Advice For
Soft, Fat & Weak Americans
From A Nigerian Survivor

Dateline: 16 July 2016 AD

Slim pickin's in Nigeria

All reliable indicators tell us that the American economy is in decline. Many people in the know say the now-unfolding European banking crisis will have a further deleterious effect on America's economy. The good news is that America is not as bad off as Nigeria.... yet. 

With the recent drop in oil prices, Nigeria (the world's 6th largest oil producer) has been hard hit. The unemployment rate is 70%+. Some government workers have not been paid in months. The best areas of the country may get electricity for only two hours a day. Robbery is common. 

If Americans were faced with a crisis similar to what is now occurring in Nigeria, they would die. That's because so many Americans are "soft, fat and weak." That's what Joshua Sheats, host of the Radical Personal Finance website says in this podcast interview: Think You've Got it Tough?

The interview is a discussion with a Nigerian man who has a survivor mentality. He is managing to make a living in a very tough economy, without expecting the government to help him. 

What I found most interesting about the interview is near the end, when Joshua asks the man if he has any advice for American's who may be experiencing trouble finding a job and making money. His advice is full of useful wisdom and encouragement.

If you are without a job, or you know someone who is looking for a job, this interview is well worth listening to. 

A Diner Dream

Dateline: 14 July 2106 AD

Burger Day at the Glenside Diner

I'm sure many readers here will recall the GoFundMe campaign I launched late last year for my son and daughter-in-law. Jimmy & Bekah's Diner Dream campaign raised over $4,000, and the money was used to get my "kids" off to a good start with their Glenside Diner here in the little rural town of Moravia, NY. Many readers of this blog graciously donated to the campaign (for which I am eternally grateful). The Diner Dream became a reality on January 1st of this year. I posted some pictures and wrote about it At This Link.

Well, it has now been 6 months (and 14 days) since Jimmy & Bekah took over the operation of the diner from Bekah's parents. In retrospect, I think they would say it has been a good six months. It has certainly been a learning experience for the young couple.

They are making their monthly payments to get the place paid off, and they are keeping all the other bills paid, and I think they are managing to save a little. But, as I tell my son, don't think you're getting ahead until this year is over and you've had your taxes figured.

I well remember a year in my life, when I was self employed as a remodeling contractor. I was doing a lot of cabinet refacing jobs and making more money that I had ever made in years past. I felt so good about the measure of success I was experiencing that I decided to take my family on a vacation to New Hampshire. Marlene thinks it was 1992. Jimmy wasn't even born at that time. We had a great vacation, and we spent more money on that little trip than we ever did before.

Then, come April of the following year, I got my taxes figured. I was stunned to discover that I owed the government far more money than I ever imagined I would owe. That hurt. Bad. Had I known they were going to take so much of my hard-earned money at tax time, I never would have taken that family vacation.

The old agrarian saying is, "Don't count your chickens before they've hatched."  

"Don't count your profits until you've paid your taxes" is a modern variation.


So, anyway, things are going pretty well with the diner. It's a LOT of work to keep a diner running smoothly, and little problems of various kinds crop up continually. But I think Jimmy and Bekah are dealing with them pretty well. I'm pleased to see it. Very pleased, indeed.


Thursdays are "Burger Day" at The Glenside Diner, and today is Thursday. Marlene was helping her sister in town with some things this morning and called me to see if I would want to meet her for lunch at the diner. And so I did.

I wasn't sure how I wanted my Glenside burger "built" so I said that I would take it with every topping option. When it came to the table, I told Marlene, "You gotta get a picture of this."  

The picture she took is at the top of this page.

That burger has lettuce, tomato, onions, jalapeño peppers, mushrooms,  fried onion ringlets, pickles, and Jimmy's homemade beer mustard on it.

With a side of broccoli salad, it cost six bucks. You won't find a better burger for that price. And it was delicious.

Bucket Irrigation
And Part 2 Of
My Stewardculture Interview

Dateline: 10 July 2016 AD

I've cranked out another YouTube video. This one is on the subject of Whizbang Bucket Irrigation For Gardeners. The video has information about a new strawberry-growing idea I'm trying this year. I also show my tomato plants on a string trellis, and Whizbang tire sidewall cloches.

As some of you know, I'm not blogging here much this summer, but I am posting fairly regularly to my Whizbang Gardening Facebook Page. Stop on by sometime.

