A New

Dateline: 31 July 2014

August, September and October are the months that I have been planning to make more of my Classic American clothespins. I'm pretty much on schedule to do that. But I've discovered that I now have some competition in this business of American-made clothespins…

It's not your traditional American clothespin!

I got an e-mail last week from Charley Earley up in the great state of Maine. He wrote to tell me about his EKLIPSE clothespins, one of which is pictured above. It turns out Charley has been working to bring his unique clothespin to market for over a decade. 

Charley and I have traded samples of our clothespins, and I have to say that the EKLIPSE clothespin samples I have are pretty neat. 

I haven't put these nifty new clothespins through a period of use and testing, so I can't say how strong and/or durable they will be over time. But I can tell you that they appear to have all kinds of advantages over the standard spring and wood clothespin. 

For now, EKLIPSE clothespins are available only from Charley Earley. I encourage you to check them out. Here's the web site link again… EKLIPSE

Entrepreneurial Tenacity
The Quest For Freedom

Dateline: 30 July 2014

I am an entrepreneur. I have had an entrepreneurial mindset from a young age. Someday I will chronicle here some of the money-making and business ideas I've had in my life (besides Granola Bars). It will be somewhat entertaining.

Only in the past few years have I realized success as an entrepreneur. I don't mean success as in making a lot of money. I make enough money to more than meet the needs of my family, and that is important, but that is beside the point. 

My desire to be an entrepreneur is not to make a lot of money but to have a measure of autonomy from the industrial system— a system that wants to cram me into its mold, that wants to make me a dependent corporate wage slave.  Autonomy is a word that means self government. Another word for autonomy is freedom.

Today I read an essay by Oliver DeMille on the subject of freedom and entrepreneurship. If you are interested in this subject, you may want to read it… A Missing Piece of Entrepreneurship

Mr. DeMille makes the point that a nation of entrepreneurs is  a nation that is more free. I think he is right. 

Mr. DeMille also writes…

"To succeed as an entrepreneur, a person must exhibit the character traits of initiative, innovation, ingenuity, creativity, wise risk-taking, sacrifice, tenacity, frugality, resilience, and perseverance."

Well, I sure can relate to that, especially tenacity. I didn't realize the entrepreneurial success I dreamed of until I was 54 years old.

The challenge is to cultivate those character traits in our children and grandchildren. I think that will require tenacity too.

My Wheat Fields

Dateline: 29 July 2014

My wheat field in July

I planted two fields of heritage wheat this year. The fields are less than an acre in size. A lot less. They actually measure about 2' wide by 4' long. That's as much as one packet of seed will plant.

I bought the heritage seed from Sustainable Seed Company. They have an impressive selection of old wheat varieties, and other grains too (I also planted a field of sorghum). 

This is my first year growing wheat. I wanted to observe how the plants grow. It turns out they grow easily.


When I was around 17 years old (1972), I harvested a section of wheat field that a local farmer was growing on my parent's land. 

I used a rusty old scythe that I had bought at a yard sale for a few dollars. I sharpened the blade to the best of my ability and mowed down a fairly large patch of the grain.

I tied the grain into bundles to dry, then hauled them to my parent's barn. The barn had tall rolling doors on the back with a sturdy drive floor just inside. I laid a tarp out on the floor, put the wheat in the middle and used a homemade flail to beat the seeds out of the stalks. It was a lot of work but I had a lot of energy and enthusiasm back then.

I ended up with a couple pails of seeds and chaff. I winnowed the chaff by pouring the wheat from pail to pail repeatedly. There wasn't much wind the day I winnowed so I hooked up a fan.

I ended up with some clean, beautiful wheat berries, and it was a good feeling. 

My mother was a bread baker and we had a Marathon Uni-Mill electric grain grinder. I milled the wheat into flour and my mother used it to make some really good bread. 

By the way, we inherited that Marathon Uni-Mill, and  Marlene has used it over the years to grind a lot of wheat for her homemade breads.

