As I go farther down the trail of life I have decided to spend my latter years learning to do things that I always wanted to learn or even was jealous that others knew how to do and I did not. I have new found respect for my grandparents and the skills that they had learned and oh how I wish I had paid more attention to some of the crafts they mastered. My grandfather on my mother’s side of the family, Otto, was a carpenter and could build a house from the ground up all by himself. My grandfather on my father’s side, Eddie, was a jack of all trades and one of the gentlest men I have ever known. Both were men of God and high character and taught me many of the skills I know today, but I could have learned so much more if I had only been more attentive. When something broke they did not run to Home Depot or Lowe's and buy a new one. They went to the barn or shop and fixed it. I have seen both make a part and fix something for a tractor or piece of equipment on the ranch and go right back to work. If a saddle strap or bridle was broken they mended it. If a hose leaked it was patched. Tires were taken off the wheel and patched on the spot. I can remember sitting in the barn on rainy days with a hammer and anvil beating old bent nails back straight to be used again in the next project. Wood and metal tools were cleaned, oiled, sharpened if need be, and cared for to use for a life time, then pass down to the next generation.
I have been learning such things as wood boat building and general wood working. I am studying about such things as vineyards, wine making and gardening. I made my first batch of Mustang Grape wine this last year. My wife and I made Mustang grape, Algerita and Prickly Pear jellies and jams from wild fruits we gathered at the ranch this last year. I want to learn such skills as welding, cheese making, dairying with goats, beekeeping, masonry and a host of other things before my time on this earth has passed. I told my wife the other day that by the time I leave this earth I might be a pretty useful person. I only wish I learned more of this when I was seven foot tall and bullet proof, but such are the dreams of older, wiser men.
In the last few weeks I cured a whole pork loin and made some wonderful Canadian style bacon. I made pickled spiced peaches from fresh Texas peaches and canned them with a hot bath just like my German grandmother used to do.
One morning this last week I had a wonderful experience that I will remember the rest of my life. I was invited to assist my friend, Chris Smith, in the task of working the bee hives in his apiary. I hope to eventually be able to have my own apiary, but if I never do I will always have the memory of holding hundreds of honey bees in my hands watching them care for brood and do their work just inches from my veiled face. Standing there holding a frame of comb covered in hundreds of bees while thousands more buzz around you is an awesome experience. At the opening of the first hive there was rush and you have an unsure feeling as you wonder if the bees will attack and try to sting you. After a few minutes of working the bees and inspecting for their general health, productivity and hive growth you are more worried about mashing one of the bees than about getting stung.
I can tell you one thing, be sure and wear as little clothing under the protective bee suit as you can in this hundred degree Texas weather. I had on jeans and a long sleeve shirt under my bee suit and after a couple of hours in that suit I was drenched and parched. I then had the pleasure of getting to sit and talk about the experiences with the bees while sipping on one of Chris's homemade ales. Now I want to learn how to make ale too. Get out and broaden your horizons, learn a new skill and pass it on to the next generation. They will some day thank you for doing so, Wild Ed