You’re Industrious But Not Too Bright



Yup……..that is what she said as she looked at the blisters on my hands.  I was living in a little apartment and had gotten permission to landscape my little part of the world.   I had weeded and planted in the space on each side of my porch and now I was edging the sidewalk.  Not having tools, I did what would become my way of life…..I used what was available.  And for the edging, I was on my hands and knees and using an old steak knife.  The blisters on my hands were broken open and I was just finishing the job.

At the time, the pronouncement was disturbing.  But as I have raised my kids and built a farm it has become a necessary way of life.

To milk my first goat I brought her on the front porch, milked into a bowl and strained through a washrag.

To raise my first calves I ran a huge cable between trees and stumps then tethered them like a dog and moved it around so he had fresh grass to eat.

To cut down the blackberries I crawled under them, cut the bases with a pair of wire cutters, crawled back out and hauled them into a pile.

To dig up stumps, I chopped the roots, dug some more, chopped some more.  With the fence stretcher I put the ropes at an angle then pulled until it was as tight as I could pull.  Then I jumped on the rope and repeated the dig, chop, and jump routine until it was out.

To till my garden I used a shovel and dug and dug some more.

I loaded an old pickup with gravel from the side of the road and hauled it home while the front of the truck was barely touching the ground.

I have taken the information from books and rebuilt car engines, set cement blocks for a greenhouse built with huge sliding glass doors, made soap and cheeses, and learned natural health practices.

I have gardened for people for years and when they did not want a plant or two, I incorporated them into my landscape……full sized fruit trees and all.

I have used wire coat hangers for a latch for a closet door, a ring to go around a stainless bowl to make a double boiler, hooks to thread wires through walls, latches for gates, hooks for holding my cast iron cookware and my big roasting pan and many others things that I cannot remember.

I use baling twine for more things than I can count.

To remodel my house and insert windows and sliding glass doors I used a chainsaw to cut the holes in the walls.

I have taken solid welded fencing and cut it to make a cage around my flatbed truck.  Then I lined it with tarps, packed it with wood shavings, strapped it down, and hauled it home.

I have used a 1 1/2 gallon stainless pan with a trivet in it to replicate an oven.  I covered it with a dishtowel and it worked great.

I have made chicken nest boxes out of old crates or cement blocks then added golf balls to encourage the chickens to lay in them.

Now my fence stretcher is being used to raise my calf off the ground to give circulation to his legs, while the rafter is being additionally supported with a step ladder.

But I am also the other part of that sentence…..not too bright.

I refuse to wear gloves so my hands get gouged with blackberry barbs and I have callouses encrusted with dirt. And broken fingernails.

I let 4 full sized dogs into my 28 foot travel trailer at the same time, then complain that I have no place to walk…….and that my floor is impossibly dirty.

I have spent years fixing my water pipes when they freeze and break instead of taking the time to bury them.

I dig ditches in the pouring rain even though I know where the ditches need to go.

I walk through wet tree branches instead of cutting them off.  They are over my head when it is dry.

I haul water in buckets while the hoses sit in a corner.

But the best part of this whole thing is that my daughter thinks I am fr&%(*n brilliant!  And to me, nothing can beat that. So today I am proud of being “industrious” and well aware that some of what I do is “not too bright” and I am okay with that.  “Fr&%(*n brilliant” is worth it all!

What kinds of things have you done that used tools in a unique way?

About Janolyn

I am a mother of 5 wonderful children, 4 boys and 1 girl. During the years that my children were growing up, we grew most of our own food with a vegetable garden, many fruit trees and berry patches. I grew flowers for joy. We milked goats and raised our own meats and eggs. I learned to make my own cheeses, butter, canned foods, sourdough, and fermented foods. I made our own health products like soap, hand creams, lip balm, and herbal tinctures. We live off the power grid and have learned to do without conveniences that most Americans consider essential. The land clearing and building has been mostly accomplished with hand tools; some of them even the right tool for the job. After a couple of miscarriages between #2 and #3 due to “standard medical procedures”, I consulted a midwife and my last 3 children were born safely at home. That was when I was first alerted to the fact that doctors did not know everything nor would they have the time to share it with their patients if they did. As I learned the basic principles of heath-through-nutrition from my midwife, I learned alternative gardening practices from her husband. That introduction started a lifelong love of learning the practical life of our ancestors. I want to share what I have been learning with you and learn from those who are also living a sustainable life.

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