One of these years I'd like to grow a larger plot of heirloom wheat, harvest it by hand, and process it….. just like I did in the "old days" when I was a kid.

Evelyn's Plant Stand

Dateline: 26 July 2014

click picture for a larger view

My mother-in-law, Evelyn Myers, passed away on July 6. Three weeks later, her house is now cleaned out and listed with a real estate agent. Her material possessions have been distributed to family members, taken to the thrift shop, or thrown away. 

Marlene has taken several pieces of furniture but we have no room in our small house for any of it. So the furniture is being put into storage. The old, round-top oak dining table (that we ate so many meals around), various bureaus, rocking chairs, and such as that, are all packed onto the back porch of our down-the-road house, where my oldest son now lives.

Evelyn's half-round plant stand (pictured above) has been packed into a shed on our property, along with the old Clipper bean sorter I bought a few years ago (I stored it in Evelyn's garage), and various other items. 

I don't have a barn or a garage but I have three sheds on my property and they are full. When a neighbor wants to borrow my chicken plucker, it's a chore to unpack it from the shed. We are storage-space-challenged around here.

Evelyn's plant stand is kind of special. It's special because, years ago, when she could still get around easily, she always had it outdoors in the growing months and full of potted plants. So it has some sentimental value to Marlene. But it's special to me because I made it.

It so happens that Evelyn had another plant stand just like it. An antique dealer offered her quite a sum for the piece. Evelyn didn't want to lose her plant stand, but the money offered was such that she felt she should sell it. Marlene suggested that I could make one just like it. And that's what I did. 

I measured carefully and made a full-size pattern of the legs before the antique dealer took the stand. Then I made two of the plant stands in my workshop. It was a challenging little project. The semicircular shelves were made by splining together mitered sections of pine. I cut the half-circles slightly oversize with a jigsaw. To get them exactly round and to the right size, I made a long compass jig with a router on the end of a board. It was a great little project and I was very pleased with the outcome. 

I would guess I made the plant stands around 25 years ago. Evelyn's stand is dusty from being in a corner of her garage, but it is still in fine condition. 

I made the second plant stand to sell. I was always looking for things to make and sell years ago (to some degree, I guess I'm still doing that). The stand sold easily at a garage sale. I don't recall what I sold it for but I suspect it wasn't enough to pay me much for my time and effort.

A couple years ago I was at the annual 50-mile-long Route 90 Garage Sale here in New York and came upon the second plant stand being sold in the rural town of King Ferry. It was still in great shape. Marlene questioned how I could be so sure it was the one I made.

Well, a craftsman knows his own work, especially with an item like that.

My Clipper bean sorter

Starting A New Job

Dateline: 24 July 2014

I'm pleased to see that all three of my sons are working men. My oldest works for an electrical contractor. My youngest works as a cook at a restaurant. And my middle son, Robert,  starts a new job on Monday (three days from now). He is leaving the maple syrup operation (where he has worked for the last two years) and going to work for the local school district as a bus mechanic. The job is only about ten minutes away.

Robert worked as an auto mechanic at a dealership in a nearby city for awhile but left because he was bored. The dealership didn't have enough work to keep him busy, and he didn't like sitting around. While at that job he acquired a deluxe tool box and lots of tools. For the past two years the tools have been in a shed on my property. But today he and I loaded the box (it's remarkably heavy) on a trailer and he headed off to the bus garage to get set up for Monday.

Robert interviewed for the bus mechanic job last year but another man got it. Then, a few weeks ago, he heard that the district was going to fill the other mechanic position. He interviewed again and got the job. They told him he was the most qualified.

When Robert went to the interview last year, I told him that he should wear a tie. I told him that because I wanted him to make a good impression, and I think it sends a very good message when you wear a tie to an interview, even for a mechanic job. I'm probably old fashioned in this regard. But he wore a tie to the interview. 

Now, you need to know that Robert is not a tie-wearing fellow. He's more on the redneck side. But he listened to my counsel, dressed up nice, and wore the tie. This pleased me to no end.

