A little rant on the value of labor

A few conversations I had this week have led me to this plinth upon which I now rant. The occupywallstreet movements, people asking what I am doing all day,an article about farmers having a hard time finding enough labor to bring in their harvest are all triggers for this little post about labor.
Most people  would rather hire someone else to do those jobs around the house that were once only thought of as family chores.If you were fortunate enough to own a home however humble you took care of it yourself. The only people who didn’t were the very wealthy (and some of those still did their “chores”) and the frail elderly.

I have been out sanding and scraping the trim on my house this week to prep for paint. Many friends and neighbors have asked why don’t I hire someone to do this kind of labor. My answer is simply that I cannot justify hiring out a job I can do myself as long as I can still do it well. Painting the trim is labor intensive but not complicated in any way. There are things I am willing to hire out,those being any work that must be done on the second story and any work that involves going into the crawlspace under the house.

I had a former boss who lives in another state now ask me how it was that I had time to do all this, was I working? and if not she hoped it was because I didn’t have to.  I am still trying to formulate a reply for that. Short answer is no, I am not “working” an outside job at the moment. My time is my own and I cobble together enough income to live and maintain my home. Everyone has to work,weather it is for a retail outlet,a company with office cubes or themselves there is daily work to be done. Much of this work is not paid in cash but in kind. The work of a mother raising her family is of great value and little monetary reward.

The work of a writer can and often does go unnoticed ,unacknowledged but for a pile of cherished rejection slips until the day their “overnight” successful novel hits the market.

My next door neighbor who is new to owning her own home told me she would “sure be glad when all the work was done and she could just live in her house and enjoy it” I had startling news for her,the work is never all done. You are your own landlord.If a toilet breaks in the middle of the night it is all up to you to learn to fix it.
I am the last person in my family to work for wages in a field.I never did it year ’round and my income was an extra one to make us a little richer for the holiday season. Many people are willing and able to go spend a day picking apples or berries as a foodie outing and enjoy the actual fruits of that labor but perhaps not willing to get up in the foggy dampness of  early October mornings,grab a thermos of coffee and head out to turn the harvested Pumpkins in the straw so they do not mold and spoil.  Squash are prickly things to grow and pick. Their vines are covered with fine hairs that are a natural defense from insects As the stems grow thicker,turning darkest green for harvest those “hairs” are just like stickers to contend with when lopping the pumpkins from their vines,those vines that snatch at ankles and shoelaces with tendril fingers!

I loved working the Autumn Pumpkin harvest 4-6 weeks a year.
People mostly get their “Harvest” fruit as decorations from the grocer or worse from a very insincere pumpkin patch on an asphalt lot with blow up slides and a mid-way of games.
They are so disconnected from the where,what,when and why of how their food is grown. They have never had soil under their fingernails that was not purchased at a Lowes or Home Depot in a clean 1.5 square foot bag. They have never ached from catching pumpkins being unloaded by hand off a field truck and tossing them to the next person down the line into the patch so children could choose a lovely orange globe without fighting those entangling vines. Our local ranch is gone now,sold to downsize and retire by the last owner in the middle 1990s. I harbor a little hope though because a few years ago another longtime local bought the remaining couple acres,the Foothill ranch name and began anew. He sells at farmers markets right now and if ever he gets a chance to expand into a fruitstand I will be right there to apply for work as a cashier,ambassador,fruit tosser and squash roller!

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