My Stewardculture 
Interview: Part 2

Stewardculture magazine has now morphed into a much more user-friendly blog and is being hosted at the Sustainable Traditions web site.  And you can go there right now to read Part 2 of my Stewardculture interview... Herrick's Stewardculture Interview, Part 2.

An Early Summer Tour
Of My Garden

Dateline: 3 July 2016 AD

First An Update...

Last month this blog passed the 11-year mile marker.  Occasionally, I'll go back and read something I wrote long ago and had completely forgotten. I can't help but see that my early writings were undertaken with much more skill and contemplation. That was the case, no doubt, because I had far more  time to think and write when I worked at my state prison job.  Though I do not miss that job at all (3.5 years after leaving), I do miss the contemplative opportunities it afforded me.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't blogged here much lately. I'm not sure how much I'll be blogging here in the future. For this month of July, I may dig up some of my posts from past years and repost them. We'll see.

About The Garden Tour...

I decided that I would create a simple video tour of my garden here in early summer. That's it up top of this page. It's a simple production. Some will find it too boring to watch through. Others will stick with it and, hopefully, come away with some possible ideas to use in their own gardening pursuits.

My garden is, essentially, a large kitchen garden. I am growing primarily for two people. Marlene cans and freezes quite a bit. I usually grow enough onions, garlic, and potatoes for us to last the year. I try to get enough carrots planted to last us a whole year too. Our objective is not to grow all the food we need, but to grow a lot of wholesome, healthful food so we can, hopefully, have wholesome, healthy bodies that continue to work well for years to come.

In the event of a significant social/economic crisis, you can bet my gardening efforts would ramp up in response. Every square foot of available and suitable yard space would get planted and seriously tended ( I would also establish garden areas on our 16-acre field, which is a short hike away from our house). 

I've developed the needed gardening skills over the years (I've gardened since I was 16), and I have the tools and materials to expand.  I also have tools and materials for my sons, who are not, sad to say, much interested in gardening at his point.

My Next
 Gardening Book

I am in the very early stages of putting together another book on the subject of gardening. Specifically, I'm working on the outline. The book will not be out anytime soon. I am thinking it will be published in the spring of 2018 or 2019.  

So many gardening books have been written over the years, and there are so many gardening books being published all the time. I own many of them in either pdf or hard copy. None that I've seen thus far have been written from the perspective, and with the specific focus, that my next gardening book will have.  That's all I'll say for now.

Book Giveaway...

Speaking of gardening books, there are only 3 days left in Planet Whizbang Giveaway #4.  I'll be giving away 3 copies of the above book, which is a great book for anyone who has an interest in gardening. Go to the web site link above and get yourself entered. It's a simple thing. No strings attached, as they say. You can enter once a day if you wish, and that will, of course, increase your chances of winning the book.

An Economic Note

From my perspective as the owner of a small-scale mail order business, I see evidence of economic decline. My sales are definitely down from previous years. It may be due, in part, to more people now selling the products I sell. But there is something else going on, for sure.

It's not a crisis for me to have reduced sales. We have no debt.  We have some savings. We don't live high on the hog.  And we have land to draw more sustenance from (than we already are). I'm more concerned about all the others "out there" (average Americans?) who are in debt-slavery and almost totally dependent on not only the industrial providers, but a continually expanding economy to keep themselves and their families sheltered and fed.

The fundamental problem is, of course, that we now have an economic system that is based on ever-expanding debt that can never be repaid, AND the system is predicated on the premise that the economy will always be expanding.

There is no precedent in nature or history for continual expansion. The natural pattern of life is growth and decline, followed by growth and decline. 

Petit Pois

28 June 2016 AD

After Pam Baker mentioned how she liked Petit Pois peas in a comment at this blog, I tracked down some seeds and planted one of my raised garden beds with them. Specifically, I planted two rows down the center of the 30" wide bed (x 15' long). The two rows were 4" apart and the seeds were planted 1" apart in the rows. That planting scheme worked very well. It has been noted in my Whizbang Garden Journal, and I'll repeat it in future years when growing "bed peas," (as opposed to trellised peas).

I planted the seeds on March 24. We harvested the peas yesterday. 

It's worth noting that we have had a long stretch of hot and dry weather here, and I did no watering of the plants. Nevertheless, they grew vigorously, produced an abundance of pods, and the pods all matured at pretty much the same time. Had I planted the bed more intensely, I suspect the plants would have had a difficult time getting adequate moisture from the subsoil.

