To Till Or Not To Till….


That may not be “the” question, but it is “a” question. And it’s one I’m faced with presently, if not necessarily by choice. Two summers ago, my far too generous brother gifted me with a brand spanking new tiller. It came with a respected brand name Kohler engine. Unfortunately, it also came equipped with a “smart” choke, the intelligence of which is suspect. Or maybe the suspicion lies with the operator? Always a possibility. While I can handle most of the basics of small engines, I’m not an advanced trouble shooter.

Which is to say, I can’t get the dang thing to start. It gave me trouble last year too in its maiden voyage of service. But by manipulating the linkage for the butterfly valve, I was able to get it to purr last spring.  Then fall arrived. I was going  to winterize it with Stabil and….bupkus! Try as I might, it just refused to roar to life. I believe some cussing may have ensued shortly thereafter.   “Scheissen !” …. as my Austrian heritage dad used to say when similarly flummoxed in his work shed.

 To be sure, if the worms had a vote, surely they would support the no till candidate.

Oh, its probably a simple fix. A  minor adjustment might do it. Or maybe its that I ignored the recommendation to avoid using the oxygenated garbage gas thrust upon us these days in order to “save the planet”… (“Hey, let’s not  eat the food, let’s unnecessarily lace our fuel with it instead, and line some  political pockets along the way…Brilliant!!!”). Regardless, the clock is ticking for spring sowing. It could be awhile before I get the engine issue solved. So tilling with this machine prior to planting isn’t likely to happen.

Maybe that isn’t so bad. There are devotees of the “no till” method of gardening. That is an intriguing  proposal. I’ve heard some convincing podcasts arguing that not disrupting the soil’s microbial ecology is far better for nutrient retention and top soil management, not to mention plant growth. And what of the worms. My goodness, the worms!!!  They must view a tiller as the whirling monster from above, ready to claw them apart at any moment. …(paging Gary Larson). To be sure, if the worms had a vote, surely they would support the no till candidate.  Yet,  we know that tilling has been the standard practice of farmers for centuries. But the DVD Back To Eden with  Paul Gautschi,    ….   believes we only need to observe how nature grows things. Come to think of it, Adam certainly didn’t have a horse and plow when God tasked him with cultivating the fields.

Yet as it is, I still find that I am pulled toward the traditional. And tilling is the traditional.  Which returns me to my original quandary.  What of that stubborn engine and it’s smart choke? A workaround solution was awaiting me to remember it. It was sitting right there in the storage shed.

When we bought our home, my eyes had not yet been opened to the wisdom of self reliance.  This beautiful piece of manual machinery was left behind by the previous owners. When I first discovered it in our storage shed, it was dismissed as clutter. Something I would certainly never use or need. It very nearly went to live in the garbage can.

Yet, providence comes in many forms. It just takes time to recognize it in some situations. So, after sitting patiently lo these many years, this manual cultivator has been put to good use. In a grid down scenario, it would be an invaluable asset. I still find myself wrestling with the till or no till debate. For this season, I straddled the fence, and tilled only the planting lines. It worked great.

The worms didn’t seem to mind that much.


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