Latest posts by Stephen Lloyd Webber (see all)
- Writing From the Inside Out – now available as audiobook! - January 17, 2017
- Live Culture Hot Sauce – Fermenting peppers to make a spicy sauce - April 7, 2016
- The Ergonomics of Emacs (with Colemak and Ergoemacs) - March 10, 2016
I get asked sometimes why I do so much manual labor at my rural off-grid home.
Isn’t it hard?
I mean, why dig a hole with a mattock and shovel rather than a small backhoe?
Yeah, that is a good question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a backhoe. Also, it would be impossible or nearly so to bring a backhoe into the spaces where we are digging: Narrow paths, hillsides with plants blocking the way.
Doesn’t it take forever?
Yes, my personal style of what can only be called ‘peasant labor’ is more time consuming than pretty much any other approach, but not always. I enjoy listening to the sounds of work or the sounds of an audiobook as I work. I have read more this way than I otherwise would have. Manual labor lends itself to listening to audiobooks. In that way, I make good use of time.
OK, maybe this is obvious. It is more affordable for me to do it myself. Also, my own particular non-standard approaches can be more affordable than the approaches most building contractors would like to take.
There’s no other way to be so familiar with every square centimeter of a home and a piece of land than to be the person who is doing all the work. When I spread mulch, I have to be the one who spreads mulch. When I tug the garden hose across the field to water the lavender plants by hand (because the automated irrigation system is imperfect, because they all are, and particularly because I made this one), I have to trudge the slick-with-straw paths, but also, I get to trudge the slick-with-straw paths. I learn the land’s chunks and contours with my own feet. When possible, without shoes on. There’s nothing like the experience of knowing the way by heart.
I have a DIY sort of disposition. By nature, I’m a strongly driven person. When I have a goal, and I believe in that goal, I want to see it through. The details of my goals are things that can’t be—uh, outsourced.
4. Whole-Hog Responsibility
It’s a holistic approach. I am the one with the idea, and I am the one seeing that idea through. I am responsible for its success and particulars, even those that fall outside my realm of expertise. Contrary to the “do a single thing, and do it well” philosophy, I have to be my own handiman. The downside to learning many trades well enough to get various jobs done is that I do not devote that time to mastering a single trade. I do not get to write or practice yoga as I saw through boards. However, for some people, and I think for writers in particular, it’s really really good to have a lot of general knowledge at a depth that is greater than average. Even though that means less butt-in-chair time, it brings more diversity of experience to my craft.