May 2015
Howle's Hints

Blunt Your Nails and Keep on Paddling

"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man." – George Washington

I was recently reading a news story in The Times-Georgian recounting a breaking and entering incident that resulted in the theft of an elderly woman’s green beans.

"Someone broke into a storage building of a Whitesburg, Ga., home, but took only a case of home-canned green beans. According to a Carroll County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office report, a deputy was called to a residence on Thursday on West Highway 5 in Whitesburg. The 83-year-old resident said she hadn’t been to the trailer behind her house since late January, but that she was there Thursday and noticed that it had been broken into.

"The woman told the deputy that someone had entered the storeroom with a wheelbarrow and ‘loaded it with belongings to steal.’ The only items missing, she said, was a case of quart-sized jars of green beans that had been canned last summer. The victim valued the vegetables at $100."

Now, if you want to make an 83-year-old woman boiling mad, steal her canned green beans. Anyone who has ever gone to the trouble of preparing the garden, planting, picking, stringing, cutting and canning green beans, you know how valuable these vegetables really are. A tin can of green beans is no comparison to freshly canned garden green beans in glass jars.

Being a Southern lady, this elderly woman would probably have given the thief a jar of green beans if the individual was hungry, but, instead, she found her food storage pantry broken and raided. Let this be a lesson to all gardeners and canners of high-quality food, keep your pantry padlocked, your shotgun loaded and don’t mess with Granny’s Green Beans.

Turn the nail upside down and blunt the tip with a hammer to keep ends of planks from splitting when driving the nail.  

Tap the Tips

When constructing a board fence or repairing planks on the side of a barn, you will often have to drive nails into the ends of the planks into the stud or the fence posts. There’s nothing more frustrating than driving a nail into the last couple of inches of the board and watching the wood split when the nail is halfway in.

This problem can be remedied by drilling pilot holes in the ends of the planks before driving the nails. That sounds great, but who carries a cordless drill in their pocket ready to drive pilot holes whenever a need arises on the farm. Instead of drilling pilot holes, there is another solution.

Before you drive the nail into the end of the plank, blunt the sharp tip of the nail with a hammer. Once the tip is blunted with a few solid licks of the hammer, the nail is no longer driven in with a wedge effect. This often prevents splitting the ends of boards that are attached.

  If you move the cattle to new grazing before clipping the grass below 3 inches, re-growth of the grass will be faster.

Secure Summer Grazing

There are tons of reasons to rotationally graze cattle, but one of the most important is for the regrowth of grazeable grass. The University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture conducted experiments with orchardgrass to prove this point. The grass clipped to 3.5 inches at the beginning and end of the month was compared with grass clipped every week to a height of one inch. After six days of regrowth, the grass that was only grazed twice a month and no lower than 3.5 inches grew at a much faster rate during the resting period than the continuously grazed grass.

Basically, the rate of re-growth after grazing is related to the amount of leaf area remaining and carbohydrate reserves in the root system. In other words, forages such as orchardgrass and fescue will re-grow at a speed in direct relation to how much leaf tissue is left above ground. The more leaf tissue there is above ground, the faster the re-growth will occur.

Allowing resting periods and avoiding close grazing is good policy, especially if you want grazing insurance against occasional summer droughts. According to the Kentucky findings, University of Georgia researchers also reported weakened stands of fescue as a result of repeated close grazing, and these weakened stands also resulted in more undesirable weed growth. The Kentucky report also stated that shortening grazing periods to three to seven days increases utilization of pasture grass 50-65 percent.

Keep Paddling

As the weather warms this May, take a kayak or canoe on the scenic rivers of Alabama and enjoy the outdoors. Here’s a tip to make sure you stay in your watercraft as you go through those occasional rapids that I learned from guides on whitewater trips.

As you approach the rapids, don’t stop paddling. This can cause the craft to be turned sideways in the rapids and tip your boat over. Instead, keep paddling at a continual pace through the entire rapids. This helps keep the craft straight and stable. Adjust your paddling on each side of the craft to stay streamlined with the current and you’ll stay in the boat and stay dry.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.