Endangered Skill 7: Making Your Own Entertainment, Part 1, Musical Instruments

When I did the original post for Eight Endangered Skills, I listed making and playing your own instruments, and then said it also reminded me of making toys. The point is that our ancestors knew how to entertain themselves, and they learned to have fun with whatever was available. That may be the skill that is truly endangered.  Today’s post will focus on music, but we’ll look at toys and other forms of home made entertainment in a future post.

Music is universal. Yes, styles vary by era, by culture and by personal taste, but it is there nevertheless.  People have made and played their own instruments as far back as we can remember. In the Bible, musicians are first mentioned in Genesis chapter 4. “ His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (vs 22).  The one instrument we all carry with us, whether we use it or not, is the human voice.

I was hoping Ed would write this post, since he did most of the work,  but his job schedule has changed a little, and we are still adjusting. When we started working on this series last summer, I found this article from Mother Earth News.  I knew that we had to try and build a gut bucket, aka washtub bass.  We would need a wash tub, something for the neck, something for the string (a plastic coated cable was recommended),  and a way to attach the string to the wash tub.

I will admit that I kind of struggled with giving up my old washtub, but I have been promised a new one. Ed found an old closet rod for the neck and asked if I had any tin cans that we could cut the bottoms out of for washers. Was he kidding? Of course I did!  We did have to go buy eye bolts and a small cable.  After we got home, we both saw a cable we could have used, and I am quite sure eye bolts will turn up too.  We learned a long time ago, that the best way to find something you know you have is to go buy a new one.   Once we got started, the whole process took less than an hour.   I have to tell you that Ed had a great time making this.

Chicken Girl was the photographer today.

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hole drilled in the bottom of the tub

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Inside of the tub with the “washer” and the nut end of the eyebolt

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Eye bolt on the outside of the tub

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attaching a ring to the eyebolt

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A notch cut in one end of the rod

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A hold drilled in the other end

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cutting the hook off the cable 

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The cable attached. Notice the notch on the rod hooked on the rim of the tub

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attaching the other end of the cable to the other end of the rod

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The finished product

Most home made instruments don’t need anywhere near that kind of time or construction. Have you ever given a small child a pot and a spoon? Yep, instant drum!  Different surfaces and different materials make different sounds and lend themselves to all sorts of “instruments”.  Dried beans in a tin can?   Maracas!  A comb and tissue paper? A kazoo!  Glasses filled with different levels of water? Chimes! The possibilities are probably endless, limited only by imagination. The best thing is that you don’t have to be a “musician”. You can just have fun with it.

You can buy specially made musical spoons today, they didn’t start out that way.   Ed actually got some pretty good rhythm going for awhile with two spoons from our kitchen.

Musical saws can also be purchased, but you don’t need a special one to learn. You do however, need something to use for a bow.  Chicken girl was greatly concerned when I experimented with an old hand saw and her violin bow.  I did manage to get a little sound, but probably needed a more flexible saw. The bow was no worse for the wear.
This is a basic tutorial on playing the saw, and Wikihow has instructions for making a bow here.

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Well, something like that anyway

Several years ago, Ed and I started collecting primitive instruments.  We used to play music at a couple different places and we liked to hand them out to whoever was there listening, and invite them to play along. We never got too many takers, but we did have fun, which was the whole point.

In addition to our usual  instruments (guitar, mandolin, harmonica, etc), we have a washboard, a jug, a cowbell, and now, a gut bucket!  IMG_0638

Do you play an instrument? Have you ever made your own?

Connie

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While We’re Waiting

While we’re waiting for Ed to figure out that washtub bass, I thought I would fill you in on our last year, and share some plans for upcoming posts.

Last August, we took our first ever family vacation. We went to Georgia to visit my dad, then to Charleston SC so Chicken Girl could see the ocean. From there we went to Greenville SC to visit Ed’s daughter, and on to North Carolina to visit Cherokee and see where Ed’s grandparents lived when he was a boy.  We put 2600 miles on my car and made some great memories. There will be more about that in later posts.

While we were gone, James was supposed to stay here and take care of the critters.  Well, that didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped.  To make a long, sad, story short, James was not able to fight his Meth addiction and surrendered his probation. The judge gave him nine years.  The blessing in that is that he is clean and sober.  We pray that this time he gets the tools (and the desire) he needs to stay that way.

In the meanwhile, Bam Bam’s life kind of fell apart too, and he is staying with us again, along with his two small dogs, Rex and Gracie. They have been with us since December. It’s been nice to have him home again, and he is a big help. The little dogs provide a lot of “entertainment” although the cats are less than impressed.

