Yarb Tales
July 23, 2016

The Heritage Herb Garden at the Ozark Folk Center graces the park with visual colors and textures, sweet and pungent aromas and helps us to interpret the history of the human use of plants.

Machines do so much work in the garden these days that the use of hand tools is becoming less common. When at first I became a gardener, it was because I loved to dig. As a horticultural laborer working for the Parkways and Parks Commission in New Orleans, I learned about shovels.

Flat shovels with long handles were for moving piles of sand, soil or compost. Flat digging spades had a sharp edge and were used for carving root balls out of the earth when transplanting shrubs and perennials.

Spoon shovels, with a triangular and scooped shape had an edge for cutting into soil and roots. The concave shape was for moving material.

Short handled shovels were called “widow makers” because it was easier to hurt the back bending over to use the tool. Long handles provided more leverage for moving loads.

 Digging forks were for cultivating and hand tilling. The tines would penetrate the soil easier than the solid blade of a shovel, making shorter work of weed extraction.

I have been mourning the loss of my trusty digging fork. I believe that it bounced out of the back of my pickup a few weeks ago on Park Avenue or Webb Street. Unlike any that can be purchased locally, it was forged from a single piece of high-carbon steel in England by Clarington Forge. I purchased it about ten years ago from Lee Valley Tools. With this tool I have moved mountains of raw compost, uprooted weed trees and repositioned boulders. The tines would never bend and the tool gave me super powers. If anyone has found this fork and wants to return it, please bring it to the Ozark Folk Center or call 870-269-3851. If I don’t see you in the future—I’ll see you in the pasture.