19 March 2018

Walter Scott's Dilemma

Sir Walter Scott

A couple years back, on the suggestion of an entrepreneurial friend, I read Hidden Solutions All Around You. That is the book that persuaded me to finally take cryptocurrencies seriously, and it doesn't have a word to say about cryptos in it. But I'll save that story for another blog post. For now, I'd like to share one small paragraph from the book with you. It contains the single most memorable thing in the book.

"The famous author Sir Walter Scott had been trying to compose a particular sentence all day. He finally decided to take a break and go hunting. Suddenly the right words leapt into his head. But he had no pen or paper with which to write. Afraid he would forget the sentence when he got back home, he shot a crow, plucked one of its feathers, used his hunting knife to sharpen the end into a quill, dipped it in the bird's blood and wrote the sentence down on the sleeve of his canvas hunting jacket."

As a writer myself, I can relate to the urgency of preserving a particular phrase that is in my mind, before it leaves, and is forever lost. But Sir Walter Scott surely took this to a whole new level.

I couldn't help but think that Sir Walter could have come up with a less dramatic and easier way of recording his words. A couple possible ideas did come to mind. 

I'm wondering if an of you reading this might have ideas of your own?


In the picture above, Sir Walter has a quill beside him. How appropriate. It doesn't appear to be from a crow. His handwriting was, in my opinion, atrocious...

The above letter was written by Sir Walter to William Wallace. No, not that William Wallace (of the Braveheart saga), but William Wallace, the famous Scottish mathematician—the William Wallace that developed his own mathematical theorem, which states:

If four lines intersect each other to form four triangles by omitting one line in turn, the circumcircles of these triangles have a point in common.


Fascinating, eh?  But I digress. Back to Sir Walter Scott's Dilemma....  Any alternative ideas?

18 March 2018

The Last Axemakers,
And Old School Memories

Oakland, Maine once had several axe-making factories. Axes made in the Oakland factories were world famous. 

The film above shows Emery-Stevens axes being made in 1965. Emery-Stevens was the last axe maker in Oakland, and that film was made shortly before they shut down.

The film was made by a man who realized he was capturing a piece of history that was about to be lost. It is a gift from the past for those of us who appreciate this sort of thing.


Speaking of axes, back in 1976-77, when I attended the Grassroots Project in Vermont, one of the things I was required to bring with me when I started the school year was an axe. All students brought their own axes.

Wool pants, felt-lined Sorel boots, and wool mittens with a leather outer mitten were also required equipment.

We also brought knives, of course, and some guys brought hunting rifles. I had a Folding Hunter Buck knife. They were popular back then. We carried them in a sheath on our hips. I remember we boys fancied ourselves to be Rugged Old Woodsmen, even though we were only 18 years old.

Half way through the school year, my cousin, Peter, gave me a Smith & Wesson folding knife, with leather sheath. I switched out the Buck knife and carried the S&W. That knife was the most beautiful folding knife I've ever known. I say "was" because I sold it a couple weeks ago. Here's a picture...

Why sell a knife I once loved? Because I hadn't used it in years, it had value as a collectible, my income is significantly less in the winter months, and I carry a Leatherman Wave these days. The Leatherman is a far more useful tool.


If we all had phones with cameras and the internet back in 1977, there would be no shortage of pictures and videos to show from that era. But we didn't, and I'm glad we didn't. We didn't even have television to watch. Imagine that!

But a few kids had cameras and the school had a darkroom for the "camera kids." So, I have one single photo of myself (taken by I-don't-know-who) from that wonderful school year in Northern Vermont...

I'm crossing over a wet swampy area on top of a rope that is tied to a tree on each side. The rope was part of a "Bounder" course that we went through in teams. 

The kid before me tried crossing by hanging from his hands. He got halfway and was too tired to go any further. He had no option but to let go and land in the water. We all laughed, and wondered how we could possibly get over any better than he did.

Our teacher then suggested that it would be better to cross on top of the rope. That didn't make any sense, but he explained how it could be done, and I volunteered to try it.