When the time came for the most recent interview, I asked Robert if he planned to wear a tie. He said, "Yes, of course, you should always wear a tie to an interview."

I got a little lump in my throat when he said that.

When the morning of the interview came, he was here at the house, polishing his cowboy boots and having his mother iron his shirt. I helped him tie his tie. Then I said, "You really should have a pen in your shirt pocket. I think it sends the right message." 

Ordinarily, Robert never has a pen in his pocket… but he did for the interview. 

Several days later, he got the good news about the job. Marlene and I were elated and thankful. It is a job that will provide a steady income that will support a family…. as long as he avoids getting into debt, but he has listened to me on that subject too.

He brought home all kinds of paperwork to fill out for the job. I told him that I thought it would be wise of him to open a savings account at the local bank and, right from the very beginning,  have a portion of every paycheck he gets direct-deposited into the account. Then never touch the money, unless to invest it in some other way. 

I told him that if he did this, he would never regret it, and someday he would tell me it was the best advice I ever gave him.

So… I kid you not… within the hour he went directly down to the bank and opened up a savings account for weekly direct deposits.

Things like this make a father's heart glad.

No Stink Bugs,
No Cucumber Beetles,
No Flea Beetles,
And No Insecticide!

Dateline: 23 July 2014

A view over my cucumber bed.
Sweet potatoes in the background.
(click pictures for enlarged views)

This is the first year in four decades of gardening that I have not had any damage from flea beetles, cucumber beetles or stink bugs. It is something akin to a miracle. I have seen a couple of cucumber beetles, but I've not seen a lot of them, and there is no visible damage.

I planted the cukes in plastic.
No weed competition.

I have a theory about why I'm having such a healthy, insect-free garden this year. Two years ago I mineralized my garden. I took a soil test, sent it to a lab, hired a soil mineralization expert to give me a mineral prescription, and I followed through with the application of the prescribed minerals.

I explain all of this in The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. But when I was writing the book, I had yet to see if the minerals would make a difference in my garden. Well, I think I'm seeing it now.

A proper balance of minerals is supposed to result in healthy plants, more nutritious food, and significantly less insect damage

I'm a believer.

Squash blossoms in the morning.
Sans the usual infestation of beetles.

I have started to make a YouTube video about soil mineralization. It will be an introduction to the subject.  I'll  read from the chapter in my book, while showing pictures from my garden. 

I also plan to put together a Part 2 to the Four-Day Carrots video I recently posted to YouTube. I'll show how I thin the tri-plantings, answer some questions that have come in, and I'll show the carrot bed at 3 weeks.

Stay tuned.

The Way We Were

Dateline: 22 July 2014

Winnowing away the ephemera of my life brought me back to some of the best memories of my life. Many of those memories center around the sweetness of a young love that has now endured the test of time.

The picture above shows Marlene and I as we were 38 years ago. It was taken in the hall outside the auditorium of our high school. We were voted "class couple" in our senior year. I'm not sure how that came about, as there were much more popular couples in our class. 

That picture was taken for the yearbook, but it never made it into the yearbook. Somehow I ended up with it, and I will keep it as long as I live. 

I'll also keep the girl in that picture as long as I live, or, as the covenant vow we made states: "till death do us part." 

Many of you have read my story of young love, and marriage, and continued love in The Wife of My Youth. That essay mentions Marlene's smile—how it "makes my heart glad and lifts my spirits."

Marlene at Owasco Lake Park in 1977

Well, there it is. That's the smile that, when directed at me, made me feel like I was the luckiest guy in the world. I realize now that I wasn't lucky. I was profoundly blessed.

This next picture shows yours truly in the summer of 1977…

Ed and Me in my parent's yard, just before heading up to Vermont.
My dog's name was Shadow.  

