Friday, May 2, 2008

Time and Work

There was still a faint smell of pumpkins, though the stock had eaten them all. A woodsy smell came from the pile of beech leaves, and a dry, strawy smell came from the wheat. Outside the wind was screeching and the snow was whirling, but the South-Barn Floor was warm and quiet.

Father and Almanzo unbound several sheaves of wheat and spread them on the clean wooden floor.

Almanzo asked Father why he did not hire the machine that did threshing. Three men had brought it into the country last fall, and Father had gone to see it. It would thresh a man’s whole grain crop in a few days.

“That’s a lazy man’s way to thresh,” Father said. “Haste makes waste, but a lazy man’d rather get his work done fast than to do it himself. That machine chews up the straw till it’s not fit to feed stock, and it scatters grain around and wastes it.

“All it saves is time, son. And what good is time, with nothing to do? You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winter days?”

“No!” said Almanzo.

—Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy


Jason said...


Glad to see you have taken up Farmer Boy. This is my favorite from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Great little passage about time well spent. There are lot's of great little insights into agrararian life such as when the frost comes and they all get up @ 4:00 in the morning to save the crop.
The chapter when they go to the Fair and Almanzo get's a lesson on money is priceless.


Matt said...


Joseph Pearce's excellent book "Small is Still Beautiful" addresses this issue, among many others. Pearce calls for "intermediate technology," meaning, a technology that takes into consideration people (human scale) and the land (natural environment). We moderns love to see all technology as an unqualified good, when in fact all technology inevitably alters/affects people and the land. Pearce does a good job of not dismissing technology, but calling for a wise principled use of technology. This sort of principled technology is the difference between technoidolatry and antitechnology.

Lastly--for shameless Parish/King's Meadow promo: our monthly book discussion for June is on "Small is Still Beautiful". We'd love to have everyone join us for this (June 2nd).