What Do You Consider Work?

Since retirement, many of my neighbors have been noticing that I’ve been home much more than usual. But rather than asking me why I haven’t been going to work, they’ve been commenting on how hard I’ve been working. I’ve been doing a lot of gardening and splitting wood for the winter, but I do these things because I enjoy them. The fact that I really love doing what my neighbors call “work” made me think a bit more about why I’m having so much fun with it. When I sat down today to think about it, the first thing that came to my mind was my grandfather.

grandpa_working_the_fields

Grandpa working the fields in Canada.

I only have a few memories of my grandfather. They most vivid ones revolve around his garden and vineyard. He was a true farmer, having run a working farm for a living in Canada. Life on the farm wasn’t easy, but he enjoyed working with the earth and seeing the bountiful harvests his efforts produced. My mother grew up driving tractors, and has fond memories of my grandfather selling his vegetables from a truck. But it wasn’t an easy life, and eventually it was too hard on my grandmother. They sold the farm and moved closer to family in Pennsylvania.

My grandfather got a job as a dishwasher, but he never lost his love for things that grow. He built a house on an acre of property, and used the land to continue following his passion. When I was a kid, there was a big garden and an orchard where he grew apples, plums, pears, and walnuts. I remember the sweet ripe pears, and the chewy dried apples that he preserved with a dehydrator. The man had a special connection with everything he grew, and by the end of the summer there were always tons of canned fruits and vegetables in the basement pantry. My favorite were the small pickled onions. I used sit with a jar and eat them one at a time slowly peeling away at the layers.

My fondest memories were of the grape harvest. There was a small vineyard that ran the length of the property, and each fall when the grapes where at their sweetest, there  would be a grape harvest party.

It was always a working party, friends and family came to help with the harvest. Some would grab shears and harvest the grapes in large baskets. The elderly members usually sat in the shade and plucked the grapes one at a time. Us kids got to sort the plucked grapes by shifting them around in a large mixing bowl full of water where the bad ones float to the top. The grapes were then ground up by my mother and placed into large drums for fermenting. Making that wine was a group effort and everyone participated.

grandpa_with_grapes_1

The man had a special connection with everything he grew.

This may have been hard work, but it was something everyone enjoyed and looked forward to. It was a chance for many of our friends and family to come from the city and enjoy some fresh air in the countryside. A holiday in its own, the harvest was a chance for everyone to connect and bond.

Of course there was always a feast. The farm buffet included salads made with the produce just picked from the garden, roasted meats, and fresh baked pies. Most importantly, once the hard work was done everyone had a chance to enjoy the wine created during the last grape harvest.

These were the times I was happiest growing up, but nothing lasts forever. My grandfather passed away years ago. The tradition of the grape harvest continued for awhile, but a few years later that too ended. With no one caring for them, the grape vines became overgrown and stopped producing fruit. They eventually died out and nothing remains of them. The garden is long gone and only a few of the old apple trees remain growing wild in what was my grandfather’s orchard.

It was a lot of work doing all of the things my grandfather did, but in the end he was not doing it for money. He did it for the thrill of seeing new crops coming up, the satisfaction of packing a pantry for the winter, and the pleasure of sharing his bounty with family and friends. If there is one legacy he has left, it’s the love that I have for getting my hands in the dirt. It’s a passion that runs deep in my veins, and while it might include a good bit of hard work, it’s my way of finding happiness and satisfaction.

killer_harvest

Not quite the same as grandpa’s grapes, but one of my better harvests.

But this is just my story, and I understand if not everyone loves to sweat it out chopping wood and digging dirt. We all have different passions in life. Mrs CK for example, loves herself some school whether it’s teaching or learning. For me, school is a special kind of torture, but she enjoys the crap out of it.

Whatever it might be, following your passion is going to be a shortcut to creating your own happiness and finding fulfillment, even if it looks like a lot of work to someone else.

22 thoughts on “What Do You Consider Work?

  1. That’s awesome. 🙂 Also, great job on that garden haul; looks badass!

    I am absolutely passionate about NOT doing physical labor. 🙂 I wish I enjoyed it, but I honestly love being a blubberbutt. Mr. Picky Pincher, on the other hand, is happiest when he’s tearing something apart or building something. I think your model of retirement livin’ is what he’s looking for. As for me, I aim to spend retirement doing the things that I love–that includes writing and volunteering.

    Early retirement looks different for everyone because everyone has different passions.

  2. That brings back memories of my grand father as well. He drove a truck for a living when he wasn’t getting up at 4am to feed the animals (at any point: pigs, cows, chickens, or sheep) or tend his 2 acres of garden. I didn’t appreciate all the work that went into it as a kid, but I get it now. The funny thing is he didn’t think of it as work as you pointed out here. It was his time to himself.

  3. A great message, Mr. CK – and a nice story to go along with it.

    I like the pics a lot…those are some mutant veggies! I can definitely appreciate the fruits of the labors here, but everyone’s glad I’m not the one doing the work. Those veggies would look mutant in a very different way!

    Thanks for the nice read, and here’s to many years of enjoying the fruits of your labors!

  4. Great story and really seems like this was part of the reason you enjoy working with your hands.

    Is it just me or does this seem to be a common thing in the FIRE community? Seems like everyone is off building something or creating something with their bare hands.

  5. My grandfather was a farmer…so I know the level of work that goes into it. It’s a special kind of insanity when someone actually enjoys it! 🙂

    I believe most of us have no idea what we’re actually passionate about. Once we join the working world, we spend countless hours and decades toiling away at a job for money…that probably isn’t really our passion. We forget what feeds the soul.

    I recently got to rediscover some of my own passions after years of neglect…all thanks due to financial independence. In a sense, I could even call my own blog a passion…I’m certainly not in it for the fame and fortune! 😉

  6. I loved the narrative. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. As for me, I inherited sewing from my mother. Lots of kid costumes were the result! Now it’s taking the pieces and putting them together in other random crafts.

  7. Thank you for sharing your grandpa’s story. It reminds me of my grandpa – he had grape vines, apple trees and a big garden too. And I’m completely envious of your squash harvest.

    I’m with you – I LOVE digging in the dirt. I don’t garden to save money, I garden because I love it. It’s almost like therapy or meditation for me…I completely lose track of time when I’m out there.

  8. Lately I’ve been really interested in the idea that most people feel like their jobs are pointless – they don’t really build or make anything and often times don’t see the fruits of their labor. Jobs like farming or nursing or construction seem like the hardest and most demanding but those who do them are usually more satisfied. Today, things we buy (houses, cars, clothes, TV’s, etc) have become “what we make” through our work, or the fruits of our labor.

    • While I did like engineering, I was happier when working my way through school landscaping. There is just something about working with your hands and seeing the results of your hard work 🙂

  9. I love talking about personal finance and really get a thrill from helping people. I am a huge introvert but I could talk to people all day about their finances. I am a huge nerd and I know it.

    I hope once I reach FIRE, I’m thinking four years from now, that I can work in some capacity helping people with their finances and sharing my nerdy passion 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. Loved this post. You and I could not be more different. Every thing I touch dies and withers on the vine (including supposedly hardy succulents and cacti, the wimps). I enjoyed the pictures of your grandfather and the description of his harvest tradition – what a wonderful thing to grow up with.

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