Making Wooden Tool Handles from Trees

One of my goals is to be able to make handles from wood that I cut down.  I have a couple of small black walnuts that need to be cut down and a shag bark hickory that was damage in a storm.  The tool I don’t have yet is a froe, which is used to split out blanks from a round log and a shaving horse will make the process easier, but not required.  I have a draw knife that might be older than me so I do have to figure out how to sharpen it.

My plan is to cut lengths at about 6′, 4′ and 2′ and split out some handle blanks.  This will cover the lengths of everything from a rake or hoe to a hammer.  They will need to be seasoned of course and that means coating the ends so they don’t dry to quickly and cause the wood to split.  There is something called Anchorseal that the lumber industry uses to for this purpose, but hobbyist also just use exterior grade latex paint.

Having a stock of handle material air-drying is an investment that every homesteader should do it they can.  From what amounts to a chunk of firewood you can get a valuable resource for next to no money.  Consider it an investment in future tool needs.

Wood Chips – Valuable Resource For You Homestead

Wood chips can do so much for your homestead they are something you should be actively pursing getting them as a resource for your homestead, no mater what the size.  In my case I watch for road clearing crews working in my area and ask for the wood chips.  If it is a large job the manager has to deal with the logistics of emptying the truck, which can mean having someone drive it back to their yard and dumping it and then bringing it back.

What has worked for me is agreeing to take full trucks of ships and putting an orange cone in my front yard where I want it dumped.  Of course I have 10 acres so it is easy in and out for their trucks.  Several years ago I got several truck loads and that pile has been completely colonized with mushroom mycelium and now I’m using this as mulch around my garden plants.  As I understand it this is critical for having really healthy plants so I am very happy to see this.

Planting Sun Chokes and Cutting Comfrey

So I decided to give Sun Chokes or Jerusalem Artichokes a try this year.  Even if I don’t like them they will make good feed for my chickens.  I have a 4′ x 8′ bed I made last year that I filled with compost from our township composting center.  Even though we are still getting cold nights (it even snowed a little today) there were plenty of weeds growing in the bed, including stinging nettles.  So I pulled them all out, raked the bed and planted the tubers I got from Amazon in the north half of the bed.  Since I have such a problem with weeds growing up I over seeded the whole bed with Dutch White Clover.  When I get vegetables to plant I will just cut a plug out of the clover and plant them in the opening.

The comfrey I have planted is doing very well.  I’ve already started cutting it to feed to the chickens and the chicks.  This was planted two years ago and the plants keep getting bushier so I they are in a space that is good for them.  There was a crew clearing trees for a road project last fall and I got them to dump a full truck of wood ships up at the front of my property, I just need to start moving them back to mulch around what is going to be my kitchen garden, if I get time to put it in this year.

 

Moving Day For Chicks

We got some Black Astralorp chicks from Tractor Supply for $.99 each.  You can usually do this by waiting until near the end of their “chick days”.  These birds are sometime two weeks old, which I consider a good thing as they have been fed by somebody else for a couple of weeks and you are likely to get birds with a higher chance of living.  I have done this twice now, getting birds at a cheep price.  The only downside is you basically have to take what they have in stock.  I keep them in a brooder that is about 4′ square with a roof and 3 wood sides and one Plexiglas side.  I take radiant foil insulation from Home Depot and line a cardboard box with it and cut a small opening in the side, kind of like an igloo.  by having a larger number of chicks (35 in this case) and this place for them to go and huddle to get warm I am able to brood them with out electricity.  Don’t believe you need heat lamps to successfully brood chicks.

Now that they are about a month old I’m moved them to my first coop, an A-Frame 16′ long.  The picture at the top is when I first build it, but as my flock got bigger it was too small.  My plan is to use it for these birds to get some size on them and then introduce them to my existing flock.  Below is a quick video.

 

Reasons To Be Careful With Electricity

I have an electric garden tractor made by GE back in the 70’s.  It has six – 6V golf cart batteries wired in series to make a 36V system.  While this isn’t a high voltage the amount of current that they can produce can be dangerous.  In this case the sheet of metal you see carries all the current for the drive motor and the connection on the lower end corroded.  This raised the resistance which caused sparking strong enough to blow away metal (see top picture) and even caused the metal to glow red.

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Current is what is needed to weld metal in an arc welder.  Batteries can provide a lot of current for a short period of time.  When working around car sized batteries be careful that your wrench doesn’t connect across something connected to the positive side to the car frame, which is connected to the negative side.  This is a particular risk when dealing with the starter, it has a thick cable running directly to the battery.  If while removing that cable your metal wrench touches almost any exposed metal you will be creating sparks and possibly ruining some cabling, your wrench, burning yourself or starting a fire.

An old saying from my electrics teacher is “It’s the volts that jolts, but the mills (amps, current) that kills.  Just because something like a 12V-36V will not shock you, doesn’t mean it wont cause considerable damage once that current gets flowing through something with less resistance than your body.

Creamed Honey – My Favorite

In my mind creamed honey is the best.  It is the consistency of butter, both in how solid it is and how smooth it feels to your tongue.  Twice now I’ve harvested honey in the spring on a hive that died out over the winter that turned into creamed honey on its own.  I have no idea how or why but I’m glad it happened.  I suspect it has something to do with going through the winter in the comb and me then doing crush and strain.  Creamed honey is so much easier to spread on toast or biscuits, and will never further crystallize into a hard brick.

You can make creamed honey by adding about 10% creamed honey to liquid honey and mix it up.  I also understand that keeping it on the cool side while the crystals spread through the honey.  The only down side in my mind is that you have to bottle it up early in the creaming process, once it sets up it will be hard to transfer from a bulk container to smaller jars.

I will not make the same mistake as I made last time I got naturally creamed honey, I will save some to make more in the future.

Make Your Own Honey Bottling Bucket

After seeing the cost (about $30) for a pre-made bottling bucket I looked around and found I can get the gate valve shown below from Amazon and Lowe’s sells food grade bucket and lid for about $7.  So that makes it about half the price of a pre-built one.  I just had to be careful to drill it up high enough off the bottom of the bucket so the nut on the inside of the bucket so it doesn’t hit the bottom of the bucket while tightening it.  For an addition $9 I got a filter that fits right in the top of the bucket.