If you live in the woods, then you absolutely, positively gotta have chains.
I don’t mean the sort of chain you wear around your neck to hold your skate key or the kind you use to propel your bicycle. I’m talking serious, two-fisted all-beef log chains of the sort that loggers use to secure truck-loads of timber. The kind that has thick, steel, torus links with enough strength to give you moving power limited only by the oomph of whatever sort of vehicle you have. So, whenever a tree falls across your driveway, you don’t have to spend an hour sawing it into manageable pieces before you can get to town. You just wrap one end around the fallen tree, hook the other to your transportation-of-choice, and in seconds you have a clear path ahead of you.
Did a snowy ditch jump out and grab your car? Can’t get your tractor to start? These are only minor annoyances when you have the right equipment.
And in these cases, the right equipment is a chain made out of steel stock at least 3/8-inch in diameter with hooks large enough to slip onto the links without too much play. Get 10 or 20 feet of this sort of chain and you can move most anything you’re likely to encounter on the homestead. You can also fasten most anything down securely, like a car or tractor on a trailer, or anchor something so that it by-golly stays anchored.
Yesterday, for example, I was mowing grass with my trusty Ford 8N and finish mower when I discovered my irrigation hose suddenly entangled in the mower blades.
Besides making me feel like an idiot, this had the effect of stopping the mower instantly, which in turn stopped the tractor in its tracks, so that the gears of both machines were stuck firmly in place with the whole she-bang sitting precariously at the top of a very steep slope. Before beginning to jack up the mower so I could get under it to untangle the hose, I wanted an express guarantee from Fate that the whole mess wasn’t going to start rolling down the hill while I was underneath. So, I chained the back of the mower to the front of my truck with the parking brake firmly locked and the truck in gear, jacked up the mower and crawled under to untangle the whole mess; then I simply backed the truck up a few inches pulling the tractor and mower with me to free the gears.
Want a more homestead-y use of log chains? You can scour the woods looking for sassafras sprouts small enough that you can pull them up by hand, or you can simply chain your truck to a nice 2- or 3-inch-diameter sapling, and yank out enough roots in one movement to make tea all winter long.
Even though chains may be quite simple, there are 3 handy accessories that you’ll want to go with yours.
1. Gloves. It is very easy to get your fingers pinched while handling heavy chains.
2. A plastic bucket with holes in the bottom for drainage. Keeping your chain(s) in one of these lessens the need for the gloves, and provides a good storage place.
3. Load binders, or “boomers”, can be used to secure things VERY tightly. For example, you can bind any rubber-tired vehicle down to a trailer with enough force to flatten out the tires an inch or so. That’s pretty secure.
I frequently see log chains for sale in farm stores and farm auctions, but the very best place to get one is by wandering around a property that has been recently timbered. Log chains are very easy to lose in the grass or underbrush, another reason for the plastic bucket above.
I’ve harvested several in this way.