Lobster Rolls And
Mail-Order Chaos

Dateline 27 September 2016

My mail-order business has been more manageable this year than in previous years. That's because my volume of orders has been down considerably. Last year I had tallied 4,167 mail orders on September 1. This year I had only 2,806 orders on September 1. I attribute the 32.66% decrease in sales to the depressed economy, and to more competition. 

Fortunately, we live well below our income here. Besides that, I have practiced an ages-old bit of fiscal wisdom by putting aside money in the fat years to sustain us in the lean years.

So, with a little bit more free time in my life than usual, I decided Marlene and I should visit the MOFGA Common Ground Country Fair in Unity Maine. It would be a business trip. The objective being to scope out the venue for a possible Planet Whizbang booth in some future year. It would be a great place to show the Whizbang chicken plucker, Whizbang cider press and apple grinder, Whizbang wheel hoe, Whizbang garden cart, etc. etc.

Better yet, on the way to and fro, we could stop and visit some kinfolk. The last time I was in Maine was 2005 when my Grandmother Kimball died. 

As much as I truly dislike traveling, it was time.

Two days before our intended departure, the key would no longer work in the ignition of our high-mileage Honda Accord. No one could fix it before the trip so we ended up renting a minivan. That was, I believe, providential. The van put my mind at ease, and was a perfect traveling vehicle.

Long story short(er)... 

We visited kin in Kennebunkport, and Belfast, then Nashua, New Hampshire on the way home.

The closest we got to a Maine beach was this low-tide view of the shoreline at Belfast Bay.

But we ate good. The lobster rolls pictured at the top of this page were purchased from the oldest food truck in the USA  (MaineLobsterRolls.com)...

We actually had lobster rolls three times while in Maine. The ones from that food truck were the best.

In Freeport we visited L.L. Bean...

L.L. Bean has changed a lot since we visited on our honeymoon 36 years ago. It's much bigger nowadays (the perfect example of a very successful mail order business). But I really didn't see anything that I wanted to spend money on there. Everything is just too expensive. I can't bring myself to spend $50 on a shirt. I ended up buying a lightweight fleece jacket. L.L. has a whole lot more clothes there for women, and Marlene enjoyed herself shopping for a few select items.

The best part of L.L. Bean was the 1912 Cafe. It is right inside the store. We both had an Evergreen hot sandwich, which consisted of roasted parsnip, pesto, aged cheddar, baby spinach and chicken on a ciabatta roll.

We checked out a few stores on Main Street in Freeport and Marlene wanted to go into the Wicked Whoopies store. I decided to sit that one out, opting to watch the traffic go by from a comfortable chair outside the door. She bought two whoopee pies and gave me a bit of each. They were remarkably good. Those whoopee pies were actually the highlight of our stop in Freeport. Better than L.L. Bean by a long shot.

The Common Ground Fair was great. We avoided the amazingly dense road traffic by taking a train into the fair. Here's a selfie on the train...

There was a light rain coming down when we got to the fair. A couple hours later it was a downpour. We got soaked through and only saw about 2/3 of the fair before taking the train out of there. But we had a great time. 

There were oxen at the fair...

And horses...

And greenhouses...

And crafts...

And pine coffins...

And much more that I didn't get pictures of.

We got home day before yesterday, after dark. I wasn't exactly refreshed feeling. And I had five days of orders to mail out, along with so many e-mails that I haven't yet answered them all. It was mail-order chaos. 

Besides that, the Honda Accord is still setting in the driveway, broken. And the lawnmower is broken too.  

Nevertheless, it is very good to be home again.


  1. Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
    All right. The blog was so interesting about the trip. The fact that people are still training yoke of oxen was "cool"; and seeing you in that coffin was funny! I feel like I went on the trip, it was so interesting to me! Those sandwiches, yum! And a train ride, to boot! The rain; not so much. Thanks so much for sharing this, and am glad you have work waiting for you when you got home--looks like you made the right decision to retire from the prison so long ago, because of all the work at home from which to make a living! Glad for you two!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth.
      I see you posted comments to previous posts while I was gone.
      I wasn't able to access any internet very well whole on the vacation.

  2. Ah...the Joseph fiscal wisdom. 7 fat years and 7 lean.

  3. I read this this morning and thought you would like to read it. A successful business founded on supplying "old fashioned" things.

