Are We Making Weaklings of Our Sons? … True Story, 1962

I purchased the magazine pictured above at an estate sale. It was published sixty years ago. It contains an article by the actor, Kirk Douglas, that grabbed my attention: Are We Making Weaklings of Our Sons? Here are some excerpts from the article (my comments are at the end)…


I picked up a newspaper recently and was shocked to read that fully forty per cent of our American youths weren’t smart enough or honest enough to be accepted for military service!

Granted, the Army wants the best men it can get these tense days and therefore sets its standards rather high. Nonetheless, it came as a severe jolt to discover that two out of five American young men are being turned down for physical, mental or moral reasons.

Perhaps this evidence will convince you, as I am already convinced and worried, that we parents can no longer avoid asking ourselves these harsh questions:

Is something seriously wrong with many of our sons? Are vast numbers of them growing up to be physical and moral weaklings? Are they, in addition, developing into mature men without possessing real emotional maturity—that is, without being really grown up enough to manage themselves, their desires and their feelings?

As the father of four boys, let me tell you that I see what is going on and that I don’t like what I see. I want my boys to grow up to be men, not milksops.

Please don’t misunderstand me. A man is not necessarily a man because he can drop an elk at 300 yards, live off the land for a month with nothing but a fish-hook and axe, or rip a telephone book in half with his bare hands. That’s not what I mean by a man.

In my book, a man is a mature male who can look at life realistically and not through a cloud of rose-colored wishes and dreams, accepts things for what they are, does an honest day’s work and expects decent pay for it, puts his wife and family above all else in life, has an abiding faith in God and loves his country.

A man also respects his own body and keeps it in condition because he knows, first, that other people’s lives depend on his continuing good health; and second, that physical vigor can help him get the fullest possible enjoyment out of the only life he has.

That’s the kind of man I want my own sons to be.

I can tell you my boys won’t ever get muscles in the wrong places by sitting and watching somebody else do the playing! They’re out there doing things themselves, and a lot of the time their dad is right there with them. I’m sure it’s not a brand new discovery, but I’ve found that even though a son is close to a father and respects him, he still gets a special thrill if he can top the old man in some game or sport. No matter what—whether it’s checkers or hand-wrestling, swimming or hunting, running or badminton—the youngster wants to compete and he wants to win.

I’m letting this spirit of competition have full and free reign with my boys. It’s not only a lot of fun for us all, but it spurs the youngsters on and keeps them physically active.

It’s certainly a fact that kids of today are riding the gravy train, and I mean children of poor and middle-income folks as well as rich ones. Almost all parents are showering their youngsters with as many toys and gadgets as they can afford—and often that they cannot afford. Kids also have more privileges and even more money than before.

If over-privilege is bad, over-protection is even worse. Can there be any doubt that, out of the goodness of our hearts and with the finest motives, we are raising the most carefully guarded generation of all time?


Unquestionably, children do need attention, love, help and guidance. It’s a tough, complex world out there and they must be taught to handle themselves in it. But in our anxiety to shield them from the perils, problems and knocks, many of us go too far. Instead of helping them make decisions for themselves, we decide things for them. We’re afraid they might make a few mistakes, take a few tumbles and get a few physical or emotional bumps.


The lack of self-reliance of many of our children is literally staggering and saddening. These youngsters grow up with little ability to cope with the relentless competitiveness of a world that’s not going to protect them, cater to them, bow to them or lead them by the hand.

Never given the freedom to meet difficulties and challenges, never allowed to make mistakes and to learn through them, these pathetic people wander through adulthood as half-men, wistfully seeking someone to dominate them and care for them.


By now my boys have learned the difference between being loved and being babied. one does not follow from the other at our house. Ann and I show them constantly that they are first in our hearts because being loved gives a child real security. But neither of us has any intention of mollycoddling them or fighting their battles.

I say this to my boys, and I hope you don’t find the statements too astonishing” “You fellows don’t have the advantages I had when I grew up. My parents were desperately poor. Born in Russia, they came to the small town of Amsterdam, New York, the center of America’s carpet and rug industry, seeking a precious commodity they could not find in Europe—liberty. For this privilege, they were willing to live and work in desperate poverty.

I was the youngest of a family of seven children, and I can remember the cold and the hunger to this day. While still in grade school, I got up at five every morning and delivered papers for two hours to earn some money that was so badly needed in the house.

I had to compete to succeed. I learned this early in life and it was a lesson richer kids often never learn, to their sorrow.”


The above article provides some historical perspective into the loss of traditional ideals of manhood in America all the way back in 1962! The article was, no doubt, a response to President Kennedy’s call for a national physical fitness movement in the nation’s schools.

Perhaps not coincidentally, America was also ramping up our involvement in the Vietnam war at that time. There was a huge shortage of men willing or able to be soldiers. The lack of fit men led to Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara’s Project 100,000, which was a foolish attempt to fill the military with more men by significantly lowering the standards.

Dubbed McNamara’s Morons, the low-bar soldiers were sent to war and it was a colossal failure. Forrest Gump was a funny movie but he is, mind you, a glorified fictional retard in the theatre of war.

