February 27, 2019

Illinois Becky's
Inspiring Minibed Garden

Becky's Minibed Garden in 2018
It was late in 2016 when, after decades of trying so many other gardening methods, I developed a new system for gardening. At first, I called it Minibeds-on-Plastic. I now call it Minibed Gardening.

At first glance, Minibed gardening doesn't look like anything all that unique. The casual observer would only see plastic mulch and some small beds. So, what's the big deal?

Well, the big deal is in how the beds are laid out and managed. I call it high-culture. High culture is all about focused attention on the health of the soil, and providing optimum conditions for plants to thrive. There's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

For the past two years I have had a Minibed experimental garden. I have put my initial ideas into practice. I've seen them prove to be sound, productive, and profoundly satisfying.

But what is even more satisfying to me is seeing others take the Minibed gardening idea and put it to good use. Such is the case with the garden in the photo above. Becky M. lives in northern Illinois, about an hour southwest of Chicago (zone 5). She sent me that beautiful photo above with the following comment...
"I bought your garden book and the first update and last year I converted my garden to minibeds.  Wow.  I had a few bumps along the road and I learned from them but for the most part, my 45 mini-beds were a huge success.  I'm 66 with bad knees and the weeding my traditional row garden required almost made me give up gardening completely.  I'm so glad I got your book and took the plunge!"
Becky's Minibed garden puts my garden to shame. Here are a couple more pictures from her first year of Minibed gardening (you can click on the pictures to see enlarged views)...

Here are some "before" photos of the same garden in the spring, after getting the plastic and Minibed frames in place...

And here's a final photo from Becky...

 Now, if all of that doesn't inspire you to get gardening this spring, I don't know what will. 

The way I look at it, gardening is one of the most positive and productive things you can do in a world full of such craziness and uncertainty. 


With your Minibed gardening success and satisfaction in mind I have recently (just yesterday) finished putting together a new Minibed gardening resource...

The Minibed Gardening Trilogy is a collection of my yearly Minibed gardening reports (2017-2019). It has 130 pages and 250 photos. It explains the history, the theory, and the best practices of my Minibed gardening system. 

This new resource is formatted as a pdf download. The price is $17.95. But I have put it on sale until March 16 for only $12.95. Click Here to order.

If you want to learn more about the Minibed gardening system before purchasing the Trilogy, Click Here to go to the Minibed Gardening web site.


NOTE: If you have purchased the previous yearly reports from me, you already have the first two thirds of this trilogy, and you should have received and e-mail with information about purchasing just the 30-page 2019 Minibed Gardening update (priced at $2.95). If you did not get the e-mail, contact me at  herrick@planetwhizbang.com and I'll send you the details.

February 24, 2019

George Washington
Christian Agrarian
(His Most Referenced Biblical Passage)

This bust of George Washington was made at Mount Vernon in 1785 by Jean-Antione Houdon. It is widely regarded as the most accurate likeness ever made of Washington. He was 53 years old when this was made.

I have long admired George Washington. Anyone who takes the time to delve into the story of his life and his character can not help but admire him. Washington's character was profoundly Christian. 

Every so often I'll do a Google search and peruse some Geo. Washington trivia. Today I happened upon This Page at the Mount Vernon web site, and I learned something new about Washington...
"No biblical passage is referenced more frequently in Washington's voluminous papers than the ancient Hebrew blessing and prophetic vision of the New Jerusalem in which every man sits safely "under his vine and under his fig tree." Washington invoked this image nearly four dozen times during the last half of his life. The image of reposing under one's own vine and fig tree vividly captures the agrarian ideals of simplicity, contentment, domestic tranquility, and self-sufficiency; it is also a metaphor for not only freedom from want and fear but also the right to private property and hospitality."
Wow. Washington was a Christian-agrarian. Look at those ideals... Simplicity. Contentment. Domestic tranquility. Self sufficiency. Private property (productive land). 

Here are the Bible verses from which Washington drew his most frequent biblical references...

"But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it." (Micah 4:4)

"And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon." (1 Kings 4:25)

“In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 3:10)


Eleven years ago I went to Mount Vernon with two of my sons. It was probably the best vacation I've ever been on. I wrote about it at that time...

