The Old & the New & Staying Flexible

The Old & the New
& Staying Flexible

It seems advances in technology and its applications in day-to-day life are being reworked and upgraded with increasing speed and without warning. This becomes acutely evident when I traveled outside of New England – a fairly rare occurrence.

Learning to use a computer, a cell phone – piece of cake. Now it seems you need an app for nearly everything; getting boarding passes for the airline, getting a ride from point A to point B, or paying for a parking spot.

Tasks I assume simple and straightforward now require a smart phone and either cell a signal or high-speed internet service. A radio in a rental car shouldn’t be too hard to navigate, but the “old world” operator inputs are so different, it is hard to know where to even start.

Some of this could be explained by the transition to the internet-based economy that started close to twenty years ago and has really taken off in the last ten years.

Most people (especially those under fifty) are able to meet a majority of their social and material needs through Amazon, Spotify, Facebook and Twitter – nearly instant gratification with just a few clicks. I was recently at a small local store that lost its internet access and pretty much put a stop to all transactions.

Navigating between the old pre-internet world and the current internet world is challenging. A handful a years ago, there was a big fight between John Deere and John Deere farmers that wanted to repair their own tractors, but needed proprietary software to even get started.

Just recently, Apple started offering a suitcase of tools for repairing your own iPhone. A great idea in theory, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

You could rent the tools, but if you don’t return them, they charge your credit card $1500. But the real kicker is even with the specialized tools, most of the repairs are hours long and remain very challenging.

Recently, Canadian N-News subscriber Bob Paterson (see his letter on page 12 and his photos on the back cover) wrote in with a comment. Our ongoing email conversation about tractors, motorcycles, local papers and the dichotomy of “the old” and “the new” spurred Bob to write about a farm supply store that had a parking lot with Tesla charging stations on one side and sheds for horse and buggies on the other. (There is a significant Mennonite community in the area.)

stay flexible

That made me think about the intense flexibility we all need these days to continue to balance the apps and the horse and buggies.

The Complete Book of Classic Ford Tractors

It has literally been years since we have seen a new Ford tractor book be published. The far majority of them have been out of print. Motorbooks International (owned by Quarto) has held the rights to the books that Robert Pripps and Andrew Morland did together in the 1990s. The N-News has written many a letter over the years asking for some of the Pripps Ford tractor books to be reprinted, or to let the rights fall back to the authors so something could be done. Well, something finally has happened. Continue reading

Tractor Wars

Tractor Wars

Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester and the Birth of Modern Agriculture documents the short period from roughly 1908-1928 when Henry Ford, Cyrus McCormick and William Butterworth (of the still relatively small Deere & Company) would transform how farming was done. This was a paradigm shift in agriculture and farming practice. It is a fascinating story told with great historical perspective.

Beyond the Model T

Beyond the Model T

Beyond the Model T: The Other Ventures of Henry Ford by Ford R. Bryan. The author was a member of the Ford family, worked at Ford Motors for over 33 years and then after retirement, volunteered at The Henry Ford Museum doing research and digging deep. He wrote a number of books based on his finding in the immense Henry Ford Museum archives.

1897 Sears Roebuck & Co Catalog


Before Amazon sold us everything under the sun, there was Sears Roebuck. Started in 1892 as a mail order only company, stores opened up in 1925, but the majority of Sears business remained mail order for a good part of the 20th century. As a kid I remember getting the Sears catalogs in the mail and would spend hours pouring through them. Looking at these vintage catalogs is a window back in time.

Our Vanishing Landscape

Vanishing landscape

Eric Sloane was famous for his pen and ink drawing of rural American life. Born in 1905 in New York, Sloane trained as a fine artist and for a while made a living as a sign painter as he worked his way across the country. But he eventually returned to the New York region settling in New Milford, CT. Sloane was intrigued with early American living, especially in New England and had an affinity for all things related to tools, mechanical devices and country know-how. But his interests went deeper.

The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln photos

Abraham Lincoln was a man of tremendous capacity and drive. He was the 16th president of the United States and the first to be assassinated. He managed his political times (both in the Senate and as President) by balancing the needs of his friends and his opponents. In short, he was a consummate politician who led the nation through extremely volatile times. Emotionally, he was prone to depression and bouts of darkness.

A Kentucky Album: FSA Photographs 1935-1943

Kentucky album

The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was part of the New Deal Agency, created in 1937 to help fight rural poverty during the Great Depression. Between 1935-1944, FSA photographers took over 175,000 black and white photographs all over rural America. Many of the most iconic images of what this country looked like as it worked its way out of the Great Depression came through this government agency.