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One of the things I admire about farmers is how much they can do for themselves. In addition to caring for livestock and crops, many also have a good handle on machinery repair, machinery upgrades and sometimes even carpentry and building skills.

Over the weekend, I watched an episode of RFD-TV about farmers who designed and even constructed their own farm shops.

I admit, I was not a responsible reporter who took notes; in fact I was lying across my couch just trying to relax on my weekend. But I do remember one segment where the guy they interviewed had built an in-shop elevator so he could ride up and down in his shop without climbing any steps.

This saves his back and joints, and also makes it much easier to transport supplies up and down between floors.

Other farmers designed other things, such as a hoist that lifted vertically, but also rotated horizontally, so that a farmer could lift a heavy item straight up, but also swing it to and from the work bench, which usually is somewhere along the side wall in the shop.

Some of the farmers on the show were building their own metal containment boxes for their work trucks — and as they said — there’s no better way to get the product you want, the way you want it, than to build it yourself.

On your own?

The ingenuity of our farmers is amazing, but as I watched the show, I also wondered, ‘how do you decide what to do on your own, and when do you seek help.’

With the in-shop elevator, the guy talked about how he designed an automatic shutoff so it wouldn’t continue escalating up to the roof and crush the passenger. That sounds like an incredibly obvious thing to do, but I couldn’t help to think, what if the shutoff failed or wasn’t installed properly.

The guy also talked about how he had to go against part of the operational code to make it work, and I thought, OK, I just hope it’s safe, not only for himself but for anyone else who would use it.

When I was a boy, I remember being at a farm machinery auction and the auctioneer was carrying on about how the tractor he was about to sell had a rebuilt engine. My dad told me, “it’s only as good as the guy who rebuilt it.”

Experience is everything

That seems to be pretty true when it comes to do-it-yourself projects. There are some DIY’ers who have the experience and knowledge to know what they’re doing, and their projects turn out very well; and there are others who, if their projects even turn out, end up with a lot of inefficiencies and problems down the road.

In the two short years that I’ve been a homeowner, I’ve grappled over the same question many times: When do you do it yourself and when do you hire some help.

I guess if you know something inside and out, you’re probably safe to do it on your own. But as the old saying goes, “there’s no substitute for experience,” and there are certain jobs that I don’t think an inexperienced person should even attempt.

I’ve seen a lot of DIY programs on TV lately, with big-name hardware companies encouraging the homeowner to buy and install his own bathroom tile, install cabinets, do his own painting and even some plumbing work.

Happy ending

The projects on TV always seem to turn out well in the end — and maybe they really do — but I guess I’d like to see a close-up of some of those walls people paint, or to see the rooms in person — because as rosy as they make it all look and sound, I just really wonder.

No matter how much I study how to hang a door or install a window, or how many pictures I read, I don’t think I could do it half as well as someone who has worked with windows and doors all their life. It just seems like there are always those “little” steps and tricks along the way, that only an experienced person would know.

Yet, it’s encouraging to see people’s ingenuity and determination to do their own work.

I guess it’s just a balancing act and you have to weigh your own ability against the demands of the project. I sometimes wish I could balance the two things better!

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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