|Use Ingenuity to Simplify Chores in the Winter|
The frigid days of February make sitting in front of the fire feel good. However, if you live on the farm, the work still has to be completed cold or not. With a little ingenuity, your chores will go easier during winter’s bitter end.
Trucks and Trailers
To get better traction off-road with a two-wheel drive truck, add extra weight in the bed of the truck and lower the air pressure in the rear tires a few pounds. The extra weight in the back can be firewood since this is always a useful item around the home or hunting cabin. Five gallon buckets of sand held secure in milk crates also work. Be sure to re-inflate the tires before going considerable distance on pavement.
Tire pressure can change quite a bit during the cold days of February. Since air is a gas, it expands when warm and contracts when it’s cold. Cold days mean lower air pressure in the tires. In most parts of the U.S., the difference between summer and winter temperature averages is about 50o F. This means you can lose about five psi (pounds per square inch) when winter’s icy temperatures hit. This can affect traction, handling and durability of your vehicle’s tires. The rule of thumb is for every 10o F change in air temperature, the tire’s inflation will change by around one psi. Keep the tires inflated to the tire manufacturer’s specifications instead of the vehicle specifications. Often, the psi numbers inside the vehicle door are lower simply to provide a smoother ride with a lower air pressure. This can be unsafe, however, when hauling a load or towing.
When you put a heavy load on a truck or trailer, place a greater majority of the weight on the driver’s side or left side of the truck bed or trailer. Most roads have a slight crown with the middle being higher than the sides. The load will be more stable if placed on the higher side.
Wisdom for Wood
There have been many advancements in technology allowing us to access remote areas of the woods. One is the side-by-side by Yamaha. The Rhino 450 Side-by-Side in four-wheel drive allows you to haul firewood from remote areas of the woods. With the opening tailgate and dumping bed, you can haul enough firewood to last for a couple of cold, February days. The four-wheel drive is especially convenient when the winter rains have turned pasture bottoms and forest hollows into slush. For more information, visit www.yamaha-motor.com.
After cutting hickory for firewood, save the limbs that would normally be discarded. Once cut in six to 10-inch lengths; the smaller hickory limbs do an excellent job smoking meat in the smoker. On a chopping block, a hand axe or hatchet makes quick work of cutting up the limbs, and a plastic, five-gallon bucket with a lid works well to preserve the wood in dry storage.
When clearing trees for food plots or cutting firewood, to make sure sprouts don’t reappear on the stumps this spring, spray the outer top section of the stump with herbicides like Round-up or Remedy to prevent new growth and speed rotting of the stump. For best results, spray while the sap is fresh.
If knot-free hickory logs cut into firewood lengths are allowed to dry, the bark will slide off intact. Place a larger log on top of a smaller log and tap the bark off the top log with a hammer or split it off with an axe. This bark makes a great fire lay, burns easily and can be used to smoke or grill any campfire food.
For safe felling of a tree when obstacles are around, it is important to know how tall the tree is and how far the tree top will travel when landing. To determine approximate tree height, back away from a tree you want to measure. Hold a stick upright at arm’s length. Sight over the stick so its tip appears to touch the top of the tree and your thumb is at its base. Swing the stick 90 degrees to a horizontal position as if the tree were falling. Keep your thumb positioned at the base of the tree, and notice where the tip of the stick seems to touch the ground. Pace the distance from that point to the base of the tree to get its estimated height.
As a wooden handle axe or hatchet gets older, the wood often shrinks due to a loss of moisture in the wood. This is dangerous because the axe or hatchet head could fly off while swinging or chopping. Soaking the head in a bucket of water or a creek will work as a temporary fix because the wood absorbs moisture and swells securing the head. Better advice is to keep the wooden handle soaked with linseed oil for the life of the axe or hatchet. Wood absorbs and holds linseed oil well and should keep the head secure for the life of the tool.
Get Youth Involved
February is an ideal month to get youth involved in the outdoors and develop self- sufficiency skills. Deer season is over, and hunting pressure in the woods is minimal. Squirrel hunting works well to get youth involved because it is fast paced, chances of getting a harvest are high and the squirrel is an easy animal to clean and prepare.
I recently had the opportunity to take an old college buddy from Cleburne County and his son on a squirrel hunt on our family farm. Mark Thrash and son, Ross, live in West Palm Beach, Florida, and they never miss a chance to enjoy the hardwood forests of Alabama. They tell me not many West Palm Beach residents have had the opportunity to enjoy Southern fried squirrel.
This February, don’t let the bitter winds slow you down. Ingenuity and modern day technology will have you completing the work and resting in front of the fire by sunset.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.