Mulching with a Herd

I'm not a doctor. Or a nurse. Or anything even remotely medically related. There's a reason. I was not created to be. I lack composure in emergencies. Pretty sure this is a necessary skill for the medical profession. Dirt. That's what I do. Play in it, design with it, tell people where to put it and how much to use. In high school, on my Envirothon team, I was the "soil specialist" (NERD ALERT). So, it probably wasn't all too surprising when I went the way of civil/environmental engineering as an adult. Glorified dirt play.

I don't do a lot of civil design anymore, but by golly, sometimes I just need to play in the dirt.

Cue the mulch man.

We mulch because 1) I have this phobia that roaches (also referred to as "Palmetto Bugs" in these parts to make them sound less gross) thrive and live in the popular alternative - pine straw 2) I think it looks nice and 3) it requires less maintenance than the aforementioned pine straw.

For instance, our last mulch job "lasted" us four years.  The neighbors might contend that it didn't technically last that long.  I'd probably agree with them.  It was looking pretty rough out there.  I might not have much of a green thumb, but I sure can grow a flowerbed of weeds.  You see, as much as I want to play in the dirt, I also lack the luxuries of "free-time" and "babysitting services"...because, well, I don't want to pay for the latter and the former is self-explanatory. 

Free-time and babysitting be darned.  This week, I had enough.  Outside we went, the five kids and me, to tackle the mountain (or five cubic yards, whatever) of mulch.  It was like a sweatshop.  Pretty much in every way.  Child labor, sweat, all of that stuff.  I learned a lot about my kids from this little exercise which turned out to be a lot more involved than simply spreading mulch.  It required weeding, trimming, laying landscape fabric, pulling out and relaying pavers, hauling bricks, hauling weeds, then, and only then hauling and spreading mulch. 

I had one kid working to pay off a debt.  One kid working because they were born to be a willing hard worker, as long as I "pay" her with words of praise.  One kid who loved to just roll in the dirt.  One who copied whatever the others were doing.  And one who didn't contribute much, but yelled at us from the comforts of the swing and exersaucer.   

As we sweated and hauled and shoveled and took turns watching the baby and delivering cold beverages and had to take breaks every 20 minutes because of a crying child or bathroom break or hungry baby or heatstroke, I thought (possibly contrary to what most might think), "Man, this is the life."  I think we were created to do hard things.  Not necessarily hard, intellectual things but grueling, hard laborious things.  We have "come so far" technologically.  Working smarter and not harder is the motto of the times.  But, is that really a good thing?  We're saving time and effort so that, what?  We can go inside, sit on our duff, and stare at a screen?  So we can eat chips and get lazier by the second?  Look, I like to eat chips and stare at a screen, but neither of those are as fulfilling as getting dirty and working up a legitimate sweat.  I sincerely hope this is something I can pass on to my kids.  It's certainly something my parents and grandparents taught me.  And it's something I can see my children marveling at as we read Farmer Boy and hear how hard Almanzo and his family worked.  And as we read the Little House books and hear how tough, yet simple and happy life was for the Ingalls.  I'm not a homesteader.  I'm just a suburban chick with five kids who relies heavily on pre-packaged foods to get through my day, but I do believe in hard work.  I believe that easiest is not always, in fact probably rarely, best.  I think we are teaching our kids that everything is okay as long as the job gets done.  It's not.  Not if it got done the lazy way.  There is value in sweat. 

Which is why I didn't give it two thoughts when I asked Sarah to fill up her little red wheelbarrow and bring me another load of mulch yesterday afternoon while Abby and I pulled up pavers and laid landscape fabric.  And even when I heard the bloodcurdling scream, I just assumed she landed in an antbed, the way Sarah always does.  As she rounded the corner with a hobble, I did a full body scan only to find her entire foot covered in blood. 

I repeat.  I'm not exactly the best in emergencies...but this isn't my first blood-covered Sarah rodeo.  I assessed as best I could that there was a huge gash on the top of her foot.  I soaked a towel, wrapped her up, put her in the van and sent the rest of the kids inside.  I, somewhat frantically, enlisted a dear neighbor to watch them and I took her off to be stitched up.  Sarah had stopped crying.  I wish I could say the same about me.  She was just calmly holding her foot listening as I explained to Sam that it was a lot like the forehead gash of February 2011, but possibly a little worse.  Maybe deeper.  Seeing how brave she was just made me braver.  It should have been the other way around.  When I got off the phone she looked at me and said, "Mommy, I prayed to God that this won't be worser."

Stop the train.

How perfect is that?  I cried a little harder for a second and I held her hand and said, "Sarah, there's not one single thing you could do better than that."

I ran her into the doctor's office like a crazy groom with his bride, and they stitched her up.  She only fought back some tears as they numbed it up with what appeared to be a comically-large needle of Lidocaine.  45 minutes, six stitches, and two lollipops later and my girl was as good as new.  Well, you know.  Close enough. 

The challenge remains to keep her off of it for a couple of days, but she's experiencing very little pain for what looks like a pretty gnarly wound.  That girl.  She's awesome.  This experience most definitely was not worser.

We talked about it later, and what happened was that she tried to upgrade from her plastic shovel to an adult-sized shovel.  It was bigger and heavier than she could handle and she dropped it straight down on the top of her right foot, just behind her big toe.

How blessed we are that this was not a much bigger injury is not lost on me. 

Do I wish Sarah didn't need stitches?  Of course.  Do I regret spending two and half days doing exhausting labor with the herd of Sheps?  Not for a minute.  Would it have been easier to hire someone?  Absolutely.  But easiest isn't always best. 

Besides, if Sarah didn't provide me with opportunities like this one, I might spend the rest of my life a chicken and never learn to be as brave as her.

Yadda, yadda, yadda...the yardwork is finished now.

I'm going to eat some chips and stare at a screen. 


Sharon said...

Jennie, first of all, I absolutely cringed at the explanation of the injury. A shovel?! Shivers...

So glad that she's OK. That girl is such a soldier. I think I'm glad, though, that you didn't include pictures this time. My mind *visual* is brutal enough!

And I agree with the hard labor theory. It's one of the reasons that I enjoy tent camping. I kinda like the idea of sorta *earning* my meals, etc.

Anyway, I enjoyed this cringe-worthy post, and the message was great.

(And the irony that I am sitting in front of a screen talking about hard work is not lost on me...)

Love to all!!

And, always, GOD BLESS!

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