July 2011
Howle's Hints

Approach July With Optimism

“The farmer has to be an optimist or he still wouldn’t be a farmer.”  -Will Rogers

Being an optimist sure helps when you are farming in an economic climate where fuel prices and weeds seem to grow higher each day. In a recent poll conducted by The New York Times, 70 percent of Americans view the economy with pessimism. At times like this, it helps to remember the old pony joke, which was one of Ronald Reagan’s favorites.

The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried the boys had developed extreme personalities — one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist — their parents took them to a psychiatrist. First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. The little boy burst into tears.

"What’s the matter?" the psychiatrist asked, baffled. "Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?"

"Yes," the little boy bawled, "but if I did I’d only break them."

Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands.

"What do you think you’re doing?" the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist.

"With all this manure," the little boy replied, beaming, "There must be a pony in here somewhere!"

Speaking of horse manure, jazz singer Billie Holiday had a good perspective on using horse manure as a potential fuel.

"They think they can make fuel from horse manure. Now, I don’t know if your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it’s sure gonna put a stop to siphoning."

Pass on Old Gas

To avoid costly, small engine repairs on chainsaws and generators, avoid using old gas. Even though the stale gas will ignite and power the motor, this poor-quality fuel will create a gummy residue on carburetor parts and air passages, which act to restrict air flow. Repairing or rebuilding a carburetor hits the wallet hard. Keep just enough gas on hand so it stays fresh, and drain gas lines at the end of the season. The most efficient gas is under 30 days old.

With the higher levels of ethanol in gas today, the carburetor can clog up even quicker. To remedy this, add an anti-ethanol stabilizer to the fuel tank. If possible, run the chainsaw or other fuel burning equipment until the gas is used up before storing for long periods without use. Many generators have a gas shutoff valve that should be activated during the off-season. Run the motor until all the fuel in the line has been used up.


Cut an incision in a section of 2” x 6” lumber, and bolt it to the rear rack of an ATV for a chainsaw caddy. (Sketch by Jesse Limbaugh, produced from photos by John Howle.)

Chainsaw Carrier

To make your own ATV chain saw caddy, mount a treated 2" x 6" board on the back side of the rear is far apart as the width of the chainsaw bar. These serve as guides while you push the nose of the chainsaw blade into the wood. Use safety gear and be careful of chainsaw kickback. The saw’s incision creates the groove which holds the chain saw bar secure. The board can be cut with a jigsaw to match the contour of the back side of the rack. Spray paint the chainsaw caddy black, and it will look like it came from the factory.

Two-and-a-half gallon pastry buckets with snap-on lids can be obtained from bakeries to carry water without spilling.


Splash Free

Five gallon buckets with snap on lids make convenient water carriers. Save old, joint compound or wax stripper buckets. Once the bucket is filled with water and the top is snapped on, water won’t slosh out while traveling. Quite a few gallons of water can be hauled with an ATV this way.

Some grocery stores with bakeries have icing shipped in two-and-a-half gallon buckets. Often the bakery will give away empty buckets with snap-on lids. This size is ideal for picking produce from the garden or watering plants and animals.


Two-and-a-half gallon pastry buckets with snap-on lids can be obtained from bakeries to carry water without spilling.

Fast Filet

Fileting a fish can be done with four simple cuts on each side of a fish. All you need is a sharp, filet knife or, my favorite, an electric filet knife. Lay the fish on its side. Starting just behind the gill, slice down to the back bone, make a right turn, and slice till you reach the last quarter inch of meat toward the tail. Flip this slab over with the tail meat attached to the tail fin. Next, beginning at the tail meat of the slab, cut between the skin and the meat until you reach the end of the skin. Slice out the rib bones, and you have a boneless slab of fish. Flip the fish, and repeat the process on the other side.

Cut small hickory trees in six-inch lengths for easy splitting. The wood is great for grilling or smoking meat.


Hot Hickory

I always hate to see a good hickory tree go to waste when clearing out around pasture edges. Hickory trees about the size of a fence post can be cut into six-inch sections and split easily with a hand axe or hatchet. These small splits of hickory are ideal for grilling or smoking meat. They can be stored in a bucket with a snap-on lid for long-term use.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.