It was downright easy to do, and a lot of fun. Several kids followed my example. A few of the girls couldn't do it. But some of them did. This next picture shows my classmate, Sueanne, getting across the swamp...

That picture of Sueanne shows the technique for crossing a rope, on top. I'm 60 years old now, but I feel confident that I could still do that.  

Now here's something really amazing.... I didn't know Sueanne very well back in '77,  but I remembered that she was from Block Island. A couple years ago I asked Everett Littlefield, a reader of this blog who is from there, if he knew Sueanne. Turns out he does, and she still lives on the island.


16 March 2018

Well, Of Course It's Barmy!

When I was a kid in elementary school we had a merry-go-round just like that one in the picture above. The only difference is that the one I remember was on blacktop. We would get that thing loaded up with kids and spin it fast. Some kids ended up getting asphalt-skinned knees and elbows, but it was fun. 

That old merry-go-round came to mind when I read In Britain's Playgrounds, 'Bringing in Risk' to Build Resilience. The article begins...

"Educators in Britain, after decades spent in a collective effort to minimize risk, are now, cautiously, getting into the business of providing it."

The article leads with this delightful photo...

So, the Educators over there are getting concerned that by overprotecting children, the children are not developing properly; they are growing up without the resilience and grit of children in earlier generations.

Amanda Spielman, a school safety inspector in the UK, is one of the concerned. In This Article she tells of one school's safety decision, and renders her opinion...
"[A] primary school cancelled its sports day because of that grave menace, “dew on the grass.”
That strikes me as simply barmy. Schoolchildren have been sliding around on muddy fields for centuries, yet in this case they missed out on the end of term fun (and exercise) of sports day because of an overzealous approach to health and safety." 

Yep. That's barmy alright. That's so barmy it's laughable. Barmy. Barmy. Barmy.

The good part of this story (aside from some kids in Britain now getting to have more fun) is that I learned a new word.


I was telling Marlene about this whole barmy risk-aversion way of raising children, and she reminded me of when two of our sons made their own medieval weapons...

And used them...

Then there were the homemade medieval flails (a.k.a., war maces)...

Oh, they were fun! ...

Those photos were taken twelve years ago. Robert, was 15 and James was 12. I wrote about them Here and Here. Good memories, they were.

I'm sure that most adults reading this did not experience the problems of a risk-averse, overprotective childhood. This would especially be the case if you were blessed to grow up in a rural area. You probably experienced a childhood of risk and adventure, and the great memories that kind of childhood provides (not to mention the development of resilience and grit). 

I'm no expert when it comes to raising kids. I could have done better. But one of the best things I did was deliberately live in a place where my sons had fields, and woods, and streams, and ponds. Places to roam and explore. And I gave them the tools they needed to make things. And I let them be boys.

That was a good thing. 

It was a right thing.

It was important. 

And, admittedly, it was barmy at times.

But it was barmy in a good way.


Barmy means crazy, or foolish. According to Wikipedia, "the meaning, foolish, is cited as dating only from 1892, so this usage may be derived from Barming, in Kent, the location of the county's psychiatric hospital (colloquially loonybin)."


In Praise Of
The Splinter Liberator

Hardly a week goes by that I'm not digging one or more "splinters" of some sort out of my hands. Sharp bits from wood, metal or plants often require considerable self-surgery to find and extract. As is so often the case, having the right tool for the job makes a big difference.

With that in mind, a few years back, I bought the splinter liberator you see above. The tool is made of stainless steel. The end is triangular in cross section, and tapers to a sharp point.

I didn't totally understand what was so great about the liberator when I bought it. But the first time I used it, I immediately loved it. After years of probing and digging for splinters with a pin, I had found a far more effective instrument.

When not in use, the end unscrews from the handle. Then you place the point down into the hollow handle and screw it tight. It's an ideal storage solution.

The splinter liberator I purchased is a V96-400, made in Pakistan. It's not a high-quality medical instrument, but it has been entirely adequate for my needs. 

I don't remember where I got my splinter liberator, but This Amazon Link has a splinter liberator that looks similar. It actually looks like a better tool because it has another instrument end. And the price is reasonable.

