Sunday, April 1, 2012

Garden Equity

It's 12:34 and I have just exited the garden for the first time today.  I will likely be back in it two or three more times today.  This first venture was for just under two hours which is a bit short for my typical time on a Sunday morning.  Usually I am in the garden before 9am and there until close to noon.  As I was pondering my time spent with the greenery, I realized that gardening is much like any business venture.  You must put in a lot of capital prior to gaining any revenue.  In the case of the garden, things like capital and revenue mean different things than in the business world and I decided to break down just what the garden 'expenses' versus 'gains' really is.

Here is what I researched regarding the amount of earth being moved.  For topsoil, it is estimated that each cubic yard will weight 1.2 tons.   For paving stones it is estimated that 2 - 4 inch stones weigh about 1.2 tons per cubic yard.

Here is what I researched regarding caloric expenditures.  For heavy digging (each shovel load weighing over 16 lbs per minute of work) I would expend about 600 calories per hour.  For lighter garden work it is estimated I would expend about 300 calories per hour.  Moving paving stones will be about 600 calories per hour.  Doing routine weeding and planting seeds as well as watering plants I would expend about 115 calories per hour.

Here are some other statistics that will impact the total 'expense' of the garden.

In the ceder fence area there are ten 3 ft by 6 ft garden beds that were completely rebuilt in a way that required the earth to be dug down at least three feet.  Nine of these beds are sided with ceder boards and one of these beds is sided with large rocks.  There are pathways around these beds that are paved with sixty 6 inch by 8 inch concrete paving stones and over 60 bricks.

Cedar Fence garden beds

The center garden bed is a 12 ft by 12 ft space that I completely remodeled which means digging at least three feet in depth and removing a two foot by 12 foot rock pathway.  In this space I now have two 3ft by 6 ft beds sided with large rocks and surrounded by a stone pathway that has over 60 feet of area.

Center Garden south view

Center Garden north view
The grapefruit garden bed consists of two 3 ft by 3 ft beds and a 3 ft by 6 ft beds.  These beds are sided with large rocks and there is a stone pathway two feet by six feet long.

Grapefruit Garden

So, knowing these basic statistic I have come up with the following items regarding each garden bed.

Ceder Garden

Total number of tons of earth moved: (10 beds each at 1 cubic yards of earth moved = 1.2 tons per bed) = 12 tons of earth moved.  Total weight of paving stones and bricks moved = I guestimate about 500 pounds. This puts the grand total of about 12 and a quarter tons moved.

Total amount of caloric expense:  Each garden bed involved 2 hours of heavy digging (1200 calories) and 2 hours of lighter work such as building the wooden frames and light digging and planting (600 calories) and then an hour of moving and setting the paving stones (600 calories) which equals 2400 calories per bed times 10 beds.  Total caloric expense = 24,000 calories.

Center Garden

Total number of tons of earth moved (12 feet by 12 feet completely remodeled comes to 5.3 cubic yards moved = 6.4 tons of earth moved.  Total weight of paving stones moved totaling 2.6 cubic yards = 3.2 tons of paving stones moved.  Add another 600 pounds of rocks used to line the beds and the grand total is about 9.9 tons moved.

Total amount of caloric expense:  The remodeling and building of this area took 10 hours of heavy digging (6000 calories) and 5 hours of moving paving stones (3000 calories) and also 3 hours of light digging and planting (900 calories) for a grand total of : 9900 calories.

Grapefruit Garden

Total number of tons of earth moved (2 cubic yards at 1.2 tons per cubic yard) = 2.4 tons.  A six foot by two foot pathway of paving stones = .5 tons.  Grand total = 2.9 tons.

Total caloric expense:  This bed took 3 hours of heavy digging (1800 calories) and one hour of moving paving stones (600 calories) plus an hour of light digging and planting (300 calories) for a grand total of : 2700 calories.

So, in order to basically reach where I am in the garden zone right now I have moved over 25 tons of earth and I have expended over 36,600 calories.  The time I have spent just getting these beds ready is over 73 hours of actually doing labor.  That does not account for the amount of time I am just dazed and staring at the work that still needs to be accomplished.

Now to fully understand the full impact of the weight we are talking here I thought I would compare it to some images that might help the reader better understand the magnitude of effort we are discussing here.

25 Tons

One sperm whale is about 25 tons.  I have basically moved one of these around my garden (It helps to think of the human in the above picture as a picture of me working in the whale/dirt).


... it could be 5 female African elephants that I moved around the garden, one heavy shovelful or heavy rock at a time.

36,000 Calories

Just one of these orders of ten pounds of chicken fried steak along with six pounds of mashed potatoes and a loaf of Texas toast (available at Ft. Worth's Cowtown Diner) will be around 10,000 calories.
Which means I would have to go in for seconds...
...and thirds to get close to the 36,600 calories I have expended on the garden.

Or in a way that is more specific to garden terms...

252 tomatoes, 714 sweet peppers and 252 cucumbers worth of calories.

This is just a small way to calculate the sweat equity I have devoted to this garden.  It does not calculate the time spend in attention and planning.  I have not calculated a monetary expense, but it is rather miniscule when you consider everything I have just calculated did not involve any monetary expense.  We already had the shovels, soil and paving materials on hand.

There is also a wage of exercise paid in order to do this type of intense gardening.  In order to be able to move these tons of earth I have to do strength training.  Gardening is not exercise although it does build strength.  In actuality, you build the strength in order to be safe in your gardening.  If you try to get strong just by gardening alone you may find yourself injured.

The worst thing about this equation is that there is a great chance of failure.  Not only might I do something wrong and screw up the crops, the weather and other forces might conspire to rob me of any gardening profit.

Right now I am going on hope and the basic psychological benefits gained from doing hard labor in something you love.  Will my garden pay me back?  We will have to see.  At least it is keeping me off the streets.

P.S.  I did go back into the garden from 4:30 pm - 8pm after a well appreciated nap...

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