Work of the Mind
April 23, 2014 § 18 Comments
The boys and I busted out early this morning to scout turkeys, for turkey season is nigh and the fellas are full of hope. I did not want to go into the woods at 5 a.m. but I did, and once I was moving it felt good enough. We sat for a while at the edge of Melvin’s back pasture but did not hear any gobbles. We were home by 6, did chores, cooked breakfast, and that was that. Another day begun.
The past couple of weeks have been pretty intense, what with the book and the onset of spring proper. Most mornings I’ve been at my desk by 5:00, managing to stay put for maybe a half-dozen hours, before heading outside until dark or nearly so. There is much to be done. The upper greenhouse needs new hip and base boards and a door built. We need a new chicken coop. There is still more firewood to be split and stacked, and perhaps even more to be pulled from the woods; I thought I’d be well and done by now, but the deep snows of March kept me out of the woods. By the time our various tree orders all arrive, there will be somewhere around 200 trees and bushes to plant. The copse of fir I started clearing January needs finishing. There is a large pile of sawlogs awaiting the mill’s toothy embrace. And so on. It is not a small amount of work.
In one of the chapters of the Chelsea Green book, I talk about the skills we call on most. More and more, I’m realizing that skills of the hand play a relatively minor role in the success (or lack thereof) of our holding. It’s the skills of the head that get us through, and perhaps none are so important as equanimity. Yesterday was one of those days when I almost lost my cool; I felt as if I could not keep straight in my head everything that needed to be done, and in the process even the smallest and simplest of tasks came to tower above me like a penance for misdeeds I’d long ago forgotten or perhaps had never even recognized as such.
At 5:30, when I remembered that I needed to bring the seedlings in off the porch – a 15 minute job, if that – I almost lost my shit. Penny was still planting peas, there were no plans for dinner, and the house was a mess – dishes high in the sink, muddy foot prints from one end to the other, something like six consecutive loads of clean laundry in a jumbled pile at the top of the stairs, and so on. But the boys chipped in and we got the seedlings tucked away for the night and I made strawberry smoothies for dinner and Penny got the peas planted and I put away the laundry, wiped up the muddy prints with an old tee shirt, and did the most offensive of the dishes. You know what? It was still only 8.
For anyone out there who hopes to someday grow their own food, cut their own firewood, build their own buildings, kill their own pigs, and so on, here’s my unasked for advice: Learn the skills of the hand, definitely, because lord knows, you’re gonna need them. But the real secret to making this place work has little to do with work of the muscles. The real secret is doing what needs to be done without letting what needs to be done become bigger than it actually is.
Truth is, it’s the work of the mind that gets us by.