I've mentioned many times how so little goes to waste on a small farm like ours- manure becomes fertilizer for the garden, garden leftovers are canned, and the scraps from that process supplement our pig's food. The same is true for lots of stuff here- non-organic “stuff”, that is. The original produce shed was a humble 8' x 12' building. Sales quickly outgrew it, but when our current stand was built, the old one didn't just go away. It made a very serviceable garden shed for a number of seasons, housing tomato stakes, irrigation equipment, hoes and more. Last year, we brought it closer to the house, did some repairs and maintenance, and our flock of Delaware chickens happily called it home. This year, we're breeding fewer varieties of chickens and we don't need the extra coop, but unused space rarely stays that way for long. This little building is now a fully functional forge, which is also a great way to recycle scrap metal from around the farm.
Dan isn't the first farm resident to try smithing, nor is this the first forge here. In fact, the original forge is still here. It's located in the workshop building, which is the oldest building on the farm. (It's older than the barn, which was built in 1894.) It was once a busy place, shoeing teams of horses and mules on their way to the town of Nebraska just over the hill. (The town is long gone, a boomtown that had mostly disappeared before being flooded under what is now Tionesta Lake.) The original stone forge is still there in the center of the shop, but the chimney leans at a pretty significant angle as it passes through the second story. While it would be really neat to use it again, the chances of the building catching fire are just too high, and we decided to err on the side of not burning it to the ground! So the anvil, the hand-cranked blower and other tools such as hammers, punches, chisels and tongs have been moved to the new, smaller forge. The anvil & blower are old, probably 100+ years, and have been on the farm much of that time. At least a pair or two of the tongs were likely made here in the old forge, as blacksmiths routinely make their own tools. The smaller workshop does have the advantage of being quite warm and toasty in this winter cold, as the heat from the coal fire necessary to heat the metal up soon warms the building as well. Dan has already made a few projects for the house, including a poker for the woodstove and decorative hooks for my cast iron skillets to hang from in the kitchen. Although I'm not much help besides cranking the blower to help the metal heat faster, it's fascinating for me to watch an ordinary piece of scrap metal be turned into something useful and beautiful as well. It's a wonderful way to pass some of the winter away!