Sally Coulthard has been running a smallholding since she moved to Yorkshire 11-years-ago. Her family share their plot with sheep, horses, chickens and the odd peacock. Maintaining a vegetable garden, orchards, fields and a wild pond, Sally has perfected the art of smallholding on a budget. Here. Sally talks about knife skills and learning to tie knots on the farm.
I got my first Swiss army knife when I was just 10. It seems young in hindsight,
but my older brother had got his two years earlier, and I’d spent the summer enviously watching him whittling sticks and carving his name into things. By the time it was the new school term, he must have had a sticking plaster on the end of every finger. I loved mine. It had everything an outdoor girl could want – scissors, screwdriver, blade, bottle opener, saw and file – although I’m not sure the toothpick ever got an airing. I’m determined to teach all my daughters to use pocket knives safely so they can enjoy adventures outside.
I’m also a believer in having as few tools as possible. I still have a penknife now and I use it for cutting baler twine, sharpening my woodworking pencils, opening packages, taking cuttings, stripping wire and light pruning, among other things. I also want the girls to know a bit about knots – my husband was a keen sailor as a teenager and he mastered a number of knots that have come in handy ever since. Whether we’re lashing something to a trailer, rescuing a broken hay bale rope, securing an animal to a fence or doing tree work, we use knots all the time around the farm. The one we use the most is a quick release knot – no matter how hard an animal pulls, it won’t come loose, but with a quick tug on the other end of the rope, the hitch is released.
The second is a splicing knot or reef knot – I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve had to join together bits of rope that have snapped or not been quite long enough by themselves. The last is a figure of eight knot, which creates a stopper knot at the end of
a piece of rope. Traditionally, it is used to prevent fraying, but it comes in handy if
you need to create a rope swing or stop a rope slipping through a hole.
I find learning new knots quite tricky – the diagrams aren’t always easy to follow – but, fortunately, I still have my tattered old Ladybird Learn About Knots book by Ronald Hinton. It came out in 1977 – I’m showing my age now – and is a bit of a children’s classic, but it has brilliantly simple instructions. I have to confess, however, that even some of those look difficult – I’ll leave the double blood knot or West Country whipping to the experts.
Simple knots and hitches
Figure of Eight (shown in video above) – Pass the free end of the rope over itself to form a loop. Take the free end under and around the rope. Pass the free end down through the loop. Pull tight.
Reef Knot (shown in video above) – Cross two ropes, taking the free ends all the way around the opposite rope. Cross the free ends a second time and pull them tight.
Quick Release – There are many variations of this technique but, in essence, you don’t knot the rope. Instead, you create a hitch by doubling over the free end of the rope, and pulling this hitch through a loop you’ve created. To release the hitch, pull on the free end.
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