My husband, God bless him, has spent the majority of the summer building me a new chicken coop. A project that should have taken him a weekend somehow evolved into this bi-seasonal project that has plagued our weekends for months on end. This weekend he put the finishing touches on the nesting box. All that is left to do is to paint it. That’s my job. It is amazingly creative and the girls have so much room. I’m amazed at his ingenuity and creativity.
But it has been a long time coming. He began planning back in January, building in May.
Every weekend for months now we sit talking over coffee on Friday or Saturday mornings discussing what we have planned for the weekend. Every week he says the same thing. Finish the Coop. Chop the wood. Stack the wood. Clean up the yard. Winterize. And every week he works. Something always comes up. He needs to buy something. He needs to borrow something. He needs to figure something out. As the weeks went by I could sense his frustration with the project. By last weekend our conversation over breakfast went something like this:
Him: So, what’s on your docket for today?
Me: Changing over the sheets to flannel, doing laundry, and meal prepping for next week. You?
Him: Finishing that G*#-D@%& chicken coop. I don’t care if I have to work until 10 o’clock tonight, I am getting that d@%& thing done.
Every week he was out there, mostly out of necessity, all summer long, hardly breathing a word of complaint. We needed a new coop. But, we could have bought one–for probably around the same price as what it cost him. It would have come with a plan and snapped together in a day in a half. He never would have needed to touch it. I could have put it together myself like I did with the first one. He could have downloaded pre-made plans and just followed the directions instead of designing it himself. But here’s the thing, and he will never admit it I am sure; he liked the work.
The thing is, humans like to create. We like to get our hands dirty. We like to be sore at the end of the day and be able to stand back with a drink in our hand and survey our accomplishments. We like to feel useful. We like the work. It’s evolutionary. It’s the reason we created fire. It’s the reason we began making clothes. It’s why we design houses, plant gardens, hunt, gather, craft and cook. It’s a biological need, and when there is no work to be done, we create it.
And then we complain about it, but that’s another story.
Now that he has finished the coop, there is other work to be done. The wood that he told the neighbor to leave when he had his tree cut down needs to be split. Over breakfast this morning he and I were discussing whether or not it was even worth chopping. Cost wise there really wasn’t enough there to merit renting a log-splitter. But effort wise, was it really worth making multiple trips to his dad’s place to dump it and clean up the yard?
Me: Not all of the pieces are too big to burn right?
Him: We couldn’t burn them inside, but some we could burn them un-split outside, like a yule log.
Me: What about the others? What about splitting it by hand?
Him: Too much work. We just don’t need it.
Me: But that’s my point. Bring it up, put it next to the pit and if we’re just sitting out there by the fire chatting we can chip away at it at our leisure. It’d be good stress relief.
He nodded thoughtfully and sipped his tea. After a moment he said, “There is a hammer-head hatchet I saw that I wanted…it’d be a good excuse to get it. And I have been meaning to sharpen the hatchets we have and pick up a few new wedges. Maybe I’ll ask my dad if he can take them out to the shop and sharpen them. That’s the kind of thing he likes to do…” And suddenly there was more work to add to the list. A conversation about eliminating a job turned into creating four more, and all the while the tone of the discussion was not only pleasant, it was hopeful. There was more work to be done.
We go to our jobs every day because we have to make money to pay bills and taxes and buy things we want and we need. We do chores because we need to maintain the things we buy with our money and because when outsiders look in on our lives we want to look good. But some work, often the hard work, the jobs we create through our hobbies and our passions is done simply for the joy of the work. It’s done for the thrill of feeling connected to something in an intimate way because we created it. So much of the work we do can be done by someone or something else. In the modern day there is very little that can’t be done for us, and yet we chose to do the work. It’s why we sew and we knit. It’s why we cook and we bake. It’s why grow and we preserve. It’s why we chop and we build. We need to savor that feel of being connected to the things we have and we need to feel a sense of pride in what we have accomplished through tangible work.
It doesn’t hurt to have someone else praise it either. We all crave recognition. I’m not sure if my husband will even read this post, but on the off-chance he does, Thank you so much for all of your hard work honey. The girls and I are truly grateful for all you have created.