The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Reject the Temporary – Embrace the Timeless

The Black Friday madness is all that anyone needs to see in order to understand a seriously flawed way of thinking. Only hours after celebrating Thanksgiving – a day set aside to thank God for all that we have been blessed with – crowds of people obsessed with buying the latest trinkets from China at a lower price push and shove to grab more “stuff”. Is anything they are buying going to last? Will it be here two years from now? Is there any possibility that it will be handed down to future generations as a treasured heirloom? No, it will end up in a landfill as a testament to consumerism as the highest pursuit, while treating the land as nothing more than a source for raw materials and a dumping ground for last year’s trinkets.

My wife and I enjoy looking through small town antique shops. Occasionally, we will find something to buy, but mostly it is a form of entertainment and a chance to see what generations past have treasured. We have noticed that, over the years, there is more and more high quality furniture and other items available in these shops at very reasonable prices. The shop owners tell us that there is no shortage of items available. Parents die, and their children have no interest in that heavy, solid wood furniture or bone china or old sterling silverware beyond asking, “What’s it worth?”

We hear the same story time after time – today, people would rather buy junk from Ikea or Walmart, knowing that it will last until they get bored with it and want to redecorate or relocate. Dump the old junk, and buy the new junk. The assumption is that there will always be new junk available whenever they need it – an endless supply of new stuff from China, based on an endless supply of raw materials stripped from the land.

Things that are passed down from one generation to the next are not just things – they are tangible connections with our past. That old sideboard in the family farmhouse is not just a worn out cabinet to store things in – it is an item that my ancestors thought highly enough of to take up precious space in a covered wagon when they moved from Alabama to Florida. It is something that each generation is shown as they hear the stories of how our family moved in the days before moving vans and interstate highways.

Don’t short-change those who come after you. Choose things that have lasting value; things that aren’t trendy that will go out of style next year; that won’t fall apart and can’t be repaired. It doesn’t have to be expensive. We have found some very nice solid wood furniture in second hand stores. We have found sets of fine china at the Goodwill store at a price not much more than what you might pay for a good brand of paper plates. Think long term. Think of your descendants. Reject the temporary. Embrace the timeless.

Thanksgiving 1861

During the Thanksgiving season we often hear that the first national Thanksgiving Proclamation was given by Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. on October 3, 1863. What the northern history books fail to mention is that Lincoln, bowing to political pressure, copied the President of the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis actually had made the first national Proclamation of Thanksgiving two years earlier in Richmond, Virginia.
Here it is:

Proclamation of Thanksgiving, 1861
by President Jefferson Davis

WHEREAS, it hath pleased Almighty God, the Sovereign Disposer of events, to protect and defend us hitherto in our conflicts with our enemies as to be unto them a shield.

And whereas, with grateful thanks we recognize His hand and acknowledge that not unto us, but unto Him, belongeth the victory, and in humble dependence upon His almighty strength, and trusting in the justness of our purpose, we appeal to Him that He may set at naught the efforts of our enemies, and humble them to confusion and shame.

Now therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, in view of impending conflict, do hereby set apart Friday, the 15th day of November, as a day of national humiliation and prayer, and do hereby invite the reverend clergy and the people of these Confederate States to repair on that day to their homes and usual places of public worship, and to implore blessing of Almighty God upon our people, that he may give us victory over our enemies, preserve our homes and altars from pollution, and secure to us the restoration of peace and prosperity.

Given under hand and seal of the Confederate States at Richmond, this the 31st day of October, year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty one.

By the President,
JEFFERSON DAVIS

Thanksgiving 1944

The Norman Rockwell classic, Freedom From Want, speaks volumes of the bounty that we have here in America. Even the poorest of the poor here are far richer than much of the rest of the world. Obesity is a far greater problem in America than is hunger. We have so much to be thankful for.

Do we really understand where our blessings come from? How many times do we off-handedly say “God bless you” without giving any thought to the fact that God HAS richly blessed us.

I want to point out one of the reasons that we have the freedom to celebrate Thanksgiving to our God – the men who have fought and died trying to preserve our freedom. As I was going through some of my father’s papers to clean up for our Thanksgiving Day dinner, I found a reminder of the sacrifice that generations past have made. This is the Thanksgiving Dinner menu for those aboard the U.S.S. Cumberland Sound, AV-17 in 1944 – somewhere in the Pacific, very far from home.


