Adventures in Tilling

I’m the kind of person who likes to learn to use new power tools and fancy machinery. I took both wood shop and electrical shop way back when and I was the only girl in classes like that. I’m generally pretty good at mastering new tools, but sometimes I get in over my head. When we couldn’t find someone who could till gardens for new students in our Grow Your Own class, I offered to try. I own a tiller and have tilled my own garden before, but my tiny baby vintage Gibson tiller (it’s older than my mom) looks like the toy version of the Cub Cadet I rented. My tiller wouldn’t go deep enough or be able to cut through sod. This one was a beast and I was unprepared.

At the rental shop, I made a video of the demonstration so I could refer back to it in the field. I managed to get the first garden done easily enough as it was recently tilled. It was helpful to start with an easier one so I could get used to using the biggest machine I ever used. The only challenge there was the small slope leading into the garden. The next garden was more difficult since it was unmowed grass that had never been a garden. By the third, I was a pro… and my arms were falling off. I got to the 4th house on my list to learn how the slope from that morning was nothing compared to the roller coaster obstacle course I had to navigate just to get this 500 pound beast to the garden… down the steep hill and then a tight s-curve through the gate with enough hill and weight to make gravity nearly be the death of me.

And that’s when the machine broke. The wheels locked up and the accelerator stopped even though the engine would crank. Turns out, in the process of trying not to die while getting it down the hill, I pulled the ignition wire loose. As I’m not a mechanic, I had to swap it out for a working machine, which meant scooting it back uphill with locked wheels and no gas. When I got the replacement tiller the next morning, I also found another operator to help finish the last 2 gardens on the list. I was grateful for the help and it wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise. I will keep trying to do it all myself, but I’m willing to admit defeat too.

This blog post was written by Agriculture Education AmeriCorps VISTA, Della McGuire.