November 6, 2019

yardmanWe were in the barn, out of the cold October rain, and my neighbour had just bolted a replacement part, which he had ordered and picked up, to the steering assembly on the front of our old Yard Man tractor. He said it was a $3 part but I sure as shit wouldn’t have known to order it, nor how to replace it.

As I prepared to start up the old junker, he lifted the hood and unscrewed the top of the air filter to look inside.

“It’s a good idea if you haven’t started your lawn tractor in awhile, to check the air filter, and make sure you don’t have a mouse nest in there,” said our neighbour, who is a few years younger than me.

I could live to be 102 and never know to do that.

We are blessed with good neighbours at our farm in Madoc. I am not too sure what we would do without them.

The neighbour then stole a glance at Coco, our dog, and said, “Our dog is slowing down pretty quick. We may have to put him down soon. But I’ve been wondering about cremating the dog or taking the body home to bury on our land.”

“I definitely want to bury our dog on our farm,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, “but if you take the dog to the vet, then they put it down, now you have to lift the body back into the truck and take it home. I know one guy, he just left the dog in the back of his truck. The vet came out, gave it a shot, and then the dog passed, and they brought the body back home.”

Hard to talk about dogs passing away, but maybe it’s a good thing to think about I guess.


Our other neighbours, to the south, are an elderly couple from Germany. They’ve lived on the farm for over 40 years. They are the ones who sold us our farm.

My wife and I had gone for a walk in our woods. Dead leaves covered the paths. With the leaves gone, you can see deep into the woods now. There was a bit of rain, but hey — no bugs. We came out at our neighbour’s woods and as we walked up to their house I heard the whine of a power tool from the workshop.

First we went into the house to speak to the woman. Then I went out to the shop to investigate the noise.

The neighbour wore an aqua-green cloth jacket, a proper sort of coat that I’d never seen him with before. Not the usual plad overshirts he wears when making wood. But for the first time in, I think, 42 years, he didn’t make firewood this year for the winter. They decided to heat with their electric baseboards. it will cost them a fortune.

“But if you go to an old folks home they charge you more than $5,000 a month, so we are still saving money,” the woman said.

leafThe old man was in his shop. On that table lay lengths of planed hardwood: oak and maple and ash and cherry. Each piece was a different shape; none was longer than a few feet.

“Look at this wood,” he said. “I saved it. I saved everything. Every time, I would have a piece, and I would say, ‘I might use this some day for something.’ And then I would save it. Now, I don’t have the energy to do anything with any of it.

And so, using his table saw, he was cutting, one by one, all his saved pieces of hardwood into stovewood lengths. His wife said they still had a fire on Sundays and special occasions, and in those fires he will burn his hoarded wood. He held up a long thin piece of wood, made perhaps as the handle for a drawer. At one time he had painstakingly cut and sanded and painted it, and drilled a hole at each end.

“I can’t remember what I made this for,” he said.

The next morning I went back down to the barn and I saw the shop door was open again. He came out slowly holding a piece of wood the size of a cane. The top was a spiral of wood; somehow, naturally, the wood twisted itself to make a perfect, natural top for this cane.

“Look at this,” he said. “Why did it grow like that? I was watching a show on TV last night and they said that they did experiments with plants. They gave a plant a little pin prick and it flinched, like it felt pain. I think the reason we have gotten much farther from God is because we now can use science to understand so much about the natural world.”

“I am sorry to talk to you about God on a Sunday morning,” he said.

“It’s okay,” I said.

My neighbours can talk to me about whatever they want. I am just happy to have them around.