Only The Rich...

My mother-in-law always used to say, "Only the rich can afford to buy cheap things." Excellent advice, Grandma Hole. Still, it's often difficult to fight the temptation of buying an item with an enticingly low price tag.

More than once, we learned that lesson the hard way. For years we'd used True Temper stirrup hoes on our farm, after our neighbour Lorna Ross recommended them. They were a little more expensive than other brands, but they lasted for years and were easy to work with. One year, though, another company approached us with their hoes, which were ten dollars cheaper. An offer like that is tough to pass up, so we bought several dozen of them for our field hands.

It didn't take long to figure out that the new hoes were anything but a bargain. The steel was cheap and bent easily, and the sharp blade, crucial for chopping out tough weeds, wore down rapidly.

By the end of each day, there was still plenty of work undone and everyone was exhausted. After a week or two, the money we'd saved was being eaten up by increased labour costs. We pitched the "bargain" hoes and went back to our old, tried-and-true brand. In fact, some of the stirrup hoes we're using today are 25 to 30 years old.

My sons have learned similar lessons. One fall, Jim was out in the field harvesting cabbage for the supermarkets. Late cabbage has very tough stems, so it can be a brutal job. As Jim was hacking and sawing his way down the row, he noticed that the fellow in the next row was able to slice cleanly through each stem with a single blow.

This man had brought his own knife. It was beautiful, heavy, high-grade steel that stayed sharp even after cutting hundreds of heads. A veteran of many years spent harvesting cabbage, he knew the importance of a strong, sharp knife.

It's worth spending an extra dollar or two on good equipment, and that lesson can be carried through to just about anything you buy. With very few exceptions, you get what you pay for. If you don't spend much, you shouldn't expect much. On the other hand, if you invest a little bit more, chances are you won't regret it.

A customer at the garden centre picked up one of our best shovels one day and expressed polite skepticism about the price tag. "Well," I asked him, "Why are you shopping for a shovel?"

"I bent the old one," he replied sheepishly, knowing I had made my point. "Buy this True Temper shovel," I assured him, "and when you get too old to dig, you can pass it on to your grand-kids."

Naturally, you should shop around and consider every purchase carefully. If you happen to stumble across an irresistible deal, by all means take advantage of it.

Often, though, the best bargains cost a little bit more.

-Lois Hole, I'll Never Marry A Farmer