Darwin’s Backyard

Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory by James T Costa.

In his own way, Darwin was an inventor as well. In a time when humanity couldn’t even agree on the age of the earth, Darwin was trying to connect the dots. His invention was his ability to experiment and re-interpret what he was seeing and discovering.

We all know Darwin and his epic voyage on the HMS Beagle (1831-1836) and his contribution to our understanding of species that he named “natural selection.” But that is just the very tip of the iceberg. Darwin actually started off observing geology and trying to find why/what caused different patterns in rock formations around the world.

The bottom line in all of Darwin’s many interests and exploits was his ability to observe and then intertwine the current ideas and theories of his time often extrapolating them into something completely different.

Yes, Darwin’s greatest contribution was the theory of evolution, but again, there is so much more. 440 pages hardcover, originally sold for $28, now as a remainder, only $14.55.

A Museum of Early American Tools

Eric Sloane’s pen and ink style is unforgettable and his knowledge of early American know-how (that includes, all tools, wood, milling, road construction, the list goes on) is hard to believe. Growing up with a number of his books on the shelf, I reached for them often and in these times particularly, there is something so comforting in reading how all the different types of axes were used, or how to date a building by the types of nails, screws or fasteners used.

Sloane’s style (both in illustration and in word) is lyrical and attentive to detail, but also straightforward with just a touch of flourish.

A Museum of Early American Tools ($11.95, b&w, 128 pages) is fascinating. You really need at least TWO Sloane books on your shelf!

A Reverence For Wood

Reverence for Wood

Eric Sloane was an artist, draftsman, sign painter, author, but most of all, a historian of early American know-how. His pen and ink images that illustrate all of his books are captivating and highly informative. Sloane was born in 1905 and after studying art and lettering, he set out across the US as a painter working road signs and barn sides. Eventually he settled back east and began a career as an author, illustrator meteorologist and mentor to many. As a kid growing up in Connecticut, A Reverence For Wood (arguably his most noted book) was always sitting near the reading chair, ready to be cracked open. In fact, when I asked my father for his copy to flip through, … Continue reading

The Vagabonds


A truly entertaining, well researched account of the early twentieth century friendship between Ford and Edison and the open road. Two men who created something new where little more than an idea existed previously, take to the road for two week camping trips long before the open road was ready for them. Guinn chronicles their story starting in the nineteen-teens when both are well established characters in the public eye. Both were always on the lookout for the next new thing, and both knew how to manipulate a story to their advantage. Into this mix add John Burroughs (the naturalist followed in the footsteps of Walt Whitman) and Harvey Firestone (tire magnate) and you quickly discover a fascinating story. Their … Continue reading

The Complete Book of Classic Ford Tractors

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.

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.

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.

How to Restore Ford Tractors

Book Review: How to Restore Ford Tractors cover

Back in stock! How to Restore Ford Tractors: The Ultimate Guide to Rebuilding and Restoring N-Series and Later Tractors 1939-1962 does an excellent job of hashing out the details of restoring a vintage Ford tractor. Published in 2008 with over 200 pages, this soft cover edition includes wonderful pictures of unusual models and options scattered throughout the pages (as are many photos of hands-on, down and dirty restoration work being done). Though the book emphasizes the N-series machines, overhead valve Hundred Series machines are covered as well.

The Age of Genius

The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century & the Birth of the Modern Mind isn’t a philosophy book. This is a book proving that the 17th century was in fact a turning point in humanity relinquishing much of the ancient world for the beginnings of a “modern” point of view. A.C. Grayling is a professor of Philosophy and Master of the New College of Humanities in London who believes that philosophy needs to be integrated into everyday life.

American Georgics: Writings on Farming, Culture and the Land

American Geogics

Agriculture has been a touchstone of security and growth for humanity since we gave up our hunting and gathering ways. This book is a chronology of writings on agriculture, which detail the history of how we as Americans have embraced, rebuffed and re-embraced the ideas (and ideals) of agriculture and the agrarian lifestyle. $14.95.

A Guide To Ford, Fordson & New Holland Tractors

A Guide to Ford Fordson book cover

As a reference guide this book is brief and to the point, listing the most salient information formatted chronologically. In this respect it functions as a very convenient field guide. The no–nonsense black and white archive photos, taken mostly from promotional literature, present the oldest, most familiar images of each tractor in its moment of inception. Just $16.