Angeletta Adams Fields tells me that this current, or most recent by the time you read this, little cold spell is Black Locust Winter. I’ve been calling it Short Britches Winter, a name I got from Richard Smith, because, the day after I broke out my summer shorts I was mighty glad I still had some long britches handy and that Loretta had not stashed my long johns away until next November. They both felt wonderful yesterday and today (May 16).
Several people have called or emailed to let me know their tomato and pepper plants had suffered pretty severe frost bite and wondered what they should do about it. I told them, that if it was me, I’d simply buy some new plants and start over.
I checked my garden first thing Sunday morning and first thing today and was pleasantly surprised that nothing showed any signs of frost damage. Surprised, because our little valley usually gets the last frost in spring ant the first one in autumn. We have actually had numerous May frosts in years past and more than once lost bushels of peppers, beans and tomatoes to frosts in September.
Still, while I’ve had several damage reports from friends in Garrard County as well as our neighbors in Madison and Rockcastle, my garden has, so far, remained unscathed. It’s a mystery, but I sure am grateful for the miracle.
However, the biggest gardening miracle, at least for me, this year, has been the resurrection of an old tiller that I had, long ago, given up for dead. It is the smallest rear-tine Troybilt the company ever made. I believe I paid a friend $75 for it in the 1990s and it was considered worn out even then.
I ran the motor’s serial number on Tecumseh engine’s website and determined that it was manufactured in 1973. I believe the engine finally got put on the tiller in 1975. In any event the little machine is well over 40 years old.
It is practically useless when it comes time to do spring plowing but it is handy as pockets on a shirt when it comes to basic cultivation and weeding. I call it my toy tiller, because that’s what it looks like and how it performs when compared to a big Troybilt Horse. I also have one of those that needs major repairs but I’d be physically unable to use it even it was in perfect running condition.
Still, as my wife will concur, while she is inside shopping at places like Lowe’s and Tractor Supply, I tend to stay outside and admire the abundance of brand new tillers they have in stock. Unfortunately, it makes no sense to be spending upwards of $800 on a new tiller when Mr. Parkinson could put an end to my gardening habit on very short notice.
Anyway, I knew that the only thing mechanically wrong with my little toy tiller was that it needed a new carburetor. I was more than surprised to find the very one I needed online for 15 bucks including free shipping and handling. In other words, less than I had paid for a rebuild kit several times in years gone by.
I figured I could show Loretta how to remove the old carb and install the new one in a matter of minutes.
But that was before discovering that, even though she knows what a hammer, screwdriver and pliers look like, my wife is totally clueless about such things as ratchets, sockets, channel locks, vice grips and wrenches.
Plus, we rapidly discovered that the two bolts holding the card onto the engine were rusted in place tighter than rivets on The Titanic.
The job that I expected to complete in 15 minutes wound up being spread out into several sessions over the course of 11 days.
And, actually it’s a double miracle. Not only do I have a functional tiller that runs like an Elgin watch, but our marriage survived the ordeal and we are still speaking to each other.
The tiller may look like something that could take first place in Pikeville’s Hillbilly Days parade, but, as long as I can keep talking my wonderful neighbor, Billy Hale, into doing my first spring tilling with his tractor, I have high hopes that the toy tiller will be all I’ll ever need to keep a garden going.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at [email protected] or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.