Lending a Hand

On Saturday morning, Husband and I were in the garden preparing to remove our spent peas plants and the wooden frames we had erected for the peas to grow on, when the 5 year old plant scientist from next door asked if he could help us pull weeds. We said of course he could, so over he came, and began pulling pea vines out of the ground and manfully carrying armloads of them to the garbage bag Husband held open. Of course, any time we spied a viable pod we shelled it and gave him the peas to eat.

Our young friend loves to help us in the garden, and wants to know everything about the plants. He has shown an intense interest in gardening since we met him when he was 3. I explained that the white dust accumulating on our clothes was powdery mildew from the pea vines. He alerted me to the presence of flea beetles in the kohlrabi. He took great delight in the small green caterpillars he found where the pea roots had been. We then searched for butterflies in the Cone Flowers, and I reminded him that he and his sister were welcome to come over and pick the red currants from our bushes. We predict he will become a horticulturist at a major university.

Later in the day, his mother decided it was time to clean the small storage shed in their back yard, and his father had him pick up small twigs and branches from the front lawn. He was far less happy doing that than helping us. Husband commented that it is always more fun helping adults who aren’t your parents.

Who were the adults you liked to help when you were a child? What were your most disliked chores at home?

55 thoughts on “Lending a Hand”

  1. The 80 something Swede who had a cabin up the road who came out each day during the summer. Those of you who perhaps read my first novel perhaps remember about him. But he paid me. A nickel each time, usually for turning his grindstone for him..
    Carrying wood from the woodshed to the house every day, especially worse after school. Took fewer trips as I grew older and could carry more.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I think I willingly helped my best friend when her mom had chores for her to do, but I wish I had had a neighborhood relationship like you describe, Renee. You found this little boy at just the right age, and it’s fun to hear about him.

    We never had a vegetable garden – my dad had hated working in his parents’ one… I would have benefited from having this chore, I think.

    Even as adults, it’s more fun to, say, wash dishes in someone else’s kitchen… or do a clearing out – I wonder if that’s how I got into that short stint of having an organizing business.

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  3. I used to spend a couple weeks in the summer helping out my cousin in Pipestone. She was a busy farm wife with three small children and I would watch the children and help her out and she taught me how to sew. It was fun for both of us.

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  4. I don’t remember having any kind of relationship with other adults when I was a kid. I think most of it is because we moved around a lot and also because my mother, who is now very social and a collector of people, didn’t start out that way. I don’t remember us being friendly with any neighbors ever. I’m guessing that’s from the filter of a kid and that my folks probably were passing acquaintances with neighbors.

    Most of the kids that I have great relationships with now aren’t kids any longer. Have gone to school moved off, some have families of their own now. But I am still in touch with most of them. My current neighbor girls don’t come over and help. Some of that is the fence and some of it is the helicopter style parenting that goes on next-door. That’s OK we have a great over the fence relationship and talk a lot. It does my heart good when three year old Matilda comes running out the back door calling my name when she sees me.

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    1. I forgot to say that these two little girls are my chalk buddies. They did a great birthday chalk for me last year (keeping my fingers crossed for this year) and they also came and helped chalk up the sidewalk when YA graduated with her MBA.

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      1. It is term likely to have started in education to describe parents who hover all the time, phone or message too too much, question many things, who want their children to have special ed issue and be gifted. It even reaches into college with parents who attend lectures argue about their child’s grades who refuse to accept that instructors cannot legally discuss a student with anyone. Grand daughter is starting college in 3 weeks , first year. Her roommate’s mother manages everything for her daughter. Wants to discuss what my grand daughter is doing with my daughter. My daughter keeps telling the other mother she has no idea that Lily is an adult and it’s up to her to manage her own life.

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  5. I was often deployed to my paternal grandparents’ home to help them out. Grandpa had a prosthetic left leg after losing it to diabetes, and was also paralyzed on his left side from a stroke, and when grandma had to be gone over night, I stayed with grandpa. He was pretty functional but needed help putting on his leg in the morning, and I had to empty the urinal he used at night since he couldn’t hop to the bathroom on one leg. In return I got to talk at length with him about famiky history and hear his stories about being in France in the US army during the First World War.

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    1. Grandpa was a great admirer of Napoleon, and loved talking about him and how his policies changed the area of the Netherlands and northwest Germany where our family immigrated from. Grandpa also had lots of history books and novels he picked up at farm sales, and I was allowed to read as many of them as I liked.

