Friday, April 22, 2011

[Garden] Till Friday

I haven't been posting much this week - sorry. The kids are off from school and I've got a fair bit of work going on that I'm trying to keep up with. I'm also delving into my D&D materials whenever possible, just getting things organized, learning what I have, and looking for stuff to adapt for the kids adventure. Creating one magic item and a big spellbook actually took me quite a bit of time.

But I HAD intended to write about last Friday's adventure - the roto-tiller. I ended up renting a "mid-tine" tiller from Home Depot for about $45. Mid-tine tillers have a wheel in front for hauling the thing around and a spike in back to help anchor it, but the whole machine really rests right on the tiller portion. As you can imagine, this means that the person controlling the device has to constantly fight all of the tiller's torque as it tries to propel itself completely out of the garden. And who the hell had the bright idea to put the throttle lever right OVER one of the handles. Ever time I found myself struggling with the thing, I'd end up knocking the throttle all the way up (for a jolt like bessie the mule suddenly deciding to go chase a bunny) or all the way down so the thing would make noises like it wanted to stall. That was fun.

I remember my father tilling my grandfather's garden every year. There was far less grunting and swearing from what I recall. Maybe that's just my dad - he's always been a strapping man, and maybe he just hauled his tiller around with no problem. Or maybe he just complains less than I do - that's almost certainly true. But I also think he probably had a front or rear-tine tiller. I mean, that was 30 years ago, and it's not as if they made them any lighter or easier to use back then. No, I bet Dad had a tiller where most of the weight was on a set of wheels, and all you had to do was push down on the back end to get it to dig down into the soil and do its job.

I actually would have liked a rear-tine, but it wasn't meant to be. Aside from being more expensive, I'm pretty sure the rear-tine wouldn't have fit in my minivan. So mid-tine it would have to be.

Getting it home and out to the garden was surprisingly easy. My wife helped me lower it out of the van, then I just walked it back and started it up. Actually using the thing took some practice and was quite a workout. I'd figured it out pretty well by the time I was done, but to really get it to bite deeply and chew up the earth took some muscle. I had to anchor the hook in the back and then force it down into the soil, then I had to plant my feet and haul back on the tiller to keep it from running away. Three hours of that left me sweaty and tired, but with a well-tilled garden.

I actually made two passes with the tiller to loosen the soil (and to get the full width of the three plots that I have), then I went through a third time after adding the manure I'd bought. A note on the manure - I had 12 cubic feet of manure/humus mix that I'd bought, and I could have used easily 3x - 5x that much. Instead of adding a two-inch thick layer and mixing it into the soil, I basically just sprinkled a thin dusting over my garden. I still mixed it in, but it wasn't nearly as much as Scott's was recommending. It'll have to do, however - I'd spent $50 on the manure, plus almost $50 on the tiller, and on top of what I spent on soil, fencing, and mulch two years ago to build the dumb thing, I'm way beyond any hope of ROI at this point.I have to cut my losses at some point.

Hopefully we'll get some of the more frost-friendly vegetables planted this coming weekend, then watch the little darlings grow. The pay-off isn't in grocery savings, I'm afraid, but getting fresh peas, lettuce, and other veggies straight out of my backyard is pretty great.

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