The annoying thing about a farm – even a small one – is that it doesn’t know or care if you’ve got a book to finish. When spring comes around, the spring-time planting and weeding has to be done, period. So in addition to drawing for several hours per day, Chareva has been preparing raised beds and planting vegetables.
On the weeding front, she at least had help from the girls. The previous owner extended the driveway somewhat with paving stones. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but poison ivy grows up around the paving stones every spring. The whole thing becomes a poison-ivy patch by mid-summer.
Chareva is determined to get rid of the stuff by ripping up the ground and planting grass. Her hired hands spent part of the weekend pulling up the paving stones and stacking them. Good outdoor exercise for the rugrats.
I’ll take on the task of ripping up the ground because … wait for it … I have a tiller now.
Yeah, I know: life doesn’t get more exciting than that. Back in the day, I dreamed of owning all kinds of cool toys. There were no farm implements on that wish-list. Now Chareva suggests we buy something like a tiller, and I think, A tiller?! Wow, that would be awesome!
We bought a Countyline model at our local Tractor Supply. Since I’ve become intimately familiar with Tennessee soil, with all the rocks and clay and tough roots, I chose a bigger model than the one Chareva researched online. I wanted the extra horsepower.
Now that I’m a born-again Tool Man, I no longer consider some assembly required to be the scariest three words in the English language. But I did have the usual complaint when I started putting the thing together: the manual was apparently written by engineers who think everyone else is an engineer. To name just one example, the manual instructed me to secure a plate with “four M-8 bolts and locking nuts.” So I opened the bag containing all the nuts and bolts and looked for “M-8” stamped on something.
Nope. Some of the bolts had numbers stamped on them, but there wasn’t an “M-8” to be found on anything. (I’m sure the engineer who wrote the manual would reply, “What kind of moron doesn’t know what an M-8 bolt is?!”) So I ended up doing what I often have to do when faced with clear-as-mud manuals: figure it out by counting.
Let’s see, add up the number of M-8 bolts in all the assembly steps … it’s six total. Now separate the nuts and bolts by size … yup, there are six of these and four of the other size, so these have to be the M-8 bolts.
Heaven forbid I do that someday and find equal numbers of different-sized bolts. Anyway, I got the thing put together on Saturday afternoon.
I took it out for a test drive on Sunday. We plan to grow our own tiger nuts in at least half of the abandoned chicken yard in the front pasture. I had to clear a jungle out of that yard with The Beast last fall. Now it was time to till the soil.
Any worries I had about cheating myself out of exercise by using a tiller disappeared right away. With all the rocks and tough roots in the soil, the tiller bucked like a rodeo bronco. I had to hold on for dear life and man-handle it along a straight (more or less) path. Sometimes the thing wanted to bounce right over a tough patch, and I’d have to drag it back and hold it still so it would dig in.
But it did dig in. And I have to say, I’m impressed with how tough those blades are. Again, this is Tennessee, where the state song is Rocky Top for good reason. Here’s what you find when you dig up the soil:
I checked the blades after my first pass through the yard and didn’t find so much as a dent. After a brief rest, I fired up the tiller again and made a second pass. With the roots and hard topsoil already broken up, the tiller mostly glided right along. It felt a bit like wading through waves of dirt. Here’s the chicken yard afterwards.
And here it is from a different angle.
Now I just have to plant those tiger nuts. I’m told they grow like weeds, so with any luck, there won’t be much work involved after planting.
Meanwhile, Chareva is spotting all kinds of patches around the land that could use a good tilling.
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