Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wholesome Wednesdays: Hard Work

Hard labor is rare to find around our little urban homestead. That was not always the case, and i definitely miss it. Working with your hands, knees and back (carefully!) outside with the soil and sun is such an important part of our human relationship with the environment and too few people truly get to participate. Many people grow up thinking that food comes from the grocery store and beef is always packaged in plastic wrap. The hours it takes to cultivate, plant, harvest and prepare the produce in our markets is lost upon many existing in concrete cities and suburbs.

It took days to dig out the bermuda grass from our easement strip, and more hours and years to fill the space with tiny plants. Watching them grow into healthy, blooming shrubs makes it all worthwhile.
It brings me great joy to hear of news around the country of a re-surging in interest to 'go local' 'go green' and 'grow your own.' Backyard chickens, backyard goats, front yard veggie gardens: they're no longer just for the eccentric artist at the end of the lane (me!). They're also for young families, urban schools, even the tops of city skyscrapers. Getting dirt under your fingernails while planting carrot seeds makes those carrots even more delicious. Having a relationship with your hens makes their eggs that much more special. Spending all day Sunday building a coop or pen or raised bed makes dinner especially delicious, a bonus if you raised the food yourself.

It's not just the physical exhaustion and connection with the solid earth that is so rewarding, it's also the bond of kindred understanding that is built while working your land. The concept of ownership is really only true if you truly own your soil: respect it, work it responsibly and utilize the gifts it will provide to you. Ownership of the land is not a title or deed, it is a declaration of accountability. If you make time to work your land, work up a sweat or a chill, give your time to the cultivation of the soil and the life that inhabits it, you will be experiencing true ownership of your land. By watching the tiny tadpoles turn to fist sized toads over the course of the season, you have become more connected to your unique environment. You will be more careful when mowing because you'll want to spare any toad-lives you can, and you'll think twice before spraying a pesticide because you'll want to leave some bugs for the toads to eat. You'll also be developing strong muscles and a healthy mind.
Photo circa 2009: This is what happens when you garden at 3 pm in 90 degrees: sweat.
Hard work is not something to be afraid of or to shirk. Embrace its gifts to you and to your land. Your body will feel tired and satisfied and your mind will be invigorated as it strives to solve the problems that come up throughout the day. Hard work connects us to the land, and it connects us to ourselves. It feels good to know what your body and mind are capable of, as well as to know our own limits and respect them.

Off i go to the gym and then a 6 hour shift decorating cakes. Hard work is also necessary to get a pay check now and then (much to many of our chagrins, i'm sure) and can get in the way of the hard work i'd personally rather be doing in my garden. Tomorrow it's back to trying to piece together a motley irrigation system. But until then, back to work!

This post is part of the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop.

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