Sharpening Wheel Hoe Blades

Dateline: 24 August 2016 AD

Some people who know me think I'm retired because I left my job in the city (3 years, 6 months, and 24 days ago) and I am home here in my Upland every day. But I'm far from retired. I just changed my occupation. 

I left a secure and downright easy job, with good benefits (working for a government agency), to pursue self-employment in a home-based business. Now I work harder, I have no benefits, and I have no so-called security. But I'm a free man. And that's something that I place a high value on.

I don't reckon that I'll ever have the luxury of not needing to generate income. Which is to say, I'll have to work the rest of my life. But I don't see that as a bad thing, especially if I'm working in my Upland every day. Besides that, I happen to like to work.

There is a widespread belief among Christians that work is a curse put on mankind back in Genesis 3: 17-19.  But I don't think so. 

The way it looks to me, the curse in those verses is not work itself, but the hardship of work. In other words, work became a chore after the fall.

The Bible tells us that one day God will create a new heaven and a new earth. If he did it once, I don't suppose it will be that hard to do again, eh?

This new earth will not be corrupted by sin. It will be a physical earth. It will be a place "wherein dwells righteousness." This new heaven and earth is where the followers of Jesus Christ will spend eternity. That is, as I understand it, biblical orthodoxy.

So, if that is the case, put away your thoughts of heavenly cloud-floating and harp-plucking ease. Oh, there might be some of that, but there will, I firmly believe, be work to do. And I don't think it will be work in cubicles, staring at computer screens.

I can imagine that the new earth of eternity will be an agrarian paradise, much like the Garden of Eden was. And I can imagine that the work will not be hard. It will be a joy and a pleasure. And the fruits of such joyous labor will be incredible beauty and abundance.

Now, I could be wrong about that. But I like to think of my eternity in that way. Whatever the actual case is, I am looking forward to it.

But, until then, I have plenty of work and responsibility in this world to busy myself with.

In the picture above, I am sharpening a wheel hoe blade. I have made and sold wheel hoe kits to intelligent gardeners since the Spring of 2009

I'm sure I don't sell as many of my wheel hoe kits as the other wheel hoe makers sell of their already-made wheel hoes. I'm sure of it because most people aren't inclined to assemble their own wheel hoe. Besides that, my wheel hoe does not sport numerous attachments. It just has an oscillating stirrup blade. So it's a single purpose wheel hoe. But it is incredibly efficient at that single purpose, which is to shallow-cultivate soil and destroy small, emerging weeds.

I've gotten a lot of great feedback from users of my Planet Whizbang wheel hoe in the past seven years. A few small farm operations have purchased one kit, then purchased more once they realized the tool works well and is designed to last a lifetime.

So, these wheel hoe kits are a little niche market that I serve. I don't make a lot of money on the kits, but it adds up. Besides that, I really do enjoy making them and sending them out. And I enjoy the positive feedback I get in return. 

But the hardest part of making these wheel hoe kits is grinding the edges on the stirrup blades (before I bend them into a U-shape). I used to pay a man in my community $3 each to grind the edges. He did a great job. But he got tired of the work. Now I grind the edges myself, as you can see in that picture above.

I bought that 3M respirator you see in the picture last year. I had to sell a lot of wheel hoe kits to pay for that piece of equipment! But it has proven to be a good investment (in my future health and well being). It works by drawing air through a filter in back and pumping it into the sealed face mask. So there is positive air pressure in the mask. No dust gets in, or very little gets in.  It has a rechargeable battery in the back, next to the filter. 

In my younger working days I did a lot of home remodeling, and I breathed a LOT of bad dust. I didn't use a face mask, or I used cheap ineffective filter masks.

I remember on a particularly dusty job that my co-worker, Steve, and I came up with a unique idea for filtering the air we were breathing. There were some cigarette butts on the job site and they had filter ends. We wondered if it would be possible to put one of those cigarette filters in each nostril, then close our mouths and breath through the filters.

Steve gave it a try, but a single filter wasn't big enough to effectively seal a nostril. I suggested maybe three, or four, or five crammed tightly into each nostril might work better. Or, perhaps, I could seal the single ones in with a little bit of silicone caulk. 

