Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 2)

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,

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.

One Acre Makeover

At some point last year, it became clear to me that I needed to make some major changes here on our one acre homestead. If your place is already exactly what it should be, then you might want to skip reading this post. Otherwise, perhaps you’ll find a bit of inspiration here.

The Problem:

  • The garden was not set up for efficiently maintaining it. As the years start adding up for me, making it easy to maintain becomes more important.
  • The garden irrigation system had underground pipes through the garden area, and that’s a really bad idea when using a powerful roto-tiller. Running over a pipe creates quite an interesting fountain in the garden.
  • The trees that provided some shade were old water oaks. In this part of the country, they are really more like giant weeds. They don’t produce anything and they tend to rot from the inside out (just as nations and cultures do), and it goes unnoticed until a storm comes along and blows it over – sometimes taking other things with it.
  • The bee hives that I set in the garden were OK until the bees got in a cranky mood at the same time that I needed to work in the garden. Keeping bees means you’re going to get stung once in a while, but you never really get used to it no matter what anyone says.


The Solution:

  • The patchwork garden design became a single rectangular block. The duck pen, the bee hives, the bananas, and the pineapple patch – gone. The duck pen was moved back out of the garden area, the pineapple plants were transplanted to a single row along the perimeter fence, the banana plants cut down and dug up, and the bee hives were moved away from the garden.
  • The irrigation system now consists of two rows of overlapping sprinklers along the sides such that every part of the garden is covered by at least two sprinklers. All the irrigation pipe and one electrical conduit were removed from the garden area.
  • All of the oaks were removed. It wasn’t cheap, but it takes heavy equipment and it needed to be done. With the yard now opened up, I planted peaches, apples, pears, pomegranates, persimmons, figs, avocado, and plums. I would rather spend my time here watching the young fruit trees grow up than watching the old water oaks rot and die. At this stage of life, watching the young grow up is one of life’s greatest joys. Think grandchildren.
  • The bee hives were moved to the side of the house. It is an area that is otherwise unused, and there are no doors on that end of the house. The bees are happy and so are we. I also reduced the number of hives from ten down to three – plenty enough for pollination and some honey.


Future posts will detail things like planting the fruit trees, the bee hives, etc. For now, I’ll let the pictures tell the story.


The Water Oaks come out

The buried pipe comes out

Banana plants are next to be removed

Stakes mark where a row of fruit trees will be planted

Fruit trees being planted

Weeds, Immigration, and Culture

Several years ago, in an effort to improve the quality of the soil in my garden, I bought a truckload of topsoil. It was carefully spread, then tilled and worked into the soil. The original soil and the new topsoil were mixed until they became as one. At first, it was great. The soil was darker and richer looking than the native sandy soil, and the plants that I grew there were bigger and stronger. Then came the weeds.

Hidden in among that rich-looking soil that I brought in to mix with the native soil were weed seeds. Specifically, nut-grass nodules. Here we are, years later, and I am still battling the nut-grass. It spreads its roots deep below the surface, and it stores nutrition in a large nodule deep down in the soil. Just cutting them off at the surface has no lasting effect – the weed springs right back in just a couple of days. Nut-grass must be dug out by the roots, one weed at a time. The nodule must be removed. The root runners must be removed. Everything about the weed must be removed, or it will continue to spread, sap the strength of the plants that are intended to grow there, and eventually they will take over completely.

Removing the weeds and their roots is not a painless process. It disturbs the roots of the garden plants, and it is slow and tedious work. There is no alternative if the garden is to be saved. It must be done.

Culture is a very precious thing, and it must be cared for and defended. A culture – just like agriculture – requires work to maintain. There are no shortcuts. Bringing in, or allowing in, foreign elements into a native culture brings with it serious risks. While on the surface, there may appear to be benefits to mixing cultures, the hidden costs will quickly show up. Like an invasive species in nature that finds no natural enemies, it takes over and the original culture disappears. Forever.

More Information on the Simple Pump

In May of last year, I wrote a post (see original post) about the installation of a hand pump in tandem with the electric pump that supplies our household water. The folks from Simple Pump learned of the post, and pointed our some incorrect information in that post concerning their product. I invited them to provide corrected information and to describe the Simple Pump and its benefits. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to correct any wrong information concerning hand pumps – or anything else covered on The Southern Agrarian.

Mr. McGehee,

I’d like to offer you some information about the Simple Pump.

It’s clear that you did not meet a “Simple Pump system”, as we do not use any lightweight plastic pipes. Our drop pipes are Sch.120 PVC, manufactured specially for us with bell-end, screw-in joints that are much stronger than PVC’s normal glued joints. The company you spoke of was not an authorized Simple Pump dealer, and I can only conclude they put together some Simple Pump parts with other components. (We have found out about a few instances of this happening. It seems you have shown us another.)

Following are some particular points about the Simple Pump.

With respect to these points — what advantages the Simple Pump has are only in respect to a particular person’s needs and perspective. E.g. A GM truck or a Ferrari have NO advantage at all over a Ford Focus — except with respect to what a particular individual wants or needs.

Do they need to pump from a shallow or a deep well? Are they looking for something lightweight (and less expensive) to pump for a couple of hours or days? Or do they want to have backup they can depend on for weeks, months or longer?

As in any field, it’s a question of each person balancing needs and cost with capabilities, durability and usability.



The fiberglass rod is 20,000 lb tensile strength, enormously stronger than necessary, even to pump from a water level of 325 feet.


