April Fool

So, I’ve been absent for a few weeks and for that I apologize. It is not I assure you from lack of work on the farm, more a shift of writing priorities and spending more time on the Agoge Fitness Systems blog and my gym business.

Since I last posted here I finished editing a book on weight loss, attended a transformational workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida and still manged to keep things moving on the farm. Oh yeah, I also kept my business afloat and trained my clients.

So what’s been happening at the Acre?

The weekend after my last post I had my good friend Bob Maharrey, an experienced arborist, come and help me fell the more troublesome trees on the lot. Which he did with aplomb and grace. In two short hours he helped me drop three of the four intended trees. His schedule was tight and the fourth looked to be well within my skill set, so I sent him off with my blessings and thanks.

I probably should have gotten him to help me with that last tree. Instead with all the confidence of one whose knowledge is just enough to get him in trouble I set into felling this last tree.

I thought it grew straight. Really, I did.

But it was only after I’d made my pie cut that I realized it had a decided slant in the direction I did not want it to fall. (Are you noticing a pattern here with me and felling trees?)

So here I am once again in a total “oh crap” situation wondering how I’m gonna get out of this one. Somehow the situation loses it’s humor when you are both Laurel and Hardy.

“Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”

Blessed be the meek, for their ego is not so big they cannot ask for help.

And ask I did.

Luckily my neighbor, Bobby, a landscaper, was working with his guy, Jose. (Yes, there are still Latinos in Alabama.) Jose came over and we finally resolved the situation by getting a rope high enough into the tree that I could pull it in the direction we wanted it to fall as Jose finished the cut.

I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting logs to border our hugelkultur beds and dragging them out of the woods using the brilliant new technology John Paul had introduced me to the previous week. By the end of the day I had everything in place except for one log that was just too big for me to move. Again I called on Jose. He capped his day by helping me pull the log in question down to the garden space and I showed my gratitude with a surreptitious $20 tip.

That Sunday I finished laying out the beds.

The following weekend I had a workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida. You can read all about that here.

Last weekend I drove some 50 miles to Shelby, Alabama for a $5 load of composted horse manure and sawdust. When we got back I was met by my Emerson’s Acre partner, Stephanie McDonald, and her husband, Rob.

Together, with the added muscle of my wife, Samantha, we made short work of a truck load of composted horse poo. In less than two hours we had the entire load moved and two of the four beds filled and ready to go.

I distinctly remember a feeling of disappointment when we were done. We still had an hour or so of daylight and I still had energy. The job just seemed a little too easy.

Fast forward a week.

Yesterday after working at the gym until 11 am I loaded up Bronwyn, Thalia and Bronwyn’s friend, Ella, another girl under 12, and headed back to Shelby. The guy I get the compost from has four horses, one of them a miniature, and the girls were eager to see them.

In my experience the only way to maintain the upper hand with a gaggle of pre-adolescent girls is to beat them to the punch, subdue them with embarrassment as it were. As such we listened to the 90’s grunge station loudly and I sang along, loudly. It worked like a charm.

We stopped at Tractor Supply Company, my new favorite retail store, on the way back. Ella goofed, Thalia laughed, and Bronwyn searched for a halter “small enough to fit the goats.” She abandoned that search when the smallest one she could find was “twenty dollars!” and she found out I was going to make her buy it herself.

I bought a shepherd’s crook, will full intent to make it easier to catch Honey and Harriet, a bag of sweet feed and a new rubber feed bowl.

Once back at the house everyone scattered, as I expected. Resignedly I assigned the girls the task of keeping my water bottle full, stripped off my shirt (doing my best to defeat the farmer’s tan, you know) and set to work.

Rob and Stephanie were off camping this weekend and it didn’t seem right to call anyone else at the last minute.

“Hey Buddy, wanna come over to my place and shovel shit?”

Like any veteran personal trainer I began with the compulsive counting of reps. 25 shovels to the wheelbarrow, 100 yards to the garden bed…I lost track of the trips. I started around three thirty and worked until after seven. The final run was a hard blitz to get finished. A thunder storm was brewing up and I really didn’t want to spend today extracting the remaining mud from the bed of my truck.

Halfway through the chore I was reminded of my love/hate relationship with my boots. They’re a pair of ten year old Red Wings I bought back when I was still in the construction business. A well meaning chiropractor had sent me to an equally well meaning orthopedist. The orthopedist had outfit me with shoe inserts (after all that’s what they do, right?) and recommend that I look into Red Wings for work boots. Out of the near $600 investment the only worthwhile component was the boots. Man, I love those boots.

So much so that three years ago when the soles wore out, rather than replace them I had them resoled. Being a cheap bastard I opted or a local cobbler who was closer and cheaper than the closest Red Wing outfit.

Not knowing any better I let them replace the sole with a lug sole. Mudcatchers. Those soles have caused more heart ache than I care to recount. They trap dirt and mud and then release them the minute I step in the house. No amount of boot scraping or stomping will allow me to grab a glass of water or run to the bathroom without an earful of scolding for tracking dirt in the house.

Once I had moved half of the load I decided to climb up into the bed to make shoveling more effective. Instantly my soles filled up and my traction was reduced to nil.

On my eleventy-billionth trip up the hill I slipped. Falling face first into the hill I struck my left knee and planted the wheelbarrow handles hard into the ground in front of me. I dumped half of my load into my face and suddenly not wearing a shirt lost most of it’s charm.

Quick to recover, lest the goats start to snicker, I brushed myself off and dumped my load.

More and more I began to consider just what my friends might be doing at that moment. In my mind’s eye they were all lazy, shiftless bastards. Probably doing nothing more productive than just “hanging out” and drinking beer. Shameful, I admit, but it’s true. In all honesty I don’t know if I was questioning the sanity of my own actions or trying on a little superiority to motivate me to finish. Either way I still had half a truckload to move and move it I did.

Given the propensity of my boots to clog up and lose traction I stayed out of the truck bed and used a rake to pull the compost closer so I could get at it with the shovel.

On the last load to the garden rain drops began to fall. I had finished filling the garden beds but there was still two or three loads in the truck. It was here I began to negotiate with God.

“Hey God, I’m almost finished. Can you hold out just a few minutes more?”

Lightening flashes.


Scattered rain drops and the occasional lightening flash spurred me to finish. God was holding up but He made it clear He wouldn’t be doing so for long. Samantha pulled up from her grocery trip as I furiously swept the remaining compost out of the truck bed into the wheelbarrow.

Side note: Compost, topsoil, mulch and the like hold moisture. If not effectively removed from the truck bed they can encourage rust and the early degradation of an unlined truck bed.

The good news is that I finished. I dumped the remaining three loads into an unused portion of one of my existing garden beds to be tilled in later. Before doing so I had to hoe up a a whole bunch of weed growth, but I did that too.

Before coming in I harvested a mess of spinach, collards, mustard greens and chard for Samantha to to cook into one of our staple dishes, Beans and Greens and Sausage.

Today, it must be said, I have done nothing. It’s almost three o’clock and besides getting up to eat or make food I have been in this chair pretty much all day, reading and now finishing this blog post. It must also be said that I am sore. My entire posterior chain, from my calves to my shoulders has something to say about yesterday’s work. As a weightlifter I consider those things to be good things, but nonetheless they are also excuses for why I ain’t doing diddly for the rest of the day. That and eliciting groans of discomfort every time I get up.

I hope you’re having a good one, too.

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