Well, Steve wasn't keen on that idea, so we never did find out if it would work. But, in theory, I do think the idea has merit.

Now you know just how far I've progressed when it comes to respiratory safety. Which makes me think of an old saying...

"We get too soon old and too late smart."



  1. This spring I built a wheel hoe using your plans. It has proved invaluable in the garden this year! Thank you for sharing your Upland with us!

    1. Hi Scott—
      Glas to know you like your wheel hoe.... and Upland.

  2. I concur with your thoughts that the curse is work becoming toilsome and not the curse being the work itself. Man was put into the Garden "to work it and keep it" in Genesis 2:15. So work clearly existed before the fall. The theme of a past church men's conference that I attended that really stuck with me was "To work is to worship."

    1. Thanks, Chad. That sounded like a good men's conference.

  3. Idle hands are the devils workshop.

    But from my nursing experience, those who retire from work, either as a natural occurrence of achieving the age set forth by TPTB or because of disability, and do not have a purpose...wither and die regardless of their health. Humans must have a purpose. Without one we are adrift.
    Work is a state of mind. I call the many tasks I do around the place as "chores". "I have chores to do." It reminds me of stories of farmers and farm kids with "chores" such as milking the cow, putting up hay, bringing in firewood etc. This gives me pleasure as I desire to have those kinds of chores...cows, hay etc. For my husband, "chores" is a dirty word and he rails against it. Thus my statement "work is a state of mind". I like doing chores. My husband does not. Funny thing is...they still have to be done. I have a much better time at it than he. So...
    My two cents worth.

    1. Hi Pam—

      Your comments are worth far more than 2 cents! :-)

      My UPS man has worked the same route for 25 years. He told me recently that he has noticed a definite pattern of people retiring healthy, followed by the delivery of medications a little while later, and then death a few years after retirement. It might just be the normal old-age pattern, but his belief was the same as yours (and mine).... that people need to have purposeful work, interests, or other activities in their "retirement" years or they aren't going to last long.

  4. Hello Herrick,
    I first came across you from Michael Bunker's mention of you in his book "Surviving off Off-Grid". I have read some of your posts on your old Deliberate Agrarian blog, and have been following the new one. I am glad for you that you left your city job for your Upland.
    I am an aspiring homesteader here in my native part of the country, southern Indiana. I say aspiring becasue I am nowhere near self-sufficient at this point.
    I am an indie author (of very politically incorrect books) and former blogger. As I, like you, see America's political situation and the degradation of western society, I have decided to discontinue my politics/current events type blog. I intend to spend much more time working the homestead and studying things of spiritual value.
    I just wanted to say hello and thanks for the blog posts!
    Joe Putnam

    1. Hi Joe—

      I appreciate your comment. I am nowhere near self sufficient here either. But I feel like I'll be better able than most people I know to take care of my own needs in a crisis. I found your blog and bookmarked it to read more later. I don't mind politically incorrect. :-)

      At this point I think most people have come to realize the American empire is crumbling. It seems to me that we have passed the Rubicon. I have much less desire to talk about the now-obvious economic, political and social crisis we're in. I'm with you... work on homestead projects and study things of spiritual value. And my blogging will now focus on things like that.

      Here's wishing you the best with your new focus in life.

  5. Hello Herrick,

    I have read your blog for many years. I have ordered your gardening book and a few PDF items that you have published. From your writings our situations are similar - but different. You are ahead of me in that you were able to leave your "real" job for your home business already whereas I am currently working towards that goal.

    While you grew up in suburbia, I grew up on a farm in Iowa. I worked hard and saw an easier way - or so I thought. I went in the Navy and learned computer systems. To make a long story short, I have come full circle and fully embraced the hard work and love of farming that I had rejected in my youth. We currently have 6 1/2 acres with a a large garden, chickens, a pond an a large section of timber. We burn wood and try to be as self sufficient as possible.

