Monday, March 22, 2010


After Karen and I bought Arrowhead Lodge and began commuting from Salisbury, North Carolina to Natural Bridge Station, Virginia for weekends and summers, we bought truckloads of firewood from Catfish Watkins, who would load, deliver and stack for about $50.  After working all week, we didn't want to spend our weekends or vacations cutting and splitting firewood.

One sunny day as we hiked in the woods above the lodge we came upon a couple, Earl and Katie, hauling heavy logs onto the bed of their pickup.  "Would you like some help?" we offered.  "No thanks, we're about finished here."  We stood around, chatting, beginning what would become a long-term friendship.  A couple years later, Earl was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  A year of struggle followed, punctuated by our almost weekly visits.  When he died at age 83, Katie showed us a bottle full of pain pills.  He had never complained about pain and apparently hadn't leaned on the pills either.

Do the math.  How old was the couple we found gathering firewood in the woods?  Hint: Katie was a couple years younger than Earl.  After meeting them, we felt pretty silly about buying firewood.  We've gathered our own since.  By the way, Katie orders wood delivered now, but she carries it into her garage and stacks it herself.

Those two role models have encouraged us to do all sorts of work ourselves.  For example, Karen rehabbed the house we live in, with a little help from me.  I garden pretty much the old-fashioned way, although I use a pickup to transfer mulch and manure.  We built the goat barn and fence.  Karen designed and we constructed the outdoor kitchen, including the Pompeii brick oven and pergola.

Now we want to fence the garden beds.  I'm itching to grab my Ph.D. (post hole digger) and get to work, but Karen surprised me by calling a couple fence-builders for estimates.  Good idea.  Part of me would like to hire them.  The other part wants to ask them questions and learn as much as I can.  Which will it be?

"Hire them," says Virginia (and my mother).  "They need the work and you may wear yourself out."

Some day we, like Katie, will begin to delegate, but for some reason now seems 25 years too early.


  1. The thing is, if we have to dig 40 or 50 post holes (or however many we need) our backs may not be able to do the gardening and building we need/want to do. We're not Katie and Earl. Don't let your pride cloud your judgement. And that's all I have to say. No wait, I have more. It's ok to spend money. Adam won't need all of it when we're gone. Also, I think it will be prettier if an expert does it. But if you want to do it I will most certainly help.

  2. I know the feeling well. It is a difficult subject with me. I usually go by how big the project is and what I would be doing if someone else did the work. I dug the holes and built my garden fence (with John's help). The pasture we delegated to John H.