Month: October 2017

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & Cocobolo
The Skills

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & Cocobolo

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloRosewood is a common choice of wood for guitars and mandolins. It has been used for backs, sides, tops, and fretboards.

But did you know that instruments are built with several different types of rosewood? Seven of the most common are:

  • Brazilian.
  • Indian.
  • Madagascar.
  • Cocobolo.
  • Amazonian.
  • Honduran.
  • Southeast Asian.

Does country of origin make any difference in the sound of the rosewood? Let’s examine each type in turn and find out.


Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloBrazilian Rosewood

Brazilian rosewood, or rio as it is called by Brazilians, has earned a reputation for top-notch tone. This was largely due to influential vintage guitars built prior to 1970, many of which made extensive use of Brazilian rosewood.

However, the desirability of Brazilian rosewood subjected it to extensive overharvesting. This type of rosewood grew steadily rarer and rarer, until action was deemed necessary to prevent its extinction. The Brazilian government banned further exports in 1967, and in 1991 it followed that law up with one to prohibit the harvest of Brazilian rosewood in the wild. Rio was further protected by international treaty in 1992, making it very difficult to ship a Brazilian rosewood guitar. In 2008, the United States took further action to prevent illegal importations of wood with the Lacey Act, requiring a chain of paperwork to accompany rare woods arriving from other countries. This combination of laws not only makes importation of wood difficult, but it can require a musician traveling with a Brazilian rosewood guitar to carry extensive paperwork to protect his instrument from confiscation.

Guitars constructed with Brazilian rosewood still exist, however. This rare wood can be used legally if it was harvested prior to 1992, cut from the stump of a tree harvested before the treaty, or salvaged from a naturally fallen tree. But Brazilian rosewood is remains scarce, and it commands a hefty price tag. Price, scarcity, and rich appearance (particularly one-of-a-kind in guitars made from old stumps) combine to make this wood something of a golden ideal in the guitar world, despite the variable quality that comes from salvaged wood.

Perhaps a little more ideal than its sound merits. Brazilian rosewood’s association with vintage guitars has connected it in the minds of guitarists with a warm, sweet, resonant tone. Part of this sound was owing to the availability of high-quality wood, now generally lacking. Brazilian rosewood is naturally rather hard, ever so much more so when it has been harvested from a dead stump. This translates into a guitar with excellent sound projection, but one that is a little bright and that will be prone to cracking with age. Many top luthiers claim that a warmer tonewood can be obtained by looking for a different country of origin. Much of the image of Brazilian rosewood comes from hype, which unfortunately creates a wide opening for black-market trade.

However, outstanding characteristics of Brazilian rosewood include clarity, impressive sustain, and an almost metallic resonance, often compared to the ringing of a bell. Rio can boast bright highs, but rich lows are its hallmark.

In Short
  • Rare.
  • Expensive.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Strikingly beautiful.
  • Variable quality.
  • Fragile.
  • Rich lows.
  • Bright highs.
  • Clear.
  • Excellent sound projection.
  • Excellent sustain.
  • Resonant.


Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloIndian Rosewood

When the Brazilian rosewood supply dwindled in the 1960s, rosewood from East India stepped up to the plate as a common wood in instrument manufacture. Although less prestigious than its rare counterpart, Indian rosewood still has a loyal following and a strong tradition in American music.

Indian rosewood has also fallen under treaty restrictions as of January 2017 in response to illegal trafficking of the wood for the Asian furniture market. While these regulations are less strict than those affecting the endangered Brazilian rosewood, the new rules will require paperwork for anyone buying or selling an Indian rosewood guitar internationally. However, the treaty does not affect buying or selling Indian rosewood guitars within the borders of the United States, and under most circumstances it will not affect people traveling with the guitar.

The appearance of Indian rosewood is also less impressive. It is brown with touches of purple and gray. Its grain tends to run in straight lines, creating a “plain” look.

While very close in weight and density to rio, Indian rosewood is just slightly the less dense of the two, diminishing its sound projection a trifle. In the hands of a novice, the difference is probably negligible; in the hands of an expert guitarist, the difference may be audible. There is an upside to the extra give of the Indian rosewood, however—it makes the guitar much sturdier and less prone to cracking with age.

Indian rosewood possesses an impressive tonal range, bringing fullness and clarity to both the low and high ends of the spectrum. It is particularly known for its bassy quality, making it a favorite with rhythm guitarists. Its sound characteristics vary somewhere between moderately warm and neutral.

In Short
  • Consistent quality.
  • Sturdy.
  • Versatile.
  • Full tonal range.
  • Bassy.
  • Bright highs.
  • Clear.
  • Resonant.


Madagascar Rosewood

Like most types of rosewood, Madagascar rosewood has a rather rather complicated history. In the 1990s, American luthiers began to experiment with this tonewood, hoping to find the perfect substitute for Brazilian rosewood. Unfortunately, civil and political turmoil in Madagascar made the supply very unreliable.