Another option for splinter removal is to use epsom salts. I recently learned about this amazing method.  This Link has all the details. 

15 March 2018

"Black Friday"
From The Famous
Old Trusty Catalog
Of 1918
(Part 2)

After the War of Northern Aggression, and prior to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, there were numerous banking panics and failures in the United States. The "Black Friday" excerpt (below) from The Famous Old Trusty incubator catalog of 1918 references some of these panics. 

The Panic of 1893 was a depression that lasted four years. 503 banks closed down. Here is a brief description of the 1893 depression...
The Panic of 1893 was a national economic crisis set off by the collapse of two of the country's largest employers, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company. Following of the failure of these two companies, a panic erupted on the stock market. Hundreds of businesses had overextended themselves, borrowing money to expand their operations. When the financial crisis struck, banks and other investment firms began calling in loans, causing hundreds of business bankruptcies across the United States. Banks, railroads, and steel mills especially fell into bankruptcy. Over fifteen thousand businesses closed during the Panic of 1893.
Unemployment rates soared to twenty to twenty-five percent in the United States during the Panic of 1893. Homelessness skyrocketed, as workers were laid off and could not pay their rent or mortgages. The unemployed also had difficulty buying food due to the lack of income. (source link)

The 1913 Federal Reserve Act was supposed to solve all those economic problems by creating a centralized, private, national Bank. The newly established, euphemistically named, Federal Reserve would, ostensibly, "provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system."

Sixteen years later, came the Great Depression, followed, in time, by numerous economic recessions. And now, after 105 years, the purchasing power of the American dollar has dropped over 96% (link). Well, so much for stabilization of the financial and monetary system. 

But it is to be expected. Centralization of power always serves to benefit the centralizers most. But only for awhile. Then it fails. Every time. Think Babylon. Or, think Gordon Lightfoot, and The Pride Of Man...

It's all us gullible "little people" who suffer the most when an economic crisis hits, but the Famous Old Trusty catalog of 1918 had some down-to-earth advice for common folks looking to survive another round of hard times. 

Raise chickens! Sell eggs! Better yet, get yourself an Old Trusty to hatch your own eggs. And you can sell pullets to your neighbors too. 

This short excerpt, written by H.H. Johnson, owner of the Old Trusty company, provides us with an historical insight into severe financial crisis and "prepping" 100 years ago.

Black Friday
Black Friday, September 24, 1869, was before my time, also the panic of '73 (Sept. 18, 1873), but the panic of 1893 made a lasting impression. There were a few years following when the hens laid golden eggs. The owner of a flock was panic proof.
As usual, I want to tell a story. We came to Clay Center in 1894. The times were hard, good and hard. The only man in the community making real money was a German farmer, who had about 150 hens. He was making more than a living. The hens paid their way as well as their owner's way, with something to spare.
When the hen shines to the best advantage, or when we appreciate them the most, is about the time when we need their earnings. Most of western Kansas and Nebraska can remember the great drouth of 1894. The settlers who had good flocks of hens stayed and held down their homesteads, which are now valuable farms, while those who did not have a good supply of the panic proof hens hiked out to their wife's folks farther east.
Give a widow and her family $100 worth of hens and she will not only get along, but will lay by some money.
When $100 worth of poultry will do these things for a widow, it would seem that a little bigger investment would be justifiable on the part of any farmer or person who has room to raise poultry. I know it would pay them big. We have thousands of customers who are making it pay big. They use from one to a half dozen incubators and as many brooders.

The world has changed a lot in 100 years. Now we have Walmart, and eggs are cheap at Walmart. At least, for now they are.

(click picture for enlarged view)

14 March 2018

This is What I Love
About Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson spoke at Queens University in Canada on March 5. The short clip above shows how the event was disrupted, and Peterson's response afterwards. 

He fearlessly says what every reasonable person is thinking when they see this sort of thing, but he says it much better than most of us would be able to.

