Friday, October 18, 2013

Candace Rowe

When I married my husband nearly a year ago, I happily relocated to Seattle from the Arizona desert where nothing grows.  I’d never had a garden in my life, a fact that my husband was determined to rectify.  My first effort was a questionable success.  A few tomatoes were made into salsa, a few cukes were sliced into salads, and a whole crop of spinach was included in everything from omelets to soups.

But the vast majority of what I planted was much ado about nothing, leaving us with out-of-control squash vines and a forest of green tomatoes that ended up hidden in shame in the lawn and food bin (also something they don’t have in Arizona.)  I’m not soliciting gardening advice here; I’m pretty sure we’ve figured out where we went wrong.  But we did want to take care of our little garden and prepare it for our better efforts next spring.  

After a perusal of our garage (which houses a motorcycle, a smoker, buckets of seashells and old paint, but very little in the way of heavy duty yard equipment) we decided to check out the PhinneyWood Tool Library.  I’d never been there, but had heard whispers of its existence.  I had trouble marrying the image of musty-vanilla scented bookshelves with power tools, but I’m a fan of worlds colliding. 

I headed to the main PNA office, and they directed me out the door, across the parking lot, down the stairs, through the gate, and into the brick building.  I didn’t even know there was anything PNA back there.  I was wrong.  (There’s also a yoga studio back there, FYI.)  I was pleasantly pleased with the ambience of the little tool library.

I was greeted by Todd, who was helpful and friendly even though I obviously didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  The place itself is charming.  It has a kitschy retro vibe, and everything is very clean, organized, and attractive.  It made me want to fix things.

Todd hooked me up with a Mantis electric tiller and a heavy duty extension cord, and offered to help me get it out to my little red car.  I’d gotten a dose of testosterone just from breathing the tool library air, so I politely declined and hauled the thing up the stairs myself…in heels.  Of course, that tool-infused air was out of my lungs halfway up the stairs and I made a mental note never to refuse chivalry again.

Once I got the tiller (and my husband) home, we went to town on the yard.  The powerful and clean electric motor starts just by plugging the unit in and pulling the trigger.  It’s lightweight and easy to carry and maneuver (unless you’re going up stairs in heels).  The compact design allows the tiller to get in tight spaces and is easy to fit into cars, even small cars like mine.  The reversible tines can be used to till down 10 inches or shallow cultivate the top two to three inches of soil.

Not only did my little garden get tilled and all ready for next spring, but three yards of compost and a rainy Saturday later, our entire yard is literally steaming with nutrients.  I must confess that I agreed to have the tiller back in a week, and it’s now been two and it’s still in my garage.  I haven’t gotten a nasty phone call or even an email, but they do expect patrons to be more responsible than I am. I’m taking it back tonight, I swear.
The hours of the PhinneyWood Tool Library are Wednesdays from Wednesdays from 3-6:30 pm, Fridays from 5-7 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm. Call 206.783.2244, extension 48 to check on availability or to reserve a tool.  You do need to be a PNA member to borrow tools, and they ask for a minimal donation.

You can go here for a complete list of what tools they have available:

We’d love to hear about your experiences with our Tool Library. Send them to and you may see them here in future weeks!

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