Madagascar rosewood is also rare. While it does not fall under the stringent restrictions of some of the endangered species treaties, much of it is obtained illegally and smuggled out of Africa, making it subject to confiscation if found in the United States.

This species looks very much like Brazilian rosewood, but with more of a red cast. It is a little lighter in weight, but the sound is generally regarded as similar to that of rio, albeit “livelier.” It tends to the bright side, but it does an excellent job adding richness to the entire tonal spectrum. Madagascar rosewood can also boast of superb sustain.

In Short
  • Short supply.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Attractive.
  • Full tonal range.
  • Bright.
  • Excellent sustain.


Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloCocobolo

Cocobolo is rosewood from the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Central America. Like most other types of rosewood, its scarcity is increasing with time, and its price tag is rising to the occasion. The Mexican government is attempting to regulate the harvest of cocobolo, but an increasing amount of the wood imported to the United States has been brought in illegally.

This exotic wood has an exotic appearance to match, boasting an eye-catching rainbow of contrast somewhat reminiscent of the rich shades of Brazilian rosewood. Over time, however, cocobolo will oxidize, aging to a more uniform chocolate color.

Cocobolo is the hardest and densest of the rosewood family, which makes sound projection one of its strong suits. In fact, some luthiers feel that cocobolo is what Brazillian rosewood used to be, a throwback to the glory days of vintage guitars. Its tone is remarkably similar. The strength of cocobolo lies in the high range; it tends to lose some fullness toward the low end.

In Short
  • Increasingly rare.
  • Increasingly expensive.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Colorful early in life.
  • Projects sound well.
  • Tonal range leaning toward the high end.
  • Clear.
  • Good sustain.
  • Resonant.


Up next: Southeast Asian, Amazonian & Honduran

You Can Teach Yourself Dobro
The Skills

You Can Teach Yourself Dobro

You Can Teach Yourself DobroTeaching yourself Dobro is easy—especially with this book!

You Can Teach Yourself Dobro by Janet Davis offers a logical sequence to learning this unique instrument, starting with the basics and using previous skills as a foundation for new skills. The book is divided into lessons, early lessons covering essential technique and subsequent lessons introducing a mix of music theory principles, improvisation exercises, and advanced slide techniques.

Examples of lessons include:

  • Tuning.
  • Chord locations.
  • Roll patterns.
  • Playing up the neck.
  • Slant chords.
  • Embellishing the melody.
  • Interchanging licks.
  • Seventh chords.
  • Using a capo.
  • Melodic style.
  • Minor chords.
  • Transposing.

The focus of You Can Teach Yourself Dobro is on bluegrass, as evidenced by the collection of standards used to illustrate the techniques and provide improvisation practice:

  • “Cripple Creek.”
  • “Blackberry Blossom.”
  • “Footprints in the Snow.”
  • “John Henry.”
  • “Train 45.”
  • “John Hardy.”
  • “Reuben.”
  • “Sally Goodin’.”
  • “Devil’s Dream.”
  • “Old Joe Clark.”

However, blues, Hawaiian, and old-time country styles receive some attention, as well.

The absolute beginner to Dobro couldn’t pick a better place to start than this book. Take your time to master each lesson before moving on to the next—it will pay off.

John W. Geary
The Sunflower State

John W. Geary

John W. GearyJohn W. Geary was born near Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, in 1819. Early on, his father proved to be a tremendous part of his life. Richard Geary was an intelligent man with an insatiable love of learning, and it was this love more than anything else that he desired to see his son cultivate. John Geary’s education began at home. After amassing considerable debt in failed business ventures, however, the elder Geary started a school in an effort to pay off what he owed. Much of John Geary’s preparation for life occurred there.

Young John Geary headed off to Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to study law and civil engineering when he was only 14. However, the death of his father made him the man of the household. Geary bravely took on his father’s debts, provided for his family, and still managed to earn enough money to graduate from college. The many trades at which he worked to accomplish these three purposes and to find his calling are too many to describe in detail here, but they ranged from surveying to land speculation to practicing law to construction engineering.

It was Geary’s interest in military history that first brought him to the public eye. He joined the Pennsylvania militia and quickly earned distinction. When the Mexican-American War broke out in 1846, Geary raised part of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry and received a commission as its lieutenant colonel (he eventually reached the rank of colonel). He led this regiment in the grueling Battle of Chapultepec, assisting to take the castle of Mexico’s capital city. Mexican snipers picked off American officers as quickly as they could. Geary himself was wounded five times during the battle, but he survived despite the fact that his stature of 6′ 6″ made him an obvious target. When Mexico City fell to the American forces, Geary became the commandant of the city.

