To our American readers, Happy Labor Day.

We’ve had several happy laboring days on the Fat Head farm lately, mostly because daytime temperatures have dropped from the 90s to the 70s. It’s one of the many reasons I look forward to this time of year. Football season kicks in, the days are cooler, and a string of holidays and special occasions are around the corner, starting with Chareva’s birthday in October.

Not that the weather has been all pleasant. We were pounded with heavy rains shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. No real damage to speak of, but another widow-maker branch fell near the creek.  It will be added to the firewood collection after I cut it up it with a chainsaw.

The creek, which is normally not impressive, rose and flowed with enough force to dump a gazillion extra rocks along the banks. The end result is that the creek is narrower in some spots.

My bridge also tried to float away. I learned my lesson after the one and only time it did float away, so now it’s tethered to a big tree with a heavy chain. I don’t mind having to move it 10 or 15 feet as long as I don’t have to go find it downstream somewhere.

One of the annoying features of jungles is that after you cut them down, the derned things grow back. I use The Beast to keep them at bay, but The Beast was out of commission for most of the summer. That’s because last fall, something jammed in the recoil starter. When I pulled on the cord, it came out and stayed out.

As you may recall if you’re a long-time reader, I only recently became a Born-Again Tool Guy. The Older Brother has been tinkering with engines and such since he was a teenager, but for most of my adult life, my toolbox was virtually identical to my dad’s … that is, it consisted of a hammer, a wrench, a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver stuffed into a drawer.

When we started doing weekend farm work, I decided I needed to drop the limiting belief that I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no tools. I am capable of learning new skills, after all. So now I own an impressive collection of tools and have managed to do some good work with them.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to remove the top of The Beast’s engine to get to that pesky recoil starter. I unscrewed every bolt that looked like it had anything to do with keeping the engine covered. Thumbing through a book on small-engine repairs didn’t help, because the pictures and instructions were for common lawn mowers.

So some weeks back, I rolled The Beast up a ramp and into the back of the van to take it to a repair shop. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous while driving to the place. I imagined an embarrassing scenario:

“Help you, sir?”

“Uh, yeah, I’ve got a Swisher Predator brush-cutting mower, and the starting cord came out and stayed out. Can you take a look at that?”

“Certainly. Can I have a credit-card for the deposit?”

“Sure. Here you go.”

“And can I see your Man Card?”

“Uh, let’s see … here it is. Hey, what are you doing?! I just got that thing!”

“Sorry, Buddy. We have rules here in the South. If you can’t fix your own engines, we have to cut up your Man Card.”

But when I pulled up to the repair shop, I saw plenty of mowers, chainsaws, weed wackers and other man-stuff in various states of repair. I also saw customers driving banged-up pickup trucks, wearing baseball caps, and otherwise demonstrating that their Man Cards were intact.

Anyway, with The Beast repaired, I spent part of last weekend taking down my least-favorite jungle. It’s my least-favorite because it runs parallel to one of my disc-golf holes. If I sling a driver too hard and it drifts right, it can end up in the stuff you see below, which is full of nasty thorns and varies between knee-high and chest-high. Even if I find the disc, I’m usually bleeding from somewhere afterwards … and if I didn’t remember to spray my clothes, I’m also going to be scratching at chigger bites later in the day.

The Beast just chews up that jungle and spits it out. But perhaps to reassure me I can keep my Man Card, The Beast ran over a sharp stone I didn’t see in time, and the belt that turns the blades snapped. That gave me the opportunity to break out the tools and replace the belt. After beating my chest and chanting a bit, I finished taking down the jungle.

Chareva and I mostly finished constructing the new chicken yard a few weeks ago. But we still had to tie down the nets and figure out how to keep raccoons from digging their way in. She also decided it was time to combine flocks. We built the new coop for the nine chickens who survived Rocky Raccoon VI. Meanwhile, we had another flock coming along as part of a 4-H project. Alana selected five from that flock to auction off at the county fair, but we’re keeping the rest.

Up until this weekend, they were living in another coop. Chareva opened the chicken moat so they could wander near the other flock. Apparently chickens need time to get used to each other before sharing a coop and a yard.

While the chickens were getting acquainted, we expanded the new coop to accommodate the combined flock without overcrowding. After all, we don’t want them accusing us of being chicken slum-lords.

To keep raccoons from digging under fences in the past, we put chicken wire along the ground on the outside of the fence. But in the spirit of reduce, re-use, recycle, it occurred to me that we had another option.

The previous owner tried to extend the driveway with paving bricks. That might have seemed like a good idea, but she let pretty much everything on the property go, and poison ivy grew up among the bricks. It was such a nuisance, we eventually pulled up all the pavers, and I used the tiller to root out the poison ivy. The pavers have been sitting there ever since, waiting to be useful again.