These days, America’s future men are mostly all overweight due to diets heavy with high-fructose-corn-syrup soft drinks (HFC was not part of America’s diet in 1962) and so-many sedentary hours of daily video game playing.

Also, in 1962 very few mothers worked outside the home. They cooked healthful meals for their family from scratch. It would be interesting to see a comparison of the average boy in 1962 and the average boy of 2022. It would probably be shocking.

Kirk Douglas (who, by the way, lived to be 103 years old) put an emphasis on sports involvement to help his boys be fit and healthy. What other option is there when you raise your family in high-wealth neighborhoods like Palm Springs and Hollywood?

There are no farms in Hollywood where boys can do useful, meaningful, physical work and, in so doing, be exposed to the mentorship of rural men who, generally speaking, have character traits far more admirable than the typical man about the town in any flashy city. Sports play for children is an artificial, modern-era substitute for meaningful work.

And Douglas laments that his children will not experience poverty in their youth, as he experienced. That is a keen observation and worth noting. A degree of monetary and material lack in childhood is not a bad thing. Not at all.

On the other hand, a mother (preferably at home)and father in a committed and stable marriage is far more beneficial to children than an excess of money and the things excess money can buy. We all know this instinctively, if not statistically, and yet the decline of such families in America since 1962 has been precipitous.

None of this bodes well for our country as a whole, but it is what it is. The good news is that there are plenty of stable families throughout the land who are intelligently and deliberately raising their boys to be responsible and capable men. They are doing this best in rural settings, on small farms and family-economy homesteads. These families are not a majority. They are a faithful remnant. Such families are in the process of changing the world in positive ways we can not yet see, or even imagine.

Wordle and Coffee in The Morning… Simple Pleasures During The Collapse of Western Civilization

It has been a slow realization for many, but by now I think it’s painfully obvious to even the most worldly-optimistic among us that every social and political institution in America is in collapse mode. The economy is too, of course. Inflation, as expected, is spiking. And the techno-industrial, just-in-time supply chain system is failing. Complexity and dependency invites vulnerability and want. That’s where we are.

As a young boy, visiting my Grandmother Kimball in northern Maine, I clearly remember her response one time when I expressed sorrow over my parent’s divorce. She said to me, “There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just the way it is. So stop feeling sorry for yourself.” It was not the response I expected, which probably explains why I remember it so well.

I realize now that my grandmother was a stoic. If you don’t know, a stoic is someone who accepts what happens without complaining or showing emotion. My grandmother was born into a farming family in 1908. She was the oldest of 11 children. I think stoicism was a part of the agrarian culture she was raised in.

I suspect that when my grandmother was a little girl, feeling sorry for herself for some reason, an adult in her family told her much the same thing as she said to me.

Stoicism as a philosophy is not founded or related to any Christian doctrine. But within Christianity there is a legitimate stoic-like response to the inevitable hardships and disappointments of life. It is anchored to the bedrock doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

The reality of God’s sovereignty is powerfully comforting to me in times of distress and disappointment. In the first chapter of his book, The Sovereignty of God, A.W. Pink defines God’s sovereignty so remarkably well that reading it was a worldview-changing revelation to me.

When I was in my prison job some years back, one of the inmates who worked in my shop literally recoiled when he came over to my desk and realized I was reading The Sovereignty of God.

The inmate was serving a life sentence for murder but he had come to Christ after being incarcerated. He evidenced a true faith, which wasn’t the case with many other inmates who claimed to be Christian. He had a great admiration for Peter Ruckman and his teachings. Ruckman was a fundamental Baptist preacher.

As a rule, Fundamental Baptists have a dim view of A.W. Pink because they think he took the sovereignty of God too far. Pink was a Calvinist. He believed in predestination. But, having now read two biographies of Pink, I can say with some confidence that he has not been fairly treated by fundamentalists… or Calvinists! Neither camp was satisfied with his teachings in his day. He actually had to leave the pastorship of a church in Australia because he wasn’t Calvinist enough!

Be that as it may, no matter where you fall in the doctrinal spectrum, I’m quite certain that Pink’s Introduction to his controversial book will impress you and bless you in these mad days of collapse and uncertainty.

Pink’s Introduction was written in 1918, and it was written with the very serious world and social problems of that era in mind. You will find remarkable similarities between Pink’s time of writing and our current situations. His writing in the Introduction brings some much needed historical and transcendent perspective. Perhaps even better than reading, you can listen to the Introduction being read by an excellent elocutionist…

Now, moving on from civilizational collapse and the reassurance of God’s sovereignty, there is Wordle. It’s a relatively new internet word game. If you like word games, you’ll love Wordle. No doubt about it.

There is only one Wordle challenge a day. That is, to my way of thinking, a very endearing feature. You can’t get carried away and waste a lot of time playing Wordle after Wordle. It’s just one a day, and the word challenge can usually be solved in a few minutes of focused attention. It’s perfectly suited for a quiet, morning cup-of-coffee brain exercise.

Wordle is free to play. Just go to this web site and have at it: If you need a tutorial, this Jimmy Fallon YouTube clip should do it.


