Saturday, October 15, 2016

What I read this Summer by Steve Ritch

Summer is gone, the leaves are beginning to turn color and the school buses are back on the roads again. Time to sharpen up the ole Number 2 and crank out a book report; or do they even do that anymore? Oh well, it’s been a long time since the last book review so here goes.

Ultimate Guide to Farm Mechanics ( ISBN: 978-1-62914-445-0 ) published by Skyhorse Publishing , Inc. in 2015 is a collection of three separate how to books dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Farm Mechanics by Fred D. Cranshaw and E.W. Lehmann was first published in 1922. It was intended as the authors state in the preface to serve as a textbook in vocational education classes for students in rural, agricultural areas but there is a wealth of information here for almost anyone. The subjects covered include; woodworking, working with concrete, blacksmithing, sheet metal projects, maintaining farm machinery , making belts for belt driven equipment and rope and harness work. A lot of useful information is packed into the 412 pages of this section.
Next up is Farm Engines and How to Run Them by James H. Stephenson. First published in 1903 this book was written as an introduction to the operation of steam boilers and engines for the novice operator. This section is the reason I bought this book and if you’ve ever wondered how a steam engine works, this book is for you too. While certainly not a substitute for the hands on training you receive at a steam school, it is a good place to start. Subjects the author covers include: the different kinds of boilers and how they operate, the component parts of an engine and what they do, how to fire the boiler and operate the engine and tips for handling your traction engine on the road. There are also chapters that cover operating gasoline engines and threshing machines. A word of warning is in order. Back at the beginning of the 20th century they liked giving test. At the end of the third chapter you will be given a seventy five question quiz. If you cannot  answer questions like: “How would you set a valve? What is lap?” and “How does the Woolf reverse gear work?” you are not permitted to read the next chapter till you can “answer all these questions readily.”
 We all know what to do about an egg sucking dog but what to do about an egg eating hen? Not to worry, just turn to page 884 in Farm Conveniences and How to Make Them for a simple solution to this vexing problem that you can make in your home workshop. Penned in 1884 by Byron D. Halsted this third section is a collection of DIY solutions for common problems encountered on the farm. Subjects covered range from Relief for Bog-Spavin and Thorough-Pin to Plowing from the Inside of the Field and many more handy homemade helpers on the next 300 plus pages.
 Where can I find this 1049 page treasure trove of arcane knowledge you ask. Well, there are several options. Visit for a list of vendors offering paperback editions at $17.95 and ebook versions at $2.99. I have also seen the paperback for sale in Farm Collector Magazine. Here’s an exclusive tip for Mule visitors: you can order the paperback version from Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller Co. for a lot less.

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