Saturday, 12 November 2011

Farmers Skills know no Bounds

Old nuts and bolts of any size, they build up in the shed,
But finding one the right size, too thick too short the thread,

Over the years you pick up most skills needed to run the maintenance of your farm, the obvious one is laying concrete, and brick or block laying. Before ready mix came about loads of sand and gravel came in ten ton loads and cement in one cwt (50KG) paper sacks. The mixer was the old traditional one with a Petter or Lister petrol engine, and later diesel engines.

Brick laying needed a lot of practice and got a lot easier with the advent of concrete blocks, depending on the size, it was the same as laying twelve bricks at a time
Another one is plumbing, although that has changed beyond recognition from my early days when it was all on galvanized pipe, with the cutting to length then threading the pipe ends, applying plumbers paste and winding in the hemp wool, tightening up the elbow or what ever fitting was needed.

Nowadays its all plastic piping and the joints are push fit or ones that are tightened by hand, of coarse the copper pipes are almost as easy and are reserved for use in the house or dairy, even some of that can be replaced by plastic push fit connecters and tees and elbows.

Roofing got a lot quicker when asbestos corrugated sheet came in replacing the need for a steeper tiled roof, with less supporting timber as well. Then the spouting and guttering now all in plastic, almost ever lasting, although it needs a lot closer brackets and has a tendency to sag and then over flow at the slightest bit of bird crap that builds up.

Urgent building jobs always seem to want to be done when the weathers cold or wet, the same with mending a burst pipe or joint, invariable it happens during frost and snow and always in the muckiest corner of the field or shed when its been leaking for some time. Ball valves loose the cover and bored stock play with it until the stem bleaks or bends.
Carpentry is nearly always six inch nail jobs as smaller nails get lost too easily, my father liked his joinery and made many thing over his lifetime from toys at Christmas for us kids to a trailer to take his pigs and calves to market and many other thing about the farm.

The old finger bar mowers had wooden connecting rods and wooden swath boards that needed replacing from time to time, wheel barrows needed new sides and legs as the rotted out. Farm carts and wagons had running repairs, and when the tractors came in they were all were converted to a single short wooden drawbar to replace the shafts.

After he retired he made four grandfather clocks, and four farmhouse kitchen tables to fit there respective kitchens, as well as an assortment of stools and chairs and a welsh dresser. Most of his timber was very old oak that he had found about the farm over the years and saved, a certain amount of ash, elm and yew timber used for specific jobs.

Father Extended his Garage

This was when they retired to a house in Bridgeford.The bulk of his timber stock was stored back at the farms.

Father extended his garage, called it, his ‘workshop',
So keenly he worked in there, only for meals would he stop,
In it he had all his tools, including a new lathe and a saw,
His plans for what he is making, on a bit of cardboard he'd draw.

For timber he'd look round the farm, old elm and ash and oak,
If it's useful for what he wants, into the roof if his garage he'd poke,
Half ton he stored this way, garage not designed for this,
But the timber dried out, and danger of collapse he dismiss.

For ten or more years he worked in there, no spare time had he,
Made tables and chairs and clocks, these thing he made ably,
It wasn't one in his shed, but usually four of each item he made,
Finished and stained and polished, to his high standard he'd grade.

Got bad on his legs with age, and a stool to work from he put,
Not safe to use his machines, this it kerbed his workshop output,
The things that he made, he made to last, generations to enjoy,
Solid as if to last for ever, all those skills he did employ.

Owd Fred

Most of the jobs mentioned above we learned from him but welding came in a bit late for father to take up, however for me, with thirty years of practice on the electric welder, with good metal, and welding with the job flat on the bench or on the ground, I can make a joint that will hold, but if on the slightest of slope or vertical welding I am reliably told its "Pigeon Sh1t" welding. The more you try to strengthen the joint the lumpier it gets hence the name.

Spanners were all whitworth and then when Fordson tractors came over they brought the AF fine threads and a completely different set of spanner sizes, then more recently the metric spanners have taken over with another set of sizes. So most of my old whitworth spanners have dwindled away till now fifty years on only a few remain. If your anything like me nothing gets thrown away, hence the boxes beneath the bench full of a wide assortment of spanners, some specific to a particular machines.

The old tractors came with a set of wheel spanners, plug spanners, and a general set to fit all nuts on that tractor. Ploughs had spanners and cultivators; I think the only thing in those days, without a spanner, was the set of chain harrows.

Farmers Skills know no Bounds

Over the years you learn most skills, enough to get ya by,
Welding plumbing laying bricks, ya mind ya must apply,
Laying concrete with a slope, grids and drains dig in,
Mend the roofs and spouting, protect the stock within.

A builders job is in his hands, a trowel and shovel need,
Pegs and line and spirit level, practice now for speed,
Anyone can do the job, an eye for accuracy to lay,
Bricks and blocks to make a wall, mistakes are on display.

Plumbing now with plastic pipes, and easy joints push fit,
Gone are the old iron pipes, a lot of work admit,
Cut with hacksaw threads to cut, paste and hemp wound on,
Elbows tees and feral joints, with pipe wrench now all gone.

A breakdown now, repair with weld, another job to learn,
Clean the rust off on the joint, with weld rod at angle burn,
Steady flow and curled up ash, or that is how should be,
Mine resembles pigeon sh1t, in lumps and holes for me.

Old nuts and bolts of any size, they build up in the shed,
But finding one the right size, too thick too short the thread,
When ones found that's okay, but now you need a pair,
Then the jobs impossible, enough to mek ya sware.

Cotter pins they're soft and bend, can never get them out,
Top and tail it breaks off, in hole with rust we clout,
The right size nail comes handy, tail end bent round double,
Get you moving, harvest time, and gets you out of trouble.

Farmer's skills know no bounds, most things he will tackle,
Jack of all trades master of none, but saves a lot of hassle,
Do the job to how he likes, no one to tell that's wrong,
Confidence in home made skills, built and made real strong.

Owd Fred

Computers force us into creating with our minds and prevent us from making things with our hands. They dull the skills we use in everyday life.Clifford Stoll (1955)