The Farm Report: Spring Project Done

Just six weeks ago, Chareva’s spring project looked like this:

Plans and a truckload of supplies. Now the project looks like this:

Quite a transformation of that back pasture, eh? When we first bought the land, we didn’t venture into that pasture at all. It was too scary. No telling what varmints and bugs were in those chest-high weeds.

It was quite a push there at the end.  When we finished the first chicken-yard, I raised the net with three poles. That helped, but there are still areas where I have to duck. So before we tied down the net over the second chicken yard, I decided to raise the net in a few places around the perimeter as well.

There wasn’t enough slack in the net to use 10-foot pipes, but I found I could use seven-foot pipes and still have enough net hanging down to tie to the fence.  With seven-footers raising the net at the edges, I don’t have to duck anywhere in the chicken yard.

The pipes are galvanized electrical pipes.  They’re only $3 each.  Trouble is, Home Depot sells 10-foot pipes and five-foot pipes. I’m well over five feet tall, so I bought 10-foot pipes and added an angle grinder to my collection of Dangerous Tools For Guys. I secured each pole to my workbench with Quick-Grip clamps, then cut away a three-foot section. I stood well to the side of where I was cutting so I wouldn’t grind my kneecap if I lost control, and of course I wore goggles because of the sparks.

I spent most of my adult life living in apartments. My entire tool collection fit in a drawer: Philips screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, hammer and pliers. Now I own two chainsaws, a Weed-Whacker with blade and saw attachments, a bush-hogging mower, two power drills, a miter saw and a circular saw. In other words, I’ve acquired many possibilities for seriously injuring myself.

So I’m careful. I don’t cut so much as a small branch with my chainsaw unless I’m wearing my helmet and protective chaps. I wear goggles when I use any kind of powered saw. I even wear the helmet with facemask when I’m using the Weed-Whacker – a precaution I adopted after a friend told me about a co-worker who lost a front tooth when a Weed-Whacker shot a pebble into his mouth.

If I’d had the sense to be equally cautious while using non-powered tools, I could have saved myself a world of hurt on Sunday.

See the gazebo in the picture below? We decided to put that in the middle of the fenced-in areas so we can sit in the shade and enjoy the view. It’s one of those pop-up models with a light aluminum frame.

After setting it up, we had two thoughts: 1) a stiff wind will blow this thing away, and 2) it tilts too much because of the slope of the hill. The downhill tilt cut off the view when we sat under the awning.

The solution to both problems was to strap the aluminum legs to t-posts. To raise the legs on the downhill side, we’d use bricks:

I pounded in the first t-post with no problems. To pound in the second post, I had to stand downhill of it, since the gazebo leg was on the uphill side to set the distance. The post wasn’t taking well to our rocky soil, so I raised the t-post hammer high to get good, powerful blows.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

Yup.  As I was pounding, I was looking down at the ground to check my progress. Raise up … WHAM! Raise up … WHAM! Raise up … CRACK! FUUUUUUUUUUU@#$%!!!!

Chareva didn’t see exactly what happened, but apparently I raised the t-post hammer higher than the post itself before slamming down. Instead of sliding over the post, the bottom edge of the hammer caught the top of the post, turned in my hands, and continued down onto my skull.

I don’t know about you, but when I suffer serious pain, I momentarily divide into two distinct beings. One is the wounded, bellowing animal self who’s feeling all the pain. The other is a detached, rational fellow who observes and occasionally comments.

When the hammer slammed onto my head, I staggered for a moment, then dropped to my hands and knees, then saw the world around me going dark, as if someone was closing the aperture on a camera. The detached self calmly observed, “We’re about to go unconscious. That’s interesting. We haven’t been knocked unconscious in, what, 46 years?”

Then the aperture slowly opened and the light came back. “Ohhh,” the detached self remarked, “so we haven’t been knocked unconscious. Well, that’s good, I guess.”

I heard Chareva tell me to lie down as she ran to the house. I didn’t lie down because I didn’t want my head anywhere near the rocky ground. I sat up instead. I don’t remember taking my hat off, but it was off. Perhaps the hammer knocked it off. I also don’t remember grabbing the top of my head, but I know I did, because there was blood on both of my gloves.

While Chareva was in the house retrieving an ice pack and some towels, I did my best to check myself for a concussion. I held out a finger and moved it side to side, making sure my eyes were tracking. They were. Nausea? Nope. Slurred speech? Let’s see …

“That hurt like a mother@#$%*&! How the @#$% did I do that?”

Nope, all spoken clear as a bell.

When Chareva came back, she blotted the blood from my head, then applied the icepack. I’m happy to say she was calm under pressure. Frightened for me, but calm.