But let it be said very emphatically that the heart can only rest upon and enjoy the blessed truth of the absolute Sovereignty of God as faith is in exercise. Faith is ever occupied with God. That is the character of it; that is what differentiates it from intellectual theology. Faith endures “as seeing Him who is invisible”: endures the disappointments, the hardships, and the heartaches of life by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind. But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings-whether in a hovel, a prison-dungeon, or a martyr’s stake-we shall be enabled to say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places” (Psa. 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight or of sense.

A.W. Pink (from the Introduction to The Sovereignty of God)

Short & Pink Observations As We March Into ’22

I wrote a much-too-wordy blog essay to welcome in the new year. Then I scrapped it. Here, instead, are seven brief observations. And Pink.

—Good things are happening in the midst of bad things.

—But lots more bad things are coming, many of which will never happen (a paraphrase of Doug Wilson).

—Evil promotes its enslaving agendas with lies, and perpetuates itself with more lies.

—It’s easier to go along with lies than not.

—Truth can be found in the midst of lies, but it requires some effort.

—God equips and expects his people (seekers and lovers of truth) to bravely live in a world of lies, and to confront lies with truth.

—Holding to what is true in a world of lies can make for some uncomfortable life experiences.

Now Pink…

I’m reading a biography of the Bible expositor, A.W. Pink. He experienced hardship, disappointment, sickness, and poverty in his span of years. But Pink had the Christian hope that has sustained God’s people through the centuries, and he expressed it so eloquently in this following quote…

Here’s wishing you a brave, true and hopeful 2022

Elon Musk Gets 60% Saved!

Three editors from The Babylon Bee, a Christian organization that produces satire, recently conducted a mostly-serious interview with Elon Musk. I watched the entire 1.5 hour discussion

Elon Musk is an interesting character. He is brilliantly intelligent. He is an innovative entrepreneur. He is one of the richest men in the world.

I was surprised to learn from the interview that Elon had a rough early life in his native South Africa. This came out when the interviewer asked him if he was ever punched in the face, or ever punched someone else in the face. He replied in the affirmative. Further research on my part revealed that he was bullied in school and was once beat up so badly that he was in the hospital for a week.

Personally, I have been punched in the face, and I have punched someone else in the face. I also had a knife swiped at me once. Those were memorable serious events, but long in the past. Back to Elon…

Another surprising aspect of Elon Musk’s life was his move from Africa to a farm in Saskatchewan Canada when he was 17 years old. He worked on the farm for six weeks. He also worked in a lumber mill in Vancouver for a short time. This was before he made his way to America, the land of fortune and fame.

When asked in the interview about rocket technology, Elon spoke with informed passion, which is to be expected. He owns SpaceX, a renowned aerospace company. He was equally eloquent when it came to discussing his Tesla automobile company. But what I found most interesting in the interview was near the end when religion and Christianity were the topic of conversation.

In a totally cringeworthy final question, one interviewer asks Elon… “We’re wondering if you could do us a quick solid and accept Jesus as your lord and savior?”

Musk’s body language changed to arms crossed in front, and he was momentarily at a loss for words. Everyone laughed at the ridiculousness of asking this man to “do us a quick solid and accept Jesus as your lord and savior.”

Musk replied: “There is great wisdom in the teachings of Jesus and I agree with those teachings. … Things like turn the other cheek are very important. … Forgiveness is important. … Treating people as you would wish to be treated. … Love thy neighbor as thy self is very important.”

The questioner replies: “So it’s like a 60% or 70% yes?”

Elon continues: “As Einstein would say, ‘I believe in the god of Spinoza.”

Then comes Elon’s response to the invitation: “But hey, if, um, you know, if, if Jesus is, uh, saving people, I mean, I wouldn’t stand in his way, you know, like, sure, I’ll be saved. Why not?”

That response brought celebration to the Babylon Bee interviewers: “Sweet. I think he just said yes. Praise the Lord.” And that was pretty much the end of the interview.

As much as I enjoy the Babylon Bee’s typical satire productions, that interview segment was profoundly disappointing to me. The interviewers made light (even a mockery) of being “saved,” which is all about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not a laughing matter. Life is serious and there is not a more serious or important issue in life than our response to Jesus Christ or, more specifically, what we do with the gospel of Christ. Our eternity is in the balance.

Unfortunately, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a vague concept in many people’s minds. Even many church-going Christians have trouble putting the gospel into words. Here it is in three short sentences…

Jesus Christ died for sinners. You are a sinner. Believe in Christ and you will be saved.

Those three short statements can be expanded (and certainly have been) into volumes of commentary based on the Biblical record. The Bible is, after all, beginning to end, the story of Jesus Christ and the gospel of Christ. If we leave the gospel out of the Bible, we miss the whole point of what God wants us to know, and to our detriment.

It is worth noting that the gospel of Christ is not something that God pleads with people to accept. The gospel, properly understood, is a non-negotiable declaration of what God has done for every human being; but every human must make a personal decision. Take it or leave it. And it’s a 100% decision, not 60% or 70%. 

The non-negotiable part is what so many people don’t get. There is a powerful human tendency to change the terms of salvation. But it doesn’t work that way. No created being has the moral authority to change the terms. Only foolish people have the audacity to think they can approach God on their own terms.

