Monday, February 24, 2014

Staying Vertical

As we age falling becomes a bigger threat to our health and well-being. This winter has been especially challenging to avoid falling on the ice that coated everything so I thought that I would talk about ice creepers or ice cleats that fit onto the bottom of your boots. Being retired I find myself outside even on the most wretched of days tending to our horses and chickens, plowing snow, filling bird feeders, or getting the dogs out for their run. Several years ago I purchased a pair of ice creepers made by ArtiMate. They are made of a very tough but pliable rubber that stretches over the bottom of your boots. This winter I've put them to the test, wearing them on my Muck boots for over a month and am still amazed how good they grip the patches of ice that are everywhere here on the farm.

I have a high instep which makes it difficult to take off a "slide on" boot such as the above Muck boots and since I wear these boots every day I decided that I needed a bootjack to make my life a little easier. Now a bootjack turned out to be harder to find than I had imagined and after finding several at antique-second hand stores for $40.00  and up and reading about them on the internet I decided that I could build one. While my wife would tell you that I'm not the handiest man with a hammer and nail I am pretty proud of my creation. Below on the right is my "prototype" bootjack and on the left is my "finished" bootjack made out of some scraps of plywood I had laying around. It works extremely well and makes taking my Muck boots off much less of a struggle.
As you age it's all about making life easier :).

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Legacy

As a boy wandering this land that I now live on I can remember the old apple trees that grew here.  They were gnarled hollow trunked survivors probably planted in the late 1800's by a farmer by the name of Sollenberger.  50 years ago or more a neighbor then himself an old man told my Dad about the old bachelor who lived back on the ridge and scratched out a living on this thin rocky soil. As a child this neighbor could remember the old farmer coming out the lane that ran past his home every Sunday morning, driving a horse and buggy and singing hymns on his way to church.  The old apple trees are all gone now, but a few volunteer trees sprouted from seeds of the old trees have taken their place. Producing a small russet apple that my grandmother called a Rusty Coat they continue the legacy started by the old farmer.

With an aluminum telescopic pole saw I pruned some of the volunteers this week to rid them of dead and crossed over limbs and to open their centers up to sunlight and air to promote a healthy more productive tree and felt the satisfaction of knowing that there would be trees filled with apples this fall just as there had been for the last 100+ falls.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Today is the first day of my retirement. With almost 42 years as a blue collar factory worker for the same company I'm somewhat of a dinosaur in todays workforce. I know people who aren't looking forward to this day because they wonder what they will do with all that spare time. I'm not one of those people. February may be a slow month depending on the weather but if possible I'll be cutting down some of the numerous birch and locust trees that are trying to reclaim the Back40. With a new lightweight Echo chainsaw it's work that's enjoyable and satisfying to see the instant results. There's also bird boxes to build in hopes of coaxing a bluebird, chickadee, or nuthatch into raising a brood for me to watch in on.  I'm eagerly awaiting March and the migrating woodcock. Emma and I will be visiting favorite old coverts and exploring new ones. April I'll be busy planting the apple trees that I grafted last year and grafting new varieties for next year. April may also find me visiting the trout streams after a too long hiatus.  May will be the start of the mowing season with Chalmer, my late father-in-laws Ford 861 tractor, in the Back40. June through September will be filled with trips to my smallmouth bass streams, always an enjoyable time of year. Then it will be fall again and time for Emma and I to wander through our coverts seeking out the woodcock that we cherish and also the scarce grouse that we sometimes stumble onto. All too soon I'll be wondering what happened to that 1st year of retirement and looking forward to the next one.  Yes I think that I'll handle being retired just fine.