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Bam Bam with Rex (black) and Gracie (white)

The big dogs are doing ok. Some days, Libby really shows her age, but I think we’ve stopped her digging out. Meeko still climbs out, on occasion, comes to the back door and barks! I think he wants to play with the little dogs, who aren’t terribly sure that’s a good idea.

On a positive note, we have finished homeschooling and Chicken Girl graduated on June 3rd. She is now taking an online Voice Over class, since she wants to be a voice over artist.

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Chicken Girl at her graduation party

As for the chickens, with the exception of one hen we lost to illness (we’re not sure what), they are all doing fine. We get between one and two dozen eggs a week, which is more than enough for us.  We are working on rebuilding the coop (again), as well as some new chicken tractors.

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Sunny about ready to fly the coop!

This spring has been an exciting time with the bees. Currently we have four hives. One we bought as a nuc, two from a hive we split, and one we took from an old house. I know that Ed will want to tell you all about that, but I will say I have finally put on the bee suit and started helping him. Capturing that wild hive was amazing!

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The wild hive was behind this wall!

Weather wise, things have just been strange.  With the exception of about a week of frigid sub zero temperatures, last winter was mild and dry. We didn’t get much spring. It just went from cold to hot, and still very dry.  We finally got some rain yesterday, but we need more.  The grass is dry and crunchy, but the plantain is doing beautifully!

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All the green is plantain. The brown is grass

We bought some fruit trees as well as some elderberry bushes planning to create fruit tree guilds. Well, we didn’t get as far into that as we would have liked, but we did get all the trees in the ground and they are hanging on.

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An apricot tree with mulch inside the drip line. We plan to plant understory plants here later.

Ed and Bam Bam built me a basement greenhouse, so I was able to get some seeds started. The only problem was that when they were ready to go outside, the weather was still too cool, and then the tiller broke down and Ed wasn’t able to get everything tilled.   We improvised and got everything I started planted. Some things didn’t make it, but most are, like the trees, hanging on.

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The greenhouse

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Tomato plants in the garden

After three years,  the blackberries are producing! Then a few days ago, I discovered wild raspberries growing behind the barn. This must just be a good year for berries. The mulberry trees in the fence rows are full of fruit in varying degrees of ripeness. The wild grapes have taken off too.

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Blackberries!

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Wild raspberries behind the barn

Well, I think that is pretty much everything. Hopefully, Ed will have that bass built next week, and he’ll post about that and all the other ways you can make your own musical instruments.

Connie

 

 

 

Endangered Skill #6: Foraging

Foraging generally means finding food that is growing wild. In an emergency situation, being aware of what grows wild where you live, and how those things can be used for food and first aid could be a matter of life and death.  Even in everyday circumstances, that same knowledge can save you money on groceries. Usually you can find food growing wild your yard. You probably call it weeds.

My dad hates “greens” of any kind, because (he says) they had to eat so much of it when he was a kid. He grew up poor and his family ate wild greens a lot. He particularly detests dandelion greens. Yes, I have picked and eaten raw dandelion greens. To me, they don’t really taste any different than other greens that you might buy in the grocery store. I’ve also fried dandelion blossoms. Chicken Girl wasn’t impressed, but Ed and I liked them.  One note about wild greens: if you’re picking them to eat raw, the best time is early springs when the leaves are small and tender.

I think I may have told you this before, but several years ago, when we still lived in Independence, I had the opportunity to attend a Wild Edibles workshop at the Burr Oak Conservation Center. The ladies running the workshop called themselves the “Wild Ones”. I think the youngest of those ladies was probably in her 50’s, but the oldest was somewhere around 80 years old. Her name was Frances Matthews, and there is a great article in the Missouri Conservationist about her, the Wild Ones and wild edibles. You can read it here. The day I attended the workshop, they taught us about different kinds of wild edible plants, and we got to taste some things like dandelion jelly, wood sorrel tea and stuffed yucca  and daylily blossoms.  (Chicken Girl really likes daylilly blossoms. Be sure to remove the stamen, pistils etc, from the center of any blossom before eating.)

Since then, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit about plants that grow in the wild, especially the ones that most of us call “weeds”, but I know that I still have a lot to learn. When I started working on this post, I remembered I had written a few other posts about foraging, so I decided to refresh my memory before I went any further. I’m glad I did. I had written more about it than I thought. If you want to see my other posts that have foraging info, find “Foraging” in the Categories list to your right. I have written about Goldenrod, Mallow, Mullein, Queen Anne’s Lace, Chicory, and my all time favorite, Plantain.

