There was a long list of incomplete farmstead projects lingering in my mind when COVID-19 sent my children of all age levels out of the in-person classroom and home from school in March.
At the time, we thought the change in education from college level all the way down to elementary school would be quite temporary. However, as the days went on, it became apparent that this situation would be more long term. While this scenario has offered tons of challenges and more than a few sleepless, anxiety-filled days and nights for all of us, it also has provided opportunities.
Several farmstead projects have been completed in recent weeks, primarily because we, as a family, couldn't do much else. The work was tedious at times for my sons, who were my primary helpers, along with my wife.
But seeing the results of new tin on our chicken barn; removal of a number of invasive trees around the place; improvements to our front and back yards; newly repaired and painted fencing; and the complete renovation and transfer of my daughter's 4-H, FFA and show rabbits to a new facility in our old milk barn has been rewarding.
The problem with completing so many tasks that had waited in the wings for years is that we have come up with several new projects that build on the ones we just finished. As things eventually open up, and we anticipate more recreational activities such as youth athletics, 4-H and FFA livestock and small animal shows, we know that these new projects may take some time to complete.
Yet, for years to come, we all will most likely look back at the farmstead projects we finished as our "COVID projects." I suppose that label puts some historical context to what may otherwise have been mundane little jobs around the farm.
During these projects, my oldest son also got to drive the pickup more than he would have otherwise. My youngest son enjoyed learning how to maneuver a few small power tools and the riding lawnmower for the first time. And my oldest son learned that he has some aptitude around rough, practical woodworking.
While we were working on these projects, I couldn't help but recall the days and evenings spent with my own father, about the time I was the same age as my sons are now. We enjoyed long days and evenings together in the field, fixing fence, moving cattle, planting and harvesting.
On rainy days, we worked in the shop, fixing implements or working on a new project to make life easier on the farm. Dad has been gone 10 years this past winter, and those memories of working together with him are more vivid today than at any other time since his death.
Looking at my own sons, I see myself at their age, working with my own father. I tell them a few funny stories about their Grandpa Arens, so they can appreciate him as much as I still do. I also see my own mortality. Knowing and appreciating these facts, brought on by the accomplishment of a few simple farmstead tasks, helps me to understand how precious family time really is.
It is precious when you are chasing runaway cows down the road. It is precious when you are fixing a flat tire on an implement. It is precious when you are out fishing, golfing or watching a hometown ballgame. It is precious when you are completing tasks that have been on the "to-do" list for far too long.
Time isn't precious because of the things you are doing. It is precious, particularly on the farm, because you are doing these things together with your family. Our COVID projects on the farm have reminded me of this important truth.