We sat there for a good while, and I explained that if a comedian is going to die an untimely death, it may as well look like something from a Three Stooges scene. I hit myself with a steel t-post hammer while she twists my nose with pliers. I go cross-eyed and fall backwards.

The top of my head hurt like hell, and I could feel a tiny chip in one of my bottom teeth – no doubt from my mouth slamming shut when the hammer collided with my skull. My neck also hurt, and there was a pinched-nerve sensation between my neck and left shoulder.

But all things considered, I felt okay. More than anything, I felt grateful. Slamming a 16-pound steel hammer onto your head can end with far worse than a headache.  If my tongue had been anywhere between my teeth, I could have ended up screaming, “Thith really @#$%ing thuckth!”

I reminded Chareva about a conversation I had with a dentist who removed two of my wisdom teeth 20 years ago.

“You know, you don’t have thick bones,” he told me. “But they’re surprisingly hard and dense. So take it from me, you are officially hard-headed.”

Hard-headed is probably the reason I was talking to my worried wife instead of riding in an ambulance.

After a half-hour or so, the icepack had done the trick and I felt okay to stand up and move around. My head was still trickling a bit of blood, so I put a paper towel inside my hat. We finished anchoring the gazebo – Chareva pounded in the last post – and went inside.

Chareva covered the wound with bandages. I accused her of indulging a secret fantasy to see me wearing a yarmulke.

I took this selfie three days after the collision. It’s still not pretty up there, but the wound is healing.

Accident notwithstanding, we got Chareva’s spring project done in time for our visit from Pete Evans on Monday. I explained to him that I’d best wear a hat for the filming, since my head a was a bit of a mess. I’m just glad I didn’t knock myself into a hospital and end up having to cancel on him.

On Tuesday, Chareva and I spent some time just sitting on the bench under the gazebo, admiring the view from up on the hill, watching the chickens scratch and peck bugs from the grass, and remembering what that pasture looked like a year ago.

Man, was it a satisfying feeling.

Here are more pictures from Tuesday.

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61 thoughts on “The Farm Report: Spring Project Done

  1. Wayne Gage

    Loved the scene where Chareva went to the gate of the chicken yard with the bucket and the chickens came running. Takes me back.

    Reply
  2. Alex

    From the context, it sounds like you bought an angle grinder, not a bench grinder. An angle grinder is the one you hold in your hand and use for grinding and cutting. A bench grinder is the one bolted to the workbench that has a big motor in the center with fat grinding wheels on each side.

    Reply
  3. Linda

    I’m so glad you’re okay! My old days spent as an ER nurse came rushing back! That, indeed, could have been a far worse injury!

    On a happier note, I live vicariously every time I see a farm report! In days gone by, my plan was when I retired, I was going to get a piece of land in the country and raise chickens, bees and all my vegetables! Thanks statins and all you criminal pharmaceutical people who make them! Now, I get to have three tomato and two pepper plants along my walk that my brother planted. He planted them close enough that I can reach then on my walker without falling! I’m really glad I at least get to see your step by step progress. You and your great family are doing a wonderful job!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Sorry to hear about the statin damage, Linda.

      Yup, I got lucky. A blow from a heavy hammer could have been lights out, exit stage left, Elvis has left the building.

      Reply
      1. Namu

        It’s sobering to remember that thousands of people not much older than Tom will get a nasty, handicapping hip break just trying to get into or out of their bathtub this year…

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          My first job out of college was with the National Safety Council. I remember being told that falling in the tub or shower is one of the most common causes of serious injury.

          Reply
  4. Galina L.

    I am happy you are fine now! It is just scary to think about it – you almost cracked your head in a pursuit for a better view! I keep observing how life jokes on people, and fortunately you nearly missed the opportunity to become one of such causalities.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yeah, I feel lucky. I don’t think Chareva would have ever enjoyed the view much if I’d died on that spot. At least I hope that would affect her enjoyment of the view …

      Reply
  5. Armando

    The bump in your head is a badge of honour from your hard work. My wife has a bird phobia, so I will never will get the privilege of raising chooks. Also, I have a spaniel that likes to chase and hunt birds as well. To make the situation even more interesting, I have sseen foxes in the area. Having chickens is not working in my favour. Do you have any tips that I can pass on to my inlaws who recently got their own chickens? Thanks mate.

    P.S.
    Tom has a farm E-I-E-I-O

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Biggest tip is keep them secure. Chickens draw predators. We’ve lost them to racoons, hawks and a bobcat. That’s why we have chicken wire along the fence and spread out along the ground (to discourage digging predators) and nets overhead, tied down to the fence.

