lessons in yard work

lessons in yard work

hello friends,

I hope you all made it through tax season okay. for me, it was a breeze – but that’s in large part due to lessons I’ve learned… the hard way. but this blog isn’t about taxes, it’s the next installment in the “jobs I’ve had series.”

today I’m going to talk about yard work! things like mowing lawns, stacking wood, spreading bark were chores at home, but at my Grandparents’ they became employment. I’m not sure how old I was, maybe ten(?), when I first started doing work for my Grandma and Grandpa. But I’m pretty sure the set up went something like this:

Me: Mom, I want the new Transformer.
Mom: That’s what your allowance is for.
Me: But I don’t have enough.
Mom: Then you need to earn it.
Me: How?

Cut to: Grandma and Grandpa giving me something to do in order to earn a little bit of extra money.

it was a win-win-win. I earned some cash, my Grandparents got help around the yard, and my Mom and Dad got some peace and quiet. plus it was always fun for my sister, Teal and I to stay at G&G’s. they had snacks… and a TV. and it was Grandma and Grandpa, they were like, the “nice” version of our parents.

over the years I did a lot of different tasks for them. here’s a few that were the most common: mowing the lawn, spreading bark, picking up branches, pressure washing, stacking wood, cleaning gutters, painting, and turning the compost.

some of the less common ones included: picking up nails (1 cent each!), mortaring bricks, jackhammering concrete, pruning trees, emptying dead moth buckets, cleaning windows, miscellaneous carpentry, and chopping wood. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few other random tasks. basically if it was a job where you couldn’t really mess anything up and/or it involved some kind of heavy lifting – I probably did it.

sure this manual labor gave me great experience for my future ditch digging work (which I did as a college freshman), but more importantly working for my Grandparents taught me the value of hard work and the honor in a job well done. these were lessons I learned over the course of many years, but there is one day in particular that stands out to me.

I was eleven or twelve years old and was in the midst of my summer break. the sky was blue, the sun was out, and a soft breeze drifted off of Hood Canal. it was a perfect day. I was working in the orchard, spreading bark while my sister helped Grandma in the house.

it was so nice I decided to take a break. I sat down and looked out across the water toward the Olympic Mountains. now, it’s important to know that G&G have a stunning view. really. it’s one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. they are on top of a hill that overlooks fir trees before crossing an inland body of salt water, and finally ending at a mountain range. all you see are trees, water, mountains, sky.

but since this is the internet, I can show you:

I lay back on the grass and starred up at the clouds. I saw one that looked like a dinosaur. actually, I have no recollection of what they looked like… it was a long time ago. what I do know is that I kicked back and relaxed, did some cloud watching, and maybe took a little nap.

this didn’t go without notice.

at the end of the day, Grandma gave me my wages… and it was considerably less than what I expected. I asked “why?” and she replied “your Grandpa said you didn’t work the entire time, so you don’t get paid for the entire time.”

wait, what?

you mean, I didn’t get paid just for being there, it actually mattered what sort of work I turned out?

yes. it did matter.

if I wanted to get paid my full wage, I had to do the full work. not take a short cut, or half ass it. not lolly-gag or goof off, I need to work. because if I didn’t – my Grandpa would know.

this made quiet an impression on me. I didn’t want to disappoint my Grandparents and I wanted to earn that money. I promised that it wouldn’t happen again.

and I kept my word. that was the one, and only time, my Grandparents docked my pay.

over the years I learned that the rewards for doing good work went beyond praise and money – doing a job well was something to be proud of. it didn’t matter if you were stacking wood or building a house – if you were going to do something, you should do your best and knowing that you did was it’s own reward.

my Grandfather stressed the idea “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, you won’t have time to do it right the second.”

this idea, that no how big or small a job might be, it is worth doing well – is something I’ve carried with me since then. from cleaning toilets at a grocery story to making pizza in a ski town to directing a monster movie. it doesn’t matter the budget or the client, if I agree to do something I’m going to take the time to do it right.

so Grandma & Grandpa, THANK YOU for the teaching me these lessons while I was young. And thank you for always giving me breaks with juice and cookies.


p.s. this is part of an ongoing series. here’s the first installment “Poppy Seed Salesboy.” ]

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