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Tough Grit Hints From Hank Will


Prepare a Space for a Deer Feeder

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.In your newly cleared woodland, one of the things you can do is install a deer feeder. In addition to clearing the brush off of the ground, you may also wish to clear some of the canopy so that sunlight will fall upon the clearing where your food plot will be. One way to accomplish this is with the use of a pole saw.

When using a pole saw, head, eye, face, and ear protection are recommended. Again, when working in the woods, sturdy shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and gloves are a good idea. If the pole saw is powered, adhere to all of the safety precautions you should take with a chainsaw. When you are considering cutting a branch with a pole saw, check and ensure that it cannot fall on you or anyone else. Understand that branches often rotate as they fall; try to predict how far it might be able to move, and plan to retreat when the cut is completed. Do not cut in windy or rainy conditions.

Again, common sense is crucial. Make sure that you are balanced and stable while using the saw; do not overreach or try to cut while on a ladder. If you cannot reach, get a longer saw or call a professional.

Begin your cut by cutting half of the branch diameter up from under the branch. Always finish the cut from above the branch, slightly further away from the trunk of the tree; if you cut through from below, the pressure of the falling branch will bind the saw. When pruning live trees, timing is important; it is ideal to prune live trees during the winter months, when sap flow is minimal, and insect activity is also minimal.

Double-check that you have completed all of the assembly instructions. Make sure that you place your deer feeder on level ground, or it might tip and spill the feed, injure you, incur damage, etc. Game cams can be installed nearby to allow you to monitor the local deer population and learn feeding habits.

Once the feeder is set up and level, you can insert the feed. One thing that it is important to note, is that deer, like cows, are ruminants, and need time to get used to any feed you give them. It is important to feed them the same thing consistently, or they are likely to get much less nutrition out of your deer feeder. If you want to feed them through the winter, it is a good idea to start feeding the deer several months before, so that their systems can digest the corn when they need it.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The flight zone tips above appeared in Episode 19, “Over the River and Through the Woods.”


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

Read the Label on Pesticides, Household Chemicals and More

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.  When it comes to applying chemicals of any kind around your place, it’s not only important to spend some time reading the label, it’s also important to understand what it means.

The label is the law and if you handle, store or apply the chemicals in ways that are not designated on the label, then you are technically an outlaw. Plenty of folks downplay the label, in part because it can be complicated and in part because our society has grown used to the “better-living- through-chemistry” concept.

Read the Label and Understand the Information 
As a former certified pesticide applicator in more than one state, I really want to encourage you to take every precaution with household chemicals that you can. Whether you are spraying the yard for weeds or applying synthetic fertilizers to your back 40 or spraying for bugs under the kitchen sink, the information contained in those products’ labels is there to help keep you, your family, your pets and the environment safe from harm.

The information contained in the label also holds the key to targeting the specific pests you are trying to knock back and not the plants and insects that you wish to promote.

Read and understand the label to know whether the herbicide you intend to spray on those pesky weeds in the front yard will inadvertently kill those thriving tomato plants in the backyard vegetable garden — or even worse, drift over to your neighbor’s backyard killing her tomato plants.

There’s no doubt that we experience certain conveniences with the help of chemicals. Do your homework ahead of time and you’ll avoid poisoning yourself and the environment.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The soil contact tips above appeared in Episode 18, “Lowering the Boom.”


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

Maintain Proper Soil Contact When Planting or Transplanting

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.The key to proper planting and transplanting is getting good soil-seed or soil-root contact.

What this means is that you want the newly planted seed and the newly transplanted seedling’s roots to be pressed into good, but relatively gentle contact with the soil. Think of it like a firm embrace as opposed to a crushing handshake.

Seeds want to be in contact with the soil, so that they can be warmed and watered by it, thus initiating germination. Seedling roots need structure to stand tall and physical contact to provide water and nutrients for the growing plant. But there’s more. Some seeds are sufficiently needy to require up to a month-long exposure to freezing or near-freezing temperatures as the first step in activation. Other seeds need to pass through the intestinal tract of an animal for best germination down the road — that’s definitely the case with hard-coated seeds like cherry pits. Once those seeds have gone through the cold and/or digestive tract treatment, like other, less needy seeds, they will respond to appropriate soil moisture and temperature and begin to wake up.

If your soil is loose and fluffy and your seeds are light and airy, then simply scattering them on the soil surface won’t allow them to take on moisture and germination will fail.  If you take the time to press the seeds to the soil, you will get the process started much more efficiently. In the case of transplants, think of the root system as the bottom of a straw.  If the bottom of that straw is in contact with moisture, then it will be able to convey that moisture up the straw as suction is applied. If a transplant’s roots are gently pressed into contact with the soil, they will be able to begin drawing life-supporting moisture into the plant straight off.  If those roots wind up in a subterranean air pocket, they'll just be sucking air — and unlike most people, when most plants suck air, they die.  If you crush those roots by packing them tightly with soil, you will suffocate them — in both cases, your plants will probably die. Take a little time to be sure that your seeds and transplants develop a cozy relationship with the earth, and you will reap the benefits in the form of bounty all season long.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The soil contact tips above appeared in Episode 17, “You Reap What You Sow.”