I told Chareva that while raccoons are nimble and clever, I don’t see them lifting paving bricks, which are quite heavy. Why not just surround the new fences with a double-layer of paving bricks? Unlike the chicken wire, I won’t fail to spot the bricks and accidentally run over them with a mower.

She liked the idea. So we spent a good chunk of yesterday piling pavers into the back of the van, driving them up to the chicken yard, and surrounding the fences.

The chickens, meanwhile, decided it’s okay to share the new chicken yard, perhaps because the big ol’ rooster in the younger flock finally led the way in and the hens followed.

The pavers are in place and the nets are tied down. I’m not saying a raccoon couldn’t possibly find a way in, but he’d have to be quite determined.

The older chicken yards are of course empty now, thanks to the raccoons. Without chickens pecking at the ground, they’re already turning back into jungles. Looks like we’ll have plenty of happy laboring days ahead of us.

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34 Responses to “The Farm Report: Happy Laboring Days”
  1. The hammer, wrench and screwdrivers were just decoys.

    As Dad explained to Mom once when she asked why he didn’t have more tools around the house, “I’ve got a phone and a checkbook. That’s the only tools I need.”

    He was actually quite handy with them.

    Cheers

    • Tom Naughton says:

      The phone and checkbook tools served my needs for many years … then we moved to a small farm and I concluded that if I over-used the checkbook, it would break.

  2. Firebird7478 says:

    “The creek, which is normally not impressive, rose and flowed with enough force to dump a gazillion extra rocks along the banks. The end result is that the creek is narrower in some spots.”

    Gosh darn that global warm — er, climate change!

  3. James H says:

    Man, living in southwest Texas I am always startled at the amount of green one sees in photos around the country. The Wife Unit was in your neck of the woods a while back and she said it was like being in a Tarzan movie.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      There are pluses and minuses to living in a humid part of the country. On the one hand, it’s lush and beautiful. On the other hand, ’round about July or so, you’d think the mosquito is the state bird.

      • Lori Miller says:

        Mosquitos don’t bother me much…but termites found the rotted wood on my house. Those things are expensive to get rid of! And buildings here deteriorate a lot faster here than they do in the arid West.

        I don’t think women have the equivalent of a man card, but I like to be self sufficient. I felt bad because I didn’t think I could repair the rotted sill of my garage, but when a handyman told me he’d need to build a temporary wall to replace it, I felt better.

    • Firebird7478 says:

      A friend of mine visited from Sacramento a few years ago. It was Mid-July and he marveled over how green everything was. He said everything turns brown in NorCal around June. I visited him a year later and couldn’t get over how brown everything was. Explains the forest fires and how easy it must be to kick one off.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        Yup, that was our experience living in SoCal as well. Brown summers, more-or-less green “winters” (meaning we got cooler temperatures and a bit of rain). I prefer the scenery and the seasons here, but I have to admit, it was nice not dealing with mosquitoes during those years we lived in Burbank.

  4. Dianne says:

    You’d love Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where I spent most of my life before moving to the Dallas, TX area to be near family. Green, green, green, and mosquitoes usually not a big problem. Of course, if you are the kind that get’s depressed when the sun doesn’t shine for a few weeks, you might not like it so much. Also if you are the kind that gets depressed by high property taxes and high state income taxes.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Those last two would depress me, yes. Tennessee has the third-lowest overall tax burden of all the states … and has also been running a budget surplus for several straight years. Quite a refreshing change from my previous two states, Illinois and California.

      • Dianne says:

        On the other hand, Oregon has no chiggers. I never met a chigger until I moved to Texas in my sixties. I’d gladly have waited another sixty years to meet one.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          We had chiggers in Illinois, but I forgot all about them when we lived in California. Then we moved to Tennessee, and I spent some time outdoors one day while wearing shorts. Man, did I ever get reacquainted with chiggers that day.

  5. Firebird7478 says:

    Dare I say that without climate change, there would be no Grand Canyon? (Among other natural wonders)

  6. Elenor says:

    Them fahr ant pix makes me think VERRAH fondly of a pint or ten of gasoline and a looooong-handled match!! (Flame thrower might do okay, but yah don’t want tah be blowin’ them damnthangs around! Whatever they land on is gonna get bit and bit bad!) Got ’em all over Georgia; and they are BRUTAL! And vicious! AND COORDINATED!!

    If you don’t notice the first one sneaking up on you and run for the hose or pool, his best 20-30 friends come sneakin’ along to join him, and on some invisible signal all start chowing down. OMG!! Not just a welt (or a bunch of ’em!) but next a weepy pustule, and a combination of burning and mad itching; then your limb swells up. (Ask me how I know.)

