Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blizzard of 2015

Ok, so blizzard is a bit of an exaggeration. Nevertheless, we are currently in the middle of the worst winter storm to hit this area in 20 years, and the worst, by far, since Andrea and I moved to this property.

The snow began on Monday and continued, sporadically, through mid-week. By the time it was finished we had twelve inches of the white stuff on the ground. To go along with the snow temperatures plummeted, hitting lows that haven't been seen in this area in two decades, and setting records for this time of year. It was nearly 10 degrees below zero last night, and we are expecting the same tonight.

Fortunately we have weathered the weather, at least so far, without problem. The flexibility of my job meant that I didn't have to worry about trying to get out. There have been no power outages, and the water hasn't frozen, so we've been comfortable staying mostly inside.

I did try to get the truck out a couple of days ago, but only managed to get it stuck in the driveway. I eventually had to push it into the yard, out of the way, with the tractor. Today I spent an hour using the tractor to clear the driveway and a path past the shed to make walking easier.

Jen hasn't had it quite so good, since she has had to walk up to feed the cats daily. The climb up the hill is bad enough in good conditions, and much worse in twelve inches of snow. I tried driving her up there on the RTV early in the week, but we didn't make it very far before spinning out. I'm not even sure that the tractor would make it up there right now.

All in all it has been an enjoyable week of being snowed in. I've taken some time to get out in the snow, but have mostly stayed inside, enjoying the view of the snow through the window. On one hand I look forward to seeing dirt again, when the snow melts, but on the other hand I dread it because I know that it will be mud I see, not dry ground. At least Spring is getting closer with every day that passes.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meadow Creature Broadfork

Last month I ordered a broadfork from Washington based Meadow Creature. I had been wanting a broadfork for a while, since haring Cheryl Long, of Mother Earth News, rave about it during a workshop on garden tools. I had a chance to try it out this weekend and was thrilled with its performance.

I purchased the 14" broadfork, which, according to the Meadow Creature website, is their most popular option. I nearly chose the 12", due to the lower price, but ultimately decided that I should go with the version I thought would serve me best, since I intend to be using the tool for many years.

When the broadfork arrived I was very impressed with both the tool itself and the care taken with packaging. It was shipped in a perfectly sized, very thick, box, with pieces of plywood lining each end, with holes drilled for the tines and handles to fit into.

The first thing I noticed when I removed the fork from the box was it's sturdiness. At 22 pounds it isn't a light tool. Simply grasping the handles and lifting it is all that it takes to realize how well made it is. Unlike other broadforks, with removable wooden handles, the Meadow Creature features metal handles that are welded to the rest of the unit. This was a important factor in my decision making, as I wanted a tool with handles that I didn't have to worry about breaking.

Now that I have used the Meadow Creature broadfork I am convinced that I made the right decision. It is not only simple to use, but requires surprisingly little effort. I broke several roots while using it, some that were close to 1/2" in diameter. I was told by someone selling a broadfork produced by a competitor that on unbroken ground I would need to make two passes, only working the tines halfway into the soil on the first. I was able to bury the tines of the Meadow Creature deep into my clay soil and break it open with fairly little effort. 

I made three passes with the fork in a 30' long bed. Once I got used to the process the second and third passes took approximately 20 minutes each. I couldn't have tilled it that quickly with my rototiller, especially not to the same depth. The fork is wider than I need for the layout of my beds, but that doesn't create a problem. 

The Meadow Creature broadfork is a quality tool, with a price tag that reflects that. It is a sizeable investment, especially for anyone who hasn't used a broadfork before and so isn't completely convinced that it will be the right tool for his/her situation. Shipping is also expensive, although it is easy to understand why when you see the size and feel the weight of the box. The shipping charge is one reason I very nearly purchased a different broadfork, as I had the opportunity to buy it from a vendor at an event I was attending. In fact, there is a cheap broadfork available that doesn't cost much more than I paid to get my Meadow Creature shipped. A quick glance at the comments, though, verified my assumption that it wasn't cut out for the task I needed it to perform. In my opinion a broadfork is one tool that is worth the investment. My guess is that a cheap broadfork is barely better than having no broadfork at all. 

I would, without hesitation, recommend the Meadow Creature to anyone considering buying a broadfork. Yes, it is more expensive than some other options, but the build quality make it well worth paying a bit more. Plus, the lifetime warranty means that when you buy the tool, you're buying it for life. In this age of planned obsolescence, how many other items can  you purchase with confidence that it will outlast you?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Shampoo-Free Update - 2 Weeks

I have been shampoo-free for just over two weeks. There hasn't been any change since my last update. Things are still going well. I haven't encountered any issues attributable to not using shampoo. I feel that my hair looks the same without using shampoo as it looks when I do use it, and others have told me much the same. If anything changes I'll write another update, otherwise I don't see much use in continuing to write about the experiment until several months have passed and I'm able to draw a conclusion.