My wife, Marlene, pulled all the vines and brought them to the patio behind our house, where we have shade from the sun. We then picked off all the pods, before commencing to shell them.

We hand-shelled together for nearly an hour and a half.  The pleasure of hand-shelling peas started to wane after about half an hour. I was glad when that job was done.

Marlene will freeze the peas and we will enjoy them through the winter.

I'm wondering if anyone reading this has used a pea-sheller  device of some sort to shell English peas, like these. If so, what kind, and how well did it work?

Hotter Than A July

Dateline: 20 June 2016 AD

It's not July yet but, as Greg Brown sings in his classic down-t0-earth song, "Canned Goods," it's been hotter than a July Twoooooooooo-Mayyyyyyyyyyy-Toe here in upstate New York.

Deliberate Agrarian blog reader, Elizabeth, from out in the future free state of Jefferson, California, reads my Whizbang Gardening Facebook Page, and she saw the recent post I made there about the above YouTube clip. After which she wrote the following...

"Well, I wanted to make a comment about the "Canned Goods" song by Greg Brown, and wanted to make it on your blog...Thanks so much for that touching song. It's almost like my theme song for your blog, Herrick. The song and this blog mean a lot to me. I feel like I'm part of a family, so many names of people who comment have become familiar to me, and precious, as you and your family have become to me as well. That's what that song churned up in me, gratefulness, the good life, relationships!!!"

That's beautiful, Elizabeth. Thank you. I'll get back to writing at this blog soon, I hope.

As for the song, I recommend that everyone watch the YouTube clip above. At 38 seconds into the movie you will see some potatoes in a basement. That picture happens to be of my potato harvest from years ago. I posted it here to this blog. I was so surprised to see my picture there, and that's how I happened to mention it on my Facebook page.

If you like the Canned Goods song, and you want to hear a  long, rambling, version, check out this link: Canned Goods by Greg Brown (the delightful long version).

Strawberry Season

Dateline: 12 June 2016 AD

Berries picked this morning.
(click the picture for a delicious close-up view)

Hello Dear Readers,

I'm not blogging much these days. Life is just too busy. 

But I am keeping the strawberries picked, and we are certainly enjoying them, even if they are a bit on the small side this year.

I hope everyone's summer is off to a great start.

If you haven't yet entered Planet Whizbang Giveaway #3, please go check it out.



Summer Reading

Dateline: 5 June 2016

Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. The older we get, the more we experience nostalgia. And it is hot summer days that evoke a particularly sweet nostalgia in me. 

I have relatively few truly good memories of my younger days, growing up in a suburban neighborhood outside Syracuse, New York. But there were days in the summer when I would set myself up in the back yard, under the shade of a birch tree, on an old rattan chaise lounge, with a pile of books, and a cool drink, and just read. 

That chaise lounge was like a boat in the ocean. It took me to places where I was not. Just me and my books. I was an avid comic book reader early on. Then came the Hardy Boys and Brains Benton mysteries. From there, I graduated to more grown-up reading interests.

The old chaise lounge came from my stepfather's family. It looked very much (but not exactly) like this one...

The chaise had four old, sturdy purple cushions made with a short bristley fabric. It had wheels just like in the picture. But the arms were different in that they had a rattan cup holder and a place to store reading materials.

When my family moved out of the suburbs to an old farmhouse in the country (I was in 9th grade), the chaise went upstairs into the barn, where it only occasionally was brought outdoors in the summer. 

The fact is, in the suburbs, I had pretty much nothing to do in the summer. I mowed the lawn, but that was it for responsibilities. So I would read for hours on end. There were, after all, no computers or video games in those days. And I am thankful for that.

But when we got to the country, there was so much else to be doing that I never read for hours under the shade of a tree in the backyard like I once did. And I've always missed that about summer.

The old barn at my parent's place gradually fell into disrepair. The roof leaked in places. I would often go up into the barn and check on the old chaise lounge to make sure it wasn't getting wet. Then in the late 1980's a big wind blew most of the roof off the barn and it partially collapsed.

Upon hearing of the damage, I went up to see for myself how bad it was. My main concern was the chaise lounge. Had it survived?

Part of the upper floor where it was had collapsed. And portions of the roof had fallen in. The chaise was buried but it was in a pocket of jumbled lumber pieces, completely unharmed. I considered it's preservation from destruction to be something of a miracle at the time. With considerable effort, I got it out of there and brought it home.

