Our garden is taking over the vacant land surrounding the unused railroad track in our backyard, and that involves a lot of shoveling. Two years ago, we filled in the railroad tracks to make raised garden beds, removing plenty of miscellaneous rocky fill in the process. This year the track owners plan to remove and scrap the iron. Which means that we had work to do.
Ideally this would happen sooner rather than later so we could rebuild early in the growing season, so to make the track removal easier (and preserve the soil) we cleared the rails down to the spikes.
And clearly before I got my hands dirty I had to make this workday into a photo opportunity. It was the first day warm enough to work outside in short sleeves! (Since then it’s gotten a little more chilly again, but I ruined my cold weather seasoning by traveling to Alabama and I’m no judge of acceptable temperature anyway.)
The tracks were built for the Erie Junction Railroad and haven’t been used since the 1970s or ’80s except for a little handcart that the railroad museum across the way would bring out occasionally. Most of the line has already been ripped up, but there are several more rail lines buried deep in the back lot (and in the swath of land further back, previously known as the Hobo Woods but which has since been divested of anything resembling woods and transformed into a gravelly wasteland). This was a rail town, as well as a lumber town, a canal town, and a carousel and organ building town.
I swapped out for a trowel partway through to get those last bits out of the way. Being closer to the soil, I could see it was chock full of creepy crawly things. When we first started gardening there were no worms. Now that we’ve been composting, bringing in some new soil, taking out clay and gravel, breaking down leaf mold, and growing a bunch of beans to fix the nitrogen the worms have moved in and are thrilled.
Here you can see the exposed rails, ready to pull. You can also see one of the ubiquitous five-gallon buckets that populate our household, and the parts of last year’s herb garden that made it through the winter intact. The oregano overwintered! Luckily herbs love poor soil and infrequent watering, and thrive where the diva plants would sputter. They’re going to move closer to the house, out of the way of any impending track removal. And by the time they’re really leafy, we will have run out of last year’s pesto at long last.