Thursday, February 4, 2016

Remembering an Old Cure

This past weekend it really warmed up.  It was the very end of January and the temperatures were in the 70's.  Crazy, I tell you!  I stepped outside the door to our house and the colony of honeybees that live in our column were buzzing out of the entrance to the hive, seeking flowers.  For a while now, they've been dormant, but the warmer temperatures enticed them to go out and eat.  It was good to see the bees again.

Even though they fly around, we've never been stung in the 3 years that we have shared our dwelling with the honeybees.  Friendly bees, I presume.  For some reason I began to try to recollect the last time I was stung and I dredged up out of my memory a time as a boy that some wasps tore me up. My grandfather called them guinea wasps.  They were small, but don't let the size fool you, they were angry, aggressive and made me cry like a baby.

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At our farm in Oberlin we had what we called the combine shed.  The combine shed was a big pole barn, tall enough to park the combine under.  The barn created a lot of shade and as a result, it was cool underneath there - a perfect place to sit on a hot, sultry, steamy South Louisiana afternoon.  My brother and I found ourselves there and were climbing up the ladder to the combine - an old John Deere that looked something like the one below:
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I was halfway up the ladder that you see above when it felt like my legs were on fire. Before I could jump off the ladder, I was encircled by angry wasps who turned my leg into a punching bag, repeatedly stinging me and making tears flow from my eyes like the floodgates on a dam.  I ran back to the camp where the adults were and explained what ailed me between sobs, intermingled with rivers of snot and tears.

Thank the Good Lord for Joe.  Joe worked for my Dad and Grandpa for many years. What a guy! Joe's vice was chewing tobacco.  Cussing was another.  He could cuss a blue streak, but that's not relevant to the story.  Joe didn't have a favorite brand of tobacco.  He had two favorite brands of tobacco and he would mix them before chewing it.  From his pocket he would pull out a pouch of Five Brothers Pipe Smoking Tobacco:

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And then he would pull out a package of Levi Garrett:

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He would mix up both of the tobaccos and place a huge wad of it in his cheek.  The funny thing is, we almost never saw him spit.

Well, Joe was sitting on the porch of the camp as I came running up, wailing, and he told me to calm down.  He had just the remedy to cure the sting.  Forget Benadryl!  That's for city folk.  He had something better.  He promptly pulled a big, wet, slimy, soggy, brown wad of chewing tobacco from his cheek that he had been chewing on and he pressed it on my already swollen calf.  I looked on in horror as the warm, brown juice ran down my leg, staining my white tube socks.  I'm not sure how this old remedy works, but supposedly, tobacco has a highly basic composition and it counteracts the acidic nature of a sting. All I know is that it worked.  A good herbal remedy, for sure.

In about five minutes the stinging sensation ended and all the pain disappeared. The swelling went down, the tears dried up and all was right again in the world. Except for the guinea wasps.  But old Joe had a remedy for them, too.  I walked to the shop with him and he pulled out his pocketknife and cut the top off of a Dr. Pepper can.  He then filled it half full of gasoline and we walked back to the scene of the crime underneath the combine shed.  The guinea wasps had settled down by then and were back on the nest. With precision rivaled only by maybe Nolan Ryan, Joe threw a perfect strike, tossing the gasoline so that it saturated the nest, killing all of the wasps.  We looked at the "frozen" wasps lying underneath the ladder to the old combine and Joe gave them a good cussing.  Then we walked back to the camp. Sitting down, Joe pulled out his pouch of Five Brothers and Levi Garrett and began mixing up another batch of chew.  In the event anyone else got stung, of course.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sharing a Sunset With Rosie

On a recent afternoon as the sun was taking its repose in the western sky, I had an opportunity to catch Rosie, one of our Jersey cows, at the water trough and interview her about her life, her goals, her struggles and dreams. She was in a talkative mood on this fine afternoon and in a very transparent manner, she candidly shared things that up to this point had remained private.  Although she wouldn't let me record the conversation, as soon as the interview was over, I sat down and wrote everything down so that I could share it with you.