Steel rods provide strength, at the cost of much greater weight and, therefore, pumping effort — to the extent that it can be prohibitive for the average person at even a moderate depth. And when we get a little further down, various other pumps rapidly become unusable. E.g. at 200 feet, some other pumps require forty of fifty pounds of downforce on the handle. The Simple Pump requires TEN pounds.

One person’s remark:
“…lifting water from 50-75 feet, and my 6-year-old was doing it with ONE HAND!!!”

The lower pumping effort also allows the Simple Pump to pump from much further down than any other hand pump — from 325 feet water level. Even then, the effort remains moderate – only about 16 pounds.


Here is just one illustrative point about the Simple Pump. The pivot points of the handle are not just drilled holes with bolts through them. They have bronze bushings — a very tough metal. And not only that, the bronze is then impregnated with graphite to lubricate. There are many other details where the quality of manufacture is evident.

Some comments:

“This is obviously the Cadillac of the industry, and I am impressed. I recognize the value of the investment in your quality.”

“These parts look like they belong in an Indy Car engine.”

“We love the pump and know it will give us many years of quality service. As a mechanical engineer myself in aerospace, I know quality when I see it – and this is the real deal.”


Of course, there is much more I could write about. I hope these few points, above, have given you a better impression of the quality of the Simple Pump. I would invite you and your readers to examine the Simple Pump and other pumps, with these questions:

1. What is the weight of the mechanism? Can I install and maintain it myself?

2. Is the pump freeze-proof?

3. Is the pump designed to share a casing with a submersible? Or must it be installed in a dedicated well?

4. What are the high-wear pivot points made of?

5. How deep can water realistically be pumped from?

6. How much pumping effort from, say, 100 foot static?

7. Does it pump into my home’s pressure tank, giving full use of all taps and fixtures? Or just pump into a bucket?

8. What is the material of the foot valve seal? What is the expected replacement frequency? At what cost and effort?

9. What is the full cost, with shipping, of a ready-to-go system?

10. Is there a written warranty?

Michael Linehan

I need to point out an important factor that we haven’t covered yet, and that is the matter of volume per pump stroke. The first hand pump well that I put in (see photo below) had a 3″ pump cylinder. Each stroke would pump a large amount of water, but it was very difficult to pump. Young children could literally swing from the pump handle; it was that hard to pump. The Bison pump has a smaller diameter cylinder and can easily be pumped with one hand – but it pumps less water per stroke than the 3″ cylinder did. The Simple Pump is even easier to pump than the Bison, but with it’s 1″ pump cylinder, it pumps even less water per stroke than the Bison. The bottom line here is that the basic rules of physics apply – you don’t get something for nothing. Lots of water = lots of work, no matter how you slice it.

• You can pump it fast
• You can pump it easy
• You can pump lots of water
Pick any two. You lose the third one.

Look at your own needs, decide what works best for YOUR SITUATION, then find what best fits those needs. If very easy pumping is a big factor, and you don’t mind pumping more strokes for the same amount of water, then the Simple Pump is clearly the better choice. If the amount of effort per stroke is not a major issue for you and you’d rather pump more water with fewer (but harder) strokes, then the Bison or a traditional hand pump may be your best choice. There is no single “Best Choice” for everyone.

Bison water pump installed in tandem with an electric submersible pump on a 4 inch well

Bison water pump installed in tandem with an electric submersible pump on a 4 inch well

Traditional hand pump. This started out with a 3" pump cylinder, but I replaced it with a smaller Bison cylinder.

Traditional hand pump. This started out with a 3″ pump cylinder, but I replaced it with a smaller Bison cylinder.

A Wash Station for the Garden


I have wanted a place to wash vegetables and eggs without bringing dirt into the house and without having to stoop near a water spigot or juggle a garden hose. When my brother came across a scrapped stainless steel hospital cart, I had found what I was looking for. I cut the bottom part of it off to bring it down to a comfortable working level.

It is setting on blocks that are arranged so that it tilts back and to the left to control drainage. A section of PVC pipe was cut to form a gutter that drains the water off into the garden. I used 1 1/4″ PVC, but I may rebuild that part and use a larger diameter pipe for the gutter and drain. It works well for the flow of water that I would normally use, but if the valve is opened for a greater flow, it is more than that pipe can drain away and it starts splattering on the ground rather than going into the garden.

Below the working surface, a standard hose bib is available if needed.

Below the working surface, a standard hose bib is available if needed.

The water comes out of the "shower head" removed from a "water wand" from the hardware store.

The water comes out of the “shower head” removed from a “water wand” from the hardware store.

Stainless steel wire is used to secure the valve to the fence post.

Stainless steel wire is used to secure the valve to the fence post.

Smell The Roses

While our focus is on the vegetable garden and chickens, we try to keep things in perspective. God created roses and other things of beauty for a reason. They are for us to enjoy and to reflect on the great God who created them – and us.

Netting to Protect the Garden

Netting protecting the strawberries

Guarding your garden against various pests is a never-ending task if you expect to benefit from your labor. Before adding this netting over the strawberry plants, the squirrels were getting them before we were. They still get one on occasion when they can reach through the netting, but most of the strawberries are out of their reach. While a pellet rifle with a good scope does a fine job of thinning the population of “fuzzy tail tree rats”, it just doesn’t compare to netting when it comes to results. It may be more satisfying to see the little thieves fall from a tree, but it doesn’t even put a dent in the population. Netting is far more effective.

The down side to using netting is that if I’m in a hurry in the morning, it’s easy to just take a quick look for ripe strawberries to pick rather than removing the netting and looking carefully under the leaves. I’ve lost some by letting them get over-ripe.

This year, we just had 4 strawberry plants. We will definitely be increasing the number next year.

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