Archive for the ‘TN’ Category

Tennessee’s 8th, Continued — Ducking the Debates

September 20, 2010

A little local politics, again, from the arena of the 2010 election, in the race to replace retiring “Blue Dog,” John Tanner.  Do we swap him for another Democrat hack, a probable RINO, or a real Constitutional conservative? I sent this letter to the editor to the Jackson (TN) SUN, today (9/20/10), concerning the apparent difficulties of getting the candidates together for a debate. The Democrat is willing, an Independent conservative is able, but the Republican (RINO?) is — laying low.  Why? And, why not go ahead without him?

Here’s the letter to the editor:

To the Editor,

Over here in the northeast corner of the 8th Congressional District, I feel somewhat slighted as to the coverage of the Congressional Race.

Stephen Fincher is ducking opportunities to flesh out his views and demonstrate his ability to think on his feet. How? By refusing to debate the other candidates on the issues.

This is disturbing, because one’s views and one’s ability to defend them in public are qualities that make or break a successful lawmaker. Is Fincher afraid he lacks those qualities?

Yes, I’ve seen the Fincher signs, with the slogan, “Plow Congress!” What does this mean, exactly?

I’d like a little more detail on how Fincher proposes to fix the way Washington has turned its back on the Constitution over the past few decades. If he is unwilling to commit on any of that, well, that’s his choice, but it doesn’t make me want to vote for him just because there’s an “R” after his name.

Independent candidate Donn Janes has declared he is ready to debate the Democrat candidate, whether or not Mister “Plow Congress” wants to come out and play.

I really hope Donn Janes will get the chance to do so. Somebody needs to stand up for Constitutional principles, and if the Republican can’t or won’t, let Janes step into the vacuum and put his own views and principles on the line.

If WREG-TV can’t make it happen, perhaps the Jackson (TN) Sun will find some other venue. I sure hope so.

Respectfully,
Tom Cox
Dickson County, TN

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Trailer Trash Adventures, Part Deux: Adios, Turkey Tent!

July 9, 2010

Last time I posted, Trailer Trash Adventures, I was researching the process of upgrading our old mobile home, without breaking the bank. Well, we took the leap. We started the trailer trash makeover with replacing the old, thin, leaky, noisy, criminally-under-insulated roof. Herewith is an account of… The Roofover.

Yes, we got ‘er done. Thanks to a windfall, we finally got that old “turkey tent” poor excuse for a roof covered with a real roof. The crew of two from Southern Builders showed up last week, WHEN THEY SAID THEY WOULD (a  home improvement contractor near-miracle, all by itself). They unloaded, built, cleaned up and left, under five hours later. I was impressed.

Unloading

On time, unloading and unpacking materials and tools.

The crew worked steadily and with minimal idle conversation, and no smoke breaks, unless I missed them. This obviously wasn’t their first rodeo; they seemed to know what to do and when, and they did it.

The first thing they did was to unload and unpack the materials and tools they would be using. The trailer had materials on it for two or three other jobs. Some of it had to be removed to get to the stuff they would need here, but most of it stayed in place, because somebody was paying attention when they loaded up.

Fully loaded gooseneck trailer

Fully loaded gooseneck trailer

Materials for several jobs.

Materials for several jobs.

After unloading, one team member checked out the roof, including detailed measurements. The other laid out the material and organized it in the order in which they would need it. The online quote form had already collected all the relevant information about the size, style and contours of the existing roof.

Final measurements.

Final measurements.

The insulation went on, first. It was reflective-foil-backed, three-inch polystyrene foam. This usually has an R-value (insulating property) of R-4 to R-5 per inch, which means an insulation of R-12 to R-15. The reflective foil bounces radiant heat that penetrates the roofing material to get to the insulation, back into the roofing material, and from there, back into space. Combined with a white roof, the foil intercepts  of a lot of high-angle, summer sunshine before the insulation even has to deal with it.

Somewhere between R-12 and R-15, plus reflective foil, this constitutes far better insulation than the roof has ever had.

Somewhere between R-12 and R-15, plus reflective foil, this constitutes far better insulation than the roof has ever had.

The fact that the panels are large means that there are fewer seams between them, and thus less of an opportunity for heat loss due to infiltration. Since they are held in place by the trim around the edges, and covered by the roofing sheet metal, rather than laid between rafters, the amount of thermal bridging is minimal, as well.

The fascia holds the lower edges of the insulating panels in place all the way around. It is screwed into the existing upper roof plate through the existing siding and trim, right above the half-assed “rain gutter” that came with the trailer.

Drilling the fascia into the existing wall. The fascia has a bend fabricated into it that holds the bottom edge of the insulating panels in place.

Drilling the fascia into the existing wall. The fascia has a bend fabricated into it that holds the upper edges of the insulating panels in place at the eave.

The crew notched out a box in the overhang where the wood stove chimney comes within less than a foot of the roof.

The crew notched out a box in the overhang where the wood stove chimney comes within less than a foot of the roof.

The foil-backed foam was trimmed closely to fit, with tight seams. Stock pieces of this insulation from a big-box store, in four-by-eight-foot lengths, would have had a lot more seams.

Large, close-fitting foam insulation panels with minimal seams

Large, close-fitting foam insulation panels with minimal seams

Nearly done installing foam – moving the job right along.

Nearly done installing foam – moving the job right along.

All fasteners were white-coated or plated, self-drilling, sheet metal screws – no nails. I was impressed with the quality of the work as seen in these details:

Where the eave meets the gable

Where the eave meets the gable

Overhang – something this roof never had, encouraging leaks that probably reduced the wall insulation to useless in many places – 12 inches on both sides, and 6 inches on the ends.

Overhang – something this roof never had, encouraging leaks that probably reduced the wall insulation to useless in many places – 12 inches on both sides, and 6 inches on the ends.

Finished notch of eave around wodd stove chimney – nice touch, and safer, although triple-wall chimney stays pretty cool.

Finished notch of eave around wood stove chimney – nice touch, and safer, although triple-wall chimney stays pretty cool.

Mitred joint in the gable trim at the peak.

Mitred joint in the gable trim at the peak.

Once the insulation was in place, the sheet metal went on. The sheet metal panels were cut to run from eave to eave, so all the seams run downhill, and none across. The installers put a crimp in the middle where the panel lays over the ridge. When they lay it in place, the panel bends cleanly at the ridge, and reaches the eave on both sides.