The key to the true gospel of Christ, and to true salvation, is in seeing ourselves as God sees us, not as we see ourselves. We like to grade ourselves on a curve. God doesn’t do that. It’s pass or fail, so to speak.

Isaiah in the Old Testament sums up our human situation when he says “…our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (link) Righteousnesses = good works. In other words, God’s not impressed with our good works when it comes to a salvation “grade.” Not even a little bit. We fail.

Paul in Hebrews (link) reiterates our true human condition before God: “There is none righteous. No not one,” and, “There is none that doeth good. No not one.” And later on in the same chapter: (link) “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

That’s our bottom line reality. It’s the harshest reality any of us has to face. It’s harsh because our lack of goodness before the holy God of creation condemns us to an eternity apart from Him. More specifically, we are destined for hell, and deservedly so. Hell is every person’s default destination. But… there is the good news of the gospel of Christ.

The eternal wrath of God against sinners was poured out on Jesus Christ when he voluntarily died on the cross. Jesus didn’t deserve the wrath of God, but that was the plan.

God himself, in the form of his son, would lower himself to our estate and allow himself to be brutally killed. In so doing, Jesus took upon himself the eternal penalty for the sins of those who would, thereafter, put their faith in him as their Lord and Savior. This is the incredible (but true) love of God manifested through Christ.

When Jesus said to his apostle, Thomas (link), “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” he was declaring the gospel. This reality is underscored by Paul in the book of Acts (link) when he says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Based on the Babylon Bee interview, I can say with certainty that Elon Musk is not saved (not yet). Acknowledging that Jesus Christ existed does not save anyone. Acknowledging and honoring the wisdom and goodness of Jesus’s teachings does not save anyone. Early church experiences (Musk attended Anglican Sunday school as a youth) don’t save anyone. Even nobly striving to save humanity from an extinction event (a good work for certain, and Musk’s life goal) does not save anyone.

Biblically speaking, it is the acknowledgement of one’s sins, the turning away from sin (repentance), and trusting faith in Jesus Christ that saves a person. If you have a saving relationship with God the Father, through Jesus, you know it. You know if you are a true follower, or not.

If you are reading this and you don’t know if you are saved or not, check out this short YouTube clip with Sinclair Ferguson. Do this while there is yet time. It’s not a laughing matter.

How To Raise Your Children To Be Successful Christian Adults

In the 1993 film Rudy, young Rudy Ruettiger goes to a Roman Catholic priest seeking advice. Rudy desperately wants to play football for Notre Dame, but all doors to that possibility have closed. “Can you help?” the young man asks. “Son,” the priest replies, “in years of religious studies, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I’m not Him.”

What do the priest’s two hard facts have to do with rearing children? Everything. We who are parents have great influence in our children’s lives, but we are not God. We cannot wind up a child like a Happy Meal toy and expect him or her to go wherever we want. Many parents will tearfully acknowledge that they did all the “right things,” but their children went their own way.

To rear our children well, we need a biblical vision of the finished product. What should we want for our children? For what end besides their salvation should we labor, hope, and pray? In a word, we should want them to be successful.

Readers might balk at the use of the word successful in reference to children. We normally think of success in temporal, materialistic terms. But the Bible paints a positive picture of success. For example, Joseph “became a successful man,” because “the Lord was with [him]” (Gen. 39:2). The Hebrew word for “successful” means to be circumspect, intelligent, skillful, wise, and sensible. God told young Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous . . . that you may have good success wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7). Later, “David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him” (1 Sam. 18:14). Solomon advised: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments. . . . So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:1, 4). Jesus in His youth “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He was the preeminently successful son anticipated in Proverbs.

The world’s truncated view of success is wrong and damaging to the soul. But God invites us to pursue success as defined in the Bible and to rear our children to be as successful as possible. How? By creating an environment in which our children can grow in favor with God and in favor with man.


The above text is excerpted from a two-page article that was published in the April 2020 issue of Tabletalk magazine. You can read the full article at this link: Rearing Your Children For Success, by Michael E. Osborne. That article is the best condensed advice I’ve ever read on the subject of raising children to be successful Christian adults. If you are a parent or grandparent, I encourage you to read it and pass it on.

Christmas 2021

Tomorrow is Christmas eve. Our three sons, their wives, and our grandchildren will come to our home for dinner and present opening. Everyone will bring a dish or two for the dinner. That makes the meal a whole lot easier for Marlene.

I understand that, for a variety of reasons, such family events are often accompanied by drama and divisiveness. Thus far, this has never been the case with our family, and I pray it never is. Marlene and I have always had a peaceful home. We are not contentious or mercurial people.

Our children were raised in a secure, stable home environment, with a full-time mother, who happened to also be their home-schooling teacher. The older our sons get, and the more they see the reality of the world and of so many other family dynamics, the more they realize how blessed they were in their upbringing.

My wife, like all of us, has her flaws. But she is a close as a flawed woman can get to being a saint. That’s my opinion but, after 41 years of marriage, I know her pretty well. And I know how incredibly blessed I am, in so many ways. More than I deserve. That’s for sure.

