Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Put That Rag On the Floor, Dear, It'll Help Keep the Draft Out

Another in our History of Appalachia series

The shop was the first farm building that I was going to do right. I had it all planned out. Made some blueprints and everything. I'd spent about a year gathering materials. A logger across the ridge who I used to do occasional work for had saved me some locust logs. Big ones. More than a foot in diameter. Sam and I had milled the beams. We planned on using 6x6s. A lot of 'em. (At one point during the process, Sam said, "Are we overbuilding it?"
But I had all this stuff that just kind fell towards me, and I planned on using it. Even bought brand new roofing tin. And all the while, feeling so proud that at last I wasn't just slapping something together. I was building something sturdy, something that would last, and I'd see it through from start to, ah, finish.
Well, that was seven years ago, and it still isn't quite complete. But that's alright. What's there is finished.
One of the shop's more striking feature is the tool board, where, on neatly spaced nails, I hang my shovels, hoes, rakes and other implements of destruction. And it comes about every year that it is time to treat the handles of these tools, to oil them, waterproof them, keep them shiny and nice.
My gunk of choice is boiled linseed oil. A small dose rubbed vigorously into a handle will keep the wood from splitting, cracking or rotting. Once a year is good. Some do more, some less.
I usually apply the oil with an old rag, one that can be sacrificed for the cause because the stuff will not wash out, and because it solidifies and hardens when it dries out.
Take an old rag, pour a dollop of linseed oil onto it, rub down a rake handle, then set the rag down and look at it the next day. It's stiff as a burned tortilla. Oh, it's a bit pliable, but not much. It's reminiscent of, well, a rag soaked in linseed oil is reminiscent of linoleum. And the early settlers, after caring for the handles of their tools, would lay the rags down on the floors of their cabins and it would keep the cold air and snakes at bay. After a few years, the entirety of the cabin would be covered.
Fancy easterners travelling through the area, usually to establish a missionary school or something, saw these floors and had to have them for themselves. Thus, what was common sense to any Appalachian dirt farmer became the latest fashion in the big cities.
Don't be fooled if some cursory fact-checking appears to disprove this theory. I know its true.


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