I'm with my buddy, Ed Bais. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you might recall the story I wrote back in 2005 about the time When Me & Ed Made Apple Cider

Ed and I had been classmates at The Grassroots Project in Vermont. School was over (it was a one-year program) and everyone had gone home. But some of the students planned to go back to Vermont in the summer for the Craftsbury Fiddler's Contest. Ed borrowed his sister's car, drove from Ohio, and picked me up in New York. 

We camped out one night at the fiddler's contest and spent the whole next day there. It was the closest I've come to a Woodstock experience—not what we expected for a fiddler's contest. We decided it would be best not to camp at the contest a second night and, instead, to stay with my friends, Bruce and Patty Womer, in Craftsbury Common.

I had written Bruce and Patty (this was in the days before cell phones and e-mail, mind you) to let them know I was coming back to Vermont, and Patty had written back offering me a job working for them for the rest of the summer. So Ed headed for Ohio without me (and I haven't seen him since). 

That summer of '77, living and working with Bruce and Patty, would prove to be a life-changing experience for me. I wrote about it In This Essay.

It is bittersweet to be 56 years old and look at the fit and trim me when I was 19 years old. I was like a race horse in the gate at the start of a big race. I had a lot of strength, energy, stamina, and determination. 

In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, in the chapter titled Rediscovery and Remembrance, I wrote the following:

I think to myself how strong I was as a younger man. I think to myself how young men delight in the strength of their youth. I think to myself that old men delight in the memory of how strong they once were. And what of middle-aged men like me? We are looking back and looking forward and just trying to hold on to what we have, to not let it slip away.

I wrote that back in 2005. I think I've now moved beyond middle age.

I'm in good health, and mighty thankful for that…. but age is hard to take—especially when I look at the old pictures.

The Ephemera
Of My Life

Dateline: 21 July 2014

The recent death of my mother-in-law has led me to confront some of my past, and prepare for the future. 

First, I asked the undertaker who the person is that I should contact about buying a final resting place for Marlene and I at the local cemetery. It has been on my mind for some time to do this. I got the name and will follow up.

Marlene's parents had a place and a stone all set, years ahead of time, for their certain departure. Most of the old-timers were good about taking care of such things. But the undertaker told me that very few people nowadays buy a plot for themselves.

As far as "confronting the past" goes, I decided to winnow away the ephemera of my life. Ephemera is written or printed memorabilia. For three days, as I've had time, I've focused on sorting through three large boxes of old papers, photos, and such as that. My intent was to cut it down to a single, relatively small box of pertinent memories. I succeeded in reducing the mass of matter to less than 1/4 it's original size. The closed and open box pictured above and below show the results of my winnowing. 

Pictures were selected, sorted, and grouped into envelopes. I wrote on the back of every picture that didn't already have information on it. I put various categories of papers into separate files. What remains will be passed onto our children when Marlene and I are gone. They won't have to sort through boxes and boxes of papers that mean nothing to them.

What did I toss? Well, I threw out three copies of the following magazine…

My children will not need or want three copies of an old magazine with me on the cover. So I tore the front cover off one, removed the pages with my article, stapled them together, and put it in the box. Good enough.

Sidenote: I also threw out the contract for that 1998 article. The magazine took care of my expenses to fly out to Minnesota and stay a couple days, and they paid me $1,300. 

I did the same with my first article for Fine Homebuilding magazine back in 1992. I also saved the acceptance letter I got from the editor for that article. 

After years of doing physical work to make money, it was a whole new experience to get money for just putting words on paper. That magazine article was a turning point in my life. I would write several more articles before writing three books for Fine Homebuilding. It was an exhilarating experience. 

Even more amazing (to me) was when three different magazines contacted me asking if I would be interested in interviewing for a job as an editor (I declined all three).

Some examples of things I threw out

I decided that I did not need to save every cancelled check I wrote from 1976 to 1980, though I did give a last look through them. I had forgotten that I paid my parents $30 a month for rent in the years I lived at home after high school. And there was the check in 1976 to Albert Wayne for $200, which was for my first car (my father made me return the car the next day). Then, two years later, there was the check for the first car I bought and kept ($2,237.50 to Ames Chevrolet).