Over the last three years, I’ve learned about a few new plants found on our place. I showed you pictures of wild grapes a few weeks ago. Along the same fence row as the grape vines, we have wild roses. I noticed what looked like berries on the roses, did a little research and discovered rose hips.

Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant. Most of the time we don’t see them because people dead head their roses. That means they pull off the spent blossoms, which encourages more flowers to grow. It also prevents hips from forming. From what I read, rose hips are harvested after the first frost of the fall, and then can be used either fresh or dried.

“Gather fruits (hips) as they ripen in autumn (after frost) or during winter, wash and remove dried persistent flower parts from top of hips, then split open and remove seeds. Eat pulpy portion fresh or in jellies or sauces. Dry whole or half cleaned fruits  for later use (soak overnight in warm water), or finely grate or grind dried hips to yeild a slightly fragrant powder rich in vitamin C and essential minerals. Sprinkle on hot cerials or use to make hot tea. Also wash young leaves, cut into small pieces and dry for hot rose tea. Flower petals can be used in candy, tea, and jellies, but fruits are more nutritious.” (“Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods” by Thomas Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, pp 220-221)

They’re supposed to be good for inflammation too.*

In the spring we had Pineapple Weed growing down the center of our driveway. I just noticed the other day that it’s gone for the year and I never did get any of it. It is so named because, when you crush the leaves, they really do smell like pineapple.

The flowers and leaves are edible. You can get more details about Pineapple Weed and many other wild edibles at Wild Edible food.com.

There are so many wild growing plants that are edible and/or have medicinal value, we have just barely scratched the surface. We haven’t even talked about wild mushrooms and other edible fungus, mainly because I don’t know enough about it to share. It’s on my “to learn” list though.

To pick up this “endangered skill”, you need to learn about the wild edibles in your area. There are all kinds of online resources, like this one , but be sure to get a good hard copy field guide like the one cited above too.  That way you have something to carry with you for those times when the internet is not available. Also, make sure the areas from which you gather have not been sprayed with chemicals designed to kill weeds.

Happy wild edible hunting!

Connie

*Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. All the information posted here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as, or to replace medical advice.

Mint, Mint, and More Mint

Ed is working on the next installment of our Endangered Skills series and probably a rant about law mowers. I thought I would talk about the one thing I planted that will go on and on without me: Mint.

Yes, mint is invasive.

I’m ok with that.

I think I told you a few years ago, that I really wanted to turn the front yard into a garden, not only for the benefits of having a garden, but also because we wouldn’t have to mow it. Well, we have Maple trees, a very small witch hazel sapling, a few day lilies and we have mint….we also have thistles, but I would rather they go somewhere else. I’ve planted other things, especially down near the road hoping they would grow up hill. Not only have they not grown up hill, they haven’t grown at all. I can’t even find where they were planted.

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Little witch hazel

Yes, I got a new camera. It’s an updated version of my old one and lets me use wifi to upload the pictures.

The two or three little mint plants I put out there two years ago, have expanded to about 15 square feet. That’s 15 square feet we don’t have to mow.

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The mint bed, with a few weeds in the front. The tallest plants that are just starting to flower are almost waist high for me, so they are about 3 feet tall.

I haven’t even tried to harvest any this year. To be honest, I don’t use much of it. For me, the smell can be overpowering, particularly spearmint. That probably has something to do with family road trips when I was a kid. I had a tendency to get back seat carsickness, and somebody was always passing out Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. The two are irrevocably connected in my mind and so the smell of spearmint can make me nauseous. It’s strange because mint is used to treat nausea.

Peppermint is another matter. Its the smell of candy canes and Starlight Mints. Peppermint essential oil is fantastic for stopping headaches.

We have both kinds of mint growing and fortunately, they are easy to tell apart. Spearmint leaves have a rough texture and are a light shade of green. Peppermint is slightly darker, and has much smoother leaves. I used to have some chocolate mint too. Yes, it smells just like Thin Mints.

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Spearmint on the left and peppermint on the right.

The mint family of plants is huge. I read somewhere there are 3200 varieties. You can learn more about them here. One of my favorite members is lemon balm. I had a pretty good stand of it when we lived in Independence, and planned to bring cuttings with me, but my accident during our move stopped all that. I started some lemon balm seed summer before last, but it didn’t make it. Catnip is also a member of the mint family. Our cats are divided on it. Captain and Bookworm could take it or leave it. Adora likes it, but Marshmellow was the catnip junkie.