President James Knox Polk sent him to San Francisco as postmaster in January 1849. Geary’s duties were to establish post offices on the Pacific Coast, appoint local postmasters, and lay out the mail routes. While in San Francisco, he was also unanimously elected as the last alcalde of the city on January 8, 1850. Not surprisingly, he also became the first mayor under American rule on May 1, 1850. After serving a term as the youngest mayor in San Francisco history, Geary next became president of the Board of Commissioners of the Funded Debt, where he was instrumental in completely paying off San Francisco’s debt.

Geary returned to his native Pennsylvania in 1852 due to his wife’s poor health, donating his land to the city of San Francisco. After the death of Margaret Ann Geary in February 1853, President Franklin Pierce unsuccessfully tried to enlist the former mayor’s services as governor of Utah Territory. However, the appeal to Geary’s patriotism and respect for the president proved to be too great to resist when President Pierce next appointed him as governor of Kansas Territory in July 1856. The recent dispersal of the Topeka legislature under the orders of Governor Wilson Shannon had amply stocked the fledgling Republican Party with talking points in favor of their presidential candidate, John C. Frémont. Perhaps Geary, with his impeccably distinguished record and his connections with the free state of California, could quell the violence in Bleeding Kansas and save the cause of the Democratic candidate, James Buchanan.


Time in Office

John W. Geary

Geary as mayor of San Francisco

The new governor of the territory took office on September 9, 1856, at Fort Leavenworth. His first official act was to disband the warring militias that had caused Bleeding Kansas so much trouble. He then organized a new militia, sanctioned by the territorial government, to maintain order and uphold the laws, not to promote partisan causes. While some Free State men were concerned that the new militia would become a tool of the Bogus Legislature, under Governor Geary’s watch representatives of both sides of the question enlisted.

But Governor Geary still had federal resources at his disposal, and that very month he was called upon to use them. On September 13, the governor received word that a party of Border Ruffians was marching toward Lawrence. Geary accompanied the dragoons to the scene to prevent the proposed attack, much to the surprise of the proslavery men. But Geary had promised evenhanded justice to both sides, and this was precisely what he delivered. At the same time, news came of a band of Free State militants under Jim Lane attacking the town of Hickory Point. The governor sent troops to this conflict, as well, and managed to obtain a cease-fire.

Governor Geary consistently pursued peace in the territory during his time in office, effectively robbing the Republicans of their most powerful campaign issue and securing the victory of James Buchanan in the presidential election that year. Unfortunately, now that Geary had accomplished his purpose as far as President Pierce was concerned, the administration could gradually withdraw its support of his nonpartisan policies and promote a course more palatable to the proslavery element of the Democratic Party. When Geary requested a new marshal, attorney general, and secretary of state, not to mention a few new federal judges, on the grounds that the existing territorial officials were largely either incompetent or actively working to undermine his efforts to maintain peace and justice, the president refused to comply. Furthermore, President Pierce removed Geary’s authority to call out federal troops and had some important appropriations withdrawn, leaving the territorial governor to pay for some of the expenses of the judicial system out of his own pocket.

From that point on, Governor Geary attracted the disfavor of both factions in Kansas. He angered the Free State side by refusing aid from Vermont to assist struggling Kansans hard hit by the fierce winter of 1856 and 1857. Then he angered the proslavery side by supporting the admission of Kansas to the Union under the Topeka Constitution. In February 1857, Geary further incurred the wrath of the territorial legislature by refusing to fall in with its plan to commission William Sherrard, a rough and rowdy proslavery man, as sheriff of Douglas County. Sherrard responded by spitting in the governor’s face in an unsuccessful attempt to provoke him to a fight, then by opening fire on his opponents at a meeting in the legislature. Sherrard was shot and killed, but Governor Geary realized that he was still far from safe when the Border Ruffians next attacked his personal secretary.

Governor Geary wrote to James Buchanan before he took office, hoping for support to bolster his authority, but received little encouragement. The governor resigned on March 4, 1857, the day of the new president’s inauguration, feeling that he could no longer be of use in Kansas Territory and that to stay would be to risk his life unnecessarily. Geary made a farewell address, warning Kansans that it was up to them to keep the peace from then on, before fleeing the territory at night on March 21. But Geary did not abandon either Kansas or his troubled nation—after addressing many public meetings on the tumultuous situation in the territory, he went on to fight for the Union in the Civil War, earning the rank of major general.



John W. Geary

Geary and staff during the Civil War

  • Became the youngest territorial governor of Kansas.
  • Disbanded the partisan militias.
  • Organized an official territorial militia composed of Kansas residents of both factions.
  • Prevented a second sack of Lawrence.
  • Secured President James Buchanan’s victory in the 1856 election.
  • Became the namesake of Geary County (previously Davis County after Jefferson Davis) in 1889.


