A lifetime of occurrences have driven me to the conclusion that I like to be miserable. I enjoy farm work. I can be completely drained from working in an office all day, hunched over a computer and stifled by the climate controlled building, then get home and start digging in the garden and feel completely revitalized! I have always excused myself of this virtually anti-American attitude (that is, pro-heavy labor), by rationalizing that yard work is good exercise, that my values dictate being productive with my time, and that I need the sunshine for my vitamin D. However, I know I just adore working hard, getting exhausted, filthy and sweaty and then going inside to have a really good scrub, cook a gourmet meal, and sit down to rest and eat with the feeling that I have really earned my food.
One of my oldest goats died on November 12th, probably of old age and pneumonia, and I had such a hard time deciding what to do with his body. My cousin nags me consistently to butcher one of my goats so he can have goat meat in the freezer. I have explained repeatedly that mine are not meat goats, their economic value is in their fleeces continuing to grow, that they are more pets or family members than farm stock and that I grieve terribly whenever I lose one. Even though it seemed like a desecration of the body of an old friend, I offered the carcass to him to butcher for his freezer and he said he didn’t want it. So now I know that he has just been messing with me.
I could take a dead animal to the dump, but I feel so awful with the pitiful body being there massed with garbage when I knew the critter as well as any friend I have. But this 100-pound goat would take a terribly large hole to bury him on my own property. I woke up the following morning in an agony of indecision, and just started digging around to see how hard it would be to dig a hole ar least four feet deep. (State regulations indicate that a dead animal must be buried with a minimum of three feet of soil over the top of it). I had already been digging a weedy tree out on the east side of my house to plant an herb garden, but it was such a mass of tough tree roots and suckers that it was taking a terribly long time with just digging for a few minutes whenever I had the time.
Some mania took hold of me, and I took the day off to dig. I have an old back injury and old-lady arthritis in my feet and back, but I was completely consumed with the challenge. I dug out the tree and its major stump and kept going. I dug down to three feet and still never got to the end of all of the weedy tree roots. By then, I was in an agony of exhaustion, but I kept digging by sitting down, propping my back on the side of the hole, and working the shovel into the other side of the hole with my feet. I started sometime before daybreak and got finished at 1:00 P.M., but I did it! Digging a big hole and moving two tons of dirt by hand felt like the greatest accomplishment I have made in years! (I just stopped to calculated the volume and weight of the dirt removed, and it was actually about 2 cubic yards, which is 2.7 tons, considering an average bulk density of 100 lbs/cubic feet).
I respectfully buried my old goat, got rid of as many tree roots as I could, and have a clean new garden bed to plant herbs. Now, that’s a productive day! What is more amazing, my arthritis was virtually gone for about a week and I have been feeling great! I think a massive physical effort is important for my health. I was born to work!