There is so much you can do with mint, and there is plenty of information out there in blog land to prove it. This is a good post that links to several other good posts. I may have to try the mint infused honey. I could do one of the salves too. I think I have everything I need. I let you know how it turns out.

Anybody want some mint?

Connie

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Endangered Skill #4: Reading the Weather

“I smell rain.”

I don’t know how old I was when I heard my grandma say those words, but I know I was immediately fascinated. It wasn’t raining. To my young eyes, it didn’t look like it was going to rain. What did she mean? I sniffed the air. I smelled something different, something I still can’t describe. I call it “rain”, and it usually means we’re going to get wet.

I probably would have smelled it this week, if I had spent any significant time outside. In two days, we got about five inches of rain.

Weather is important to everyone. These days most of us can get weather information from TV, radio, and the internet. We can watch the radar and get instant information about what is happening right now, and what we might expect next.

That being said, have you ever noticed how often the predictions are off a little? How about dead wrong? Did you ever hear about the lady who called the local weather man to ask him why she was sweeping six inches of “partly cloudy” off her front porch?

Have you ever been some place where it was raining on one side of the street and dry on the other? People on both sides of the street listened to the same weather forecast. One side will say the forecast was right, the other will say it was wrong. The Economist has an interesting post about the subject of weather forecasting accuracy.

So, if our professionals have trouble predicting the weather, what are the rest of us supposed to do? Further more, what did our ancestors do before there were professionals as we know them today?

Well, there are some things, like smelling rain, that seem to be at least as reliable as our local meteorologist. One of the reasons we listed reading the weather as an endangered skill is because it’s one of those things for which we rely so much on technology, we forget to use our own senses. We just need to get our heads out of our cell phones and pay attention.

The first volume of the Foxfire series, simply called “The Foxfire Book”, has a chapter called “Weather Signs”. At first glance, you might think you are reading a bunch of old wives tales, and some of them might be, but not all. Here are a few samples from page 208:

“Forecasting Winter By Animals
It will be a bad winter if:
squirrels begin gathering nuts early (middle or late September)
muskrat houses are built big.
beaver lodges have more logs.
the north side of a beaver dam is more covered with sticks than the south.
squirrels’ tails grow bushier.
fur and hair on animals such as horses, sheep, mules, cows and dogs is thicker than usual.
the fur on the bottom of a rabbits foot is thicker.
cows’ hooves break off earlier.”
And the list goes on for three pages, and includes methods for predicting other types of weather as well.

Chicken Girl’s dad grew up in a logging family in rural Kentucky. Once, when we lived there, I noticed the leaves on some of the trees had turned upside down, showing their undersides. I mentioned it to him, and he said the trees were expecting rain.  I’ve seen it bear out more often than not. You can notice it from a distance, because the underside of leaves are usually a different, more subdued color.

Dad has lived in Georgia since 1970, and he has told me many times, when the weather is coming straight across (meaning out of the west), it won’t be that bad, but if I comes up from the Gulf, (out of the southwest), “we’re going to get it.”

Dad also says to gauge what kind of winter you’re going to have, look at horses and cows. If the winter is going to be a bad one, they will “coat up”. That means their hair will get thick and woolly-looking. Sounds like one of those “signs” from The Foxfire Book, doesn’t it? I’ve actually noticed this looking at livestock while riding down the road, and on our own dogs, particularly Libby.

I’ll bet you’ve heard this before:

“Red sky at night, sailor delight.
Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.”

Dust and water vapor particles in the atmosphere indicate weather conditions. The amount of each also determine the colors we see at sunrise and sunset. For a further explanation of that and some other good information for understanding your local weather patterns, look at this post from How to Provide for Your Family. In it, the author mentions that leaves turn over when the wind is coming from an unusual direction. Could that also be an indicator of rain? I don’t know, but it might be interesting to find out.

The post also mentions that the high humidity/low pressure combination that signifies a cold front, and often precipitation, can produce bodily aches and pains, as well as “antisocial behavior”. Ed and I can both attest to the bodily aches and pains part. As for antisocial behavior, I do know that people seem to get testy when the weather is hot and humid.

Weather has always fascinated me, and I love thunderstorms, but I’ll be honest. My mind just will not grasp the science part of it. I don’t know why, and it’s a little irritating, because I have to keep researching the same information. To quote Chicken Girl, “It just doesn’t stick”.

