RIP Cindy (2009 – 2013). You’ll Be Missed.

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Cindy von Wheelbarrow passed today. For anyone else suffering the loss of a beloved wheelbarrow know that you’re not alone.

Tyrant Farms is named in honor of the benevolent dictator, Susan The Tyrant. However, there is another lady who has played an integral role in creating our little slice of edible paradise since the very beginning. Some might even say she hasn’t gotten the credit she deserves, given her tireless efforts in helping to create Tyrant Farms over the years.

Her name is Cindy. Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

Cindy joined our family when we first decided to break ground on our edible landscape several years ago. The steep kudzu and poison ivy-infested slope behind our home adjacent the forest was anything but an ideal location for a garden. However, Cindy didn’t see things that way. She saw opportunity. A glass half-full.

The beginning of Tyrant Farms, thanks in large part to Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

The beginning of Tyrant Farms, thanks in large part to Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

Through Cindy’s tireless dedication and hard work under the thumb of The Tyrant, an inhospitable terrain was transformed into 200 linear yards of terraced, rock-walled gardens. This design ensured that nutrients and water would no longer run off of our property into the stream, but would instead be retained on our property thus helping in the virtuous cycle of improved soil fertility.

Cindy hauled every piece of discarded rock we found at a nearby construction site from our old pickup truck into our backyard without ever uttering a single complaint.

“I’m tired.” “Can we take a break?” “I’m hungry.” These would have been the sentiments expressed by the average wheelbarrow under similar conditions. But not Cindy. She had a vision for the lush edible landscape that would one day be Tyrant Farms. Each rock she carried meant the first harvest was that much closer.

Cindy von Wheelbarrow's replacement tire

Cindy von Wheelbarrow’s replacement tire (we’re not sure where the missing bolt went).

Sure, her original tire broke during this initial building phase and we had to get a replacement, but nothing a little lipstick couldn’t hide.

We’re sorry that we broke your arm, Cindy

Earlier this summer, we built a wood-fired cob oven. (Read how to make your own wood-fired cob oven or how to cook in a cob oven.) The oven’s base was built out of one ton of stone and another ton of sand and gravel.

The wood-fired cob oven at Tyrant Farms, constructed under the watchful eye and helpful hand of Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

The wood-fired cob oven at Tyrant Farms, constructed under the watchful eye and helpful hand of Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

Sure, we could have hauled all of these items from the driveway ourselves, but it would have taken a long time and probably left us crippled. Even though she was already missing a few bolts by this point in her life, Cindy raised her hand and volunteered to haul all of these materials on her back so that we wouldn’t have to. All we had to do was load her up and give her a gentle push. She’d take care of the rest.

Cindy performed admirably at this task, at least until Aaron—in a foolish attempt to speed up the cob oven construction process—loaded Cindy up with a bit more stone than she could handle.

Cindy never cried out in pain, but when her right arm snapped in half, we knew she was in trouble.

One of the last injuries (a broken arm) sustained by Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

One of the last injuries (a broken arm) sustained by Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

Nevertheless, Cindy kept going. With Aaron placing one hand on her good arm and the other on her rusty shoulder, she finished the cob oven project. It was probably the single-most heroic thing we’ve ever seen from a wheelbarrow.

We’re sorry that we melted you, Cindy

Now, for those of you who have ever cooked in a wood-fired oven, you know that it can produce quite a bit of heat. 1,000 degrees of heat to be exact.

Once our cob oven has heated for about 2-3 hours, we remove the coal and embers and begin cooking. This means an extremely heat-tolerant vessel needs to be on-hand to scrape the coals into. Realizing that he didn’t have a metal container for these near-molten embers during our first wood-fired pizza experiment, Aaron decided that Cindy was going to have to hold the coals whilst we cooked.

Cindy didn’t so much as grimace as we loaded her halfway full of red-hot coals and pushed her away from the oven. Not long after the delicious fumes of pizza wafted into the air, we detected an odor that wasn’t quite so pleasant: melting plastic. You see, we’d never taken the time to notice that the fastenings between Cindy’s hips and her legs were made of plastic, and this element of her livery was quickly melting and oozing over her legs due to the extreme heat of the coals she was carrying.

Melted Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

Melted Cindy von Wheelbarrow.

We immediately extinguished the coals with water from a garden hose, but it was already too late. Our negligence had left Cindy permanently disfigured. Still not a word of protest from her… ever the optimist.

Cindy's last cob oven pizza.

Cindy’s last cob oven pizza.

How’s the pizza?” she asked, melted plastic dripping from her chin.

We’re sorry that we snapped you in half, Cindy

This past weekend, we happened to stop by Lowes Home Improvement Warehouse for some now-forgotten reason. Whether we’re getting a plumbing item or a new tool, The Tyrant ALWAYS demands we make a visit to Lowes’ discount plant section, despite considerable protest from her subjects.

It just so happened that Lowes had a 10′ 5 gallon cherry tree on sale for $10. After considerable effort, we managed to get the tree stuffed into our small car along with our other items. “Don’t open your mouth or you’ll get the leaves wet,” said the Tyrant as we drove home, the cherry leaves flapping in our faces.

As always, Cindy was excited to help out upon our arrival home. She raced out from the garage, squeaking and wobbling, ready to chip in. We dug a large hole into the last area of the yard that was still without an edible tree or shrub. After extracting enough red clay to build another cob oven, we realized we couldn’t just leave the giant heap in our yard. Cindy chimed in, “I’ll carry it. Load me up.

Cindy huffed and puffed and creaked through the first load of soil, her remaining bolts straining as she dumped her earthen contents into the spare dirt pile. Another load. And another. Finally, on the fourth and final load the little bolts and plastic pieces that had held Cindy von Wheelbarrow together through years of hard labor, through seemingly infinite trials and tribulations, finally gave out. Cindy came apart. Permanently, completely and beyond repair. It was her last noble expression of love and devotion to us.

We think, deep down, she knew this would be the last cherry tree she’d ever help us plant. She always loved cherries. And the shade of that Cherry tree will be Cindy’s final resting place (except for her half-melted plastic parts that we plan to recycle and her wheel which will be repurposed on some unknown future project). It’s the way Cindy would have wanted it.

Gone but never forgotten. RIP Cindy von Wheelbarrow. Your contributions to Tyrant Farms will endure beyond us all. We wish we’d thanked you more while you were here.

In remembrance of Cindy,



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  • Reply
    January 4, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    This. Is. Amazing. I laughed the whole way through (sorry, Cindy). Also, SUCH a clever way to talk about all the hard work you (with the help of Cindy of course) have done and the evolution of your land.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      January 5, 2022 at 12:00 pm

      I’m glad you got a good laugh from Cindy the Wheelbarrow’s obituary! I try to get The Tyrant to read it on Cindy’s RIP anniversary each year but she usually refuses because she weeps then snort-laughs because she realizes how absurd it is that she’s laughing about the “death” of a wheelbarrow. Cindy was a special one though.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2013 at 12:18 am

    This is too much Lol

    • Reply
      December 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      Glad you enjoyed, thanks! 🙂

  • Reply
    April Gordon
    September 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Poignant and inspiring story. We gardeners are inclined to take for granted our trusty and devoted wheelbarrows. No more! After reading about Cindy, I went outside and hugged my two long-serving wheelbarrows, Bonnie and Dwain. Would you believe I didn’t even know their names before today? Thank you for this transformative blog destined to remake the relationship between humans and their tools…AG

    • Reply
      September 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      Glad to hear it! Bonnie and Dwain sound like lovely wheelbarrows. I’m sure they appreciated your kind words.

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