Before this turns into a further ramble, I’ll get to my point…

I have recently discovered Geoffrey Botkin’s YouTube channel, Stand Up And Lead. I think Mr. Botkin and I are of the same mind, which is to say that I think we have the same Biblical worldview. But, unlike myself, he is gifted with the ability to grasp insights, then verbally communicate edifying analysis and wisdom in a way that I can not. That said, I recommend that you check out his channel. Perhaps you could start with the following…

Be sure to read the comments to this video on YouTube. 🙂

Geoffrey Botkin’s encouragement to invest in your children and grandchildren resonates with me. He’s preaching to the choir here. But the importance of such advice is something that needs to be repeated, again and again. Few things in this life are more important than investing one’s time and resources in the children God entrusts to us.

“Make the most of what family you have,” Geoffrey Botkin says. I couldn’t agree more.

Here’s wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas.

Vaccine Passports Are Far More Dangerous Than Any Virus

Vaccine passports have nothing to do with protecting anyone’s health. The 17-minute video above explains why. We are on the cusp of unprecedented worldwide techno-tyranny. Everything is in place to make it happen , and it’s already happening in many countries. This is as serious as it gets. This isn’t about politics. It’s about humanity and the loss of fundamental human freedoms.

The YouTube clip is well worth watching. Everyone needs to understand the times we live in and the clear dangers we face. I will be surprised if YouTube does not remove it. If they do, CLICK HERE to watch it on Rumble.

An Amazing, Pondering, Rambling And Sputtering Update

The days, the weeks, the months, the years… they go by. I find it amazing that I started blogging back in June of 2005. That was 16+ years ago, and three different blogs back. Maybe it was four. I forget.

My first blog, The Deliberate Agrarian, was a little too successful. After 11 years and over 1,000 posts, I moved on to a more comfortable degree of obscurity. TDA still gets the views though. I just checked the stats over there and last month it was viewed 46,671 times. There were 448 views just yesterday. 5,341,503 all time views. I confess, a few of those views are mine. I go back every so often and read something I wrote, and I think to myself that some of those essays were inspired. The thoughts and the words flowed out of me with surprising cogency.

I am currently reading Letters of E.B. White, Revised Edition. Long time readers may recall that I read and blogged about the first (not revised) edition of the book (Little Bits From E.B. White). That was back in 2009. I bought the book from a local library sale. 

I was working my state prison job back then. You might say I was “doing time” there. The job afforded me plenty of time to write my blog posts and read a lot of books. Reading books or newspapers in prison (as an employee) is not allowed, but everyone who likes to read does so. You just have to “put some shade on it.” 

Most books can be smuggled in with no problem but White’s “Letters” is nearly 2″ thick. I had to slice off the hard covers and chop the book into sections to avoid detection. I’m bad.

Someone asked me awhile back what my favorite book is. I told him Letters of E.B. White. A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God is also my favorite book, but that’s a different genre, to say the least. Anyway, it occurred to me that, liking “Letters” as much as I did, I should get the Revised version. It picks up where the first edition left off, which was a letter E.B. wrote to his stepson, Roger Angell, in May of 1976.

I well recall the P.S. on that last letter…

‘An actor named Gary Merrill here today, former husband of Bette Davis. Just popped in to say hello.’ 

Why, you might wonder, would I recall such an obscure P.S.?  Well, it’s because my mother once told me that she met Gary Merrill at a DKE fraternity party at Bowdoin college. He was a DKE and Bowdoin alumnus. 

She recollected that to me only once, a very long time ago, and I remembered it. I don’t know why I remembered it. It’s not like I remember everything my mother ever told me. Memory is a funny thing.

So the Revised edition of “Letters” picks up after 1976. White’s wife, Katherine, died in 1977. They had been. Married 48 years. E.B.’s life after the passing of Katherine was difficult, as you might imagine. In addition to his loss, his own health was declining and he chronicles it in his letters. His heart was a problem, and his eyesight was going, yet he was active. His letters to various people were still clever, humorous, and exemplary of his craft.

In a 1980 letter to Gerald Nachman, E.B. wrote two short sentences that, figuratively speaking, stopped me in my tracks. I read them a few times, pondered what he said, and concluded that it was a profound observation that I could relate to…

There’s no such thing as retiring from writing. You just run out of gas.’

In 1982, because of his failing eyesight, E.B. White stopped writing his regular column for The New Yorker magazine. He had written it for 56 years.

In his last days, E.B. suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s. He died at his home on October 1, 1985.

Roger Angell wrote a nice recollection of E.B. White here: Andy

Marlene and I visited our high school English teacher, Mr. Pennella, last month. He is a big fan of E.B White. I never knew this in high school. I wrote about Mr. Pennella a few years ago (HERE). He is now 84 years old and has early onset Alzheimer’s. We had a most pleasant visit (Ever the teacher, Mr. Pennella even corrected my word usage once!). When we were leaving, I shook his hand and told him he was special. He said, “I love you guys.”

Marlene, Mr. Pennella, Me.

