All Sorts of Ideas


Driving up the mountain road, I trail a red Ford pickup hauling an old John Deere mower. Both the truck and the mower have seen better days by far, but the colors of them – the truck deep red, the mower that unmistakeable John Deere green – are bright and cheerful. The truck’s tailgate is lowered to accommodate the mower, which I can see is held loosely place by a rusty chain strung from bed rail to bed rail. None of those fancy ratchet straps I’m so fond of, the ones that always end up in knotted piles on the floor of my truck. The Ford rattles over the washboards, and the mower wags back and forth. An empty bottle shoots off the lip of the lowered tailgate, bounces into the road, and miraculously doesn’t break. I have the passing thought that I should stop to retrieve it, but I don’t. I’m not in the mood to deal with someone else’s trash.

Going over the top of the mountain, I see that the leaves are beginning to change, and for the first time this summer, I have the sense that another season is imminent, and I’m suddenly awash in all the things I still need to do. Finish the new hearth for the woodstove. Finish siding the barn. Replace the rotting boards on the paddock fence. Change the hydraulic fluid in the tractor. And on it goes, seemingly without end, a list I already know will have to be reconsidered, reprioritized, reordered, the tasks that address heat and the containment of livestock moved higher, above those relating to cosmetics and convenience.

And so as I follow the truck and mower through the curves on the west side of the mountain, that is exactly what I’m doing – reconsidering, reordering, reprioritizing – until by the time we hit the flats, I’ve got the list pared down to nearly nothing, a trifling weekend or two’s worth of work (if that), and I’m already getting all sorts of ideas about what I’m going to do with my free time.

I’ve shared this one before, I think. But it’s always worth another listen.

17 thoughts on “All Sorts of Ideas”

  1. Thank you! I trust that in your “reconsidering, reordering, reprioritizing” you will continue to find time to write, as you do so well, when the spirit moves you. I always appreciate what you have to say, always.

  2. Really nice to “see” you again! Been too busy to miss you, though. (sorry) If I get one thing done a day I consider myself productive! We do what you say all the time on our little 4 acres near the Mexican border in gorgeous monsoon Arizona. “I’ve got the list pared down to nearly nothing, a trifling weekend or two’s worth of work (if that)”. You inspire me to write and live better. Thanks for that.

  3. Hi Ben….Nice to read this post. Been awhile.
    Tuesday I was walking in a gorgeous marsh that is fed from Buzzards Bay via an inlet. The tide still flowing in and just about to go into ebb. In addition to an unacceptable amount of fresh looking plastic litter that dots most steps I take, I notice the unacceptable amount of Beach Plum bushes with reddish orange leaves. Isn’t it much too early to bring forth the word, Autumn? As much as I deny it, we are heading head first into late August when things slowly start their change. I guess all this means that we should take the time to enjoy the warmth that summer brings, the kind that tells us to wear shorts, bathing suits and T-shirts. A month from today it might just be too cool for that attire.
    Thanks for this post and for the photo!

  4. It sounds like you would benefit from embracing the Franklin Planner system. Before you go to bed, spend 10 minutes listing your top 5 priorities for the following day. Check them off as you accomplish them, carry them over to the next day, or discard them if they really aren’t priorities.

    Just writing down the jobs that you want to accomplish each day saves you time and helps you to be more efficient, ’cause you don’t have to think about or remember what you want to or need to do. Particularly useful for older people like me.

    Over the mountain to Hardwick?

    Or over the mountain to Lydonville?

    Given a choice I’d opt for Lyndonville and a slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream at the Miss Lyndonville Diner.

    1. Coming home from Lyndonville. I’ll have to try the Franklin Planner. I’m not a very disciplined list maker, though I’m sure it would help a lot.

      1. Just prioritizing your tasks and keeping them in front of you helps a person to be more efficient. The more efficient you are, the more you can accomplish. I like to print my task list while I’m boiling water for tea first thing in the AM and then checking them off as I accomplsih them. A $1 composition book from Wal-Mart makes a cheap and effective planner, but only if you use it. Works great for school kids too, no excuses for missed or poorly done assignments.

  5. I loved this as we are heading towards spring here in New Zealand, and I just realized how much I haven’t done yet, so sat down to start a list! Seeds need starting, veg beds need turning, compost and horse manure spreading, beehive frames need new foundation….. I’m great at lists – just not so good at doing the tasks – it gets harder and I get slower as I age. I’m getting pretty good at ‘reconsidering, reordering, reprioritizing’.

  6. Read this one out loud at breakfast. Exactly what we needed right now. Feeling the heavy weight of our own task lists: homeschooling, renovating, farming, even adventuring. Your words always give us that easy feeling. Leaving us smiling and relaxing into what’s real. Knowing winter’s whittling away of our grander intentions is inevitably coming, might as well be free now. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. The thought of Autumn sounds so refreshing… we just lived through 2 summers in a row, one in New Zealand and one in Arizona, and I think I am so done with summer, and constant movement, grow, weed, process, cut, cook, mulch, water, weed, start over 🤣. I don’t know how snow birds do it, living in constant summer.

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