Sunday, July 21, 2024

Jerry Nelson: A shipshape shop

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I have never been accused of being a neatnik – my desk resembles the aftermath of a tornado – but I have lately found great pleasure in tidying things up.

A good example would be my newly rebuilt old farm shop. It has taken more than a year, but I’ve finally gotten the shop to the point where I feel that it’s exactly the way I want it.

This has been a long but fulfilling process, one that involved the acquisition of tools that I deemed essential. Sometimes this meant buying a new item while at other times a used piece of equipment proved to be just the thing. I hate to admit this, but I now understand the thrill that some people (ahem, my wife) get from shopping.

One item that I couldn’t find at a good price on the used market was an anvil. There are lots of anvils available online, but they cost roughly as much as a Buick.

Plus, we’re talking about anvils that weigh approximately as much as a Buick. The kind of anvils that Wile E. Coyote would purchase from Acme Co. in his relentless pursuit of chicken fried roadrunner.

I found a new anvil online at a reasonable price. It weighs 66 pounds, so I hope the UPS guy didn’t hurt his toes when he dropped it off at our house.

I didn’t need an anvil; I simply wanted one.

Anvils are difficult to use when they are sitting on the floor. I decided to go “old school” and mount the new anvil on an old chunk of log.

Thanks to the derecho that roared through our area two years ago, we have plenty of anvil stand candidates lying around. I opted to go with a section of ash tree that’s knotty and has numerous worm tracks. It’s gnarly and old, somewhat like me.

It took a little doing to get the stump into proper shape – making a ripple-free, square cut with a chainsaw is harder than it looks – but I finally got things squared away. After bolting the anvil to the stump, I felt that the shop was finally complete.

Since the shop was empty, I decided to use the opportunity to give it a thorough cleansing. I trotted out my power washer and began to blaze away.

There is something simple yet deeply satisfying about power washing a floor. You are using pressurized water (a) to herd the dirt (b) into the drain (c). Your reward is a shop floor that’s sparkling clean. Not that it will remain that way for very long. At least I hope not.

I was putting the power washer away when I noticed a buzzing sound in the vicinity of the shop’s north wall. And it didn’t have anything to do with my aging ears.

I strolled outside to investigate and discovered a cloud of bees buzzing around a tree that stands a few yards from the shop. I’ve watched enough nature programs to realize that this was a swarm. A queen bee and about 100,000 of her closest friends had decided to relocate and were shopping for a new home.

I at first found this alarming but then thought better of it. I decided to let the bees settle in and establish a hive. When the time was right, I could install a pipe that would run between the shop and the hive. I would probably have the only shop around that could boast that it has fresh raw honey on tap.

But after considering all the stinging implications, I called Adee Honey Farms and got in touch with Brett Adee. Brett said that he would be out first thing in the morning.

Brett arrived and I showed him the tree. Nothing! Not a single buzz nor bee.

“The bees probably found a better tree,” Brett said. “That’s too bad. We beekeepers call collecting a wild swarm a freebee.”

I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I won’t have to worry about being stung while working in the shop. But I also felt the sting of rejection in the knowledge that the bees had found our tree lacking.

As of this writing I’m starting down the path of my tonsil cancer treatments. Numerous forms had to be filled out and meetings scheduled with various experts. You would think that I’m being vetted for a seat on the Supreme Court.

The word “chemoradiotherapy” has recently become part of my vocabulary.

I like to imagine that chemo is an anvil and radiation is a hammer. Together they will smash the tumor and forge a new future. One where cancer has buzzed off.

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.

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