John W. GearyIn His Own Words

  • Bleeding Kansas: “I have learned more of the depravity of my fellow man than I ever before knew. I have thought my California experience was strong, but I believe my Kansas experience cannot be beaten.”
  • Cause of Kansas troubles: “…Most of the troubles which lately agitated the territory, were occasioned by men who had no especial interest in its welfare…. The great body of the actual citizens are conservative, law-abiding and peace-loving men, disposed rather to make sacrifices for conciliation and consequent peace, than to insist for their entire rights should the general body thereby be caused to suffer.”
  • Factions in Kansas: “I desire to know no party, no section, no North, no South, no East, no West; nothing but Kansas and my county.”
  • Disbanding of partisan militias: “The presence of additional government troops will exert a moral influence that cannot be obtained by any militia that can here be called in requisition.”
  • 1856 presidential election: “I can assure you [Buchanan] that no man in the country felt more solicitous for this auspicious result than myself, and as the establishment of tranquility in Kansas, previous to the election, was supposed to favor you, I labored with intense energy to accomplish that object.”
  • Refusal of aid from Vermont: “[There is] doubtless some suffering…consequent upon the past disturbances and the present extremely cold weather; but probably no more than exists in other territories or in either of the states of the Union.”
  • Resignation: “Without said support [from the Buchanan administration], my usefulness here must be materially diminished, and the sooner I am relieved, the better will I be satisfied.”


Complete Series

Kansas GovernorsKansas Governors


How a Milking Machine Works
The Farm

How a Milking Machine Works

How a Milking Machine WorksWhile many small farmers still love to hand-milk their cows, commercial dairying usually employs the milking machine.

The modern milking machine looks complex, but the principle on which it operates is actually quite simple. The machine pulls a vacuum on the teats of the cow, causing the milk to flow.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The cow’s teats are attached to the teat cups. Each teat cup contains a rubber or silicone liner inside a plastic or stainless-steel shell. The liners are the only parts of the machine that touch the cow. They form a seal between the teat and the short milk tube, used to transport the milk. All of the liners are worked by a pulsator valve, which in turn is connected to a vacuum pump. The area between the liner and the shell is the pulsation chamber.
  2. The pulsator pulls a vacuum on the pulsation chamber, causing the liner to open up.
  3. A constant vacuum is maintained on the short milk tube. As the liner opens due to the equalization of the vacuum pressure between the short milk tube and the pulsation chamber, the teat is exposed to the vacuum of the short milk tube, causing milk to flow.
  4. The pulsator then releases the vacuum and exposes the liner to air again. Because now the air pressure in the pulsation chamber is greater than that in the short milk tube, the liner collapses and tightens on the teat in a massaging motion. This maintains proper blood circulation in the teat.
  5. The pulsator operates at a rate of about 60 cycles per minute.
  6. The short milk tubes attached to the teat cups meet at the part of the machine known as the claw. Milk from all four teats mixes at this point.
  7. The vacuum in the long milk tube pulls the milk in a column through the line.
  8. As the milk flows through the long milk tube, it enters a receiving jar. Any trapped air pockets in the milk column are released at this point. Milk from other cows attached to other milking units is mixed in.
  9. As the receiving jar fills up, a pump kicks on and pushes the milk into the bulk tank, where it is refrigerated.
  10. When the cow’s udder empties, the milking machine automatically shuts off. Various types of meters are used to detect the decrease in milk flow.
  11. The teat cups automatically detach from the cow.
  12. The cow’s teats are dipped in iodine to reduce the risk of infection caused by contaminated milk flowing back into the teats when the pulsator lets air into the teat cup.
  13. The machine is cleaned to prepare it for another use.

How a Milking Machine WorksSmaller operators might use a variation on this system in which the milk flows into a clean can or bucket instead of a receiving jar. In this system, the pulsator generally sits on top of the bucket. When the milking process is completed, the apparatus is removed from the bucket, leaving a container of farm-fresh milk.


Helpful Resource

How the Milking System Works
Includes plenty of photos and a useful diagram.

The MacArthur Daily Bible
The Lifestyle

The MacArthur Daily Bible

The MacArthur Daily BibleIt’s not too early to think about great gifts for the coming Christmas season. Here’s one that will touch the heart—The MacArthur Daily Bible.

The idea of the Daily Bible is to take readers through the entire Bible in the course of one year. Each daily assignment features four selections for a balanced read:

  • Old Testament.
  • Psalms.
  • Proverbs.
  • New Testament.

The New King James text is complemented by a light sprinkling of notes from Dr. John MacArthur to aid in a better understanding. Another nice feature of this Bible is a section including 52 memory verses, one for each week.

If you want to grow in your recall and understanding of the whole of God’s Word, this is an excellent way to obtain an overview of the Bible before digging deeper into specific passages. Give it a try next year.

And if you know a friend who would appreciate a better knowledge of the Bible, as well, give one away this Christmas.

