Working hard to avoid labor
A famous fable says that the frugal man spends the most and the laziest man works the hardest. Unfortunately, I am the embodiment of both of those concepts, especially when it comes to gardening.
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There are many reasons to plant a garden. Chief among them, I tell myself, is that my wife and I will save a tremendous amount of money on food expenses. There's also the pleasure of indulging in the fantasy that anyone could live without a supermarket like they did in primitive times.
Our garden is relatively large. Once, I tried rototilling the entire thing, but the experience left me exhausted and feeling like my arms had been stretched by several inches.
That led me to think there has to be a better way, so I decided to go "old school."
It involved purchasing an ancient two-bottom moldboard plow for $50. I plow the garden each fall to get a jumpstart on the following spring. Recently, I decided to perform secondary tillage each spring with an old single disc harrow that I had bought for a mere $75.
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My investment in tillage equipment was minimal. But the tractor is a different story. I don't want to discuss where I bought a John Deere 3010 tractor to pull the plow and the disc.
The disc does a beautiful job of tilling the garden. However, it has one glaring flaw: "single." It didn't mean it needed a mate; it meant that its single gang of blades threw the dirt just one way. The result was a hard shallow trench down the middle of the garden and giant fluffy windrows of dirt at the garden's edges.
The only way to rectify the situation was to rake the soil back to the garden's center manually. Ultimately, I was doing a lot of hard work to avoid a little physical labor. The solution to this problem would be to obtain a tandem disc, a machine with two front gangs that throw the dirt outwards and two rear gangs that throw the dirt inwards.
The result should be a smooth, trench-free garden. Unfortunately, going through with my plan could mean buying a new tandem disc that would cost approximately as much as a King Charles's coronation. Despite that ill thought, I began to scout for a pre-owned unit.
My search led me to a disc in a used machinery lot about half an hour from our farm. Being a thrifty person, I strove to get the best deal possible. Negotiations went something like this:
"How much do you want for it?"
The machinery guy threw out a number.
"Will you take a check?"
One head nod and transition later, the tandem disc was delivered and mounted on the tractor. Everything was going exactly to plan, but when I drove out to the garden and dropped the disc into the ground, my ears were assaulted by a cacophony of squeaks and squeals.
Dirt seldom protests when it's being tilled, so I gathered that the noise was coming from the disc. Another hint was that one of the rear gangs wasn't turning. Additionally, having sat outside for a very long time, the disc appeared that its bearings had yet to be greased since the Clinton administration.
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No problem! I grabbed my grease gun and set to remedy the situation.
But there was another issue. Several of the grease fittings refused to take grease, not unlike a stubborn toddler who refuses to open his mouth and eat his broccoli.
Again, no problem! I drove to town and purchased a widget to unclog grease fittings.
The device powered by hammer strikes; created one of those rare situations where my favorite statement, "I'm gonna need a bigger hammer," was confirmed and a bonus.
Some of the grease fittings wouldn't listen to forceful persuasion, so I decided to disassemble their associated bearings. I needed a special socket wrench for that, so back to town, I went. Two of the fittings still wouldn't take grease, so I applied some heat.
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So, there was another trip back to town to purchase a propane torch. Finally, the disc was fully lubricated and ready to go after all that time, effort, and expense.
I fired up the John Deere 3010, drove out to the garden, and dropped the disc into the ground. It worked beautifully. Tilling the garden took at most five minutes. I achieved my goal by saving time, money, and, most importantly, labor. Yet, working on the disc involved a lot of bending and contorting than I had anticipated. I don't know what yoga classes cost, but it would be enough to cancel out much of my repair expenses.
I'm eagerly looking forward to sinking my teeth into fresh sweet corn from our garden, but I estimate it will cost my wife and me about $50 per ear.