One worker measured to the center of each panel and laid it over a piece of steel angle, whacking it over the angle with a hammer made for the purpose, setting the ridge crimp.

One worker measured to the center of each panel and laid it over a piece of steel angle, whacking it over the angle with a hammer made for the purpose, setting the ridge crimp.

A piece of sheet metal that has just had the ridge crimp applied.

A piece of sheet metal that has just had the ridge crimp applied.

The last piece of sheet metal had to be cut to meet the end of the roof.

The last piece of sheet metal had to be cut to meet the end of the roof.

The first sheet metal panel goes from prep to the roof.

The first sheet metal panel goes from prep to the roof.

Sheet metal installation about half done.

Sheet metal installation about half done.

Crimped sheet in place over the ridge, and note they were not at all stingy with the screws. Joints between sheets were pre-caulked on the ground.

Crimped sheet in place over the ridge, and note they were not at all stingy with the screws. Joints between sheets were pre-caulked on the ground.


Existing capped sewer vent

Existing capped sewer vent -- ugh-lee!

Replacement capped sewer vent

Replacement capped sewer vent. Nice.


And now, for the payoff! Old, turkey-tent roof, versus new, sleek, insulated, weather tight roof:

Before. Note rust, crimped crossways seams about every two feet, gaps at the ridge that caught wind-driven rain. This roof had a classic case of roof rumble during any high wind, like rattling a cookie sheet to simulate thunder, but louder.

BEFORE -- Note rust, crimped crossways seams about every two feet, gaps at the ridge that caught wind-driven rain. This roof had a classic case of roof rumble during any high wind, like rattling a cookie sheet to simulate thunder, but louder.

AFTER. Sleek, huh? We haven’t had any rain, yet, but I’m betting (and so is Southern Builders – they have a good warranty) against leaks.

AFTER -- Sleek, huh? We haven’t had any rain, yet, but I’m betting (and so is Southern Builders – they have a good warranty) against leaks.

Of course, we haven’t had the roof long enough to compare cooling or heating bills, but I have been watching the indoor/outdoor thermometers during the current heat wave, and the house stays about 3 to 5 degrees cooler, even on the brightest, hottest afternoons, and I may be able to turn back the window air conditioners when the wave ends. I am really curious to see the effect of the new roof on the heating load – especially whether we need the electric space heaters as much along with the wood stove, next winter. I don’t expect to feel as much radiant heat loss on my skin under the “cathedral ceiling,” with three inches of foam in the way.

We’ll see, but I’m optimistic.

I think this trailer just got a little less trashy!

Trailer Trash Adventures

July 3, 2010

Proto-Mobile-Home, minus a hundred years -- OK, it's an RV, but I love the photo. Thanks to CollectivePic.com

What is it about mobile homes, anyway? They get trashed in the movies, the press and in tornadoes, and the people who live in them are “trailer trash.”

We who live in these little boxes do so for the most part, not because we prefer them, but because we can afford them.

If we “trailer trash” could afford airtight, green-weenie, artsy-fartsy, “net zero energy,” computer-controlled living spaces, lighted with creepy, AlGore curly-bulbs, heated and cooled with sunlight and geothermal, roofed with photovoltaic arrays and sprouting wind farms – or, at least, wind gardens — out back, with the power company sending us monthly checks for the electricity we produce in excess of what we use… most of us would have them.

We here on Danley Road can’t afford to build such a house, so we are doing our best to modify our existing mobile to make it more comfortable, affordable, and – forgive me for borrowing a PC term – sustainable. That’s why I put in a wood stove last winter.

When the electricity goes off in the wintertime, I don’t want to be frozen out of my own home and evacuated to some Red Cross shelter in a nearby town, while my rescued dogs and cats fend for themselves, and the opportunists among us rifle my belongings for things to take to the pawn shop and turn into meth money. I want to be home, managing my own heat, keeping my pets fed and watered, and protecting my own property with my 12-gauge. That’s what I mean by “sustainable.”

Of course, even if we could afford it, we wouldn’t buy some politically-correct, Department of Energy and Sierra Club-blessed box in some crowded, little “sustainable community,” because we don’t want one. We want to live where we want, not in the Obama-era descendant of the Stalin-era concrete wedding cake apartment monolith.

We want to provide our own heat, to the extent possible, grow (and catch) our own food, to a similar extent, and we absolutely don’t want the Secretary of Energy able to turn off any of our electrical outlets by remote control in a bow to the colossal fraud and power grab that is Carbon Dioxide-driven Global Warming. Barry can stick his “Smart Grid” where the solar cells definitely will not work.

We understand that the Stalinists in our government and around the world want us all lumped together in collective housing — not because they give a damn about the environment — but because we will be easier to spy on and control in those settings. It only takes one party stooge to keep track of several families of Kulaks, that way. Very efficient and sustainable, comrades!

Just as we recoil at handing our medical care over to faceless, government bureaucrats, we find the thought of leaving our rural homestead to live in a government-controlled, UN-approved “sustainable community” repugnant.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us trying our best to make our rickety mobile home into a sound, efficient, comfortable structure, while confined to a tight budget and a desire to maintain a low profile with the various regulatory bodies that would love to be looking over our shoulders and calling every shot.

Where do we start? Logically, we start with the roof. The sheet metal “lid” (I hate to dignify it with a term like, “roof”) over this place reminds me of baking a turkey in the oven. When I was a kid, Mom put the turkey in the oven with a “tent” of aluminum foil (Reynolds Wrap!) over it to recapture the heat and moisture that would otherwise be lost in the oven.

TrailerTrashTurkeyTent

My own turkey tent. As lovely as it is effective!

With record summer heat in progress as I write this, we are finding out what it was like for the turkey. The galvanized sheet metal is thin enough to be subject to damage by any object that hits the roof in a storm, and walking on it is out of the question. It must be about 29 gauge, if that thick, which is about like the metal on the roof of a car. In theory, there’s insulation between it and the flat ceilings in the rooms at both ends of the trailer, but in the middle, we get “cathedral ceilings,” which means there is next to nothing in the way of insulation between us and the Tennessee sky.

The insulation above the flat ceilings can’t amount to much, because there isn’t enough space between the ceiling and roof for more than a couple of inches of any kind of insulation, and that’s right in the middle, under the ridge.

As I understand, it’s glass fiber, which is only good for about R-3 per inch, and then, only if it is maintained in its ideal “state of loft,” or fluffiness. Since it is between a vapor-permeable drywall ceiling and a metal roof, it has undoubtedly gotten damp long ago from moisture penetration from below, and can’t even remember what its ideal “state of loft” was like. As nesting material for mice, it’s great, but for insulation, it’s mostly an empty gesture.

