The Consciousness of Mindless Work

Lately, the weather has been favorable for continued work in the pecan orchard. There are times when I feel like I have not made the slightest dent in all of the cleanup that needs to be done on the fifty-two acres of land and, more specifically, in the orchard itself, where 142 pecan trees have dropped limbs and branches over a span of more than twenty years. I do feel pride though, when I think back to last November when I started the work of picking up downed limbs and branches by hand and transporting them by the trailer load to the burn pile in the canyon behind our home. Each week, I dedicated at least two to three days for work in the orchard, and the burn pile ash stayed hot for weeks on end as a result. Even now, with the mosquito and buffalo gnats to battle, and a high infestation of ticks this year, I have managed to work without much discomfort. Nice breezes and warm sun, along with applying some fragrant essential oils and herb-based, natural insect repellents, helps to keep the insects at bay.

In the pecan orchard, I spend many weekdays doing methodical work – picking up branches, cutting or breaking limbs down to a manageable size, and moving three to four trailer loads of wood to be burned. Looking over the expanse of the orchard after each of my trips to the burn pile, I can see progress. And in all of this repetitive work, I realize there is more to the orchard than seeing what work needs to be done and mindlessly going about it. I have found that I have not one thought in my head as I work. I focus on my surroundings, listening to sounds and calls of nature and watching for movement in my peripheral vision while, at the same time, practicing caution and safety. After all, there are Copperhead snakes on the property, and one must always be aware of fire and wood ants. But for the most part, each day I am presented with something fascinating about the pecan orchard property. There are hidden jewels to be found everywhere. Wild onions and berries, medicinal plants and trees, and brilliant splashes of color from emerging prairie flowers (or weeds). The slough attracts water birds, and various trees and snags provide homes for all sorts of feathered friends. Numerous holes in the soil, tucked away in weeds and roots, house mammals whose dens are homes for their young.  And of course, almost every morning I am greeted by Emma and Ronnie deer. Whenever I see them, I always make time to give them attention and take lots of photographs.

It is rather pleasing to find that all of the mindless and methodical work I have been doing has actually shifted my perspective of all that still needs to be done in the orchard. Maybe the summer months will provide just as much delight as the spring has when it comes to toiling in the pecan orchard. And perhaps I can even open my mind to believing the summer conditions might actually be favorable for enjoying observations and moments of presence provided by nature. I wonder, can it be that maybe it is in the mindless work that I have found true mindfulness?

I always make sure Mr. T and Oscar are settled before I set out for my day’s work.
FD mows in the distance while I pick up more branches and limbs along the slough.
The pecan orchard is actually a wetland area, dating back to the early 1900’s. A heavy rain can take a couple of weeks to dry up enough for me to continue my work.
The orchard supports many species of butterflies and moths. This Variegated Fritillary alights on a dewberry blossom. The south perimeter of the orchard is blanketed in dewberry vine.
I was delighted to discover wild onions throughout the orchard. They are very small, but the taste is phenomenal!
Work on the west end of the orchard will have to wait until autumn and winter. We keep a game camera in the area to observe animal traffic moving towards the river. This time of year, the area is a thick tangle of vine and cat brier. This is the area where I spent the autumn and winter gathering large cascades of cat brier to supplement Emma and Ronnie’s diet.
I have seen Ms. Turkey Hen for several weeks now. I have not been able to locate her nest but I see her almost daily.
Ms. Turkey Hen often joins Emma and Ronnie deer, and Buddy the squirrel at the corn feeder.
Musk thistle is an invasive, noxious weed that is difficult to control. Unfortunately, FD and I will be doing battle to eradicate them by digging them up when they’re small or chopping them down before they go to seed. As nasty as they are, they sure do have a pretty blossom!
The pecan orchard is woolly and wild after many substantial rains in the months of April and May.
FD and I discovered a Killdeer nest on the north side of the orchard. I will be documenting her progress and hopefully will have photos of her babies in the next couple of weeks!
The Killdeer eggs are perfectly camouflaged in the crushed rock of the driveway.
Lately, a pair of Snowy Egrets have been foraging in the shallow waters of the slough.
I often take a break with my camera in tow, to photograph the antics of the Snowy Egrets while they run back and forth with wings spread attempting to capture their prey.
Purple Poppy Mallow can be found throughout the pecan orchard and also in the yard and pasture of Ten-Acre Ranch. I always try to mow around it… it’s just too pretty to cut!
Privet grows wild throughout our property and sprouts up everywhere in the orchard. It’s quite invasive. Many people plant privet as a natural fence or for ornamental purposes in their yards, but give little thought to how the plant will spread throughout the countryside. Fortunately, I have noticed that it puts off berries which birds feast on in fall and winter and deer love to nibble at where they can reach it.
Ronnie has a real fascination with water. Every morning he takes a dip in the slough. Apparently, submerging your head in the water feels pretty darned good!
FD takes a break from his work to pick a few ticks from Emma’s ears.
Ronnie cannot resist the water of the slough. Here he has waded to “Willow Island” where he likes to hang out in the shade.
Emma settles down for a nap not far from where I am working.
Ronnie has a snooze just a few feet from Emma. I think they feel safe knowing their mama is working nearby.
This is my view most mornings as I load my trailer with branches and limbs.
Every morning Emma and Ronnie venture to the area I am working in the orchard, to nibble good eats, have a frolic in the slough, or chew cud and take a nap in the cool shade.