I made space for the antique in my shop. My thought being that someday I would have the time to spend a whole summer day in my back yard doing nothing but reading books. The nostalgia was powerful.

Then, around ten years later, I did something with that chaise lounge that I never expected I would do..... I sold it. I really needed the space in my shop, but, more than that, I needed the money. 

I couldn't find any pictures or information about the chaise online back then. So I listed it on EBAY with a minimum bid of $100. The single winning bid came from a couple in Maine. They drove all the way to central New York to get the piece, and they were delighted with their purchase.

It so happened that they collected and restored antique rattan furniture. They knew the history of the chaise. It was made in Massachusetts in the 1800's (my stepfather's family was from Massachusetts). The man told me it was in remarkably good shape. "They're hard to find in this condition."

I smiled and waved good bye as the nice couple drove back to Maine with my chaise lounge. I regretted what I had just done, and I regret it even more to this day.

Then I went in my house and checked out the web site the couple had given me. It showed several nice houses on the Maine coast that they rented out in the summers. The pictures of the interior of the houses looked like pictures out of a magazine. They showed beautifully decorated interiors with an abundance of restored antique rattan furniture. Ocean views could be seen through the windows. 

I needed money at the time. That couple apparently had an abundance of it. And they also had my beloved old chaise lounge. I felt pretty low.

It was just a piece of furniture. I can't take it with me when I leave this realm. and it would have no meaning to my children. But still.... the nostalgia.


These days, my summers are not for lounging and reading. I typically work at my business, in my garden, on my land, or around my house (I'm still trying to get the roof finished) every day from morning to dark, or until I "hit the wall," as we say around here.

My work is not too laborious, and I take small breaks when they're warranted. But I'm persistently slogging away at several projects every day, until my brain or my body are spent. I like to work. I like to be exhausted at the end of a day. I like it when my arms and hands and back and shoulders ache from use. I feel better about myself, and I sleep better.


So, yesterday, a Saturday in June, I worked in my garden for awhile, before getting my Planet Whizbang mail-orders packaged. Then I worked for awhile at making Classic American Clothespins. Then I worked for awhile on handles for the Whizbang Wheel Hoe kits I sell. Then I hit the wall.

It was late afternoon. Still fairly early. And I remembered that I got an old gardening book in the mail. Marlene's anti-gravity chair was empty in the back yard.....

It's far from a vintage rattan chaise lounge, but close enough. And for a little while I was a kid again.

Mama Kitty likes the anti-gravity chair too

Interview With
Jean-Martin Fortier

Dateline: 1 June 2016

Jean-Martin and his wife, Maude-Hèléne.

Jean-Martin Fortier's book, The Market Gardener, really impacted the way I garden. First, his use of 30" wide permanent planting beds with 18" walkways is the ideal size for me to work with. I had experimented in years past with wider beds and narrower walkways and I wasn't happy with any of them. But 30" and 18" is just right.

And it was Fortier's book that broke down my 30+ year bias against black plastic in my garden. His use of heavy plastic as an occultation cover makes so much sense that I had to give it a try, and I'm glad I did. 

So it's no wonder that the current Planet Whizbang Giveaway is for a DVD documentary of Jean-Martin's 1.5 acre farm in Quebec. There are 6 days left before the contest ends. There will be three winners.

Besides the new documentary, I want to let the avid gardeners among my readership know about the recent interview with Jean-Martin. I highly recommend it. Here's the link:  J.M. Fortier on Six-Figure Farming With The Market Garden.

There is so much for a home gardener to consider in the interview. Jean-Martin discusses his gardening system, including bed/walkway widths, and  the use of occultation plastic. But I learned something new when he discussed the use of a broad fork (his favorite tool). It turns out that the fork is NOT used to turn or seriously disrupt the soil in his garden beds. It is used only to aerate the beds. Check out the interview.

One more thing... The Farmer to Farmer Podcast (where the interview can be found) is an exceptional web site and resource for people who are interested in gardening and small-scale agriculture.

I've listened to several of the interviews at that web site and another good one that I recommend is Karl Hammer on Microbes, Carbon, and The Compost Connection.   That title may sound a bit esoteric but, WOW, I really enjoyed listening to Karl Hammer. He has a way with words and the man is passionate about soil biology, manure, compost, and all of that. 

For those who don't know, Karl Hammer owns the Vermont Compost Company. The compost-based seed starting mix he makes is legendary.