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By Staff | Apr 24, 2009

Last week we were sitting around the supper table when my farmer asked for volunteers for digging post holes. He needed exactly 44 holes dug the next day. I was the only one who was not busy, because suddenly school work became a priority, son Curt had field work to do, and the girls had their jobs.

So I volunteered. There had to be a moment of stunned silence before there was laughter. Me, the one who is always needing help with housework, laundry, gardening, you name it, I’m always looking for assistance.

To my way of thinking this posthole digging was going to be an exercise in waist whittling, a drill that would make vanish the extra winter weight, so that those clothes purchased at the end of last summer’s sales would fit just fine at the beginning of this summer.

Strange isn’t it how the same task I use for whittling weight away is the same exercise I tell the boys builds brawn and muscle.

In my mind, the day was going to be temperate, with temps in the 60s, calm wind, just a gorgeous day to be outside helping my farmer, listening to the birds as they carried on creation songs. Instead it was windy, blowing dirt and dust, and cold enough that a sweatshirt, coverall and scarf were required.

Once dinner dishes were done and the laundry hung out, I proceeded to the dig site. The spots for the holes had been marked and the first one was even dug. OK, only 43 left to go. No need to get bent out of shape by them stealing my work.

It wasn’t muddy, the dirt was perfect for digging, so I got busy. One hole dug and measured to be sure it was deep enough, then a second hole dug. Son Ben quit what he had been doing to start the third hole.

My afternoon was spent digging postholes. Or so it appeared, because anyone that dared to come out with a message, was handed the digger, while I shook dirt out of my shoes, cleaned my glasses or had to check on the growing spinach.

Each time I took post hole handles back I was moving slower and slower.

With my hands accustomed to the shape of the wooden handle, it began to remind me more and more of my rolling pin on my pie table. My rolling pin has wooden handles a bit smaller. But the process is the same, steady pressure is needed to get the job done.

Lunch time came at a good stopping point. Half done. Daughter Krystle had arrived then so I gave her the posthole digger. She got right to work, digging those holes in what looked like fast forward mode, compared to me. That cup of hot tea and cookies were definitely appreciated, undoing the work of the previous three arduous hours. Before the break, I was just glad to still be moving.

The girls complained when I ordered them to make supper. They wanted to dig postholes, but I whined that I wanted to dig the holes. Being the mother, I got my wish.

While walking out to the digging site, I had time to think. By then reality, or maybe common sense, had begun to sink in.

Muscles that had been dormant for so long were rebelling. In all truthfulness it was really quite selfish on my part to insist on digging the postholes.

Because the girls didn’t want to be making supper, they wanted to finish the job. Why should I deprive them of such pleasure? The only practical, sensible thing to do was to walk right back to the house to trade tasks.

The trade was made. Eating supper that night we talked about those postholes. We could attribute half of them to someone besides me. Somehow they think I dug 21 holes. I know better, because every so often those post hole handles were in my farmer’s hands or one of the children’s while I was off looking to check out important things such as, what was taking that pea seed so long to come up?

But they were impressed that I could dig postholes. So was I for that matter. There didn’t seem to be any reason to discount their high esteem.

But they looked at me as though I were crazy when my mouth, which was out of my control, made the comment that each day I should dig five postholes just to stay in shape.

I think the picture of those postholes all over the yard was enough to prove them that I was indeed crazy.

Three days later, I can finally sleep through the night without waking up with an achy body.

Vander Schaaf is a Farm News staff writer from northwest Iowa. Reach her by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com

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