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A Pretty Useful Tool

September 21, 2012

Besides 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 😉

Pot ‘o gold

18 Comments leave one →
  1. jenj permalink
    September 21, 2012 9:49 am

    And here I thought I was the only one who adores wheelbarrows! We have two super-sturdy ones (had three, the “light duty” one died recently, ’cause nothing around here is light anything!) – one for food, one for manure. And you’re right, the flat-free tire is a MUST. We have mesquite here, and a thorn will blow a tire faster than you can blink.

    I am actually guilty of giving manure away, because we simply cannot compost the manure fast enough in the space we have, especially during drought season. I can’t use precious water to water the manure pile, so… we give some away whenever our pile has reached its max size. Once composted, I spread everything out and we start all over again. I really wish I could compost it faster because there is never enough composted manure to go around. Frustrating! At least the family we give most of our manure is using it to terraform their land, so it’s going for a good use. I just wish we could keep it all here!

    • September 21, 2012 3:57 pm

      Jenj, I stand corrected! Do you have room to just stack it? We don’t actively compost, but just pile and stack and wait. Just like that first paycheck, once we got on a rotation we now always have some old broken down manure piles to use. I love the flat-free tire! Here is is blackberry thorns that finally do in the tire! One more reason to not like the blackberries!!

      • September 23, 2012 9:12 pm

        Could you not also throw a tarp over it to keep it moist. In the heat it should rot down pretty quickly.

  2. September 21, 2012 9:58 am

    We use two wheelbarrows and a heavy duty wagon. The wagon is for hauling big sacks of feed, sawdust, and straw or hay bales. One wheel barrow is for spent bedding mixed with chicken manure and duck manure and lawn clippings to be taken to the compost or transport finished compost to the garden, and the other is for hauling around everything else that is clean. We don’t have enough harvesting to more than fill manageable baskets yet, but I think next year we will and then we might add a third barrow..

    • September 21, 2012 4:00 pm

      Lucky Robin, man wagons hurt my shoulders 😦 It’s funny how many tools we can accumulate that suit our needs, I like hearing all the different methods that can be devised 🙂

  3. September 21, 2012 3:36 pm

    I’m a wheelbarrow girl from way back. Never did care much for those garden carts. I guess that thing about teaching an old dog new tricks : )

  4. A.A. permalink
    September 22, 2012 1:01 am

    I’m the opposite in that I get taut shoulders from pushing a wheelbarrow very easily, but the sort of cart called a milk cart over here is very easy for me to work with. Mine’s pretty much like this: except it’s got both a rear and a front stopper bar which are detachable. That makes it easy to slip the cart under a number of things to load them up, like a long rabbit cage, a few smaller logs or a half-full water trough. I also built my mini eggmobile on top of a cart like this, which is to say, sadly, that I’m down to one cart for all the other work 🙂

    • September 22, 2012 7:27 am

      AA, I think when they dig me up they’re going to think I helped build the pyramids or something! Nice cart, it looks like our baby stroller…except it was tricycle style of course. How is that for pushing up a hill? Or are you entirely flat? Our compost pile area is uphill from the barn about 500′ I don’t think I could push your cart up my hill.

      One cart! That’s terrible 😉

      • A.A. permalink
        September 22, 2012 9:32 am

        I don’t know about your pyramids, but my manure pyramids–well, not “mine” in the most literal sense–seem to decompose over time! I’ve got nothing but this grass to show for all the work!

        Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if all the pharaos had not been crazy and had decided to build living monuments to soil fertility instead?

        We don’t have hills anything like that, so I can’t say I’ve tried the cart up big hills. On a typical day with the cart I’ll stay within 30 to 50 feet I think. 500′ sure sounds like a climb! I don’t think the cart would be that bad up a hill, but I’m sure a wheelbarrow is much better especially if the load’s heavy. For long hills the handlebar should probably be lower and that wouldn’t be nearly as good on more or less level ground anymore. I like the way I can balance the load so I don’t have to lift the handle at all but instead just push down a little, or when I do lift, there’s just a tiny bit of weight on the handle.

  5. akaangrywhiteman permalink
    September 22, 2012 6:42 am

    Been to Wally World or somethin’, bringing up Christmas a bit early this year???


    No frost yet, but it sure feels like fall.

    • September 22, 2012 7:18 am

      AKAAWM, nah, but I did see a meat cleaver ornament online after someone just had to send me a link to a milk jar ornament :p

      Definitely fall, the Pileated are eating the Kings and the crows are back…still holding out and not building a fire.

  6. September 22, 2012 7:10 pm

    Wish I had an odometer on my wheelbarrow. We use it for everything, including transporting children. Oh, to have a flat-free tire.

    • September 22, 2012 10:11 pm

      HFS, a pedometer works pretty good! I’ve been taking a bale of hay a day to the corral (1/8 mile away)for the heifers that are too young to be bred. Fitness experts tell you to walk 10,000 steps per day, I wonder what 10,000 steps while carrying 20 – 50# would equate to?

      • September 24, 2012 9:26 am

        I don’t know what anything equates to but toss in farmer carries with water buckets where the hose won’t reach, throw a couple of 50# feed bags on your back to carry out to the broilers and spend the morning shoveling manure, mulch and compost and your workout is complete. Toss in a diet of fresh and fermented veggies, animal fats, and little simple sugar and you’ll get down to about 10% body fat and sleep great at night…well, that’s anecdotal research…

        Send pics of the heifers. Better yet, send the heifers.

  7. September 23, 2012 7:13 am

    I use one of these ( and find it much easier to empty and maneuver. The straight front edge makes emptying it easy – the whole load slides out evenly and it can be parked without tipping.

  8. September 23, 2012 9:17 am

    At my advancing age I much prefer a two wheeler. Own two of them for the garden. I like it because I can pull it with one hand when it’s empty.

  9. September 23, 2012 9:19 pm

    This is my wheelbarrow (just scroll down a bit). I also have now started using my Christiania bike It isn’t so easy on the rough sections but it works nicely when it is flat and it is handy when hubby has got the other two wheelbarrows full of stuff.

  10. Lucy permalink
    September 24, 2012 5:43 am

    I’m a 2 wheel wheelbarrow fan myself. I have vertigo and a one wheeler is beyond me. One is used for hay bales and clean bedding and the other is stall cleanings. I call them “in” and “out”. They are 8 cubic foot ones but I rarely fill them completely – I let my son do that! Pushing them aggravates my back so I pull them when they are loaded. I too will adjust the positioning one-handed and also by pushing down on the front to back the thing away enough to shut a door. I recently broke the axle bracket on one and to my delight the replacement part was free. Now I have broken the leg on the other and again the replacement part was free. Who knew?

    I too have my manure taken away. I would love to keep it but the state’s pollution control agency says too many animals, ot enough land, which bugs me as they discount the manure actually dropped in the pasture and only count the manure from the barn. Makes no sense to me.

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