After breakfast and a cup of tea, I felt it high time to haul buckets. I opened the toilet’s cherry lid, looked down inside the Fleet Farm Black Logo bucket.
“Yup, that’s full alright.” Good timing. You definitely don’t want to discover the toilet’s fullness when you sit on the seat. I snapped on the lid, hoisted the bucket up and out and lugged it (five gallons of mostly liquid is heavy!) into the garage where another Fleet Farm Black Logo bucket, already full and lidded, awaited its companion. Then down into the cellar, I slip like a jail breaker between the staircase studs and there, hiding behind the rack of hanging coats, I find it.
Built by my friend Bob and I for camping, this rustic cousin of the upstairs toilet reinvented himself for a life in our house: “In addition to an emergency toilet, I’m a used kitty litter container.” I scoop Kirby Cat’s two litter boxes into the toilet, topping off the green Enviro Smart bucket (fancy name for a bucket of doo). A minute later there’s 3 full buckets side-by-side in the garage. But wait! There’s more! Soon the steel compost pail, from under the kitchen sink, joins the party. Finally! To the compost heap! Strangely it’s much easier to carry two full buckets, one in each arm, than only one tipping me lopsided. A hundred feet from the house, I dump each bucket onto a rake-leveled compost heap, scrub the bucket with water and a toilet brush then dump the wash water onto the heap. All four buckets dumped and washed, I cover the heap with lawn rakings (and chicken wire and two wooden pallets to keep out the critters) then prop up the buckets to dry and sterilize in the sun and wind.
Now all this is what I’d set out to do between my first and seconds cups of tea. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes of work I suppose. “The chores,” I thought to myself as I walked back to the house. I never liked that word: chores. Somehow, when Aunt Dorothy used to say it out at their farm, it sounded so shrill and unpleasant. But now, like nearly everything in this grand experiment I call Home the Land Built, I tried it on. No sooner had the word escaped my lips when I noticed the gutter downspout lying in the grass half out into the lawn. “I’ve got to learn to respect the wind,” I thought. This time I secured the downspout by driving a forked stick into the ground, pinning the spout between. Brushing off my hands, feeling a little proud, I then noticed what the wind had actually done. The downspout was a mire diversion. Yesterday’s gusts had knocked over the wood pile stacked so neatly, 7 feet high, under the lean to. An hour later that task was done. I really needed that second cup of tea. Finally, sitting with Linda, looking out on the land as I sipped my hot chai, I wondered what part of tall that effort was chores. I’d always imagined chores as routine. Cadenced. Hauling buckets fits neatly into that category. But what about other tasks, especially those that call to me while I’m doing chores: fixing downspouts, restacking wood.
Maybe the tasks would be better off without a label. I know I don’t like labels put on me. I almost never put them on myself. Be a rare day when you hear me say, “I’m a liberal” or “I’m a writer” or “I’m a retiree”. They feel too defining, too confining, in need of a jailbreak. So, this morning, when I scooped Kirby’s litter, maybe that’s all I did. It doesn’t need another name. Unlike the litter, I don't need to put the task into a bucket.