always happened. But He provides grace and strength to get through those times. There is a familiar poem, by Annie Johnson Flint, that is so appropriate to understanding this view of the Christian life...

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day

Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

God hath not promised we shall not know

Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,

Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

I think it is safe to say that Annie Johnson Flint did not believe in the "health, wealth and prosperity gospel" that so many modern American evangelicals cleave to. But I digress.

So, as a Christian, looking at history, I see my role in this grand panorama-in-the-making as that of obedience to what God directs me to do. My objective is not survival, but obedience to a higher calling. That higher calling is God's law as found in scripture.

In Matthew 22:36-40 there is an exchange between Jesus and a Pharisee that goes like this...

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Thus, survival at all costs is not a Christian teaching. Some Christians may be called to not survive a crisis, either out of love for God or love for another person. Obedience to God's calling and His law is the most important thing, and Jesus Christ was the perfect example of that.

In any event, I think my essay on The Puritan Theology of Suffering (and the book that prompted me to write it) should be required reading for any Christian who sees trouble ahead.

Mike Tyson, the boxer, once quipped, "Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face." That quote makes me think of survivalists who are planning for every frightful apocalyptic scenario. The fact is, you can't plan for every scenario, and it's folly to try and do so. The only plan in a crisis that will cover all possible scenarios, that will never let you down when life and circumstances "punch you in the face" is a deep and abiding faith in the sovereign God of all creation, through Jesus Christ. I'm infinitely more confident in the grace and mercy of God than I am any earthly preparations. 

Now, having said that, let me also make it clear that there are certainly instances in the Bible when God directs His people to prepare or flee in order to preserve their lives. Those who understand that a crisis is probable, and feel it is prudent to take measures to protect themselves and their families, should do exactly that. 

Personally, I've felt called to separate (flee) as much as possible from the dependencies and expectations of the ungodly industrial-world system for a very long time. Those who have read much of my writings know that I am a Christian-agrarian. The combination of Christianity and agrarianism is completely antithetical to the pagan-industrial world system.   My focus on this separation has been out of obedience to what I believe the Bible teaches. 

This Christian-agrarian lifestyle may look like "prepping" or "survivalism" to some people, but it's actually an old way of life that I've pursued for decades. Though I am a minority, there are many like me out there. You know who you are.

I hope that this hyperinflationary series has been thought provoking and helpful. I think I will write one more essay  that takes a look at the subject of a "hopeful vision" for the future.


To go to Part 6 of this series

How To Get Through
The Coming Hyperinflation
(Part 4)

Dateline: 23 October 2103

American Peace Silver Dollars

In Part 3 of this series I provided excerpts from the book, When Money Dies, which chronicles the hyperinflation of 1920's Wiemar Germany, and I explained that common potatoes were worth gold when  paper money became worthless. Those who lived in the country and knew how to produce food on their land got through the hyperinflationary years with relatively little trouble.

This essay of my "hyperinflationary series" is about the importance of owning some actual gold and/or silver in the event of a hyperinflationary event. In An Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan (published back in 2008, before the mini-economic-crash in the fall of that year) I suggested that it would be wise to do 6 things to be prepared for a significant economic disaster.  But nowhere in that essay did I mention the acquisition of precious metals.

I left the acquisition of gold and silver out of that advice because I felt there are six things more important than having a stock of gold and silver. And if you seriously pursue the six things I suggest, you will be in a position to acquire any gold and silver you might need in the crisis, by means of food trading, from others who did not do those six things.

Unfortunately, very few urban or suburban people in this country are going to make any agrarian lifestyle changes and sacrifices now, to be better prepared for economic and social crisis later. 

Based on the historical record, it is safe to say that when paper dollars, and investments in paper-dollar assets are rapidly losing their value (on their way to total worthlessness) only tangible assets will have value. To my way of thinking, a section of good land in the country is the most valuable tangible asset any person or family can own—regardless of what the economy does or doesn't do. But, though you can harvest many necessities of life from the land, good rural land is not something that is easily exchanged for other, lesser, necessities of life.

So, other tangible assets will have value and be used as a more common medium of exchange in place of paper money—things like a sack of potatoes, or a chicken (or chicken eggs), or a bar of soap, or a piece of stovepipe will be "money." In short, anything someone else needs or wants that you can trade to get something you need or want. In other words, when  paper  money fails, the economy will keep chugging along, but it becomes a person-to-person barter economy.

