On a recent, beautiful spring morning, my “wheels” for the day were waiting just outside.
In fact, it should read that my “wheel” was waiting outside. That’s because today’s mode of transportation runs on one wheel, and that’s on our old, heavy, dented steel wheelbarrow.
The wheelbarrow was already in transit, temporarily parked halfway between its home base at the barn and its destination in the garden beyond the field road. The wheelbarrow and its first load of the day, straw mixed with poultry manure, were on standby while I tackled the chores of the office and the house. With the afternoon expected to be close to record temperatures, interior deadlines had to be met before the load of rubbish could be dumped.
Earlier in the week, a farm-sized version of my backyard wheelbarrow appeared, parked on the other side of the split-rail fence: the liquid manure tank being prepared for the spring transportation. Minus a dairy barn, the tank is used much less than in previous years. A dry manure spreader now takes over most of our natural fertilizer application runs.
Manure spreading equipment, regardless of size or version, is one of the many farm and garden icons of spring. This is critical time work, hugely dependent on favorable weather conditions: dry enough for heavy equipment to move across fields without causing serious soil compaction, but not pushed so late that spreading interferes with and delay planting.
Some years the weather is more cooperative – other years not so much, which can lead to frustration among farmers (and gardeners) ahead of the spring planting crisis.
Classic spring equipment replaces some of the more familiar winter ones, as snow plows are parked in a far corner of the shed or behind a barn, while fertilizer spreaders and planters begin to appear around the farms.
Around the house and the yard here, similar switches start happening. Soon (but not too soon to tempt fate), the shiny aluminum manure shovel I appreciate for front porch and sidewalk snow removal will be removed from its winter parking spot on the back porch and put away. Its summer storage is out of sight so it doesn’t disappear, carried away for summer use and not returned until snow threatens again.
In its place is a typical early spring garden tool, a metal leaf rake. Ours has already seen considerable use in late winter on some of the first unusually warm days. It is also in dire need of replacement, or at least supplemented with a newer one with full, straight teeth.
Believe it or not, another icon of spring equipment – the lawn mower – was already spotted a few weeks ago. Given that it has snowed twice since we observed the first lawn mowing in early March, we assumed that the leftover leaf litter from last fall may have been cut. Or maybe the lawn mower was just given an early check to make sure it was working properly.
Not yet ready to turn on the lawnmower, I instead drag the garden hoe to clean dead plant matter from the vegetable patch sections and replace it with the poultry-enriched straw waiting in the wheelbarrow. Some cleared sections of the garden also get a temporary covering of another familiar spring element to many gardeners and farmers: a layer of black plastic.
The pieces of plastic come down to our garden primarily to warm up sections of the soil and discourage weed volunteers until planting time. Heavy cardboard and grass clippings, straw, and hay mulch will replace all but the very narrow plastic strips for heat-loving tomato, pepper, and squash seedlings. Even those narrow plastic covers will get a grass mulch later, to shade the roots when the summer heat soars.
A spring icon is at work in the greenhouse, clay flowerpots containing early greens for porch planters. A recent gardening article that made me laugh encouraged making brand-new clay pots look old by coating them with things like baking soda or clay, then letting them dry out before putting them away. scratch.
Well, all the while, I’ve been cleaning up scruffy clay pots, especially for gift plants. Who knew the scruffy, worn-out ones were so much more iconic and “trendy”?
So much for being trendy around that backyard.