Cappers Farmer Blogs > Old Dog, New Tricks

Using Up Your Talents

By Mary Conley

Tags: Erma Bombeck, Finishing Projects, Soffits, Rebuilding, Refurbishing Old Buildings, Barn, Shop, Mary Conley,

Mary ConleyDear friends, I think we all have our heroes or people we really admire. Along with Thomas Jefferson, I admire Erma Bombeck, the funny syndicated columnist who entertained us a few years ago with what happens to a pair of socks in the laundry. I imagine it was because of her writing ability that she was able to afford extensive traveling and experience such unbelievable places that most of us haven't even thought about or knew existed. That last part was because her husband planned some of their vacations! I can relate on a smaller scale. I often asked Larry when we did things like climbing Long's Peak and riding mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, "Why do we have to take such hard and scary vacations to have fun"? Yes, we've even walked with moose in Nova Scotia and had a mountain lion visit our tent in Oregon. But, back to Erma. She wrote about many of their traveling experiences in her book titled, "When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time To Go Home!" You should read it since laughter is said to be the best medicine.

When Larry and I bought our little farm seven summers ago, we were, well, that much younger. We could work hard, fall asleep easily, and start over again the next day. Now we have slowed down. Way down. We must find ways to keep and enjoy our place without overdoing it. Larry often complains about how little he accomplishes in a day, but still gets worn out. I recently commented that I wondered just how much a 73-year-old man should work even if he wants to, and suggested that maybe he is only supposed to vacuum and clean toilets for his wife!

wood chips along the fence rows

One of the ways we are making his work easier is to put down paper and pile on wood chips in the fence row around our 20-by-30-foot orchards and garden beds so he doesn't need to use the trimmer as much. We'll see if that works. We also have a better understanding of how much planting to do for the produce we consume in a year, and will cut back to what we use and can reasonably care for.

Larry, scraping, sanding and caulking

I no longer work like I used to either, but I still put in long days, minus our afternoon naps, of course. My latest project this summer was to prime and paint the farm house after Larry did the difficult work of cleaning the newer addition and scraping, sanding, and caulking the original part.

painting in the early morning hours

In the above photo, I’m painting in the early morning before the sun is on the house. I’ve been asked if I should be up on a ladder painting since I just had back surgery a year ago. I don't want to be unwise, but my doctor said I can do anything I want except mud wrestle or sky dive. I immediately took those off my bucket list.

the finished project

The finished project. Isn't this a cheery color?!

only the peak over the loft is left

Only the peak over the loft of the barn is left.

We finally finished the soffits on the barn and shop. Although, I didn't do much of the work, there were parts when two people were definitely needed. As Larry said, "I couldn't have done it without you; I could barely do it with you!” He also felt it rather disconcerting when we were up on the extension ladders and a vulture was lazily circling above us!

looks great!

The shop looks really great now that we have finished the soffits. Larry is in the process of adding more dirt around the foundation, and I will plant periwinkle, which deer don’t prefer, to hold it in place. Also we need steps for one of the entries.

the "before" photo

In reviewing my post before submitting it, I’ve decided I have to stray from my original plan and show you the “before" photo of the above shop. What a difference! We remember when our grandchildren, Josh and Erin, helped us clean it out. Then Todd, Erin, Nancy and Larry built a new roof. Boards were saved from another old building to repair the front. But, mostly we remember the work that our son, Todd, did from the onset of the cleaning, planning, roofing and rebuilding. Larry and I just reread a previous post I wrote about the history of the building and the restoration. You might enjoy it, too.

Back to my story. What I'm trying to say here is that we aren't learning and doing new things on our little farm as often as in the past, but we've been tying up some loose ends, and trying to arrange our lives in a way that we can stay as active as possible and continue what is important to us. That brings me again to Erma. I love her quote that goes something like, "I want to leave this world with not a single bit of talent left, using up all God gave me." I agree. As I age, I don't want to live in fear while I go about doing what I enjoy in life – using up all my talents.

Silly sidetrack: Thank goodness for my pill box or I wouldn't know what day it is out here!