There’s no better feeling than accomplishing something with your own two hands.

We recently completed a construction project at our home. I watched each member of the work crew ply their trade with certainty and skill. I was envious.

I sit in a climate-controlled office most days typing on a keyboard and talking on a phone. I don’t mean to belittle what I do, because I worked very hard on my education and to become proficient at my profession. But as I watched each of these men work, what I saw were people who likely didn’t have to rely much on others.

The electrician solved problems quickly. The men doing the tree removal felled an oak exactly where they intended. Others who came and went worked with the same confidence in their own abilities, and I couldn’t help but wish that I knew how to do more.

Seeing these men work by the strength of their arms and the sweat of their brows made me yearn to have the ability to work more with not just my head, but also more with my hands.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do work outside, but it’s mostly on a tractor or a zero-turn John Deere riding mower.

Not long after the home project began, I began surfing YouTube for homesteading videos. My wife and I talk quite a bit about folks who truly homestead. We dream of being self-reliant and not being dependent on anyone else. But, you can’t really call yourself a homesteader when you have air conditioning, a microwave, and a plasma TV.

However, my wife does organically grow a lot of our own food and I split much of the wood for the woodstoves we use each winter in our home and my shop.

As I surfed YouTube, I came across a fella named Pa Mac. He wears overalls and a smile, but he never says a word. Each video he’s made shows you how to do things like what we used to call the ‘dirt farmers’ did it, back in Arkansas. The homemade music in each episode is toe-tappin’ good.

He built a pole barn with a rock floor, a chicken house out of logs, planted apple trees, made his own lumber, and more. And he did it all with, pretty much, what he found on his acreage.

I was impressed.

The more I watched Pa Mac, the more I remembered my granddaddy, and even my great granddaddy, who were blacksmiths by trade. I was lucky enough to have known both of them and even helped my granddaddy work in his shop before he passed away when I was in high school. I inherited one of his anvils and acquired his forge and farrier kit. I even went to blacksmithing school a few years ago. I liked how working with my hands and making something from nothing made me feel.

Pa Mac’s videos made me recall the smokehouses, animal pens, garden fences, shops, and just about anything else you can think of, that both of them had built themselves. And, like Pa Mac, they also built it with mostly with what they had available.

It was how most folks had to do it 60 to 70 years ago and before, because they had to.

And then I thought long and hard about how few of us in America could handle our lives if society as we know it stopped tomorrow. Most of us wouldn’t know what to do if we couldn’t buy what we needed or hire someone to fix a problem.

That isn’t good.

I’ve made the commitment to myself to learn how to do more. I don’t plan on making my own lumber or planting apple trees, but I am going to build a pole barn Labor Day weekend to have a place to keep our firewood dry. Never built a pole barn before, but I’m going to learn.

After that, I’m going to build something else. Maybe a root cellar, or a smokehouse. It’ll be an effective way to keep our vegetables longer, and a place to preserve meats.

I tip my hat to Pa Mac. His videos have a tacit Biblical message of self-reliance and a bit of humor sprinkled in to keep you smiling. If you want to take a look, his website is Or, you can look him up on YouTube.

It’s worth your time, I promise. Even if you don’t need a log cabin chicken house.

©2015 John Moore

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