It is also probable that gold and silver will be universally utilized as money to purchase needed goods and services. This was the case in Wiemar Germany. In every other hyperinflationary period in history (of which there have been many) gold and silver have served as a reliable medium of exchange. Some people assert that gold and silver are true-money, and that these metals never totally lose value, as eventually happens with all paper-money schemes. That sounds about right to me.

With that in mind, I'd like to return to the case of Anna Eisenmenger, the Austrian widow who I mentioned in Part 3 of this series. You will recall that she lost her comfortable fortune in the hyperinflation, along with many others. It is well worth noting that as early as 1918 (years before the hyperinflation came) ... "[H]er bank manager advised her earnestly to convert all her money into Swiss francs. However, private dealings in foreign currencies were illegal, and she decided that to break the law against hoarding of food and fuel was enough."

Swiss francs were a stable, gold-backed currency, unaffected by inflation and hyperinflation. Had Anna Eisenmenger done as her banker earnestly advised, she would have retained her wealth.

I think there are always people who see and understand better than most others when trouble is brewing, and that unconventional measures are prudent. Anna Eisenmenger's banker was, evidently, one of those people. 

It so happens that there were a number of German citizens of wealthy means who did convert their wealth to gold or stable currencies, or converted it into investments that were outside of the German mark. These people were able to weather the economic destruction that came, perhaps as well as the self-reliant rural people. Beyond that, they were able to purchase valuable assets at bargain-basement prices from the less fortunate German citizenry. In other words, some of them profited from the economic downfall of Germany.

Bearing that in mind, there are a number of books being published these days that have titles like, "How to Profit From the Coming Economic Crash." I've never read one of those books, and I never will. But I suspect that a key part of the profiting methodology is to invest in precious metals. Then, when the economy crashes, and people need money for the essentials of life, and gold is worth really big money, you can go buy valuable stuff real cheap. Personally, I have no interest in profiting from the misfortune of others, especially those in my community. 

Nevertheless, I do have some silver in the form of pre-1964 American coins, which I look at as "poor man's bullion." I don't consider this motley assortment of "junk silver" to be an investment, as much as a store of value that can not be destroyed by inflation. If there is a downside to owning pre-1964, 90% silver American coins, I don't know what it is. In a hyperinflationary period, the coins may pay my property taxes or emergency medical services. If hyperinflation never comes, the coins can be easily sold (something I've had to do on a couple of occasions), or they can be easily divided and handed down to one's heirs.

Here is a pertinent passage from a letter quoted in When Money Dies...

'And when food was not the problem—after all, we lived most of the time in the country, where we could get it—there were troubles because we had no money...  There was no way to get medical help without money. If you had a toothache you couldn't afford a dentist. If you needed to go to hospital, you might get into a convent. Otherwise you stayed at home, and got better, or got worse.'

If you have gold or silver jewelry, or sterling silver, it will hold value. When Money Dies tells of a woman who kept herself fed by selling a single link at a time off her gold crucifix chain. 

Probably the best place to buy small amounts of "junk" silver coins is on Ebay. A roll of 5o Mercury dimes is now selling for around $100. You can get pre-1964 Roosevelt dimes for even less. You can get "Peace" silver dollars (coined from 1921 to 1935) for around $25. Those prices are currently considered cheap (the price of silver is low). I've seen them much higher in the past.

As for converting money into other currencies, as Anna Eisenmenger's banker advised her to do, I don't think there is currently a safe currency in the world today. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong on that. Even the Swiss franc is no longer backed by gold. Most world currencies are "pegged" to the American dollar, which, as previously noted, is no longer considered a safe investment by many people in the world. In fact, world demand for physical gold and silver is spiking in countries like China and India. They may see the writing on the wall better than most Americans.

That, for what it's worth, is my take on precious metals and hyperinflation. It is the perspective of a simple-minded man who, frankly, does not have much in the way of sophisticated financial expertise, or financial resources. But, by the grace of God, I do have a section of debt-free land out in the country, and I know that all true wealth originates from the land. If you have a section of land with some woods, a source of good water, some appropriate tools, and some know-how, you can generate wealth in the form of food, fuel, water and shelter. These are among the most valuable assets in life, hyperinflation or not.

To go to Part 5 of this series

How To Get Through
The Coming Hyperinflation
(Part 3)

Dateline: 21 October 2013

German One-MIllion mark paper money from 1923. At the height of the hyperinflation a loaf of bread cost 3 billion marks. But few merchants would take paper money for their goods.

