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#Pocketdump: Farm Edition

Updated on June 30, 2017

#pocketdump : Farm Edition

Some of the contents of my pockets on a typical day.
Some of the contents of my pockets on a typical day. | Source

What story do your pockets tell?

The contents of ones pockets tell a story. That story can change from day to day, project to project, or whether your working or on vacation. Odds are, there are some staples that make it into your pockets regularly. Your cellphone? Lip balm? Car keys? We have all found ourselves with lots of odds and ends crammed in these handy holders, but, for the most part, we have designated core items to the limited real estate of our pockets. What items have made the short list may tell more of a story than you might think.

Far from some of the most popular hashtags out there (#kitten boasts nearly 25 million posts on instagram alone), #pocketdump will conjure up just shy of 700k posts. I actually think that if more people thought to combine the words "pocket", "dump" and a hashtag, that the numbers would be much greater. The concept is really an interesting method of self expression and may give us a chance to analyze and streamline our daily lives.

What items give away your profession? My wife, as a certified EMT, carried a CPR mask and trauma shears. My mother, who teaches the second grade, always has a number 2 pencil and a vis-a-vis marker on her person.

Some items are there for luck, as momentos, or maybe even just out of habit. Whatever you carry around with you, it not only tells a story, but probably serves to increase your productivity and make your day just a little more convenient.


Frank Hodges Sr. milking his herd. Always used to say the he was "too poor to buy cheap tools." Funny enough, he never really carried anything in his pockets. My grandfather's old Ford pick-up was his pocket.
Frank Hodges Sr. milking his herd. Always used to say the he was "too poor to buy cheap tools." Funny enough, he never really carried anything in his pockets. My grandfather's old Ford pick-up was his pocket. | Source

The Farm Variable

So what do I find in my pockets day after day? Farming, in general, is something of a unique profession. Often you find yourself playing the role of your own mechanic, plumber, electrician, etc. etc. This is all interspersed amongst the feeding routine, patching fence and field work, to outline a typical day.

To further add to the mix, our family's farm is open to the public for a variety of events, from our pumpkin patch in the fall, to weddings and we even host a few obstacle course races.

My wife has a few old mason jars in the laundry room into which she deposits all of the surplus fasteners and components from that day's project/emergency repair. Most folks have jars filled with buttons, popouri, or maybe a scented candle decorating their laundry room shelf. My wife? Her jars are filled with structural screws, PEX fittings, wire nuts and fencing staples. Most farmer's wives are familiar with this plight, but that's probably good fodder for a whole other Hub.

Of course, in keeping with the theme, the variance in pocket content does speak to the myriad of professions rolled into the average farmers skill-set. However, there are a few staples that make the cut every time, regardless of what my Google Keep list says I'm doing that day.

The first thing that goes into my pocket is an absolute essential...

A Good Knife...or Maybe Two.

If I had to empty everything out of my pockets, save for one item, I would not hesitate to choose my pocket knife. I would probably even lose the pants themselves, if so pressed, before giving up my most basic tool.

I have always been somewhat of a knife buff, albeit, not really a collector. The difference, in my mind anyway, is that I have owned dozens of knives, most of which have not survived over the years. I tend to field test my knives until the strain is too much for them to bear. Don't get me wrong, I don't go out of my way to break a knife that I've spent hard earned money on - but I do insist on knowing just what my tools are capable of.

I have a few principal criteria that I use to judge a knife's usefulness for my purposes...

  • It must strike a balance between edge retention and ease of sharpening. (maintenance is key, I'll typically touch up my edge on the un-glazed surface of my coffee cup in the mornings. This works just like a ceramic sharpener and I've even found that different mugs have different grits.)
  • It must be large enough to fit my hand, but short enough in the blade to offer fine control when needed.
  • It must be durable! Flimsy knives are dangerous and inefficient. You lose not only blood, but valuable time if your locking mechanism fails and your blade closes on your hand.
  • I'm eventually going to break it...it has to be reasonably replaceable on a farmer's salary.