Jordan Peterson is, simply put, a warrior. The weapons of his warfare are words, ideas and logic, coupled with his knowledge of history and human nature. I have tremendous respect for him because of the principled stand he has taken in Canada against political correctness and "compelled speech" by the Canadian government.

The next video is of the entire Queens University presentation. It's nearly two hours long (I watched the whole thing), and it shows the continuing disturbance at the event by neo-Marxist provocateurs. But they fail to stop it.

As the beliggerants are outside, pounding on the windows to the room (actually breaking some), Peterson says, "That's the sound of the Barbarians pounding at the gates." 

He wasn't joking. It was an apt and sobering metaphor. 

Invading Barbarians, at the gates of Rome, eventually broke through in 410. Mayhem, pillaging, destruction, and mass murder ensued. The once-great Roman empire would be no more. But, yes, Rome fell from within first.

After the event at Queens University, Professor Peterson went to Australia. The following interview in Australia gives you some insights into Peterson, and his stand against "compelled language." This man is on the front lines of a critically important cultural battle. 

13 March 2018

The Famous Old Trusty
Part 1

Old Trusty Catalog From 1918
(click picture for enlarged view)

I was at a flea market a few years back, and it was on a table marked 'FREE." I would have easily paid five bucks for it.  But there it was—a gift for this Deliberate Agrarian. 

To the average person it's just a dirty, old, rotting incubator catalog, but to me it's 106 pages of forgotten agrarian history.

(click picture for enlarged view)

It so happened that Old Trusty incubators were a big deal 100 years ago. They were a big deal because they were money-making machines for a lot of enterprising farm folks (and some city dwellers too), as you will learn from future blog posts here. But first, here are the incubators...

(click picture for enlarged view)

(click picture for enlarged view)
Many years ago, I had a chance to get an Old Trusty incubator like you see in the above picture—made out of California Redwood! I didn't know it was California redwood at the time, and I had no place to put the thing, so, sad to say, it ended up in a dumpster. Had I known it was redwood, I'm sure I would have salvaged the wood. It was free for the taking! 

In my next Old Trusty post, I will show you the Old Trusty factory in Clay Center, Nebraska. It was something!

And I'll share other interesting things from this old catalog, including lots of great old photographs, like this one...

(click picture for enlarged view)
Yes, indeed, folks back then were "mighty well pleased" with their Old Trusty incubators. 

Stay tuned for Part 2...

12 March 2018

Missing The
"Follow By Email"

click the screen shot to see a larger view

Several readers are reporting that the "Follow By Email" option for this blog is not showing on their computer. The screen view above shows what I'm seeing on the right hand column of this site. Is that what you are seeing?

One reader has told me that the options are not showing if you have an ad blocker on your computer. If you are not seeing the "Follow By Email" or the "Subscribe To" forms on the sidebar, and you know how to work with your ad blocker, you should be able to disable the ad blocker long enough to sign up for the e-mails.

Are there other ways for a person to sign up for notices of new blog posts?

March 18 Update

Yes, it turns out there is another way you can sign up to receive e-mail notices of new blog posts. All you have to do is click the following...

Subscribe to The Deliberate Agrarian 2.0 by Email

Maple Sugaring
Circa 1850

Verne Morton Photo from Groton, NY 1903

I have been posting excerpts from Susan Fenimore Cooper's insightful book, Rural Hours. She wrote about the natural history and agrarian culture around her home in Cooperstown N.Y., circa 1850. 

Today's excerpt refers to making maple sugar, not syrup. The old-timers made sugar with their maple because sugar was easily stored and transported, and it would keep indefinitely. Syrup will keep too, but it needs to be bottled into a sealed jar. Canning jar "technology" was not around in 1850. 

Saturday, April 1st—Fresh maple sugar offered for sale today. A large amount of this sugar is still made in our neighborhood, chiefly for home consumption on the farms, where it is a matter of regular household use, many families depending on it altogether, keeping only a little white sugar for sickness; and it is said that children have grown up in this county without tasting any but maple sugar.

