Your Hand is Not a Hammer

Jan 29, 2013

Winter seems to drag on forever, doesn’t it? In October I can’t wait for winter. I am tired of being hot and sweaty. I am tired of eating tomatoes. All I really want to do is eat leafy greens, stay inside by the fire, and read a good book. Now that it is January. I am tired of leafy greens and long for a tomato. The reading by the fire part I am still enjoying. I won’t say I have spring fever, but I am definitely feeling the call of the land.

            This happens every year in January. I can feel a certain buzz throughout my body that I can still only by doing something farmy. What is a farmer to do when the weather does not allow outdoor farmy activities? I do a couple of things to calm my inner worker bee. The first thing I do is I plant tomato seeds. I plant more than just tomatoes. I plant all sorts of things: peppers, eggplant, celeriac, and broccoli raab. I have to keep myself under control because more than once I have started seeds too early, only to have the plants ready well before the soil is dry enough to work up for planting. Seedlings that are over mature at planting time never reach their true potential. So it is better to wait a few weeks rather than grow a bunch of plants you should never plant in the first place.

            The second thing I do is make sure all my equipment is ready to go. I want to be able to capitalize on weather breaks and work up some ground, and maybe even plant some things like carrots, beets, or lettuce. I change the oil in all the tractors and do whatever the owners’ manual says in terms of lubrication and adjustments. Once the tractors are done I start working on the implements I attach to the tractor. I always start with the tools that have a gear box, like mowers and tillers. I check all the fluid levels and replace the fluids if the manual tells me to. I like to adjust the drive chains on the tiller, and January is a good time to replace any worn out leaky gaskets. This year I get the fun job of replacing all the tines on both of my tillers. (Actually, this is not fun.) If you have ever had to replace tiller tines you know what I mean. I have 72 rusted bolts just waiting to frustrate me. Hello, liquid wrench.

            While I am talking tools I should pass on two items of farm wisdom that I always find valuable. The first one is: grease is your friend on the farm. The second is: your hand is not a hammer. I was told these gems by an excellent farm mechanic, and I do my best to take them to heart. Whenever I use a piece of farm equipment I grease it first and when I need to beat on something I try to find the appropriate beating tool and preserve the integrity of my hand. This is especially true when working with wrenches to loosen stubborn nuts and bolts. Use a mallet to tap on that wrench not the palm of your hand that is unless you really want to have carpel tunnel syndrome.

Every tool in the farmer’s and gardener’s tool shed needs a little love once in a while, so take the time this winter to oil all your wooden tool handles with linseed oil and make sure you sharpen all those hoe blades. Spring is coming and so are the pig-weed, lamb’s quarter, and whatever other weeds you have that make you crazy. Sharp tools will make the job of killing all those weeds easier and faster. The sun is shining, but the soil is cold so get out to your tractor shed and tool shed and do a little work on your tools so you are ready to go once planting season gets here.