Government Cheese,
Aunt Ruth's Equities, And
That Virgil Caine Song

Please Note: 
The following is a cross-post from my new blog, The Deliberate AmericanStop on over sometime and check it out. Thank you.

I remember the day my parents came home from town with a bunch of free food from the government. I was 12 years old. It was 1970. There were a couple big bricks of yellow cheese, and powdered milk, and white rice, and some other things I don't recollect. The cheese was pretty good, but the powdered milk wasn't.  

The food was for poor people. It was "welfare" food. I didn't like knowing that my parents were poor. 

We were poor because my stepfather had experienced a serious health setback. 

He didn't look or act sick to me. I saw him as a fit, hard-working Marine veteran. But he wasn't as fit as he looked because he went into the VA hospital for surgery. A couple weeks later he came home a different person. He was so pale and weak and helpless that  only with my mother's help could he get up the four steps into our house. He was only 39 years old. I remember it well. It was a shock to my senses.

My stepfather had been the manager of an industrial laundry in Syracuse, NY. But when he went into the hospital, the company let him go. I don't know exactly how long he was out of work but it was long enough to be an economic hardship. Thus, the government food.

I'm sure my parents didn't like taking that free government food. To my knowledge, they never did again. And I suspect that is how they came to sell Aunt Ruth's stocks.

Aunt Ruth was one of only two living relatives my stepfather had. She was his mother's sister and she lived in California. Aunt Ruth had no children. I met her once, when she came to visit some years earlier. She was a pleasant, white-haired, old lady. Aunt Ruth died a couple years before my stepfather went into the hospital. She left him some stocks in her will.

We started getting mail in big envelopes from different companies. They contained colorful photos and financial details. Marathon Oil and Phelps Dodge were two I remember. They were blue-chip stocks from long-established companies. Aunt Ruth had invested her money wisely.

Back in those times, the daily newspapers had a couple of pages reporting how each and every stock was doing. I was such a nerd back then that I made graphs and charted the daily progress of several stocks.

In time, my stepfather recovered and got back to work. I noticed that the information from the various stock companies stopped coming in the mail. I asked why. My stepfather told me he sold the stocks.

I've always thought that selling those stocks was like selling the seed corn. Between 1970 and 2011 (when my stepfather died) the average annual return on stocks was around 10%. One dollar in the stock market in 1970 grew to be worth around $50 in 2011.

In retrospect, selling Aunt Ruth's stocks might not have been the smartest thing to do, but it was the responsible thing to do. My stepfather had a family to support, and he was down on his luck. 

Unfortunately, my stepfather struggled with one serious health crisis after another for the rest of his days. Finances were always tight. My parents were always struggling to keep the bills paid. There were periods of time when the bill collectors called. Our phone service was shut off once for awhile. My parents would manage to save some money, and then another health and financial crisis would come.

My stepfather worked well past retirement age, because he had to. And when he died (my mother had died a few years earlier), his estate amounted to a small amount in a checking account, along with the contents of his house.

That's a sad story, but it's not an uncommon story, and it's not a bad story. In fact, it's actually a good story. That's because my stepfather was a remarkable example of a responsible man. He was a diligent and hard worker who sacrificed for his family. I can't recall him ever wasting money, or spending a lot of money on something special for himself. No boats, no fancy cars, no expensive hobbies, nothing like that—it was all about providing for those he loved. And, at times, I saw my parents being generous towards others with money they really couldn't afford to be generous with.

Life dealt my stepfather one cruel blow after another, but he took the blows and he fought back to the best of his ability. He did the best he could against difficult odds. I admire him greatly for the example he was to me.


That phrase, "selling the seed corn," got me to thinking about the song, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The YouTube video below shows Levon Helm singing the song, while playing the drums. 

I can't play a musical instrument, and I can't sing, but Levon Helm can do both at once. It's a fine song and a remarkable performance by a very talented man.

