Tag Archives: homesteading

Old Gate Posts

There are plenty of old gate posts around here. Many were put in twenty years ago. They were pieces of old telephone poles.

Over the last few years these posts have gotten wobbly. I could sway them back and forth with one hand.

old gate posts fall over
The wind came by. The gate fell over. After twenty some years, the post had rotted through. The gate got pushed up and propped to look like the gate was still there.

Digging post holes in the Ozarks is not easy. Post hole diggers are only a way to remove dirt and gravel already knocked loose with a bar and sledge hammer. They aren’t even very good for that if the gravel is actually small rocks.

Arguing the way down two feet was only a matter of persistence twenty years ago. Now it is only sheer determination that makes the holes go down. Each one takes two days or more now.

old gate posts rot off
What eats away at a gate post? Water. Insects, Mold, Fungus. Even old telephone poles eventually give in to the relentless attacks.

So gates were argued with, lifted and moved inches at a time. Steel posts were driven down next to the posts and tied together to try to pull the gate posts up again.

The old gate posts kept getting worse. The pasture gate post was a source of nightmares as Augustus stood on the gate looking over at the does in the hill pasture.

Then one end of the clothes line fell over.

post hole digging nightmare
The original hole was dug twenty years ago to a depth of 30 inches. That is longer than my arm. And the post rotted off at ground level and is still pretending to be solid all the way down. The dirt and gravel must be dug out around the post piece as deep as necessary to allow the piece to be shoved. Putting water down the hole, a rope around the post piece and using a long metal post as a lever pulled the piece up.

It was time to get serious.

An unlucky young man came by looking for work. He was game to dig a couple of post holes. And he did dig two: the clothes line pole and the pasture gate.

He was well paid, but it wasn’t enough to entice him to dig the third post hole. So I tackled it as that gate had fallen over and was now propped up to appear to be there.

Old gate posts rot off in two ways. The pasture gate post disintegrated into wood chips easy to remove with the post hole diggers.

Old gate posts tied in
The old hinges wouldn’t come out of the old post. Twenty years ago we would have gotten them out. Now it’s easier to tie the old post to the new one and hand the gate. The gate is now standing and useable and that was the objective.

The clothes pole and the other post rotted off at ground level, but left solid post down the center to be laboriously dug out by hand.

Once the aches and pains subside, the joy of having working posts and a standing clothes line will make it seem worthwhile.

For 25 years we kept our place looking good. You can see it in “My Ozark Home“.

“We Took To the Woods”

My favorite places to go shopping are used book sales and stores. One of the books I found was “We Took To the Woods” by Louise Dickinson Rich.

Written in the 1930’s, the book would seem to be very outdated. Except it isn’t, at least for me.

Not everyone has electricity and running water, two of the great innovations of civilization. The Riches were tucked into a lumber company’s land in what was once a lodge for fishermen coming to the wilds of Maine. Only a dozen or so people live in the area year round. Mail comes in by boat in the summer and must be retrieved by hiking out two miles on snowshoes in the winter. Groceries are a similar proposition.

"We Took To the Woods" by Louise Dickinson Rich
The family lived in the small house over the winter as it was easier to keep warm. Summers were spent in what was one a lodge. One advantage to moving twice a year is how well you pare down your piles of possessions.

This would be an interesting challenge. Try to make out a grocery list for a month’s meals. Remember bread doesn’t keep that long. No, you can’t freeze it as you have only an ice box using ice for cooling. You make it. If you forget something, you must do without until the next month.

There are places where this is the norm. I read once about a place in Wyoming where access to stores was once or twice a year. How much flour? Did you remember the salt? The leavening? Canned vegetables? Paper products?

Cooking and heating are done with wood. Lights are kerosene with glass chimneys and wicks. Snow is waist deep for months. Temperatures drop to ten or more below zero.

Would you be tough enough?

“We Took To the Woods” is done as though answering questions people ask about living this way. How do you make a living? How do you keep house? What about the children? Do you get bored? Do you get frightened?

For me it brought back memories. We lived without electricity and running water for a time. I learned to cook on a wood cookstove. Snow was waist deep for six months up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At least we could get out by car during the winter although driving on a snow covered road between snow filled ditches is a challenge.

“We Took To the Woods” also mentions about the logging. The lumber company still had logging crews staying the winter in the woods, piling the pulp wood near the lakes, ponds and rivers for the spring when all of it was floated down to the sawmill. These men were not Paul Bunyon types, no matter what the movies portray.

I enjoyed reading this book. It brought back memories I’m glad are now memories. Electricity and running water had their luster restored as I’ve gotten complacent about them. Complacent until the next time the electricity goes out.