May 7, 2019

The Rise And Fall
Of A Homestead Business

Those who have followed my internet writings over the years (since 2005) know that I have a homestead-based mail order business called Planet Whizbang, which started as a side hustle when I worked full time at a NY State prison. 

And you know that Planet Whizbang prospered. So much so that in 2013 I left the security of my government wage slave job to work my Planet Whizbang business full time. It was a dream come true, and it still is. But....

The measure of prosperity that I enjoyed with the Planet Whizbang business for a number of years has declined precipitously since 2013. My business income is now half of what it was six years ago. 

This is not a personal crisis because my wife and I have, in seasons of prosperity, lived well below our means. We live simply and have no debt. 

If you've read my writings for long, you know that I've always been wary of debt, and this wariness is for the exact reason that I'm writing about here... it is unwise to suppose that the future will be like the present.

There is a clear agrarian sentiment in such thinking. Farmers well know that you can not count on a successful crop every year. The aphorism, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch," comes to mind.

I have often considered the parallels between my little mail order business and farming. I have chores to do every morning in the form of orders to fill. The chores must be done, whether I feel like it or not. 

Then there is the matter of planting seeds and harvesting a crop. Every product idea I pursue is a seed planted. A lot of work must be done to develop the idea and bring it completion. Then I wait to see if the idea is productive; if it bears fruit. Delayed gratification is fundamental to the agrarian life.

Some idea "crops" bring a good harvest. Most bring a moderate harvest. Some bring no harvest to speak of, and the labor invested is in vain.

In the final analysis, every farmer, and every small-scale, mail order craftsman-entrepreneur like myself is dependent on God for the increase. That's the way I look at it. 

We do our work diligently and God blesses us to the degree that it pleases Him to do so. There is a direct dependency on God's provision with both endeavors. It is a heavenward dependency that is not at all like the usual modern-world dependency on a wage-slave job with a steady paycheck and benefits.

There is another agrarian precept that comes into play with my home business. It is diversification, and it is best summed up in the adage: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Planet Whizbang was built on my Whizbang Chicken Plucker book. With an initial investment of less than $1,000 I published and promoted the now-famous plan book. In time, sales of the book took off, and people started buying parts from me to make their own Whizbang poultry plucker.

There was a time, years ago, when I was shipping out as many as 10 Whizbang "Shebang" plucker parts kits a day. The volume of sales was astounding to me, and to my UPS driver.

But these days I might sell an average of two kits a month. At that rate, I have enough plucker parts now in stock to last more than a decade.

At one time, I was ordering 20,000 rubber poultry plucker fingers at a time, and placing several orders in a year. Last year I had enough fingers in stock that didn't need to order any. Then, last month I placed an order for 10,000, and those will last a long time.

The reason for the drop in sales is the introduction and proliferation of cheap China-made poultry pluckers. You can now buy a nice looking, already-made plucker (on Amazon) for less than the cost of materials to make your own Whizbang plucker. And the US market is now flooded with very cheap, synthetic-rubber plucker fingers. 

The quality of the cheap pluckers is poor, and  synthetic-rubber plucker fingers have neither the longevity, nor the durability of my natural-rubber fingers (not even close), but that doesn't really matter to most people. 

Which brings me back to diversification... If I focused my mail order business only on chicken pluckers (plan books & parts), I would not be able to keep my bills paid these days. Diversification of products has kept my mail-order business alive.

Please understand that this is not a tale of woe. Planet Whizbang still keeps our bills paid, we are still able to bless others financially as God leads us, and we are still able to put some money into savings. But the measure of prosperity God once gave me has declined, and there is a lesson in this for any aspiring entrepreneur.

With lessons in mind, I often think I should someday write a book about what I've learned about small-scale, hands-on, solopreneurship. I may title it: "Confessions of a Whizbang Entrepreneur." Or something like that.

What all of this leads to is the Bible verse at the top of this post. That verse sums up my "ambitions" as an entrepreneur and as a Christian. That verse is profoundly agrarian, and totally Contra mundum. Incidentally, that verse was a big part of why I stopped writing my once-popular The Deliberate Agrarian blog years ago.

That verse also explains, in part, why I haven't posted an essay to this blog for awhile. Quite simply, I've been working with my hands a lot lately. Most of the products I sell require an investment of my time and my handwork to create, and then to mail them off. 

Besides that, I'm starting to focus more time and attention on other income-producing, home-business ideas. It's more of the diversification principle in action.

So, that's the story of the rise and fall of a homestead business. It's not a sad story. It's just a story, and it's an update for those of you who have followed my writings over the years.

With winter over, I am now fully engaged in the work of my home and business (another agrarian similarity). So I'll be blogging here only rarely, if at all, until the pace of life slows down later in the year. 
My thanks to those of you who have recently contacted me to see if I'm okay. Feel free to drop me an e-mail any time: 


  1. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts with us and taking the time to give us an update. It’s good to know you’re ok!

