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Friday, January 22, 2010

Yes, please

Early seedlings are underway in the house: two kinds of lettuce, two of cabbages, some kale, leeks, chard, favas and peas. This is by way of experimentation: first, how's the germination (some of these seeds are getting long in the tooth); second, assuming they result in good seedlings, how would some of these things do in the grow tunnel?

There's still plenty of food from last year: fish, duck, chicken, lamb, broth, peas, green beans, potatoes, gallons of dried runner beans and favas, pie cherries, dehydrated apples and tomatoes and zukes, applesauce, tomato puree, winter squash, home brew, and one large pumpkin. There are stored apples, too, but they have to be taken on one at a time; many are mealier than they look due to a bad apple year -- the two trees that did set fruit aren't good keepers.

We're done refurbishing the potting shed and are moving on to cleaning, sharpening and oiling tools.

Oiling in this case means taking a rag, soaking a bit of vegetable oil into it, wrapping it around a wooden tool handle and giving it a good rubdown. Sun, more than rain, is the enemy of tool handles, and causes the wood fibers to separate -- develop long cracks that reduce the tensile strength of the handle and promote rot. Keeping them out of the sun when not in use is the best thing you can do, and oiling is the second best thing. I do this in the winter. Linseed oil is best but the veg oil seems to do okay.


I'm dreadfully lazy and not much for filing most edged tools, knives and chainsaws excepted. I tend to take shovels and forks and bush hooks and such to the bench grinder, clean the blade or head with the rotary wire brush wheel, then go to the grinding wheel to touch up points or edges. This is not the best practice as the high speed grinder heats metal too fast, causing it to lose its temper (and thereafter not stay as sharp as it could be, hence the saying). But better treatment than most homeowner tools get nowadays in this country.

And these tools have earned the treatment. We collected most of them in the 1970s. Some were hand-us-downs from decades before that. At least one fork is suspected to be from the nineteenth century. When I run the tangs of some of them over the wire wheel, a well-worn but still proud message -- Made in U.S.A. -- emerges from the caked clay.

Then I return with them to the potting shed, which is warmer and brighter than the garage, and linger over the oiling.

Maybe with Earl Gray steaming at hand? Maybe with a bit of Mendelssohn on the radio? Ah, and maybe both these and, shovel and oil rag momentarily neglected, watch and watch the antics of the redwing blackbirds, who are here two months and more early this year?

Yes, please.

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