Our visit that day happened to also be the 41st wedding anniversary of Marlene and I. That’s kind of amazing (details here). A couple days after our visit, Mr. Pennella came to our place. I gave him the short tour of the international headquarters of Planet Whizbang and my ongoing house addition project. 

I think my mother would have enjoyed knowing that I was connecting with my high school English teacher after so many decades because she did much the same thing. Mr. Woodcock was my mother’s favorite high school teacher. He told her she had a lot of talent and should pursue writing. She didn’t, but I did. My mother was so pleased to see me achieve a measure of success writing magazine articles and books.

It so happened that my mother visited Mr. Woodcock many years after high school, and it was a wonderful visit. He was long-retired from teaching by then. I wonder if she ever knew that Wallace Woodcock received a Bronze Star for Bravery during the Battle of The Bulge? He died in 2006 at 82 years of age (Obituary). My. Mother died in 2003. She was only 67.

I will be 64 next month. And my 64th birthday will mark nine years of retirement from that dreadful prison job. I am not, mind you, retired in the sense that I don’t have to earn money. Not hardly. I still need to make a living and, by the grace of God, my Planet Whizbang mail-order business keeps the bills paid. I’m powerfully thankful for that!

But, round about November 1st, the mail orders slow to a trickle, and I am thankful for that too. I imagine these slow days are kind of like being retired. I have time to do other things, like write this meandering ramble. With E.B. White’s words in mind, I can’t help but think this blog post is bucking and chugging; the gas tank is nearly empty…

My plan is to keep Planet Whizbang going until I’m 75. Marlene doesn’t think I’ll make it, to which I reply, “What other option is there?” Granted, that chicken plucker plan book I wrote has sold remarkably well, but it’s no Charlotte’s Webb. I’m still waiting for a call from Hollywood about the motion picture rights (as Dave Berry imagined back in 2003). But maybe I missed the call. I almost never answer my phone. I don’t like talking on the phone. I’m an introvert. 

E.B. was an introvert too. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 by Lyndon Johnson, but declined going to the White House to receive it. Maine Senator Edmund S. Muskie went in his stead. By the way, if you were wondering, Muskie’s middle name was Sixtus. And E.B.’s name was Elwyn Brooks, but his friends called him Andy, which he liked better than Elwyn.

Have you heard of “six degrees of separation”? It’s “the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other.” I am 4 degrees of separation away from Kevin Bacon. But, even more amazing, I recently discovered that I am only three (or four) degrees away from E.B. White!!  I’ll explain…

One evening, feeling listless (as is my usual evening feeling) I decided to go to Google Maps and find E.B. White’s oceanside farm on Allen Cove in Brooklin, Maine. I found it. I even got a “street view.” The place looks to be well off the beaten path.

Then I decided to research White’s family. He and Katherine had one son, Joel. Joel died in 1997 (he was 66). His wife, Allene, yet lives. I found her Facebook page. I looked at her short list of Facebook “Friends.” To my surprise, I saw a name I remembered from back in 1977. It was the wife of one of my teachers at The Sterling School up in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. I looked through her list of “Friends” and there were two girls I knew from my 1977 class. No kidding.

Once again, the internet proves to be an amazing resource, and If you have read thus far, I think YOU are amazing.

Well, my cup of coffee is finished and the morning stiffness has left my fingers and limbs. I need to sign off and get productive (before listlessness settles in). This little visit has been to let you know that I’m still alive and kicking, even if the gas tank is near empty. I don’t suppose I’ll blog again before the end of this year, so here’s wishing you and yours a merry Christmas and a blessed new year.

P.S. I post YouTube videos more often that I blog. They make me some money. Passive income. If you aren’t watching them check out the two most recent: Benign Neglect: Another Way to Grow Apple Trees and How To Have Remarkable Tool Organization Using Scraps of Electrical Wire. YouTube just informed me that my channel has over 5 million views. I think that’s amazing.

But wait, there’s more (see below)….

I should update you on my wife. I think she is amazing. Marlene works many hours a week helping to take care of my MS-disabled younger sister, and she finds time for being a grandmother….

Making Christmas cookies with a granddaughter (she is almost 3 years old)
Making peanut butter with our grandson (he is nearly 2 years old)

The Phelan Family’s Minibed Gardening Adventure (A Most Excellent Photo Essay)…

In late December 2020, my wife and I began to rethink our garden. We were planning to move into a new house in the spring of 2021, so we would have a new place and thought it might be a good time to try something new. I’ve been an avid reader of Herrick Kimball for well over a decade, maybe closer to 15 years, and I was very inspired by his new minibed gardening technique. With his technique in mind and his minibed trilogy in hand (I bought the PDF and had Office Depot print it and bind it for me), my wife and I spent several dozen hours planning our new garden. I hope you enjoy this little photo essay we put together to show some of the joy we found in minibed gardening. I hope it inspires you to try it! —Grady Phelan, Waco, Texas