 

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


23 thoughts on “The Consciousness of Mindless Work

  1. I so enjoyed your photos and I think you are onto something with the mindfulness… Love the montage of photos along the right hand side of the page, it is something like painting a portrait of your life. It occurred to me while reading that you have created your own world–a magical one at times. xx

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    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment, Ardys. The pecan orchard has become a place where seems natural to practice mindfulness and presence. It’s a sanctuary of sorts. The montage is a collection of photos since FD and I moved on this place… and it represents our way of life.

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    1. Hi Steve! I’m always amazed at some of the tattered butterflies that pass through here, and they all seem to fly as if nothing is amiss! I can’t imagine those delicate wings and dealing with the elements of nature. You’d think the wind would do more damage.

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  2. I didn’t realize you had so much acreage. I admire all you’re doing with/for your land and the animals. It’s always a relief to see the kids are okay. And yes, that butterfly clipped part of wing created all sorts of wonderment in my mind: why have you been little thing and what happened to you? But then that’s just my storybook mentality. I hope you all have a great weekend. ❤

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    1. I have a similar way of thinking, Paulette. It is our human nature to question. Probably that butterfly things nothing of the wing, nor what other insects or life forms think about it. Ha ha. I had a terrible time getting that photo too – chasing the butterfly all over and trying to sneak up on it when it finally landed. I think you would love the orchard… I do a lot of mental story writing out there, and yet my eyes are drawn to so many things presenting themselves.. and there is yet another story to be written. It’s a good way to work, and move through the day. 🙂 I hope you have a fantastic weekend too. Our weather should be lovely here for the next three days… and then all of next week spring storms will threaten! GAH!! More limbs and branches falling in the orchard.

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  3. Thanks for the tour of this enchanting place with the many lovely wildflowers (or weeds), the creatures, the greenery. I enjoyed seeing this. What are your intentions for the pecan orchard? To harvest and sell? Or do you already do that?

    I think methodical manual labor brings a sense of peace and calm. I pulled weeds for several hours this morning and it was good for me to empty my mind and think of nothing other than the task at hand.

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    1. I enjoy weeding for that very reason, Audrey. It’s even better that the weeds go to the chickens. They love them! We cannot find anyone to manage the orchard (pruning, checking for boring insects, beetles and worms, and harvesting). We seem to be the only orchard in the area and it is an older orchard with different needs than a new or young orchard. So, FD has been going to classes put on by Oklahoma State University, and he’s also engaged in courses through The Noble Foundation. At least we’re gaining some understanding of our options and what we need to do currently, which is major cleanup. We’re learning a lot, but it could be a few years until we realize an actual production crop on a commercial level. We have had several people ask to come on the place to pick by hand, which could bring in a little money – folks paying per pound. I will need to do a blog post at some point – there is much more to this business than I ever realized. But FD and I agree, whether there is ever any money made isn’t an issue. We bought it to promote a wildlife sanctuary. And so far, it’s flourishing as that!

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  4. Believe me — as someone who’s spent a good portion of the past 25+ years sanding and varnishing, I understand the value of “mindless” work. Given the title of my blog, I was amused by Audrey’s comment, too: “it was good for me to empty my mind and think of nothing other than the task at hand.” I spend a lot of time thinking about my personal “task at hand” while I’m working.

    I saw my first musk thistle about two weeks ago. There was only one, and I marveled at its beauty. Then, I found a plant with still-green buds. It was equally lovely. Then, I learned that beauty-be-darned, it’s an invasive in need of control. So it goes!

