He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. Proverbs 28:19
My grandfather used to say a fellow ought to try to turn a small, steady wheel instead of a big wheel that can run off the axle. When I got older, I realized he meant there’s no substitute for hard work, and gambling to get rich quick can send one quickly to the poor house. This February while daylight is scarce and there’s plenty of time at night to think, use ingenuity to make your small, steady wheel run smoothly around the farm.
Sharpen Your Axe
This is an old tale, but it rings true today. There once was a very strong lumberjack who asked for a job cutting trees. He got the job and was very excited to start work because the pay and working conditions were great. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was to fell the trees.
The first day the woodcutter brought in 15 trees. The boss congratulated him and told him to continue with his good work. Highly motivated by the words of his boss the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 10 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring seven trees. Day after day he was bringing in less trees. The woodcutter thought he was losing his strength. He went to the boss to apologize and explained he did not know what was going on. The boss then asked him a simple question: "When was the last time you sharpened the blade on your axe?"
Not only do we need to take time this February to reflect, meditate, pray and rest, it’s also necessary to keep the tools we use in good working order. If you find you are doing more sweating and less cutting, you can put a new edge on that axe and get more productive cutting and splitting with nothing more than a flat, mill file.
With the axe in a secured position and while wearing thick, leather gloves, run a mill file with downward strokes toward the center of the axe head. Once you get the file moving in a smooth motion, it’s amazing how efficient this is to create sharpness. Quite possibly, your axe was dull when it was new. In an age of frivolous lawsuits, lawn and garden stores are hesitant to sell a super sharp axe; however, the sharp axe blade is safer in the woods because it will chop into the intended wood as opposed to glancing off it.
Squirrel Hunting Made Simple
I can’t let this February edition slip by without mentioning the importance of teaching youth the art of shooting and hunting. Deer season is over and squirrel season lasts until the end of the month. This is an ideal time to take youngsters in the woods after the pressure of deer season is over. Before taking the youth to the woods, take them to the shooting range to hone valuable marksmanship skills.
With a small frame .22 caliber rifle like the Henry Mini-Bolt (www.henryrifles.com), a youngster can practice shooting balloons on the range before heading to the woods. It is obvious when the child hits a small balloon with the projectile. Forgive me for plugging Henry Rifles, but guess what? They are made in America—and in an age of "Made in China" this is refreshing.
A cardboard box of .22 cartridges can fall to pieces in your pocket on a squirrel hunt. To remedy this, put your cartridges in an empty film canister. The canister holds enough bullets to accommodate a lengthy hunt even if the squirrels cooperate by showing themselves.
It’s amazing how many squirrels we may pass simply because we don’t know they are in the trees. If the squirrels aren’t showing themselves or the day is wet or windy, squirrels can still be coaxed from the nest. Many will shoot into the squirrel nest, see no squirrel, then leave.
If no squirrel pops up after the first shot to the nest, shoot the limb the nest is resting upon. The jarring of the bullet will often jump the squirrel out of the nest. Other ways to "jump a squirrel" are pulling on a muscadine vine if any run up through the limbs of the trees. Smaller trees with a nest can simply be shaken by hand or hit with a stick.
Finally, use the squirrel hunt to teach youngsters how to move slowly and silently through the woods. By planting each foot slowly, going from heel to toe, the crunching of leaves and debris is minimized. This method is often used to slip up on deer and turkeys. As you travel, be sure the youth is keeping the muzzle pointed toward the ground unless shooting a squirrel.
Fried Squirrel this February
If the youngster does get a squirrel, show them how to clean and cook the meat. To clean a squirrel, first make a horizontal incision across the back. Next, insert your fingers and pull the hide in opposite directions as if you were pulling a shirt and pants off the squirrel. Finally, quarter the hams and shoulders for cooking.
To cook the squirrel, soak the meat in buttermilk for a few hours, batter the meat and fry it on the lowest setting until golden brown on both sides. The longer the squirrel cooks, the better. Kids get a kick out of eating their own harvest, and you know they are learning a skill that could help them survive one day.
Let’s do what we can to teach the youth of today to be stewards of the natural resources we have and understand the land can provide all their food needs. Today, we consider hunting a recreation, but, not too many generations ago in Alabama, it was a survival tool. If you didn’t grow it or shoot it, you didn’t eat it.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.