M80: Manual Labor

Yesterday our community garden had its first work detail. Several young residents and a guy my age went to pick up the load of topsoil and horse manure (dried) from an ad I’d found on Craig’s List. They also went to a second spot and picked up aerated soil for a total of about 4-1/2 to 5 yards. Once back here a half dozen of us sifted through the pile and took wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow to two separate plots. One neighbor, a nurse during her day job, worked for several hours spreading the soil and then began at one end of the larger garden and turned the soil one spade full at a time.

Now that doesn’t sound like a big deal. But here is the thing. The bunch of us women around the dirt pile with our shovels had mostly sat around this last year and gotten weak. At least one guy suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and another had been at it for some hours. This crew around the great mountain of soil aged from late 50’s through 70’s. The prime energy mover is a young woman (manager) in her 20’s and the tree / plant professional neighbor is late 20’s or early 30’s. This poor guy injured his shoulder a couple of weeks ago and is miserable about not being able to do anything. He did what he could by driving the big truck, directing people and doing some pruning. Nothing underscores the importance of teamwork than our motley crew. Alone we would not be able to get much of anything done. Hell, I wouldn’t even try. Another fascinating aspect of this motley crew was the ease with which labor saving ideas were adopted (like my neighbor Jim's idea to use milk crates to sift) and suggestions for dividing the work or where to move the earth. It was consensus, cooperation experiment that did us proud.

We had pizza from the petty cash and lots of laughs. It was a good opportunity to talk about politics, music, jokes and the 50’s. I kidded that shoveling dirt and shit was the perfect time to talk politics. I was surprised there were so many Obama backers. I know there are some die-hard republicans in the park, so I usually don’t ask. But, a shared task does this. It loosens the tongue, it loosens the spirit. We had a lot of funny interactions and story telling. I found that I wasn’t alone as a Cornell graduate or someone who lived in Iowa or Nebraska.

The other benefit was a heightened sense of excitement for the next stage, and the next. Several people felt the need to talk about what a good feeling it was to join together in this task. All of us were astounded to see the pile of dirt go down. We actually finished it all but the pile of dirt clods, grass and sticks we’d sifted out. This last pile was spread out so that the dirt could be dried completely. We will then pulverize it as much as we can to make it spread-able.

This weekend there were at least 4 neighbors with the flu, one visiting a father, another burying a father and my own son had a shoulder out and work. I’d like to think that this groups and a half dozen more might be able to jump in with some bit over the upcoming weeks.

There is a great deal more manual labor required to do in simply preparing the soil for planting. But, yesterday made me relax that we will be able to gather people and to accomplish much this spring and summer. And it looks like we might be able to do it with good feelings. I also reminded the gang that we were getting something for free (besides the topsoil and manure). It was funny how there were puzzled looks and a neighbor woman said, "Good feelings working together?" (or something like that) and I said, "Food, my first goal here is that we will feed ourselves." This point is just not sinking in yet. It is part of the staggering number of Myths America that we will always have enough to eat. That was one grounding thought (excuse the pun) for the day.

Flickr ant's view of dirt pile
wheelbarrow rainbow

This photo is so pleasing to me. I like the kind of mind that would come up with such an unconventional use of a wheelbarrow. It is so happy.


Chile said...

Good for you and your neighbors for getting out there and getting your hands dirty! I hope all your efforts yield wonderful plants.

katecontinued said...

Me too. Thanks.