Me: Good Afternoon, Rosie.  Hey, I gotta tell you, that is a cool trick you do, using your tongue to lick all the way up into each of your nostrils.
Rosie: Good afternoon.  Thanks for the compliment.  I am a girl of various and sundry skills.
Me: Pardon me for disturbing you.  I know that your time by the water trough is 'sacred time.'   I just wanted to have a talk with you so we could all get to know you a little better.


Rosie: That's fine.  I have a few minutes to spare before I go stand around the hay ring.  What do you want to know?

Me: Well, for starters, how old are you?
Rosie:  You see, that is impolite. You aren't supposed to ask a lady her age.  Since I like you, I'll tell you, though.  I was born in February 2009.  That makes me almost seven years old.
Me: So that makes you 38 in human years.
Rosie: Huh?
Me: Veterinarians have a table that you can go to in order to convert your cow years into human years.  Click on this link: Convert your cow's age to human ageThe odd thing is, there is no real formula since the curve is not a linear curve compared to human age.
Rosie: Darn you!  38 doesn't sound as young as 7.  I like 7.

Me: How many calves have you had?
Rosie: Well, I've had Maggie, next I had a still born bull calf, then Amy, and now Clarabelle.  Sadly, you and Tricia sold Maggie to a farmer down the road for a nurse cow for his calves.  Even though she's about 2 miles away, I never have seen her since she left.  My still born bull calf is buried in the garden.  On the bright side, Amy and Clarabelle are still here on Our Maker's Acres Family Farm and Amy has given me a grandson, Chuck.

Me: What are some of your favorite things to do, Rosie?
Rosie: I'm a simple girl.  I just like to eat grass, specifically the tender first grass of Spring.  Hay will do in a pinch.  Sometimes I just like to sit down and chew my cud. And nap.  I like to take naps.  I really like it when Tricia comes and sits by me and rubs my neck.  How come you don't do that?

Me: Ummm... I don't know.  I'll try to do it more often.  Are you ready for spring weather?
Rosie: Well, actually I like any weather, except for summer here in South Louisiana.  Cows' ideal temperature range is between 25 - 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you think about it, the cold weather doesn't really affect me much since I have a leather coat on and a fermentation vat in my stomach generating heat.  I'll tell you what I don't like is all this rain!

Me: I understand, Rosie.
Rosie: No, I don't think you do, boss.  You get to take your muddy rubber boots off at the back door. My 'muddy boots' stay on me 24/7!

Me: Does that cause problems?
Rosie: Yes, thanks for asking.  If I'm constantly standing in muddy conditions, I catch the cow equivalent to Athlete's Foot - hoof rot.  It hurts and it is smelly and I appreciate the way Tricia doctors on me with iodine to clear it up.

Me: Tell me more about your ancestry, Rosie.
Rosie: Well, I haven't done a family tree, but I am a registered Jersey.  I've been told that we were brought to the United States in the 1850's from Britain's Isle of Jersey, hence the name.

Me: So who's your Momma?
Rosie: Well, Momma's passed on.  She's buried on the west side of the pasture, beneath the shade of a water oak tree.  Her name was Buttercup, but ya'll always just called her Momma Cow.  Momma came from Pennsylvania, up in the Amish Country.  I've heard the people ya'll bought her from drove up to Pennsylvania and brought her down here.

Me: Do you mind getting milked?  Does it hurt?
Rosie: Look, I'm a "milk" cow.  It's what I do.  I don't mind.  Actually, you are more gentle milking me than my calf was.  She'd bang on my bag with her head to make more milk drop.  Her sharp teeth would sometimes cut my teats and they'd get chapped and raw.  I don't mind ya'll milking me at all. In fact, I am very thankful that I'm a milk cow and not a beef cow.  I give you a contribution. Beef cattle are "fully committed," if you get my drift.

Me: How much do you weigh, Rosie?
Rosie: Well, I declare, son.  That is a rude thing to ask a lady!
Me: I'm sorry, Rosie, for the benefit of the readers, I thought they'd like to see how svelte you are.
Rosie: Well, if you say it like that, Darlin', I currently weigh about 900 pounds. I've lost some of the 'baby fat' I was carrying when I had Clarabelle.