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

Adjusting the Temperature in Your Brooder

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.Ground corncobs, wood shavings, or shredded paper work well as brooder bedding material. You want to be sure that the material is not so fine that the chicks will ingest it, nor so slippery that they can’t get traction on it. Chicks raised on slippery surfaces tend to develop splayfoot, which cripples them for life.

Turn on the heat lamp to warm up the brooder before installing the chicks. As you add chicks to the brooder, dip their beaks into the water trough and release them. If they huddle in a tight group beneath the lamp, they are cold. If they form a ring around the lamp, pant or lounge on their sides with legs stretched out, they are too warm. Adjust the temperature warmer by lowering the lamp and cooler by raising it.

Contented chicks will peep with a mesmerizing murmur and will be more or less evenly dispersed beneath the lamp, with individuals or small groups making frequent trips to the waterer and feeder.

You will want to lower the brooder temperature about 5 degrees each week by raising the lamp in small increments, and when your chicks are fully feathered it’s time to move them to a safe outdoor coop. Take a little care with brooding and in a few months, you'll be enjoying farm-fresh eggs every day.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The brooder temperature tips above appeared in Episode 16, “Don’t Count Your Chickens.”


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

Starting Seeds Indoors

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.Once your garden’s soil is in good shape you can think about planting. Actually, you should have been thinking about planting some crops like tomatoes about 6 weeks ago. And I don’t mean planting in the garden.

Warm season crops like tomatoes generally require several months to mature and produce fruit. Even if you live in Kansas and can expect seven or eight frost-free growing months, you will want to give those jalapeno peppers a jump start by starting seeds indoors. It’s really easy.

Four to 6 weeks before the last frost date for your area, you’ll collect some likely containers: peat pots, small plastic pots, fiber egg cartons and even plastic water bottle bottoms will work if you poke some holes in them for drainage. Once you have your containers in hand, source some quality potting soil or seed starting mix, fill your containers and plant a couple of seeds in each.

Water thoroughly and gently and place under a grow light, in a well-lit window or even in a temperature controlled greenhouse if you have access to one. In a week or so seedlings will start to appear — by the time the seedlings are well established you should thin each pot to a single robust plant by pinching off the stem of those you want to get rid of. As the seedlings outgrow their starter containers, you can transplant them into larger pots and grow them on until they are ready for the garden.

Planting starts in the garden is easy, but you need to harden them off before they can live outdoors. This is accomplished by moving the plants outdoors to a relatively protected area for an hour or two at a time initially. Avoid windy full-sun sites until the plants can withstand a day in their protected area without harm.

Once you get the hang of starting your garden from seed, you will reap the rewards offered by thousands of fruit and vegetable varieties instead of the score or so available as plants from your local nursery or garden center. Either way, you'll be able to eat the freshest, most delicious produce there is.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The flight zone tips above appeared in Episode 15, “Green Thumb.”


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

Understand Your Cattle’s Flight Zone

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.Although it’s possible to get cattle to go where you want them to go by harassing them from behind, the fact of the matter is that when being chased, cattle really want to turn and face the enemy. If you take a little time to understand a cow’s flight zone and invade it from different sides and directions, you can often get them to do exactly what you want them to do with less stress and minimal chance of getting injured yourself.

The flight zone is an area approximated by a circle with the animal as the center point — a small wedge-shaped piece of that circle directly behind the animal is a blind spot. Spend some time in the blind spot and the cow will instinctively turn to face you. The flight zone’s size is directly related to how tame the animal is and how stirred up it is. Completely tame cattle have almost no flight zone, while wild cattle may have a flight zone that’s more than 100 feet in diameter.

If your cattle are calm, you can get them to move forward by arcing into the flight zone slightly in front of a herd leader and taking a few steps parallel and toward the rear of the animal. Once you are passed the cow’s halfway point, you can arc out of the zone, walk ahead and repeat the cycle. It’s counterintuitive but it works.

Take a little time to study how cattle respond to invasion of their flight zone and you may find cowboying to be a totally calming experience. Your cattle will thank you and your health insurance company will too.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The flight zone tips above appeared in Episode 14, “Rawhide.”


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

How to Attract Birds with Birdbaths and Other Watering Stations

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.Creating an attractive backyard haven for birds includes offering one or more sources of fresh water — even into winter if you can.

Birds need to drink water to keep their metabolic functions going and when hot, they will often take a cooling dip that also serves as a bath of sorts — but it’s not as effective at removing parasites as the dust bath. No matter the actual purpose, watching birds bathe in the water is quite a spectacle.

How to Attract Birds with Water Stations
Two kinds of bird water stations have proven effective. Ponds and other permanent water features make perfect bird watering stations and you won’t have to refill them very often.

If you build a water feature with birds in mind, try to create shallow areas where the birds can wade and keep them sufficiently open so that the birds can see what’s coming and feel safe. If your design includes a stream, try to build it so that water will pool in the shallows here and there.

Stand alone birdbaths make a more prevalent and easy to install water station. They consist of a relatively broad and shallow container that can be set on the ground or into a rock feature in the garden. Models that come with a pedestal are easy to locate virtually anywhere.

In both cases, the birdbath should get a good cleaning every few days. And don’t let it go dry during the hot weather. Add watering stations to feeders, foliage and housing, and you will have an endless supply of avian entertainment to sustain you through the year.

Watch the full episode! Hank shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The how to attract birds hints above appeared in Episode 13, “The Birds and the Trees.”


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .







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