The way out here

From frame to finish

Posted 1/19/22

I’ve always been accused of being a jack-of-all-trades. At first, it was sort of meant to be an insult, I think, but as I’ve gotten older I discovered there is a second part to the famous …

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The way out here

From frame to finish


I’ve always been accused of being a jack-of-all-trades. At first, it was sort of meant to be an insult, I think, but as I’ve gotten older I discovered there is a second part to the famous line “Jack of all trades, master of none.” It’s “Jack of all trades, master of none, though ofttimes better than a master of one.”

As someone who was just way too interested in all sorts of things, it was a comfort to know that I wasn’t undisciplined or crazy for wanting to branch out. As it turns out, you just about have to be a jack-of-all-trades to work on a farm. My father-in-law happens to be a prime example.

On an average day, he will go from managing his business and the book end of things to going out and putting on his diesel mechanic hat in order to fix a faulty tractor or malfunctioning skidsteer. But wait, the day’s still young; after that, he might switch gears entirely and jump into his role as a butcher, breaking down beef and pork into professionally wrapped prime cuts. If the weather is nice perhaps he’ll jump on his newly fixed tractor and mow hay or cultivate crops. But wait, one of the cows just freshened in the barn and it’s time to go put on his veterinarian/herdsman hat to ensure the safe delivery of the new calf and move animals around the barn or pasture as needed.

On a more rare, but not uncommon day, he may put on his framing belt and get to work raising a new livestock building or renovating an existing structure on the farm. Electrical work? No problem. Implement broke and needs welding? On it. I think you get the point.

As an aspiring farmer myself, I still have a lot to learn from mentors like him. I can’t at this point in my life weld or fix mechanical issues on tractors, and I’m still just learning how to grow crops on a larger scale. I suppose I can write fairly well, though, so when it comes to the paperwork end of things I can manage.

One of my favorite skills that I’ve picked up over time has been woodworking. I should clarify though, because there is woodworking and there is carpentry as in framing and general construction. What I’m attempting to refer to is all of the above. I love working with wood, whether it be putting up chicken houses or crafting a special Christmas gift, which is what I happened to do this past year for a few family members.

If you’ll recall, my wife was recently nine months pregnant and waiting, but I decided to tempt the fates with something that would be inevitably interrupted.

As it turned out, I was given all the time I needed to finish my little projects, rather than coaxing the forces that be into causing my wife to go into labor mid-project. I normally try to make some of my Christmas presents rather than buying everything. Each year I pick someone different and think of something practical that people need that I can craft for them. One year I made a ping pong paddle rack for my mother, another year I made a saddle stand for my wife, who was still my girlfriend at the time. Neither of these projects looked all that flashy but were fun and gave me the opportunity to learn.

This year I got a little more ambitious and made a dog leash rack for my dad’s wife and a deer skull mounting stand for my father. Both were made from red cedar I’ve had sitting around and both came out pretty cool-looking, if you ask me.

As another part of this tradition, I normally try to use these projects as a way to justify buying another tool I need in order to complete them. Fellas, take note. This past year, I bought a pair of bar clamps in order to join up a set of boards to make a larger surface for the skull stand. For Christmas the previous year, I received a palm router, and over the summer, our old neighbors gifted me an old scroll saw. With no more excuses to buy new tools, I set to work on these gifts, and in just a few short days turned out a live-edge rack with a hand-carved German shorthair silhouette atop its center, as well as the skull stand, which has a knapped-edge look around an arrowhead-shaped base. Thank you Google Images for the inspiration.

I always try to push myself to attempt something I haven’t done before, as well as these projects I have in front of me. This time, I really didn’t want to gift something that had an unfinished look to it, so I bit the bullet and learned how to seal and finish the surface of these pieces. Ripping off this Band-Aid, however, turned out to be about the most anticlimactic thing since my dog’s barking at random noises in the house. Turns out, if you follow the instructions on the can of polyurethane, it goes pretty smoothly; go figure. For the record I have no qualms about reading instructions, I just hadn’t gotten there yet.

I can’t wait until the summertime rolls around again. Sure there’ll be tons of work to do, but I’ll get to flip-flop back to the other side of woodworking and construct some new things for the farm. (Spoilers: I’m going to try to build a mobile solar power station.) In the meantime, I have plenty to learn in my other skills. The way out here there is always work to be done, and where there is work, there is an opportunity to grow and learn.

jack-of-all-trades, farmer, mentors, skills, woodworking


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