My grade school artwork was all tossed, as were all my report cards and Cub Scout/Boy Scout paperwork (except for two small membership cards). I kept a few homemade cards and notes I gave to my parents as a little boy. 

I wrote quite a few letters-to-the-editor of local newspapers back in the mid to late 1980s and kept a single copy of each, along with a single copy of a weekly home improvement column I volunteered to write for a local paper.   

I threw out maps, magazines, brochures, church bulletins, duplicate pictures, fuzzy pictures, and pictures I didn't like. I threw out all greeting cards with just a signature. I evaluated all letters and kept only those with pertinent information, or insightful sentiments.

I kept a folder of selected examples of my children's earliest artwork. I saved all genealogical paperwork passed on to me. I kept Josephine Jordan's Diaries (of course), as well as some of my mother's journal writings, and my own. I saved the amortization paper from Jay Myers, my father-in-law, for the $10,000 loan he gave Marlene and I to build our home back in 1983. Jay noted each payment on the paper and that it had been paid in full. I attached a note explaining to my heirs what it was all about.

And so on. You get the idea. It's done, and I feel good about it. 

Now I can die. :-)

Oh, wait, I still need to get the cemetery plot.

And Marlene needs to do her own winnowing. She has a lot more boxes of ephemera than I did.

America's New
Declaration of Independence

Dateline: 18 July 2014

"War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength."
—George Orwell (1984)

As one more evidence that America has fully entered the world of Orwellian doublespeak, I offer the Independence Card shown above. It is the state of Maryland's version of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

An EBT card is the modern equivalent of what used to be known as food stamps. The government issues the card to people who are needy. The people take their card to stores and use it to get "free" food. A recent statistic I found stated that 20% of Americans now use EBT cards.

238 years ago, when America's Declaration of Independence was signed, the word independence meant something different than it apparently now means in America. According to Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary, this is what the word "independence" used to mean:

"A state in which a person does not rely 
on others for subsistence; ability to 
support one's self."

This brings to my mind an interesting reality…

Back during The Great Depression, needy people in America did not have EBT cards. There were soup kitchens set up to help feed the poor…

In the current form of economic depression America finds itself in, soup kitchens are not necessary because the poor (20% of America) now have EBT cards. And EBT cards can be used to buy a lot more than just soup…

This blog post is not being written to disparage all people who use EBT cards. I know friends and family who use EBT cards, and need the assistance. 

My purpose here is to point out that America is truly in an economic depression. Besides that, I just want to make it clear that people who are dependent on the government for their subsistence are really not independent.

"In a time of universal deceit, 
telling the truth 
is a revolutionary act."
—George Orwell 

Economic Chatter

Dateline: 17 July 2014

I don’t think a day goes by that I’m not listening to one or more discussions about the past, present and future state of the national and international economy. 

I have no interest in listening to the myopic mainstream media economic discussion, and I’m surely not going to waste my time listening to any government representative. The mainstream media are agents of misinformation, and I figured out long ago that most politicians and bureaucrats really don’t know much about economics. So, instead, I listen to a bevy of independent-minded economists on the internet.

Greg Hunter at USA Watchdog and Elijah Johnson at Finance & Liberty present a steady stream of interviews with independent-minded economic people on their YouTube channels. I appreciate the perspectives and opinions presented by the likes of Paul Craig Roberts, John Williams, Chris Martenson, James Rickards, Jim Willie, G. Edward Griffin, Nomi Prins, Andy Hoffman, Mike Maloney, David Stockman, Alasdair Macleod, and others. I never miss the McAlvaney Weekly Commentarywhich, in my opinion,  presents the most thoughtful, intelligent,  measured perspective of all the alternative economists. 

I think I’m mentioned here in the past that my interest in economics began with my interest in history. This interest must be genetic, as my grandfather Kimball was an avid reader of history books. Though I never discussed history with my grandfather (he died when I was 7), he left an extensive personal library, which I perused at length during the summer vacations of my youth (I was a bookish youngster). My grandmother let me have any and all of his books that I wanted. 

