Pig Farming

pat pic 0520
One picture hung. Below it is the board I’m using to stretch my plantar fascia until I can get back to my woodshop to make a more professional and less unsightly stretcher.

A woman whom I worked with early in my Pat’s years put her finger right on it one day. I have no idea what thing (or things, most likely) I was trying to do, or planning to do, or starting to do, but in half-exasperation, half-accusation and half (yes, that’s too many)-realization, she said, “You’re pig farming!”

I don’t recall where she said she came by the phrase, but it did come with a little story: The farmer set out to feed his pigs, but on his way to their pen noticed the gate latch was broken. So he went into the barn looking for a screw driver and noticed his tool bench was in disarray. So he started cleaning and located the hammer he’d been looking for last week when he needed to hang some shelves. So he grabbed up the hammer . . . the story can go on as long as you’d like to make it, which in my case is about 57 years and counting.

I didn’t have a name for this predilection, which might be a syndrome, nor even realize it was my modus operandi before Jennifer gave name to it, but in the nearly two decades since I have recognized this for what it is, even though recognition is not the same as remedy. And so I continue pig farming, even as I am well aware its hardly the most productive use of my time.

And we should, at the outset, acknowledge the tolerance, although perhaps you’d like to label it “enabling,” shown by my colleagues and Lynn as I move through life from one unfinished task to the next.

This really comes home to roost an entire pregnancy of time away from when you moved into a new house and in frenzied fits and starts start trying to make it look like you’ve lived here all along.

Yes, we’ve been in the “new” house nine months now and still there is a garage full of unpacked boxes, a house full of unarranged bookshelves, a closet full of unhung pictures . . . I can keep going. Then there are the home repair projects I really didn’t expect to need to get to so soon, like the poorly-weatherized deck railing that needs maintenance before we have to move to replacement, and the dryer vent that appears to shake loose after every use of the washer, which still shakes the entire house and which I don’t think really ought to.

But instead of tackling any of these projects in any sort of linear fashion, I go after them here and there, an hour on this one, an hour on that, leaving a trail of half-finished projects scattered all along behind me.

A lot of these projects, like the books, seem tangled up and twisted. Some books are still in boxes in the garage. Not all neatly stacked together, mind you, but scattered across the length and breadth of an entire bay. At the moment, I still have more books than bookshelf. I have nebulous plans for more shelving, but in the middle of all this there’s a pandemic going on. Have you heard?

[Yesterday I was reading a column from a magazine published last November, and I thought I read that the woman was planning to undergo “pandemic training,” which struck me as very prescient until I focused my eyes a little better and read it again: “paramedic training.”]

Because of this, my new avocation as a woodworker has been on hold so long that my teachers are going to have to start nearly at the beginning once they re-open next week. And I may have more limited time, because I believe they will be scheduling people to minimize numbers, rather than allowing people to drop in at will. Plus, it’s summer, which may or may not be busy at work.

Part of the lack of completed projects is also because Lynn and I never stopped to consider how much real estate a queen-size bed takes up. We had a spare mattress, which had been living in odd spaces in the old house, so we put it in our guest room in the new house. Right away, it started seeing use as we had several guests, including unexpected ones like Lynn’s brother all the way from Wisconsin.

But that all slowed way down, especially once my sister rented a house in town (I believe Tia and Don moved in as permanently as one can in a one-year rental last night) and stopped staying with us. And now, perhaps you’ve heard, there’s a pandemic on, so our guest list is likely to dwindle even more.

Taking up all the functional space in a small room with a bed that Marrakesh has claimed for himself (you ought to see a cat take up an entire queen-size bed by himself; it’s really a sight to behold) but otherwise isn’t really needed seems rather a waste, particularly with a garage full of furniture and boxes. And then it turns out my friend Kris, just a couple years younger than me, has been sleeping on his floor.

Perfect: we need a home for a bed, he needs a bed. But of course there’s a problem: while we both have trucks, neither is full-size and both come with toppers on them, toppers that may or may not accommodate a pillow-top mattress but that definitely won’t provide for a box springs. So then you do what people in Gunnison do: pick one of you many friends who owns a truck and ask for their help. But, in case you weren’t aware, there’s a pandemic taking place, so logistics add an entire extra layer.

Once the bed goes, it might be easier to plan the space left behind. In the midst of the planning, though, is the part where shelves or benches or who knows what might need to be fabricated by a rookie woodworker with limited access to necessary tools.

Along the way, this rookie woodworker might stop to haul pictures out and go on-line to see about getting a new stud finder but instead learns how to properly use the old one, which worked all along if only one knew how. This new-found skill turns out to be irrelevant, however, because not a single stud in the house is placed along a longitutidinal line that is aesthetically pleasing.

Somehow a picture or two gets hung while others are left scattered all along the floor. While standing back to see if a picture is straight, this rookie in woodwork but a professional pig farmer might notice that the spider plant is not doing so well and turn to our friend the internet for advice. The process of looking for a more suitable container turns up the pantry rack that isn’t anywhere near the pantry, but it is by a pile of papers someone meant to file . . .

As you can see, there is no end in sight for the veteran pig farmer, farmers whose work is not only not ever done but often rarely even started. It’s enough to make Charlotte cry.



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