Sunday, March 28, 2010

Measure twice, cut once.

I learned a few valuable lessons during my marriage to a tool & die maker.  Probably the most valuable of them was to "measure twice, cut once."  He would stand around watching me wallpaper and say it to the point where he was lucky he didn't end up with a wallpaper brush firmly implanted in his ear.  But truly, it was a good lesson, and one that was once again demonstrated during Androo's day here at the farm last week.

On the first day that Androo was here, I put together a long list of things I wanted him to do during his tenure here as an intern.  These are the sorts of things that will be lasting, since he may or may not be here next season, but definitely not the season after.  So best use to put him to, after the lessons in seeding, planting, chickens and cows, are those things that will last long after he is gone.  To that end, the garden was enlarged by 400 square feet.  The perimeter of the greenhouse now has a hardware cloth barrier around the foundation to minimize mouse infestations.  The fencing is in place around the big garden.  The trellises in the garden were rebuilt.  Another thing on that list was to bury an old refrigerator to use as a root cellar during the winter months, for carrots and other root vegetables.

Androo had a drawing of how to use a fridge for cold storage, and it showed the fridge sitting 5" or 6" above the surface of the ground.  I chose the spot where I wanted the fridge to be buried and Androo and I gathered up the tools needed.  My ground is very sandy, and I knew it wouldn't be too big a job to get the hole dug.  I needed to get to the butcher to pick up half a hog I ordered, so I told Androo I should be back within a couple of hours, and that we could work together to get it in the hole, as I was pretty sure that would be a two-person job.

When I got home, this is what I found.  Not only was the fridge 5" or 6" BELOW the surface of the ground at one end, it was considerably deeper at the other.  In his haste to finish the job, the fridge went into the hole without measuring, and it was in there way deeper than it should have been.  Androo said, "We can just slope the ground down towards the fridge."  I pointed out that rain water would be directed at the fridge and all of the moisture would build around it.  He said, "But the soil is very sandy and there is a layer of rocks under the fridge for drainage."

I reminded him that our drain system from the barn is always plugging because my sand is so fine that it really doesn't allow proper drainage at all!  When they dug my well out here, they got great water at 75' but had to come back and dig down to 125' because the sand was so fine that it plugged up the screening.

"Androo," I said, "there is only one thing to be done.  This fridge has to come back out of this hole and the depth has to be adjusted.  Did you measure?"  Silly question - it was obvious he hadn't.

"I estimated the depth," he said.

Sigh . . .

The biodynamic calendar flipped over to "fruit" at 3 pm and I wanted to be hard at potting up pepper seedlings when the clock struck 3. We had several hundred plants to pot, and it is tedious work. 

"Start digging," I said.  There was no way to get the fridge back out without enlarging the hole at one end.  "And remember, measure twice, cut once.  If you had measured carefully, this wouldn't have happened.  And there is a level in the greenhouse.  Let's make sure it is level this time."

An hour and half later, here is what I found.  Fridge is sitting above the level of the surrounding soil.  Note the level sitting on top of the fridge.  Job well done!!

There were several lessons to be learned here.
  1. Measure twice, cut once.  
  2. Break the job into small tasks so that you don't need to drop the fridge in the hole to get that rush of accomplishment.  Dig the hole and do it right. Give yourself a pat on the back.  Put in the rocks for drainage and make sure they provide a level bed.  Another pat on the back is in order.  Drop the fridge in the hole.  Yet another pat on the back.  This prevents an inopportune rush to the finish line.
  3. Think through the job from start to finish - what can go wrong at each step?  how hard is it to fix at each step?  Making the hole a bit too big or too small - piece of cake to fix.  Putting the fridge in the hole without measuring first - big deal to fix!  Understanding the pain of making an error helps to put things in perspective.
So we started  potting up the peppers a little late, but they all got done, and I was in the house by 7 pm.  All in all, a very good day, and one more BIG job ticked off the list.

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