I also had a 7th grade teacher who made American history interesting. The two-day field trip our 7th-grade class took to Sturbridge Village was somewhat life changing for me. One thing led to another and, on my own, pursuing my yen for historical understanding,  I soon came to the unavoidable truth about paper currency and central banks (check out my essay titled, Andrew Jackson Hated Paper Money)...

In short, every economy in the history of the world that has utilized a paper currency has eventually collapsed (check out This Excellent YouTube Movie for some history of paper money). Such collapses bring social upheaval, despair, ruin, poverty and death. Often an economic collapse (or even the possibility of an impending collapse) leads to war.

All of which is to say that America’s economic system is destined for collapse. Prior to the mini-collapse of 2008, when I wrote my essay titled, An Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan, most Americans were pretty much oblivious to America’s economic peril. A lot of investors lost a lot of money. But I think it was all chump change compared to the losses that are coming.

Our economy has limped along since 2008 and never fully recovered. A perfect anthropomorphic analogy for our present economy would be a terminally ill person getting blood transfusions to extend their life for a little while longer. The economic transfusions are mind-boggling amounts of American dollars being created and fed into the world economy. This “quantitative easing”  has not stimulated economic growth, and it never will. The creation of so much more American debt has only enriched international bankers at the expense of "main street" Americans. 

Unfortunately, I think most Americans are still oblivious to the seriousness of the economic metastasis that is taking place in the worldwide economy. They are thinking that the future will eventually be like the past. They are clinging to the old economic paradigm. They may be uneasy about the economy but they are hesitant to make any significant changes in their lifestyle and investing strategies to deal with emerging new realities. I suspect that they aren't all that interested in what history can teach us. Besides that, the stock market is soaring to amazing new highs. That's a good sign, right?

Well, if the stock market were soaring to new highs because of economic growth, that would truly be something to celebrate. But our economy is not growing. Recent stock market gains do not reflect economic reality. 

[Sidenote: David McAlvaney's Most Recent Program discusses the current stock market boom (bubble). The McAlvany investment strategy has been described as 1/3 stocks and bonds, 1/3 cash, and 1/3 precious metals, but David appears to be advising stock market investors to cash out now.]

Different economists have different opinions about the current state of our economy, but among the alternative media economists I’ve been listening to, the consensus is that the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement (which established our current world economic system, with the American dollar as the world currency) is badly broken. The American economy was booming back in ’44, and our dollar was “good as gold.”  But that is now no longer the case. Not even close.

Thus it is that there will be a new world economic system. How soon, no one knows for sure but the groundwork is being laid out now. The rest of the world is growing wary of the dollar. Confidence is eroding. This situation is causing all sorts of serious underlying problems. 

When the American dollar is no longer the world reserve currency, America will face an economic crisis like it has never before experienced.

With all of that in mind, there seems to be a heightened “chatter” of concern lately among the alternative-media economic analysts. They are expecting something serious to go wrong with the economy relatively soon. 

They may be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. Economists are often wrong in their predictions. But sometimes they are right. 

No economic crisis in history has come as a total surprise. There have always been those who saw, and understood, and prepared for what was coming. Such people were (and are), of course, maligned by those who don’t want to face reality, or who have a vested interest in the status quo. 

In the final analysis, I always return to the historical precedent

All paper money schemes in history have run their course, and eventually collapsed. The American dollar will be no exception, and it will be an epic collapse when it happens. I think this will happen sooner rather than later. Maybe it won’t be real soon, but I’d rather be prepared (as well as possible) for this eventuality years early instead of one day late.

If you have not already done so, I recommend that you read my Agrarian Style Economic Self-Defense Plan, and my six-part series, How To Get Through The Coming Hyperinflation

I wish you well.

Four-Day Carrots
(My First YouTube Video)

Dateline: 14 July 2014

I have long thought that I should be creating YouTube videos. But I haven't made any because I knew nothing about the process, and I've been hesitant to invest any time and effort in the learning curve. 

