A Pretty Useful Tool
esides my fence hammer that I use daily, a wheelbarrow is next on my list of useful tools. You tell someone you’re a three wheelbarrow family and they look at you like you’re crazy. Actually we have four and if you count our wheelbarrow Christmas ornament that makes five.
Why so many? We clean stalls, haul compost and boxes or crates of harvested food. And even if all this activity takes place within zone one it’s still a “fur” piece to the barn, compost piles, greenhouses, or garden. A wheelbarrow can make a difficult job easy.
Our “food” wheelbarrow is never used for transporting any compost or manure to avoid contaminating food. Most of the time the food wheelbarrow is my harvesting cart too. Boxes of potatoes, tomatoes or fruit or bags of feed that would require many trips carrying one box or bag can easily be hauled in one trip.
Spent vegetables that need transporting to the hens are easily pulled and loaded in a wheelbarrow in one task. Even in the home garden you should always have production in mind. A wasted task like pulling the kohlrabi and leaving it lay while I go hunt down something to put it in is a waste of effort. I’ve already picked it up, it would be a squandered task to not have had an efficient plan in mind when I knew I was going to clean out the kohlrabi bed. Adding even more efficiency would be hauling compost on the return trip to amend the bed. But this post is about wheelbarrows, being more efficient with chores is something I wrote about here.
Jane’s daily contribution (besides milk) is loaded and hauled to composting area. In small bites a daily load of manure is not a big deal. If you figure the average full size cow gives you 50 pounds of manure and urine a day for your gardening or farming endeavors, finding a way to capture this bounty is an old idea whose time has come back into fashion. I would question a farm that allows you to take manure from them. Without sugar-coating I would say they have a screw loose or aren’t really managing their resources properly. I can’t get enough of the stuff! Keeping my manure bound down with carbon helps me grow more food in the way of vegetables and fruit for us, and more grass and hay for the manure providers. Who doesn’t want more food and grass? It’s really a low input system if you care to step into the circle. Save the stepping out of the circle for things that you can’t produce, like minerals and maybe added carbon.
A six cubic foot, poly tray wheelbarrow with a flat-free tire is manure haulers dream. Any larger and you might be tempted to fill it too full and then hauling manure, or anything else for that matter becomes an onerous task. And we all know about onerous tasks, they tend to get put off and then pretty soon before you know it, the task becomes too big for simple hand tools or fitting into the regular chore schedule, it becomes a JOB. I try not to make my daily chores a JOB, because then it usually involves some kind of machinery, and more time, and more money because the machinery takes fuel and fuel is expensive these days. Don’t read this wrong, I am not against appropriate technology, but why fire up the tractor to do a simple hand job? Save the tractor for things like cleaning out deep bedding, or moving lots of compost at one time… .
As for style there are lots to choose from, I like the single wheel type myself. It’s easy to dump and I have hurt my back several times at someone else’s place using their garden cart or double tire wheelbarrow. If you’re worrying about the load tipping, teach yourself how to load properly and balance the load, it’s not much different than riding a bicycle. Also don’t overload yourself, it’s easier on the body to make two medium trips than it is to make one large trip that leaves you cussing.
Save that workout time at the gym and do some wheelbarrowing – who knows you might like it ;)