• Where there's smoke, there's dog food
    December 10,2012

    ‘Tis the season and Betsy’s been bakin’ up some real “storms” lately. The old stove’s working pretty well, so says the apple pie I ended Thanksgiving day with!

    There was a time, though, last summer when that same stove had us stumped. She was about to bake something good but when she ignited the oven, smoke poured out like a houseafire. Betsy, immaculate housekeeper that she is, immediately blamed herself for keeping a dirty oven. I, passionate eater that I am, got busy stripping the oven of shelves to get to the bottom of the problem.

    Being a farmer, I’m used to simple mechanical puzzles so when the bottom panel presented one, I assured Betsy that I’d figure it out after a fashion. A half hour of prodding and prying, though, brought nothing but thorough frustration.

    There were two screws in the oven’s back recesses that had no screwdriver slots or wrench hexes, just round heads. They obviously held the panel in and had to be unscrewed, but how?

    “I can’t believe they’d build a stove this way” I kept saying, continuing to rack my brain. Betsy, quite used to her husband’s “Mr. Fixit” style after 35 years of marriage, sensed that I was about to start throwing wrenches through windows. “I’m going to call Biff Moulton,” she said.

    Dean (Biff) Moulton spent a big part of his life as “The Appliance Guy” until a severe health issue threw a monkey wrench into the home fix-it business. His recovery brought two revelations: that life is too short to not “follow your bliss,” and that he’d had enough of maimed Maytags and flawed Frigidaires. Biff parked the appliance van and walked back to the fresh air of his mini-farm, “Til Tomorrow,” up on Moretown Mountain. There he would raise chickens and grow gardens the way he’d always dreamed of.

    Betsy dialed his number, desperate enough to bother a busy man with a petty problem. “Sure, I’ll talk to him...put him on” says Biff.

    Says I, “Gosh darned #%*&! thing I can’t b’lieve they’d build it this way, it all of sudden went up in smoke and we’re really hurtin’ without it!”

    In a “now hold your horses, slow down” sort of way, he asked me what exactly was wrong.

    Collecting myself, I told him about the smoke problem, the impossible screws, and how I doubted a legitimate company would build a stove this way.

    “Oh yes they will,” he shot back quicker’n spatterin’ grease. “They want you to give up on the thing and buy a new one!”

    Then he muttered something about “those damned mice” and asked me if I had a Dremel tool. I said yes to the Dremel tool but wondered what in the world mice had to do with it.

    “Well, it’s like this,” Biff said. “What you got t’do is buy several grinding discs for the Dremel ’cause you’ll use’em all. Stick your head in the oven like you’re, y’know, tryin’ to end it all, and grind the heads off those screws. That’ll allow you t’ lift off the panel and then what you’ll find is a charred pile of dog food that the mice have brought in.”

    I thanked him and got right to work, totally accepting his “been through this before” attitude, but somehow doubting that he could pinpoint my problem right down to the “nearest dog food.”

    Three grinding discs and 10 minutes later, though, the screw heads were off and when I lifted the panel out of place there, right in the middle of the oven bottom was a pile of thoroughly charred dog food. “Guy’s not only a genius, but he’s a clairvoyant t’ boot!” I hollered to Betsy!

    Last summer, Betsy and I attended Biff’s daughter’s wedding over at Til Tomorrow Farm. It was a beautiful sunny day and, contrary to the breakdowns and snafus of his previous vocation, Biff’s gardens were picture perfect. Nary a weed in sight, neat paths led past raised beds literally spilling with the “fruits” of his labors. It was easy to see that this guy’s genius went well beyond the “technical.” We found it wonderful that his life path had taken him from bread-winning to bread-growing and happiness.

    Recently Biff has been helping us in our sugar woods, repairing plastic maple tubing. Out there, he’s finding lots of breakdowns and, yes, results of another troublesome rodent, the squirrel. Squirrels and their incessant need to chew are wreaking havoc on those miles of plastic tubing, but Biff Moulton is the perfect guy to get behind it.

    “I love it out in your woods,” he recently said, and we’re not surprised. As long as there are no washing machines or refrigerators out there, it’s perfect. Whether it’s Til Tomorrow Farm or Morse Farm, for Biff Moulton, “tomorrow” is here.

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