That being the case, it is kind of a big deal (for me) to finally put together Four-Day Carrots, my first YouTube film clip. 

It took me around 10 hours, over the course of about a week, to surmount enough little obstacles to produce the 15-minute movie above. I used the iMovie software that came with my computer. The film is heavily edited to eliminate the worst of my verbal shortcomings, and to condense it into the 15 minutes allowed by YouTube.

It's a good feeling to have taken this first step. There is surely a lot of room for improvement, but hopefully I can stick with this and get a little better with each movie I make.

If you watch the movie at YouTube (Here is The Link) and like it, please click the "like" button. Then let your gardening friends know all about it.

And I thank you.

About "Four-Day Carrots"

In my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners I write in the Introduction that "ideas beget more ideas, and even the best of ideas can often be improved on." 

With that in mind, "Four-Day Carrots" shows how I've refined my tri-growing carrots idea (on page 87 of the book) by planting them in a bed that has been "conditioned" with an occultation cover. I learned about the occultation cover idea from Jean-Martin Fortier's book, The "Market Gardener," and wrote about it back in May At This Link.

The other improvement on the idea is to plant into a bed that is covered with a black plastic mulch, similar to Tom Doyle's system for "Plant and Pick" gardening, which I blogged about Here and Here.

Eulogy For Evelyn

Dateline: 7 July 2014

Evelyn and Jay Myers on their wedding day in 1936.
She was 21 years old.
(click pictures to see enlarged views)

Though it was nearly 39 years ago, I remember the exact day  I first met Evelyn Myers. It was Saturday, September 6, 1975. 

It so happened that I was smitten with Evelyn’s youngest daughter, Marlene. On the first day of our senior year of high school I asked Marlene if she wanted to go see a movie with me. I picked her up at her house in the early afternoon and she told me we needed to go to the Methodist church’s thrift shop first. Her mother was working there, and she wanted to meet me.

When we walked into the little basement shop, Evelyn was in the midst of tables full of old clothes, folding and stacking and making everything more orderly. I was nervous and don’t recall any details except that it was a short and sweet first meeting. I suspect Evelyn’s mind was at ease upon seeing me. I was a clean-cut, bright-faced boy with a quick smile.

Five years later, Marlene and I were married and Evelyn became my mother-in-law. I can tell you that not a single mother-in-law joke ever applied to Evelyn. She was a dear. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Marlene and I lived in a small apartment for the first couple years of our married life. We saved enough to buy a little plot of land. Then we moved in with her parents for a few years. Our only expense was to pay the electric and phone bill in the winter months when Jay (Marlene’s dad) and Evelyn went to Florida. We were able to save a lot of money for the house we wanted to someday build on our land. It was a real blessing to live with my in-laws, and when you live with someone like that you get to know them pretty well.

Evelyn was born in 1915. Her father, Earl Cuddeback, was a farmer. Cuddebacks were among the earliest settlers of this area of New York State. In the bygone days when Evelyn grew up, farming was a whole lot different than today. Farms were horse-powered, diversified family economies. Everyone worked. Evelyn had two brothers and six sisters, not including two siblings that died in infancy. 

After graduating from high school, she went to “nurses training” in Brooklyn, New York, and became a Registered Nurse. She met her future husband in Aurora, New York, a small rural town on the shores of Cayuga Lake, where Jay’s family were farmers. They were married in 1936.

Jay and Evelyn in the early days.

1936 was the heart of the Great Depression. Jay and Evelyn were not from families with money. They started their marriage with pretty much nothing. Precious few people alive today can relate to the hardships associated with starting out with pretty much nothing, in the midst of an economic depression.

These days the government has all sorts of programs to help poor people afford food and shelter and health care. But such programs were not around in the 1930’s, and I don’t suppose country folks like Jay and Evelyn would have thought much of taking charity. They were a farming family. They worked hard, lived frugally, and got ahead the old fashioned way.