So, anyway, there is a place in that song where Levon sings: "You can't raise the cane back up when it's in the feed."

I always thought those words had something to do with using up the seed corn. But I have recently learned that I have long misheard the lyrics.

He is actually singing: "You can't raise a Caine back up when it's in defeat." 

He is referring to Virgil Caine (who served on the Danville Train).

"This Agrarian Life"
(My New Vlog)

Dateline: 15 May 2017

Video blogging is now where it's at with savvy online marketing. Whether it's the marketing of ideas or products, more people will pay attention to you if you make a movie and put it on YouTube. 

I've come to terms with that reality, and have now launched a new vlog titled This Agrarian Life. And, of course, every vlog must have it's own web site:

This new vlog has been a long time in the thinking. But my thinking was that I would not video blog. The reason being, my lack of technical and stage prowess, along with the amount of time it has taken me in the past to make the few YouTube videos I've managed to crank out.

Written words have always been my strong point anyway. They have served me well. I'm comfortable with words. I'm not naturally inclined to put my live self into the medium.

But I've been feeling that I need to be a little less introverted. And then it occurred to me that the prospect of video blogging was overwhelming to me because I was complicating it. 

What if I just filmed real short clips (less than 3 minutes) of various small-subject things that I've done, or am doing, here on my little homestead? With a single-take, short, focused video, I could eliminate the time-consuming production work of putting the video together.

And, instead of adding a "proper" introduction, with music and all of that, I would just have a 3-second introductory title frame. That would save me even more time.

And, with my spotty, low-bandwidth internet service, I might be able to upload a short video to YouTube in only a couple of hours (instead of overnight, and then some).

So, I made 7 short vlogs last Friday and uploaded them to YouTube over the weekend. With my scaled-down approach, the videos were easy to shoot and produce. And they uploaded to YouTube so much faster than previous (longer) movies I made.

Initial viewer response has been pretty good. I'm encouraged.

I have not thought this vlogging journey out too far into the future. I'm just taking it a vlog at a time. But I hope to make a lot of these mini-movies in the days ahead.

I invite you to join My YouTube Channel and watch all the episodes of This Agrarian Life as they come out. You will find all my YouTube videos at that link. 

Making Whizbang Solar Pyramids
(A Most Excellent Garden Cloche)

Dateline: 2 May 2017

A single tomato plant, thriving inside a solar pyramid.

I've had a lot of gardening ideas. Some seem clever at first, and hold promise, but end up disappointing me. Then again, some actually work pretty well. Take, for example, Solar Pyramids. They are an idea I developed several years ago, and they work amazingly well.

I explain the story behind my Whizbang solar pyramid idea in my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. For people who don't have the book, and who don't want to spend the money to buy a copy, I sell the chapter about solar pyramids as an inexpensive PDF download.

I am more enthused than ever with my solar pyramid idea after realizing that the unique solar cloches integrate perfectly with my Minibeds-on-Plastic gardening idea. The one difficult aspect of the solar pyramids was that they had to be sealed around the bottom perimeter with soil, but it turns out that is not necessary with minibeds. The minibed frame anchors and seals the bottom of the pyramids just fine.

The solar pyramids that I made, as I'm about to show you (with sewn seams), are no worse for wear after five years of use. The ones that I made by trying to fuse the plastic together with a hot putty knife have not held together.

The translucent superstrong woven poly from Northern Greenhouse Sales is remarkable stuff. It's incredibly durable and long lasting. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if these solar cones lasted me for more than 20 years. The plastic is UV resistant and it is only outside for a couple months in the spring.

So, I decided to buy a 10'x 12' piece of the superstrong woven poly to make more pyramid covers. I paid $69.60 for the piece, plus $15 for shipping. Total cost: $84.60.

However, to my surprise, the good folks at Northern Greenhouse Sales actually sent me a 12'x 12' piece. And I'm glad they did. I was able to get exactly 8 solar pyramid covers out of the 12' x 12' sheet, and I would have gotten only 6 covers out of the 10' x 12' piece. The point being, if you want optimal yield, order a 12' x 12' sheet.

