Everyday Adventures: Bait and Switch

  • 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!

Tree down and path

The Bait

In my previous Everyday Adventures post, Manly Gardening, I wrote about a visit to my parents’ farm for a work day. That was a long job and it was well after dark when we finished. What I didn’t mention was that we technically only completed half of the job. The front yard had three more areas with rotting timber retaining walls that needed to be torn out and replaced. Since we were unable to finish the front that same day, my father contacted me a couple weeks later asking if I could come out for another Saturday to help finish the job. “It’s all in the dirt this time instead of on concrete. It will be much easier; probably only a couple hours.” he promised.  With my brother back at college my parents didn’t have anyone else to help on the farm. I had plenty of things on my To-Do List at home, but reluctantly agreed to go help for “a couple hours.”

The Switch

The next Saturday was hot and sunny. When I arrived around noon, my father was already outside getting things ready. He greeted me with a hug and said, “Glad you’re here! Let me grab my chainsaw.”

“Chainsaw?” I responded quizzically. I wasn’t sure how that was going to help us remove rotten timbers.

“Yes, we had a big wind storm recently and it took down a bunch of trees. I need your help cutting them up and moving them.” he said as he walked into the garage. I chuckled to myself and followed after him.

All I could think of was a scene from Die Hard (one of my favorite movies) as John McClane, dirty and in pain, crawls through an air vent and sarcastically quotes his wife’s invitation to visit, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…” Except in my head it went, “Come out to the farm, it’ll be an easy job, only take a few hours…”

Getting ready to chainsaw

Even my dog wanted to help.

The Job

In the backyard, the wind had blown one tree down into another tree. They were blocking the path into the woods so they both had to go. Neither tree was very large so my father made quick work of them with the chainsaw while I hauled and stacked the logs and branches. The next task was a medium sized pine tree that had fallen out of the pine woods towards the pond. The challenge with this one was that it was covered in poison ivy and surrounded thorn bushes. That tree took a little bit longer, but we made a good team. We had the tree cut up as well as all the brush cleared in about an hour and a half. The last tree was the real job. It was a 50+ foot oak that had gotten struck by lightning.

Cutting down the huge oak

A perfect cut so it didn’t hit the dam or the fence behind the tree

This tree had a ton of limbs to cut off. Not to mention, each cut piece of the main trunk weighed over 100 pounds. We worked the rest of the afternoon cutting limbs off of the tree, hauling the smaller branches into brush piles, and stacking the cut logs. It was exhausting work and I couldn’t help but tease my father about his comment about how easy this weekend was going to be doing landscaping timbers.

Logs Everywhere

Logs Everywhere

The Conclusion

To my father’s surprise, we were able to completely cut up the tree and stack everything before dark. He admitted to me later that he thought he was probably going to spend the next week or two having to finish the job. We went inside, had a wonderful dinner, and ended the night with a board game. We were exhausted, but we felt accomplished. It’s a feeling that can be hard to come by in today’s society. We are being pushed to get the next job at work, the next car, the next must-have item. Putting in a hard day’s work to accomplish a difficult task is a great way to take a step back and be satisfied with something. So what did you accomplish today?

Chainsaw and brush piles

Just a glimpse of the huge brush piles we created and a few of the smaller logs we moved

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!