Great Neighbors and The Power of a Tractor

“Have you got a square shovel?” Joe asked.

“I have a snow shovel,” I said.

“As long as it’s not plastic,” he said.

I went to the shed and got the metal snow shovel and brought it to where we were moving the smooth river rock into the bucket of the tractor. The river rock was sitting within an open wooden framework flanking the brick pathway leading to the front porch steps. A square shovel makes it easier to shovel from the inner edge of the frame…

flat shovel.jpg

…while a pointed tip is not so wide and would leave a lot behind.

pointed shovel.jpg

We wanted to move the river rock in order to save it for use some other time. The excavation work soon to happen in this area will erase all traces of river rock, so if you want the rock, move it while you can.

As I walked back to the work site I thought about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her own “Little House in the Big Woods” was vastly different from mine. Her setting, Wisconsin in the 1870s, was largely unpopulated. Families needed enormous measures of gumption, skill, courage and strength, a portion of luck and at least a few good tools.

I wondered: Did they have a square shovel? I am sure, between building a house in the woods, making their own butter and cheese, harvesting crops, raising, hunting and butchering animals, and fending off a variety of threats to their admirable homestead, they did not have need to move decorative river rock out of preexisting wooden frameworks. But I’ll bet a square shovel would have been handy for some aspect of their operation. More than that, think how different their experience would have been with a good tractor.

Having the right tools helps so much. It sure helped yesterday. And I don’t mean the snow shovel for the river rock. I mean this Kuboda LA525.


Tracy, my very generous neighbor, gave me two hours of her time along with the use of this beast of hers. Joe, her very capable dad, masterfully orchestrated the relocation of my two planter boxes, each of which has to weigh at least 500 pounds.


Together with the help of the beast, these great neighbors did in two hours what would have taken us the whole weekend.

I did the prelim work last week, putting the cinder blocks in place. That’s when it looked like this.

cinderblocks1 (2).jpg

But after that my hands were tied. Earth weighs approximately 100 pounds per cubic foot. These planter boxes are five feet long by about two feet wide and about 18″ high. Granted, the lower half is filled with some empty cans and Styrofoam peanuts just to take up space (coleus, even gigantic ones like mine, don’t need that much dirt). Still, the 100 pounds per cubic foot is just the dirt. The total weight of the boxes also includes the rainwater that soaked that dirt two days ago, the wood itself that the planter box is made of and even the relatively minor weight of the plants themselves.

I don’t own a tractor and had spent a good bit of time considering how we were going to solve the problem of moving these huge and heavy boxes. We might dig the plants and most of the dirt out of them, then drag each box or walk it one angled step at a time, a few inches at a time, to the concrete blocks. Or use a furniture dolly. Sooner or later we would have moved them. But oh, the joy of a machine with this kind of power!

Watch what it can do. With just that strap around the middle, Joe at the wheel, and Samuel and Sandy to keep it from tipping one way or the other, the box went off the ground. They pivoted it,


Joe backed up,

keeping her steady.jpg

they kept her steady,

keeping steady2.jpg

they moved toward the landing pad,

keeping 3.jpg

and he lowered her into position.


The second box was just as simple except for my landing pad not being as level as I thought it was. (Least said about that, the better!)

boxes moved3.jpg

It’s an amazing machine, but more important to me, it was a great team effort, the kind of thing you wonder about sometimes: Is it real? Do neighbors help each other like that?

They did yesterday! They do!

This is community, people coming together to make a hard thing easier. This is the way it’s supposed to be – not to say it always is, but it should be. In the 1870s in the big woods of Wisconsin, pioneers pooled their strengths and resources as well. Wilder’s book includes heartwarming examples of her father trading labor with their neighbors. Yesterday my own heart was warmed as I witnessed amazing labor on Labor Day.

Everyone can do their bit – any day of the year – to perpetuate good, to lend a hand, to make their own corner of the world a better place than it might otherwise be. The best vitamin for making friends is B1, right? Same applies to having good neighbors, I’m sure.

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