I have owned most of the flagships of the major brands - Cold Steel Voyagers, SOG Spec Elites, flashes, Aegis, Trident and maybe more...Spyderco Enduras, Benchmade Griptillians, Traditional Buck and Case folders...I could go on long after most would lose interest. I can honestly say that I recall most of these being good knives and fairly tough, but there are just a couple that I've continued to use and would consider to be "farm tough".

My two every day carry folding knives are a Benchmade H2O and a traditional Filipino utility knife called a Balisong.

I carry two knives, first, for the same reason you'd take a double bit ax camping - if one gets dull, I'll simply switch. It's no secret that a dull blade is more dangerous that a sharp one. Why? It's all about control and minimizing effort.

The second reason I carry two knives is for the increase in range of function. Obviously, both knives' primary function is to cut. However, the slender, clip pointed blade of the Balisong will penetrate into a round bale to sever the last of the baling twine. The last strands that you just can't seem to always get to with the Benchmade. The fat bellied, sheepsfoot style blade of the H2O has the cutting prowess to power through the thick rubber lines on my PTO driven sprayer. This comes in handy when I have to fix it before rain hits and I'm at the back of the property. I've even used the tip of the benchmade as a flat-head driver to tighten hose clamp fittings.

Aside from the cutting edge, if your resourceful (or desperate) enough, you'll find that a stout knife will often outperform and out-range, even a good multi-tool. I always have a P2 and a T25 1/4 inch bit in pocket pocket and have been known to wedge them into the holes of my Balisong and wrench the odd screw out in a pinch. Now having said all that, I do keep a Leatherman in most of my kits, just not on my person.


Think outside the box!

"Cutting Edge" Technology

From an Instagram post on 10 ways to use a knife without the edge.
From an Instagram post on 10 ways to use a knife without the edge. | Source
Source
Source

Number Two on the List...a Compact Flashlight

The very next thing that I make sure I grab, after my knives, is my flashlight. You don't always need a flashlight, but there are many, many places on a farm into which it is unwise to venture blind. I once walked into an old milk room, which was pitch black, and upon inspection with my light, realized that the light fixture had been torn out of the ceiling and left live wires hanging down around eyebrow height...just saying. It could also be said, on that note, that keeping a reliable voltage detector around is a good idea as well.

I find myself contorted into all different positions on the farm - from working under tractors to wrestling vitamins into a 300 pound hog. For that reason, I need to be able to move freely with my accoutrements, with a reasonable expectation of them staying on my person. Also, should something slip out - say in the hog lot - I prefer for things to be at least water resistant. This way, I can hose them off and move on.

Pen style lights seem to fit the bill on pretty much every requirement I have of a light. If you need a little more lumen power and durability, go for a reasonably priced tactical light over a typical inspection pen light.

I personally have settled on the Streamlight Stylos Pro. The shape fits deep into my pocket, making it hard to lose, but easy to reach with the steel pocket clip. The body is durable and the light is bright. The brand only boasts a "resistance" to shock and weather...However, I dropped mine in the drive, where it was run over repeatedly and sat in the rain for a week before I finally found it. Lit up first try and I didn't have to so much as change the batteries.

When I do inevitably break it, the light can be replaced for about $20 on Amazon, or at a number of local sporting good stores.



Number Three...My Cellphone

This one may seem silly to mention, since no one in their right mind would ever leave home without their phone. I'm going to talk about it anyway. Those of you who are more tech savvy than I - i.e. ages 5 and up - bear with me. Technology is not my first language...it's not even a close second. However, mostly because this is how my un-diagnosed O.C.D. works, I have stripped my phone of everything that I deem useless and have narrowed down a few useful features and apps.

