At 5’7’ and 127 pounds soaking wet, I have become the brawn behind Lake Hollow Homestead.
Anyone who knows me and my penchant for working out, knows that I don’t mind this at all. I love exercise, I love the outdoors. I love exercise outdoors. Within a week of moving into this house, I started digging what is now our market garden. Foot on shovel, I turned over lump after lump of clay, blissfully ignoring Mike’s protests that, “We just moved in! We haven’t planned! We don’t even know if this is the best spot for a garden, yet!” I kept digging until he finally threw up his hands and joined me. Once the garden was finished, I started clearing out the landscaping rocks the previous owner had scattered all over the property. I moved tons of them. Literally. The gravel went into piles along the edge of the driveway. I built two separate mountains of large and medium-size rocks behind the tool shed. I stacked a couple hundred flagstones by the garden beds to use for future projects. When I ran out of stones, I decided to rip out a huge backyard island built of railroad ties pounded vertically into the ground, then wheelbarrowed the railroad ties to the other end of the property so we could load them in the pickup truck for the landfill.
This was all just the first summer.
So if, perhaps, you thought that the first line of this particular post was directly related to Mike’s MS, that’s only slightly true. More true is that I’ve been doing a fair amount of the heavy labor since forever. Mike’s happy to push the brainless work of moving rocks and dirt off on to me so that he can do more important stuff like make tomato trellises out of hog panels and design an irrigation system.
Plus, it’s my happy place. I hate detail work. I love my wheelbarrow.
Confession: one time for an anniversary present Mike got me 6 yards of compost. I made him promise that he would let me move all of it without helping. With my shovel and wheelbarrow. Uphill.
Which is not to say he’s a slacker. He puts his fair share of sweat equity into this place. He terraced our sloping garden bed with two flagstone walls from the stack I made by the garden. He dug holes up to his knees in solid Colorado clay to plant 16 fruit trees, and he has watered them for two years by hauling out five-gallon buckets of water, two at a time. He’s turned as much dirt as I have, raked out mulch, tore down half of a rotting loafing shed (we’re trying to salvage the other half) and cut down some weird, dead tree with a handsaw. All of a tree. With a handsaw.
Okay, so to be fair, we’re both the brawn behind Lake Hollow Homestead.
But that is slowly changing.
Despite both of our whole-hearted protests to the universe, Mike has slowed down. His body doesn’t work like it used to and he – we – must adjust. Every trip across the yard is an exercise in efficiency. He stacks as many tools as possible in the wheelbarrow to save the back-and-forth to the toolshed. Work in the yard is parceled out by location, so he can focus for a couple of hours in one small spot. He owns the jobs that let him work without having to traipse across the property, front to back, back to front, shed to garage to orchard. I own the jobs that require walking and repeated heavy lifting.
But now it’s because I have to, not because I want to. That feels different. Heavier. Literally and figuratively.
What if I can’t do it? What if I’m too slow? What if I’ve just worked a 12 hour day at my “real” job and really, really don’t want to have to follow it up with a shovel and a truck load of dirt?
But this is what MS does, what I’m sure any chronic illness does. It in instructs you life lessons you’d really rather not learn. Like not getting what you want. Like having your life take an unexpected 90 degree turn…in the wrong direction. There are smaller lessons as well. Mike has to learn to slow down and let go. I have to learn to buck up and farm, even when it’s not fun.
So this fall, when we were unloading the last 5 yards of compost, I worried briefly as I teetered across the yard with a wheelbarrow of cow poop that nearly weighed what I did, that Mike might feel left out, or insufficient somehow, because he wasn’t shoveling, or lifting, or wheeling.
Instead, he draped himself over his rake and fired off a series “my farm girl” come-on lines, none of which will be repeated this blog.
I, for my part, successfully navigated the out-of-place tools, the rough downhill, and an an unexpected hole in the ground and managed to get the manure in its proper place on row 5, where Mike raked it out and threw some minerals down.
One small load of cow poo at a time.