Folksy Aphorisms Designed to Educate

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Most people have heard those witty quips or sayings intended to educate the younger generation. Sayings like “the early bird gets the worm”, which is intended to teach that a laggard will be one step behind a more energetic person. Or “the second mouse gets the cheese”, which warns against rushing into a situation carelessly. Many of those witty sayings directly apply to those of us who have our homesteads in a rural location. Many have obscure origins but still apply today.

“Don’t Corner Anything Meaner Than You”

Those who establish their homestead rurally face many challenges which can be of our own doing or sometimes outside our control. In the past three years we have been faced by two major incidents that were totally out of our control. In 2018, we had the Spring wildfire that was the third worst in Colorado history. The smart thing to do was evacuate far away from the flames and intense heat – which we did. We will be dealing with the aftermath for several years but our home survived.

“An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure” – Benjamin Franklin

Now, like most of our country and the world, we are self isolating and when we absolutely have to go out we keep at least 6’ from other people, wash our hands frequently, wear face masks and stay alert for any symptoms the Center for Disease Control has published about the corona 19 virus. We are more fortunate than many because our nearest neighbor is a mile away and we have purposely practiced social distancing for years. We have abundant fresh well water from deep in the ground and a plentiful stock of food. We keep a supply of food on hand because, post wildfire, the rain and melting snow brought mud/ash slides down the mountain washing out or blocking our road.

“Life Is Easier If You Plow Around The Stump”

Nothing could be more true, especially when it comes to getting in firewood. We burn during an average winter 9-10 cords of firewood. Life is easier when I cut down dead trees if I don’t get in a hurry and not pay good attention. A few years ago I cut down a 10-inch aspen and it landed on a small pine that bent over under the weight and hurled it back like a spear. I watched it zoom by and It hit a very large pine dead center and rolled off the limbs directly at me. I tried ducking under it but it rolled across my back leaving a very large bruise. I was reminded to plow around the stump — life is easier. I won’t make that mistake again.

“Drink Upstream From The Herd”

We recognized many years ago living remote in a heavily wooded area that our greatest risk was wildfire. Our property was littered with many rocks. We took those rocks and cemented them on the side of the house (see photo). We cut trees down from the house that were standing within 30 to 40 feet except for a few live aspens that are mostly water and are a low fire hazard. Any tree within that perimeter has the limbs removed up to 20 feet high and is widely spaced from other trees. Our only exposure was our front wooden deck. By removing the fuel source from around our home, we fortunately survived the wildfire and had a home to return to after the evacuation ended. Many failed to do mitigation and unfortunately ended up losing their homes. We literally were drinking upstream from the herd because of that mitigation coupled with a lot of divine intervention.

“Waste Not – Want Not”

We have been reminded of this repeatedly over the years. Instead of hauling still usable items to the dump, we store them and repurpose them. Chainsaws are a vital tool for any homestead and when they get repeated heavy use they tend to wear out. Prior to our moving here in the mountains full time, we took the basic and advanced small engine repair course so we could work on our own tools and replace parts when needed. Our rear blade for the tractor broke for the final time, we were able to repurpose the steel supports into a firewood holder and the blade into an anchor to hold the tractor tarp in place. We do not dispose of an item if it can be repurposed or repaired. We are however mindful of keeping out property tidy.

“What Your Head Doesn’t Do, Your Heels Will Have to”

I heard this as a small boy from my mother and how true it still is. I find myself repeating it often here on the homestead every time I get to my work area and have forgotten a needed tool. Boys and girls, listen to your elders when they share with you these sayings as they will come in handy throughout your life and help you avoid mistakes. All these years later I still find myself saying this to myself when I have to back track because I neglected to plan ahead so I would have the needed tools on hand for a project.

“Fool Me Once, Shame On You. Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me”

Regardless of where your homestead may be situated this saying applies. Thanks to social media, internet, satellite television and other media sources we are all in close touch with happenings around the world nowadays. News sources, politicians and others all seemingly try to fool us to accept their agenda.The days are mostly gone that we could look someone in the eye and generally tell if they were lying to us.

“When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going”

I was just a small child but I remember WWII and the wars and conflicts after that. I remember the polio epidemic (actually contracted it myself) and all the other health issues following. I have witnessed the resilience and toughness of the American people. When the going gets tough – Americans get going. We have demonstrated this time and time again. We are doing so again.

“The Best Way to Be Seen is to Stand Up. The Best Way to be Heard is to Speak Up. The Best Way to be Appreciated is to Shut Up.”

So I have stood up and shared some of these old sayings designed to help us and I have spoken up by highlighting them in bold print and by shutting up now will bring this blog to a close. I therefore hope it will be appreciated.

Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site atBruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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