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      1. What interesting stories.

        In my family the granddaughter, Thelma, of the Civil War soldier (north) took care of her grandmother in her old age. Grandma Tobitha told her all the stories of that time, including that her father hid slaves on the Underground Railroad, that she knew Wild Bill Hickok because she played with his little sister as a girl, and that she crossed enemy lines in search of her husband when the letters stopped, found him dying in a hospital, and nursed him back to health. Then he returned to Sherman’s army.

        Thelma told these stories to her little sister, Muriel, who I got to know and who is still living at age 92. Muriel gathered, published, and saved all the letters and placed the in a museum at UC Berkeley.

        Those stories, like your grandfather’s opinions of Napoleon are invaluable.

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        1. Any family member who wants copies can write the Bancroft Museum in Berkeley and get copies. I have personally seen and held the 6 letters that Fred and Tobitha gave my grandparents as a wedding gift. They are the only 6 that are still kept outside the museum because my uncle will not part with them. I hope his descendants donate them. We all have typed copies of the letters in a book and I now hold Muriel’s copyright and her research. Last year Muriel’s son sent everything to me because I had agreed to be the caretaker in my general. Early in COVID social isolation, this was part of what I scanned into the computer as part of an on-line library.

          The letters are a detailed account of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Fred was the company butcher when they ransacked the South.

          Liked by 4 people

  6. It was just us, till I was maybe nine. Three boys and two girls, no neighbours. We had to wash up, and would argue bitterly that so and so had missed their turn, all that. We had a well, with a hand pump by the kitchen sink. The tank was upstairs, and Dad had a depth indicator on the wall, a piece of string hanging down with a little weight on it. There was a piece of wood with marks on it. No excuse for letting it run empty. We’d maybe have to do fifty strokes each, and watch the weight slowly, painfully, work its way towards Full. And of course we’d argue, and count each other’s strokes. Dad and Mum would get sick of it, and Dad would grab the handle and pump like a maniac, trying to shame us. I really can’t see why the others couldn’t just knuckle down like me, and do it. No good taking it up with them now, they’ve got such bad memories. Hard done by, Palomar.

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  7. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    I liked to help my grandma (Renee, also in Pipestone) garden and cook because she was an overflowing font of cooking and gardening knowledge, and she was patient with me. I “helped” her arrange flowers, weed, and make egg coffee. If I had understood as a child how much I would treasure those times, I would have done it more, but of course, no child can know this.

    She needed a lot of help. Grandma had a “small” — her description—garden in town, but the truck garden was out at the farm, and that was several acres of vegetables and flowers. Thanksgiving dinner was a major production which also required help due to the size of the family.

    The one thing she always wanted help with was washing her windows, a job I loathed, and I still do not like. I think I learned all the other skills because I would scheme to avoid the window washing by volunteering to weed or cook.

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    1. OT: Jacque, I hate cleaning windows, and I doubt if I did our windows in Southampton ten times, in sixteen years. I was conned into a regular job at a farmhouse once, cleaning the windows once a month. It caused nothing but strife between Lynn, the bosslady, and myself, otherwise friends. I was aggrieved at having the job at all, specially for what she paid me. She would think I was trying to skimp the job. (All kidding aside, I wasn’t). We laughed when it was all over and I refused to do it anymore. But we weren’t laughing at the time.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. I had such trouble shining them without smearing, finding a cloth that didn’t leave fluff, and getting the job done in one hour to make it worth my while. Never did it. One time I decided to stand on the cattle truck to do two front windows at once. Don’t know why I drove one wheel along the edge of the lawn, but I did. Trying to roll out the subsequent deep marks resulted in worse marks. And so on. Finally having achieved a series of very deep grooves, I parked up and went and made coffee and waited for the onslaught, when Lynn came home. All I said to Graham was, “Now I know what fear is.” He replied “Hmmph.” Then we waited, in silence.

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        2. Newspapers are still my preferred “tool” for polishing windows. Everything else streaks or leaves lint. Finding a good window cleaner is tough, but I keep trying, I’m simply not up to anymore.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Straight west on Hwy 30 about 5 miles, then turn left on a gravel road I can no longer identify and go about 1 mile. Their house in town was a little brick house named the Silverburg house (previous owners and builders) across the street from the hospital on 9th Ave. The Pipestone Hospital bought it and they house the doctors with specialties who have contracted for services there. It is very bare and sad without the gardens. All the other houses on the street were torn down and replaced with hospital buildings.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My cousin lived out that way. My uncle’s farm was close to the Pipestone National Monument north east of Pipstone near Cazenovia, and my other uncle and maternal grandparents were south east of Pipestone near Hatfield.

