January 2014
Howle's Hints

Handy Tool “Spans” the Ages & Eliminate That Tinny Taste

  Listen to bluegrass and enjoy a simpler way of life.

“Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends than any music in the world. You meet people at festivals and renew acquaintances year after year.”     -- Bill Monroe

Bluegrass is a simple form of music. It reflects a simpler time of life, and it can be performed without electricity or an elaborate stage set up. If you contrast bluegrass with today’s mainstream music, you see drastic differences. I wonder what Ralph Stanley or Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs would think about Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber’s performances on and off stage?

I just can’t picture a bluegrass singer being escorted through a crowd while screaming profanities at the audience. I also can’t picture a bluegrass performer dancing on stage mimicking the rutting habits of wild animals in Africa. It may seem tame by today’s standards, but I’ll take a bluegrass performer any day over the mainstream "American Idol" performers. Visit www.alabamabluegrassmusicfestivals.org or you can Google bluegrass festivals in Alabama.

The Creative Crescent Wrench

A crescent wrench is versatile and the hole in the handle can be used to tighten gate hinge bolts.  

The early form of the adjustable wrench or "crescent wrench" was developed by English engineer Richard Clyburn in 1842 and was referred to as an English key or spanner because of its adjustable jaws. This is a handy tool to use in modern-day times.

The hole at the end of the crescent wrench is ideal for tightening gate bolts used to hold pasture gates. Simply slip the hole in the end of the handle over the gate hinge-pin and tighten once you’ve drilled the bolt pilot hole.

Many times, the crescent wrench can take the place of multiple sizes of wrenches. There are times when you shouldn’t use a crescent wrench - namely, when the nut is rounded off or the nut is extremely tight on the bolt. In this case, move to a boxed in, accurately sized single wrench

Frosty Forage

Well, here it is. The heart of winter is upon us, and you’ve been feeding winter hay to your cattle herd. One of the biggest expenses is winter feed costs. Tall fescue has a strong sod tolerant to trampling, and it suffers little damage for the following growing season.

  Stockpiled forage can save money and extend the grazing season.

If you are grazing stockpiled fescue this January, to make sure your stands of forage are healthy for the following season, limit the amount of grazing. Once the forage has been grazed down to about two inches, remove the livestock from the field if possible.

Mississippi State University has conducted experiments showing you can winter a cow with a young calf adequately with three hours of grazing each day with only a partial feeding of fair quality hay or silage. The idea is the cattle graze only long enough to get a fill, and this reduces trampling damage and excessive manure on the field that can reduce the amount of desirable forage.

Another option for winter grazing management is to restrict the grazing to a three day supply. This will also extend the number of grazing days. Stockpiled tall fescue forage will likely become deficient in nutrients as late winter progresses, so it is critical to provide minerals, supplemental energy and protein in late winter and early spring. This is especially important for animals with higher nutrient requirements such as lactating cows and cow/calf pairs.

Good Ole Green Beans

Well, I’ve run out of canned green beans from the summer. Nothing that comes from the store compares with the fresh taste of green beans canned in glass jars. Maybe like me, you’ve had to resort to buying and eating green beans out of a can. If so, you can make them taste better with this tip.

First, open the can of green beans and drain out all the water. This water has been stored in the can and it makes the beans taste like a tin can. Once the water is drained and the beans are washed, put them in a pot to cook with fresh water. Add your usual seasonings, and the tin-canned green beans will taste better. They won’t taste as good as those canned in glass jars, but they also won’t taste like the metal of a tin can.

Fishing swivels can help in organizing your keys.  

Fishing Gear for Your Keys

When you have a handful of keys for the farm, the home and the job, keeping up with them can be a hassle. I found myself with multiple key rings linked together, and this is an uncomfortable proposition in the pocket. Some heavy duty tackle can remedy the problem of bunched-up keys.

I use heavy-duty fishing swivels to separate groups of keys. Since the swivel is designed to rotate and turn in multiple positions, it can keep the keys from bunching up in your pocket. Also, it is easier to get the swivel clip open instead of trying to pry open key rings.

This January, while you are warming around the fire, put on a little bluegrass music and enjoy simpler times. Get the kids to download a song or two from iTunes, and that will help keep the tradition going. Finally, be sure to visit a bluegrass gathering in your area. You’ll be amazed at those people who can create music without electricity and elaborate stage productions.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.