What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it. ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871
Finally, we have had a run of gradually warmer days with no rain and so John borrowed our neighbor's tiller (kind of a permanent loan on the part of our neighbor as it is old and he has no real use or space for it) and began the laborious work of carving out our garden plot. Although there is no picture of it, I, too, did some tilling and believe you me--it was hard work!!! The whole time that I was trying to control the machine I couldn't help but imagine trying to do the same thing with a single blade plow and some oxen. Incredible!!! Here I had the luxury of a gasoline engine and four blades to break up the earth and I was still overwhelmed at how difficult it was. As much as we are committed to gentle practices in our farming endeavors, I am incredibly grateful for the glory of the tiller.
The other marvelous part of this early garden work is the soil. We had our soil tested through our local extension office earlier this winter and we were incredibly surprised by the results. All of the major components of soil chemistry that one needs to be concerned with when attempting to grow food were within normal limits. In fact, the level of "organic material" was pretty close to ideal. We are not sure how this is possible considering the fact that previous owners of our property basically trashed the place, or at the very best, paid little attention to the grounds. The glory of this is that we don't have to go to great lengths to amend the soil. This is truly a blessing. John and I have read many accounts of folks who have had to spend several years just working with their soil in order to bring it to a place where it could sustain life. We can basically hit the ground running.
The darkness of the soil is also something new. Having moved here from Georgia, it feels like a fairy tale to dig into the ground and come up with black, rich soil. Our previous growing experiences in Atlanta required the addition of tons of amendments just to turn the dirt from a red-orange hue to a darker red-orange hue. Once John began working the tiller, the earthworms were everywhere (hallelujuah!) and the rich, black soil danced.