Our Family, Your Food

April 1, 2019 1:22 pm

#AwesomePopcorn and an Alligator

#FamilyFarm means possible OSHA violations in exchange for learning and fun

Train children in the right way,
                 And when old, they will not stray
                        Proverbs 22:6

Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.  Make no mistake, I have a wonderful, wonderful life.  I certainly understand all the creature comforts that we, in our first-world domain, take for granted like running water, electricity, ample abundant food, cheap transportation and so on.  And above and beyond that, to live life on the farm outside all the struggles and “crampness” of city-living…

Uncle Matt ducks under a fertilizer tube to MIG weld a reinforcing 1” slab of metal to “beef-up” our strip-till row unit.

All that said, I have to say that one of the greatest blessings God has given us is our children.  And yesterday, well that just highlighted it.

You see, the weather FINALLY started cooperating.  We could FINALLY get some meaningful work done outside without freezing in our unheated shop.  And we have many little projects to do ahead of fieldwork.  One project is working on my strip-tillage bar.  Remember that strip-tillage is a minimum tillage system that reduces erosion of soil and, in our case, allows for a reduction of fertilizer applied to our crops.  It’s pretty awesome if I say so myself—though we have much to learn.  One problem is that our applicator—the implement the tractor pulls through the field—was showing some wear going through the field.  So, we had to add heavy metal strips to “bulk it up.”  By heavy, I mean 30# slabs that were 1” thick.  These slabs where specially made by a local fabricator, but (thanks to an oversight on my part) required a cutting torch for welding preparation.  And then required some heavy MIG welding to “beef-up” the main frame of the applicator bar.

We didn’t quite get it finished thru the work week so decided to work together for a few hours Saturday morning to finish the job.  And here is where things got awesome.

You see, I couldn’t just go to the farm with decent weather without the Little Man.  It would almost be un-Christian or un-American.  So, with a 5-year-old in tow, it was time to go to work.

The Little Man gives a thumbs up for a good Saturday morning at the farm shop. He thought the welding helmet was pretty cool too.

Uncle Matt is an amazing welder.  With only a few hours of training away from full-blown certified pipewelder, he could basically weld the crack of dawn.  I consider myself an “apt” apprentice prepping the metal for him to show his skill, nothing more!  But both of us seem to have a heart for teaching our children.  His nephew was thrilled to be in the shop with us.

Ryker wanted to sweep the shop floor.  We had him grab tools and parts.  “Go get those bolts.”  “Those are nuts, not screws Ryker.”  “Hey, Ryker—go around the tractor and bring the hammer and impact wrench.”

Everything was coming together.  Since we had time and were willing to MAKE the time, both of us were trying to take a few moments here and there to explain things to the Little Man too.  “Ryker, this is how you assemble a residue-manager blade.”  “This is how a welder works.”  “See how this applicator is setup?  Those are residue-manager blades followed by a coulter—say it, ‘coulter’—followed by a shank with mole-knife.”

I asked Uncle Matt if he would show Ryker how to weld and maybe make something he could take home.  I was blown away by how above and beyond my brother-in-law went.  It should be noted that he may look a bit gruff and gets a reputation for being unfiltered in what he says (he’s quite a bit more professional than appearances would seem, by the way).  But he’s got a heart of gold and is a very good (and intelligent) farmer and friend.  And as an Uncle, he most certainly also has a knack for teaching.

Since those large 1” slabs of metal needed cut prior, and we were putting new bolts and nuts on the applicator, we had lots of “junk” metal to go to the scrap pile.  I grabbed some pieces and asked Ryker if he’d like to make something with them—thinking maybe a stick figure or something simple.  Well, Uncle Matt and Ryker thought about it and one-upped me: they were going to build an alligator!

Uncle Matt gives Ryker his first ever welding experience.

I kept finishing up the applicator while Uncle Matt and Ryker took to their mini-project.  We pulled a small three-step stool over for Ryker to stand on while Matt explained how the welder worked.  He showed Ryker how he had to grind rust off the areas he was going to weld.  He showed how to “tack” weld a piece to hold it for a better finishing weld.  They both talked about all the different positions they could hold the metal pieces—sort of like building a new creation with legos, only better.  Matt gave ideas but left (most) final decisions to Ryker.  As I finished the applicator, I was able to stand back and take pictures.

I am blow away by this.  You see, I lost my father a few years ago.  He wasn’t perfect, but he was—among many wonderful character traits—a great, great teacher.  And so it made me somewhat nostalgic to watch my son get hands-on training in the same machine shed that my late father and grandfather trained me all those years ago.  It warmed my heart to watch Uncle Matt steady that electrode holder over Ryker’s hands, allowing him a chance to make a few small welds.

Ryker “cheeses” for the camera while Uncle Matt preps the next weld. The scrap we used included U-bolts, bolts, nuts and metal chunks cut from the 1” slabs.

I’m sure OSHA would have issues with a Pre-K student operating a device that creates the heat of over 5,000 degrees to meld metal together.  And I’m sure some here will wonder what on earth were we thinking…but the pictures show a glimpse of what I saw yesterday.  A Little Man learning, loving, working and having fun.  Uncle Matt finished off the alligator with a fresh coat of John Deere green spray paint.  Ryker christened him “Chompy.”  He spent the night at Ryker’s bedside and even went to church with us this morning.  Lots of folks were impressed that Ryker made him in the shop!

The scripture at the beginning of this post really hit me all day yesterday and today.  Among the things God has called me to do, teaching my children rises to near the top.  Further, the cliché that it takes a village is absolutely true.  Uncle Matt may be cooler than me, but he can’t do it all

The Little Man poses with “Chompy” in finished form in all his John-Deere green glory. It was worthy of a church visit the next day!

and neither can I.  That’s why my wife and I are blessed to have family that also see the importance of teaching.  Maybe Ryker won’t want to farm, maybe he will.  Regardless, the #familyfarm is a great venue for the living, working, learning and fun of growing up.  Teaching my children—and bringing in other loving teachers like Uncle Matt—is quite a blessing.

When we sell our popcorn, we say #MakeMemoriesPop.  We live that on the farm everyday.  OSHA just doesn’t need to know all the particulars…

Thanks for reading– as a special treat for you use code “Chompy” at www.PKCPop.com/shophttps://pilotknob.farm/shop/ to save 20% this week only!