In the picture above you can see the roll of superstrong woven poly, tape, scissors, and my pattern. I tell how to make a pattern in my Idea Book For Gardeners

I made that particular pattern back in 2012. When I was done with it, I rolled it up and stuck it in the rafters of my shop. It was pretty dusty and dirty but was still useable, as you can see in this next picture...

The only place I had to lay this all out was on my kitchen table (my workshop is too crowded). I taped the pattern in place...

Then I traced around the perimeter of the pattern with a Sharpie marker...

I proceeded to do that seven more times on the sheet of plastic, then I cut the shapes out with a pair of scissors...

The woven poly does not unravel after you cut it. Not at all. It's fused into a solid piece of superstrong material. After the eight pieces were cut out, my wife sewed the seams...

Here are the eight covers all sewed up and ready to use...

Here's a cover on the frame in my kitchen...

Here's a picture of one of the solar pyramid cloches in a Minibed...

Here's a picture of some snow-covered solar pyramids in my Minibeds-on-Plastic garden...

But, while the weather outside was frightful, the environment inside those solar pyramids wasn't so bad at all...

I have all kinds of seeds planted under the solar pyramid cloches.

Stay tuned for more details...

I invite you to read about how I think Thomas Jefferson actually invented solar pyramid cloches back in 1812. CLICK HERE to read the story.

Planting Into A Cover Crop
In The Spring

Dateline: 30 April 2017

This blog post may be the most useful gardening revelation I have ever shared....

If you have read my garden writings for long you know that I became interested in no-till gardening last year, and that I started growing some cover crops in my garden. The picture above is an example of what I mean. The garden bed on the right has a cover crop of oats and the garden bed on the left has a cover crop of mustard. As you can tell by the leaves on the ground, that picture was taken in the fall.

I did not have time to get any cover crops into my Minibeds-on-Plastic experimental garden last year. But, as I explain in my Minibeds-on-Plastic Report, cover cropping and no-till gardening will be an integral part of my whole approach to minibed gardening. So, please keep that in mind as you read this post.

If I were to till a cover crop (like you see in the picture above) into the soil at some point, that cover crop would be a "green manure." But with no-till gardening I'm not interested in expending the effort to till the green manure into the soil.

Rather, my objective is to grow roots underneath the soil and leave them in place. While the plants are alive, the soil ecology interacts with the roots, resulting in a healthy, LIVE soil. When the plants die, the roots in the soil die also and feed the ecology, while the biomass above can be utilized as a mulch, which protects the soil—again promoting life and biological activity in the soil.

Now, the other thing that a cover crop as I've just described it does, and the thing I want to emphasize here, is that it GREATLY improves soil tilth. It makes the soil more "mellow," which is to say, it is more easily worked. And when garden soil is easy to work, especially at planting time in the spring, it is a real joy.

This delightful reality was my recent experience in that oat-seeded bed you see in the picture at the top of this page. Here's a picture of that same bed during a thaw this past winter...

And here is a picture of the oat bed as it looked this spring...

If you look close, you can see some full-size leaves that were captured by the stand of oats in the fall. And I should mention that, as the oats were getting started, I sprinkled some shredded leaves between the rows. So the bed had the benefit of growing oats, along with some leaf mulch.

This next picture shows me digging a furrow into the same bed to plant some onion sets earlier this spring...

What you are seeing in that picture is a soil that is incredibly mellow and easy to dig in. In this case, a picture really doesn't tell the story like I wish it could. Suffice it to say that I have never had a spring-planting soil that was so easy to work in. I simply parted the oat-and-leaf cover and used my Whizbang pocket cultivator to fork a planting furrow under the string line. NEVER have I planted a bed of onions in the spring so easily. 

