Lock the gate

The gate to which this latch is attached provides direct access to the undercroft of the barn. Although there is another gate between this area and the open pasture, this has always been the gate which had to be shut. I’m sure our kids have recurring nightmares of me asking … Are you absolutely sure you locked the gate? Although there are many gates around the farm, this particular question concerned only one gate – this one – and they knew it. I obsess about this gate, even though I know that no animal has ever left the barn through it (unauthorized, that is).

The reason I posted this photo is because the impression made by the pendulum-like motion of the dangling latch has always fascinated me. How many gate openings were required to produce the groove? Let’s see if we can’t estimate …  we’ve been on the farm for 17 years (we installed the latch, new, when we arrived) … we’ll call that 6000 days. I would guess that this latch is opened, on average, 20 times per day (10 trips into the barn and 10 trips back out) … that’s 120,000 openings. The latch swings back and forth across the groove perhaps three times each time it is dropped – that’s 360,000 passes. The groove is about an inch deep. Let’s go metric … 2.5 cm (that’s 25,000 microns). So, each pass has removed a layer of wood just about 7/100 of a micron thick. Why do I enjoy doing calculations such as this?

To end on a more contemplative note … what stories might the latch tell if it could talk? It could recount anecdotes about shearing sheep, milking cows and goats, treating all kinds of animals, and sending some off to other farms – our local livestock markets – or to slaughter.  It could tell of disappointments, outright disasters, and losses, as well as successes, joys, accomplishments, and lessons learned.

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