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Why do I ask if you still use Bent Nails?


bent nails

When I built my first barn,starting at age 15,  we used bent nails.   My brothers, sister and I would have to straighten the nails to use them.  Most of the time 2 or 3 times until we could finally drive them into the boards so that they would hold together.  It was very time consuming as well as added months to the job of just building the first floor of the barn.

The wood we used was also salvaged from old railroad car decking and siding.   Those boards where hard as a steel, almost.  Lots of times we had to pre-drill the nail holes to get the nails into the boards.  Recycling is great, with a good blacksmith shop, you can recast nails.

Our Fathers plan was to complete the barn before winter.  However, by the time we stripped the lumber from the railroad cars, straightened nails, dug and poured the foundation, Months had passed.  Just building the first floor walls was a chore with such hard wood.

Uncle to the rescue


Our uncle came over to help us, and watching the challenges we were having, offered to help us finish the barn and trade the cleaned railroad car lumber for new dimensional lumber and some new nails.  I now know how valuable the solid oak boards were worth, however we were able to complete the barn before winter set in. The value added was getting the project completed on time.  The horses were happy, and so were all of us kids.

I did learn how to drive nails and do basic framing and siding during this project, however, I bent my fair share of “New Nails” also.  My Father use to call them gymnast nails, as they bent easy when we would “Missed it by that much” moments happened.


Sustainable and Self Sufficient


Being Sustainable means being able to sustain your life and lifestyle in an abundant way.  My paraphrase and understanding.  We all have the same amount of time everyday to accomplish projects and be productive.

Becoming Self Sufficient is what I use to think was the definition for sustainable.  To be able to do everything yourself, relying upon no one else or others.   I quickly learned that relying upon others was very important when I spent a few years in the US Navy on board a submarine.   We all had to understand how the ship and its systems worked as well how to operate and manage them in an emergency.   The entire ship was Sustainable as long as we all worked together during the patrols.

But we were never self-sufficient even as a crew.  We had support from the rest of the fleet to keep us operational and out to sea to complete our mission.


Lessons learned


I am sharing this with you today, because of a comment that someone shared with me.  They shared how the could save money by purchasing cheaper products to complete their project.

This is what I have learned:

  • Cheaper products do not always save you money, they can cost you everything if they fail.
  • Buying used can be good IF you purchase quality.  (ever buy and expensive cheap car?)
  • Outsourcing some projects can save you months or years over the lifetime of your farm or business
  • Preparing a project plan and being adaptable is better than having no plan
  • Test new ideas, study the outcome of what you want, to see if you will have customers who will purchase what you produce.
  • Sometimes, plans have to be completely changed for the better as you learn more
  • Everything is an experiment when you are creating something that has never been done before
  • Just because it has always been done this way does not mean there can not be a better solution.  Be open to changes
  • Do not become emotionally attached to the process, listen to others who come to help, good advice comes from unexpected sources sometimes
  • Measure at least twice and cut once
  • Keep your cutting tools sharp and prepared
  • Lay out a plan for the land or business you are building  to optimize all of your activities
  • Invest in your Mind, Learn new skills and Teach others what you have learned.


There has been much more I have learned over the years. Be respectful to others who want to try something new.   I know that I will still have challenges and “Do overs”, but I have become more adaptable to the circumstances.


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Today is a Great day!

Chris Downs