The soil tilth is far, far better than if I had just put a leaf mulch over it for the winter. I think there is a synergistic soil tilth result that comes with this sort of cover-cropping and no till gardening.

Here, for comparison, is another bed in my garden that had no cover crop, no mulch, and not even an occultation cover. This picture was taken on the same day as the picture above...

That barren bed is hard from exposure to rain and snow for the past few months. It needs some rain to get the pretty-much-lifeless soil into shape so the bed can be cultivated for planting. It will require a lot of WORK on my part, as compared to the bed with the oat cover crop.

The lesson here is clear and powerfully compelling. Cover cropping improves and maintains soil structure. It allows for very easy, no till gardening. I am persuaded more than ever that a system of simple cover cropping, along with no till gardening, in manageable minibed "islands", surrounded by an ocean of black plastic mulch, will make for a very successful Minibeds-on-Plastic gardening system. 

But the proof will come with my Minibeds-on-Plastic experimental garden as I commence to plant and tend the beds this first year of the experiment. Stay tuned for that.

Before I end this post, here's a picture of my garden taken a couple days ago. It is actually a picture of one of my elderberry bushes that I have bush-planted, as explained (for raspberries) in my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. There are strings tied from each elderberry cane to the post.

The onion bed I wrote about above is visible in the background. I have planted three other beds (including that one with the hard, dead soil) to spring cover crops. One to oats. One to rye. And one to mustard. I am experimenting with each cover crop. I can cut them down and plant into the bed at any time.

Also, you can see some minibeds with Solar Pyramids in the background of the picture (some of the minibeds on the right have not been positioned and staked in place yet).

(click on any of the pictures to see larger views)

Ralph Borsodi's Advice
For Surviving Economic Disaster
(Part 11)

Dateline: 26 April 2017

This essay is part of a series about Ralph Borsodi and his book, Inflation is Coming And What to Do About ItClick Here to go to the beginning of this series.


The Conclusion...

Some Final Thoughts

Ralph Borsodi was incorrect. The "worst financial disaster in history" did not come to America after he wrote his book, or even in his lifetime. 

But, make no mistake about it, Americans have been hammered by inflation to some degree since Borsodi warned about it. And, as we all know, government debt has soared to levels that can never be repaid.

The hyperinflationary day of reckoning Borsodi predicted may still be ahead of us. And like every hyperinflationary crisis in history, most people will be ill prepared to deal with it.

Ralph Borsodi's Advice
For Surviving Economic Disaster
(Part 10)

Dateline: 21 April 2017

This essay is part of a series about Ralph Borsodi and his book, Inflation is Coming And What to Do About ItClick Here to go to the beginning of this series.


In the previous part of this series, Ralph Borsodi urged Americans with money in the bank to withdraw it and convert it into tangible and productive property. In this excerpt, he provides many examples...

After this part of the book (of which there is more than I have shared with you here), Borsodi discusses the matter of what a family should do with its stocks and bonds in order to avoid their becoming worth less and less as inflation comes. His concedes that in a time of inflation, good quality stocks in companies with a record of profit can pace inflation. However, his advice is best summed up in these excerpts...

From the subject of stocks and bonds, Borsodi moves into the matter of life insurance. He is not opposed to having life insurance, but he is opposod to purchasing life insurance policies that have  "compulsory investment elements" in them. He advises that such policies be cashed out and the money used to purchase productive property (as outlined above). Then, purchase Term life insurance.

I'll share Ralph Borsodi's final words of advice from this book in the next part in this series.

To go to Part 11 (the conclusion) 
of this series.

Ralph Borsodi's Advice
For Surviving Economic Disaster
(Part 9)

Dateline: 20 April 2017

A Old-Fashioned American Bank Run.

This essay is part of a series about Ralph Borsodi and his book, Inflation is Coming And What to Do About ItClick Here to go to the beginning of this series.


Click on the above pictures to see enlarged views.

