Friday, October 26, 2012

Lessons Learned -- Wheelbarrows

Wheelbarrows may be awesome labor-saving devices if you have hard, smooth paths; but we've found that they pretty much suck for muddy, bumpy, rooty, stumpy ground. Especially if it has one of those wheelguard/tip-assist bars at the front like this one:

That little metal bar gets jammed or hung up on everything when you're pushing the wheelbarrow at any angle that allows the back supports to clear any obstacles; and the single wheel in the front makes for a very unstable load on uneven ground... either pushing or pulling. We end up using more energy struggling to maneuver over/around small obstacles while keeping the whole thing upright, and usually tipping over and dumping the load anyway, than we would just hauling stuff around in buckets or dragging it on a sled, tarp or board.

If your landscape isn't a nice stable, flat, relatively hard-packed surface we recommend that you ditch the wheelbarrow and go with a wheeled cart with wide knobbly tires. Two-wheel tilt or 4-wheel wagon styles ultimately work MUCH better than a wheelbarrow... maybe a 3-wheel tricycle-wheelbarrow hybrid would work.

Be careful with the tire size! A large skinny tire like those below will probably roll/climb over a obstacle ok, but will dig furrows into snow, mud and mulch... and then you'll be stuck fighting with it again.

So, it looks like we'll be repurposing our two wheelbarrows into vegetable planters in the spring, like these from The Micro Gardener!

Note: I'm not knocking the wheelbarrow and skinny-tired cart, they are perfectly appropriate for barn, lawn & garden chores on smooth, stable surfaces... they just aren't appropriate for more rugged backwoods chores on unstable surfaces.


Misty Pines Homestead said...

Well it finally got cold here.I'm getting a little wagon I can pull for the garden.I figured that would be better.I do like the wheel barrow with the long handle for other stuff.Stay warm up there!

Connie said...

I just got caught up on your posts. Hope all is well and you two, and Ripley, of course ;) are staying warm and healthy. Be safe.

Andrea said...

Have you had any problems with the plastic getting brittle in the cold of the wilds?

Plickety Cat said...

Yes, we do have some issues with different plastics up here in the winter. The thicker, heavy-duty "rubberized" plastics stand up better than bargain brand; but ultimately they all fail when it gets really cold and you stress it just right. Kind of like how tempered glass is strong if you hit it face-on, but all you need to do is tap the edge to make it shatter; the rubberized plastics stand up to more light abuse, but when it fails it tends to fail catastrophically. Thin plastic (like shopping and trash bags) shred almost immediately in the cold, and we've never had any poly-sheeting thinner than 6 mil survive for long.

Misty Pines Homestead said...

On totes Cat why don't you try wooden chests?They would hold up better.I'll see if I can find some and let you know.Something like an old ship trunk.They do have them on Ebay.

Plickety Cat said...

The problem with using wooden chests for storage is that they usually don't hold up well to the weather and carpenter ants. For lugging stuff around wooden crates add extra weight to load.

For storage under cover, wooden chests and crates would be great as long as whatever was inside them wasn't attractive to nibbling little rodents.

We've found, overall, for the majority of lugging tasks the best thing is heavy-duty canvas totes with reinforced handles that go all the way around the bottom. They're easier to dry out than wood if they get wet or muddy. They slide fairly well on the ground as long as there aren't too many stumps poking up. They fold or roll up so they take up less space in storage. They don't disintegrate as badly if they freeze; and if they do rip, it's fairly easy to patch or sew them back up. And your hands won't freeze to the fabric straps like they do with metal handles... you just haven't lived until you stupidly grab something metal with your bare hands in the winter ;)

Marybeth said...

So what does a typical day in the winter look like for you guys? What do you do all day? How do you keep away cabin fever? What do you do for entertainment?