In Part 2 of this series I told you about the book, When Money Dies, which is a historical record of the era of hyperinflation in Weimar Germany back in the 1920's. I learned from the book that, while financial chaos and destruction raged, the country people did not suffer anywhere near as much as people who lived in the cities and towns.

The most serious aspect of hyperinflation was that people who did not have the land, the tools, and the know-how to raise food for themselves, had a very difficult time getting food. People who had considerable financial resources in the form of savings, and conventional investments in German marks, watched helplessly as the buying power of their wealth dwindled.

One such person was Anna Eisenmenger, of Austria, who kept a diary through the hyperinflationary years. She was a widow with the financial resources to live comfortably. In the years leading up to the hyperinflation, as the economic problems of Germany, Hungary and Austria worsened, Anna Eisenmenger wrote...

'I must make myself believe that I am really far better off than hundreds of thousands of other women. I am at least immune from material cares and can help my children since I have a small fortune, safely invested in gilt-edged securities. Thank God for that!'

Unfortunately, by the end of the hyperinflationary period, as new currency reforms were implemented, Anna Eisenmenger's small fortune was wiped out. In 1924 she wrote...

'All who were not clever enough to hoard the forbidden stable currencies or gold have, without exception, suffered losses. ... My millions have dwindled to about a thousand new schillings. We belong to the new poor. The middle class has been reduced to the proletariat...  I feel that my strength is deserting me. I cannot go on.'

I'll have more to say about "stable currencies" and gold in Part 4 of this series. For now, I want to focus on something more important than preserving wealth, and that is the preservation of life. While there is a correlation between wealth and the preservation of life, wealth is not always a dependable source of sustenance, especially when that wealth is devalued by hyperinflation.

One of the amazing things about the German hyperinflation was that, as people in the cities and towns faced starvation, food was abundant in the country. The peasants and farmers had what they needed to live comfortably, and they had plenty of food to spare. But they refused to exchange it for worthless paper money.

When Money Dies, tells of a man who wanted to buy a single egg from a peasant with German paper dollars. The peasant would not take any amount of paper money and told the man, "We don't want any Jew-confetti from Berlin."

The farmers wanted something of value for their crops. Paper money had little to no value. But jewelry, furniture, fur coats, rugs, paintings and the like did have value. Many wealthy people in cities and towns, unable to provide for their most basic food needs themselves, readily traded such possessions for food, as long as they had them to trade. Early in the financial tumult, Anna Eisenmenger wrote...

'The state still accepts its own money for the scanty provisions it offers us. The private tradesman already refuses to sell his precious wares for money and demands something of real value in exchange. The wife of a doctor whom I know recently exchanged her beautiful piano for a sack of wheat flour. I, too, have exchanged my husband's gold watch for four sacks of potatoes, which will at all events carry us through the winter... My farmer had hidden the sacks of potatoes under straw on top of which he placed some apples. The apples were duly stolen, but the potatoes reached me safely... When the farmer's eyes rested on the grand piano at which Erni [her blinded son] was seated improvising, he took me aside and said: 'My wife has been wanting one of those things for a long time. If you'll give it to me, you shall have all you want for three months.'

Unlike the few who had financial wealth, most of the people in the urban areas did not have much in the way of material possessions to trade for food. When Money Dies tells of an incident in one city where a hungry mob accosted a policeman on a horse. They wanted the horse, and proceeded to kill and butcher it in the street, hauling off pieces of the animal to eat. At the height of hyperinflation, dogs were routinely butchered and eaten. Would you eat horse or dog meat if you were hungry? Yes, you would.

Eventually, bands of desperately hungry people headed out of the cities and towns, looking to loot food from nearby farms. Anna Eisenmenger's daughter went to stay with some cousins in the country who had a small farm. They had "eight cows, two horses, twelve pigs and the usual poultry." Her daughter wrote and told the story of coming home from church with her Uncle and Aunt one day and encountering a mob that was ransacking the neighborhood.