Already read The MacArthur Daily Bible? We recommend How to Master the English Bible by James M. Gray as a good next step.

Wilson Shannon
The Sunflower State

Wilson Shannon

Wilson ShannonLaw and politics seemed to be in Wilson Shannon’s blood from a young age. He was born in Ohio on February 24, 1802. His father froze to death while on a hunting expedition when he was only one year old. However, Shannon’s older brothers were dedicated to his success and helped him to enter law school.

After studying in both Ohio and Kentucky, Shannon had set up his legal practice by 1830. His entry into politics came soon afterward when in 1832 he ran for Congress as a Democrat, losing only by the tightest of margins in a traditionally Whig district.

But Shannon’s political career was just beginning. After becoming attorney of Belmont County, Ohio, in 1833 and state prosecuting attorney in 1835, Shannon was elected governor in 1838, setting a record as the first governor of Ohio to actually be born in the state. He was defeated in his campaign for reelection two years later as the Whig Party gained a foothold across the nation, but became governor of Ohio once again in 1842.

Shannon resigned as Ohio governor in 1844 to become minister to Mexico. This was a delicate position in those days immediately prior to the Mexican–American War, but Shannon nevertheless managed to negotiate with Santa Anna for the release of 120 prisoners from Texas.

However, America’s diplomatic relations with Mexico continued to deteriorate as war approached. Shannon’s task over, he resumed his law practice for the next few years, interrupted by a little (mostly unsuccessful) prospecting in California. He returned to politics in 1852 as a representative. While in Congress, he confirmed his loyalty to the Democratic Party by voting for the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It was only natural that he be appointed governor of Kansas Territory by President Franklin Pierce in August 1855.


Time in Office

Shannon took office as the second governor of Kansas Territory on September 7, 1855. His first two months in office were largely peaceful, but the ill will that already existed between the Free State and proslavery sides was still simmering, waiting to boil over. Shannon himself may have contributed to bringing matters to a head when he presided over a meeting in Leavenworth on November 14 to organize the Law and Order Party. This party was created to uphold the authority of the proslavery legislature, and it accordingly adopted resolutions denouncing the creation of a separate Free State legislature as treason. Unfortunately, members of the Law and Order Party often behaved in a lawless fashion, using the acts of the Free State men as a pretext for pillage and murder.

It was a land dispute terminating in a fatal shooting that finally sparked the armed conflict. A cycle of reprisals on both sides climaxed at the beginning of December when proslavery men under the infamous Douglas County Sheriff Samuel Jones besieged the Free State stronghold of Lawrence, armed with weapons stolen from Liberty Arsenal in Missouri, in a conflict known as the Wakarusa War. Governor Shannon anxiously wrote to Colonel Edwin Sumner for military assistance, rightly admitting that the Border Ruffians “are beyond my powers, or at least soon will be.” When the colonel refused to come to the rescue without orders from the Pierce administration, Shannon went to the scene of the conflict in person.

Governor Shannon met with abolitionist leaders Jim Lane and Charles Robinson, the first a radical guerilla leader and the second the illegal governor of the Free State government (territorial governors were to be chosen by the President of the United States). After careful negotiations, Shannon managed to convince both sides to disband—no small diplomatic feat in that political climate. After the Wakarusa episode, President Pierce fortified Shannon’s authority with the right to call out federal troops when necessary to secure the peace.

But during the spring of 1856, Sheriff Jones returned to Lawrence to arrest abolitionists involved in prelude to the Wakarusa War, only to be shot in the back while preparing for bed in his tent. While the wound was not fatal, it did not improve the sheriff’s temper. He returned yet again on May 21, 1856, with a posse that sacked Lawrence. It was this attack that drew John Brown to the forefront as an abolitionist guerilla leader. He retaliated by killing five proslavery settlers in an event known as the Pottawatomie Massacre.

Wilson ShannonMatters in Kansas were clearly out of control. On June 4, Governor Shannon demanded that all armed bodies of men resisting the laws disband at once, but with little effect. The governor left for St. Louis on June 23, ostensibly on official business, but probably in dread of an assassination attempt. However, he did leave orders for Colonel Edwin Sumner to break up the Free State legislature when it met in July, orders that Colonel Sumner and acting Governor Daniel Woodson duly carried out.

On his return, Governor Shannon’s diplomacy skills once again served him well. In August, Jim Lane returned to Kansas, blazing a trail for abolitionist settlers that avoided dangerous Missouri towns. With him, however, he brought a wagon train of guns and ammunition and his Army of the North, composed of like-minded men. Lane was doubtless bent on further revenge, but Shannon managed to placate him and avoid bloodshed.

But Shannon had enough. He submitted his resignation on August 18 and fled Kansas concealed in a wagon. Shannon never again sought political office, but instead resumed his much quieter legal practice.