      Reply
  6. Tyler

    What is the purpose of the moat? In my mind I expected you to dig it out and there would be water there, obviously my expectations have failed me!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’s not that kind of moat … although a little drawbridge would be cool. The moat allows the chickens to walk around the garden and eat bugs. The double fence also prevents deer from jumping into the garden and helping themselves to our vegetables.

      Reply
  7. McFlarny

    That low-carb diet you’re on is gonna KILL you!

    Seriously, I enjoy your blog. I don’t know whether or not you’re living your dreams, but you are certainly living mine.

    Reply
  8. Becky

    Tom, we can’t lose you. Be careful-er! Do chickens eventually eat up the grass and have to be repastured, or will the grass regenerate as they dine? Only farm I ever saw that grass-fed their hens, the fence setup had to be moved around to fresh pasture. Best eggs EVER, though.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      They’ll eventually peck the grass down to nothing. The future plan is to build similar enclosures (overheard net included) over where the gardens are now. Then we’ll rotate chickens with gardens. The coops will become greenhouses when an area is rotated from chickens to garden.

      Reply
  9. Arturo

    Wow! Sorry to hear about your accident… I think we’re all very thankful that you’re okay and healing well! 🙂

    Any chance wearing a hard hat could have helped?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      A hard hat would have helped tremendously, and yes, I may start wearing one whenever there are heavy tools involved.

      Reply
  10. Nancy Smiley

    Wow! What a transformation! You guys deserve a big Hooray! for all who remember the original pasture. Everything looks great. Just hope your poor head recovers quickly. I see Chareva inherited the wifely ability to multitask: do house stuff while looking out the window when her man is doing something potentially dangerous. Good job girl!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Lucky for me, she was standing right next to me when I bonked my head. I wasn’t up for retrieving my own ice pack at that point.

      Reply
  11. Elenor

    OMG! I was delighted by your report and applauding (actually *physically* clapping witgh delight and pleasure — alone in my computer room!) (It’s okay, I’m know I’m weird.) and then suddenly disaster! Bravae to the Naughton tribe for some amazing work. And thank the farm-gods you’re whole and will one day be head-healthy again! Love love love y’all’s farm reports — am another fan living vicariously!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The farm gods were smiling on me. I made a bone-headed mistake without cracking the bone in my head.

      Reply
  12. Onlooker

    Kudos to you, Tom, of having the humility to share your very human mishaps with all of us strangers. Most people would not want to expose themselves so baldly (pun alert!) but it no doubt helps us all to remember how easy it is to hurt yourself when doing this kind of work. Complacency (and carelessness) kills, for sure.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Exactly what I was thinking: if I can make that mistake with a t-post hammer, so can someone else. I’d prefer anyone reading be warned.

      Reply
    2. Boundless

      re: Complacency (and carelessness) kills, for sure.

      In this case, it appears to be more case of not being aware of all the risk scenarios. This is to some extent an artifact of our loss of cultural knowledge of typical farm hazards, due to family farms being dramatically less common than they once were.

      Anyone with a T-post setter also needs steel-toed boots. Simply dropping the thing is a significant matter.

      When Tom gets to the point where he’s pining for a tractor, we’ll have to have a serious discussion about PTO shafts.

      Experience, alas, doesn’t consist of knowing all answers. It usually consists of having made all the mistakes. With farm equipment, the trick is to avoid serious injury or death while gaining that experience.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        Okay, when I get around to buying a tractor, I’m definitely putting up a post asking for safety tips. I haven’t even heard of a PTO shaft.

        Reply
        1. Kathy in Texas

          I never lived on a farm, but I worked for a farm implement dealer for seven years, so here are my thoughts on the tractor thing.

          Simply put………..

          PTO stands for Power Take Off.

          The shaft transfers the power of the tractor to the implement chosen for the job.

          Tractors have a lot of power. Lots of power = lots of possibilities for injury.

          Sadly, the usual chaps, face shields, hard hats, etc. aren’t much protection from that kind of power. And gloves offer their own hazards, as do long sleeves and anything else that can get caught and pull you into a place you don’t want to be. Neckties and long hair are also on that list, but I didn’t think you would be as concerned about those.

          So buy the tractor and some goodies to go with it. Then be constantly mindful of where your most essential body parts are in relation to whatever will be moving.

          Stay safe. 🙂

          Reply
          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            Given the pattern I’ve established, here’s what will happen: I’ll buy a tractor with all those inherent, power-related dangers and exercise extreme caution. Then I’ll find a way to injure myself with an ordinary rake.

            Long hair isn’t an option, and I rarely wear a tie for farm work.