Over about the middle third of the trailer, the cathedral ceiling consists mostly of textured drywall under the sheet metal, which is visually pleasant, but of no insulating value to speak of.

A couple of businesses serve the middle Tennessee area with systematized, fast and effective “roofovers.” (One I have had some correspondence with is Southern Builders, which sells the “PermaRoof” product line . These places will bring a kit of materials and a crew to your mobile, apply a support framework, and slap on a foam-insulated roof – a real roof – over your sheet metal turkey tent. I have no doubt that any of the reputable dealers I have seen would do a creditable job, and greatly improve the quality of life in the mobile, as well as making a quantifiable improvement in the heating and cooling of same.

What I wonder is, where is the outfit that will do the same for my mobile’s walls, doors and windows?

I’ve been reading  lately about the newest craze (actually, the idea is decades old, but the building industry is slow to adopt new ideas) in the building industry: SIPs. Structural Insulated Panels, according to the Structural Insulated Panel Association,  are a sandwich of sheath and insulation, bonded permanently into a panel that is not only a barrier to heat loss and air movement, but also strong enough (the significance of the “Structural” part of the term) to serve as a load-bearing section of wall without framing.

Recently, the market for SIPs has become more competitive, and the manufacturing processes have been streamlined, reducing the cost to a point where it is a realistic alternative. When the “supply” and “demand” curves both rise, wonderful things happen. Someone please explain this to the simple-minded, “Capitalism is EEE-VILL” crowd.

SIPs are now available using OSB plywood sheaths and a couple of types of insulation in the middle. They are also made with sheet metal as the sheath material, which makes them lighter for the same structural strength and insulation value.

SIP panels resist bending, twisting or crushing better than the same size “stick built” wall, when properly installed. Perhaps more importantly, they also provide much higher levels of insulation and sealing against air movement (infiltration) than studs and sheath.

Part of the reason for this superior weather-tightness is the use of plastic foam, most versions of which offer much more insulation for a given thickness than either glass fiber or cellulose fiber. Of course, the fiber insulation is overrated anyway, since its ratings are based on an ideal set of conditions that is as rare in the real world as a cold day in Tennessee in this month of June.

The insulating value of glass fiber and cellulose are based on laboratory-controlled measurements under ideal conditions, including 70 degrees F and no air movement. Moisture, settling and nesting by insects and animals all furnish the less-than-ideal, but far from uncommon conditions in the real world that lower the actual insulating power of fiber batts.

In the real world, the fibers are stuffed into a wall panel – a space with a lot more room in the vertical, than in the horizontal axis. The pull of gravity is relentless and patient, and the result is inevitable – insulation piled in the bottom of a cavity, with heat leaking like mad across the upper, uninsulated space.

Heat loss in this scenario is due to three mechanisms, in no particular order:

Convection (air movement, AKA infiltration), happens because the fiber is no longer dividing the wall space into lots of smaller spaces. Warmer air rises and comes into contact with cooler air or cooler surfaces, gives up its heat to them, regains its density and drops. Rinse and repeat.

Conduction is the way heat gets from a burner on the stove, through the handle of a skillet and into your hand, and that’s how warm air loses its heat. Every point at which a stud or rafter makes contact between the inner and outer surfaces of a wall, and there are many, since typical stud spacing is 16 inches center to center, is a bridge from hot to cold. Heat is conducted across this “thermal bridge” with the ease with which illegal aliens cross our southern border, and with similarly negative results. The R-value of the best insulation in the world does absolutely nothing to prevent a thermal bridge.

Radiation is the third path from hot to cold, and the one you feel on bare skin when you are out in bright sunshine on a cool day. Radiation is an important form of heat gain on a roof in the summer, and two ways to head off radiation-born heat are shade, as in shade trees, and reflection, which bounces the radiant heat back into space, where it belongs. Reflective foil on the surface of a batt or board of insulation under a wood or metal roof has the effect of bouncing the heat back before it can get deep enough to be dealt with as hot air in the structural cavity.

If you want to be as wonky as a physics major, all three methods of heat exchange – convection, conduction and radiation – are just special cases of radiation. When heat passes up the handle of the frying pan, it’s really just radiating from one atom of iron to the next, because the space between atoms is, on their relative scale, as vast as the space between the earth and the sun. Electromagnetic radiation, in the form of heat, travels through the space between atoms with the same ease with which it travels from the sun to the seat of your car. Convection is just a case of heat energy passing from one air molecule to another, and making the cooler molecules denser, causing them to settle and displace the warmer ones, squeezing them up to the top of the wall cavity.

As the physics wonks will say, heat, and all forms of energy in the universe, goes from where there is more of it, to where there is less of it. The same process lets heat into the house in summer, and squeezes it out in the winter. It’s just the way of things. If this process is allowed to complete, the universe will wind up as a cold, dark lump. Just don’t mark your calendar for it, because it will be a while.

A SIP is another story. The insulating quality of the foam is unbroken edge to edge across the surface of the panel, and the standard means of attachment of the panel to the building doesn’t provide any of those pesky thermal bridges. Individual panels are joined by various methods, according to the manufacturer. Some use dovetail joints formed into the edges of the panels, and others are connected via a wood timber called a spline that the crew drives screws into from the inside and outside. Each panel is joined to the building by being fitted at the top and bottom into tracks or channels that are attached firmly to the framework of the building. The result is a strong, weather-tight wall.

Of course, this practice makes retrofitting to a trailer nearly impossible, because there are so few suitable places more substantial than a cardboard box to anchor the channels that hold the panels top and bottom. That’s ironic, since I wanted to USE SIPs to add some structural integrity to this otherwise low-hanging-fruit for a toy tornado.

I began to suspect SIPs and the DIY/retrofit market was not a good marriage early, while searching for other people’s experience with them. There is none. Yes, my privacy-respecting search engine, Ixquick, did return a few hits with search terms like, “SIPS and retrofit,” and “SIPS and mobile homes,” but they never resulted in finding me one, single instance of somebody using SIPs to make a mobile home a little less mobile in a high wind. In fact, I was hard-pressed to find SIPs used in any retrofit situations, even in conventional houses.

