My friend Rollin sent me a photo recently of an old grease gun he found on his nearby family farm, with the caption, “I can see Dad now“.
We now live in a throw-away society, where durable goods just need to last ten years; where it is cheaper to go buy a new grease gun than fix the plunger on an old one. The problem I run into here on the farm is this; with many helping visitors, the kids doing their chores, and a “too many places at once” farmer, tools are lost, misplaced, or are simply not kept track of.
Up to the time of my Grandfather’s generation, tools on the farm (this went for everything in life as well from milk cans, to sewing machines, ovens and automobiles) were treasured and well taken care of possessions which were passed down through the generations. Thinking about Rollin’s found grease gun, and the use of well designed and long lasting tools, sparked a memory from my childhood.
We had an “ell” on our dairy barn, which was a series of sheds: one for sawdust, two for tools and equipment and the one on the end was an old ice house.**
I was in my teens and digging around in the dirt in the floor next to the ice house (I cannot remember why) when my shovel struck something rounded and hard. The spring ground was still frozen, but I was intrigued and determined to figure out what this was. After repeated trips to the milk house for hot water and much prying with a crowbar, I unearthed a beautiful and ornate chain-binder. Chain-binders are used to take up slack in a chain that is binding down a load…..logs, equipment being the the most common in my case.
It was buried vertically for some reason, so the round part I first found was the very end of the handle. After a day of soaking in diesel fuel, much time on a wire brush and a shiny coat of red paint, it was as good as new. I used it drawing out wood with my team of Belgians, and it still hangs in my Dad’s shop today.
It is so important for our farm viability, to not only have tools and equipment that are built well and designed to last, but to put that thought and care into the things we produce as well. We need to have a “farm infrastructure” that is based on those same principals: well designed, built to last, well taken care of, and hopefully, if missplaced, found and restored to good use.
I will check in with Rollin to see if he has grease flowing in his lost and found tool yet.
**This old ice house had double walls filled with sawdust and a cement floor. My grandfather would cut ice blocks from the pond during the winter, pack them in sawdust which would keep the ice frozen through much of the summer. This ice was used to cool the milk, and in ice box in the house to cool food until electricity came to the farm and refrigerators could be used.