Michelle’s Note: Sorry for the lack of posts. Last week was week #1 for our CSA. The first weeks are always the hardest as we organize what we need to pick, wash, weigh and package and figure out how we are going to get it all to of our members.

If you have ever read a Mother Earth News magazine you’ll know that the cliché thing for people to do when they move to the country is to buy a tractor. Oh, and get a horse. It’s just what you do. Most newly arrived country folk don’t really know what they need a tractor for, but they buy one anyway.  It must be true because the magazine is full of ads for small tractors. They are ubiquitous.

When people ask me if I have any regrets about moving to the country and/or living off the grid, I tell them that I regret not buying a tractor! We had a bit of money left over when we sold our city home and bought our country property, so I could have bought a tractor then.  I just didn’t know what I was going to do with it, and Michelle and I have always tried to be logical about spending money so it didn’t make any sense to buy a tractor. Besides I love the work, so who needs one?

If we had bought a tractor I think I would probably be about 25 pounds heavier. I also think my back and joints would be in way better shape, so it’s kind of a trade off. I went the “all you can eat pie” route and did all of the heavy work manually. And it’s a tough regret to have. Although I’ll never regret the pies, so I’m happy. The other day Michelle made me a raspberry pie (using our raspberries from the freezer) and it was on the dining room table, under a glass dome. I made the comment that nothing brings me more joy than seeing a pie sitting on our table. Michelle said “It’s the simple things,” and I hope she was referring to the little pleasures that bring us happiness as opposed to the little world I seem to live in.

Last fall I got a load of horse manure dumped in the garden and this spring I had to move it. I’ve been working away at it but it turns out that 10 cubic yards is a lot of manure! Recently there was a reporter here from the local paper interviewing me as the local Green Party candidate. When she wanted to take a photo I said, “Well I spend most of my day shoveling manure right now so we could use that for the photo” but we decided the optics for a politician to make such a statement weren’t too great.

Recently in a moment of exhaustion and panic I told Michelle I was going to have to cash in the last of my retirement fund and buy a tractor. And yes, that’s how small the fund is! She was onside. It’s a big step and we looked at the pros and cons but we started to research a “compact” small tractor.

I often panic in times like these and Michelle just waits for common sense to prevail. We periodically borrow our neighbor Ken and Alyce’s tractor and they are most gracious to lend it to us, so we don’t want to overstep the boundaries of good neighborliness. When I look at how much stuff I’d use a tractor for, I have to be logical about how much we’d be investing in it and how much time it would spend sitting idle.

About this time we got a response from an ad that we had placed in the local paper looking for a student to help out on the farm. There had been very little response to the ad, part of the challenge being that distances are so great in the country the economics of driving a teenager to a low paying job doesn’t work out. But Skylar called and wanted to give it shot so he arrived one Sunday morning. We cleared some brush then set about the manure pile. He filled the wheelbarrows and I hauled them through the muddy soil and spread it. We went at it pretty hard and kept up a good pace. We would stop periodically and do something less strenuous then we’d get back to it. And Skylar just kept plugging along. Skylar had become my tractor stand in!

He plays football so I was happy to push him. I just kept reminding him of how hard weight room work is when you’re training for a physical sport.

Minimum wage in Ontario is $10.30/hour for students. So we pay Skylar about $50 plus lunch for 5 hours of hard work and he seems happy and we are very happy. No fossil fuels were burned while we worked and muscle mass was built up. I was happy I could keep up with a 16-year-old for 5 hours of slogging. And the next day I had the opportunity to get 3 trailer loads full of manure from our neighbours Ken and Alyce, and so I spent a second day in the horsesh*t throwing department.  The next day I decided to spend the day doing lighter work in the garden and writing some blog posts. I’m not saying I was tired, I’m just saying you can only convert so much pie energy into physical effort.

At one point as I worked away I became really aware of the birds. They are very chatty at this time of year and there were so many different calls. And there was a lovely breeze blowing through greening up after the longest most brutal winter, EVER! And all was right with the world. That pathetic excuse for a retirement plan remains untouched, and basically useless, but it just doesn’t seem to matter. My public school friend Teddy King who died prematurely doesn’t get to spend another day outside in weather like this. My buddy Brian who put his head down on his desk at work and died of an aneurysm isn’t working up a sweat and soaking up the sun on a glorious day like this. Nope, if this is how I have to spend my days until I keel over in the potato patch, I’m pretty okay with that. I just hope that if that is the way I go, I won’t have just spread fresh manure on it, or it won’t be pretty for Michelle to have to drag me out of it. Hopefully we’ll have a tractor by then and she can use the hydraulic bucket (which apparently I’ll just have kicked!)

Skylar has come back to work for one day most weekends and he continues to help me to tackle the big, heavy jobs that never seem to end around here. No doubt you’ll be hearing more about Skylar as I write about all of the tasks that have been keeping me busy!

(These photos of Cam spreading manure were taken at the end of April. Things are MUCH greener now!)

cam shoveling manuremanure2