  • Served the longest continuous term of any Kansas territorial governor (9-1/2 months).
  • Served through the beginning of the Bleeding Kansas era.
  • Oversaw the organization of the Law and Order Party.
  • Negotiated a peaceable resolution to the Wakarusa War.
  • Arranged for the dispersal of the Free State legislature.
  • Forestalled a raid by Jim Lane.


In His Own Words

  • Bleeding Kansas: “Govern Kansas in 1855 and ’56! You might as well attempt to govern the devil….”
  • Wakarusa War: “In my arrangement with those citizens my great object was to secure the supremacy of the law and bring about if possible a more friendly feeling between the two contending parties. To secure a lasting peace and friendly relations I knew that the object would be defeated by insisting on any terms that would be humiliating to the parties and I was desirous to extend to the citizens assembled in Lawrence every opportunity of placing themselves in what I deemed a correct position in reference to the execution of the laws.”
  • Resignation: “…Finding myself here without the moral power which my official station confers, and being destitute of any adequate military force to preserve the peace of the country, I feel it due to myself, as well as to the government, to notify you that I am unwilling to perform the duties of government of this territory any longer.”


Complete Series

Kansas GovernorsKansas Governors


5 Tips for Improving Your Writing
The Skills

5 Tips for Improving Your Writing

5 Tips for Improving Your WritingWriting is a valuable communication skill, no matter what we do in life. Just to name a few of the uses a small farmer might have for writing:

  • Writing posts and pages for an agripreneurial website.
  • Blogging about country living.
  • Writing a how-to book for future generations of farmers.
  • Writing a business letter.
  • Keeping a detailed farm journal.

Looking to improve your writing skills? Allow us to offer a few suggestions:

  1. Read. To have an output, one must first have an input. Reading the words of others can help us put our own thoughts down on paper cogently. However, it is essential to read quality works, because we will tend to imitate the writing of those we read. Inferior fiction and unedited eBooks need not apply.
  2. Look it up. We can actively expand both our vocabulary and our understanding of the words we already know by making frequent use of the dictionary. We can look up unfamiliar words to find their meaning. We can look up familiar words to find their origin. We can look up confusing words to find their proper usage.
  3. Learn how to diagram. Sometimes, sorting out confusing words hinges on a proper understanding of the parts of speech. Diagramming a sentence can help, because it allows us to visualize the the interactions between words.
  4. Find a helpful organization tool. There’s no reason to waste time searching for missing notes or battling research chaos. We can make our writing times much more productive by choosing a tool to keep notes and manuscripts organized. (We recommend Scrivener for both research and writing.)
  5. Schedule a writing time. Writing requires frequent practice, just like everything else in life. Setting aside a block of time in the day to write guards us from letting this skill slide in a futile attempt to meet the demands of the urgent.

Notice that there is no special secret here—these five suggestions are within easy reach of anyone determined to improve their skills.

Happy writing!

An Introduction to Heritage Breeds
The Farm

An Introduction to Heritage Breeds

An Introduction to Heritage BreedsThinking about starting a farm with heritage breeds? If you are new to this topic, you may enjoy An Introduction to Heritage Breeds: Saving and Raising Rare-Breed Livestock and Poultry by The Livestock Conservancy.

This excellent beginner’s resource starts with the basics—defining breeds in general and heritage breeds in particular. It discusses the plight and importance of rare breeds, as well as the necessity to maintain genetic diversity within these breeds despite their falling numbers.

After a look at how different farming systems call for vastly different breeds, An Introduction to Heritage Breeds moves on to considerations of importance to new farmers, helping them honestly assess what species of livestock will best fit their needs and circumstances. Factors to weigh include:

  • Handling ease.
  • Noise and odor level.
  • Shelter and space requirements.
  • Zoning restrictions.
  • Daily food and water requirements.
  • Predator control.
  • Products.
  • Processing and transportation.
  • Potential markets.
  • Breed associations and other resources.

Next comes information on getting started with heritage breeds:

  • Choosing a breed.
  • Providing for the basic needs of your livestock.
  • Setting realistic goals for your project.
  • Setting up a system of animal identification and record-keeping.
  • Planning to market your livestock or livestock products.

Maintaining a heritage breed requires close attention to the principles of genetics and selection, particularly when the breed is teetering on the brink of extinction. An Introduction to Heritage Breeds provides an overview of this process in nontechnical terms. It also demonstrates that rare breeds can be maintained and promoted through breeding projects with very different emphases:

  • Performance and exhibition.
  • Production only.
  • Production and breed conservation combined.
  • Rescue of rare breeds or bloodlines.

The book closes with a look at how breed associations can either help or hurt a rare breed.

While An Introduction to Heritage Breeds is not a comprehensive guide to breeds, it does provide numerous breed snapshots, distilling the most essential facts about the distinctive characteristics of many breeds.

