Last week was a week of heavy equipment.
My friend Larry, who manages a swanky horse farm in town, had promised me his manure pile again this year to use as mulch on my poor starved acres. Last spring it had taken us more than two full days to load and transport the many tons of rotted bedding seven miles up the highway to my land. Larry was kindly prepared to do it all again.
But then my friend D bought a dump truck and that gave us another option. Hiring D and his truck would cost me about $80 more than renting last year’s dump trailer. However, it would put money in D’s pocket rather than a stranger’s, while also sparing Larry two days of time and labor. I put Larry and D in touch with each other.
Every couple of weeks one or the other would give me an update on their plans. “Not this week, maybe next.” One issue was borrowing a tractor big enough to load over the high sides of the truck.
Then came Hurricane Irene. The shallow river that flows along the edge of Larry’s farm rose to a boil and ripped a thirty-foot strip from his pasture, tearing out a mile of post-and-rail fencing and flooding the fields. Larry has been busy cleaning up ever since. Obviously, moving a manure pile dropped not just down his priority list, but off it.
Last week, however, he hired an excavator and operator to shore up the new raw edge of his pasture with a retaining wall of boulders.
An excavator! Sitting idle on Larry’s farm in the evenings!
D called me Wednesday afternoon. He would meet me after work. Now was our only chance to move manure. The forecast was for rain and we had to get the big truck in and out of Larry’s farm before the land turned to greasy mud. I milked Katika quickly and turned the animals out. I was just leaving a hasty message for my husband on his cell phone when D rumbled down my driveway with the first load.
The excavator with its giant bucket made everything easy.
D’s truck could hold twice as much as last year’s dump trailer and the excavator could load it in five minutes. The most time-consuming part of the job was trundling up and down the highway between farms.
We moved almost all of Larry’s pile in just under four hours. I say “we” — but of course D did everything. He ran the excavator, he drove the truck. My only task was to entertain his granddaughter, an adorable two-year-old along for the adventure of working with Papa.
Back and forth, back and forth. It was pitch dark when D loaded the last load by headlights. The baby had long since been picked up by her parents for supper.
As D is well aware of my ineptitude with machines, I was nervous when he told me to drive the dump truck out of Larry’s far field. (A friend was puzzled by my obvious pride in this small accomplishment. “Truck’s automatic, only got to press the gas?”) Nevertheless, I beamed. D followed me out in the excavator, returning it to high ground.
Like his father, D does not talk much. I knew he must be tired after a long day of driving and now four hours of hauling manure but he didn’t mention it. He didn’t even have the energy to growl at me as he usually does. Finally he pointed out that his headlights needed adjustment. I admitted I didn’t even know headlights could be adjusted. After that we rode listening to country music on the radio.
At my farm he backed into the north field and added our final load to the pile — just in time. Minutes after he said goodbye and drove out, it began to rain.
I am going to spread this year’s manure all over the two-acre north field. This is my oldest and best pasture (it was the first one cleared from forest, back in 2004) but my best is still not very good. I’m hoping twenty tons of compost will act on it like a tonic.
I had planned to have it spread before snowfall … but as our first flurries are predicted for tonight, this seems unlikely.