He Said: Pushing Tin – 10 Years Of Projects

Today Erica and I celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary (and yes, that is the tin anniversary…romantic, isn’t it?).  So while this is theoretically a gardening blog, I want to share a bit about how our 1/3 acre homestead contributes to this relationship.
We excel when we do things together. Erica often says “honey, I love doing projects with you” as we stand, rubbing sore muscles from having herk’d a ton of juniper timbers across the yard or shaking dried mud from our pants after de-bogging some of the low ground.  Sure, sometimes projects involve lots of emphatic arm waving “no, it should go HERE” or degenerate into petulant “fine, then I’ll just do it that way.”  But they also lead to plenty of “I couldn’t have done that without you” and “wow that looks great” and “genius, honey, that looks fantastic!”
One day while we were shoveling and wheelbarrowing, Erica told me about the book she’d just finished, Better Off. This story of an urbanite among the Amish is full of homilies about leading a simple life, but one really stuck with us. The author had wondered, “how do you make daily hours of mundane, tedious, physical labor pass?”
The answer? Talking, discussion, storytelling, and teaching, just like the conversation we were having in our garden. These days, when we aren’t collapsing into bed and falling asleep the moment our heads hit the pillow, we are working late on the blog, cooking ahead, or just enjoying some quiet time. So garden time is talking time, a chance to discuss future garden plans, the latest stories from work, world events, the dramas of friends, the pitfalls of our daughter’s school.  Time, in short, to keep in touch.
For most of the year, my weekdays begin before dawn.  I’m up and on the road the better part of two hours before the rest of the family stirs and get home, sometimes, well past 10pm. I know that the bowl of chili or steak salad waiting in the refrigerator didn’t appear by magic – just as Erica knows that the biweekly paychecks aren’t earned playing Angry Birds and drinking Starbuck’s.  But this knowledge of the forebrain lacks the visceral of seeing your your partner’s effort.
There is something entirely different about seeing your partner working – actually toiling, herking, schlepping, digging, building, planting, harvesting. The visible, shared labor reminds us of all the hidden labors – catching busses, sitting on conference calls, folding laundry, teaching classes, paying bills. That we can labor together is a sweet bonus.  Blisters, cuts, and dirty fingernails remind us of our efforts, the efforts of our partner, and our efforts together.
The modern world, with cubicles, Facebook and Twitter, TV and console games, has a way of creating an environment where we are “together” but yet “apart” – engaged in the same activity but not engaged with each other.  Our garden, and our time together in it, has been a big part of keeping us truly engaged with each other.


  1. Julia B. says

    I love both of these – great thoughts about partnership and marriage and connecting. Now I want to go home (on the bus) to hug my husband of 17 months!

  2. says

    I just finished reading both posts, and I just want to cry. I know exactly the kind of feeling you're talking about. My hubby and I would have been together 20 years this coming June. We spent hours upon hours upon hours remodeling our old home – sweating, slamming hammers into fingers, griping about the way he or I cut (or miscut) a 2×4, discussing kids and who should get a later bedtime.

    I so miss those hours. They were some of the best, most wonderful hours we spent together…and some of my most cherished memories of him. How many women can say their husband serenaded them on a rooftop at 9 at night, covered in sweat, with champagne in Solo cups and starlight gleaming off the newly installed roof flashing?

    Congrats on the first 10 years of what surely will be a wonderful life together. Coming from someone who knows what it's like to have that, even if only for a little while, it is truly something to be cherished and celebrated.

    Now I'm going to go have a good cry…Frank (my hubby) would have loved to live long enough to see our little farmstead. He would've been out there building raised beds, stringing wire fencing, and laughing as I broke a pitch fork and landed on my duff in the mud…the kind of moments I'm sure you both have shared.

  3. says

    I'm a new reader of your blog…which I LOVE…and I just have to say that the phrase "pitfalls of our daughter's school" made me laugh and love your blog even more. Congratulations to you two, and thanks for all the tips and encouragement in my fledgling attempts at gardening!

  4. says

    Man you guys! Both very good writers. Thanks for sharing. It's comforting to know another couple truly toiling together to make it, when so many fall apart.

  5. Nancy Sutton says

    This is late, and probably will not be ready by many, but I’m catching up… so glad to have found Erica’s blog.. better late than never ;) I want to comment that I’m glad to see someone else read ‘Better Off’. I read it several years ago and what struck me was how the author finally cracked the social shell by communicating with the ‘other’ guys in the course of working together. His wife had no problem as she regularly spent time with the women quilting together, etc. The men’s building opportunities were rarer.

    I’m wondering if hard times are coming up, and we might, to our surprise, find almost ‘instant’ communities, where none have existed before, when it becomes necessary to work together for survival. Something called ‘crop mobbing’ comes to mind. Also, a great book, ‘A Paradise Built in Hell’ by Rebecca Solnit, shows what has historically happened when immediate response is necessary;.

    Oh, also, congrats 10 years.. from a 40 plusser ;) (BTW, we ascribe our marital longevity to neurosis, as most of the ‘well-adjusted’ pairs we know are in second or third attempts :)

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