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Sunday, February 15, 2009

"All at the least possible expense"

[risa] Although I did plant another sixteen hills of peas and sixteen potatoes, and painted the foundation of the south side of the house, most of the "farm" weekend was devoted to the garage/shop project.

Most vertical surfaces are getting a single coat of cheap white latex, the kind that says "tint base" on the can. The results aren't pretty, but it's not why we're doing this. It's a generous two-car garage of the kind built sixty years ago, and is cavernous, with open rafters, and dark, with rough-cut barn boards nailed horizontally along full-size 2x6 studs, as in two by six inches, not 1.5 by 5.5 inches.

Hundreds of eighteen-penny and twenty-four penny nails protruded from these walls in all directions, and held old loops of baling wire, Romex, fan belts, and odd tools the day we moved in. It stormed all that week, and we just hung things right on top of what was already there, and over the next sixteen years, the area became something of a family midden. We're digging out this winter and sorting, putting away, and hauling away, and one of the first things we noticed during the recent pre-project tour of inspection was that it's too dark in there to really try to do any work. And the work benches aren't the worst in the world.

One way to throw more light on the work areas is increase bulb wattage, but we're reasoning we'd like to do projects in there, on rainy days, by natural light, and should there be a long interruption of power, by lamplight if necessary. Hence the paint. The one coat has enough albedo, even with old moisture stains and rough grain showing through, to brighten up the whole area -- and when a tiny screw falls to the bench, my fifty-nine year old nearsighted eyes can find it!

You may notice, in the photo, the bench vise and grinder are rather large. Ladies, if you're setting up shop in a space like this for your small farm, don't get a dinky little vise. Unless you have the same upper body strength as the guys (some do!) you will need bigger stuff because the equipment's strength or weight makes up for what you may lack in leverage yourself. You'll also want pipes of varying size and length to slip over handles like the one on our vise so as to give the handle that little bit of extra torque that the he-men provide with their shoulders.

There's a terrific discussion of the mechanics of women's bodies in a farm setting in an old book (1976) that's worth tracking down: Country Women: A Handbook for the New Farmer by Jeanne Tetrault and Sherry Thomas. I just peeked and Amazon has "14 Used & new from $9.89" and I think that's a steal even with the shipping charge. As it says on the front cover, "How to negotiate a land purchase, dig a well, grow vegetables organically, build a fence and shed, deliver a goat, skin a lamb, spin yarn and raise a flock of good egg-laying hens, all at the least possible expense and with minimum reliance on outside and professional help."

We're happy to have renewed access to this space, with countertops and tabletops, because we'll want to build several things in the near term that will need a lot of room while making: first, seven horizontal awnings for the windows that get the most sun, using burlap, lath and shelf brackets; second, a solar food dryer, third, a solar oven using a defunct microwave as the core unit, and fourth, a bicycle trailer capable of hauling either a kayak to the river (1 mile) or a bale of straw from the feed store (2 miles).

We'd also like to get back into wine making ...


  1. My mother always said that the only reason to get 'ladies-sized' tools was to waste money.(although, I really like my penny hammer). What a blessing to have older tools that were made before they figured out how to make them break at the least opportune moment!


  2. Wow that looks cleaner than I have ever seen it!

  3. Anonymous8:05 AM

    The white paint looks great and I'm sure this will be a much more pleasant place to work now.

  4. You're the first person I've seen mentioned painting to create more light. I've always opted for semi-gloss paint in rooms that I want brightness. White is best, but the glossiness reflects no matter what color the paint is.

  5. Thanks -- good point -- but I have just never really liked gloss ... The flat white was the cheapest, and I grabbed it. I'm happy with the results, though I don't suppose everyone would be ...what was there before was brown wood, and a lot of darkness that swallowed up my puny little lamps -- what's there now definitely helps me see better -- some of it is just needing the lighter background against which to see things I've dropped on the countertops -- screws or whatever -- and the contrast is a big help to my now quite old eyes.


Stony Run Farm: Life on One Acre

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