If you are serious about working with heritage breeds, you will quickly outgrow this resource. We recommend supplementing it with resources specific to your chosen species, including a guide to care, a guide to breeding and genetics, and a breed encyclopedia. If you can find any works written entirely about your breed, make it a point to add those to your bookshelf, as well.

An Introduction to Heritage Breeds is exactly what the title suggests—an introduction, concise and clear enough for a reader with no prior experience with animals.


Helpful Resources

Cattle BreedsCattle Breeds
Our own guide to the history, uses, temperament, health, and pros and cons of cattle breeds, including some heritage breeds.

Horse & Donkey BreedsHorse & Donkey Breeds
Our own guide to the history, uses, temperament, health, and pros and cons of horse and donkey breeds, including some heritage breeds.

Daniel Woodson
The Sunflower State

Daniel Woodson

Daniel Woodson

Federal troops dispersing the Topeka legislature

Daniel Woodson’s life did not get off to an easy start. He was born on May 24, 1824, in Albemarle County, Virginia, a county known for its longstanding heritage of slavery. His mother died just days later. As if this were not enough, Woodson’s father died when he was only seven years old.

Woodson may have lacked parental guidance, but he demonstrated from a young age that he had talent. He was apprenticed to a printer and quickly became co-editor of the Lynchburg Republican, actually a prominent Democratic paper (the Republican Party had not yet been founded). In 1851, Woodson moved to Richmond, Virginia, and became the editor of the Republican-Advocate, another Democratic newspaper.

In the course of his newspaper work, Woodson gained public recognition for his editorials. He was considered a good writer and a skillful voice for the proslavery view. Given the political leanings of President Franklin Pierce, perhaps it was little wonder that he chose Woodson to be the secretary of Kansas in June 1854, shortly after the territory was created.

Besides clerical duties, the secretary of Kansas Territory was assigned the task of acting as governor if the appointed territorial governor was absent. This was how Daniel Woodson became the unofficial governor of Kansas five times during the tumultuous period from 1855 to 1857.


Time in Office

Woodson’s first spell as acting governor was from April 17 to June 23, 1855, while Governor Andrew Reeder was in Washington, D.C. This period was largely uneventful, most business being filed away for Reeder’s return.

The second time Woodson became governor was from August 16 to September 7, 1855. Reeder had been ousted by the Pierce administration, leaving a vacancy until the arrival of the next appointed governor, Wilson Shannon. During this time, county organization began. Woodson County was named after the acting governor and remained the only Kansas county named for a territorial official until 1889.

Violence escalated on Governor Shannon’s watch. From June 24 to July 7, 1856, the governor was away in St. Louis, perhaps fearing an assassination attempt. A rival Free State legislature had been elected by abolitionists and set itself up as the territorial government in competition with the Bogus Legislature. Before leaving, Shannon had made arrangements with Colonel Edwin Sumner to disperse the Free State legislature with Federal troops. By this time, Woodson had become a member of the Law and Order Party, organized in late 1855 by proslavery men to uphold the laws of the Bogus Legislature by any means necessary. Accordingly, Woodson oversaw the dispersal of the Free State legislature on July 4, 1856.

However, Shannon’s tenure as governor was a short one. From August 18 to September 9, 1856, Woodson served his fourth period as acting governor while awaiting the new appointee, John W. Geary. On September 1, Woodson ordered Colonel Philip St. George Cooke of the 2nd Dragoons to march on Topeka, disarm all in rebellion against the Bogus Legislature, and station a detachment somewhere on the road to Topeka to intercept potential invaders. Colonel Cooke refused because he had orders to interfere in the territory “only when armed resistance is offered to the laws and against the peace and quiet of the territory.”

Woodson’s final spell as acting governor was from March 12 to April 16, 1857, after Governor Geary was removed from office. Woodson had been appointed as receiver of the Delaware land office on April 1, but continued to act as governor until the new territorial secretary, Frederick P. Stanton, arrived. Woodson concluded his time as governor by declaring Kansas Territory to be in a state of rebellion.



  • Became the namesake of Woodson County.
  • Oversaw the dispersal of the Free State legislature.


In His Own Words

  • Dispersal of the Free State legislature: “…The President of the United States has by proclamation bearing date the eleventh February, 1856, declared that any such plan for the determination of the future institutions of the Territory, if carried into action, will constitute the fact of insurrection, and therein commanded all persons engaged in such unlawful combinations against the constituted authority of the Territory of Kansas or of the United States, to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes….”
  • Need for federal troops to dispel rebellion: “The presence of the military has a very salutary influence in preserving order in the existing unsettled and inflammable state of the public mind in this part of the Territory….”
  • Proper use of federal troops to dispel rebellion: “In all your orders the most rigid instructions should be given to protect the persons and property of all peaceable unoffending citizens regardless of party distinctions or political differences of opinion. We are not warning against the political sentiments of men, but against lawless bands of ruthless invaders, outlaws and traitors.”


