Yesterday I took some time to clean all my garden tools. I soaked them for a few minutes, then scrubbed off all the caked-on red mud and chicken manure. I took a wire brush to the rusty spots and today I will apply a thin coat of oil to stop any further rusting.
As I cleaned I remembered all the hours of hard labor on this farm, working alone and getting to know my own physical limitations and the strength of my willpower during the days spent forking mulch around my trees and turning compost, cutting new furrows into the spring garden, and sweating through the tear-inducing frustration of trying to pick-ax a planting hole in dry, red clay. There are so many stories behind each of these tools. There’s the hand maul that finally did in my rotator cuff while I was splitting wood during this winter’s polar vortex and the elegant little hand weeder that was a gift from an exboyfriend who did more than any one else save my parents to support my farm dream. I don’t ever want to lose my favorite short-handled red cultivator, which I bought to use at this farm’s predecessor, my community garden plot in Arlington, and that’s almost always at hand. And of course I’ve prepared homes for hundreds of trees and plants here using that one shovel and a couple trowels.
For historical perspective I’ve kept a couple of delicate “Lady Gardener” tools that I was given as a skinny kid who just wanted to dig in the dirt. I guess I’m not a lady gardener now that I’ve graduated to the man-size tools, but if you’ve ever seen me caked in dirt, sweating and bleeding and cursing as I try to bend the earth to my will, you’d know that anyway.
This humble little collection of steel and wood is what brought Bonafide Farm to life. The least I can do to thank my tools for their service is give them a garbage can bubble bath and a little hot-oil rubdown.