Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gadgets and Gizmos

First, let me apologize for my lengthy absence. No, I didn't get tired of writing the blog - I've missed it, actually! No, I'm not a lazy slacker (not usually, anyway - I have my moments. What happened was that karma bit me in the butt. I had the audacity to write a post about winter survival tips at the very end of winter season and, as a result, the "dusting" of snow we were supposed to get here in Virginia turned into 4 - 6 inches of heavy, slushy, tree limb breaking snow. I lost power on Wednesday morning and didn't get it back until Sunday. To add insult to injury, when the power came back on, the surge killed my computer! It was plugged into a protector, just not, apparently, a very good one. Anyway, I finally managed to retrieve my information off the old hard drive (no, I did not have current backups, shame on me, another lesson learned the hard way!). Sooooo... glad to be back!

Over the years I have discovered various items and gadgets to be indispensable on the farm. One of these invaluable gizmos is the head lamp. Now, I must admit that the first time I saw someone wearing one of these
Hi Ho, Hi Ho
lights, I had to stifle a giggle. I would expect to see them worn by cavers or miners, but it seemed a bit out of place at the farm. One of my friends has a bit of a lazy streak and apparently had decided that there was no need to carry a flashlight when one could be worn. He’d wear his light on an evening stroll through the woods or, indeed, for any excuse he could find.

Granted, pride in my appearance at the farm went out the window a long time ago when function won the battle over fashion. I was unafraid of appearing “dorky” as long as I was comfortable. For example, one winter I was having a lot of trouble keeping my feet warm and dry. I tried several different boots, socks, etc. My rubber boots kept my feet dry but were too cold no matter how many pairs of socks I wore. I had a warm pair of hiking boots which, though allegedly weatherproof, still allowed my feet to get wet, then cold. In desperation, I tried putting on several plastic shopping bags before slipping on the boots. My moisture barrier worked and that was all it took to sell me on wearing them for the rest of that winter.

I was a bit embarrassed on a few occasions when I had to run to the store or another public venue between chores, wondering what people would think – it was impossible to completely hide the bags without decreasing their effectiveness and they peeked over the tops of my boots. It has always seemed silly to me to take the time to change clothes and footwear for a run to the store just to return and take more time changing back to work clothes, thus I’ve learned to deal with the occasional stare or wrinkled nose. I have, however, long since invested in a good pair of insulated Muck Boots, soooo warm and wonderful, so plastic bags will be an emergency measure only. Oddly enough, the inside of my beloved boots are "don't shoot me" orange... why exactly is that?

Speaking of embarrassing apparel, I now swear by those one piece insulated zip up suits. They keep me toasty warm no matter how cold it is. I have splashed water on those suits and walked around wearing a coating of ice, toasty warm inside! My city slicker friends refer to it as my ":serial killer suit." Not sure why...

Got a little off track there. Anyway, I was reluctant to try one of the headlamps. When I first moved to my farm, Equutopia, 10 years ago, I was new and inexperienced at farm management, a single girl trying to
Dark Woods Dweller
make a go of it with little spare time and very limited financial resources. Unable to afford an ATV, I was hauling hay down to my pasture in a wheelbarrow, flashlight tied to the hay bale unless I was lucky enough to have a full moon on that particular evening. The hill was steep and rutted, the wheelbarrow bounced everywhere and the flashlight was often jarred loose. The return trip uphill was even worse, trying to hold a handle and the light in the same hand while contending with the panicky feeling that something or someone was looming in the dark, waiting until I’d almost reached safety to spring their attack - the same feeling I’d had as a child climbing the basement steps waiting for that hand to close on my ankle. I no longer haul hay down the hill in a wheelbarrow, but it occurred to me that a headlamp would have been really handy back then. These lights are also fantastic when tending to a horse’s wound or bandaging a leg or any other such situation when both hands are needed and no extras are available.

Most are familiar with the inherent value of duct tape and twine and keep both handy at all times, so I won’t elaborate too much on these items but to say that I use them most often for fence repair, hanging buckets and temporary blanket repair. Few may know the handiness of keeping a few bit guards or other thick, flexible rubber pieces around – if your copper pipe springs a leak, a small piece of this rubber and a hose clamp can prevent a flood. Thick rubber bands such as those found binding the broccoli in the produce section of your local grocery store make excellent emergency replacements for the bands on childrens’ safety stirrups.

Farm essentials.

During the winter months, when the occasional snow blankets the ground and makes wheelbarrow locomotion nearly impossible, a childrens’ flat plastic sled works wonderfully for moving hay bales, muck baskets and the like. Just beware of the downhill slopes – momentum is not your friend if you happen to be standing in front of your loaded sled. I turn the sled around and let it slide downhill backward so that I can control its speed (yes, I learned this lesson the hard way after being the victim of a hit and run by a sled loaded with hay bales).

There are countless other improvisations one can make use of on a farm – as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Please remember when trying something new that safety should be your first consideration – if something looks dangerous, it probably is – keep thinking and find another way.

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