'In the lane which winds to my uncle's farm we noticed a troop of about 80 or 100 men and women. They were bawling and singing and driving in their midst a cart harnessed with a brown horse. Uncle exclaimed: 'They're driving away with Hansl and our cart!"
A lorry of gendarmes turned up at that moment. A few shots were fired, and the mob dispersed into the hills, the horse and cart left behind.
In the cart I saw three slaughtered pigs. In addition, some pieces of slaughtered cows and pigs and a few dead hens were lying in an untidy heap. 'My God, my God,' wailed my aunt. 'What will things be like at home?'... Two gendarmes accompanied us in order to ascertain the damage... We were prepared for the worst. The gates of the farmyard were wide open. There was not a sign of the servant girls. A pig seriously injured but still living was lying in its own blood in the yard. The other pigs had run out into the road. The cow-shed was drenched in blood. One cow had been slaughtered where it stood and the meat torn from its bones. The monsters had slit up the udder of the finest milch cow, so that she had to be put out of her misery immediately. In the granary the store of grain and fodder were in a state of wild confusion... a rag soaked with petrol was still smoldering to show what these beasts had intended. In the kitchen-living room of which my aunt was so proud not a thing had been left whole. Uncle estimates the damage at 100,000 peace kronen, and no insurance company will pay him any compensation for his loss.'

When Money Dies ends with these two sentences...
'In hyperinflation, a kilo of potatoes was worth, to some, more than the family silver; a side of pork more than the grand piano. A prostitute in the family was better than in infant corpse; theft was preferable to starvation; warmth was finer than honor, clothing more essential than democracy, food more needed than freedom.'

That is a sobering summation, and it underscores the seriousness of hyperinflation. It is something to ponder as the stage is being set for a similar hyperinflationary crisis here in America. 

Yes, I know that our situation is much different from post-war Germany. But there is a glaring similarity... Germany had an enormous, unpayable debt burden, and the country did not have the industrial-economic capacity to pay it's debt obligations. Hyperinflation is simply the natural consequence of a nation that finds itself in hyper-debt, and that is where we find ourselves at this time.

Perhaps we will not see hyperinflation. I sure hope not. But the reality of America's growing and unpayable debt, coupled with unprecedented money creation, and politics-as-usual, will surely lead to some sort of a significant economic crisis. 

The historical record of Germany's hyperinflation, as presented in When Money Dies, is a frightening prospect. But I don't believe fear and overreaction is the proper response. The proper response is to carefully consider the options you have and develop a plan. I will discuss this more in Part 5 of this series.

For now, I would like to point out something well worth considering....

The Potato Paradox

Some potatoes from my 2006 garden

These days, potatoes are one of the cheapest and most plentiful vegetables you can buy. That was probably also the case in Germany back before the privations of war and the the hyper-inflationary crisis, when food was easily obtained for paper money. But all of that changed. The most humble of vegetables became the most valuable.  Anna Eisenmenger gladly traded a gold pocket watch for four sacks of humble spuds. Was it a good trade? Sure it was. You can't eat gold, but you can feed a family pretty well through the winter with a few sacks of potatoes.

So, for people who are considering a wise course of action in the face of a coming crisis, I recommend that you acquire the land and the tools to grow potatoes. More than that, I recommend that you actually grow potatoes. It so happens that growing a good crop of potatoes requires a lot of work, especially if you do it with hand tools. And potato bugs can easily wipe out your crop if you don't learn how to deal with them. 

I can't think of too many other foods that compare to potatoes when it comes to ease of storage, nutrition, and the variety of different foods that can be made with them. They are one of the best food values in a crisis situation. Grow them for yourself and your family now. And grow them if hyperinflation comes so you can exchange them for items of value, as needed, during the crisis. 

That right there—the value of potatoes— is the surprising part of reading When Money Dies. While many "doom-and-gloom" prognosticators are urging their followers to buy gold and silver as a hedge against financial crisis, I don't agree with that. I think it's much more important for families to have the land, the tools, and the experience to successfully grow a good crop of potatoes. 


To go to Part 4 of this series

How to Get Through
The Coming Hyperinflation
(Part 2)

Dateline 20 October 2013

In Part 1 of this essay I noted that America's debt and future entitlement promises are too high to ever be paid in full. In their borrowing, reckless politicians have pledged the earnings of future generations of Americans. It is akin to you or me borrowing way beyond our ability to ever repay, with the expectation that our children and grandchildren will work and sacrifice to pay the debt long after we're dead and gone. I don't think that's possible on a personal level, but our government has done it on a national level. 

There are people in the know who assert that the only way out of this quagmire of debt is by default (we aren't paying!) or hyperinflation (the creation of more and more increasingly worthless dollars). I think we can expect other drastic measures too. 

For example, there will be even-higher taxes. And we shouldn't be surprised when the government nationalizes all private pension programs. That means personal IRAs and 401Ks will be taken over (confiscated) by the  Feds. We will have some sort of government annuity program instead. After all, it's those rich people who have private pension plans, and that's just not fair. But not to worry—the politicians will give government IOUs to the "rich" people when they take their investments. If government can nationalize health care, they can nationalize pension programs too. 

