This blog doesn’t discuss my physical labors much, but today I rented a powered tilling machine and got started tilling my backyard. Last week we had some arborists remove the 235-year-old ponderosa tree whose roots were growing under my house and made it squeak when the wind blew. A few days later a crew came by and cleared out the stumps down to a foot or so below surface level. A spruce tree that was not quite so close in the front yard was taken out also. It is the one that partially deflected the falling ponderosa last April from hitting our house in the wind that blew down four other big trees within striking distance of the house. I didn’t want to take these two trees out, but sometimes it is a question of self-preservation.

The result of these two trees being taken out is that our backyard now has about 90% of the day’s sun in the summer, and I am going to plant a large garden. However, because this soil hasn’t been tilled and has a minimum of 235 years of hardened soil, it is quite hard. Last year I did dig four fifteen foot long trenches and we did grow a garden; however, it was hard work taking several efforts at digging to even get that much done. Therefore, today I rented a power tiller. By getting it late Friday afternoon I can keep it until Monday morning with only one day’s charge. This thing is both a powerful hand-operated self-propelled monster and almost too big to control. Going straight when the soil is smooth and not too hard is easy, but the soil is hard and has many roots in it that bring the whole operation to an instant stop. That requires somehow cutting the roots out by hand and restarting the gasoline engine. As it turns out, the engine is right at the size where it takes my full strength pulling the starting rope to get it going and generally that means about three tries.

The next big problem is getting the thing turned around and pointed back the way we came, or even turning it halfway to one side or the other. Not easy. Being 82½ years old, in two days, on April 1st, makes this whole operation a bit of a strain on the body. I can do it, and after taking a hot bath may not even end up with sore muscles tomorrow, but it is a strain.

The job is about one-sixth done and should get easier because the rest of the yard doesn’t have as many roots. However, there may be other obstacles. Maybe it will rain. The monster doesn’t need to be back in its cave until Monday morning at 8:30 so I do have the opportunity to spread out my suffering.

Even in this modern world sometimes a man must till the fields.