Some farmers have a regular "sugar-bush," where none but maples are suffered to grow; and on the older farms you occasionally pass a beautiful grove of this kind entirely clear of under-wood, the trees standing on a smooth green turf. More frequently, however, a convenient spot is chosen in the woods where maples are plenty.

The younger trees are not tapped, as they are injured by the process; it is only after they have reached a good size—ten or twelve inches in diameter—that they are turned to account in this way; twenty years at least must be their age, as they rarely attain to such a growth earlier; from this period they continue to yield their sap freely until they decay.

It is really surprising that any tree should afford to lose so much of its natural nourishment without injury; but maples that have been tapped for fifty years, or more, seem just as luxuriant in their foliage and flowers as those that are untouched. 

The amount of sap yielded by different trees varies—some will give nearly three times as much as others; the fluid taken from one tree is also much sweeter and richer than that of another; there seems to be a constitutional difference between them.
The fluid begins to run with the first mild weather in March; the usual period for sugar-making is about two weeks—one year more, another less.

Two or three hundred trees are frequently tapped in the same wood, and as the sap is running, the fires are burning, and the sugar is boiling all together, day and night, it is a busy moment at the "bush." The persons at work there, usually eat and sleep on the spot until their task is done; and it is a favorite rallying place with the children and young people of the farms, who enjoy vastly this touch of camp life, to say nothing of the new sugar, and a draught of fresh sap now and then.

There are at present farms in this county where two or three thousand pounds of sugar are prepared in one season. Formerly much of our sugar was sent to Albany and New York, and a portion is still sold their to the confectioners.

During the early history of the county, rents were usually paid in produce—wheat, potash, sugar, etc.,—for the convenience of the tenants, and it is on record that in one year sixty thousand pounds were received in this way by the leader of the little colony about this lake; a portion of it was refined and made into pretty little specimen loaves at a sugar-house in Philadelphia, and it was quite as white and pure as that of the cane. Maple sugar sells in the village this year for nine cents a pound, and good Havana for six cents.

Verne Morton Photo from Groton, NY 1903

11 March 2018

Billy Sunday
Part 2

Back on March 7th I wrote about an old Billy Sunday biography I recently bought, and mentioned that the book had a lot of Sunday quips. In this post, I will share a few of them.

Some of these quotes are hard to understand because they apply to American culture a century ago. They were different times, to be sure. Nevertheless, much of what Sunday says still applies to our day and time.

While I totally disagree with the theology expressed in a couple of these quotes, it isn't my intention to analyze and criticize—only to provide you with this thought-provoking historical perspective on Billy Sunday. Some of these quotes are good enough to commit to memory.


"They say to me, 'Bill, you rub the fur the wrong way.' I don't; let the cats turn 'round."

"Paul said he would rather speak five words that were understood than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. That hits me. I want people to know what I mean, and that's why I try to get down where they live. What do I care if some puff-eyed, dainty little dibbly-dibbly preacher goes tibbly-tibbling around because I use plain Anglo-Saxon words."

"It isn't a good thing to have synonyms for sin. Adultery is adultery, even though you call it affinity."

"If a man goes to hell he ought to be there, or he wouldn't be there."

"The church gives people what they need; the theatre gives them what they want."

"Death-bed repentance is burning the candle of life in the service of the devil, and then blowing the smoke into the face of God."

"Your reputation is what people say about you. Your character is what God and your wife know about you."

"I believe that cards and dancing are doing more to damn the spiritual life of the Church than the grog-shops—though you can't accuse me of being a friend of that stinking, dirty, rotten, hell-soaked business."

"If you took no more care of yourself physically than spiritually, you'd be just as dried up physically as you are spiritually."

"We place too much reliance upon preaching and upon singing, and too little on the living of those who sit in the pews."

"Look into the preaching Jesus did and you will find it was aimed straight at the big sinners on the front seats."

"Some homes need a hickory switch a good deal more than they do a piano."

"Churches don't need new members half so much as they need the old bunch made over."

"The bars of the church are so low that any old hog with two or three suits of clothes and a bank roll can crawl through."

"You can't measure manhood with a tape line around the biceps."