Part of the crew of the U.S.S. Cumberland Sound, AV-17. My father is the officer in the front row, wearing the cap, on the right.


When my father died, I inherited what is probably the largest collection of photos of and about the USS Cumberland Sound in existence. This is the web site that I created to share those photos.

Wasteland To Garden

November 2019

March 2017 – New garden area with cow manure added, and part of the peat moss added. Note the barren soil in the foreground – even weeds had a hard time growing here.


Can wasteland that will just barely support a few weeds, be turned into productive garden space? Two and a half years ago, I set about to answer that question.


The Wasteland to Garden experiment is going to take longer than I imagined it would, but in the end, I should end up with an additional 600 square feet of productive garden space where I used to just have little more than white sand. If this continues to improve, it will demonstrate that anyone can have a nice garden if they are willing to put in the time, work, and resources to make it happen.

The main problem was that there was almost no organic matter in that area. Rain water would just run right through with nothing to absorb and hold it, leaving it dry shortly after even a good rain. In addition, with nothing to feed earthworms and microorganisms, it was not part of the living ecosystem of the soil that plants depend on. Mixing in large quantities of organic matter is key to making that soil come alive, but it takes more than that. It takes time – time for the living part of the soil to reproduce and become established.

I don’t know this as fact, but I suspect that the physical makeup of the original soil is such that this area will need to be regularly used as garden area in order to keep the level of organic matter up and to replace the nutrients that get washed down below the root zone.

Below this post is the original post from March 2017. Some of the changes since the original post:

  • The fig tree (the near-leafless branches in the upper left part of the 2017 photo) was dug up and replanted in another area and is doing far better.
  • The size was expanded to 14′ x 44′ (from 11′ x 19′)
  • In March 2019, a layer of compost about 2″ deep was added and tilled in.
  • Several gardens were attempted, including a Three Sisters garden with corn, beans, and Seminole Pumpkin. Results were less than impressive, but still a huge improvement over what it was two and a half years ago. Everything grown was tilled into the soil at the end of its season.
  • Sweet potatoes (Centennial) were added at one end of the garden, mainly because I had some that needed to be relocated. They have done very well there.
  • Ground cover fabric was added to surround the garden area to help keep weeds from encroaching from the sides. It is held in place with weights, rather than being staked, so that it can be tilled right up to the edge on the garden side, and mowed right up to the edge on the grass side.
  • A few weeks ago, I added one pallet load (65 cubic feet) of top soil, and tilled it in (photo above). About 30 cubic feet of top soil had been added a month earlier.
  • Earlier this week, I plowed one furrow using a Hoss Wheel Hoe with plow attachment, and planted some potatoes that had been bought for eating, but sprouted in the pantry.

In the next few weeks, when seed potatoes are available locally, I will plant several rows of Yukon Gold. I will probably be starting some romaine lettuce and Golden Acre cabbage in seed trays and then transplanting them. This will be the first “full” garden planted in this test plot.

At this point, it is clear to me that even the most barren, sterile land can be turned into productive land – IF enough organic matter is added. Another important point is that this takes time – not just in hours of work, but years to build up the microorganisms that turn sterile dirt into living soil. I am starting to really understand that good soil is much more than simply chemical and physical components, but rather a complex living ecosystem that must be carefully nourished over time.

Another important lesson learned was that, while getting compost may be a bit cheaper by the dump truck load, the job isn’t finished until it is spread. Evenly distributing a dump truck load of compost required a tractor, and still it was not as even as it should be. Getting top soil in bags made it much simpler to evenly spread it across the garden.


Southern Agrarianism is about a deep appreciation for the soil. It is about nourishing and caring for that soil and the understanding that, with careful stewardship and work, that soil will provide our families with fresh, wholesome food, and our children will truly understand where food comes from. It is sad that so many urban people have no real understanding of what it takes to put food on their plate – an understanding that is deep in the hearts of Southern Agrarians.


Compost by the truck load may be a bit less expensive, but much harder to spread evenly. Part of this had to be moved from the main garden to the test area. Lesson learned.