    When I garden (small stuff, I don’t have a farm or nuthin’)(oh, sorry: I ain’t got no farm er nuthin’); I lay a white shower curtain liner (cheap at WalMart) out along the bed I’m working on, with the center right next to the spot I’m planting. Fold the front edge up over my legs and lap; and keep a regular eye out all the way around for the damnblasted things starting across the (WHITE <– eh?) liner. Gives me a fair chance to get away! Brutal vicious horrible!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Sounds like the voice of experience talking. I hope to never share that experience.

      • Dianne says:

        I. too, hope you never share that experience, but if you do, Benadryl is the best thing I’ve found to calm the misery. And Elenor isn’t joking about not wanting to blow the wretched varmints around — I heard a sad story about a man who accidentally hit a fire ant nest with his weed eater. You don’t want to do that.

  7. mabelle says:

    Just thought i should bring to your attention that your facebook fat-head group has come to a point where people are bashing anyone who dares to raise a question about the diet. It is no longer the positive place where u feel safe to have a constructive debate or exchange about diets in general. Anyone who ever so slightly look like the devils advocate, they get shot down and accused of being a troll. If anyone dares to defend that troll by saying its only a debate and if he has said anything rude, the moderators had been informed and would do whats right, but the ‘troll’ stayed cos he didnt nothing wrong according to wayne, however members still go on the attack. it has come to such a point where it does look like another group that is set up to bully other people not agreeing with the diet. I understand u are just the creator and u dont get involved in such minor stuff, however its in yr name and its fair that u should meddle if it has turned negative and nasty, and even comments about unrelated things like how people of other diets look like drug adicts as the video of them is posted to be mocked instead of sharing and exchanging learning points. I have left the group with some others who were disgusted by the behaviour and thought you should be aware. I will continue to follow your blog here without the negativity from the group in facebook

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Thanks for letting me know. Truth is, I don’t have time to spend much time in the group, but we certainly don’t want to discourage honest debate and discussion. I say “honest” because we have had a couple of people join the group for the sole purpose of trashing low-carb diets.

      • mabelle says:

        there was one person who was sharing/posting articles on non lchf/keto stuff, didnt make any comments on his stand, simply posting. I do believe to an extend he may be wanting to get a discussion going. even if he is provoking or inciting negative reaction, wayne would have banned him but wayne didnt, n wayne was first to comment on that post n that guy wasnt banned. Now, there are a few fat-head fans who has been noticed as behaving like they have learnt it all, and instead of putting facts on the table, they go on the bashing of this person who posted the article. Notwithstanding the fact that he may be possibly an anti low carber, but there is a right way of dealing with it. instead Kiran Wagle one of the fathead fan, threaten to burn him alive and kill him. What kind of person says that? Then u have other members supporting Kiran wagle and the things he was spewing, and not one comment was about facts and explanation of how lchf works. If kiran thinks the guy is a troll, jolly well report him to moderators, but there is no need for all the hate and violence and what not, it is extremely negative and disturbing But when I expressed that to kiran wagle, i was accused by him of being one of the trolls and all the other members supporting him ganged up on me and some others and accused us of defending the trolls. One does not need to be on either side but to the fathead fans, its either them or the outsiders. It is not a cult. It is a place for positive learning and understand what LCHF is. Your film not only opened up the knowledge of a sensible diet, but it also taught me something very important, that is not to assume what we thought we knew, and be open minded to whats new and give every information a chance and read and research on it. If we continue thinking we have learnt it all and bash every new things coming up, we will stay where we are and never progress. Apologies for the rant

  8. mabelle says:

    I think u have been a great individual and has saved many lives including mine from going down the path of many people who are still ignorant about the big health lie. In the event i get blocked from your blog (if possible) for the message i posted, i want u to know i still respect u as an individual and the advice u selflessly shared.

  9. Firebird7478 says:

    It looks like TN is going to get hit by Irma, a which time it will be downgraded to a tropical depression. Time to reinforce the coops and the bridge.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yup, it’s going to be a bit wet around here.

      • Kathy in OK says:

        The first time we had some major rain after we moved here, the runoff was impressive! We’re on the side of a hill overlooking Tulsa and it’s pretty steep. If this place ever floods, we’ve got problems a lot bigger than too much rain – think Biblical event. 😉 Anyway, if you can do it safely, get us some pictures of all your “roaring rapids”. I wish I’d thought to take some, but I was too busy being awestruck!

        • Tom Naughton says:

          If I can snap pictures of the rain when it hits, I will.

          • chris c says:

            I wish you guys wouldn’t keep sending your secondhand weather over here to the \UK and Europe. Not sure which of you ex-hurricanes we just got hit with.

            Seriously though, hope you get through without too many more problems. Can raccoons drive boats?

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