Making
2,000-Year-Old
Bread

Dateline: 1 August 2014





There are several things in the above video that I find particularly intriguing and enjoyable to watch. 

First, there is the historical aspect of recreating a loaf of bread that was baked in 79 AD, and then discovered in 1930.

Second, I always like to watch a talented craftsman at his work, and the chef in this clip is, indeed, such a craftsman. 

And third, I love the fact that no bowls, spoons, or other utensils were used in the making of the bread. 

Making such a loaf of bread is a simple, beautiful and inspiring act of human creation.



A New
American-Made
Clothespin

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…

EKLIPSE
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.