Me: Hey, speaking of Clarabelle, she's not nursing any more since Tricia and I are weaning her and are now milking you twice a day.
Rosie: Yeah, but that's something I need to talk to you about.  The other two calves, Luna & Chuck, have been coming and stealing my milk once they finish nursing off of Daisy and Amy.
Me: I know.  We're having to separate them from you so they won't get OUR milk. We should have that problem rectified.

Me: Anything else you want to tell us?
Rosie: Well, yeah, I gotta brag a little.  Most milk in the US is produced by Holsteins.  I have to give them credit.  They make a lot of volume.  However, we (Jerseys), make the BEST milk.  Our milk has more calcium, more butterfat, more protein AND tastes the smoothest.
Me: Bragger!
Rosie: Oh no, child.  Them's facts.

Me: Any final thoughts?  I gotta get inside for supper.
Rosie: Yeah, have I shown you pictures of my baby, Clarabelle?  She's real pretty. Let me get out my wallet.

Rosie's little girl, Clarabelle

Me: She is pretty.  You must be proud.
Rosie: I am.  Now, if that's all you've got, I gotta go.  I have a lot of hay to eat and cud to chew.
Me: Good night, Rosie.
Rosie: Good night, Kyle.  And uh, Kyle, remember Eat Mor Chikn!




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Your Nose to the Grindstone

Opening up the back door of your home to the smell of fresh baked bread is one of those simple pleasures of life that will put a big grin on your face.  It is soothing, relaxing, and invokes an involuntary reflex that directs you to immediately rush to where the bread knife and butter are located.  Not margarine.  Butter.  Real Butter.

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If you want to do it right, there's some work, though, before you find yourself liberally spreading real butter on top of a fresh, warm piece of bread that you've just sliced from a fresh baked loaf.  And if you really want to do it right, then it involves a little more work, but it's worth it.  Let's check it out.

First, I want to talk about an excellent documentary we watched on PBS the other night.  You can watch it online by clicking Here.  You can also read the entire transcript by clicking HERE.  It is called In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.  We enjoyed it immensely.  In the documentary he said that the bread that our ancestors ate was much different from the white bread we eat.  It was whole grain.  The flour was made by grinding wheat between stones. The resulting flour contained the whole grain - the bran, the germ.  There was a downside to this, though - the bread was heavy and chewy.  White bread, made by removing the bran and germ made a lighter bread, but only the rich could afford it.  White bread also had a long shelf life as the germ, which was removed, is the part that goes bad quickly.

Then a new technology called the roller mill came out where you could easily separate the bran and the germ and feed that stuff to the cattle.  Except "that stuff" is the good stuff.  The stuff that makes you healthy.  The bran and germ are loaded with nutrients and vitamins.  The white flour is mainly carbohydrates that the body breaks down into sugars.  We love that, but eating white bread is horrible for you, as most of the nutrients and vitamins were robbed.

Once people began eating mostly white bread, it began to take its toll on people's health.  They began to get sick and suffer from diseases that were heretofore rare. Then it was discovered that these sickly people had a nutrient deficiency caused by removing the 'good stuff' out of the bread!  Well, what do you think the food industry did?  Yep, they began enriching flour with the very nutrients and vitamins that were removed.  Crazy, isn't it?  They began trying to solve the problem that their high tech solution caused by using more high tech solutions.