Their first child was born in 1937. Another girl and three boys would come before Jay and Evelyn were done having children, or so they thought. Then came Marlene. Evelyn was 43 years old when she had Marlene, and she often reminded her youngest daughter that she had been a “pleasant surprise.”

Evelyn was a nurse but she wasn’t a career nurse. Marlene says her mother stopped working as a nurse in order to be a farm wife and mother. When Marlene was in elementary school Evelyn worked a short while as a county nurse. She would visit families with newborns. Sometimes Marlene went with her. She left the county job because she didn’t like all the paperwork.

Marlene remembers that her mother also took on temporary jobs as a private duty nurse, helping in the evenings with the care of dying loved ones (this was before Hospice care existed).

Jay and Evelyn on their
60th Wedding Anniversary.

When Jay died in 1997 Evelyn wanted to move into town. Jay had left her with sufficient finances to buy a simple little ranch house on a quiet side street, and that is where she has lived. Her children, from far and near, visited her often. Marlene and I live only six miles away. Our sons were able to grow up knowing their grandmother Myers, and loving her. 

Evelyn at 87 years of age (2002)

Yesterday, Evelyn Myers died in her home. She was 99 years, 5 months, and 29 days of age.

She was remarkably healthy into her old age, though her physical and mental abilities had declined in recent years. She was able to avoid any time in a hospital or nursing home because her three daughters helped her as needed, especially during the last ten years of her life.

Two weeks to the day before she died, Evelyn apparently suffered a slight stroke, which left her bedridden. Hospice was called. One of Marlene’s brothers and his wife came to help with the care. Evelyn was in no pain. She was not in distress. Her body simply went through a natural process of shutting down, and she died with a peaceful gracefulness that few people experience. 

Near the end, when it was evident that it would be the end, Marlene asked her mother a question... “Do you think you will be going to heaven soon?” 

Evelyn couldn’t speak well at that point, but she nodded her head. 

The thought of that exchange between Evelyn and the "pleasant surprise" little baby that would grow up to be such a good friend and blessing to her mother, especially in her old age, tugs at my heartstrings when I think of it.

I have given much thought to the kind of person my mother in law was, and I have come to the conclusion that she possessed two character qualities that are so commendable that I want to tell you about them.

First, I knew Evelyn as a “gentle spirit.” I don’t recall her ever being angry. I don’t recall her ever gossiping. I don’t recall her ever saying a bad word about anyone. She was never bossy or meddlesome. She was always polite. She always exhibited humility and grace. And she was always concerned that I had enough to eat at the dinner table!

The other character quality that Evelyn had, which so few people in this modern age have, is that she was a contented person. 

Modern Americans are so conditioned by our culture to be discontented. New cars. New houses. New clothes. New stuff of all kinds. Even new spouses. Discontentment is everywhere around us, but Evelyn didn’t need new stuff and she didn’t want new stuff. She grew up in an era when “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” was a way of life, and she was perfectly content with that.

Also, in keeping with this idea of contentment, I think it is safe to say that Evelyn Myers was perfectly content with being a mother, and grandmother, and wife. She did not aspire to making a lot of money in a career outside her home. Her main focus in life was her family and her responsibilities to her family. 

So it is that the world at large will not remember Evelyn for some great accomplishments in business or science, but her family will remember her. Her children especially, and her grandchildren certainly, will remember Evelyn with an abiding love, and they are grieving at her passing for one simple, powerful reason.... because she loved them. 

Like every good mother, Evelyn loved her children with an unconditional love. 

No one loves you like your mother. 

This is the way God designed it to work. And when such a loving mother’s life comes to it end, and her family gathers to mourn her loss, it is a beautiful thing.

Farewell, Evelyn. Thank you for your faithfulness as a mother. Thank you for being such a fine example of a gentle spirit. Thank you for raising your little girl, Marlene, to be so much like you. Your example, your faithfulness, your love, has blessed your family, and I believe it will, in turn, bless the generations to follow. 

Marlene & Evelyn in 2012