Some years ago, a friend was getting rid of an old shed and asked us if we wanted it. We said yes. The thing was delivered on a flatbed truck, and the desired location behind our house was a little tight to get to. When the shed came off the truck bed, its left side landed a bit uphill, making the thing unlevel.

It was too heavy to move, so there it sat. Despite its dilapidated appearance (which we don’t mind – no one can see it from the road) and slanting floor, it has served us well.

This year I decided at long last to level the shed. My plan was simple: jack up the low side and put cinder blocks there. And I have just the devices for the job: two farm jacks, each capable of lifting around 4,500 pounds.

As expected, the two jacks, one on each lower corner of the shed, lifted it with ease.

Farm jacks, in case you’ve never seen one, consist of a flat metal bar with a series of evenly spaced holes in it. This bar can be four, five, or six feet high, depending on the model. (Both of mine are four-footers.) Near the bottom of the bar there is a gear mechanism with a long metal handle on one side and a six-inch lip on the other. The lip is placed under the load and as the handle is pivoted up and down, the lip ratchets upward one hole at a time. Though the jack doesn’t raise things quickly, it lifts with amazing power.

One of my jacks, made by the Hi-Lift Jack Company, of Indiana, is of excellent quality. The other is a cheaper model made in China. Neither was intimidated by the heavy shed.

Farm jacks were invented in 1905 and were often referred to as railroad jacks, high lift jacks (hence the name of the excellent manufacturer mentioned earlier), or kanga-jacks. Because the jack will not only lift, but can be configured to winch, clamp, pull, or push a load, they are particularly useful to farmers. Need to change a tractor tire? This is the jack for you.

Many people who enjoy off-road driving take a farm jack along for recovery purposes in case they get mired or hung up.

Another handy use is to remove fence posts that have been in the ground for years. Wrap a chain around the base of a post, hook the chain to the lip of the jack, and you can easily pull it up and out. It works for metal or wooden posts.

This type of jack is not just good for removing fence posts, but also pulling up roots of saplings or shrubs. Same process: wrap a chain around the base of the plant and jack it right out of the ground.

A good farm jack costs about a hundred bucks. Their power is useful, but with power comes danger. Many a smashed hand, broken jaw, or concussion has resulted from careless or improper use. You’ve been warned.

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