In this introductory blog I share family stories that influenced me to call my blog site "The Plumbline."
Some of the plumb bobs that my Dad turned on his wood lathe
My first exposure to plumblines was as a young child. Dad was a journeyman carpenter and would occasionally use plumblines for odd jobs around the house or in the yard. Then in 1972, when I was in grade 8, my parents bought a 68-acre family hobby farm in western Montana from my Grandma. She then moved into the two-bedroom apartment that was built onto the back of the garage.
Previously, we lived less than a mile from the farm. As children, my brothers and I spent many days each year on the farm climbing the mountain, building forts, and playing in the hayloft. Since Grandpa passed away in 1967, my Dad had been doing all the work on the farm in the evenings and on weekends. As needed, he would enlist the help of his four growing boys. So, it made sense that one day we would buy the place.
After we moved onto the farm and now in our teens, we regularly assisted with the farm chores which included haying, cleaning out the barn, hilling potatoes, mowing the lawn, weeding the gardens, picking fruit, and installing or replacing barbed wire fences. Only 8 of the 68 acres were level ground and useful for gardens or alfalfa. The remaining 60 acres were hillside and only suitable for grazing the two Jersey milk cows and the eight to ten black angus cattle we had. This meant that we installed a lot of fence on the hillside. Along with a posthole digger, a tamping bar, a fence stretcher, a level, fencing plyers, and a hammer, a plumbline was one of the main tools used for installing a new fence.
Common procedure was to place key posts at property corners or at 80-foot intervals along the property lines. A string line could then be strung between these key posts giving a straight line for placing the remaining posts. Because of the varied terrain, the line stretched between these key posts also varied in its distance from the ground. This is where the plumbline came in handy. By dropping a plumbline at 8-foot intervals along the string line, the exact spot for digging post holes could be determined. Regardless of the varied inclines and angles on the hillside, gravity caused the plumb bob (the weight on the end of the plumbline) to fall perfectly vertical to the center of the earth. Because the law of gravity acts consistently, the plumbline was the perfect tool for accurately establishing the base location of each post hole.
After digging the hole, a standard water level was used to ensure the post placed in the hole remained vertical to the ground and aligned with the string line as the dirt was replaced and tamped. After the posts were set, the barbed wire was initially stretched using the fence stretcher and then fencing plyers were used to hold the wire and do further stretching as necessary at each post. Wires were evenly spaced along the post and tacked in place by hammering in fencing staples.
Years later, after I married and became a homeowner of my own, I too acquired a variety of tools for my own house and yard projects. One of the tools I found valuable from time to time was a plumbline – especially helpful in my own fencing projects and in marking any ground level point that needed to be accurately lined up with a higher point.
More than the usefulness of plumblines, I have sentimental grounds for liking plumblines. After Dad retired, he spent a lot of time doing woodwork in his workshop. Along with the elaborate wooden toys and the decorative objects that he made, he enjoyed turning ornate plumb bobs on his lathe (see photo above). One Christmas many years ago, my brothers and I each received a special gift from Dad – an extra large decorate plumb bob along with printed verses from Amos 7:7-8, a passage that had personal meaning for Dad. I'll discuss this passage in a future blog.
Dad passed away in 2016 at the age of 91. As a personal memento of Dad and his love for woodworking, all of the grandchildren received one of his plumb bobs. I was particularly blessed to inherit Dad's wood lathe.
These meaningful memories form my personal reasons for choosing the name Plumbline Ministries and launching this blog site called The Plumbline. But there is more. In addition to personal reasons, there are biblical, symbolic, and relevant reasons for choosing the name Plumbline. These will be the topics of my next blogs.