So, back to the daily grind for our daily bread.  We're low tech rednecks.  We have sought to make white bread extinct in our home.  Here's how we do it:  First, five or so years ago we purchased a Victorio Hand Operated Grain Mill.  We're actually on our second one as we wore the first one out. We like this appliance!  We purchase wheat berries in bulk in 25 pound sacks from Azure Standard Co-op and use two different types of wheat:

  • Spelt: an ancient grain mentioned in the Bible.  It is a soft wheat and easy to grind.
  • Kamut: also an ancient grain.  It is a hard wheat and harder to grind, but has a nice, nutty flavor and more protein.
Tricia normally mixes 1/2 spelt flour with 1/2 kamut flour to make homemade bread.
Grinding the daily bread
We always keep the hopper full of wheat berries and it beckons you to crank and make flour as you stroll through the kitchen.  We've found out (plagiarizing from Tom Sawyer) that if you keep it full, when guests and neighbor kids come to visit, their curiosity is piqued and they'll grind some of the flour for us.  That is shameful conduct on our part, is it not?!

Give it a spin!
Here is an up close look at Spelt grains.  You can see that it has the bran (all nutrients) remaining.

Spelt
For those (like me) that like immediate gratification, you can see the results of your labors coming out of the bottom of the grain mill as you crank.  It builds in big mounds and every so often you have to shake down the cone.

Flour Power!
We have separate storage containers for our spelt flour and our kamut flour since we use each for different baking purposes.  When we fill up the container, we'll dump it into the bulk storage container.

Whole wheat flour
You're probably thinking, "Doesn't that take a long time?"  Not really.  You'd be surprised.  Last night I timed myself.  At a leisurely pace I started cranking and turned off the timer when I had one heaping cup of ground spelt flour.  It only took me 1 minute and 22 seconds to grind a cup of flour! Of course, as fatigue sets in, your second cup will take a little longer, but when you get tired, you enlist help!  It really doesn't take much time at all.  And, with all the calories you burned cranking your wheat into flour, you can well afford to eat a couple more slices of fresh, warm bread when it comes out of the oven and slather butter on top that quickly melts into the bread!!

Flour falling out of the mill
The fresh loaves don't last long around our house.  I wanted to take a nice picture of a freshly baked loaf of bread, but the loaf was already partially devoured.

Our Daily Bread
But that's okay, it'll only be a few minutes until we (or guests that come to visit) have more freshly ground flour from which to bake more loaves of bread.  Victorio actually sells an electric motor attachment that you can attach to the mill if you take the handle off, but for the time being, we're just fine grinding it with man or woman-power.

I can remember as a child reading a Little Golden Book story about "The Little Red Hen."  Do you remember that old folk tale?  It is about a hen that finds some wheat and asked all the barnyard animals to help, but no one will.  She harvests it, threshes it, mills it into flour, and bakes the flour into bread.  No one will help her. BUT, when it is time to eat, well, they all want to eat.  The little red hen declines their offers to help her eat the bread, telling them, "No one would help be prepare it, so one one should help me eat it."  The little red hen and her chicks ate it all.  The moral to the story is that if you want to share in the enjoyment of a product, you should contribute something to making it. Certainly wise words from the little red hen!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Composting Experiment

A good friend of mine loaned me a contraption called an Urban Compost Tumbler. It is essentially a barrel that rotates on a base.  You can easily turn it around and around in order to stir the contents. We're going to experiment on this third method of composting and see how it goes in comparison to two other methods we use.

We employ a couple of different types of composting methods, namely, a compost pile where we throw everything into a pile and let it rot.  This has a few negative aspects.  First, in order to compost, you must turn the pile in order to aerate the compost.  This helps the bacteria decompose the contents of the pile quicker.  This is also time consuming depending on the size of the pile.  Secondly, throwing waste in a compost pile, especially food waste, attracts varmints like rats.  Although we do compost using this method, the pile now only contains leaves and cow poop, so as not to attract vermin.

I've primarily switched to a composting method called Trench Composting.  It is easy to do.  All you have to do is dig a hole.  You can read about it more here in a post we did a while back: Trench Composting  Trench composting incorporates food waste, paper, coffee grounds, etc. directly into the soil.  The bacteria in the soil and earthworms immediately go to work breaking it down.

So here is the Urban Compost Tumbler.  Since this is a loaner model, the cost for me is FREE!  If you were to purchase this bad boy, the price tag is $379 on Amazon.  Holy Moley!  You have to produce an awful lot of compost in order for this thing to pay for itself.