    1. Great link. Thanks for sending it, Susan.
      We've purchased many times from Lehman's over the years, starting back around 1998. Some day I'd like to visit there. I'm sure it would be more interesting to me than L.L. Bean

      Lehman's has done a great job of using the internet to market their products. According to the following article, back in 1996 they were one of the first companies to have an internet presence and start selling...

      Lehman's—Forever Enshrined In History

    2. Here's an interesting story about Lehman's and me...

      Agrarian blogger, Richard Grossman, husband of agrarian blogger "Granny Miller" told me he purchased a copy of my book, "Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian" from the Lehman's store several years ago. That was a real surprise to me because Lehman's has never carried the book.

      But I did send them a sample review copy (perhaps two of them) when I first published the book, in hopes that they would carry it (it seemed like the perfect kind of book for many Lehman's customers). Apparently, they put those sample book(s) in their store in Kidron and that's how Richard came to get a copy and find out about me and my Christian-agrarian writings.

  4. Mmmmm lobster rolls. I do love them and have had them only during a week-long period when I was visiting Maine for my employer. We have our amazing beef and Maine has its amazing lobster. God is gracious to us in many ways. Anyway, great trip report. Glad you and your bride were able to get away for a spell.

  5. Ahhhh, so that's why the long quiet here on the blog. So glad you were able to expand your horizons. Air out those traveling "gene"s. (We are all descended from travelers!)
    We had lobster rolls several times this month because my aunt vacationed in Maine in August and stopped over here in Vermont to stay with us and brought us 6 cups of picked lobster. No one, and I mean NO ONE can pick a lobster like my Aunt, a native Maniac. She lives in Florida now, but comes back every summer and that's our "treat" from her. So simple and so easy and decadent.
    My heart went "pitter patter" at the pics of the draft horses and cows. Sigh.

    I am a fan of LL Bean despite the high price because their guarantee is phenomenal. After having a parka for 4 or so years, I pulled the patch pocket off partway and sent it back and they repaired it- looked brand new, free of charge of course and called me a week after sending it back to make sure I was satisfied. Same thing with a pair of jeans. I can sew and do a lot of my own repairs but not zippers. So when the zipper broke on my LL Bean jeans, off they went and back they came, good as new. I am a fan. When I want a solid piece of clothing, I go to Beans. It's just not worth the trouble buying something that is "inexpensive" only to have to replace it because it fell apart. And.....that's why I buy your clothespins!!!!

    And the 1912 café is Great. I can't remember what I had but it was very good. We visited two summers ago for a family reunion in Brunswick/Orr's Island in Casco Bay. My father's family is from that area.

    Glad you are back and that there is work waiting for you. Hope the garden faired well in your absence.

    We are NOFA members as well as the DAPNet although I can't get away now like I used to.

    1. Hi Pam,

      Thanks for the comment. You are right about the LL Bean guarantee. I forgot about that. It is definitely an endearing aspect of the business and a value to be considered.

      I had to look up DAPNet. Neat. I'm partial to oxen because when I went to the Sterling School in Craftsbury Common, VT back in 1977, the school farm had a set of oxen. Bonnie and Red. It was a lot of fun to drive them. "Gee over" was to turn right and "Gimme a Haw" was to turn left. Smart animals.

  6. Herrick,

    I hope our marketing research went well and look forward to seeing you at a future Common Ground Country Fair.

    1. Well, maybe. It would be a great place to have all the Whizbang line of down-to-earth tools. No doubt about it. But I need some sort of assistant to work into this business with me before I can take on something like that. One step at a time. I typically think about things like this for years before I actually do them. If I do them. :-)

  7. Lehman's is a great place to visit. I have a sibling that lives a couple miles away and have been in both their stores. It's well worth the time to stop in if you ever get a chance. I used to page through their catalog like people did with the Sears catalog.
    Matt the Farmer

  8. Just last weekend, every Sept., Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs Resort, PA. Ideal for you. Met a gentleman using your chicken plucker design. Planned accordingly and pitched, you could give a presentation of your ideas and sell your book. Just a thought.

    1. Yep. Another good place for a Planet Whizbang booth. MEN asked me about speaking at their Fair some years back. So did the Common Ground folks. I've been reticent about traveling and speaking.

