Easing Farm Chores

Boyd Hastings shares tips and tricks for making routine farm chores easier as you age.

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Boyd Hastings

Gate Weight

While some aspects of farm chores aren’t difficult, they can be easy to forget, such as closing a gate. To solve the problem, suspend a weight on a rope or chain, and attach one end of the rope to the gate post. Then, attach the other end of the rope to the far side of the gate frame. My father used a blacksmith’s anvil; I use a barbell weight or a milk jug filled with sand. Any weight suitable to the size of the gate will do. Secure the weight in the middle of the rope so it sits just off the ground when the gate is closed. When the gate is opened, the weight will automatically swing it shut.

Brown cow stands on elevated platform with stainless steel milking pail on stool in the foreground.

Elevated Milk Stand

A special bond exists between the family cow and the person who milks her every day. However, if your back is losing its flex and your knees are balking at bending, it can detract from the joy of the process. A ramped platform 8 to 10 inches in height, along with a slightly taller stool, can restore milking to its former time of enjoyment and relaxation.

An elderly man in black coat, tan trousers and green ball cap pushes a wheel chair filled with cut logs. There is a light snow on the ground and woodpile in the background.

Firewood Fetcher

I use an old wheelchair to bring in firewood. Instead of carrying four or five pieces in my arms, I’m able to fit 20 to 25 pieces in the wheelchair with much less effort. The wheels are smooth, so I don’t have to worry about tracking mud or snow into the house. When finished, the wheelchair folds flat for easy storage. The time and energy saved is amazing. Used wheelchairs can sometimes be found at thrift stores or online swap-sell sites, such as Craigslist.

A grey-haired woman in a blue top with a basket filled with lettuce on her arm stands in front of a raised garden bed filled with more early season vegetables.

Garden Solutions

As we take the time to preserve produce, let us also preserve our backs, knees, and hips. Many fruits and vegetables can easily climb up a fence panel or upright netting, or grow from containers suspended from above.

For plants that don’t climb, an old watering tub makes a great raised bed for low-growing fruits and vegetables. Keep the soil level at about a foot below the top rim of the tub, which will make it easier to cover plants with shade cloth or thermal covering. Remove the bottom drain plug so the soil drains well after heavy rains.

We’re introducing a new department that will feature tips from those living the rural life to its fullest — our readers! If you have garden, farm, or home advice you’d like to share, send an email to Letters@Grit.com, or mail a letter to 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. We pay $25 for each tip we publish.

As we launch Through the Grapevine, we’re also saying goodbye to Facts and Folklore. We’re grateful to the Old Farmer’s Almanac for the many years of advice, astronomy, and important dates they’ve shared with us, and we wish them the best in the future.

Search “reader tips” to see what other members of the GRIT community have been up to lately. You can also look for “Mail Call” to read some of the many letters we receive from audience.  We look forward to them each issue.