Trial By Error: Lessons from a Wheel Barrow

When you decide to farm, you never know what you will end up doing. There are always weeds to pull, crops to harvest, and, with a family like mine, something particularly strange. So when my mother decided to move dirt from one side of the property to the other using only a shovel, a wheel barrow, and the dregs of my youthful determination, I was a little intimidated. I say “was” because it began in the past, but it is not done.

I enjoy using tools, particularly ones with an engine or that fit on a belt around my waist. A wheel barrow is none of these things. I had used one before, but not intensively for long periods of time.  I learned there is a completely different set of safety rules for nonmotorized tools.

1. No gloves.

Splinters are better than losing a load of dirt.  You can’t get a good grip on the handles.

2. Don’t put more dirt than you can carry.

This seems self explanatory, but it’s dirt and dirt shouldn’t be that heavy. Half a wheelbarrow is about forty pounds. A whole wheelbarrow will drag you down the hill, over knarly roots, and into the sagebrush.

3. Don’t go to fast down the hill, or the uphill part will be difficult.

This is counterintuitive, but if you are going fast and you hit the rut that is right before the uphill part, you will practice flying into all your dirt.

4. Do not turn on a cliff

If there is no room to brace yourself while turning, you might as well lay down and have your goats trample you. Falling A few feet hurts. Add a wheel barrow following behind you full of dirt and you get the idea.

5. Do not turn while pushing up hill.

If the wheel barrow turns too far one way and you are pushing with all your might, you will end up caught in the handles and flipped on your back, tangled and covered in dirt.

6. When you can’t push, pull

If you reach the last steep hill before you get to dump the load and are too weak, change muscle groups. Grab the front and fall backwards… It works every time.

7. Get up and keep going

If, for whatever reason, you end up with the wind knocked out of you, scraped up, and on the ground, take a deep breath and keep going. It is hard work, but well worth the bruises, knowing you are helping a little.



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