We rented a small trencher that trenched about 4 inches wide and 18 or 20 inches deep.
Using a string line we trenched around the minibed area. We wanted to prevent Bermuda grass from coming under the plastic, so we folded the plastic down in the trench to create a rhizome barrier.
Here we are finishing the square. Notice how we trench past the other line so we got a good corner. The corners need to be cleaned out with a small shovel or by hand.
Our silage tarp is 40′ x 50′ so I made our square about 38′ x 47′ so the trench would get at least 12 inches of plastic down inside. We also used 30 inch minibeds but we did a full 24″ between the beds for walkways and from the last bed to the edge of the plastic.
Here we are beginning the box assembly process. We set up a jig on the picnic table so we could easily square up the corners of the boards.
Twenty-four, and counting.
Using a sharp pocket knife and a 1/2″ guiding stick, we cut the plastic out of the first 24 minibeds.
We used 3/8 inch rebar in three of the corners, just like Herrick suggested. Seems to work great.
After scrounging some more lumber, we made the rest of the minibeds. 80 in all.
Instead of cutting all the plastic out of all the minibeds this first year, we decided to only cut out what we needed for each plant. Here are the minibeds we plan to use for tomatoes.
For our peppers we cut out the plastic, planted the transplants and then mulched with straw. This seemed to work great!

We tried this method for drying out our peppers. Simply put the peppers on a string and hang them out in the sun and wind to dry. It worked great!
Peppers in the front and little okra plants toward the back. The okra seems so fragile at the beginning…
… but they grow up so fast!
We save okra seed every year. This is our third generation for the “Star of David” variety.
One of the best things about the minibed garden is that it is kid friendly! We have five children and they are all able to help or otherwise participate in the garden. It’s very easy to know where to walk and where the crops are being grown. It’s also easy to show them how to distinguish weeds from the crop in the minibed. I always felt that doing the work in bite-sizes helped keep me motivated, and this garden is the same way.

You can’t BEET this! Harvest time is very rewarding in the garden.
Even our littlest one loves the garden. She’s able to stay out of the beds… for the most part.

Don’t forget to plant flowers!
We really love our new minibed garden! Even though we are only one year in, minibed gardening looks to be very successful for many years ahead, even in Texas!


Herrick’s Comments…

This photo essay pretty much speaks for itself. Obviously, it isn’t just about a minibed garden. It’s about a down-to-earth family working together. It’s about parents teaching their children from a young age how to grow their own food, which is one of the most important life skills a human should know. This is truly inspiring, and powerfully endearing.

Thank you, Grady Phelan, for sharing your beautiful family, and your family’s minibed gardening adventure here!

For those who are not familiar with the Minibed gardening system, you can watch several YouTube videos HERE. And the Minibed Gardening Trilogy PDF is available HERE.

A Gift of Chestnut Trees

Back a year or so, I was at one of my monthly town board meetings and another board member brought a leaf from a tree. He wondered if anyone knew what kind of tree it came from. I immediately identified it as coming from a chestnut tree. He seemed surprised that I knew what it was (no one else did). A conversation about the once-mighty-and-ubiquitous American chestnut ensued.

For those who don’t know about the chestnut tree, here is a quote from the American Chestnut Foundation web site:

“More than a century ago, nearly four billion American chestnut trees were growing in the eastern U.S. They were among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing trees. The wood was rot-resistant, straight-grained, and suitable for furniture, fencing, and building. The nuts fed billions of wildlife, people and their livestock. It was almost a perfect tree, that is, until a blight fungus killed it more than a century ago. The chestnut blight has been called the greatest ecological disaster to strike the world’s forests in all of history.”

It turns out that my town-board friend grows chestnut trees. He starts them from seed, and he offered to give me some seedlings. I finally took him up on his offer yesterday. The 4 chestnut seedlings you see in the picture above are what he gifted me.

I stopped by my friend’s place in the morning and he gave me a tour of all his projects. The house he lives in, and the land around it was his grandparent’s farm. That’s something unique and special, and he knows it.

The huge black walnut trees behind the house are hard to miss. He has a sawmill, and a woodworking shop. He showed me an old fanning mill that he is restoring. And then his tree nursery, a small, fenced section full of all kinds of young trees—honey locust, cottonwood, elm, and chestnut among them.

Here and there, in the rotting wood chips of the nursery area were large wine cap mushrooms (Stropharia rugosoannulata). I’ve never eaten a wine cap mushroom, but I’m intrigued by the prospect. My friend says they are delicious fried with butter.

So, along with my chestnut seedlings, I got a quantity of rotted wood-chip-mould, held tightly together with a mass of mycelium. The mould was growing wine caps and is likely full of the spores.

Before the day was out, I had the four chestnut trees planted. I placed three on the wood’s edge behind my home. The fourth I planted at the end of my row of Concord grapes, near my property line, surrounded by my comfrey patch, as you can see in this next photo…

As for the spore-filled wood mould, I crumbled and spread it around a couple of rotting tree stumps in the woods next to my house.

My friend works at Cornell. He’s an engineer, not a forester, at least not in any official sense of the word. He gleaned the seeds that my trees were grown from off the ground under blight-resistant Chestnuts that are growing on the Cornell campus. They are hybrids. They have genetic diversity. When such trees are planted, grown to produce flowers, cross pollinated by bees, which then produce seeds, the trees grown from those seeds will have even more genetic diversity. Which means they should have an even better chance of surviving chestnut blight.