In other homestead news:

My camera had an accident and is out of commission. If I can’t fix it, which I probably can’t since that is way beyond my skill set, I will have to get another one. In the meanwhile, I got the gorgeous pictures you see in this post from Unsplash.com.

Adora, our injured cat is still recovering. Last Saturday, she came running when she heard me open the back door. A few hours later, she left a dead bird on the front porch. Unfortunately, Wednesday morning, I noticed her left hip looked swollen and it was hot to the touch. I called the vet, and we made another trip to his office. He said it looked like it was an abscess, but it was going to need to come to a head before he could do anything with it. In the meanwhile, he gave us some liquid antibiotic to give her. Either that will make it go away completely, or help bring it to a head so that he can lance it. While we were there, I told them that Chicken Girl though she had found more bites on the back of her head, so they shaved it to get a better look. They confirmed the bite marks, but said they looked ok for now.

With all the rain,we renamed the holes the dogs dug in their pen “Lake Libby”. However, after rain stopped, and the water soaked into the  ground, we discovered most of the holes had filled in. Now they can dig them all out again.

Ed broke down and bought another push mower. He managed to get the front yard mowed before the deluge hit. That’s a start, anyway. We wont talk about the fifteen foot high ragweed that has buried the burn pile and our wheelbarrow.

Connie

Other posts in the Endangered Skills series:

Eight Endangered Skills
Endangered Skill #1: Shoe Repair
Endangered Skill #2: Black Smith
Endangered Skill #3: Small Appliance Repair

Homestead Update

Since Ed updated you on the bees I thought I would  update you on the rest of the homestead.

A couple months ago, I found out I had an umbilical hernia. While we waited for the insurance company to decide if I could have surgery, and then get said surgery scheduled, my doctor gave me one order: No lifting and no straining. Great.

I had visions of spending another summer completely out of commission. I am now happy to report that I had the surgery, it was a success, and I have just been given the go ahead to gradually increase the work I am able to do. Yes, I am obeying the “gradually” rule because I really want to get better.

Since I didn’t know for sure if I would be able work outside this summer, I decided to not have a garden. For the first time in years, I did not buy any seeds or plants. I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something. I am going to use this summer to plan next year’s garden, and work on getting the ground ready.

My camera got knocked off the table with the lens open, and suffered some damage. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Chicken Girl took these pictures, and had trouble getting consistent focus.

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Thyme growing inside the tire. If you look closely at the right side of  the picture, you might be able to make out the blue flowers on the Borage plant.

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Love in a Mist

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Wild grapes

The thyme survived the winter, and there are some volunteer sunflowers.  Last summer, I planted some Borage and Love in a Mist, but they just decided to come up now. Gotta love those unexpected blessings. I’ve found wild grapes growing in one of the fence rows, and some of the mulberry trees are producing like crazy. The blackberries we planted last year survived for the most part, and a few plants even have some green fruit.

The lawn and weeds have taken off too. Unfortunately, one of our weed eaters, and both lawn mowers are out of commission. Ed will probably want to tell you about that. I did pull a few weeds yesterday, but I got tired quickly, and decided I probably shouldn’t over do it.

The dogs have finally decided to stay put. Ed is two thirds finished with a new dog house, and they have already moved in. Libby is still digging like crazy, but she has found other places beside the fence. We just have to watch for the sink holes!

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Meeko and Chicken Girl “helping” Ed build the new dog house.

My mom’s best friend decided that Chicken Girl needed a better chicken coop, so she bought one and had it shipped to us. Moony and his girls are living there, and Sunny and company were finally moved from the oldest coop to the new one that we built. Everyone seems happy for now, and the eggs are coming steadily again.

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Moony and the girls in the new coop

Chicken Girl and I finished the school year, and we were both ready. Several months ago, I told you we were getting ready to start dissection in Biology. She did one crayfish, and begged me not to make her do any more. I didn’t, but I adjusted her grade accordingly. Oh, she just had a birthday. She’s seventeen. Time sure flies.

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Chicken Girl and the unfortunate crayfish.

Last week, we had three days in the 90’s and three nights of some intense thunderstorms. We didn’t have any serious damage; just a few limbs down off the big elm tree near the garage. One of those mornings, I stepped out on front porch just to take a quick look around. The weeds all survived. So did this guy.

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Frog just off the front porch.

