18 April

The Joy Of Doing Things I Couldn’t Do Six Months Ago. Preparing A New Raised Garden Bed.

by Jon Katz

Today was interesting in several important ways.

First, I went to buy a new and smaller raised garden bed from my friend John Sieger, who owns and runs the Country Power store. I now have three.

I spent the afternoon dragging it to the right spot, hauling heavy and wet bags of topsoil around, shoveling donkey manure into a wheelbarrow, and raking it back and forth.

I spent nearly four hours out there when I stopped,  raking and sorting the soil from last year, adding the new soil, and mixing it with the very fertile donkey manure we produce on our farm.

I bent over constantly, shoved 50 pounds of manure and spread it around, chopped up each raised bed to vent the soil, and prepared it for seeding at the end of May.

I was happy to see the Tin Man’s head so comfortably rooted in the first garden bed. He needs some rest too, I think.

Halfway through the project, I had a revelation: I could not have done this a year ago. My legs were too weak, my back too fragile, my belly too big, my breath too short. I thought this kind of work was behind me, I thought I was just getting old.

My doctors didn’t allow me to get away with that reasoning, they prodded me to have a couple of surgeries bet to work exercising and forge a new relationship with food. I did all of those things, and the doctors were right.

I am not too old to work around the farm, just a big less dumb.

I had no trouble today. Maria went out to the back pasture to repair the fence that has been snagging some of our sheep – they want to get to the lush green grass growing on the other side. She was working as hard and as long as I was.

It was a beautiful day for outdoor work. It makes me even more eager for our four-day vacation coming up this coming Sunday. I will be walking and walking along the beach.

My legs were strong, my back was sore, but I was going strong after three hours, and was determined to finish the work without any help from Maria or anyone else.

I put gloves on to flatten the manure balls and carefully mixed the manure with the topsoil.

When I started, I thought it would take me a few days (with Maria’s help) to get this done. But I had no trouble with the wheelbarrow, no trouble shoveling, no problem lifting, and no difficulty raking every inch of last year’s dirt.

The soil bags, soaked from the rain yesterday, were heavy.

Finishing this work left me with a great feeling.  It helped my pride, reaffirmed the importance of exercise and diet, and awakened a part of me that was going to sleep.

My exercise at the gym is paying off, so is the weight loss, and so is the very healthy diet we are on here. My legs are, and my black is complaining, but the experience was affirming.

As predicted, the work I’m going makes me feel good, and that is incentive enough.

I appreciate how Maria has supported me in my plan to get healthier.

She is always there to help, but she also understands that too much help can be enabling and can discourage the person you want to benefit from trying to do things on their own. Three days after my open heart surgery, she said she needed to get back to work, and she did.

I dressed myself. I thanked her for that.

I know several couples where someone is sick and one partner or another does so much so quickly I can almost see the partner descending into a fog of dependence and loss of confidence.  And that also can cause resentment and conflict.

I don’t want Maria to try and do everything for me; I have to figure things out for myself.

I am feeling useful again and engaged.

I do most of the shopping, most of the dishes, and most of the cooking. I love being busy and feeling useful. It’s good for me. Many of these things I do were things I would have to give up because my body was stiffening up.

The gym has been a great help.

Losing weight is vital. Exercise my back and leg muscles have made an enormous difference. So has the Sleep Apnea mask and the seven-plus hours of sleep it has given me. For my body, that is quite a change.

When Maria asked me if I needed help lifting the bag or handling the wheelbarrow, I said nothing, but these are things I need to learn )and re-learn by myself.

I am happy to have a new garden bed; I am just about a month away from planting. Now I need to figure out what seeds go where.

I will sleep well tonight, my workout outside followed a stiff workout at the gym involving a bike and weights for my arms. Laura was watching, to make sure I did my full workout and didn’t sneak out.

I didn’t. I don’t really want to anymore. Bring on the flowers.


  1. Congratulations on your achievements Jon, that’s great.
    But what happened to the Tin man? I think I missed that story.

  2. Jon, I have been a follower for years however the last few have been problematic! Downsizing, stroke, pandemic et al..
    Didn’t know about your heart surgery, so glad you are recovering ❤️‍?. I’m now 83 and remember your first collie (with the name change!) I’m so glad that you’ve found renewed love of life and wish you and Maria a very Happy Easter.

  3. It is such a great feeling to be able to physically DO things! I work consistently to stay active and able, and am kinda proud that at 61, I can walk for miles, bike for miles, lift a 5-gallon water bottle into the dispenser!! If we use it, we won’t lose it!!

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