"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison
Many of us are looking for opportunities in today’s economic climate to make our farms more productive, hunting for ways to stretch the food dollar and conserving in ways to cover shortfalls. Hopefully, this July, you can use these tips to provide productivity while you are in the outdoors working or playing.
Put Stock in Stock Tanks
Polypropylene stock tanks used for watering cattle make great storage bins for pickup beds. The oval, 140-gallon models will fit between the wheel wells of a full-sized, short bed pickup allowing the tailgate to be closed even with a toolbox attached to the front of the bed. I’ve used my tub for watering cattle in drought times, used it for a brood-rearing area for baby chicks, a swimming pool for my children during the hot summer and keeping rolls of barbed wire and propane tanks from bashing into my truck bed.
The tanks are also useful for hauling hunting and camping supplies, and hauling gravel to fill potholes in access roads in pastures and hunting areas. The tub will hold close to a ton of gravel. The sturdy sides allow you to fill the tank to the top and simply shovel out gravel until the tank is empty keeping the pickup bed free of scratching gravel.
One way to stretch your food dollar is with home-raised chickens. I have a fenced in area approximately a half-acre planted in clover, oats and fescue. The four-foot tall fence consists of field fence (hog wire) lined with chicken wire. Simply crop the feathers off one of the chicken’s wings and the fence should keep them in.
The chickens get much of their food intake from green forage, and the remainder comes from bugs and worms found while scratching in pine straw and under leaves. The only feed I give them is in the late afternoon to lock them into the roosting pen at night. I use a small exclusion cage placed in the middle of the plot of clover and grasses to determine how much forage the chickens are eating.
To make the exclusion cage, I simply rolled a piece of dog wire into a circular hoop and secured it with a piece of rebar driven into the ground. This allows me to determine how much the chickens are eating because the grass inside the exclusion cage is ungrazed. This makes it easier to tell when it is time to pen the chickens up to allow the forage growth a chance to catch up with grazing.
A Stringer Full
The metal clip fish stringers are good for more than holding a day’s catch of fish. Around the campsite, the stringer can be secured between two trees to hold various camping items ranging from a lantern, to binoculars, camp tools and flashlights. Keep the lantern attached to the stringer and you can see to remove your camping items from the stringer clips.
Toothpicks for Loose Screws
Kitchen cabinets, wooden ammunition boxes, or other gear storing boxes and cabinets made of wood may have screws holding the hinges that have become stripped from repeated opening and closing. If a screw becomes stripped from the wood, remove the screw, push a toothpick into the screw hole and break it off even with the surface. Pour a drop of wood glue onto the toothpick and twist the screw back into the original hole. The screw will now hold tight.
Predictable Persimmon Tree
Persimmon trees have bark that is dark-colored and deeply-divided into thick, square plates. The reddish-purple fruit is edible and quite tasty when ripe. In Alabama, the fruit ripens from late-August to late-September.
Now is the time to locate these trees on your hunting property. During July, the tree limbs will be heavy laden with fruit. The fruit draws wildlife like raccoons, deer, fox, hogs, opossums and coyotes. Deer can be seen standing on their hind legs eating the fruit not yet fallen.
Sites with persimmon trees are one of the best places to hunt. Every year when the fruit is ripe, I often see coyotes eating persimmon fruit. I use this to my advantage when keeping the coyote population in check. Once they become ripe, you’ll see very little fruit on the ground because the wildlife know it’s "first come, first serve."
In addition to serving as a congregation spot for wildlife, the wood of the persimmon tree has many uses. For years, the wood was used in golf club heads. Wedges used to be cut from the tree and baked in the oven to remove moisture and harden the wood. These persimmon wedges were hard enough to effectively split firewood or fence posts. Persimmon wood was also used for handles in hand tools.
No Broken Eggs
A discarded plastic jar is an ideal item for holding eggs for a campout. This prevents breaking eggs while transporting them. Simply crack the eggs, pour the contents into the jar and keep the jar in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Just pour out the amount of eggs and yolks you want to fry.
Opportunities come in many forms, and even though they may be dressed in overalls and look like work, when taken, they pay off in dividends that money can’t buy. Teaching youth the value of a strong faith and work ethic, the importance of the search for wisdom and the idea that the most-valuable things achieved are the ones they have to work the hardest to attain are values I hope Alabama’s families continue to hand-down to future generations. Let’s work together to provide opportunities for those who don’t mind a little hard work and who like to use ingenuity.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.