  2. It was good to hear from you, brother. I know your writings and videos through your various online ventures have been a means to raise awareness of your remarkable inventions and products, but I just want to say that they have been much more than that to me. Yes, I've purchased a number of things from Planet Whizbang over the years, but the reason I keep checking for new videos or postings is because they are encouraging, uplifting, and a source of spiritual exhortation for me. Your presence via this medium of the Internet has been a true ministry to many of us through the years. Thanks you for your boldness and conviction and for being willing to "let your light shine." May God continue to bless you and your family. - Stewart Greathouse

  3. I have been reading ( and now watching) for have been a great encouragement , and you have a gift for writing . I hope to read more in the future . I also had been wondering if your thornless blackberries had made it thru the " arctic vortex" Ha ha ? Mine have died back to the ground again , so I hacked them off , and will wait for them to regrow this summer ..or I may just go back to the thorny kind and replant. Hopefully you had better luck in your area than I do in zone 5 michigan.

  4. I have so appreciated you through the years. I think of you as "Iron sharpens iron..." and have felt encouraged and challenged by your writings. You have a true gift for putting into words what many of us feel and are convicted of. Thank you for holding fast to the Words of Life and for the application we can see in your life. Yes, this is truly a busy season and working with our hands brings so many spiritual lessons to life. I'll look forward to seeing your name in my 'in-box' when the weather cools and life slows down a bit. Warmest regards to you and your lovely wife!

  5. I will always think of you when I pull out my Wizbang plucker and scalder to butcher chickens and when I use my garden cart and my wheel hoe. You've put out some first rate books on how to build really useful equipment. I thank you for the writing you've done that is very inspirational. I learned to butcher chickens from your blog. I wrote the steps and taped them to the back of my scalder for quick reference. Now, I can do that job easily. I wish you well in all you do, and look forward to any further writings. Thank you! RonC

  6. Herrick,
    In addition to spreading your message and beliefs in Christian Agrarianism your missives also serve to draw traffic to your cyber storefront. I read all you've written and click on all your links. You may feel you don't have enough time to blog/vlog, but I believe a business like yours, that has grown out of your writings and gardening experimentations, will benefit from regular postings. I've purchased some of your products and emulated (poached) as many of your ideas as possible and I wouldn't have known about you or your business if a friend hadn't told me to log on and check your blog for myself.
    Lloyd Rand, Maineiac from East Dixfield

  7. Herrick...My garden would not be a garden without the garlic I grow from your teachings. I still admire my countertops I made from your book about countertops. Thank you so much for all the knowledge you shared.

  8. Nancy, Stewart, Karen, Lorraine, Ron, Lloyd, & Mike,

    Thank you for the kind words and sentiments. They are much appreciated.

    Karen... I pulled up all the thornless blackberries last month. They were a big disappointment. :-(

    1. I am done with mine ...they take up a lot of room for a plant that is so unreliable .

  9. Elizabeth L. Johnson said, Howdy, doodey, Herrick! Sure do like seeing more of your writings; but, don't slow down, you didn't do that much writing during the winter, so don't slow down just because it is summer. I like your reference to Chinese-made chicken plucker fingers and their inferiority, since the U.S. is now applying high tariffs on their products of low quality. But, oh, how hard it is to purchase only U.S. made. Sometimes you can't find a U.S. made. I used to listen hours a day to conservative talk show hosts and was greatly discouraged by their bad reports how the nation is going. I've stopped listening to them and instead daily emphasize reading the good reports from the Bible, and listening to really good preaching and teaching--so easy to feed my soul and spirit when you tube and the internet are around. I never, ever feel downcast any more. Someone insisted to me that I do worry, when I was telling them I don't. I have so much of God's word in me, I rarely have a worried thought. I strive constantly to trust the Lord and believe He's doing amazing things in our nation. I see and hear about those things. I know He's at work, "both to will and to do of His great pleasure". I like that you referred to your labor as seed. I think the seed of God's word will bring superabundant increase. I hope you make a lot more videos, especially about your minibed gardening. It was a dream of mine to have a minibed garden. I studied your reports, made exhaustive notes, have studied much of your Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners, over and over, until one day I could barely believe I was making it happen for me; I began building my minibed garden. After many, many hours of hard labor, because of the changes I had to make to how my garden was for the past 10 years, my minibed is complete and planted!!!! I have no idea how to send you a picture. I will ask one of my savvy (in computer usage) grown children. When my vegetable plants are more mature I will send pictures. This was a dream come true. I faced having to do about 99% of it myself, and until I started, I really had no confidence I could do it. Thanks, thanks, thanks, Herrick for all your experimentation!!! A side-bar and report on our son who was living in China. He's driving truck (usually refrigerated) for Swift Inc.across the U. S. and wants to see Canada hopefully soon. The Lord is with him. Levi is pretty happy. God Bless you and the lovely Marlene. Keto-on!!!!!

  10. Hello Everybody,
    My name is Mrs Cynthia Corvin. I live in USA and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of S$250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 2 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of usd$250,000.00 . Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Cynthia that refer you to him. contact Mr. Ferooz Mohammed ,via email:( Thank you.


Agree or disagree, your comment is welcomed here. But profanity or foolishness is not. Thank you.