This morning about 5:00, Ed and I heard a dog barking in our front yard. It wasn’t one of ours. We got up, looked, didn’t see anything, and went back to bed. When we got back up later, I realized two of the cats were outside. Captain came in, but Adora didn’t. We found her this afternoon. She was alive, and she didn’t have any marks we could find, but she was obviously not good. The vet couldn’t find any marks either at first. She has super thick fur. When he finally did find them, there were three or four bite marks and they were on her back end. So, he gave her fluids, antibiotics, steroids, and liquid nutrition. He said to bring her home, keep her warm (her temperature was below normal), and call him in the morning to let him know how she’s doing.  Now she’s covered up in a box in Chicken Girl’s room.

This is a picture I took of her a few days ago: A living bookend. I thought the glowing eyes were funny. IMG_2114

Well, that’s all the news for now.

Connie

 

 

 

Endangered Skill #3: Small Appliance Repair

My dad tells stories about his older brother taking apart toasters, blenders, etc, putting them back together and having them work better, even with a few “leftover” parts. I’m not sure if that’s completely accurate, but I do know that my uncle was really good at fixing things. My dad isn’t too shabby at it either. He’s good at making what he needs out of what he has too, but that’s another blog post.

As a kid and young adult, I remember visiting repair shops where toasters, blenders, and other small appliances were repaired. Sometimes those places fixed TV’s and VCR’s too. I haven’t seen a place like that in a long time. I did an internet search to see if any of those places still exist. A few do, like this one that, at least for awhile, had a blog too.

I found one repair shop that seems to deal with large appliances, but had advice for small appliance repair. They said “Most small appliance repairs are simple so many people generally try and fix them instead of calling a repair person”. You can read the rest of that article here.

I don’t know that most people really do try and fix it themselves. I think they throw it away and buy a new one, because that’s how most of us do things now. That’s what I did for a long time. Sometimes I still do it. Sometimes things aren’t designed to be fixed either, but that’s another blog post too.

My next stop was YouTube. I’ve been part of at least two discussions in the last few weeks where someone said, “You can learn how to do anything on Youtube!” I don’t know if that’s true, but I know that Ed and I both have learned how to do things by using YouTube videos.  I use it as a home school supplement too. I will offer one little piece of advice about that, however. You might want to look at a few different videos, because the one you start with may leave out an important step, (or loosen bolts/screws ahead of time) and not tell you.

Anyway, I searched YouTube for “small appliance repair” and found some great tutorials. I really liked Adam DIY, and watched several of his videos.

I tried to insert his “how to repair a broken toaster” video here, but it keeps showing up as “how to clean a table saw blade”.   I tried another video on his channel, and it did the same.  The table saw video is the first one on the list, and for some reason that is the only one that will play embedded here. Here is the link to the toaster video.

This video from comeinhandynow, is good too, but it’s dealing with a more complicated problem.

Have you ever tried to fix a small appliance?

How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

Connie

Endangered Skill #2: Black Smith

I don’t know about you, but when I think about a blacksmith, I see a sweat soaked, soot covered man wielding a hammer. I think of him as someone from the past, as most of us probably do.  My research brought some nice surprises. Blacksmithing is alive and well! The knowledge is still out there, if you want to get it.

So, what exactly is a blacksmith?

According to the American Heritage dictionary, a blacksmith is:

1. One that forges and shapes iron with an anvil and hammer.
2. One that makes, repairs, and fits horseshoes.

Foxfire 5 has an entire section on Iron Making and Black Smithing. It includes drawings and pictures of furnaces, as well as explanations of the difference between wrought iron, pig iron, and steel. Of course, in true Foxfire style, there are the interviews with “old timers” who have inside information on the relevant subject.

“A blacksmith forges objects of metal typically wrought iron or steel. To forge metal is to shape it, by heating then hammering, or pressing it into the desired form.” Foxfire 5, pg 112

“At that time the blacksmith played a vital role in his community and was generally accorded his respect. There is hardly a facet of life his work did not touch upon; indeed without his skills , the prevailing life-style would have been extremely primitive. Most of the items a blacksmith made and repaired were either tools or other work related items, such as harness fittings and ox yokes. In a culture where everyone, even children had to work just to get by, it’s not hard to understand how important the blacksmith was.” Foxfire 5, pg 108.

The book goes into great detail about what a blacksmith does, the tools he uses, and the importance of proper care of tools and equipment.

“On the subject of tools, Leo Tippett said, ‘My father took good care of his tools. He never threw them down in the dirt, or on a rock. They’s scarce. My daddy’d give me a going over if I throwed a tool down in the dirt or rock. And I’m glad he did. You have to respect tools. Good sharp tools are the name of the game’” Foxfire 5, pg. 112

That comment, in itself, says a lot about how attitudes have changed.