The Urban Compost Tumbler
So... we'll get started with the experiment.  THIS ARTICLE explains how to compost using the Urban Compost Tumbler.  One of the important things to consider is your ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen.  Some places call in the brown to green ratio, with brown being carbon and green being nitrogen.  We are going to start with a 25:1 Carbon to Nitrogen ratio by weight.  I'm not set up to weigh it, so I'm just going to estimate.  Carbon is much lighter than the nitrogen component, so most of the contents will be hay.

As far as carbon is concerned, we have an awful lot of hay that gets wasted by the cows.  We're going to try to convert some of that waste to compost.  You can see Clarabelle in the photo below and can witness the wasted hay all around the hay ring.  They are sloppy eaters, for sure.  We'll salvage some of that and put it in the Urban Compost Tumbler.  I gathered a heaping tub of wasted hay for our carbon component.

Wasteful bovines aren't efficient eaters.
As far as nitrogen is concerned, we'll use a by product of our laying hens - chicken poop.  We have two chicken tractors that some of the hens roost on out in the pasture.  We push the tractor each day and the poop fertilizes the grass.  We harvest the poop under the roosting bars of the hen house to fertilize the garden and, in this case, to add to the compost tumbler.

Harvesting a chicken by-product
I entered the hen house with a wagon, a tub and a shovel and in no time at all, emerged with a full tub of poop mixed with feathers for our nitrogen component.

A tub of chicken poop
Now that we've gotten our carbon (hay) and our nitrogen (chicken poop), we'll get things started.  It was 70 degrees outside when I got this started.  According to what I read, you need it to be above 50 degrees to start microbe growth.  Once the pile heats up and starts "cooking" it will reach up to 130 degrees.
Recipe ingredients for compost: chicken poop and hay
I unfastened the lid to the compost tumbler.  It is well constructed and heavy and built to last.  It spins easily on its axle.

The interior of the tumbler
I added the ingredients to the tumbler, alternating hay and poop to the 25:1 ratio by weight. Obviously, most of the contents of the tumbler is hay with chicken manure distributed throughout.
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About 3/4 of the way full to leave space for mixing/tumbling
Then we'll add some moisture as that is very important in composting.  I collected some rainwater and poured that on top of the mix.  It is important to add rainwater and not tap water as tap water has been treated with chlorine to kill bacteria.  You don't want to kill bacteria in composting - you want bacteria to flourish. 

Rainwater
Then, I fastened the lid and began to spin the tumbler.  Each day, I'll give it a spin.


From what I read in THIS REVIEW we can count on finished compost in 14 weeks. We'll see if we can achieve those results.  If we make some nice compost, we'll incorporate it into the garden this spring and then will continue making batch after batch.  Stay tuned for a status report coming in a few months.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Checking in on the Calves

In 2015 our three Jersey cows gave us three calves, two heifers and a little bull.  We haven't given a progress report on them lately and figured we'd summarize how they are doing.  First we'll start with Clarabelle.  Clarabelle is Rosie's heifer that was born on June 20, 2015

Clarabelle at 7 months old
Clarabelle is a beautiful little heifer and has a gentle disposition, perhaps the most gentle calf we've had.  She is clipped up for the District Livestock show in Lake Charles this next weekend.  She also has a weaning plate in her nose to wean her. She has managed to pop it out of her nose on at least four occasions, but has not robbed Rosie's milk.  I think she is content eating hay.  She leads beautifully with a rope and has the A2/A2 genetics that we were hoping for.  She's definitely a keeper!

Here is Luna, sitting comfortably in the hay that her mom, Daisy, manages to waste.  Luna got her name because she was born on a full moon on October 27, 2015.  She's three months old now and has a nice blue halter.  She gets to drink Daisy's milk all day long and then she gets separated and we get Daisy's morning milk.  In the picture below, you can see Daisy's big bag.  You would think that it is full of milk but actually, it isn't - it is scar tissue.  One of her quarters was ruined when she was just a heifer by Rosie.  We were weaning Rosie and had her separated from her mom and she began suckling on Daisy.  It caused Daisy to begin producing milk and by the time we caught it, one of her quarters was ruined.  Daisy still makes great milk that has a high percentage of butterfat, but only from three of her quarters.