    I recently scared up kildeer, too. I was around a garden with rock fill, and the eggs surely were in there somewhere. I didn’t see them, and never even thought about the fact that there might be eggs, until the parents started raising a ruckus. Watching my feet, I backed out, and everyone settled down. i hope you’re able to get some photos of the babies. They’re so funny. I always think of them as golf balls with legs.

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    1. GAH!! Sanding and varnishing are a couple of my least favorite jobs to do! Forget mindfulness… I think I would LOSE my mind after 25+ years!!
      I am anxious to see the baby killdeer, as I have never seen them before. We see adult killdeer all of the time but never have I found a next before. Since I’m in the orchard nearly every day i will surely have a chance to photograph them.
      It’s overwhelming the number of thistle on the place. But I keep thinking that surely they have a purpose… I know birds eat the seed. We have a spot on the north side of the house that is such poor soil that only weeds grow in it. I fought it for years until one year I just gave up. That winter we had more Northern Flickers come to feed on the ground. Apparently they loved the weed seed we had plenty of! Ever since then, we let the weeds grow in that patch and it’s actually quite pretty. It’s one of Emma and Ronnie’s favorite spots to graze on too!

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  5. Really enjoyed the photographs! They tell their own story while dramatizing yours. My favorite is the alert thistle.  It seems to be staring at me. What a strange, almost other worldly plant. I started reading about it. Found a great story about why Scotland values it. Without your striking photograph, who knows if I would ever meet a thistle, though I have always loved the sound of its name. But I shouldn’t try to rank the images*– such a variety, so well shot. A very beautiful recounting of important elements of your world. It is pleasant and rewarding to be able to visit. And you are generous with your guests. It takes time to put all this together for us.

    Three things you said stayed with me, so I went back and copied them–here, but also in my notebook:

    (1) “I have not one thought in my head as I work”  (2) “the mindless and methodical work I have been doing has actually shifted my perspective of all that still needs to be done ”  (3) “each day I am presented with something fascinating about . . .”

    I probably could have said these things myself if I were more reflective. That is to say, your observations opened my eyes to experiences in my own life that are both troublesome and potentially good. Outside work has been restorative for me. And I especially want to keep in mind the truth of #3.

    *couldn’t keep myself from commenting on the kildeer eggs too! And the butterfly. And…..

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    1. I do not know how long it has been that my eyes were finally opened to so many fascinating aspects of nature, and of life too. I think it probably began the year I raised orphaned Daisy deer. She did not have a deer mother or a herd. She only had this strange human mother for company. I followed her everywhere to learn more about her world, and did she ever show me and teach me. I suppose things just fell into place after that. I began understanding and seeing the very things, as you say, “both troublesome and potentially good” in my own life.
      You are a very thoughtful person, Albert. Your thoughts are rich and deep.

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  6. Hi Lori, The old pecan trees are very impressive- so large and shady – full of coolness on a hot day. It seems you are learning so much more about the wildlife and plants of your area as you tend the orchard.
    Do you hope that Oscar will accompany you as you work when he is older?

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    1. Hello Margaret! I think FD’s idea was that Oscar would be a “ranch hand” like Zoe was, but Oscar is even smaller than Zoe and won’t weigh more than 5 lbs as an adult, so I think he would be a worry for me out there. I nickname him Hawk Bait… that’s exactly what he would be. You never know though, maybe he will enjoy buggy rides and not so much roaming.

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  7. I’ve been so bad about keeping up with reading blogs, but I’m glad I went back and read this one! The photos are beautiful, per usual, and I love reading about the work you are doing.

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    1. Thanks, Cherity. I am used to physical work, but this has been enlightening on a mental level. I love how I feel after a day’s work in the orchard. I know you understand the feeling. 🙂

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  8. Nature’s nagging about clutter and chores needing to be done is a gentle way to encourage us to get out and become what we were meant to be and live as meant to? Tiring, but such worthy work. Excited you are investigating using the pecan grove for income. Such lovely trees and such a grand place to wander for those who have none of their own.

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    1. I can’t even begin to explain what a wonder the orchard is. I make new discoveries all of the time. The work is hard and the insects are awful at certain times of the day, but you’ll find me there nearly every day. I often think of my ancestors, people of the prairie who worked the land to get it where it could produce food or income. I am doing that much as they did. Working with my hands and slowly making progress. I hope there comes a day where maybe we can sell pecans… folks come as families to hand pick paying a small fee per pound. I know hand cracking and cleaning isn’t what most people would do, but imagine the fun that could be for young people learning about foraging for their own food, gathering it, cleaning it and preparing meals with it? Call me old fashioned but it sounds like an excellent way to bring family together again. I’m thinking pecan pie is the end result!! 😀

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