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COLUMN: Time to winterize your tools

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Well, we were a little dry. I’d say we’ve definitely gotten caught up on our rainfall. This is the time when I am really thankful for a mud room. Three dogs and one cat equals to 16 paw prints per step, and we all know they always travel in a straight line. Not. Spanky runs the Indy 500 whether she’s going out or coming inside. Tiller just dances and Boomer the cat likes to twirl. I can’t blame the blind dog.

For a 2-year-old, Spanky sure is coming along. Part blue heeler and part lab/bird dog. She’s a very bright and very loving hybrid. The other evening she was sitting out on the crest of the hill, watching out over the farm.

She looked so regal, I had to step out on the porch and praise her for protecting the farm. She turns, cocks her head, then reaches down and picks up a baseball bat size zucchini and carries it off. Guess I know where her priorities lay.

This rain really has been a good thing for most things living. We are heading into winter and it’s very important that plants get to drink up as much as they can before the ground freezes.

If we go into another dry spell, be sure to help Mother Nature out and water your trees, shrubs and perennials. Don’t put your hoses up until they predict a freeze. This will make your plants all the stronger and more able to withstand a harsh winter.

Lay down that 4 inches of mulch to serve as a blanket. For those tender shrubs you may want to gather a few tools. Tobacco stakes circling the plant can serve as a frame. Cover the frame with burlap to protect against snow and wind damage. You can also make a wooden sandwich board type of protection, but they tend to blow over unless grounded somehow.

Speaking of tools, it is time to winterize. I know I may sound like I’m nagging here, but I’ve recently become a convert. A little maintenance restored my old generator. Putting a product like Sta-bil in the gas tank really is important. I’ve learned!

Seems the gas we have now days has a tendency to get gummy and a little green when it sits, which in turn gums up all the little parts which should never ever be gummed up. Clogs up all kinds of things. If you can’t do the maintenance yourself, take it to a shop and have them winterize whatever machine you have that will be sitting out the winter.

For the low tech tools, break out the brush and soapy water. Use a steel brush to scrub them, then rinse them. Use sandpaper if you’ve got a little rust. After you’ve cleaned and dried the tools, see if you need to sharpen an edge. Now is the time.

Use a whetstone or file, sharpening from the outside edge to the center, using downward strokes at an angle. The last step in tool prep is to oil a rag with old vegetable oil (or oil of some type) and wipe the metal to coat it with an oil sheen. An alternative method is to build a tall, square, wooden box, fill it with course sand and pour used oil in it. Store the metal parts of tools down in the sand for the winter.

Use Murphy’s oil soap on wooden tool handles to help preserve the wood. Wipe down plastic with bleach water to prevent mold. Tighten screws and oil moving parts. Doing all this can be a pain, but it sure saves your tools and that saves you money and that makes sense.

Now, go out there and get at those chores. That’s what October’s for, don’t you know? A bonus is you don’t have to be dressed up like the Michelin Man to do them. Happy growing.

E-mail Cheryl Steenerson at paysteen@localnet.com.