 

 


Original post from March 2017:

(Photos omitted)

As much as I expanded my garden over the past several months, I still ran out of room. The solution? Turn an unused part of the backyard into garden. The problem is that this unused part of the yard is so infertile that even weeds have a hard time growing there. That makes this more of an experiment than just a routine garden project. Here’s what I’ve done:

  1. Used the BCS Two-wheel Tractor with tiller attachment to rototill the area. I went over it twice in both directions. I raked and picked up the assorted roots and weeds (and a beautiful piece of heavy green glass from some long-ago bottle).
  2. Watered it very heavily. In addition to adding much-needed moisture, this greatly improves the ability to work the soil.
  3. The next day, I added cow manure and peat moss. It was mixed in using a Mantis tiller with the tines reversed so that it just mixes things up without digging deeply.
  4. More watering, with the ducks “helping”.
  5. Marked out the rows and planted Seminole Pumpkin seeds.

 

I had planted some Seminole Pumpkin seeds in the main garden area, but decided I’d rather put more okra in. Seminole Pumpkin can take up a huge amount of space as it spreads out. It won’t hurt if it spreads out in this new garden area, but it would have shaded out other plants in the main garden area.

As I said, this is really an experiment to see what it takes to turn a small (11′ x 19′) patch of barren ground into a fertile garden. We’ll take another look at it later in the year. In the mean time, the main garden is starting to have green where there was once only dirt.

A lesson to be learned here is that if I can turn this piece of barren sand into a productive garden, then anyone can find a place to start one.

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The Trashing of Robert E. Lee

A friend and Southern Gentleman (interesting how those often seem to go together) sent me this link to an article titled The Myth of the Kindly General Lee in The Atlantic magazine and asked me to comment on it. The subtitle of the article is The legend of the Confederate leader’s heroism and decency is based in the fiction of a person who never existed.

I had not seen this article, and frankly, I couldn’t even finish reading it. Was Lee an imperfect man? Of course. Did he make some bad choices along the way? Of course. Have we built his legend beyond the reality? Probably. Such is the fate of all great men. Would they dare to do the same critical study of Lincoln? The purpose of the article is not to discover the truth. Its purpose is the same as those who are, right now, removing Confederate statues. It is about destroying a people. The Southern people. My people.

The article is just another example of the on-going attacks against The South, against the White race, against any one or any thing that does not bow down and worship at the altar of political correctness. Some wonder what led to the rise of the alt-right and why Trump is in the White House. The answer is that they created us. Using myself as an example, I was quite content to simply enjoy my family, tend to my chickens and my garden, and promote the Southern Gentleman and Southern Agrarianism in very much a live and let live manner. It has become plain to me that the Left will not allow me to do that. I am given the same choice that the Muslim gives a Christian – convert or die. There is no room for compromise. No chance to coexist. One side will be the conqueror and one side will be the conquered. I know which side I will be on, and I intend to play a very active role in that. I will not be a mere observer and bystander in what will be seen as one of the great cultural shifts in history.

I will not apologize for my heritage, for my ancestors, for my family, or for who I am. I cannot sit back and watch this happen to the world that my grandchildren will inherit. And I will not.

The Southern Agrarian Last Ditch List

Okra pods and flower

Most of us garden primarily for pleasure. It’s what we do because – well, because we are Southern Agrarians. Yes, what we grow ends up on our table or given to friends and neighbors; however, what our garden produces generally does not determine whether we eat or starve.

But what if it did? What if our very fragile system were to collapse leaving the grocery store shelves empty and the streets too dangerous to venture out in? Part of Southern Agrarianism is being independent of that complex system, so this is very much a topic for discussion.

My garden tends to be planned more around what we enjoy eating and growing rather than for maximizing food production when lives depend on it. The Last Ditch List is what I would be planting if lives did depend on it.

 

The Southern Agrarian Last Ditch List

Sweet Potatoes (Centennial)
Incredibly easy to grow; I’m still growing them from the very first slips that I got about eight years ago. I keep moving them around to avoid soil-borne pests and diseases, and they will take transplanting without any problem.
ꔷ The taste is delicious
ꔷ High in nutritional value
ꔷ Will last for months if stored in a cool, dark place
ꔷ The leaves are edible

Okra (Clemson Spineless)
ꔷ Continuous production through hot weather
ꔷ Very resistant to disease and pest
ꔷ Each plant will produce one or two edible pods about every two to three days
ꔷ Easy to save seeds
ꔷ Delicious when fried

