Scale is something I always love thinking about around Leafhopper Farm; the size of my flock, how many square feet of garden I can irrigate off the well without going dry in late summer, or scoops of grain left before a trip to the grange should happen to re-supply. When I look at projects- especially earth works- scale determines so much when we’re dealing with big machines. In past writing, I have talked some about my ethical dilemma around using gas power on the farm, and it is still on my mind with every decision. The logic of scale demands my attestation one more, and the answer is still clear; machines save more time, wear and tear on the self, and ultimately allows longer recovery and restoration of space once transformed.
When I stand with the teeth on one of the buckets, my spirit sings at the thought of not having to lift and move these masses of material using my wheelbarrow and a shovel. The two days it will take to do this schedule of work with a machine and truck, would take me months, and with all the other projects and responsibilities on my plate- years! When the work is done, I will have a lot of reseeding in the pastures to get done- great, I didn’t have to bring in a tractor to till before I seeded. I’ll rake the driveway to get out the track grooves in my road, and hope everything is well drained as the rainy season sets in.
The eco blocks are placed to hold an embankment leveled out for our 20,000 gallon pillow tank. The rain catchment will come from two roofs of a combined square footage to collect more than enough water for the cistern. We opted to put in the large heavy blocks as additional structural integrity for both the water tank, and the as of yet built potting shed. In the picture above, the machine is working on the space where the shed will be constructed.
A drain pipe with plenty of drain rock went in against the eco-block wall to allow for any runoff rainwater a place to divert from, to avoid pooling and the softening of the foundations. As the larger scooping bucket began pulling the last of an old pile of drain rock from my materials yard, my heart soared again at recognizing the last of a large truck load of gravel that I had spent years moving with my truck bed and a shovel was gone. When materials move into place and I know that’s their final resting location and the use is full-filled, there is so much success in completion. Earthworks is a sort of instant gratification, and for a person who works her day to day in small increments of human scale, the machines make moving gravel and soil feel like magic.
The pay off for using large scale planning is large return, but it also comes with a price, in ecological disruption- from the mining of materials to make the machine, it’s fuel consumption, and hydrophilic fluid nightmare should anything go wrong, to the impact on my land and budget, machines are not ideal, but they do get the job done fast and when you are working on a scale so large, it does fit the picture. I would love to see more horse power going to work in place of machines as they once did, but there are a lot of pros and cons surrounding that argument too. Let’s just say, for the sake of the here and now, that machines make the most sense where scale demands.