Saturday, May 17, 2014

Country Life Keeps Changing

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Early this evening, I went to the neighbor’s place to see if he had any used baler twine he’d part with. He’s retired and crippled up some, so he’s become more and more dependent on his nephew and that fellow’s hunting buddies over the years. This year, he had no twine to spare. It turns out that he has started hiring a neighbor “boy” (about age 50) to bale his hay with one of the round balers so common these days. As a result, all the used stuff he has is the plastic twine that the round balers use. He tried to give me the partial rolls in his old square baler, that now sits unused in his shed, but I told him that he’d better hold onto it, in case he ever needed any himself.

Growing up on the farm, the baler twine from the bales we’d fed the cattle was my stock in trade. I used it to fasten stones and sticks together to make war clubs, and fastened larger sticks together into palisades to provide protection from wayfaring trouble-makers and wild critters. I also used it, along with burlap bags and tree limbs, to make my version of camouflage ground blinds. It was also used to tie up temporary partitions in the cattle side of the barn, and was sometimes plaited into halters and ropes. I even used it once to make a bosal, headstall and reins for a horse.

It feels strange that such a one-time icon of country living is disappearing but, of course, that has always been the way of things. I grew up using a scythe, yet you can rarely find a scythe in a hardware or feed store these days due to the switch to string trimmers. The generation before me probably lamented the passing of baling wire, used in the old stationary balers, as I do that of baler twine. Back when loose hay was still loaded onto wagons and into barns, the simple pitchfork was an absolute requirement for living on a farm. Originally made from wood, they eventually were made of steel, and I’ve used them many a day, picking up hay the baler missed, cleaning out field corners the hay-rake couldn’t reach, or even finishing a field by hand, when the baler broke down. It’s been years since I’ve seen a good hay fork for sale in a local store. Most are some ridiculous Chinese copy of a manure fork.

Needless to say, not only are the tools mentioned becoming extinct, so are the skills needed to use them. Even the Amish are becoming more and more modern in their methods. We may be in trouble some day if “civilization” is brought to a screeching halt, either through war or general societal break-down. The bad thing is, we won’t even have baler twine with which to tie our broken world back together! © 2014
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11 comments:

M. Silvius said...

The world is changing and some of us are just dinosaurs trying to hang on.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

I have seen new rolls of twine within the last couple of months but it looked like a thin version of it of course.
I still use the scythe and fork. I have forks that my grandfather used including one with 3 tines but I prefer the 4 tine. The hardest thing to find regarding a scythe is the sharpening stone, I have bought the last stone in 3 different stores over the years, they don't restock and you don't want to use anything but a hand stone on one or you will screw up the blade.

Gorges Smythe said...

I suppose so, Michael. lol

I found an old but good one in Amish country a couple years ago, SF. Here's a link to a place where I bought a couple things: http://www.scythesupply.com/

M. Silvius said...

I have met those fellows at the Common Ground Fair a few years back. They are there every year. Back then he used to travel to Poland and some former soviet block and Balkan nations to bring back the blades and other tools. Quite the character.. barefoot, long hair down to their waist, total hippie get up, patchouli perfume.. oh yes the whole kitten caboodle!!.

Gorges Smythe said...

I don't really know anything about them personally, Michael, but they seem to have good merchandise.

For any readers interwsted in the fair Michael spoke of, I think this is the one he means: http://www.mofga.org/theFair

Ralph Goff said...

Gorges, when the time comes, we will just have to "re invent the wheel". if there are no scythes, pitchforks, etc. Or people who know how they work. I've got a couple of scythes here I never use. Could have bought another one at the last farm auction sale too.

Gorges Smythe said...

lol - Well Ralph, since I sold my weed-whacker, my scythe and sickle get used some again.

Lady Locust said...

I remember hearing "the ol' folks" griping about twine instead of wire. My dad used to make us rings when we were feeding. He would use the wire pliers & twist them a certain way to break the wire on the bales. It resulted in a ring on the pliers that we would take off and wear on our fingers until they turned all black.
Thank you for that memory.

Gorges Smythe said...

Glad to jog your memory, LL. Baling wire must still be available somewhere, because the folks at the antique power shows seem to have it.

Chickenmom said...

That 'plastic' twine from hay bales lasts a long time, Gorges. I save every inch of it. Can't tell you how many times it's come in handy around here!

Gorges Smythe said...

It's strong, I know.