This could be attributed by an optimist in my position to the newness of the products, and the lack of “generic SIPs” at places like Lowes and Home Depot. Most of the SIPs projects I saw were shipped to the site in kit form, complete with cuts for windows and doors, although the marketing people are always quick to say that any such openings can be cut on site, as needed. After all, one of the appeals of SIPs is the relative lack of waste, as one sees filling the Dumpster at the typical home construction site. Since ideally, every piece you need for every foot of outside wall is pre-cut and stacked on the truck, I can see why that would be.

So, anyway, I scaled back my aspirations of applying this technology to tightening up and fortifying my mobile. My earliest impulse for tightening up this trailer and making it safer was getting a “real” roof put on, and then, maybe, adding insulation and siding to the outside walls, and, finally, windows and doors that are worth a damn.

The roof turns out to have been much less of a chore than I expected. I found what I believe to be the best deal from Southern Builders, referenced earlier, and they had a crew close by between two other jobs in the region. They showed up WHEN THEY SAID THEY WOULD (Contractors, take note; you should try this!) and we went from ratty old roof to snazzy new, sturdy, well-insulated roof in a little over four hours. I recorded the whole process on camera, complete with before and after shots, and will be posting the whole, exciting tale shortly.

Sneak-peek at the new roof -- painful detail to follow

Don’t VOLUNTEER to Be a Flood Victim!

May 14, 2010
Flood Waters Kill
There’s more to flood waters than meets the eye.

Charlotte, TN, 5/13/10; Revised, 4/27/11

Here are some reflections on the power and danger of flood waters, put down as the Cumberland sulks back within its banks, and the months-long process of cleaning up Middle Tennessee gets into gear (and revised as flood waters rise almost a year later.)

First, let’s dump that  “Save the Planet” sentimentality, OK? Look at some of the pictures of this flood. Look at pictures of the Iceland Volcano, Eyjafjallajökull. (Eyzeforjutosey!) For some superb pictures, try National Geographic online.

Feeling small and insignificant, yet? Good. Now, tell me how plastic bags and SUVs can destroy this immense, powerful Earth, when all it will take is an unconscious, negligent shrug for this planet to destroy the human race. One seismic twitch, a raised terrestrial eyebrow, an atmospheric sigh, and humanity is — not history, because somebody has to be around to WRITE history — simply and permanently gone.

If you still harbor doubts about how insignificant you are before the forces of nature, review some video of the Tsunamis in Japan. Understand? Good. Let’s move on.

The force that flowing water can exert on objects challenges the most fertile imagination. Like an advancing line of indifferent bulldozers, it pushes aside man’s monuments, or tumbles them ahead like toys,  and moves on downhill.

According to the recording instruments at the Cumberland River in Clarksville, downstream from Ashland City, the depth at the peak of the flood was 57.36 feet, at 9:00 AM, on May 6th. At that depth, the rate of flow past that point was more than 300 thousand cubic feet of waterper second. A cubic foot of water weighs just less than 62.5 pounds. That means 18,750,000 pounds of water passed the gage every second, at peak.

Depth (L) and Flow rate (R) of the Cumberland at Clarksville, downstream from Nashville (NWS

Rainfall, May 1 & 2, 2010 (NWS)

A railroad train, consisting of a typical diesel locomotive and 31 loaded freight cars weighs around nine million pounds. That flow rate was equivalent, then, to the weight of two such trains passing the measurement station every second. No wonder a river can push along the contents of a neighborhood, including houses, cars, trees and topsoil.

Six inches of running water can drag an adult off his feet, and then beat him against immovable objects like tree stumps or guard rails, rendering him helpless. Of course, “six inches” of muddy water can be hiding a six-foot hole in the pavement that the water undermined minutes before you arrived at the flooding.

washed-out pavement, TN Hwy 7, Maury Co., TN

A foot and a half of flood water, moving at six miles an hour, can turn a car into a rudderless, powerless, leaky life raft. A foot and a half of running water looks innocuous enough — especially in the dark — unless you know how strong the tug is on anything in its way.

Or, unless it’s after dark, and you think the water is much shallower than that. You don’t know the truth, until the car starts moving on its own…

Of course, by then, it may be to late. Your car-turned-into-a-boat turns into a coffin.

More people are killed nationwide in flash floods and river floods, on average, than in tornadoes, hurricanes, and lightning.  Most of those deaths could have been avoided, if the people thinking of crossing running water had only known how powerful it is.

Twenty-three, flood-related fatalities have been confirmed in Tennessee so far, according to Tennessee’s Emergency Management Agency . Two more bodies have been found in the Nashville area as of May 13, and both are tentatively described as flood victims.

The Harpeth River is a tributary of the Cumberland, and is usually a mild-mannered scenic “stream” that plays host to a lot of leisure-time activities, including fishing, boating and camping. My first chance to see the flooding close-up came two days after the rain had stopped, on Tuesday, May 4th. The bridge was closed to traffic, but no longer under water.

Flooded Harpeth

The treeline in the distance is usually the far bank of the Harpeth, as seen from the Montgomery Bell Bridge, Cheatham County, TN. Not on 5/4/10.

The Harpeth River Campground, adjacent to the Montgomery Bell Bridge, was under ten or twelve feet of water when I visited the still-closed bridge on May 4th, 2010.

It might have looked like an inviting ride in a raft or tube, but, standing on the bridge, feeling the faint vibration of the brisk flow of flood water under the deck, it looked forbidding and ominous to me. I looked over the upstream side at the uprooted, whole trees, building materials and trash pressed against the bridge by the current, and wondered what was just under the muddy water, ready to tear a hole in a boat hull or crush a swimmer.

snake

Along with trees and other hazards, flood waters may contain surprises. A snake crawls toward shore along the Harpeth

Fortunately, nobody in the area of the Harpeth Campground thought a swim or float would be fun, that day. In fact, as I listened to the scanner, the only people willing to risk everything to get on that water were the rescuers.

Ordinary boaters, as well as fire and police rescue squads, fish and game officers and professional water rescue crews were picking people off the roofs of their cars and houses, or anything that would float, and, occasionally, right out of the water. That activity went on every hour of daylight for days, and the crews who did it had to be exhausted by the time it was too dark to continue.

These people put their personal lives and their safety on hold for most of a week to do what they did; I salute them.

For stunning photos of flood rescues from last week,browse the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean.

Don’t volunteer to be a flood victim, Volunteers. The flood will kill you if it you give half a chance. It doesn’t need any help from you.