Visiting Mount Vernon

Washington The Farmer (Part 1)

Washington The Farmer (Part 2)

February 17, 2019

One Small Example Of
Solopreneur Manufacturing

The beauty of the internet is that you can dream up simple, useful, niche-market products, make them in your home workshop, and sell them to the world. I've been doing just that for several years.

But home manufacturing isn't necessarily easy. There is a lot of work involved in making things. It's work that people may not realize is going into the product. The loop stakes I make to go with my Whizbang Bucket Irrigation Kits are just one example. In the video above I show you some of the behind-the-scenes work involved in making this little item.

The wire holding and cutting fixture you see in the video is something I made 6 years ago. It has been in storage underneath my workshop. I had to scrape some snow and ice off it after bringing it inside. The old cutter came from a yard sale (the price was right).  Rustic as it is, the contraption is a real time saver.

Now, for some amazing contrast, check out This CNC Wire Bending Machine.

February 16, 2019

How Did Dave Ramsey
Get My Brain?

I'm pretty certain I've blogged about Dave Ramsey in the past. And I'm pretty sure just about everyone in America must know who he is by now. Most of you reading this have probably listened to Dave's radio show, or maybe even taken his "Financial Peace University" class (I paid for all three of my sons to take the class). Nevertheless, I can't help but bring the above interview to your attention, and highly recommend it.

What Dave says in this video about things like debt, delayed gratification, going to college, wealth inequality (no class envy allowed), capitalism, the responsibility of government, and personal charity are all in perfect accord with my belief system. They are things I would say if I could so giftedly communicate with the spoken word like Dave.

Dave defines wisdom as "the art of living life well." As far as money goes, he says that, "If you read Proverbs over and over you'll have a master's Degree in finance."

His mission is to help people be debt-free, and build wealth so they can be "outrageously generous."

An example of outrageous generosity he provides is giving a pregnant waitress in a greasy spoon diner a $300 tip. It's a compelling scenario, especially if you know people like that—people who are among the working and struggling poor. People who would be truly blessed to receive such generosity.

Dave says, "People who give are always grateful people, they're more humble, and they're more selfless, and they're highly attractive people. They're who you want your kids to be when they grow up."

Speaking of growing up, the interviewer asks Dave about his upbringing and Christian faith. To fully understand Dave's answer, you need to know that he made 4 million dollars in real estate when he was 26 years old. Then he lost it all. Here's his answer...

"I didn't grow up in church. I was a hell raising, beer drinking, hillbilly. I was a crazy man. I met God as an adult. I actually met God on the way up, when I was making that money, and when we were losing everything, I got to know Him on the way down."

The last part of that comment really spoke to me. I can relate...

I've never made a lot of money in my life, but I managed to actually save some money doing carpentry work in my early years. I felt pretty good about myself. And then I lost it all in the late 1990s pursuing a bad business idea. 

It was a difficult time for me. I was depressed. But I got to know God really well on the way down, and especially when I hit the bottom. That experience totally changed my life. But I digress.

Did you know the typical millionaire pays off their home in 10.2 years? I learned that listening to the interview. 

February 13, 2019

Lessons From Monopoly
Jelly Belly Jelly Beans

Charles Darrow's Original Handmade Monopoly Game

I am working these days at building up my inventory of Grape Trellis Fittings, Bucket Irrigation Kits and Whizbang T-Post Trellis Span Y-holders. None of these products makes me a lot of money, but every little bit helps, and spring is coming.

The 24' x 24' addition I built on my house last year is a perfect studio to work in. For now, it's one big room with lots of natural light. I have a work bench in there. It's a downright pleasant space.

I also have a propane heater in that room, which is something completely new for us. The heater  automatically maintains a steady comfortable temperature. For the past 34 years we have had heat only when we started and maintained a fire in our wood stove— 24 hours a day in the winter. From that perspective, automatic heat is an amazing luxury. I fear that I'm getting soft in my old age.

I like to watch YouTube videos and Amazon Prime documentaries on my iPhone while working. One documentary I watched was Under The Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story.

Part of the Monopoly story is that Charles Darrow was out of work and invented Monopoly during the Great Depression as a way of making some much needed money. But he actually modified a game that had been invented by someone else decades earlier. 