Eggplant (Florida Highbush)
ꔷ Highly productive through hot weather
ꔷ Easily prepared and makes a good, filling meal
ꔷ Minimal problems from disease or pests
ꔷ Relatively easy to save seeds if you know the technique
ꔷ Should plant a fairly large number to maintain genetic diversity in seeds

Seminole Pumpkin
ꔷ Fruit can last up to a full year when properly stored
ꔷ Almost impervious to disease or pests
ꔷ Huge vines that drop roots along the way making the plant very resilient and able to thrive on relatively poor ground
ꔷ Lots of organic matter at the end of the season to keep the ground rich
ꔷ Needs good care and lots of water to get started; once established, requires almost no care

Collards (Georgia Southern)
ꔷ Winter crop
ꔷ Other greens will not reliably produce seeds in this area

 

Second Tier crops

These are ones that I am still working with but don’t have enough experience yet to put them on the Last Ditch List. Nothing other than lack of a well established track record keeps me from putting them on the Last Ditch List.

Potatoes (Yukon Gold)
This is only my second time planting these, but all indications are that they should make the Last Ditch List in the next year or two.

Squash (Tromboncino)
The variety makes all the difference. I have given up on the more typical yellow squash; bugs have destroyed them every single time I have tried. Tromboncino, on the other hand, is highly resistant to pests due to its tough outer skin. The fruit is pale green, long and thin, and grows on a vine. I have them growing along a fence.

 

Not On The List

These are crops that I grow now, but they don’t meet the criteria for inclusion on the Last Ditch List.

Beans (Kentucky Wonder or Blue Lake) – Too many poor results. Sometimes I get a good crop, and other times it’s a poor crop. Inconsistent. May be moved to the Last Ditch List once I learn more, but not yet. Good potential once I learn more.

Corn (Reid’s Yellow Dent) – Low yield for the amount of space it takes up. Heavy drain on the garden soil. If any crops would be available for purchase following a collapse, it would be grains. They are well suited for large scale, highly mechanized farming, and they transport and store well. I keep some seeds on hand for use in corn meal or for chicken feed – just in case.

Tomatoes (Homestead 24) – Too easily damaged by bugs or disease or blossom end rot. They stop producing when the weather gets hot.

Peppers (Carolina Wonder) – Susceptibility to Blossom End Rot keeps peppers off the list. If I can get the calcium deficiency solved, this might be moved to the Last Ditch List.

 

Final Notes

Vegetable gardening is very location-dependent. This Last Ditch List is what works for me here in north central Florida. There is a really good chance that your Last Ditch List would be different. Maybe very different. Perhaps the most value from this list is in the criteria – why I chose what I did for this list.

What is on your Last Ditch List – and why?

Learning from Failure – Blossom End Rot

When I started my garden this year, I knew that I needed to add calcium to the soil – or at least I was pretty sure that it was needed. Now that things are ripening, it turns out that I was right. The tomatoes and peppers are both on track to be a near-total loss due to blossom end rot. I have beautiful red tomatoes, but when they are turned over, what you see is a big black spot of rotting tomato. The peppers have a rotten brown spot on the end.

I had tried to locate a local source for pelletized gypsum, but couldn’t. I should have looked harder. I could have used a special tomato fertilizer, but that is sold in small containers that would have cost far too much to fertilize the whole garden. I have since found a source that is about an hour away, and will be stocking up on it for next year.

The key points:

  • Never assume that things will always turn out the way they are supposed to turn out. I’ve had great luck with both tomatoes and peppers, but in different soil.
  • Know what will grow well in your garden as it is now. If you’re depending on what your garden produces, don’t waste space on “nice to have” crops. Stick with what you know will work.
  • It all comes from the soil. If it needs something, get it and add it.

Tools For The Garden

Gardening can be very time-consuming, hard work – unless you have the right tools for the job. The right tools can make the work fast and easy, and they can allow someone to reasonably produce enough food to feed their family where it would not be possible without them.

The top photo shows my current collection of manual garden tools. This does not include the BCS two-wheel tractor and implements that are stored in another area. I tend to collect garden tools like some folks collect guns – better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. One can never have too many garden tools. I even have a broad fork – a beast of a tool that I might even need some day. In future posts, we’ll look at some of the more interesting tools in my shed.