"The social life is the reflex of the home life."

"I don't believe there are devils enough in hell to pull a boy out of the arms of a godly mother."

"To train a boy in the way he should go you must go that way yourself."

"The man who lives for himself alone will be the sole mourner at his own funeral."

"The devil often grinds the axe with which God hews."

"Whisky is all right in its place, but its place is in hell."

"A pup barks more than an old dog."

"Character needs no epitaph. You can bury the man, but character will beat the hearse back from the graveyard and it will travel up and down the streets while you are under the sod. It will bless or blight long after your name is forgotten."

"Some people pray like a jack-rabbit eating cabbage."

If you put a polecat in the parlor, which will change first—the polecat or the parlor?"

"It won't save your soul if your wife is a Christian. You have got to be something more than a brother-in-law to the Church."

"All that God has ever done to save this old world, has been done through men and women of flesh and blood like ourselves."

"If every black cloud had a cyclone in it, the world would have been blown to toothpicks long ago."

"You can't raise the standard of women's morals by raising their pay envelope. It lies deeper than that."

"Put the kicking straps on the old Adam, feed the angel in you, and starve the devil."

"When a baby is born, what do you do with it? Put it in a refrigerator? That's a good place for dead chicken, and cold meat, but a poor place for babies. Then don't put these new converts, 'babes in Christ,' into refrigerator churches."

"Nobody can read the Bible thoughtfully, and not be impressed with the way it upholds the manhood of man. More chapters in the Bible are devoted to portraying the manhood of Caleb than the creation of the world."

"Home is on a level with the women; the town is on a level with the homes."

"The reason you don't like the Bible, you old sinner, is because it knows all about you."

"Nearly everybody is stuck up about something. Some people are even proud that they aren't proud."

"The average man is more careful of his company than the average girl."

"Going to church doesn't make a man a Christian, any more than going to a garage makes him an automobile."

"Wouldn't this city be a great place to live in if some people would die, get converted, or move away?"

"If you only believe things that you can understand you must be an awful ignoramus."

"There is more power in a mother's hand than in a king's scepter."

"Give your face to God and he will put his shine on it."

"If you want milk and honey on your bread, you'll have to go into the land where there are giants."

"There is nothing in the world of art like the songs mother used to sing."

"God pays a good mother. Mother's get your names on God's payroll."

"The man who can drive a hog and keep his religion will stand without hitching."

"If you would have your children turn out well, don't turn your home into a lunch counter and lodging house."

"The backslider likes the preaching that wouldn't hit the side of a house, while the real disciple is delighted when the truth brings him to his knees."

"There would be more power in the prayers of some folks if they put more white money in the collection basket."

"Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in."

This illustration and quote are from
the Billy Sunday biography


I know the answer to this, but I'm wondering if anyone else reading this can explain what "kicking straps" are?

10 March 2018

Sitting Is Bad, Bad, Bad

I worked some 25 years in the building trades. There is precious little sitting when you're in that business. I can remember thinking how nice it would be to have a sit-down job. Then I got a sit-down job. After sitting for hours every day in that job, I came to realize it's not a good thing.

The video above is a short summation of what's so bad about sitting for long periods. Our bodies were simply not created for extended chair sitting. 

I left my sedentary job in the prison system five years ago. I sit less now. But I still sit too much, especially in the winter months. So I'm looking to get a stand up desk. They are becoming a thing.

For now, the Jarvis Stand Up Desk (pictured above) is the one I'm leaning towards getting. The Frame Only is Available From Amazon (free shipping with Prime). I can get a top locally.

Adjustable-height electric desks are kind of expensive. But the expense is deductible if you have a home business. I'm waiting to see what my accountant tells me about my 2017 income taxes before I buy a new desk. That's always a downer.

If you are new to the concept of a stand-up desk, this guy explains it...

I'm wondering....  Do any of you reading this have experience with a stand-up desk? 


P.S. I have taken the font size of this post down a notch from previous posts. Do you think it is better at this size for viewing? Or is the larger font more agreeable? I appreciate the feedback.