    2. Well, if your videos on youtube are any indication, you would be a sell out speaker. Please do consider sharing what you know in front of folks. I know you profess to abhor this aspect of your business but you are good at it. Just my two cents.....

  9. Regarding the "Everything is too expensive", I can relate to that. What's hard to understand is it's almost all imported from Asia. We can't make a good shirt for $50? That's a topic all it's own.
    But even from Asia, you get what you pay for. I imagine a $50 shirt from LL Bean is a pretty good shirt. They are a reputable outfit, not just an expensive label. I bet there would be good attention to details like fabric quality, stitching, fit, etc.
    I purchased a pair of their famous Bean Boots to keep my feet dry during the wet season. I've had them 3 years now, probably paid a $100, and I also believe they are made in Maine. Very pleased with them I am. Almost every time I've purchased cheap merchandise, I've regretted it. Thanks,


    1. On my honeymoon to Maine back in 1980 I bought a pair of the famous Bean boots. I had wanted them for a long time and treated myself. I wore them out and never thought to bet them resoled.

      I also bought a Moose River hat. I loved that hat. Don't know what happened to it. I see they now sell for nearly $200! Wow. I'll stick with my Planet Whizbang logo hat. Speaking of which, I wore that hat to the Common Ground fair and two people said, "I like your hat" to me.

  10. I needed a lift and thoroughly enjoyed your vacation pics, so thank you. I have a few nice LL Bean pieces -- furry lined flannel shirts, a down coat, etc. But I'm partial to Duluth Trading. Work-hardy clothes are money well spent.

    1. Duluth. They have the fire hose fabric clothing, right? I'd like to try a pair of fire hose pants someday. They look like something special.

  11. Hi Herrick,
    Sounds like a fun outing. I enjoyed reading. Yes, I'm agree the economy is probably to blame. One thing I think I’ve noticed – in the past you were really posting a lot of Whizbang updates on your old blog. I think these types of posts have dropped so I wonder if this may be affecting your orders? I know these posts got me interested in purchasing clothes pins and a book that I probably wouldn't have otherwise ordered if the only information I had was a visit to the Whizbang site. The connection between your writings and your products is powerful. Most newbies don't connect Whizbang products with the old DA or new Upland blog. I wonder how this relationship could be better established? I think the typical way of doing this is you'd have a Store site with your Blog content used as a powerful supplement to the drive traffic to the store. BUT - I understand you hear the beat of a different drummer so am simply happy for your success and my good fortune.
    Kind Regards,

    1. Hi Muns,

      That is an insightful analysis. I think you are right. My Deliberate Agrarian blog was, I believe, a key factor in my mail-order business success. That was the case even though I occasionally blogged about contentious subjects. Google searches still direct people to the Deliberate Agrarian and I'm sure it still leads to some sales.

      This new blog has a small fraction of the readership that I once had at the other blog. I don't suppose it will ever achieve the same popularity and that is okay with me. I made a conscious decision to lower my internet profile, so to speak.

      I surely don't tap into the internet as fully as I could with my blog writings to increase my mail order business. A lot of bloggers do this very well, but I've resisted extreme blog commercialization because it pretty much turns me off when I see it on other blogs. The same goes for advertising in my YouTube videos. I don't like the ad interruption on other people's videos. Besides that, my YouTube videos are, essentially, a type of advertisement in themselves.

      I have a friend who is a successful entrepreneur and he is forever telling me that I have a golden opportunity to tap into the "tribe" I have developed through my online writings in order to sell more products and MAKE MORE MONEY. On the one hand, my entrepreneurial inclinations like that idea. On the other hand, my spiritual inclinations tell me not to STRIVE for more money (I tried that once and it was a total failure). So I'm continually looking for the proper balance.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment.

  12. Oh darn, I'm sorry to have missed an opportunity to meet you. I'm one of your regular followers (mostly through Feedly) who DID make the transition from the old blog. And i've pored over many pages of information on your inventions and testing. I visited Day 2 of the fair but with our gang of kids we didn't last the full day. We recently moved our entire family to Maine to pursue life with "3 acres and a cow" as Chesterton would put it. Keep up the writing and blogging, I find your blog very valuable and inspirational.