The Work of the Fields

August 17, 2014

If I had a blog, today I would write about the healing power of good, old-fashioned, manual labor.

The Bobcat (Photo Taken March 2005)

The Bobcat (Photo Taken March 2005)

American writer M. Charles Wagner was right when, in his book The Simple Life,  he penned the line, “one of the great curatives of our evils, our maladies, social, moral, and intellectual, would be a return to the soil, a rehabilitation of the work of the fields.” I have spent my day working at the barn: Loading the manure pile into the manure spreader for Dad to use in fertilizing the horse pasture we call Mockingbird Hill. It isn’t glamorous work, but after a week of emotional sturm und drang, relocating a giant pile of manure is a perfect ritual in which to partake.

The Horses on Mockingbird Hill

The Horses on Mockingbird Hill

We built the manure pile by hand, emptying nearly one hundred wheel-barrows full of sawdust and horse droppings since the last time we spread manure, but happily, putting it in the manure spreader is a job that can be done with the assistance of the Bobcat. I may be a tree-hugger and an artist at heart, but I do confess a love for working with farm equipment and the Bobcat is my favorite. Not only is it small and nimble, but the interior resembles that of a star-fighter and as I heft steaming piles of barn litter I am also defending the galaxy. It may seem childish to engage in such fantasy, but for a much-too-serious person like me, child’s play is yet another antidote to the gloom of the world.

At last, the work is done and I feel better than I have in weeks. Being outdoors, getting sticky, sweaty, and smelly; raising blisters on my hands and working until every muscle aches has given my mind a break from the constant round of fearful, worried, frustrated chatter and makes room for peace to settle in.

Summer Evening

Summer Evening

Evening is falling here on The Greenwood. I’ve had a hot shower and a change of clothes; put Band-Aids on my blisters and am ready to sit on the patio, prop my feet up, and enjoy a glass of wine with my family before dinner. The cares that weighed on me this morning have fallen like the first autumn leaves and my head is clear for the challenges of the week ahead. I am lucky to be a farmer; to give myself to bit of Earth I call my own, to share my days with the sun and the wind and to know the healing power of “the work of the fields.”

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