Sunday, November 18, 2012
yesterday rob and i spent the bulk of the morning and early afternoon wandering around amish country. we are seeking out sources of bulk food and old style technology. found a wealth of food, not so much old tech. it always amazes me how much bulk candy is in these amish style stores. and yet you almost never see a morbidly obese amish person--at least not out in public. i do see a ton of them riding bicycles everywhere which probably explains a lot of it. they are the living embodiment of work being its own reward.
anyway--came home with some cheese to divide up and freeze and a bottle of cherry salsa. when we got home there was a very tall box leaning against the fence--our new broadfork had arrived!
hopefully i can explain what this is. in our newfound interest in closed system/sustainable gardening we came across an ad for a "meadow creature" brand broadfork. it had recieved very high marks from mother earth news, so we decided to purchase one now rather than hold off and risk the price for the item as well as the cost of shipping from the west coast going any higher.
i started cleaning out the henhouse and rob unboxed the fork and headed out to the pasture to try it out. a little while later i went down to see what he thought--prepared for his usual skepticism. he is an engineer and always sees deficiencies in design first.
so i was really suprised when he said "this thing is GREAT." and looked at the 10 foot section he had worked in the short amount of time before i got there.
let me explain--a broadfork is a kind of tilling tool that digs and allows you to loosen soil without disturbing the soil layers. this can be done with a digging fork or even a shovel, but it is very hard work from an ergonomic standpoint. the boradfork is a completely different design. it sort of looks like a fork on the bottom, but the tines are much thicker and curved like talons. there is a very heavy crossbar that you stand on and two 4 or 5 ft. long heavy handles at either end of the fork. you insert the talons into the soil and step on the crossbar to anchor them into the soil. then you step onto the crossbar and rock it back and forth and the tines find their way deeper until they are embedded the full 14" of their length. then you step off and rock the long handles back towards you--either part way if the soil is friable, or all the way to the ground if you are breaking up new ground. the tines rock upward and break through the soil as they go.
rob had been working in an area where the soil is reasonably loose, so then we took it to a pathway area we want to open up to cultivation where the soil has been walked on for several years and is very compacted. took a bit longer to get the forks down to their depth, but in they went and up they slid, loosening that hard soil as he worked. then it was my turn. i am 5 ft. tall and not as big as rob, but i was able to use the fork just like he was. the tool was solid and had some heft, but nothing i couldn't easily handle. you work with your back to the row and step and slide the tool towards you as you back your way down the area to work. i had to work in smaller increments so i wasn't working as heavy as a mass with each pass, but it worked like a charm. this is hard work, no mistake, but it doesn't necessitate a lot of twisting or strange lifting to injure your back, shoulders, wrists or knees like shovelling does (and i have hurt each of these parts while digging :-)
i can see that it would be quite aerobic, so it will be important to pace oneself, but what a beautifully designed and executed tool, made by someone right here at home. they have an unconditional lifetime guarantee--if it ever fails (and it is heavily welded steel so i don't know how it could) they will replace it.
there are 3 sizes, which refer to the overall depth of the tines--we chose the middle size since it is the most popular one. but i can see purchasing the smaller one as well, so i have one that is "me sized" for routine use.
sometimes things are expensive for no discernable reason. sometimes things cost a lot because they are worth a lot. this tool is most definitely the latter!