Don’t know about Foxfire books? Ed wrote about them here.  It took us awhile, but we finally got the full set.

The blacksmith was important to a community because he made much needed tools and equipment. Today, much of what he did is manufactured in factories and shipped to stores where we buy it. One video I watched said the local smithy has been replaced by Lowe’s and Home Depot.

A partial list of things the blacksmith made is also listed in Foxfire five on pages129-131. Included are the things we normally think of, like horseshoes and axes, but we also find knitting needles, shoe buttons, nails and screws.

According to Simon Grant Jones, the passing of the time when horses were commonly used for work and travel spelled the end of the “traditional country smithy”. Simon is a practicing blacksmith, so take some time to explore his site. Another interesting historical fact he mentions is that often, at the end of the day, embers from the smithy were taken to the bread ovens to bake bread. Talk about members of a community working together!

Once again, I went to YouTube to see what I could find about Blacksmithing. I found a lot! The best one though, was this treasure.  Love that he had kids learning in the shop, not to mention the techie.

If you decide to try and learn yourself, let us know how it goes.

Connie

New Hens and Other Updates

Ed is feeling better and working to rebuild the dog pen. He hoped to finish today, but the weather has not cooperated. Cold and wet is not a good environment for someone barely over an upper respiratory infection, so he spent yesterday working inside. He worked some this morning, but then went to bed, because he has to work tonight. When we finish new pen, we’ll show you what we did.

Last week, I had the opportunity to purchase six grown Rhode Island Red hens from an acquaintance who had more than she needed. When the hens were delivered last weekend, we learned they hadn’t been handled much. Chicken Girl was going to have her job cut out for her.

When we first got them, we dumped them in the chicken tractor…literally. They came in a dog crate and the old owners upended the crate under the tractor, while we blocked the sides to prevent escapes. The funniest thing was that within five minutes of getting them in the tractor, Moony Rooster escaped his pen and came running to investigate the new girls.

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Moony Rooster

That evening, we decided we needed to put them in the big coop with the other chickens, because the tractor doesn’t have much in the way of shelter. That was an experience for Katherine. First, raising the tractor enough to grab a chicken that didn’t want to be grabbed. Then trying to hang onto it long enough to get it into the pen. Once she got them all in the pen, then she had to get them into the coop. Still, once she gets hold of them, they calm down quickly. She only got scratched once, and she considered that a win. Every day, it seems that they are easier for her to handle.

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Sunny Rooster and three of the new hens

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Katherine says this is Voca Hen. I’ll have to take her word for it.

The six new girls and the two old ones are having to work out their differences of course, but that was expected. Like she always has, Tundra Hen escapes several times a day. Then Moony Rooster follows her. Day before yesterday, during one of the many daily escapes, Katherine had a moment of panic when she realized Tundra was inside the dog pen. Then she remembered the dogs weren’t there. Later however, when when Ed was moving the dog house, an egg rolled out. Then I noticed the second egg inside the house. I guess Tundra was feeling a little crowded with her new coop mates. Coop improvements will be coming soon.

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See the egg?

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Close up

 

Have a great weekend,

Connie

One of Those Weeks

Well, maybe, one of those months.

Since Ed and I both write posts for this blog, we trade off weekly posting; last week my post, this week his. The idea is that we both then have two weeks to work on writing a post worth reading…Yes, I know, we don’t always get there.

This is technically Ed’s week. However, Ed has been sick for the last two weeks. What started out as a sinus and ear infection has moved to his chest. He went to the doctor for the second time yesterday, and she started him on a new round of antibiotics and a prescription cough medicine. He really hasn’t felt well, and to be honest, I don’t know if he realizes it’s his “turn”. I’m not going to put any more pressure on him than he has already put on himself. He missed two days work that first week. He made one day up, and has been working ever since, except for his normal days off.

Several weeks ago, he wrote about our constant battle to keep our dogs contained. Pallets around the fence perimeter seemed to be the solution…when we could get pallets. Unfortunately, the supply dried up, and we were back to using whatever we could find. At least twice a day, one of us would walk the fence, looking for evidence of new digging. Once or twice, we found some and were able to block the hole. I would love to go buy everything we need, and just fix the stupid fence, but we don’t have that kind of money, so we do damage control. At least Meeko quit climbing right?

Wrong!

