Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Scythes and Oxen


Every June for several years, I have made my way to Tillers International near the tiny town of Scotts, Michigan for what I call 'Ox Week.'  Tillers is an amazing place to learn to do all the really important stuff you need to know to participate in the lifestyle that brought you to the Broadfork Blog in the first place.

I like to go there for the oxen basics class and I hang around for the MODA Gathering the weekend after that. MODA is the Midwest Ox Drovers Association and the Gathering this year is June 21-23.

This June is going to be extra special to me in that I will be teaching a scythe class for the first time at Tillers. It's called 'Everything About Scythes' and you can find the link here. June 14th and 15th there will be a class in traditional hay rake and pitchfork making and I get to follow that class with my hands-on scythe class the 16th.

Take a look at the Tillers site and sign up for a class or two this year.

Gulland Forge is expanding its line of tools to include the scythe. We are making our own snaths right here in Siler City, NC and we will have them on the market this summer. We'll also be making peening tools, hammers and all the other goodies for the amazing scythe. Keep up with what's happening on our other website, Tooling the Revolution

I hope your summer is going well and that everything is planted and growing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Snow Forking

     Hopefully, this is the last of the snow for all you folks that are eager to do some broadforking and have been, ahem, held up from doing so. Nature has been cruel to my old neighborhood in Wisconsin and Winter has dragged on and on until you thought it would never end. Good news; it will end.

     It will end and the Earth will again come to life with an explosion of green and blooms and soil yearning to be loved and poked with a broadfork. My friend Terry, in the photo above, posed for this forlorn shot in his garden when I was visiting with his family a few weeks ago. In our minds we knew it was too soon to work the soil, but the heart must try.

     I hope it's getting close to planting time for you up there in the midwest. This ought to be morel season, yet you've been forced to shovel snow again and again as the shy Spring weather has toyed with you once more.

     Be strong, as I know you are. Your suffering will end soon and you'll be reminded of the reason you love it where you are so much.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Human Pace

It occurred to me many years ago that we are living at too fast a pace.  Just a few human generations ago, the fastest person on Earth rode a horse.

We count our travel time coast to coast in hours now, not months. We 'run to the store' to grab ingredients for dinner and often are able to return in time to add them in just a few minutes, really. If there's no cream for coffee, we can set the brewer to make a pot and by the time it's done, we're back with a carton of half and half.

My wife and I have lived remotely for many years and with $4/gallon fuel, each trip to the store costs $10 extra. There's no way we're going to do that, so we plan ahead and don't make 'quick trips' to the store.

A while back, our friend Kaitlyn gave us this amazing World War 1 vintage waffle iron and we made waffles last weekend with it. Karen dug up her recipe and set out to assemble the ingredients while I heated up and oiled the very well seasoned, heavy cast iron kitchen appliance. We keep a full pantry (very full, actually) so there is no running quickly to the store necessary for us.

Our meals proceed at the human pace and are usually begun by prepping with a good sharp knife, then stirred by wooden spoons and usually cooked in a cast iron vessel of some sort. Old ones. We have an enviable collection of beautiful cast iron skillets, Dutch ovens, cornbread and muffin pans, griddles and this incredible waffle iron.

It takes about 5 minutes to cook a waffle and just a moment to pick it off the perfect non-stick finish, created over decades of use and love. Then the waffle is placed into the oven to stay warm until they're all done and it's time to eat.

One at a time, it would have taken a long time to cook enough waffles for a working family on a cold morning a hundred years ago on a wood heated cook stove. It also took a lot of skill to keep the heat just right and the batter just right so that things wouldn't stick or burn. Folks took the time to learn the skills then because they couldn't just go out and buy a plug in electric teflon waffle iron.

When I am dust, my waffle iron will still work and that feels good to me. I hope the people that end up with it when we're gone appreciate it as much as we have. Would you feel good with a Mickey Mouse waffle iron, really?  I don't think this one would last through 2 World Wars, a couple of Depressions, the Model T and the Moon Landing. It's pace is wrong. In a few of years it'll likely be at Goodwill or the landfill.

When are we going to find out that it's OK to move more slowly? Why can't we take more care of the details as we go along and appreciate the Human Pace of living?

Try to learn to understand and accept the pace of a hand plane, a chisel, a waffle, a broadfork, or a scythe.

Learn to build your soil slowly and carefully and let the worms and cover crops do the work for you as you sleep. Develop the skills of those long gone and find the beautiful rhythm of tool in hand and "The grip on Earth of outspread feet, The life of muscles rocking soft And smooth and moist in vernal heat"*

Good soil to you all.

*from the poem Two Tramps in Mudtime by Robert Frost

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The New Gulland Forge

There's a new building going up in Siler City, North Carolina. It's the first building that's been built in downtown since the police station, so I have been told. It's being built right, using century old bricks reclaimed from an old factory that was taken down a block away. These hand made bricks were built of clay dug from the Earth in this county and were actually fired on the building site. It was different then.

In a few days, the walls are getting taller as 2 pairs of hands painstakingly stack brick upon brick, mix mortar, and stack some more. The sun is brilliant today in a Carolina Blue sky. Eric and Victor took on this task and they are true tradesmen, very talented at their craft.

This is the new home for Gulland Forge Broadforks. The last year has been one of great transition as we searched for a place to call home. Moving a blacksmith shop is tough on a good day and a smith  has to be careful when choosing a stopping place. We found this town, or it found us... not sure which, actually. Either way, I'll post more on the adventure as we go along.

The broadforks are being made in a temporary shop right now, thus the low profile I have been keeping  for many months. I'll let you know when I am back in full production with a line of other fine tools that I'll be making in the new shop.

Good soil to you.