Helpful Resource

Daniel Woodson
Woodson had a strong aversion to having his picture taken. This is one of the few portraits that exist.


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Pros and Cons of Laminated Woods for Guitarists
The Skills

Pros and Cons of Laminated Woods for Guitarists

Pros and Cons of Laminated Woods for GuitaristsPerhaps you already have a particular type of wood in mind for your new guitar. Whether that wood is solid or laminated will make a tremendous difference in the sound that you will hear.

Solid wood is exactly what the words imply. Pieces of solid wood are carved into the necessary shape for a guitar.

A laminate is created by shaving thin strips of wood and gluing them on top of each other. The pieces are arranged so that the grain of one layer runs in the opposite direction of the grain of the next.

So is solid wood or a laminate the right choice for you? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of laminates.



  • Low price. Solid wood is not cheap. Laminate is. In fact, when buying a budget guitar, be leery of a solid top. Chances are, the wood was poorly chosen, poorly aged, and poorly handled. For low-end guitars, laminate is usually a more reliable and better-sounding choice for the money.
  • Durability. Laminates are built to last. They resist both hard knocks and climatic changes better than solid woods. This makes laminates particularly valuable for children and those who travel.
  • Low maintenance. This is closely related to durability. Solid tops must be maintained at an even humidity to prevent warping and cracking. This may require special humidifying and/or dehumidifying equipment. While it is always a good idea to protect any guitar from sudden changes in humidity, laminated wood can usually survive in any climate-controlled building, especially if kept in a hard-shell case.
  • Short break-in period. Solid woods develop their hallmark sound with age and use. A laminate guitar is what it is, right from the start.
  • Feedback control. An important consideration when playing an acoustic guitar equipped with a pickup. Solid woods tend to have out-of-control feedback problems. Laminates vibrate less, creating a simpler sound with fewer overtones that are likely to cause annoying feedback.



  • Variable quality control. Laminate is frequently used in low-end instruments, which in turn are typically built with less attention to quality. In particular, the manufacturer may have used too much or too little glue, creating a dull-sounding guitar in the one case or a laminate that will separate into its constituent sheets in the other. This is not a problem with laminate per se, just a factor to look into when you see “laminate” on a spec sheet. Laminates can be used to build quality instruments. The question is whether or not the manufacturer took the trouble to do so.
  • Weight. Because of the quantity of glue involved, a laminate guitar can be heavier than a solid-wood guitar. The extra weight can be fatiguing when playing standing up for any length of time. Fortunately, this situation has improved with the development of new lightweight adhesives. The only way to know for sure if a laminate guitar will be too heavy is to try it out.
  • Laminate sound. A solid top on a well-built and well-used guitar has a sweet, resonant, complex sound that cannot be matched. As good as a laminated top can sound, it cannot compete with the upper levels of guitar construction, particularly in the hands of a practiced guitarist who plays with a wide dynamic range. A laminated top will generally have less resonance and sustain. The difference between laminate and solid wood is far less significant when it comes to backs and sides, however.
  • Tonal deterioration. Unlike solid woods, which improve in sound quality over time, laminates can actually lose their sound quality with age. This typically takes decades, but the process speeds up in particularly dry or particularly damp climates. If the glue holding the wood together becomes too dry or too moist, the guitar will vibrate differently, producing a muffled sound.
  • Low resell value. If you ever upgrade your guitar and sell the original, solid-wood construction will definitely add to the guitar’s value as long as it is otherwise a quality instrument. Laminated guitars consistently resell for lower prices.



There are three scenarios that beg for a laminated guitar:

  • An absolute beginner looking for his first instrument.
  • A guitarist who frequently travels and likes to play guitar casually on the road, particularly outdoors.
  • A guitarist who wants an acoustic guitar with a pickup.

Beginners should not hesitate to purchase a laminated guitar for their first guitar despite the drawbacks. Provided that they purchase a quality instrument from a reputable source, technique is far more likely to be the major limiting factor at first than wood when it comes to tone. Once the guitarist gains some experience and wants to take his playing to the next level, then it will be time enough to think about a pricier solid-wood instrument. At this point, he will have acquired the skill to bring out the full tone of the wood and the ear to appreciate the results.

A word of warning—some guitarists try split the difference and purchase a guitar with a solid top but laminated sides and back. There is some logic here, as the bulk of the guitar will be sturdier, but the top (which accounts for about 85% of the sound) will be more flexible and resonant. However, the top will still be prone to warping as the humidity changes, only now it will have to fight against a comparatively rigid body. While this combination of solid and laminated woods is certainly cheaper than pure solid wood and richer-sounding than pure laminate, it can also increase the risk of a cracked top. Extra care will be needed to protect the instrument from fluctuating humidity levels.