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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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