Mat and I bought this house on Meredith Lane at the beginning of a very wet winter, and in doing so we spent every penny of ours and a few of our relatives'. So it was that we found ourselves economizing when it came to the accessories of farming, and so it was justified that we bought a bargain basement, low end wheelbarrow. Feeling like Frugal Fanny at her finest, I brought the plastic barrow home just days before my horses arrived; at the time, I had a draft X gelding and a borrowed mare, and there was nothing I had looked forward to as much as bringing the pair of them home from the boarding stable.
Any horse person worth her salt will tell you that two horses on one acre of Whatcom County lowland in the month of October is a recipe for disaster, barring the importation of dozens of tons of gravel. It came to pass that by early spring, Mat and I were stretching our budget a bit, putting 12 tons of this and 13 tons of that, plus 11 tons of the other, on one of several credit cards. We have since chopped said cards into a million little pieces, but that's a story for another day. That day, that rainy day, we made a choice between slogging through the filthy mud or dropping some cash on some very good 3/8" minus plus fines for the paddock and pathways, some 1 1/4" minus for the driveway, such as it was, and a couple of yards of compost for the spring garden. By March, we were the lucky owners of Gravel Mountain.
Bent Barrow Farm is laid out in such a manner that none of it, save the driveway, is accessible by truck. Renting a tractor being out of the question due to funding shortfalls, Mat and I did the only thing remaining to do . . . we shoveled. We shoveled, and wheeled, and shoveled, and wheeled, and raked, and shoveled, and wheeled. Our wheelbarrow, rickety enough to begin with, began to feel the strain in earnest after the first fifteen or so tons had been relocated, and by the twentieth ton the device was buckling like cooked spaghetti. A couple of additional braces helped get it back on it's feet—er, foot—erm, wheel—and we got our gravel driveway, equine paddock, run-in shed, and garden pathways safely resurfaced before the thing gasped its expiring breath.
This shoveling, wheeling, shoveling, raking, wheeling, shoveling, and raking was mostly a job for the man of the family, not so much because I was not up to the task but because, being in expectation of my third child that spring, I had been asked to refrain from heavy labor.
Mat tried reasoning with me, and he spent every waking hour on his weekends with shovel in hand, but the fact is that a stay-at-home mom with a brand new farm is going to have a burning desire to get out and enjoy it. With Mat working or commuting for up to 50 hours per week, and with our darkest days lasting just a shy seven or eight hours, I was not about to sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam while my horses slogged in the mud outside. With a very normal, healthy pregnancy and a beautiful, if muddy, little farm to tend, I pulled my weight that spring. My weight, by the way, had increased dramatically by the end of the gravel-spreading season, and we had a couple of unconvinced neighbors shaking their heads at my daily labors. Mat, in a vain attempt to quiet me, put in a couple of after-dark hours in every evening, and did as much of the gravel-moving as he humanly could. On weekday mornings, like a delinquent child, I snuck out of of the house. With my toddler in a backpack, sleeping, I tried daily to move as many yards as I could manage before her nap ended, or before my harmless Braxton Hicks contractions set in.
By the first of April, Tanner and Blue were moved into a very comfortable paddock on eight inches of gorgeous footing. At about that time, my excellent midwife and wonderful husband orchestrated an intervention, during which they sat me down and made me pinky-swear not to touch the shovel again. I agreed (the work, after all, being done), and on April 4th, I took my hours-old daughter out to meet the horses without a single muddy footstep.