    The reason for my writing though is that your first photo reached out and grabbed me right away! My "real" job is as an IT manager for 3M company. I currently work in Columbia, Missouri but a couple of years ago I had the plant in Valley, Nebraska which is where your PAPR, or respirator was manufactured.

    I was on the team that rolled out that particular model. We called the project Thor - I'm not sure why. 3M has all of these different "code" names for new products until they are released.

    Inside the belt pack there is a serialized chip that keeps track of anything that may go wrong during operation. If it fails, it goes back to the Valley plant where the seal is broken and we can analyze what made it fail and hopefully improve the product over time. It is a good product though and the failures on them have been few. I helped with the design of that circuitry.

    You have no idea how happy I was to see one of our respirators being put to good use. I hope you enjoy it for years to come.

    I pray one day soon I will be able to give up the corporate job but until then little things like your photo is a big win.

    John McDermott

    1. Hi John,

      Wow. That is neat! I love the respirator. It's a high quality tool, for sure. I've always thought of 3M as a company with dependable products.

      Your 6.5 acre Missouri homestead sounds just right.

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. I recommend 50 cents worth of earplugs to go with the respirator...
    -Jon in Indiana

    1. Thanks, Jonathan. I actually have ear plugs that were custom molded to fit my ear canals. Expensive but they work very well. And I often wear earmuff hearing protectors to cut sound down even more. But these pictures were posed and I left the plugs out.

  7. I might be missing something. What is the cost vs benefit of this respirator vs the 3M half facepiece respirator with either the dual chemical or particulate filters? The PAPR is $1300 vs $30 + glasses.

    1. I've used that kind of respirator a lot in the past—before I had a beard. If you have a beard, they don't work.

      Another benefit, even if you don't have a beard, is the matter of comfort on a hot day. I've worn the half facepiece respirators for several hours working on hot days and it gets a bit uncomfortable. With the PAPR you have a steady flow of air moving past your face. Not uncomfortable at all. And there is no condensation buildup, as is the case inside the mask respirator.

      There may be other differences, but I don't know them. If I didn't have a beard I probably would not have ever considered the PAPR.

      Thanks for the question.

    2. Got it. With no beard, I was blind to the issue. I agree on the comfort as there is condensation build-up with prolonged use.

      An additional element of surprise here is the contrast of content and theme here at Upland and Deliberate Agrarian against a really expensive luxury item. You're talking and marketing to DIY's and gardeners who tend to make do with what they have and likely are not wealthy enough to splurge on items of similar function but 43X the price.

      Please don't take my comment as a sign of envy or jealousy. I'm glad that you have this new tool and that it makes your life easier and more enjoyable. Because of your post, I now know what PAPR's are and understand some of the benefits. Good respirators are a must for many hobbies and occupations and it pains me every time I see someone with a paper mask spraying finish or sanding mud.

  8. Well, I debated for a very long time about spending that much money on a respirator. I used a Resp-O-Rator for a few years. It is relatively cheap and clever but uncomfortable and somewhat ineffective. I know the particulates were getting through because my lungs were still reacting.

    I deal with a lot of metal dust. Primarily aluminum (drilling, routing and sanding). And I'm wire brushing on the bench grinder a lot. So its not just wood. At 58 years old, my lungs don't clear the crud out like they once did. If I was a homestead hobbyist, only occasionally dealing with these particulates, I would stick with the cheap Resp-O-Rator. It would be good enough. But this is a business and I can justify the cost (it's a deduction). After seeing how well the PAPR works, and not coughing for the next week after breathing in particulates for a few hours, I would pay twice the cost for that PAPR.

    Side story: I was in the hospital once, visiting my father, and I could hear a man with lung problems gasping for every breath in a room across the hall. It was a nightmarish sound. I started looking into getting a better respirator shortly that.

    1. Yeah, it's funny how age changes our perspectives. When I was young I thought that I was too tough to need to protect my hands, ears, eyes or lungs. Now I, like you see things much differently. Acquiring good quality food is much the same philosophy...

    2. So true. I see this now with my sons.

  9. A young man will spend his health to acquire wealth; an old man spends his wealth to acquire health.