Everyday Adventures: Manly Gardening

  • The Everyday Adventures series focuses on the adventures we have on a day-to-day basis, not necessarily out on the trail or climbing a mountain. Life is an adventure!
View of a Farm

View across a horse pasture.

Early Saturday Morning

Sun peaked in through the curtains making the room fairly bright for 7:45am on a Saturday morning. School was out for the summer and my teenage body was loving the extra sleep. I rolled over to face the wall and drifted in and out of sleep. Faintly, I could hear my father’s voice, “Alex, I told you to get up fifteen minutes ago.”

The bed was so comfortable, the temperature was perfect, and I could hear birds singing outside. When I tried to wake up, it felt as if sleep was physically pulling at my body; beckoning me not to go. I gave in and sank back into sleep’s grasp.

Suddenly, I was jarred awake. The temperature was no longer perfect. I turned over to see my father holding my blankets in his hand glaring at me. Since I was on the top bunk, his eyes were nearly level with mine. He dropped the blankets to the floor and said, “The longer you stay in bed, the hotter it gets outside and we have a lot of work to do.” He walked out of the room.

My teenage mind immediately interpreted this statement to mean that I could stay in bed as long as I wanted as long as I didn’t mind dealing with the heat. I rolled back over, curled myself into the fetal position to stay warm without my blankets, and went back to sleep.

Hard Work

My father has a small farm and I still remember each Saturday morning him having to drag me out of bed as I clutched my pillows. Hard work is something that many people do their best to avoid. In this case, I am specifically referring to physically demanding work, but it is true for most work. I sometimes joke that our best advances in technology have come from humans’ desire to do less work. Over time, I have come to enjoy hard work, but I have to admit that I did not always.

Now that all of his children have moved out, my father sometimes still requests that we come home to help on the farm. I try to oblige whenever possible since it is a lot of work for just my mother and father.

A few weeks ago, I, along with my siblings, were all staying with my parents for Easter Weekend. My father took full advantage of this by having my brother and me help him with work.

Hard Work

Hard Work

The Task

When this house had been built, the builders had laid the small retaining-wall of landscaping timbers on top of the edge of the back sidewalk instead of in the dirt of the garden. The timbers had rotted over time, as most wood does. Our task was to remove the old, rotten timbers and replace them.

This task turned out to not be as simple as it sounds. As we found out, when the builders had poured the concrete for the sidewalk, they had actually inserted metal spikes into the edge of it. They then attached the timbers on the sidewalk onto these. Furthermore, since the previous timbers had been built on the sidewalk and the garden had then been filled and used for years, there was almost two tons of excess dirt that needed to be removed. This was the only way that we could move the timbers the six inches into the garden to get them off the sidewalk. To add icing to this cake, there had also been small trees planted in this garden at one point and their stumps would need to be removed.

Wisdom Before Beauty

The work was grueling. The metal spikes made it difficult to remove the old timbers. Then we had to break the spikes off at the base. We also had to shovel roughly 1600 pounds of dirt by hand into a trailer on our tractor (while making sure not to damage my mother’s flower bulbs).

When it came time to remove the first stump, my brother was on pick axe duty. He kept trying to dig around the stump by using the pick axe to scrape dirt out from around the roots. My father kept telling him to swing it and use more force. To my brother, this advice was a personal criticism and he continued to grow more and more frustrated. Finally, he blurted out, “If you think you know how to do it, why don’t you do it yourself?”

The gauntlet had been thrown down. The 6-foot-tall, stocky college-student puffed out his chest and stared down his gray-haired father. I stopped my work and looked at them. The tension in the air was tangible. It was one of those defining moments where the son thinks, “I’m a man now. I know better than dad.”

“Fine, I will,” replied my father. He grabbed the pick axe from my brother, raised it high above his head and swung it with all his might into the ground. An audible crack resounded at the collision. He pried back the pick axe, reached down, picked up the stump, and tossed it to my awe-struck brother. He then laid down the pick axe and walked back to his area to continue cutting timbers. I smiled to myself and tossed another load of dirt into the trailer.


Flowers with the new timbers.


They say, “A little hard work never killed anyone.” I find this statement humorous, because I’m sure that you could find an example where someone died doing hard work. The sentiment is true though. We should not shy away from hard work. It can leave us feeling accomplished and satisfied. We worked on this project until after dark to ensure that it was completed. We didn’t want to give up! Not to mention that we later found out that my brother had been working all day while sick with strep throat (kudos to him for powering through). That night our whole family sat around the dinner table laughing, enjoying each others’ company, and eating a well-deserved meal.

So get out there and enjoy your hard work. Life is an adventure!

4 thoughts on “Everyday Adventures: Manly Gardening

  1. Oh, Alex. I got a good chuckle from this story. It took me right back to our farm and your grandpa and his boys! Thanks for the memories, and letting me in on a special day you had making memories with your dad. He obviously picked up a lot of tips from his dad.



  2. Great story! I can picture it…
    This reminds me of the summer after I graduated college – I was having trouble finding a steady job, so in between jobs I helped Mom with some side projects that she did. One of those side projects was cleaning up an old couple’s yard (Mom knew them from way back when she worked in a lumber yard). I should clarify “cleaning up.” This man didn’t want to do any trimming in his yard when he mowed, so he wanted us to round all the corners of his extensive flower beds and put about half a foot of birm gravel around all the flower beds. We also had to weed and mulch everything.
    I’m no stranger to “hard work” – I did plenty of yard clean up and gardening with Mom when I was little and I worked on a farm every summer during high school. But let me tell you after what we now fondly call “Mattock Monday” I was certain I had fulfilled my “hard work” quota for about 4 years.
    We had to dig up all the edging around all the flower beds and then re-bury it, cart wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of mulch and birm dirt across the yard (which was on a hill by the way), replant flowers and pull more weeds than I’ve ever I had to pull in my life. I definitely had a few blisters after that – though it was Mom who got the black eye…after an incident with a shovel…
    Well, as hard as it was, me and Mom had plenty of fun (and milkshakes afterwards!). Definitely an adventure!


  3. Pingback: Everyday Adventures: Bait and Switch | Atlas Alex

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