            Reply
  13. Maria J

    Thanks for a great post, Tom. Pictures are perfect, a good way to use that sloping hillside. Easy to see what happy, healthy chickens you are raising. Sorry about the head bash. Just received a note regarding Prof. Tim Noakes and a request for signatures on a petition to support him with reference to SA dieticians group. All info is on dietdoctor.com.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I hope the vendetta against Noakes turns out be the South African equivalent of the vendetta against Annika Dahlqvist in Sweden some years back. The nutritionists went after her and she kicked their asses in a very public forum.

      Reply
  14. Namu

    Eris, the goddess of entropy, has been satistfyingly appeased by your bloody sacrifice. Good omen for the chicken pasture – less so for the chickens themselves.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      As long as the chickens stay away from t-post hammers, they should be safe in there.

      Reply
  15. samc

    LOL, sorry to laugh at your expense but I know just how you feel. I’ve done similar dumb things. Recently fell from a ladder holding a reciprocating saw, probably wouldn’t have tumbled if I had just let go of the saw, but I didn’t want to break it. Ouch. And I have some years on you, probably should give up ladders.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Dr. Doug McGuff (an emergency room physician) gave a lecture on staying out of the emergency room. One piece of advice: hire other people to do work on ladders.

      Reply
  16. Ula

    So much work for some fresh eggs!
    But it seems to me you still have lots of space left for a duck or goose pond… They are even more awesome than chicken.

    Reply
  17. Galina L.

    I had a concussion at 20 years old due a car accident. I didn’t feel truly bad for a while, but in a month or two after it became obvious that my troubles were not over. Besides brain fog and increased irritability, I started to trip during walking and taking stairs because I couldn’t judge the distance between my foot and a surface. I hope you will be fine, but continue to observe how you feel, take things easy and make sure to get enough of sleep.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s what I clobbered myself with, a post driver. I call it a t-post hammer, probably not the correct term. When the bottom of the driver caught the top of the post on the way down, it turned (barely losing any momentum in the process) and continued onto my head.

      Reply
  18. Becca

    Oh my goodness. I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading blogs and this is what I find on my first visit back! Please tell me you know the “I like to hit myself on the head with a hammer” song! That is the craziest accident I’ve ever heard of! Sooo glad you’re all safe. Chareva is a cool and collected lady. 🙂

    Reply
      1. Becca

        I like to hit myself on the head with a hammer/
        Said the little boy to his pop/
        I like to hit myself on the head with a hammer/
        ‘Cause it feels so good when I stop!

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I didn’t feel so good immediately after stopping, but I’m sure I would have felt worse if I hadn’t stopped.

          Reply
  19. Dave Jaffe

    Jeez, Tom. I don’t read this blog for a month and just look at trouble you get yourself into! So sorry to hear about your accident. However, that’s an interestingly shaped wound you’ve got there, if it is indeed a wound. Looks to me like a treasure map or possibly gang graffiti. Have it checked out by an archeologist as well as a gang crimes investigator. Oh, and a doctor. Be well, buddy!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Do I know you? What’s my name again? Accident? I don’t remember any accident.

      Reply
  20. Scott

    Thank you so much for sharing this Tom. I can’t tell you what a relief it is for me to know I’m not alone in managing to slam a t-post hammer into my head. Your description of the impending blackout was beautiful.

    I did have an additional distraction when I did this. I was wearing my 2yr old son on my back. My primary thought as the world went black was DON’T FALL BACKWARDS!

    Fortunately, my vision only dimmed a bit, and knees went a bit weak, and I never actually hit the ground.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’s a relief for me as well to know at least one other person did the same. Painful, isn’t it?

      Reply
      1. Scott

        Indeed. And, extremely surprising. I never even considered that those things might be dangerous. I mean, it’s a metal tube with a weight inside, the pole you’re pounding is inside the tube, how can you possibly go wrong? Heck, if you drop it completely, it just sits there only the pole.

        To hit yourself on the head with it takes real talent, you have to angle it just right to snag one of the bumps on the t-post, and then slam it down on your head.

        Reply
  21. capri

    Jiminy Cricket so relieved you are alright !! Such a shock to read that and can only imaging what that was like for you two.

    Your homestead is a thing of beauty. I imagine some coppiced Hazel or Willow or other wood fencing here and there would blend in beautifully. We wouldn’t have to worry about that heart stopping mishap again.

    I think of it as Tudor fencing : )

    https://youtu.be/U08AiNxq17Q

    https://youtu.be/5c2__yoS2d4

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Those are beautiful fences.

      The head-slamming incident was scary for a moment. As the world went dark for those few seconds, I thought I’d just killed myself. Good thing I’m hard-headed.

      Reply

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