The second photo shows two extremes in tools. One item is a Rogue Field Hoe (reviewed here) – a great example of a high quality tool that should last a lifetime or more. The crude stick with a metal spike driven through it is not an ancient relic from an archaeological site or something sold to tourists. It is a hand hoe that is in routine use today in Africa. Specifically, this one was purchased at a village market in Sierra Leone, West Africa by missionaries there that I work with. This could correctly be called state of the art technology in most of Africa today. Yes, there are certainly tractors and modern tools in use there also; however, those are imported. When it comes to tools made by the locals, this pretty much says it all. There are some lessons to be learned in this.

Western hoe and African hoe – both manufactured about the same time, and both routinely used in their respective areas.

OK. What’s the point of this post? Ask yourself how you would produce enough food to feed yourself and your family if you had to work the soil to feed them. Stored food doesn’t count – that eventually runs out. Power equipment is great, but it doesn’t count either – fuel very quickly runs out. What you’re left with is muscle powered tools. Most of the world will reply with rolled eyes and a smirk. “It couldn’t happen here” they would say. Perhaps they are right. I certainly hope they are right; however, I’m not going to bet my family’s life on it. Do you?

The Myth of The Self-Made Man

The idea of “White Privilege” holds that Whites have an unearned privilege solely because of their race. I must agree with that, but not for the reasons that Leftists have. The fact is, they have no reasons. They don’t want to think about it. They only want to say that we have privileges based on race that other races do not have. There is a reason for that – a very good reason.

It is all about reputation. Generations of civilized behavior is the reason for White Privilege. A society learns from experience, and that experience tells them that Whites, as a race, are a civilized people who can be trusted to adhere to the norms of a civilized society. That experience also tells a society that some other races are prone to uncivilized behavior. Of course there are individuals who are on the edges of the bell curve both for better and for worse. We’re talking about statistical groups rather than individuals.

The White Privilege that I benefit from is not of my own doing – it is inherited from my ancestors. Likewise, the White Privilege that my descendants will benefit from will not be from their own efforts, but from mine. We stand on the shoulders of giants – those who came before us.

We have a duty to continue living the kind of life that will ensure that our descendants are granted the same White Privilege that we enjoy.

As for other races? There is no reason not to start now. Today. An individual reputation takes many years to develop. A racial reputation takes many generations to develop. It’s not easy and there are no guarantees, but the alternative is to be forever envious of the privileged status of those who have it, and we see what a disaster that is. The choice is yours.

Clean it, Maintain it, Fix it


In a reply to a previous post, I was reminded of the need to learn to make do with what we have and to repair and maintain things. That brought to mind the two tools shown in the photo above – both tools have been in the family for several generations. The grubbing hoe is still in quite usable condition despite the handle being wrapped with a strip of metal that has been nailed in place. The axe, on the other hand, is just kept as a reminder of a time when tools were treasured and were not easily replaced.

One of life’s great lessons is learning that it always pays to buy quality and then maintain it. Quality tools, well cared for, maintained, and repaired as needed, are far better than saving a few dollars buying Chinese junk and then replacing it because it’s not worth repairing.

One of my routines is to always wash all of my garden tools and set them out to dry when I’m finished using them. Most of the time, that is all that is needed before hanging them in their place in the tool shed. If a tool should start to get some rust on it, I clean it off with a wire wheel or whatever is appropriate, rub a bit of oil on it, then put it away. About once a year, I go through all of my tools and use a file to sharpen them, but some tools get sharpened more frequently.

Wooden handles are too-often neglected. I use a rag to rub linseed oil into the wood handles of my tools. If they are treated with reasonable care and stored out of the weather, a good hardwood tool handle should last a lifetime and be able to be passed down to the next generation. Some folks prefer to paint their wood handles, but I’ve never had any desire to do that. 1) I love the look and feel of real wood, and 2) Paint can hide cracks and other problems that should be quickly taken care of.

The grubbing hoe in the photo probably came down with the family when they moved from Alabama to Florida in about 1921 – nearly a century ago. Although we usually associate covered wagons with pioneers moving west, that is how my grandparents moved their family and household goods down here. My grandfather built a covered wagon that was pulled by oxen. It was driven down what was called the Florida Short Route, marked by crude signs and tree carvings saying “FSR”. The cattle were carried by train, and some of the family was loaded into an old Ford, and off they went to find a place where the farming was easier than the rock-filled clay of McGehee Mountain in Clay County, Alabama.

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