For more information on flood safety, I will do something I don’t usually do: defer to a government authority on the subject. If you don’t have time for this, here’s one more chance:

flooding sign

Nature will get you eventually. Don’t volunteer to drown. (National Weather Service Flood Safety Awareness)

A Flood of Inattention

May 10, 2010
Cumberland at Ashland City, TN in better days

Cumberland River near Ashland City, TN, in better days -- August, 2008

Ah, how nature can turn. The gentle, slow-moving Cumberland River and its tributaries have given us lots of comfort and beauty, and not a few catfish.

Last weekend (May 1 and 2, 2010), however, nature turned mean. A vast and unstoppable force, sometimes raging, and other times creeping, the Cumberland and its tributaries surged out of their banks and up miles of roads, in through thousands of front doors, stealing irreplaceable personal and public treasures, and destroying dreams and lives.

Flood water under Cumberland River Bridge

Flood water churns under the Ashland City bridge over the Cumberland, twenty feet higher than normal. 5/5/10

Riverview Restaurant/Campground, Ashland City, TN 5/5/10

There it met the water from the second day of rains flowing downhill, having saturated the surrounding ground to the point where it could absorb no more than a paved parking lot. Inconsequential creeks and streams became roaring whitewater monsters.

Take the most rain ever to fall in Nashville over 48 hours… and double it. At one point along the Cumberland, in better days, a relatively civilized river was a few hundred feet across. By Monday morning, after over a foot of rain, that same stretch of river had swollen to thousands of feet across, and it carried cars, livestock and whole buildings along at an astonishing pace. Structures that weren’t floated off their foundations were crushed under the weight and pressure of millions of tons of running water, pushing debris ahead like battering rams. Every crushed building, uprooted tree and floating car added to the mass that careened downstream, multiplying the flood’s destructive power.

As the flood waters recede – and they continue to recede, a week later — they leave behind mud, building materials, brush, dead things, an evil stench, uncatalogued contaminants and nightmarish memories that will last as long as the survivors.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the system of dams, locks and generating sites along the Cumberland and other rivers in the region, had no experience to guide them in operating the flood gates and locks to best manage the water, because not since the completion of the system in the late ‘60s has so much rain fallen in so short a period. The best they could do for a few days was operate the system to keep the floods from destroying it, adding greatly to the surrounding destruction. That they did.

When I had time to watch national news, which was seldom, I was amazed at how little coverage was given to our situation. My amazement diminished when I thought about it.

I composed a “top-ten list” of reasons the lamestream media ignored this story:

10. Tennessee is a Red state. You could skip 9) through 1) now, and know all you need to know.

9. Al Gore didn’t call a press conference at his Nashville estate to blame the flooding on global warming.

8. People in Tennessee don’t sit around and wait for the gummint to give them a hand. They help themselves, and each other. No government dependency story, here, folks; move along!

7. New Orleans Progressive hack Ray Nagin is not the mayor of Nashville. Karl Dean is. Dean took personal responsibility for his city’s rescue and recovery, and was clearly in charge. No whining, no blame-shifting, just good communication and effective action.

6. People in Middle Tennessee cling to their bibles and guns. Looting makes good video, but it has not become a popular leisure-time activity here, because it is publicly frowned upon, and is likely to be fatal.

5. There is no way to blame it on Karl Rove, Halliburton or Dick Cheney.

4. CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and CNN did not inform the hacks and opportunists in Washington of events in Tennessee, thus depriving them of timely photo opportunities against a backdrop of hapless victims and tireless aid workers. No one watches MSNBC, so coverage there would not have mattered, anyway.

3. There was no way to blame it on Wall Street speculators, Big Oil or Big Tobacco.

2. It’s hard for the race mongers to claim racism, since people of all races got wet, and people of all races were immediately helping each other, without waiting for government permission or coercion.

1. There was no way to blame it on George W. Bush.

It doesn’t matter much to locals to notice the way we were ignored by a crisis-hungry White House and its propaganda engine, but it certainly tells us who our friends are – and aren’t — and how we stand in the eyes of the current establishment.

It’s not hard to imagine. Some primped New York twit from a network morning show in fashionable raingear, trailing a camera crew and makeup artist, walks up to a Bubba dragging soggy, stinking carpet out the front door of his mobile, or searching for his lost goats in the trees, or carrying a dripping family photo album. The twit sticks a microphone in his face, and asks, “So, how do you feel? Don’t you wish Bush and Cheney had done more to prevent this?”

Considering the most reasonable reaction to the kind of stupid question said twits are capable of, maybe it’s just as well. There were enough casualties from the flood waters, without adding any New York twits to the body count. A jury of peers would acquit Bubba in five minutes, but the lawsuits would go on forever.

Stick your microphone where the sun don’t shine, New York twits. We’ll manage without you, somehow.

After all, we’ve managed up to now.

When Old Tech Rules: Learning to Use a Scythe

July 6, 2009
The Marugg Company, Tracy City, TN

The Marugg Company, Tracy City, TN

This article is about buying and using a scythe.

Yes, a scythe.

I am an IT guy, a radio amateur, and a fan of technology in general, but I do not limit myself to the technology of modern day — leading edge, bleeding edge, or otherwise. In fact, some “paleotechnology” beats the modern stuff, in the right context. A brace and bit beats a rechargeable drill with a dead battery ten times out of ten, and a crystal radio will get you the local radio stations when an ice storm has the power off and the double-A in your Walkman breathes its last.

Don’t mistake me for a victim of romantic nostalgia.  I have no desire to go back to the time before the Salk Vaccine, or when getting the horse manure off the streets was a major issue, or before indoor plumbing and air conditioning. A Luddite, I am not. Where old tech works, however, it’s just plain stupid not to know how to use it.

Nor am I an environmental zealot. I think man-caused global warming is a fraud, and a pretext for taking away individual rights that have not already been taken in the name of saving the children lucky enough to avoid an appointment with the abortionist. And those rights not stolen in the process of giving welfare to illegal aliens, protecting the public against violent attacks by roving gangs of Christians and Constitutionalists, and preserving the habitats of spotted owls and snail darters, are not in danger from me.

It’s simpler than that. I need to cut some grass and weeds on a slope that is too steep and creepy to cut with the mower deck on my little diesel tractor, and I don’t want to use a gas-powered string trimmer. I hate the damn things. A gas string trimmer is a back-breaking, expensive stick, with a debris-spewing, hissing, whirling dervish on one end, a hot, stinking, noisy, temperamental motor and a tank of highly-flammable liquid at the other; and an exhausted, nearly-deaf, weed-juice-spattered dummy in the middle. Politics and environmentalist feelgood-ism played no part in this decision.

