New Boy

Yesterday morning I received two painting estimates. One for the exterior of the house, and one for the unfinished interior. Together they came to a shocking sum, far beyond anything I had ever dreamed in my worst imaginings. I was thrown into gloom, but luckily I could not stay there. My farm help arrived at 8:30 AM for work.

I have hired a new boy this summer. Theo (not his real name) is one of my students. Last year he was a bright squirrel in 7th grade. Theo can be a mischief-maker in school, but by now I’m so old that few children misbehave for me — he had great success in my class. Next year he will be in my 8th grade group and I expect fine things.

As usual, I started Theo out by teaching him how to shift gears and drive the old blade-less lawnmower that Kyle nicknamed “the I-Haul.” Theo struggled to contain his nervous excitement as he drove along in first gear at a stately 2 mph.

Unfortunately the minute we stopped to work on a broken gate, we were swarmed by black flies. I run nature skits at school during lunch assemblies so when he exclaimed, “They’re not biting, they’re just in a cloud around my face!” I asked, “So, are they boy black flies or girl black flies?” (You really can’t stop a teacher.) “Boys!” Theo answered correctly, but the misery in his voice was so marked I went back to the house and found him a baseball hat with a bug net.

After our gate repair, we spent the morning laying out a line for a fence to subdivide the back field. This is a first step to getting control of this pasture. I need to be able to have the cows graze it in small sections, after which I mow, so I can beat back the weeds and encourage the small amount of good grass. Right now, the cows wander freely, ignore the less desirable plants, eat the good grass down to the roots, and the field quickly becomes a mess of waist-high weeds and barren areas.

Theo’s job was to drive the I-Haul down our stretched line and throw out t-posts every 25 feet. I pounded all the posts in with the steel rammer, ripping a giant blister on my palm. Theo then drove back along the line, snapping on insulators and hanging the fence.

By 12:30, when Theo had to leave, we had the beginnings of our fence.

Progress on any front always makes me feel better.

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