Friday, December 7, 2012

More Time

Having deluded myself into thinking that winter allows us some reprieve from the many tasks on the farm, I decided to devote some of my time over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to a slightly less urgent but very enjoyable task.   I built a shave-horse, using only hand tools and wood for material (no steel fasteners or fittings).

If you're like me, you probably had some vague recollection of seeing one at a museum somewhere, and logged the shave horse into the "useless relic from the past that I'll never need" portion of your brain's memory banks.  In our high-tech industrialized world overflowing with manufactured goods, where none of us needs to know how to manufacture *anything*, that's exactly where it belongs.  Well... that's where it would belong if such a world were worth perpetuating, or had anything more than an ice cube's chance in hell.

Whether food, clothing, housing, buckets, baskets, or anything else we might find useful, I see a lot of value in making things which could otherwise be purchased for a fraction of the cost in both time and money.  Most of us will soon have much more of the former and less of the latter.

The shave horse is essentially a foot-operated vise designed for use with draw-knives and spoke shaves -- two amazingly useful tools which seem to be nearly forgotten as we near the end of the power-tool era.   They lend themselves well to making wooden basket materials, tool handles, bows (of the archery persuasion), coopering, and just about any other good which can be made from wood.   As I understand it, many of the early farms in this country had these in lieu of a bench vise for woodworking, and I'm now starting to see why.

Speaking of having more time and less money...   I found myself with exactly that, as I was laid off this week from my position as a programmer with a software company I'd been with for several years.  Even though I'd been more or less preparing for this eventuality over the last several years, it still felt like a bucket of cold water in the face.  Anxiety kicked in.  Would my next job involve a commute that would consume all the time I've been able to devote to the farm and family?   Would I even be able to find something in this corner of Michigan?  Would I be forced to return to some suburban hellhole, spending half my day traversing through the land of stoplights, uptight motorists, strip-malls, fast food, and big-box stores?  What about the loss of healthcare coverage?  Would it be possible to make more income off of the farm, particularly if last summer's drought is the start of a new normal?  Do I really want to cut costs (maybe sell one of our vehicles) enough to live on a farm-based income?

I've decided to view this as a gift of time.  I'm getting all sorts of projects wrapped up.   Doing a little blacksmithing.  A little woodworking.  Catching up on our firewood supply. A little hunting.  Taking the buggy out for a spin.  Eventually the bank account will wane, and the anxiety will resurface.   For the time being, however, I'm enjoying my new-found wealth.

In other news, our cow Gertie had a new calf yesterday morning, a little bull calf we've named Gomer.  Each of our cows have distinctive excrement which I take great pleasure in identifying and naming (Gertie Goobers, Josie Juice, Maggie Mounds, Junie-Fruits, and Blossom Bombs), as it becomes a focus of mine at chore time each morning and evening in the winter.  I giggle to myself each time I think of the name I've already given to Gomer's fecal contribution -- "Gomer Piles".   The joke was lost on Henry... so I had to take it upon myself to visit youtube and find an old episode of "Gomer Pyle, USMC".   Now his education in cultural icons is complete.


Brad said...


Nice piece of work. Did you follow a set of plans? I need to make a peening bench and learn how to sharpen my scythe. This give me an idea for a dual purpose tool.

Good luck on the "making a living" front.

David Veale said...

Brad -- No specific plans, but in general I followed the dimensions given in Roy Underhill's book "The Woodwright's Guide". My bench plank varies in that it's 2.5" thick and 10" wide (his was 3"x9"). My dumbhead is 9" wide -- which I think may be a bit much now. I do think I will move the clamp further up towards the top of the ramp though, as having the large surface there gets in the way of the tools.