I have not been the weed-juice-spattered dummy since the end of May, 2009, when I brought home my “European-style” scythe, bought in-person at the Marugg Company [www.themaruggcompany.com], in Tracy City, Tennessee. My gas string trimmer is in the long-term custody of my nephew, who will probably continue to store it in his garage.

I have been on my tractor, the classy little Kubota BX1500, cutting a wide, smooth swath through grass and weeds on open areas that, from a transplanted Middle Tennessean’s perspective, are close enough to level to avoid the feeling that one is risking life and limb. I don’t regret a single molecule of Carbon Dioxide the tractor or I exhaled in that process. That is guilt-free CO2, and Al Gore can get over it.

I researched the subject of the scythe extensively – well, as extensively as one can without leaving one’s chair in front of one’s Internet-connected computer – before I settled on the Marugg scythe. Indeed, I was surprised to discover considerable scythe-related content can be dug up with some judicious use of Ixquick, my Google replacement, privacy-protecting meta-search engine.

Not only is there a lot of content, there is even a bit of controversy among the scythe-using community. Yes, controversy! Not about the difference between American-style scythes and their European counterparts, but among those who agree that the lighter, sportier European models are better than the clunky, heavy American models.

Some Canadians, such as the members of the Vido family, as represented by Scythe Works  and Scythe Connection  approach the subject of scythes with more than a little of the ardor of the evangelist. In fact, their ardor puts me off a bit, as they give the impression that people with questions or concerns about scythes should be treated with some disdain and impatience, and maybe even some arrogance.

I coined a term for this rather zealous branch of the scythe fraternity: Scythentologists. They are impatient with the stubborn, unenlightened masses who prefer to see the scythe as a tool for which there may be quite appropriate uses, but don’t find themselves able to treat it as an object of worship, a tool for artistic expression, or as a focus for an entire school of metaphysical contemplation.

To get a taste of the fervor, self-righteousness and near-contempt with which the unenlightened are treated by Scythentologists, I offer you some email correspondence between your humble blogger and Peter Vido, from the early stages of my research into scythes.

First, my note to Scythe Connection, (which apparently was the wrong place to address my questions anyway, as Mr. Vido takes pains to point out)… Well, see for yourself.

On 18-May-09, at 9:45 PM, Tom Cox wrote:

First, my sizing info: Height: 70 in.; Ground to shoulder: 60 in.; Ground to core of hip joint: 34 in.; “Cubit”: 19 in.

Second, my contact info:

Tom Cox

[contact info]

Background:

I am 60 years old, in relatively good physical condition (able to do most of my own odd jobs and grounds keeping chores), and dealing with a hilly, rural acre that is so steep in places that it makes me nervous to try to mow on my Kubota BX1500 tractor. There are also places where the ground stays wet all spring, and, even though it has turf tires, the tractor will strip or rut the turf, even on near-level ground.

I would like to be able to get some mowing work done early on summer days, without stalling until the dew is off. I understand that dew-wet grass is easier to cut with a scythe, which is good for me. By the time the dew is gone, the temp and humidity are into the range where just being outdoors is work, let alone doing anything strenuous.

I have some areas on the slopes where the grass has gotten long (2 – 3 feet), because of heavy rain and my reluctance to tackle it on the tractor. The gas weed eater is slow, noisy, messy and really hard on my lower back due to the asymmetry of the stress of using it, especially while walking the slopes. I get tired of coming in from trimming with a green paste of “yard salad” all over me, with my ears ringing from the noise, and overheated from wearing the chain saw helmet or goggles.

Another area of concern is a steep slope that has become overgrown with blackberries and sapling trees. I can attack it in small doses, downhill-only, with the tractor, but it is a little nerve-wracking and may be somewhat risky due to the hazards of rollover and hitting hidden rocks and stumps with the mower deck that I don’t see from the seat. I don’t want to belt a rock through the window or wall of my mobile home like a line-drive homer.

I doubt that [it is] realistic to expect one blade to do a good job on both the grassy slopes and the berries, so I am focusing on the grass, which I may be able to give to my nephew to feed his goats. In any case, the grass will be gone before it can become a fire hazard, and leaves a less friendly habitat for ticks, which are plentiful here. Goat fodder or garden mulch — at least it’s put to use and out of my way.

If I can mow the tender grass and weeds between patches of berries, I may be able to conquer the latter with the tractor, or, as a last resort, the Woodman’s Pal. With the surrounding grass and weeds out of the way, either method will be easier and safer.

I want a peening set, because the idea of working the metal appeals to my aesthetic sense, as well as to my frugality. I might graduate to a hammer and anvil at some point. I also want to get a suitable stone and holster.

I assume I would be best off with the shortest snath, given my height and the prevalence of sloped terrain. The #0 blade looks like a good one to start with, since I am a learner, and it is inexpensive compared to the average. I can come back for another blade when I know more. Am I on the right track with these choices?

Am I missing anything major? Assuming I get the items listed, what would the price be in US dollars (such as they are, these days), and the shipping to Tennessee (37036)?

Thanks for your time and the benefit of your expertise.

Best Regards,

Tom Cox

I thought that was a fairly uncontroversial approach — conversational, not confrontational, asking questions that would lead me to choose the right combination of products for my application, with (at the time) the intention of spending money with them upon getting my questions answered. Well, silly me. Mr. Vido replies:

Tom,
I tried to call you last night to respond more comprehensively to your scythe inquiry than I have time for in writing — but reached only your answering machine. (Our phone is far from the house, I’m there once or twice a day at irregular hours and thus there is little point of you trying to call back.)

So instead I suggest you contact Alexander at http://scytheworks.ca/ (which, if you read our catalogue introduction carefully, is where you would have sent your e-mail.) Just two quick pointers: Firstly, I think that given your terrain (and experience) an 80cm blade may be too long. Secondly: Totally regardless of  my involvement in scythe retail (but knowing what I do about the scythe’s potential) if I were you I’d give away (or sell cheaply) both of your machines and obtain suitable scythes to replace them. Your machines have no future to speak of; the scythe does! To help you understand what I’m saying here read (carefully) more information on our website — none of which was inspired by business considerations.

Sincerely,

Peter Vido

After scolding me for addressing my questions to the “wrong” party (he is a marketing genius, obviously), Mr. Vido offers me the unsolicited and un-useful advice to “give away (or sell cheaply)” my equipment, including my cherished Kubota tractor, and “obtain suitable scythes to replace them.” Uh-huh.

