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Fighting off Raccoons, Skunks, and Bean Beetles: The Work You Don’t Enjoy

September 5, 2020

Another Way for week of September 4, 2020

The Work You Don’t Enjoy

Last week I wrote kind of a rhapsody on work—especially gardening or house work. As I’ve reflected more on the nature of work, I decided to launch this into a short series exploring additional aspects of work. As we “celebrate” Labor Day this coming weekend, I admit that there is lots of work I don’t enjoy.

Our lot in life is to work. In Genesis the creation story says “Cursed is the ground because of [Adam and Eve’s sin]; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” (Genesis 3: 17b-19a).

This summer I would personally add: “Fighting off raccoons, skunks, and bean beetles, you will eat the fruit of your labor.”

No matter how you read Genesis or what you believe about creation, the result is the same: life involves work—some of it we enjoy and some of it feels like a curse.

Corn blown down. The corn left standing on the left is some earlier corn that no longer had heavy ears on it.

We had a late summer rainstorm in which the wind whipped down three rows of corn: the corn I hoped to freeze for the winter. We plant our corn in about four plantings—much of it to eat fresh, but trying to harvest several rows for freezing. So Monday morning found me down on my knees in the garden mud, trying to make the stalks stand straighter again. I pushed mud and straw up on all sides of the stalks. Shoring the stalks up like that helps, although nothing can restore the corn to its full productivity. That work felt like a curse.

Corn after shoring it up–the first couple stalks in the row have been pulled up and padded with mud and straw. Overall, that didn’t work out anyway, and we’re just picking the corn off the blown over rows.

But it made me think of the heartsick farmers in the Midwest who watched their crops destroyed when the “derecho” went through a wide area August 10-11. (We were hit by a similar storm the summer of 2012.) As I worked, I thought of women in rice paddies on the other side of the world working in mud, and all those who must start each day carrying their day’s water supply many miles (approximately 11 percent of the world’s population according to the Centers for Disease Control).

Many of us groove to one type of work over other types. Office or factory or outdoors? Outdoors sounds great until you think about heat or nasty weather. Do you like head work or working with your hands and body? Working in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes in this pandemic has even been a life and death matter. We continue to pray for protection and strength for all those working in such places whether it is cleaning or managing their jobs under difficult sanitation protocols, and all “first responders”.

I grew up more as mother’s helper rather than dad’s. Both my older sisters did more outdoor and farm work than I did, mainly because they were, well, older. My second oldest sister eventually fell into the pattern of being dad’s helper because she liked it more than she did housework. And she was so adept at it, although she and my younger brother will tell you (now that Dad is gone), that sometimes his demands as a boss fell heavy on kid ears.

This leads me to another confession. I don’t love helping my husband with his projects. I usually find the wrong tool for him, or mix up something.

But my husband and I are building a woodshed where I learned a lot and helped enough that I began to enjoy it. I finally knew what tool he wanted or needed next. Like an assistant helping a dentist or in surgery, I would sometimes hand him the tool before he asked. I helped him put up the poles, structural joists, and side supports. It is currently waiting on rafters and roof, but as life happens, other projects have edged in.

So I guess what I’m saying is we all have work we don’t love: cleaning toilets anyone?

Our daughter Doreen visited for a week and was a wonderful helper on the wood shed project!


What’s your most hated chore?

What did you not enjoy doing as a child?

Were you/are you a mommy’s helper or a daddy’s helper? Or maybe these are outdated terms/concepts. How about “Family Helper”?

For a free small booklet called “Work Therapy” with 35 succinct tips on enjoying our work, write to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Elaine permalink

    I would have to say cleaning bathrooms is my least favorite job, however, it’s always satisfying to see the end result. When I did housecleaning as my occupation in FL I felt half my job was done when the bathrooms were clean (and there was always more than one!).

    As for the Mexican Bean Beetle–they have been a real pain this year!!! I really need to get a handle on them early on. Neem Oil was a little bit effective, but they multiply so quickly.

    • Yes is very hard to keep up with the spread of those beetles … don’t get me started. 🙂 I wondered about the Neem Oil. Also thinking about trying Diatomaceous Earth next year. I had not heard of it before but some are saying it is helpful

      I’m with you on bathrooms–although it is satisfying to have them clean! I have cleaned houses too and that was always my least favorite part … until one woman I worked for (also in Florida) asked me to change her sheets twice a week. I didn’t much care for that either.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Skunks and bean beetles are not our problem, but armadillos are. So are deer that nibble off my prized hibiscus blooms. That happened again yesterday. I have a bio-friendly spray, but if I miss a day, the buds becomes their nighttime snack. So disappointing.

    Chore I hate? – cleaning! It used to be therapeutic, but the older I get the more I detest cleaning. Fortunately, my husband helps with the floors and clean up in the kitchen. Yes, as the oldest, I was mother’s helper and enjoyed it, especially when brother Mark came along and I could be a little mama when I was twelve.

    I’m glad you have help too, Melodie.

    • Armadillos … well, I would be definitely out of luck there, do you find them scary?

      So many of these remedies, especially for bug pests, require daily maintenance, especially if it happens to rain. I don’t mind seeing September and fall coming, especially a gorgeous day like today!

      Thanks for chatting. 🙂

  3. From Nick in an email: “When my new neighbors planted a few rows of corn in their small garden, the first significant windstorm knocked the stalks down. They were going to discontinue growing corn until someone showed them how oldtime gardeners “hilled” the corn by pulling several inches of soil up around the growing stalks when they were a foot or two high. Problem solved. (Of course, extremely high winds could do damage.)”

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