Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Loveliness Doesn't Come Easily

Soft rains and warm temps this morning.  That is good. 

Cold-weather veggie seeding outdoors has begun, along with some seeding around the lawn where bare patches stand out as dirty blemishes against ever greening and growing grass.

I'm feeling very satisfied this morning, as evidence of the past week's clean-up is providing a nice change from dead grass, leaves, chewed-up sticks and the usual residue from winter's hold. 

I'm especially pleased about my garden with its tidy post-rototilling appearance. The annual garden rodeo took place Tuesday, starting out hopeful, deteriorating quickly but ending on an upbeat note. 

Rototilling day in the garden here at the Lovestead usually involves a certain amount of praying, a good memory for the exact details of what worked with the stubborn Troy-Bilt last year and awakening of some muscles in arms and back which have so far avoided springtime draconian duty.

I've often thought of rototilling as a perfect simulation to rodeo sports, specifically some calf roping along with a heavy dose bulldogging/steer wrestling. 

After all, rototilling requires much of the same body and arm movement those ropers use when they throw that calf to its side to tie up its feet. 

As for steer wrestling,  operating a rototiller involves extreme use of upper arm muscles to wrap one's hands firmly around those steer horns while maneuvering a large obstinate mass of beef attached to those horns down to the ground. 

The grips/handles on a rototiller: steer horns.  The lower part with the engine, carburetor, gas tank, tines, etc. :  the critter's heavy, resistant body. 

I've been there, done that many a year while trying to guide a rototiller around my various gardens.  Some have been huge machines.  The Troy-Bilt which I currently own was meant to be more of a ladies' model.

When it works, the machine works like a dream, but most of the time it does not work. I've been lucky enough the past few years to get my Troy Bilt up and running long enough for the 20-minute garden job.  

The rototiller is smart, always knowing precisely when the job is done and, like clockwork, dying and refusing to be revived for yet another year.  And, I refuse to pay the big price needed to purchase a new model.

This week, I said my usual "Hail Mary's," remembered that it's important to take the air filter off the machine, pour a little gas into the carburetor, push the choke button in ten times, disengage the tines, and hurry as fast as possible to pull that starter rope.

For a brief time on Tuesday, I reveled in the fact that I must have done all the right stuff cuz the machine started up on the first pull of the rope. I engaged the tines and smiled as the tiller moved southward in my garden spot.  

Then, I remembered past years when the tiller tended to die on corners. We came to the corner, the tiller dug into the ground, I began the steer wrestling routine and tried to maneuver it away from the garden fence.  It refused to turn.

That's when the calf-throwing session began. And, when that happened, the damn thing died with its tines deep in the soil.  I tugged and turned and wrestled and managed to get it aimed away from the fence. 

Then, I started it up again. It went five feet and died. This process continued. I started cussing as the starter rope quit recoiling back into its compartment.  That meant recoiling it by hand, a process that takes too much time away from part where I dribble gas on the carburetor and hurry to pull the rope. 

Needless to say, I've been this route enough times in my life, that I chose to call it a day and probably a lifetime with that rototiller.  Wrestling the machine from the dirt, I kicked it forward and drove it back to the shop.  Maybe Tony will take it for parts.

Depression set in, then desperation.  

"Do it the old-fashioned way," I said to myself.  So, I got a shovel and started spading my garden dirt.  With each dig of the shovel though, I thought about my lower back and how being laid up with a sore back for the next several days was not gonna get further yard work completed.

I went inside, called Co-Op and learned for the first time about Mantis tillers. The rest of the world knew about them long ago, I learned later. 

"You can pick them up and carry them, but they work really well," Gina told me. 

Music to my ears, I'll tell you.  Then, I asked about the price.

"They start at $300," she said.

These days I'm thinking a lot more about life expectancy (mine) and wondering if the $300 investment is something I'll live to enjoy.  Then, Gina suggested renting a rototiller at A to Z Rentals.

My pea brain at the time was envisioning those rental men loading a big, honking rototiller into the back of my pickup and then my trying to figure out how to get it out without killing it or myself at home. 

You see I wanted my garden done that day.

Later, my pea brain came alive, and I thought, "Hmmm.  Maybe they rent those Mantis tillers." 

Sure enough they did. One hour later, after signing away my life for the $25 rental, I was in my garden, firing up the Mantis.

Having had no experience or instructions on Mantis strategy, except to watch out for my toes, I experienced a brief learning curve as the Mantis took off hopping across my garden like a jack rabbit.  I went with it. 

Soon I learned how to grip those long ears/handles, control the speed and steer (no pun) the thing deeper into the dirt.  Within an hour, my garden and another spot were tilled to perfection.  I was loading up the Mantis and happily driving it back to A to Z.

And, now I smile about all future rototilling, knowing that I can fork over $25, carry the tiller and avoid those rodeo sports for the rest of my life. 

This morning, three different kinds of lettuce seed rest beneath the dirt, getting wet for now and warmer later.  

And, that's one more example that all this spring loveliness does not come easily, but once it does, life is most blissful and so satisfying. 

Happy Thursday, and check out those Mantis tillers.  Good machines, especially for old ladies!


Anonymous said...

At $25 a shot, you get 12 years of rentals for the $300 you might spend to buy one. Surely you plan to live more than 12 more years - but maybe you don't plan to be gardening then... And undoubtedly, that rental price will go up - but so will the purchase price.... Lots to weigh in this decision, Marianne! And do you rototill more than once a year - spring and fall perhaps? Now the picture grows ever more complex. hmmmmm

Anonymous said...

I'll say this - those words and numbers we have to type in are becoming more difficult to decipher by the day!