As you can see, Ralph Borsodi was a prepper before prepping was cool. In the next installment he gives suggestions for how to "invest" all that money you take out of the bank.

To go to Part 10 of this series

Futureman Turns Five

Dateline: 17 April 2017

Futureman Meets The Chickenhead

Futureman, our one and only grandchild, has been visiting us for a few days. It was five months ago that he was last here. There is no telling when we'll see him again, so we make the most of it. He turned five this month and we are more cognizant than ever of the "memory machine" that is at work in his mind.

One of the things he wanted to do while here, that he remembers from before, is make carrot juice. So we made carrot juice...

Beyond that, he wanted to ride in my tractor. We did that too. But, better yet, I let him actually drive the tractor in our field, at a low speed, sitting on my lap. He did a surprisingly good job of steering...

In addition to doing familiar things, I decided it was time to start teaching him how to use some tools. A $20 cordless screwdriver from Lowes proved to be a worthwhile birthday gift.

I showed Futureman how to use the screwdriver, along with clamps and a coping saw. Making something at this age is not important. Just having a workbench, some wood scraps, and some basic tools is sufficient. I showed him how the tools work and let him occupy himself with them while I worked nearby. I could see a progression of proficiency as he busied himself.

When my boys were little, they occupied themselves at length with the same tools (less the battery-operated screwdriver) and used a LOT of masking tape to assemble wood scraps into various things (mostly guns). I gave Futureman a roll of masking tape, but it didn't entertain him as much as I thought it would.

I also showed my grandson how to use a bench vise. I helped him clamp lengths of fallen tree branches from the woods, and he then cut them short with the coping saw. Then we used them in the woodstove. 

Making simple little memories, and learning simple skills will, I do believe, bear fruit in years to come. That is our hope.

Oh, Futureman and I also counted out some Chicken Plucker Fingers, just like old times...

Ralph Borsodi's Advice
For Surviving Economic Disaster
(Part 8)

Dateline: 16 April 2017

This is one of Borsodi's "globe" coins. These, along with paper "constants" were part of an inflation-proof currency he started in the 1970's in Exeter, New Hampshire.

This essay is part of a series about Ralph Borsodi and his book, Inflation is Coming And What to Do About ItClick Here to go to the beginning of this series.


After explaining the importance of land to survive an economic disaster (see Part 7 of this series), Ralph Borsodi presents three more areas of preparation...

Borsodi gives the idea of creating an emergency scrip a couple of pages of explanation in this book, but I don't really understand it.  

However, it is interesting to note that in the 1970s, near the end of his life, Ralph Borsodi actually developed a stable medium of exchange known as the "constant."  This experiment in local currency was an ambitious effort that met with a surprising degree of success (in my opinion) but came to an end when Borsodi died in 1977 at 91 years of age. CLICK HERE if you would like to read an article about Borsodi's debt-free, inflation proof currency.

That bit of advice is somewhat cryptic. Did Borsodi think that the coming hyperinflation would wipe out the industrial age and bring us back to an agrarian-based mercantile economy? Yes, I think so. Let's move on...

Okay. But really, how do "we" prepare leaders for this coming crisis? I'm sure that we don't do it with the public educational system as it now exists. And I'm sure Ralph Borsodi would agree with that 100%. But this suggestion is kind of abstract and beside the point. 

In this next excerpt, Borsodi gets back to reality...

That right there is a sobering commentary. Borsodi foresaw utter economic collapse, bordering on dystopia. His hope was that he might wake a few people up. His last sentence is epic, and it may be prophetic. It deserves to be repeated...

These individual homesteads and enterprises, these groups and communities, may then become islands of security, demonstration centers, and eventually the leaven which will permeate the whole of suffering society with the knowledge of how to lift itself from the chaos into which it's faith in centralization has plunged it.


In the next installment of this series I will continue on through this book and provide excerpts of advice from Ralph Borsodi about "what a family should do NOW with it's savings and bank deposits." 

To go to Part 9 of this series.