  • um...the concept of carrying a telephone in your pocket. Thank you Captain Obvious.
  • Checking the weather. Absolutely crucial on a farm.
  • again, from the complex mind of Captain Obvious...a camera in your pocket!
  • There's an app for that.
  • and because Myomoto Musashi thought that five was the most complete number, I'll throw in the ability to Google stuff...like pounds per acre of fescue seed in a no-till stubble drill...etc.

I take a lot of business calls - as well as personal calls - quite literally, in the field. Not to mention emergencies...I don't often get the tractor stuck enough to call for, well, a bigger tractor...but when I do, boy howdy is it handy to have a telephone in my pocket! So, yes, the mundane idea of being able to reach other people with the wizard square that lives in my pocket is still pretty rad IMHO.

Other than being able to make and receive calls, I can't also make real time decisions in the field based on current weather forecasts. I grew up knowing that I needed to go play outside at Grandma's farm - not only because they made me - but also because, if Grandaddy or my uncle did happen to be inside, it was likely they had the weather channel on the TV anyway. If Daniel Boone had a chainsaw, he'd have used it, and if my Grandaddy could have checked the weather, from multiple sources, without having to get off the tractor? Well, he may have starved to death, but you can bet he would have used it!

Being able to take pictures is also a big plus. If you read my bio, you'll find that I did not grow up farming. Nor does the bulk of my career in farming (to date anyway) involve the use of modern machinery. The local mechanic does not work on old Ford tractors, so we typically do our own maintenance. If I'm tearing something down beyond the routine, I whip out my wizard square and snap pictures of every piece, before I take it off. Without fail, I have had to use these pictures to put my machines back together again.

I also take pictures to remind myself of repairs, share concise instructions with my team and even to catalogue what predators are hanging around the fence-lines.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, our site is often open to the public. Having a camera with me all of the time allows me to share events, behind the scenes and general happenings with fans of the farm. With the advent of apps like Instagram (which is what I use, as it is the picture book of social media) and editing apps Snapseed, I can share professional looking pictures of our farm across the globe. Pretty neat if you ask me.

Google Translate, and really Google in general, does tend to make crossing language and information barriers easier. For instance, I ordered a Crop Cannon (Google it.) from Holland. The instruction manual got wet, so all I could read were the German and Dutch instructions in the back - Translate to the rescue!

As long as I'm on the bandwagon, I also use Google Keep to create lists, keep records and as a real time message board with my crew so we're not always burning up phones with texts and calls. I even have an app that does an excellent job of scanning documents like school trip forms and receipts, for later reference. All in all, a cell phone is pretty useful on a farm.

I will also throw in there, that cell phone manufacturers are serious when they say their devices are shock and weather "resistant". I am reminded regularly that "proof" and "resistant" are not synonymous. A sturdy case and tempered glass screen protectors go on every device I have.

#farmtocharlotte , Photos from the Farm

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sunrise before setting up for Christmas Trees, touched up in SnapseedRaking hay to be baled.Planting cotton by handThe steam powered sawmill!A coyote stalking the fencelinesA new lamb!Yoga breakOur first Hay Harvest (for the 9th generation anyway)
Sunrise before setting up for Christmas Trees, touched up in Snapseed
Sunrise before setting up for Christmas Trees, touched up in Snapseed
Raking hay to be baled.
Raking hay to be baled.
Planting cotton by hand
Planting cotton by hand
The steam powered sawmill!
The steam powered sawmill!
A coyote stalking the fencelines
A coyote stalking the fencelines
A new lamb!
A new lamb!
Yoga break
Yoga break
Our first Hay Harvest (for the 9th generation anyway)
Our first Hay Harvest (for the 9th generation anyway)

Item number four...lock pick set

Probably not what you'd typically expect to find in a farmer's pocket.

So...rest assured, the reasoning behind this accessory is not B&E, but is actually quite practical.

