A Delightful Book

Posted by Missouri Rev on Jan 10th, 2006

Herrick Kimball in one of his recent blog postings mentions a delightful book, Diary of an Early American – Noah Blake 1805, by noted author/illustrator Eric Sloan. I was able to pick up a used hardback 1st edition (1962) for a couple of bucks on the Internet and have come to be very pleased with this great book investment, as quaint as it is. The book is based upon an old, leather-bound diary that the author found in a barn, which had the following inscription on the flyleaf:

NOAH BLAKE, my book
March the twenty-fifth,
Year of our Lord 1805
Given to me by my Father Isaac Blake
And my Mother Rachel
upon the fifteenth year of my life.

The actual diary is fairly terse, though incredibly enlightening, especially with the research and illustrations the author adds to it to bring it to life. From the inside cover we read this: The result is an intriguing combination of elements—quotations from Noah Blake’s diary, Eric Sloan’s descriptions of nail-making, bridge-building, shingle-splitting, and everyday occupations of a century and a half ago, nearly a hundred illustrations—which bring the year 1805, and Noah Blake, to life again for us. This description is quite accurate, but it doesn’t tell the whole story – the incredible knowledge our ancestors had of one of the Lord’s most blessed, living technologies — wood, that’s right, wood!

I have often made the ignorant assumption that our modern industrial technologies in wood-making were a vast improvement upon the “antiquated” ones from centuries ago. Though in some areas this may be true in improved tools and related manufacturing products (glues, etc.), though some of these have created new problems, there are several areas where the corporate, debt-based industrialism (that rules supreme over our pagan culture and economy) has created technologies that serve the short-term, monopolistic aspirations of the international corporate and banking empires rather than the long-term, generational needs of individuals and families. Witness the plethora of garbage plywoods and simulated wood products, the inferior doglegged 2×4’s and other structural products, the glued sawdust furniture stapled together with cheap plastic hardware, the expensive though quickly grown and poorly seasoned furniture and cabinet making woods, the crudely made Taiwanese screws, the list goes on.

What I didn’t realize, however, was that there were very good reasons why our agrarian founders used wood only in making certain products and structures, rather than combining it with metal (screws, etc.). They understood the technology of wood, its various task specific qualities and useful combinations, which they found could make a more durable, longer lasting product. Homes and bridges made of logs and carefully constructed stones were made to last for generations, imagine that! I am very impressed with this simple book. It has stirred in me all the more the Lord given desire to not only farm, but to steward a hardwood forest in a biblically sustainable manner while using it to properly supply wood products for various needs. I not only recommend this book for the homeschooling library, but also for us adults that need a brief journey back to a more godly culture and time. If you have other books along these lines that you can recommend, please present them in any comments you may have.

4 Responses

  1. Herrick Kimball Says:

    I’m glad to know that you got a copy of the book and that you enjoyed it. Any of Eric Sloan’s books are good. I believe they are being reprinted by Dover Publications.

    You and I share a common desire. I too dream of husbanding a woodlot with an eye towards sustainable harvest in the future– Something that I can do with my children and my generations can continue. I have a small bit of woods now, perhaps 3/4 acre. It’s nice but I am praying the Lord will provide more. I have a lot of wood cutting experience and love working in the forest.

    I know a farmer around me who spends his winter months cutting timber on shares for many local people. His tools are simply a tractor and chainsaw. No expensive and destructive skidders.

    When my family went on our mini vacation to Sturbridge Village last year, there was a man there giving horse wagon rides and he actually makes his living as a small-scale logger, using his horses to skid the logs out of the forest. That’s the best way!

    I spent a good part of a summer in my youth helping a fellow cut and haul pine pulp wood out of Bear Swamp State Forest, which is near my home. Hard work. Lots of blackflies. But it sure was a lot more satisfying that working in a factory every day.

    Do you have woodland now? What kind of hardwood is dominant in the forests around you?

    Best wishes.

  2. Scott Holtzman Says:

    Here’s a title you might search out one day if you can lay a hand on a copy Golden Thoughts on “Mother, Home & Heaven”, From Poetic and Prose Literature of All Ages and All Lands.
    Introduction by Theo L. Cuyler D.D.

    I’ll post an excerpt today to give you an idea of the book. I use it for sermon notes and illustration.


  3. Missouri Rev Says:

    Herrick, thanks for commenting. You mention that you knew a man who used horses to skid logs out of the forest. I have spent some time considering the various technologies available today to do small scale logging. I am finding all the more that a good horse or mule team coupled with a well-built wheeled skid could be a real advantage. Having been the owner of a bicycle shop years ago that made custom bike trailers designed to haul heavy loads (300 lbs), the technology is available to make a light weight though very durable log skid that could carry smaller single logs out of the woods fairly reliably. I am sad to say that I am not the steward of a woodlot . . . yet, though that is high on my priority list. I have hiking and hunting privileges on several hundred acres of heavy forest near my home, for which I have spent many hours in close observation and blessed enjoyment. The more time I spend in studying the created resources of the Lord, the more I am humbled by His benevolence and wisdom. I await the day when the Lord is pleased to restore His people to humble, covenantal faithfulness, for then they will come into the glorious, generational blessings of God as rightful stewards of His land. Here are some of the hardwood trees (angiosperms) from our neck of the woods, all of which have useful purposes in wood-making, though some a whole lot more than others: Ash, Basswood, Black Cherry, Black Locust, Black Walnut, Black Willow, Boxelder, Buckeye, Butternut, Catalpa, Dogwood, Eastern Redcedar, Elm – American, Elm – Red, Hackberry, Hickory, Honeylocust, Kentucky Coffeetree, Maple – Hard (Sugar), Maple – Soft, Mulberry, Oak – Red, Oak – White, Osage Orange, Pecan, Persimmon, River Birch, Sassafras, and Sycamore.

    Scott, thanks for the lead on the book, Golden Thoughts on Mother, Home & Heaven. Abebooks.com shows many in stock, so I will put one on order. The excerpt you posted on your blog from BF Booth was very encouraging. To read it go to the Fellow Bloggers links and select An Agrarian Plowshare).

    Walter, I am not sure what is going on but when I go to my blogsite your post doesn’t show up, even though I received it in my e-mail as posted. I am not sure whether others can see it and, therefore, I have a problem with my computer, or whether no one can see it on my site. In any event you are right; the new legislation coming down the tracks — National Animal Identification System — is another attempt by our corporate masters to resolve “potential health problems” by a form of total oversight and control that only the Lord has right to as the Sovereign Creator and Lord. These types of godless government will only increase until American Christendom repents of its autonomous covenant-breaking with the Lord. Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah, who were gathered together in Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord: ‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak.,’ ” So the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, “The Lord is righteous.”7 Now when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, “They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.8 “Nevertheless they will be his servants, that they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations.,,” 2 Chronicles 12:5-8

  4. Missouri Rev Says:

    Alas, the great mystery of the missing comments has been solved by the great sleuth . . . me. It appears I was suffering a case of the part-timer’s disease where my brain is out to lunch part of the time. It did not dawn on me that Walter had made his comments to a different posting of mine. Sorry for the mix-up, though I am sure y’all got a good laugh out that one.

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