A few days after Ed went back to work, the dogs got out, and I couldn’t find the hole. Using flashlights, Katherine and I walked the whole fence, and could not find where they escaped. I was doing some things in the house that made bringing them in for the night extremely inconvenient. In frustration, I decided to shut them in one of the rooms in the barn that had a cement floor and locking door. Katherine and I carried blankets, food and water out to the barn, and locked them in for the night.

The next day, Ed and I both looked for the escape route, but couldn’t find it. I still can’t believe that Libby climbed the fence, but I don’t have any other explanation for her escape. To see if we could catch them, Ed put out the game camera for a few days. The only thing we saw was chickens, three of our chickens have found out how to get out their pen, and have decided to free range themselves. The interesting thing was that the dogs really didn’t seem interested. Four days later, we found out how wrong we were.

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 From the game camera: chickens outside the dog pen. If Libby sees them, she’s not interested. 

Last Friday, we finally got good, gully washing, basement flooding, rain. We needed it. It’s been a dry winter. That day, our three free range wanna be’s flew out of their pen. I saw them and told Katherine. She can round them up faster than I can, so she went out to get them. A few seconds after she went out the door, I heard a noise that I cannot describe. I went to investigate, and met Katherine and Meeko at the back door.

“Put him in the house! He got Hoppy! Hoppy ran off!” Katherine was already running off to find the rooster when I grabbed Meeko, pulled him inside, went outside myself and shut the door behind me. (Ed was sleeping). My first thought was of Libby, but she was still in the pen.

Katherine and I found Hoppy hiding in the weeds. At first glance, he looked like he had been plucked. All the feathers were gone from between his shoulder blades and from his back, near his tail feathers. Later I would change the impression from “plucked” to “skinned”.

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Hoppy’s back near his tail feathers.

I rounded up the other chickens, and then went to get Meeko put back in the pen. Ed was awake and I quickly explained what happened. Once Meeko was out of the house, Kat brought Hoppy in and we cleaned and treated his wounds. Then we put him in a crate in Katherine’s room.

Did I mention, it was pouring? Yeah, we were all soaked.

Ed and I restarted the discussion we’ve had too many times: How do we keep the dogs in? Ed went to the barn and came back with two cables with hooks on them. His thought was that we’re going to have to tie them up, we just weren’t sure how to do it.

A little while later, one of us, I don’t remember which, saw Libby outside the fence. I went out first while Ed went to get his shoes. By the time I got outside, Libby had bolted. I saw both dogs on the far side of my neighbor’s house, and called to them. Then I saw the other dog. Meeko ran toward it, and then both dogs ran back toward me, with the new dog coming quickly behind. I got Meeko, and gave him to Katherine. I turned to see Libby head back toward the other dog. In the meanwhile, our neighbor’s son came calling the other dog. I called Libby again, and for the first time in her life, she came to me, and I was able to get hold of her.

The man was apologizing for his dog, and I was apologizing for ours, and somehow, Katherine lost her grip on Meeko. Fortunately, Ed was out by then and was able to get him before our neighbor’s son was in the middle of a dog fight. Fuming, Ed headed toward the barn with Meeko. I sent Katherine to the house for a leash, and when she brought it, I used it to take Libby to the barn as well.

Ed had to go to work, so Katherine and I would have to deal with letting the dogs out to do their business. That would be ok for the night, but what about tomorrow? Then I remembered the cables. I attached them to a stall door, and then was able to use them to let the dogs out.

Hoppy died the next day. We were even more determined. We know that we need to do something about the chickens too, but we feel that the dogs are the bigger issue. Even if we could protect our chickens, some of our neighbors have chickens too.

The original plan was to keep the dogs tethered out for a few days  while Ed and I did some serious refurbishing of the pen. We decided we would start over. We would clear the fence rows, and combine everything that we have to dig and climb-proof the pen. We would even get out the electric fence box and see if we could figure out why it won’t work. We would start on Ed’s next day off. The dogs would only have to spend a few nights in the barn, and a few days tethered.

The Ed got sicker. His chest is so congested that he gets winded easily and has been sleeping a lot. I can’t help but feel that if I had been a little more on the ball with learning about natural remedies, he might have been able to head some of this off. I’m not real crazy about his having to take a second round of antibiotics, and neither is he, but that is where we are.  I’ve been dealing with some health issues myself, and that doesn’t help either.

Ed says he is feeling a little better today, but he has to work tonight, so we’ll see how he is in the morning. Prayers are always appreciated.

As for the dogs, they are just going to have to deal with being tied out for a little while longer.

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Unhappy Dogs

Connie