And I wouldn't put it past the government to simply take a percentage of money from everyone's bank accounts as needed, like happened in Cyprus earlier this year. They call it a "bail-in." Clever. 

This situation of America's increasing, and increasingly unpayable, debt will not go away without a lot of pain and suffering. It will become a much greater crisis. In some minds, it is already a crisis. Many who have in the past eagerly loaned to America are not so eager anymore. They are starting to realize that the American dollar is not what it once was. They are looking for a better investment. 

There is a lot of talk about scrapping the American dollar as the world's reserve currency (as was decided at Bretton Woods, on Mount Washington, New Hampshire, back in 1944). Such an outcome seems inevitable. There will then be a new economic system. The American dollar will no longer reign supreme. And the ramifications of that are ominous for America. No longer will we be able to create money out of thin air to pay our debts.

But I digress. This is an essay about how a person or a family can get through the coming hyperinflation, if it actually does come. I'm no expert on this subject, mind you, but I have read the book pictured at the top of this page. When Money Dies tells the story of hyperinflation in Germany after the first World War. It is a history book. 

There are people who say that history repeats itself. I'm not one of them. I happen to believe that history is linear, not circular. But I do think that history rhymes, so to speak. Thus it is that history books have a way of being somewhat prophetic. 

I think those who learn about the past are better equipped to understand the present. People who look at history are more likely to see the "macro" picture (the long-term trends) and can put the micro-details of everyday news into better context. Those who are ignorant of history tend to be tossed to and fro by so many crisis du jours, as presented to us by the mainstream media. That's the way it looks to  me.

Anyway, When Money Dies was not easy for me to understand. It is about German and European history, German and European geography, German and European politics, and German and European money. My brain just isn't geared for German and European details like it is for American. Besides that, I found the political-economic minutia of what led up to the Wiemar Republic hyperinflation of 1921 to 1923 was hard to understand. But I paid money for the book and I plowed through it. In so doing, I got the general picture of what to expect if hyperinflation comes. I also learned how best to get through it.

In short, the hyperinflation in Germany (which also affected Hungary and Austria) resulted in widespread social and political chaos, uncertainty, and destruction. Everything went to pieces. Life savings were wiped out. People with once-secure jobs were out of work. Prices for everything rose to incredible heights. Food supplies dwindled. The population, particularly in the cities and towns, were destitute, hungry, and, when winter came, they were cold. There was martial law. There were political assassinations. There were labor strikes. There were secessionist movements. It was a disaster.

Gerald Celente, director of the Trends Research Institute, often repeats a phrase that goes like this... "When people lose everything, and they have nothing to lose, they lose it." That observation certainly applied to the urban areas of Germany during the years of economic upheaval. Riots took place in the cities of Germany when the people were hungry and desperate, and we can be sure that riots will come to America's cities if a similar economic breakdown happens here. 

But it was a much different situation in the rural areas of Germany, Hungary and Austria, and it turns out that most of the population of those countries lived in the rural areas. Adam Ferguson, the author of When Money Dies, writes in Chapter 7

'In the countryside the landowners and farmers were less affected than anyone, producing most of their own essentials...'
And Chapter 8 begins...
'Only the country people were surviving in Germany in any comfort; anyone who lived off the land had the readiest access to real values.'

Keep in mind that farm people in the 1920s were not like farmers of today. Back then they had diversified, self-reliant small farms. Unlike today's modern farmer, who buys his groceries at the supermarket like everyone else, the farmers of 1920's Germany were not dependent on supermarkets. Not hardly.

So right there is one historical insight into how you and your family can get through a future American hyperinflationary disaster. Get out of the urban and suburban areas, and into the rural countryside where you can be more self reliant— where you are part of a community of others who are also equipped to live a more self reliant lifestyle. The lesson of history is clear on this.

This matter of leaving the urban and suburban areas is pretty much a self-evident bit of wisdom. It is the first of six bits of advice that I posted back in early 2008 when I wrote An Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan. So I'm probably not telling you something you don't already know. But the matter is so important that it bears repeating.

I ended Part 1 of this series by telling you that I learned from When Money Dies what a person or family needs to do to get through the chaos and devastation of hyperinflation. I said the answer may surprise you. Well, the advice to get out of the urban areas probably didn't surprise you. I've decided to save the surprising bit of information for part 3, which is coming up next. Stay tuned....


To go to Part 3 of this series