Hornby Island farmer, winemaker shares secrets of fixing things

It wasn’t until I got married that I discovered fixing things wasn’t genetically hardwired into every male.

Larry Pierce of Hornby Island shares his secrets of fixing things.

Larry Pierce of Hornby Island shares his secrets of fixing things.

My dad was an engineer and could fix everything. It wasn’t until I got married that I discovered fixing things wasn’t genetically hardwired into every male.

For me, The Art of Fixing Things is like having all my dad’s skill and knowledge right on the bookshelf.

Larry Pierce, a former lawyer who now farms and fixes things on Hornby Island, will give a talk and selling copies of his book at the Courtenay library this Friday at 4 p.m.

The Art of Fixing Things contains over 150 tips and tricks to make things last longer and save you money. The instructions are simple and easy to understand. And what’s even better, every step is illustrated with clearly labelled photographs.

So even if you’re like me and don’t know what a marette is or the difference between a claw and ball peen hammer, you’ll still be able to deal with them.

The book has all the information you need to to sharpen, loosen, tighten and generally fix everything from blender blades to the arms on your eye glasses. You’ll even be able to locate automotive electrical problems and deal with paint in a more efficient and economical manner.

And you’ll discover how cardboard, duct tape and spit can help you fix things.

The Art of Fixing Things is so easy to understand that even I’d feel confident about fixing something with it to refer to. The book’s a keeper for our household and I’m sure it’ll be dog-eared in no time.

Pierce comes from a long line of fixers. “I was lucky to have a dad who taught me how to fix things and he passed on tricks his dad taught him,” he says.  “Some of the tips in the book come from 90 or 100 years ago.”

The idea for the book came while Pierce was fixing the tractor at his Little Tribune Farm and Winery on Hornby Island.

“It was one of those days when everything was breaking down,” he recalls. “I was using one of the tricks I’d learned from my dad to fix the tractor and wondered how many other people knew about it.”

So he told his partner Margit Lieder, he’d write the text for a book if she’d take the photos. The whole thing came together in three months.

“My goal was boil everything down to the essence,” says Pierce. “The book came together fast but I’d already put in a 55 years of apprenticeship and donated lots of blood and split knuckles along the way.”

“I really encourage people to practise breaking things or taking them apart,” he adds. “Once you do that you start to see how things go together. It’s not magic and not that difficult to put them back together. The point of the book is to get people past the fear of tinkering with things.”

Pierce opted to publish the book himself in a print on demand format. “It’s a great way to get information out there without taking much of a risk,” he explains.

And he’s been overwhelmed by the response. Within two months of publication he received requests for 45 review copies from large magazines, was invited to appear on television shows in Toronto and Ottawa and has had not one – but 13 – CBC radio interviews!

Pierce grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. He was nine when his dad started teaching him how to fix things. Two years later he spent part of the summer on his uncle’s farm in the Missouri Ozarks. “The lifestyle seemed so charming and likable that I wanted to farm from then on.”

As a teenager, Pierce honed his fixing skills on a variety of English sports cars. Later he was a mechanic at a large Volkswagen dealership in San Francisco where he learned a million tricks from the old-time mechanics.

He tried farming in the 70s and when that proved unsuccessful, moved to Whitehorse, Yukon and began fixing cars again. Then he practised litigation law in Vancouver for 23 years.

“Farming was my first love when it came to work but I had a family and had to pay the bills,” says Pierce. “When I was young and got in an argument my mom always said, ‘You’re a born lawyer, Larry.’ So I applied to law school and was accepted.”

His practise involved cases where the plaintiff had been denied coverage by an insurance company. And one of his cases changed the law in a significant way, creating a new class of damages for people denied on a disability claim.

Three years ago Pierce and Lieder moved to Hornby and established Little Tribune Farm and Winery (www.littletribunefarmandwinery.com) where they make organic wine and grow organic blueberries.

“I really like farming and fixing things the best,” Pierce says. “And I learned early on that the two go hand in hand.”

The Art of Fixing Things (www.theartoffixingthings.com) will be available at the library presentation for $12.95 or can be purchased online at amazon.com.