Some Help From My Friends

Reader Contribution by Keba M Hitzeman
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It doesn’t look like much, but that pile is about 10′ long, 6′ deep, and 8′ tall! Photo by Keba M Hitzeman

There are many farm projects and tasks that one person can complete on their own. Some of those projects may take longer when working solo, but it can be done. On the flip side, some things need more than one person, for safety reasons, time constraints, or simply because it makes the time pass quicker. Of course, many people may want to help, but they have their own obligations that prohibit helping on the farm. When the stars and the schedules align, it’s incredible to me how much can be accomplished with even one extra person helping.

I’ve written before about projects and their relative priority – fence repairs and haymaking trump picking up fallen branches and mowing. When I do have the opportunity to knock out some of those lower-priority-but-need-done-eventually tasks with a willing helper, I’ll gladly take the help!

Photo by Unsplash/Janine Joles

Once the hot and humid summer was mostly over, and we wouldn’t sweat ourselves to death while working outside, a good friend spent several Thursdays helping me with some projects that had been languishing at the bottom of the to-do list – moving an astounding amount of brush to two specific locations, and turning our lumber storage area 90 degrees. Brush-moving is not exactly difficult work, but it is time-intensive. Cut the brush down, load as much as you can on the tractor forks (making sure it’s balanced and won’t fall off as you round a corner), drive to the drop-off location, dump the brush, drive back, repeat. That’s a lot of getting on/getting off the tractor when working by yourself! This time, most of the brush was already on the ground, so it was a matter of loading, driving, unloading. There were some areas where I could drive the tractor along very slowly as she loaded the brush onto the forks. That was certainly a time-saver, and now, my fields and yards are (mostly!) free of brush and branches.

Now I can find the right lumber for the job! I still have to sort and stack the short pieces that are piled up nearby. Photo by Keba M Hitzeman

The other project was the lumber storage area in the barn. There used to be a hopper wagon at the front of that area where we kept oats for the horses. We needed a place for the lumber, so we put up some metal shelves behind that wagon and slid the lumber into place. Unfortunately, that whole area turned into a storage nightmare – cluttered, almost no light, hard to reach. When the horses left, we removed the hopper wagon and agreed that the lumber storage should be turned 90 degrees to more easily reach everything. And it just never came to the top of the project pile until now. In one work session, my friend and I unloaded every stick of wood from the shelves (short pieces in one giant pile on the floor, and long pieces in another) and turned the three shelves 90 degrees. It took around three hours, and we were beat afterward!

I find it difficult to ask for help, but I’m slowly learning that it’s safer, more time effective, and more enjoyable to work with someone. I’m less likely to over-do it because I’m watching my helper to make sure they are not overworking. I’ll take more breaks because I don’t want them to get dehydrated. The social aspect of working together can’t be overlooked either – “solving the world’s problems” as some manual labor happens. Perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to abuse these opportunities, so I always think about which projects would benefit the most from extra hands before asking. Sometimes I overestimate how long something will take, and if that thing is finished in half an hour, there needs to be something else to do, which means I think about two or three projects that we can work on. And they need to be projects that my helpers have the skills to work on – if they’ve never used a chainsaw before, I can’t reasonably ask them to cut down honeysuckle while I’m hauling it to the brush pile!

Farming and homesteading can be challenging, but if you have friends, family, or neighbors who tell you, “just let me know if you need some help,” you may find that your challenges are a bit easier to manage. It could take some creativity in scheduling, but the outcome (finished projects) can make that all worthwhile.

What projects have you finished with some help from your friends?

Janine Joles
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