[Clearly it’s the holidays, and I’m not enough of a masochist to have worked this past week and not enough of a sadist to ask other people to work this week either. Soon enough, we’ll be temporally aligned, but this happened a few weeks ago. Happy holidays!]

Weekly Statistics:

Aggrieved Mice Evicted From their Generational Homes In Broad Daylight: 2
Dog Crates In Front Yard: 6
Bird Feeders: 14 (and counting)
Houses Broken Into: 1
Chain Saws Used: 1
Number of Electric Weed Whackers Discovered: 3 (one is still in its box!)
Contractor Bags Filled: Six (and counting)
Friends: John Flint, Joe Ballard

This property requires, as they say, a lot of sweat equity.

And by sweat equity, they quite literally mean my sweat.

The list of projects for a property like this one is nearly endless, but hopefully there are a few that will separate themselves from the pack and clamor for your attention.

The first task was taking care of the dead trees all around the house: those fallen, those partially-fallen, and those still-up-but-could-be-fallen-quite-soon, to avoid vulnerable roofs and to give us good access to the house in case of an emergency. (In retrospect, I’m not sure what emergency could possibly happen that would require me to obtain quick access to the house. After all, I’m not very likely to yell “Fire at the house! Quick! Let’s run inside!”)

The front yard was an arboreal graveyard and I spent the morning, with help from my good friend John Flint (Recurring character alert!) and Joe Ballard, self-proclaimed maniac chainsaw master, (okay, I paraphrased slightly) in cutting them up and hauling them away.

I even got to use a chainsaw for the very first time. (It was a moment, as I remarked to the J’s, where I’m quite sure that my mother, sitting no doubt at her breakfast table in Wells, suddenly felt very uncomfortable for no discernible reason.) I tentatively hacked off several small branches and had a grand time before the adults decided to take over again.

Afterwards, John and I went over to the little cabin, a little winterized place that may be the archetypal Bachelor Pad on the island, replete with questionably framed pictures of wolves on the wall, towels used hopefully as curtains, and a leather sofa-couch that weighs as much as a small elephant.

The door to the cabin had been locked from the inside by some over-conscious real estate tourists, who must have then found a nearby window to climb out of, as there is no door handle on this door, since apparently Real Men Don’t Need Door Handles. It was at this moment I got my first experience breaking and entering, with the help of a short ladder and trusty crowbar, a procedure that went very well until the window slammed down on my knees while I was halfway through, turning me briefly into a very poor imitation of the Wicked Witch of the East. (John laughed, but in his defense, only for a very short while before opening the window to allow me to escape with my legs, if not my dignity intact.)

It was a long, hard day of manual labor, leavened by a couple friends.

And I loved it.

This is quite surprising, since I have not done anything more physically demanding than sit intently at my desk, banging words into existence for the entirety of my adult career. (But before that, I was the Lead FRIDAY NIGHT Fry Cook at Bonanza Steak House one summer during college, so you know I’ve got some skillz.) For the next few years, about half my working hours will be spent working with my hands (or my back or my knees, as both want me to inform you).

Manual labor, as all the great mystics of all traditions reminds us, is also a great means of contemplation; which is something I’m definitely going to try to remember when shoveling two solid inches of rabbit manure out of my basement this spring.

[Read Chapter One of Reports From the Island Frontier here.]



  1. You know Ben that the front yard really is a graveyard. Numerous bodies lie beneath the grass – all of the pets – fortunately!

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