-Posted by Isaac
The day after Christmas we woke up to a cold fog and frozen magic. Had Queen Elsa visited the bee farm?
For the kids, the long beautiful crystals were intoxicating, adding fuel to the excitement and debauchery of the day before. For me, it wasn’t quite as enchanting. I woke up with a stomach virus.
Too much eggnog? I don’t know. But this week of all weeks, it turned out to be not such a bad thing. Impeccable timing on that bug. Basically it got me out of a day of the Christmas run around— I missed a party and a few meals. I slept by the stove. I read a book. I listened to about eight hours of Dan Carlin’s WWI Hardcore History. It was the best day-after-Christmas ever!
By the 27th, I thought I was ready jump back in. I determined I would put on a happy face, step lightly, put my best foot forward, and once again give it my best shot. It was an all important week— a week of building good relations.
And it went as expected: lots of family commotion. A perpetual and relentless kid drama, just a touch of adult drama. A lot of sugar, a little beer. I only stuck my foot in my mouth about five times, and had only one argument. Not bad. So far.
Yesterday I got into it with my brother. (The one argument.) (So far.) It was over the formation of stalactites.
Of all the stupid things to fight about.
We took a family trip to the Ohio Caverns. For about half the tour Justin and I had a heated and somewhat bitter debate over the differential rate of calcite growth and whether there was really any hard science to back up the age estimates of the cave formations. We thoroughly embarrassed our fellow cave explorers, a group of about thirty. We even embarrassed our tour guide, who, as it turned out, was just a hired kid repeating a dumb script.
How do I know it was embarrassing? Jayne told me later. And I guess I sort of knew it at the time too. So much for good relations.
And she also told me something I’ve heard several times over several Christmases: “You need to back down and just let it go.”
She’s right. I know she’s right. I just can’t seem to quit falling into it…so many potential arguments with so many family members… and so little time. There’s really only one good week a year with which to argue. This is it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not enjoy it. I’m not a fighter. There’s just something about Christmas week. It creates an explosive atmosphere— all the people, the screaming kids, the lack of routine… tensions are already high. It’s like the land mine is set with a hair trigger, ready to blow up on the first idiot to put his foot where he knows he shouldn’t. And here I come stumbling in… with my science, and my politics, and my opinions, and my big feet…
Tomorrow is the last obstacle of the week— the big Barnes extended family Christmas. And you can bet I’m going to watch my step. I need to take some WWI advice from Dan Carlin. Just bunker down and endure. It’s trench warfare, these Christmas parties. And tomorrow I’m not getting my head shot off. Nor my foot blown off. I’ll stay in my trench. I’ll keep my mouth shut. Smile nice. Just endure. I’ll take no shots, I’ll let old wounds heal.
But the week hasn’t all been dodging bullets and dressing wounds. Sure, Christmas break has some downsides, but one great thing I’m discovering is that my kids are old enough to work. Really work. Not legally, but who’s checking? They’re out of school and we have plenty of projects. They still think this stuff is fun.
Between the Christmas parties and get-togethers, between building good relations, we did find time for some waxing. Rolling a light layer of beeswax on foundation gives the bees a head start on building comb.
And when the weather turned too nice to ignore, we got out in the sun.
This winter we’re putting a wood fence around the barnyard. Not that there’s anything wrong with the flimsy goat fence I pieced together last spring. They only get out once or twice a week.
First step: dig the post holes.
Looking at these pictures, I’m reminded that there are more pressing things I should be attending to. Like putting up metal siding on the barn. The goats have had an all-you-can-eat buffet for weeks.
Oh well. Merry Christmas, goats. I guess the siding can wait.
I love the rhythm of digging post holes. On a warm day in the winter, I can’t imagine anything better. And I try to convey this joy to the kids. Watching 12,000 years of soil come up, feeling the loamy wet earth, seeing the worms, squishing the clay. It’s all wonderful, and you get to do it over and over again. All day, if you’re lucky.
Maybe even all winter? You can see we made some progress this week. Even with all the commotion and calamity of Christmas.
And it was so much fun. When the worms and mud lost their excitement, when my lessons about soil growth lost their allure, the kids still found plenty to do. For instance, there was spud bar gravel drawing and backward forklift sitting…
…and about a thousand other things.
So all in all, it’s been a good week. A good finish to 2018.
The kids are still asleep right now and Jayne just left for the Worthington Market- the last market of 2018. I’ve got one quiet hour to galvanize my thoughts and prepare for a day of good relations. Right? Focus! Just a couple more days to say the right things and do the right things. And then we can send the year off in good standing. Let’s hope.
Maybe it’s not as hard for you, this off balance week between Christmas and New Years. Maybe you always say the right thing, dodging each and every bullet. Congrats. I envy you.
Or maybe you’ve simply figured out something that I still can’t seem to grasp: listen to your wife.