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        1. It is on the Coteau du Praires, or the Buffalo Ridge, a big land formation on which that they have built lots of wind farms.

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        2. And apparently you didn’t get my joke? Some people object to wind and solar power on the grounds that they will use up all the wind and sunlight.

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  8. It is sad how narrow a social world children inhabit today. And how important it is for children to be around people of all ages and types. Our two fortunately grew up in a neighborhood that often gathered and our kids were routinely in contact with 5 older people, four in their 80’s. One was a sweet tiny retired teacher with a Norwegian brogue who they would visit to talk to her and get cookies and real lemonade about which they are now spoiled. My two PK (preachers’ kids) grandkids have been surrounded by people of many ages especially old ones who they built real bonds with and then to go to their funerals which was good for them too.

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      1. Meant to add that many people my age help with childcare with their grandchildren, which adds a lot of richness to the lives of grandparents and grandchildren. When these people live far apart in isolated small towns, then it makes that impossible which is part of the reason I chose to live in an urban area. There are ways to support a family and still live near to one another.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I enjoyed helping my maternal grandparents with yard work and other odd jobs because, especially in the summertime, Grandma would feed me from her garden–lots of fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, strawberries, raspberries, etc.

    Other than that, I was a teacher’s pet so I always felt special when the teacher asked me to do something for her/him (although I was never a fan of cleaning the chalk erasers).

    I hated mowing the lawn and shoveling snow as a kid. Still do as an adult although many times now I use the snowblower for large snowfalls or March snow.

    Chris in Owatonna

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  10. My mother was a perfectionist who never required me to do many chores because she wanted them done to her standards. I remember really disliking washing off the kitchen counters after I cooked or baked, because it took me a while to figure out how to get them cleaned so there was no film or residue on them. I started baking independently when I was about 10, and I was pretty messy at first.

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    1. Husband is still in that messy stage of baking. Flour everywhere, and cleaned up only at the center of the action. We have a bit of a reprieve at the moment as the electronic “start” button (not really a button) on the control panel of the stove is out of commission. The repair guy managed to find a replacement part ($469.00 thank you very much) and has ordered it, but it isn’t here yet. I’ve told him, repeatedly, that one of the reasons I’ve never become a baker is that I don’t think the effort it takes to clean up properly is proportional to the enjoyment I get out of the baked goods, and that I resent having to clean up after him. Of course, he claims he cleans up after himself, he’s just blessed with ability to see only the flour in the middle of the counter and not the stuff that’s sprinkled all over the floor and around the edges of the counter. Selective hearing and seeing are very much a thing.

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    2. Isaac bakes now, having started last year at eleven. He’s learned well from his mother and grandmother, and the mess is awful to behold. I think Grandma would still be champion though. Jane has found cake mix along the tops of the kitchen cubpoard.

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  11. At the boarding school, each kid, old enough to do chores, had an assigned job to do each day after school. Some of those chores were more fun than others. I had my share of them, and the “perks” of various jobs varied depending on the assignment. From one classroom that I was assigned to tidy up, for instance, if I leaned far enough out of the window, I could reach the grapes on the grapevine climbing up the espalier trellis on the outside wall.

    But my favorite job, which wasn’t an assignment but something I did strictly when I felt like it, was help Sr. Janine, the small, rotund Polish nun who ran the kitchen with her assistant, Valeria, a Polish refuge, but not a nun. I’d help with shelling peas, or whatever else they could think of, and basically keeping them company. Sr. Janine, who I’m guessing was in her fifties or sixties at the time, loved kids, and would bake cookies which she’d hand out the back door of the kitchen during our after school hour on the playground. I remember several of us boarders, nine or ten years old, getting together and composing a song for her, a song I can sing and remember the words to to this day. We’d go sit on the railing that prevented us from falling down the steps to the kitchen, and a chorus of children’s voices would sing out (roughly translated): “Dear Janine, give us some more. They taste great, and we can eat some more. Yes, the cookies, oh the cookies, how wonderful they taste, we can eat some more.” That never failed to bring our beloved Sr. Janine to the back door with her cookie tin. As I recall, Sr. Janine and Valeria spoke Polish to each other, but Sr. Janine did speak some heavily accented Danish, but Valeria did not. Somehow, that never got in the way.