I am delighted to have four chestnut trees. It would be so wonderful to see them grow to maturity. I hope my soil and their situation is to their liking.

Salve, Ointment & Liniment Recipes From 1867… For Horses

As some of you may already know, I like to go to estate sales and buy things to resell on Ebay. It’s my most enjoyable side hustle. A big part of the enjoyment is finding things like this old receipt book. “Receipt” is the archaic word for recipe.

This notebook has a date of 1867 at the end of one of the receipts, as you can see in this next picture…

When I first found this book, I thought the receipts were for humans, but on closer inspection, the various formulas appear to be for horses. But I think some might also be of use for human conditions.

Much of the old handwriting is difficult to decipher. The writing was, no doubt, done with a goose quill, which the farmer would have saved from one of his geese. In this next picture you can see a small bit of 150-year-old down stuck to the book.

The ingredients for making the various receipts in this old book include turpentine, alcohol, sweet-oil (olive oil), camphor gum, saltpeter, beeswax, white pine pitch, and hog lard, to name a few, along with several names I can’t figure out.

This little black book was, no doubt, an important reference for the farmer. Many of these receipts were likely shared among the farmers in a community, and passed down from previous generations. This is a book of mostly lost wisdom.

Who Is Defending America?

There has been an ongoing and obvious effort to destroy America’s military strength and morale. It is part of the nationwide, institutional self-destruction that we are all now living through. The YouTube video above was sent to me by my internet friend, Kire, in Macedonia. The ending appears to be something that The Babylon Bee might make up. But this is not satire. And this is no joke.

Howard King’s Recent Post Questions Where Technology Is Taking Us

Howard Douglas King posted an essay to his blog yesterday titled: Robots Are Fascinating But Where is This Technology Taking Us? It’s a short and worthwhile read. Here are a few of pull quotes…

The industrial revolution began the destruction of the traditional agrarian way of life by displacing the rural people from their lands and traditional employments; forcing them to go to the cities and work as wage-slaves with their wives and children in dreary and unsafe conditions, or starve.

The industrial revolution morphed over time into our modern technological society – less brutal in some ways – but far from the God ordained plan for the life of man. Most people hate their jobs. Some hate their jobs because they are sedentary; some because they are too physically or psychologically demanding; some because their employers pay less than a living wage for a hard and stressful day’s work. But I believe that the number one reason is because their tasks are in themselves meaningless and unfulfilling; being so far from yielding a real and necessary benefit to anyone.

The technological society can never solve the human problems and tragedies it has created and is creating today. People should be tilling the land on self-supporting family farms, living near their relatives for mutual support, taking care of their own sick, disabled and elderly, as God intended when He made man to be a tiller of the soil.(see Genesis 2:5-8) Freedom and independence; a natural connection with the creation, plants and animals; and a character building life of hard work: these are a few of the benefits that accrue on a free agricultural homestead.

Snow Tires in August? … You Betcha!

I planned to get snow tires for this winter last month (July), but I procrastinated and got them a couple weeks ago. I don’t normally buy snow tires in the summer, but this year is different. As you know, there are worldwide shortages of numerous things. But did you know one of those things is rubber?

I bought the tires from my local garage. There was no problem getting them. Their supplier had a few dozen of the tire size that I needed. But, my goodness, they were expensive!

If you are a tire consumer, you might want to read this article: Rubber Shortfall Means Tire Shortages Are Around The Corner. I bought my tires before I read that article. But not before I watched this YouTube video: What The Rubber Apocalypse Means For The US Economy. That YouTube clip is worth watching and considering.

Rubber trees that produce the world’s supply of natural latex are a clonal monocrop. Every rubber tree is genetically identical to other rubber trees; there is no genetic diversity. This is a recipe for disaster, and it wouldn’t be the first time disaster hit the world’s clonal rubber tree plantations…

Rubber used to come almost exclusively from South America. But the rubber tree plantations in South America (Brazil, primarily) were wiped out by a leaf blight in the early 1900s. To this day, even with modern chemical fungicides, rubber trees can not be grown on a commercial scale in South America. Some natural latex (approximately 1% of worldwide production) does come from South America, but it comes from trees that grow wild in the Amazon basin, not in plantations.

These days, the world’s rubber supply comes primarily from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Vietnam and China have been ramping up production. But those plantations are as vulnerable to disease as the plantations of South America were.

Approximately 40% of worldwide rubber consumption is natural latex from rubber trees. 60% is synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber can not totally replace natural rubber because it does not have the durability of natural rubber. “physicochemical properties” they call it. For example, a synthetic rubber tire can not endure the landing stress of an airplane or jet. Those tires have to be almost completely made of natural rubber.

I watched a documentary a few years ago (can’t find it now) that explained that the industrial economy of the world must have natural rubber. That includes the military-industrial economy. If natural rubber becomes unavailable, the industrial economy will grind to a halt. If the supply becomes limited, prices will naturally go up and shortages may occur. That may be where we are now.

This situation is not something to worry about. It is what it is, and it will be what it will be. But if you’re going to need snow tires for this winter, you might want to get them sooner, rather than later.