Gosh, Mr. Vido, which scythe model will carry 400 pounds of dirt or firewood in the loader bucket, grade my gravel driveway with the rear blade, or re-position a 26-foot camper trailer with a 2-inch receiver adapter on the three-point hitch, all the while sipping diesel as if it were expensive champagne?

I am so glad I held off on spending my allotted scythe money until I had taken another look at the Marugg folks’ site and product line. Their small, friendly shop and store are in Tracy City, Tennessee, a cool little town at the end of a pleasant, two-hour drive from our home in the northeast corner of Dickson County, about twenty miles west of downtown Nashville.

Although I had already communicated with Amy Wilson, owner of Marugg with her husband, Allen, by email and phone, we had not met until our arrival in Tracy City around midday on May 26th. Amy made my wife, her sister and me feel welcome immediately, and proceeded to give us a tour of their facility – an unassuming, single-story building with a plaque on the front door that says that “The Marugg Company has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior – 1873.”IMG_1792r1

I am a fan of the history of technology, including that of manufacturing. As a former resident of Muncie, Indiana, I have become somewhat familiar with the late, lamented era of American history in which our country was the manufacturing heart of the world.

Remember when we made stuff? Muncie was home to General Motors plants (well before it became Federal Motors) in the middle and latter parts of the last century, but Muncie’s involvement with manufacturing predates that period, thanks to the plentiful fields of natural gas that permeated that part of the country. Muncie also was the manufacturing site for giant, stationary internal combustion engines that powered manufacturing plants all over the world between the times when steam and water powered factories, and the advent of plentiful electricity. Muncie Oil Engine was a premier manufacturer of huge, slow-turning but very high-torque engines that powered a whole generation of factories for decades before cheap electricity made them obsolete.

Factory buildings of that era had a long, skinny form factor, because the power to operate the heavy machinery that made the goods the world bought was distributed through the plants not by wires, but on implausibly long, rotating spindles, driven at one end by the enormous, slow-moving but powerful engines of the type manufactured in Muncie. Every drill press, trip hammer and bending brake derived its power through belts and pulleys connected to this central spindle.

A model for a manufacturing plant, dating at least from the earliest days of the 19th century, was the Springfield Amory. The armory, which pioneered many of the principles of modern manufacturing, made rifles for the US military. The wooden stocks for those rifles were turned on the Blanchard lathe, which received its power from just such a central spindle. Early photos and drawings of plants like the Armory show the unmistakable signature of the central spindle, connected to surrounding machines by long, serpentine belts and pulleys, whether the power on the business end was from a water wheel, a steam engine, or a Muncie Oil Engine or its kin.

All of the above is meant to explain why I was pleased to recognize the remnants of such a power distribution system in the Marugg plant. Amy didn’t know how the original plant’s power was produced before the electric era (probably brought to Tracy City by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the years after World War I), but I would bet that, in 1873, when the plant was owned by the Swiss family for which it is named, it was powered by coal-fired or even wood-fired steam, and maybe later by a diesel stationary engine.

From bygone days: Knob-and-tube wiring (top), and pulleys from the old spindle power distribution system, both replaced with modern electric power

From bygone days: Knob-and-tube wiring (top), and pulleys from the old spindle power distribution system, both replaced with modern electric power

SpindleDriveMotor

The electric motor in the background was used to power the spindle system, at some point in the past. Before electricity, power was from steam engines, and then from large, stationary internal combustion engines like the one show herehttp://ralph.lafayette.la.us/stationary-engines/muncie.oil.engine/

In any case, some pulleys and spindles were still in evidence in several places around the building. That power system had long been replaced with “knob and tube” electrical wiring, which was modernized by subsequent owners up through the acquisition by Allen and Amy Wilson. Such a tangible connection to history is a pleasure to discover in the midst of modern life.

As Amy gave us a tour and lecture, she was picking up the parts of the scythe that would be going home with me. She measured my height, my “cubit” (yes, cubit – length from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger) and the height from my shoulder to the ground, so I would leave with the right length “snath” (sounds like a made-up name for a Muppet character, but it’s the term for a scythe handle, dating at least from the English of Shakespeare).

As mentioned, there are two main styles of scythes, including both blades and snaths. The American style snaths are heavy; some of them even made from aluminum or steel, and the blades are heavier, too. American blades are made from stamped steel, and seem to rely more on brute strength and momentum to cut, while European blades are hammered from more malleable steels, and can take a very sharp edge, if that is desired.

A European blade whistles through grass or wheat stalks like a breeze, cutting like a sharp knife (not an imitation hacksaw blade, like some cheap steak knife, but a real, smooth-bladed knife), striking the grass at a shallow tangent to the axis of motion, and slicing through a narrow band of vegetation with each swing, but with little more effort than that required just to move the blade through the arc.

An American blade is apparently intended to cut more like an ax or a cleaver, striking the grass nearly perpendicular to the axis of motion, and requiring considerably more effort with each stroke to carry it through the cut material. To appreciate the difference, try cutting a ripe tomato with a very sharp knife, and then try cutting it with a meat cleaver.

If these snath dimensions had been wrong, or if I had bought just any snath from eBay, I’d be hacking and swishing my way through the weeds like a demented golfer, wasting time and energy, and thinking dark thoughts of going across the road to liberate my gas string trimmer from my nephew’s clutches.

Marugg imports scythe blades from European manufacturers, but it makes its own snaths. Amy chose a curved snath for my use, and although I don’t really understand the functional difference between a curved snath and a straight one, mine works well.

Amy Wilson, onwner with husband Allen of the Marugg Company, does some drill press work on my scythe snath.

Amy Wilson, owner with husband Allen of the Marugg Company, does some drill press work on my scythe snath.

Amy takes a phone order from a customer in texas, while I roam and shoot.

Amy takes a phone order from a customer in Texas, while I roam and shoot.

The Marugg people hand-pick their snath material from Tennessee hickory.  Candidates for that role are stacked all over the plant. To get that sporty, Euro curve, they steam a batch of snaths in a tub to soften them, and strap them down to one of the original  pieces of equipment unique to the Marugg shop: a snath bending rig. It looks a bit like a medieval torture device, but I heard no complaints from the couple dozen steamed hickory sticks that were getting their bend fixed in place. They looked comfortable. Maybe they thought it was more like a spa treatment; getting a massage after a soak in the hot tub.

