Urban Garden Denver Blog

Labor of Love

Are you a do-it-yourselfer, or do you prefer to plan a project and hire the labor to complete it? For most of us the answer varies according to our skill level, funds, time available and the scope of the project. But another aspect of labor is the care and creativity that it offers us. Sometimes we do projects ourselves because we want the enjoyment of creating, even if it would be more “practical” to hire someone else.

We explored this topic during a dinner table conversation recently. Our 22-year-old son asked my husband and I why we did so many projects around the home and garden, when we could afford to hire them out. He has a newly-minted degree in Economics and Math and is always interested in calculating the value of labor. His assertion was that with our skills (software development and communications) it didn’t make sense for us to use our own labor on such projects. The question was a good one, but reflected only one dimension of the value equation. The face value of a home project is the cost of labor and materials. However, the value of the project in my calculation includes the joy of being part of a tangible creative process, the sense of accomplishment in completion and the ability to influence and shape the project to my particular style. 

One example of a garden project that I could have hired out is our flagstone patio. Contractors would have done a good job clearing the dirt, leveling the area and installing the flagstone. In fact, the patio might even look better than it does with my labor. However, as I was planning the patio, I was very concerned about damage to the tree roots on our enormous shade tree, because I value the tree in a way that no contractor does, since I sit under its shade and appreciate how it makes my yard a pleasant place. A contractor would have cut many tree roots in the process of making the patio.  I carefully selected each flagstone in the puzzle of the patio and worked around tree roots with the placement of stones, so I wouldn’t damage the tree. The flagstone patio is a labor of love, and I enjoy sitting on it, bumps and all, in the shade of my tree.

I find it interesting and unfortunate that our culture often has a negative connotation toward labor. In the Creation story, when God put man in the garden, he was to work it and take care of it, and the work was a creative and positive activity. It is only after the Fall that work became associated with toil and difficulty. As I work in my garden, there is plenty of toil in weeding and digging and lifting, but I aspire to embrace the positive, creative aspect of work as well.

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  1. * Kathy Skipton says:

    Carla I so enjoy your Urban Garden Blog. Thanks for sharing it with us. KS

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  2. * Becca Gage Brown says:

    Carla, You should check out my neighbor’s garden “experiment”. They live directly South of us. He planted wildflower seeds in his front lawn area, and it’s absolutely beautiful!! He is now an avid gardener.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
    • I noticed that when I was driving by recently. Very colorful!

      | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago

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