by Chris Johnson
This is a common question from friends and family who wonder why I enjoy manual labor when they see me favoring an injury or the sound of the creaks and cracks that my body makes when I get up. There isn’t a simple answer, I have a bachelors degree, I could have chosen a field that exercised mind instead of my whole being but I have always been drawn to the outdoors and the ache of a good days labor.
I think this started back in the mid-seventies when my Grandfather, bored of retirement purchased a 150 acre prune orchard in Healdsburg, California. My Grandparents who had retired to Vancouver, British Columbia were traveling back to Los Angeles to visit family when they happened upon this orchard. My Grandfather loved the property but had always hated prunes. I arrived there as he was tearing out the orchard to join the new wave of farms planting vineyards. I remember sitting on the dozer operators lap,smelling the soil and diesel and I was hooked. I spent several weeks during the summer there learning about farming and spending as much time outside as possible. I believe that the example of my Grandfather wore off on me. He enjoyed and was proud of working with his hands. This influenced my future decisions from summer jobs in construction and landscaping, to choosing to major in Landscape Architecture. Not wanting to intern for an Architect drafting topography lines for two years, I headed outside into landscape construction and wholesale nurseries.
At one point in my life after my wife and I had moved to the Berkshires I took an “inside job” because my wife wanted my to do something totally different because I had started to job hop to much. The company was some of the best employers I have ever had but after a couple years I realized I missed that ache in my body and the smells of the outdoors. Reinvigorated I have never looked back and realized that the outdoors and manual labor is a part of who I am. Most of the time when people ask what I do for a living, I say “ I play in the dirt “.
That makes me happy.