Luna in her 'nest'
Luna, like Clarabelle, is a registered Jersey and has the A2/A2 genetics that we were hoping for.  This afternoon it was a beautiful January afternoon with temperatures in the mid-70's.  I put a lead rope on her and led her out into the yard and we made several long laps around the yard.  She is a spirited little thing, but is pretty much broken and leads without having to drag her.  While out in the yard today, she was introduced to her first patch of clover.  It was love at first sight!

Luna searching for a four leaf clover
And last but not least, we have little Chuck.  Chuck was born on December 5, 2015, so he's about two months old.  He's almost as big as Luna, though.  He was born to Amy and is her first calf.  He rushes out of the stall in the morning and hits Amy's bag, hoping to get more milk to drop for his breakfast.

Chuck' breakfast
Chuck is a muscular little guy.  He has lots of energy and is wild as a March hare. Before he gets too much bigger (and stronger) I intend on putting a halter on him and begin working on breaking him so that he'll lead with a rope.  We also need to get him registered with the American Jersey Cattle Association and check his genetics for the A2/A2 gene.

The only boy
I don't like to keep a bull on our little herd.  We're really not set up to handle all the drama that goes on with numerous cows going in heat with a bull around.  Our intent is to keep this little guy for right at two years and have him breed all our girls, then we'll sell him or process him.  We've actually had one bull calf that would charge you and try to hurt you.  We had to walk in the pasture with an ax handle for protection.  We don't want to go through that again.

A face to face encounter
We de-horned Chuck and you can see that his little head is healing up nicely.  He's drinking plenty of milk and have noticed that once he empties Amy's milk, he makes the rounds, robbing Daisy of any milk that she might have leftover after Luna has nursed.  Maybe that's why he's almost caught up with Luna in size.

Chuck, the milk thief
It is quite a rodeo to get everyone separated and situated at night.  We've been thinking about putting up a new corral to add a couple more areas of containment for our growing animal family.  Three cows and three calves on three acres.  That is a lot of animals for our little pasture.  The pasture is also shared by all of our laying hens and Annie, our Nubian dairy goat who will be having kids in less than a month now.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our First "Real" Freeze

We have had an unbelievably mild winter so far.  In fact, I was telling my wife just the other day that the grass is still green in the pasture.  Although we're in the deep south, by late January the grass is usually dead and brown.  We've had a few frosts that has burned the grass a little bit, but you can see in the pictures below that there is still a lot of green grass in the pasture.

Saturday morning we had our first real freeze in which there was a thin coating of ice on the top of mud puddles.  It wasn't a heavy freeze and the water in puddles underneath the live oak trees didn't freeze, but it was a freeze nonetheless.  After milking the cows Saturday morning, I walked out to feed the pullets in the chicken tractor and heard, "crunch, crunch, crunch" underneath my feet.  The morning sun was shining and had melted the frost on the grass that had escaped the shadows of the oak trees.

Frost in the shadows
The remaining green on the grass will be turning brown now from the coating of frost that covers the pasture grass.  We have been supplementing the little remaining pasture grass with hay.  The cows are eating a round bale of hay every 6 days and we feed them 1 square bale each day of the "good stuff": Alicia 'horse' hay.

Old Jack Frost
The five gallon bucket that sits atop the chicken tractor where the pullets live had an interesting collection of ice formations in it.  It's almost as if the Almighty was giving a lesson on the different types of triangles as I can see an equilateral triangle, an isosceles triangle, a scalene triangle, and a right-angled triangle in the bucket pictured below.  (I had to look those up. I never was much good at geometry.)

Fortunately, the tubing that carries the water from the reservoir bucket to the waterer that hangs in the chicken tractor below, is located on the very bottom and it didn't freeze.  Folks in northern climes have to put heaters in their water troughs during the winter so their animals can stay hydrated.  Not down here - especially not this year.

