Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeConsider ThisIn Praise of the Wheelbarrow

In Praise of the Wheelbarrow

In his book “If You Want to Be A Cowboy, Get A Job” and other insults about the way modern ranches are run, Stan Parsons quotes a South African livestock producer: “The biggest piece of machinery you want on a livestock farm is a wheelbarrow.” Stan Parsons then added, “That is only if you are crazy about machinery.”

Now those of us who have read this or who have heard it repeated by someone who had read it knows it to be an exaggeration. But is it really? Once, when commenting on technology, Edward Abbey said, “We spend more time working for our labor-saving machines than they do working for us.”

In their book “The Good Life” Helen and Scott Nearing tell of digging a pond on their Maine farm using shovels and wheelbarrows. During the years of on and off construction 16,000 wheelbarrows loads of dirt were moved. Now none of us would attempt anything of the sort we would not see the necessity of such effort, but the fact remains, it is possible, but not without the wheelbarrow.

The wheelbarrow or as it is called by folks in other parts of our country “wheelbarrel” or “wheelbar” has proved over many years to be one of the most important pieces of equipment on the farm. Around the barn it is indispensable in the movement of hay, feed, manure and it is much easier to put a baby calf in the wheelbarrow than it is to carry or drag it. On our little place we make a real effort to limit truck and tractor traffic in the pastures moving minerals or tools can be done using the ATV, but sometimes the wheelbarrow works just fine.

No, I am not advocating doing away with all of our wheel equipment although I believe we could do without some of it without causing hardship with better planning. But I do wonder if most of it will serve us for as long and as usefully as the wheelbarrow.

Oh, one more thing do you remember the laughter and joy of pushing a wheelbarrow load of kids around the place and then grandkids, and then great grandkids (but each generation at a much slower pace)? I do. 🙂

In China, they turned this form of farm yard fun into a means of transportation!


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Don Ashford
Don Ashford
My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.


  1. Good Morning, Don! We fed and maintained 1000+ broilers in pasture pens with a borrowed wheelbarrow. 2 sacks of feed is a walk in the park. 4 or 5 sacks started getting tricky in the mud. One time I tried to scratch my nose while pushing an empty wheelbarrow. I “tossed” one handle up in the air and expected to scratch my itch and catch the handle on it’s way down, maybe skid a little but still pushing with the other hand while giving a twist to counteract gravity I assumed the forward motion would continue. Well my quick calculations were wrong and the front end dug in right when I “tossed” the handle and it shot up in the air and almost knocked out my front teeth.

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