According to the documentary, Darrow began by making each game himself. His goal was to make one a day and sell it for $4, which he evidently did. The photo at the top of this blog post shows one of Charles Darrow's original handmade Monopoly games. You can see the whole board (it was circular) and read what it sold for at auction at This Link.

Darrow tried to sell his new game idea to Parker Brothers but they weren't interested. Then, once he started getting the game into some stores, and word about the game spread, Parker Brothers contacted Darrow. 

Darrow was more confident about his idea by then and, instead of selling the idea outright,  he wanted a royalty agreement with Parker Brothers. That was a smart move. Darrow's heirs continue to receive money from that agreement.

I feel a kinship with Charles Darrow. Making the games by hand and hawking them for $4 each sounds like something I would do. 

Besides that, I actually invented a new game back in the early 1980s one winter when I was laid off for a few weeks from my carpentry job. And I tried to sell to Parker Brothers. And they sent me a letter in reply letting me know that they were not interested. I still have the rejection letter.

My game consisted of two "kingdoms" of playing pieces that clashed in battle. Only one survived. I called it Kingsley. The name came from Karen Kingsley, a friend of my wife and I when we went to Alfred State College. 

After watching that Monopoly movie, I feel like I should dig out my original Kingsley board (a literal board), dust off the instructions, and see if it's still as exciting as I once thought it was. I would love to have a lucrative royalty legacy that my children and grandchildren could benefit from. Wouldn't we all!

Then there is the documentary, Candyman: The David Klein Story, which I've actually watched twice. David Kline is the man who invented Jelly Belly jelly beans back in 1976.

Jelly Belly is a great American success story. But Klein did not have the business acumen that Charles Darrow had. 

In 1980 Klein was pressured to sell his trademark to the company he had contracted with to make the Jelly Belly candy. 

Without even consulting an attorney, Klein signed a contract to sell his rights to the trademark for 4.8 million dollars. Half of the money went to his partner (the partner is another strange aspect of the story). Each man received $10,000 a month for 20 years.

If Klein had negotiated a royalty agreement with the buyer he would have made hundreds of millions, and his heirs would have benefitted for generations.

As it is, the money David Klein did receive is all gone. He spent it trying to duplicate his Jelly Belly success with one novelty candy product after another. It's a sad story, but it makes for a good documentary.

February 12, 2019

Lessons From The
Texas Clock Tower Shooting
Of 1966

It's bad enough that some people want to take guns away from regular law-abiding citizens, but now, as This Recent News Report explains, there are people who want to take the guns away from police officers when they are in public schools. 

This is just another "strong delusion" (among many) currently gripping America. When a nation (or a person) rejects God, He allows the strong delusions... "that they should believe in lies." 

It's in 2 Thessalonians, which is in the Bible.

I looked up the word "delusion," just to make sure I was thinking right... "an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder."

Mental disorder? Yes, I do think that is a correct word for the lack of critical thinking skills that is now consuming America, but I digress.

When it comes to this matter of gun rights, especially for We The People, I am often reminded of Charles Whitman, the ex-Marine college student who, from the top of the Clock Tower, at the University of Texas shot and killed 16 people back in 1966. He wounded another 31 before, 90 minutes later, he was killed by a couple of very brave police officers and one hastily-deputized civilian.  Without waiting for the SWAT team (because they didn't have those back then?) or their bullet proof vests, the men headed up the inside of the tower to stop Whitman.

You've probably heard that "when seconds count, the police are minutes away." But when seconds count, and We The People are armed, the bad guys don't often get very far with their killing plans.

That is the big story in this incident. Everyone agrees that Whitman would have killed many more people if it were not for numerous armed civilians on the ground. Once they realized what was happening, We The People started shooting back. 

When all those armed civilians started shooting back, Whitman was unable to effectively keep firing and killing. The civilian firepower kept Him pinned down until the police officers could get to him.

This sorry incident is fresh on my mind because I recently happened upon a story about it in a 1966 issue of American Rifleman magazine. The 4-page article tells some of the details that are not widely known. The four article pages are pictured below. If you want to see a larger (easier to read) view, just click on the photos. 

Also, there are numerous YouTube videos about this 50-year-old event, but This One is actual black-and-white film from that day. There is no sound, but you can imagine. 

