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Howle's Hints

Stay Limber in December

By John Howle

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

- Albert Einstein

To be limber means capable of being shaped or having a flexible and resilient quality in the mind or body. The opposite of being limber is rigidity. The Bible talks figuratively about being rigid or stiff-necked in both the Old and New Testaments. Figuratively speaking, the term stiff-necked in the Bible means to be stubborn and unwilling to listen to instruction.

This term would have been one the Jewish people would have been familiar with, especially when they were plowing the ground. Typically, the ground would have been plowed with a pair of oxen, and the plowman would have one hand on the plow and the other on a goad or long switch to tap and direct the animals which way to go. The oxen that would not yield to the switch and turn in the right direction were known as stiff-necked. Often, in the Bible, being stiff-necked means one who has hardened his heart and is unwilling to listen to God or change his ways.

In a literal sense, being flexible or being limber can have health benefits. One way of doing this is by stretching. Stretching not only leads to being limber, it can increase your range of motion, help improve posture, manage stress, prepare for exercise and reduce back pain. Stretching should feel good. If it feels like you are pulling muscles when you are stretching, you are overdoing it.

It’s a great idea to stretch before you do heavy work on the farm, so you won’t pull muscles. It’s often effective to walk around a few minutes before stretching, so you won’t pull muscles that are cold. Concentrate on the main muscles you will be using for the work of the day before you begin.

Finally, don’t compare your flexibility with others, but set your own flexibility goals. When my Grandfather was in his 70s, he could stand flat footed and plant his foot on the door jamb higher than his head with first his right then his left foot. It always frustrated me that I could never get my foot on the door facing higher than my waist, but over the years, I realized that everyone has a different level of flexibility.

In addition to stretching your muscles, wearing clothing that allows you to move and stretch comfortably will make for a more efficient workday. One innovation to the clothing industry I like is the stretch fabric. Stretch denim is denim cloth or a cotton/polyester blend that incorporates spandex or Lycra into the fabric. Many of the new jeans and shirts stretch and flex as you move and work.

Plan for Snow, but Maybe It Won’t

I had to do a bit of background research to remember the details, but it was Dec. 8, 2017, and I measured just under 5 inches of snow on top of the rails of my back deck. Everything was blanketed in white, and feeding hay to the expectant cattle looked like a scene from winter in Wyoming.

The snow makes for a beautiful scene, but it’s rough on cattle when the forage is 5 inches below the snow. This makes it important to keep plenty of extra hay on hand when snow is in the forecast. It is a good idea to keep extra hay nearby in case the tractor doesn’t crank or the battery died or you name it.

Plenty of farm equipment doesn’t work too well when it’s cold and snowing. You can even put a round bale in a ring and cover it with a tarp before the snow, and once the blizzard hits, you simply pull the tarp off so cattle can get to the hay. If your tractor and hayfork is accessible, roll out the round bale like a giant roll of toilet paper on top of the snow, so cattle will have access to the hay.

An Off-Task Task Chair

Is your office chair ready to be thrown into the dump? Maybe it’s still quite comfortable, but it looks a bit ragged. Don’t throw it away. Instead, put it in your shooting house. The big advantage is the height will raise and lower with that ingenious hydraulic shaft, you can swivel in a 360-degree view, and, if nothing is moving, you can slump down for some shut-eye.

Silent Stalking

If you have a wooded trail or firebreak you walk to stalk hunt deer, you might get annoyed when you walk because it sounds like you are slowly walking across bags of potato chips as a result of all the dry leaves. Get your leaf blower and blow out a clean trail to your hunting site or down your stalking trail for some silent walking. You would be surprised by the game you can walk up on.

Christmas Clover

Clover truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Varieties of cool-season white clover add nitrogen to the soil from the nodules on the root system, and both deer and turkeys love the taste of clover in the lean, winter months. You can even frost-seed clover, allowing the frosting and heaving of the soil to work the seed into the ground in the dead of winter.

This December, remember to stay flexible in your body and clothes, and don’t let yourself be stiff-necked when God is talking to you.

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