A perfect "Home School" lesson
As you can see, the water in the water trough in the chicken tractor is very much liquid.  The heat that 30 pullets put off keep the area warm and toasty as opposed to the frosty landscape that you can see right outside the tractor.

Body heat
Although it is cold, I think the frost is beautiful with the crystals sparkling in the morning sun that stretches across the landscape.  We've still got some cold weather left - that's for sure, but the days are getting longer and springtime is on its way.  In fact, as I look at the weather forecast, I see that it will be in the 70's on Saturday and Sunday of this week, January 30th & 31st.  It looks like our inventory of firewood will hold out for this year.


In just a couple of weeks at the latest, I'll plant onions and potatoes.  The ground has to do a little drying up before then, but it is almost time to get things started!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Sanford & Son" Maintenance Projects

Ah yes, I can still easily recall the instrumental theme music of Sanford & Son and see Fred Sanford sitting out in front of his business establishment reading the newspaper as Lamont drove up in the old red 1951 Ford pickup truck.  I can still recall old Fred saying, "You Big Dummy" or "This is the big one, Elizabeth.  I'm comin' to meet ya honey!"  As a young boy I watched that sitcom as it aired between 1972 - 1977. Fred and Lamont ran Sanford & Son Salvage, which was essentially a junkyard.
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In some ways I think that Sanford & Son made an impression on me.  By that, I mean that I have a certain affinity for 'junk.'  I always look at things destined for the garbage and think if there is any way that they can be used again.  Weird, maybe? I have containers of nuts, bolts, washers, and screws on my workbench from things I take apart before throwing away.  The general idea is that I'll use them again in another project, but often I either waste a lot of time looking through the containers for the items that I need, that it would have been simpler to just make a trip to the hardware store and purchase a brand new part.

While I am a pack rat, I don't like clutter, so all my piles of junk are neatly stacked in piles hidden from view and are mentally cataloged so I'll hopefully be able to find them when I need them.  There are definitely times when that junk item that should probably reside in the Jefferson Davis Parish Landfill, actually comes in useful.  I'll show you an example today.

Our kids' old swing set RIP
In THIS BLOG POST FROM 2014 I talk about disassembling the kids' old swing set.  It was sort of an emotional thing for me.  I'm an old softie on some things. While, as the post describes, many of the pieces of the disassembled swing set went to the landfill, I did save the tubing that made up the six supporting legs and top bar for the swing set.  They have been occupying a spot between the rain collection barrels and the air conditioning units, just lying there, biding their time until their opportunity presented itself to take on a second life and become useful again.  This weekend that time came.

Back when the kids showed goats around 2002, my Dad, Greg Meaux, and I built a small barn.  The barn still stands, but is in need of some repair.  The cows, goats and chickens use it as a place of shelter in rain storms or cold weather.  Over time the 2 X 4 bottom supports have come into contact with the ground and completely rotted.  All it would take is for one of the calves to hit the tin siding of the barn, and without any bottom bracing, the tin would bend upward.  This weekend I was going to make a trip to the local hardware store and buy some treated lumber and fix it, when I thought about the old swing set!

I took my measurements and pulled out the old swing set tubing and marked it. Using a grinder, I cut the tubing back until there was no more rust.  Then I took a 16 pound sledge hammer and flattened the two ends.  Finally I got a drill and drilled holes in the flattened ends, screwed the piping to the corner barn support posts, and then using metal screws, attached the tin to the tubing.  Voila!

A couple of hens inspect the construction
The barn is sturdy once more!

The swing set re-invents itself!
Now, not only is the barn repaired without having to expend any additional cash at the hardware store, but it is sturdier and will last longer than if I had purchased lumber.  There is one more benefit, too!

Still going strong - ~20 years later
When I'm puttering around in the barn and look down and see the familiar blue and green striping of the old swing set that is now holding the barn together, I'll have happy memories of when the kids were younger.  

A long, long time ago...
Eat your heart out, Fred and Lamont.  I've got my own salvage yard!
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