You do not, however, have to imagine the dead bodies. Near the end of that film, they show the dead bodies of people who were killed by Whitman inside the tower. This is something that we never see these days. Think of a recent mass killing and there are no bodies ever shown to the public. The lack of bodies never fails to give rise to conspiracy theories.

P.S. Five months prior to the killing, Charles Whitman went to a psychiatrist. He told the psychiatrist that he had anger issues and that he thought about going up on the tower with a deer rifle and killing people. You can Read The Report Here.

February 8, 2019

Trying To Stay On
A Critical Path

(click photo for an enlarged view)

I had lunch yesterday with my old business partner. Steve and I worked for the same contractor for nearly four years before starting our own home remodeling business. We called it Bestbuilt Construction. It lasted for several very good years before we parted ways.

That parting was nearly 25 years ago, and yesterday's lunch date was our first one-on-one conversation of any length since then. 

We sat in the restaurant and talked for just about five hours. Which reminded me that we never did lack for things to talk about.

There is no other man I know of that I could have such a lengthy conversation with. But there is no other man who I've ever worked so closely with. It was nearly every day for a decade. We shared common goals and hopes, along with common challenges, and the success and disappointments that came with those challenges. We were the best of friends.

In retrospect, we were a remarkable working duo. Like I told Steve yesterday, one plus one added up to a lot more than two when we worked together. More than just teamwork happened. There was a rare synergy. It was something special. It is something that I've missed, and will probably never experience again in my lifetime.


Steve now operates his own business as a home inspector. If you ever consider buying a home in Central New York State, contact Steve. He's a true professional. Click Here For Details.


One of the "secrets" to having a successful remodeling business (which Bestbuilt Construction was) is to have a "critical path" mindset when taking on any remodeling project. The critical path is the most direct route to getting the job finished. 

When, for example, we were remodeling a kitchen or bathroom (which we did a lot of) we focused on a logical sequence of tasks, and pursued that sequence. I can remember saying out loud, as a certain task was accomplished, "What's our critical path now?"

It sounds simple, but a lot of people get side tracked on out-of-sequence rabbit trail tasks that don't keep the project moving forward. It's easy to get off the critical path if you don't consciously and deliberately stay focused on it.


One of the most obvious time-wasting rabbit trail tasks that keeps a remodeling project from efficiently moving forward is finding out that some needed material is not on hand and an unplanned trip must be made to the lumber yard or hardware store. But Steve and I almost never left a job site to get materials during the work day.

That's because we had laminated checklists for tools and materials. We loaded our trucks at the start of every job using the checklists. And also we had inventory lists for totes packed with a full selection of plumbing and electrical components. Then, as we worked through the day, and thought of materials we were going to need, we picked them up at the store after work. The next morning we were back on the job early and followed the critical path.


This winter I have had trouble keeping on a critical path with new projects for my mail order business. My problem is that I have too many ideas that I want to pursue and get done. I've started several things but not finished any of them. I can't seem to focus. It may be age related (I turned 61 last month). Whatever it is, it's a source of concern. And it explains why I haven't been blogging much here lately.


One of the things I want to get done before spring gets here is a new Planet Whizbang web site. I've made do with blogs as web sites for many years, but it's high time I had a real Planet Whizbang web site. It might actually help me make more sales, which would be a good thing.

But the task is so daunting. I have 10 different blog web sites, each with several pages,  selling so many different products. 

Nevertheless, today, with three other critical path projects partially done, I started making the new web site at WIX. 

They have templates to start with and modify. I picked a template for a web site that sells scarfs. The screen shot at the top of this blog post shows my logo and name at the top (the header) of the new web site in progress. 

That's it. That's as far as I've gotten. I keep reminding myself... "one step at a time."


So, I asked my wife, Marlene, to look at the header design. I explained that I was starting with a WIX template and would be changing all of that scarf stuff under the header. I wanted her to say it looks good enough. I wanted a little positive reinforcement.

Marlene looked at it for a moment and said, "You're selling scarfs now? Who's that woman?"

I know my wife well enough to know when she's joking with me. Or, more specifically, trying to annoy me. Or, even more specifically, doing to me what I sometimes do to her.


Well, that's a bit of an update from my world. I plan to blog here more often in the days ahead, but I'll wait until I have something better to write about.

Here's hoping you are finding critical paths of your own and sticking with them better than I am.