Snath bending rack, overseen by Marugg quality control inspector/mouser

Snath bending rack, overseen by Marugg quality control inspector/mouser

Snath bath -- the hot tub where snaths get steamed before bending

Snath bath — the hot tub where snaths get steamed before bending

The next crucial choice was that of the right blade for my usual mowing jobs. Of course, it had to be a light, sporty, Euro-style blade, but there are hundreds of different styles of scythe blade just in that category.

A scything virtuoso – perhaps an accomplished Scythentologist – who would be cutting wheat or grass in a cultivated field, would want a long, light grass blade that can be made sharp, to cut a wide swath (another Middle English word first associated with scything, apparently). Such a user will not subject this blade to the indignity and abuse of trying to cut coarse weeds, sapling trees, or (shudder) hitting rocks.

Scythe blade inventory, imported from (mostly) Austria -- to match the tool to the job

Scythe blade inventory, imported from (mostly) Austria — to match the tool to the job. Using the wrong blade for the cutting job would be like using the wrong bit in a drill.

I, on the other hand, being of the unwashed and uninitiated, scythe-wise, could be expected to abuse the blade somewhat, in the process of learning the swing, and to satisfy my curiosity as to exactly how thick a sapling or berry cane I could cut with it. Also, as I said in my email to (Professor? Father? Bishop?) Vido, above, my mowing will not be in a level, cultivated field, but in land that has never seen a plow, is constantly prey to encroaching brush, and includes the need to trim close to fences and buildings.

Amy recommended a “brush blade,” which is shorter than a “grass blade,” and with a deeper and slightly thicker back, putting a little more metal between me and whatever I attack with my scythe. I went with her recommendation, and I was not disappointed. I have subjected this scythe to considerable abuse, both accidentally and in the process of learning its limits, and it is holding up well, with some maintenance.

Maintenance is another way the European blades differ from their American counterparts. To sharpen an American blade, the preferred method is either filing or grinding. Filing is slower, but doesn’t heat the blade the way grinding does, changing the character of the metal in ways that affect its hardness and wear resistance, and using up metal at a high rate. One does not approach a European blade with a file, and — Heaven forbid — with a grinding wheel. These methods are simply too rough and unrefined. A bit of filing may be called for to repair a damaged blade, but grinding — never.

Sharpening European blades take a kinder, gentler approach. The metallurgy of European style blades calls for frequent sharpening, even in the field, but with much less metal removed at a time, and a sharper edge attained with less effort. The doctrinaire method of field sharpening is with a whetstone that the user carries in a container that holds the stone(s) in water. The stone soaks up water and stays cleaner, that way, keeping its pores from clogging with metal particles that would reduce its effectiveness.

Sporty, Euro stone holster, complete with belt clip -- holds two stones in water.

Sporty, Euro stone holsters, complete with belt clip — holds two stones in water.

After the removal of metal near the edge with several sharpenings with the stone, however, the cutting edge recedes to the thicker region of the blade, requiring more metal to be removed to arrive at a sharp edge. To thin or draw out the edge, the European blade is peened gently with a hammer and anvil designed for that purpose, or with a combination of tools called variously a peening jig, or a peening apparatus. The latter device, used correctly, allows the novice to thin the blade with calibrated hammer blows that compact the metal, making it stronger, while thinning the edge to allow it to be honed with the whetstone to a thin, sharp cutting edge.  The apparatus comes in two pieces – a fixture, and two cylindrical pieces that are struck against the fixture with a hammer, with the edge of the blade between them.

The fixture is a machined cylinder of tough steel with a central body about two inches thick and six inches long, turned down on a lathe at one end to a spike, and at the other, to a column about the diameter of a finger. The fixture’s spike is driven into a piloted hole in a section of tree trunk or a stout workbench, to keep it steady and to absorb the impact of the peening hammer. The other pieces are cylinders with their centers bored out to fit smoothly over the column in the fixture, but with a face at the opening that is beveled to the angle desired for the blade edge.

The blade fits between the pieces, with the cutting edge resting lightly against the smaller column, just to insure that it is compressed the proper distance toward the back with each stroke of the hammer. One cylinder is beveled for preliminary shaping – usually marked with a single groove around the outside diameter, and the other for the final contour, is marked with two grooves.

The first cylinder puts the initial contour on the edge, or repairs a major dent or crack. The second one puts on the final contour, and is most often used for maintaining the working edge at the proper thickness after a few sharpenings.

Foreground: hammer and anvil combo; far side of front stump: Peening apparatus.

Foreground: hammer and anvil combo; far side of front stump: Peening apparatus.

SharpeningToolsCloseUp

Various scythe sharpening tools, close up

My scythe budget only allowed for the hammer and anvil combo, which is about half as much as the peening apparatus from Marugg. I have peened the blade a couple of times to what I imagine to be a “good” thickness, but I will be getting an apparatus as soon as I can afford it, to take the guesswork out of that part of the maintenance routine.

I want to go back to Tracy City again as soon as we can afford it, and take more pictures of the Marugg facility. I enjoy being in the company of people who understand that the virtues of technology extend to whatever works, whether it is today’s, or yesterday’s. I also like to be around people who can be enthusiastic about a subject they know well, without being self-righteous about it. There is no hint of Scythentological fervor at Marugg — just friendly enthusiasm.

My next “wish list” will include the peening apparatus, and possibly another scythe blade, or maybe a “scythe sickle” – a short-handled sickle with a scaled-down scythe blade, for close-in trimming around landscape plants and garden beds, and an old-style weeding hoe that looks a lot more effective than the modern ones.

I also want to go back to a superb little restaurant in Tracy City, The Dutch Maid Bakery, It’s only a short walk from the Marugg shop to the restaurant, and you’d be foolish to plan a trip to Marugg that didn’t include lunch there, and some baked goods to go, and maybe a souvenir or two from their gift shop.

So goes my experiment with the centuries-old technology of the scythe. Unless circumstances force other, older ways of doing things on me, I’ll probably stick with factory-made clothes, indoor plumbing, networked computers and the Kubota tractor.

MaruggIcon

Marugg Trademark

But the scythe is here to stay.

Gratuitous, artsy shot of old machinery in the Marugg plant.

Gratuitous, artsy shot of old machinery in the Marugg plant. Looks like an idler pulley, meant to keep tension on the drive belt, but to allow it to slip if a piece of wood jams the tool.

My new scythe, sized for me and wrapped to travel.

My new scythe, sized for me and wrapped to travel.