The first notion I ever got that I'd like to learn to pick locks was, of course, after locking myself out of my house. It was a particularly hot day and I managed to lose our house keys and lock the spare set inside the house. As any normal person would do, I googled a local locksmith and requested their services. After about 30 minutes, this was a Sunday morning, a middle aged man shows up in flip flops and swim trunks. He spends about 45 seconds on my back door and unlocks the deadbolt and handle with ease. I hand him $80 cash and he's back to the pool...before he was out of the drive, I was scouring Amazon for a lock pick set.

I ended up making my first couple sets, copied from the first set I received and broke, on my bench grinder with a spool of tempered drain tape from Lowe's.

I finally settled on a Southern Ordinance basic picking set and have carried it every day for about two years now.

When I was first thrust into running my family's farm, I came across all manner of padlocks and deadbolts and had few keys to fit them. Truth be told, we actually found lots of keys... a drawer with about 15 lbs. of them. On a good day, I can pick most locks in 30 seconds or less. It became easier for me to just pick locks than to fool with trying a hundred keys and hoping for the best.

As I mentioned before, we are open to the public at different times during the year. For this reason, we have locked most of the buildings, as well as the equipment, with keyed alike padlocks. These precautions are taken for the safety of our visitors and I'm glad to have those precautions in place. However, I probably cannot recall how many times I have gotten all the way to the chemical room, or to the equipment shed and realized I forgot my keys.

Long story short, in a pinch, I can usually pick the lock and move on with my day rather than going all the way back to the house for my keys.

This knowledge has also given me insight as to which locks are more, or less, difficult to pick. This means that our high priority items, like fuel tanks, main fuse boxes and private areas are protected with locks that I can't pick...yet. ( If you're wondering, Schlage seem to be the most, consistently, difficult locks to pick.)

Personally, I've moved to mostly keypads and shim-resistant combo locks for the things I want to keep others out of. I'm curious about the bluetooth padlocks, but haven't found the right price tag quite yet.

Number five (drum role) ... Pen and Paper!

I used to carry one of those little Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks, but have started carrying a weather-proof (noticing a pattern?) pocket planner. Every day, I write down a summary of all of the noteworthy things I accomplished that day. This makes for a great motivator. You feel like you've wasted a day if you can't think of much to write down that evening.

Writing things down is also a great way to improve memory, as well as to have a hard copy to reference. When did I worm the sheep? How long did it take pumpkins to germinate? All of these answers are conveniently located in my back pocket. As an added bonus, to my knowledge anyway, Google doesn't have a way to get at the information stored in there! I call it my "black box" and everyone knows that if anything ever happens, to look for that notebook.

As I've already mentioned, I'm not all that tech savvy. So, while I'm sure there's a voice command that will take down confirmation numbers for 40,000 lbs. of lime - while I'm perched atop the old blue ford on the back 40 - it's regular old pen a paper that I count on. I have gotten out of the habit of writing important information on my arm. Between sweat and the long sleeved shirts that I wear year round, I've lost one to many bits of pertinant information to walk out of the house without my pen and pad.

It deserves honorable mention that I also typically carry a permanent marker around with me. I understand that other brands have accomplished the same feat, but Milwaukee's Inkzall markers have made it into every kit I have, as well as my shirt pocket. You may think to yourself, "how often do I really need to write through grease or dirt? How many times a day do I mark wet lumber?" If you happen to work in a profession that keeps you outside, or in a mechanic shop, you're may be thinking "all the time!" The Inkzall markers are also bright red and typically stand out...unless they're in one of my kits, into which they blend like a copperhead in leaves, but that's another story.

The last thing I'll add, both as an amusing anecdote, as well as something I truly come across regularly - on the farm at least, I find something at least once a day that I feel obliged to poke, but don't want to do it with something attached to my body. I know I work outside, but a stick is not always available and you can always rinse off a pen... or, worse case, leave it right where it's at and get a new one without breaking the bank.

The "black box", and one of my favorite G2 pens
The "black box", and one of my favorite G2 pens

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