I am so glad to be back into my routine. The holidays are nice but travel can be disruptive, especially when there’s a mountain of work to be done.

Traditionally I take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. We usually stay home and I use the time to spend time with my family and work on projects that are equal parts fun and necessary. This year we traveled to Tennessee to spend time with my Dad’s family.

Since he died last Spring I’ve made a concerted effort to visit more and maintain closer ties with what remains of my family tree. We drove up the Tuesday after Christmas and stayed through New Year’s Day. That meant lots of quality time with family, including interview time with my grandfather, the article will be forthcoming soon, but little time for those fun projects.

This weekend I made up for lost time.

After work Saturday I burned a mountain of brush that had built up as I continue to cut fodder for the goats. They’ve eaten all the privet, honeysuckle, and briars they can reach. Made plain by the fact that every growing thing is stripped of leaves to a height of about four feet. Since they won’t eat the woody stems I cut a sizable pile every weekend for them to forage on during the week and we supplement with a small amount of dried corn. I was two weeks behind on burning what they had stripped and I had a pretty big pile.

So big in fact that the embers survived Saturday night’s rain and I was able to re-stoke the fire during the intermittent rain of Sunday morning. Fewer things provide the sense of satisfaction you get from being able to make wet wood burn, especially in the absence of gasoline, oil or some other fuel. I discovered a “fat wood” tree in all the brush and that made restarting the fire virtually effortless. A fat wood tree is a pine that has died and rotten to the point that all that is left is the heart wood. This is highly flammable. Fat wood makes the best kindling and is sometimes referred to as candlewood as sticks of fat wood can be lit with a match.

Sunday I also trimmed the goat’s hooves. I had noticed that their hooves had started to splay and looked quite long. While on holiday I had asked my uncle if they trimmed the goat’s hooves on the farm. He said no, they never had. After researching the subject I can see why. The soil on the farm in Tennessee is very rocky. The barnyard area was chosen as a barnyard because it was too rocky to be of little use for anything else. Great boulders of limestone push their noses out of the soil like terrestrial ice bergs. Climbing and skipping all around this Grandpa’s goats maintain a near perfect manicure.

By contrast the Back Forty is soft. It’s an Alabama red clay hill covered with years of decayed leaves and deadfall. Once cleared it will make for a very fertile garden but it’ll do nothing to maintain proper goat foot health.

Saturday night I consulted the oracle of YouTube. And Sunday morning armed with a pair of Chinese cutting shears and last night’s knowledge I set to work.

It was raining Sunday morning and so I found the goats bedded down in the little shelter I had built for them. I was pleased to see that they both used it and that they were dry. Using a bucket of corn I enticed them out enough to lay a hand on Harriet. I carried her to the tool shed in the back yard, set her up with a pile of corn and set to work. Her hooves were very long and in need of trimming but her feet looked otherwise healthy.

When finished I set out for Honey. Honey is a mastermind. Having heard Harriet’s distress she headed for the thickest brush and managed to stay just outside of my reach for the better part of the day. She ignored corn and all of my other attempts to entice her within an arm’s reach. Finally Samantha and I managed to corner her in the back part of the fence and trim her hooves. Again, way overdue for a pedicure but otherwise healthy.

We continued to cut and burn brush and vines until around three o’clock. Then I shifted gears and set to replacing the windshield wiper motor on my truck.

Last summer I bought a 1986 Chevy Silverado, black with a burgundy red interior. I named it Barry White. Early on I noticed a peculiar habit. During a very heavy rain the windshield wipers would begin to slow down and function poorly. Finally during our most recent downpour they stopped working entirely.

Hoping that it wasn’t an electrical issue, I decided to replace the motor. Until recently I had viewed my time as more valuable than mechanical work and had relegated all maintenance and repair to a trusted mechanic.

The New Year, however, has brought about a bit of a downturn in my business and currently time is not so much of an issue. Certainly saving labor costs has much more of an appeal than it did before. So I did the job myself.

It took less than two hours, longer than I expected, but the important thing is that it worked! The wipers function as they’re supposed to. I even added wiper fluid to the reservoir and that works, too. Like I said, it took longer than I expected and it was dark by the time I was putting everything back together. Samantha proved an able assistant and helped with light and some crucial aspects of re-assemblage.

I ended the day by cleaning and oiling my boots, a ten year old pair of Red Wings. After dinner with my family a short glass of whiskey, a little TV, a little reading and Samantha tucked me in. All in all, a very good weekend.

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