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  12. We have three little girls between the ages of six and nine, two sisters and a neighbor friend, who come every other day to walk Bernie. They live a block south of us, and almost directly behind our house. They made husband’s acquaintance a couple of months ago when they spotted him in the side yard as they were prowling the neighborhood looking for work. They struck up a conversation with him and asked if he had any jobs they could do. Soon he had contracted them to walk Bernie around the block, including picking up his poop if he goes, for two dollars. They are saving for something, can’t remember what, but they have an exact tally of how much they have earned and saved. At last report it was $36.25. They also occasionally stop by just to visit, and they are delightful company.

    Yesterday, they were visiting with husband in the back yard, when Mable spotted a plastic ziplock freezer bag hanging on the clothesline. She asked him about that, and he explained that he sometimes rinses out these bags for reuse, and she was amazed that anyone would do that. She’s a smart little girl, and at nine years of age knows what distinguishes a vegetable from a fruit.

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    1. I’m heartened by your comment, PJ. For many years it saddened me that neighborhood kids no longer did odd jobs the way most kids did years ago. I lived 37 years in Mac Groveland without one kid coming around seeking employment. In the Fifties girls began babysitting by the time they were twelve. At ten I was mowing lawns (and hating it) and running a newspaper route.

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      1. Margot informed me just this morning that she spent her own money on a gift for her grandma. And when she gets back from Iowa next week she’s going to do more chores for money.

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      2. We had local kids come round washing the car, one time in England, but they were aggressive about it, and not interested in washing the wheels. We only used them once.

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  13. We didn’t have outside chores. We just played. Jane (sister) had a little pressed steel tricycle, with a trunk, what we call a boot. I’d drive up and down the lawn, pretending I was ploughing and cultivating. I noticed there were tiny holes in the corners of the trunk, so filled it with earth and drove up and down, “spreading fertiliser” as the earth trickled out. Those holes weren’t very big at all. When dad started hitting stones with the reel lawnmower, everyone pointed at me. I still don’t see how a stone that could go through a quarter inch hole could hit a blade that was three quarters of an inch off the ground. I reckon I was framed.

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  14. This wasn’t a chore exactly. When we moved to this place,(where I fertilised the lawn) there was an orchard, with room to make it into a chicken run. Dad ended up building thee houses, each one a bit bigger than the last . They’d buy day old chicks, and it was very exciting. When they were big, they’d go into the houses in the orchard, which was now wired off. We had a hundred birds, and the packing station collected the eggs every week. If a hen was broody, she might be put into one of the coops Dad had built, to hatch out some chicks. I was more than interested, and was given the odd hen or pullet to look after myself.
    But Mum and Dad had missed the postwar boom in egg profits, I realised later. As birds died, they didn’t get replaced any more. Nothing was said about that, I took it that that was life. Sometimes you have a lot of chickens, sometimes you don’t. (When I was twenty, I was going to have thousands). One day, Angus, Neil and I, the oldest, were given the chance to take over the chickens. My life just took off, at about eight years old I was a chicken farmer, partner in a farm with eighty or ninety birds. Dad made us split the work into three parts, Stockman, Egg Superintendent, and bookkeeper. As the one who’d been interested the most, I delightedly became stockman. Only problem was Clarence, you can guess who he was. He didn’t like people. I had to always had to carry a bucket to swing at him, and never turned my back on him. He was scary and dangerous, but I tried not to get a complex. Angus cleaned and packed the eggs. Neil did the books, whatever that consisted of. Dad showed him, I wasn’t interested. I suppose he was seven. Dad said we needed to swap jobs sometimes, learn everything about it. When it was time, I didn’t try to influence anyone. But they let me stay as stockman, and the other two swapped round. Then it was time for dad to get a new job, and we had to move. The packing station bought the sixty remaining hens for slaughter, and with that money, maybe a year’s egg money, and the bit Mum and Dad gave us to round it up, we had twenty pounds between us. We each opened a Post Office account with our six pounds, thirteen and four. And dreamed for years about how we were going to spend all that wealth.
    I’ve kept a few chickens many times over my life, but something has always happened to bring it to an end. Moving house, I suppose. Things like that. Watch this space.

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