Good day WonderTree Community. Hunter is taking some time to be with family in Texas for Christmas and has entrusted me (Chris) wear all of his “farm hats.” One of which is the newsletter writing. So here goes…

On Saturday, November 21st, I woke up with a Chip Gaines inspired vigor, and at 9:00 am took a sledgehammer to our 60 year old bathroom vanity.

It was #DemoDay.

This year for Christmas, I decided to bless my family with a new bathroom; a much needed upgrade from the 1960’s era off-pink porcelain toilet, gold-trimmed fixtures, and sea foam green wall tile.

This was no minor undertaking for my experience level. I stripped everything down to studs, floor joists, and ceiling trusses. I ripped out the 350 pound pink-enameled cast iron tub. After the initial adrenaline rush, I realized my estimated completion timeline of two-weeks was going to be a drastic error.

Here it is, the end of week four and we are on the homestretch. With two kiddos, one of which is in the midst of potty training, we’ve been sharing a 3/4 bathroom this entire time. Needless to say, patience is wearing thin, but I may just make it by Christmas.

Just a shade under five weeks. 

On Thursday, I ran into something that could have been disastrous and may have pushed our project out another month. I’ll keep the details out of it, but a critical piece of the vanity was built without having the proper hardware installed. It was terrifying. All I could think about was the permanent damage this was doing to my 2-year old son’s adventure out of diapers.

I called the manufacturer; nothing they could do but send a new one after the holidays. I called the supplier; every item was on backorder. There was no modern day solution supported by large warehouses and next-day freight.

So it was time to learn the skill of using a tap & die set.

Just to put everyone on the same page, a tap and die set (pictured above) is used to create threads in metal and custom bolts to fit into the threads.

I understood the theory, but I had never turned new threads. To make the stakes even higher, if I messed this up, the entire vanity would be trash. Only one chance to do this right or I’d be adding more cost and time to the project. 

Thankfully, I have several Sages in my life that are well equipped for this sort of problem set. My father-in-law is a man with a great garage. His orderly personality has aided in the preservation of a vast museum of specialized tools tailored for tasks that have been forgotten in this age of big box stores and cheap hardware. 

The tap and die set he lent to me was exquisite. Passed on to him from his father-in-law; it was like being introduced to a holy grail of manhood. The pieces were preserved in a thin coat of grease. Not a speck of rust. When you opened the case, the smell gave way to the nostalgia of a time forgotten.

I could just imagine my grandfather-in-law turning his own bolts on his personal lathe. The man never bought a piece of hardware, he made everything by his own hand. I was now being ushered into his realm. 

I returned home with the heirloom, but for good measure, I wanted to double check with my father before I started. He is always a great sounding board when I decide to stretch my handy-man skills. 

Over the phone, I outlined the specifics of the problem, the equipment I had in my possession, and my plan to solve this issue. He asked me two questions to make sure he understood everything. Then without a bit of hesitation, he immediately recalled a specific detail from his experiences. 

In a call just under five minutes long, my father had shared a critical piece of wisdom. I was astonished. He wasn’t looking first-hand at the problem. He didn’t have to. The man was so familiar with the trials of this task, that he knew the single detail that was crucial to solving the problem. 

What he shared wasn’t even on my radar.

I hung up the phone, prepared the family heirloom tools, and per my father’s guidance, began to turn my first-ever threads.

Tools worn with decades of use by skilled hands — Generations of experiences nearly forgotten — All being brought together in this moment.

It worked flawlessly.

After I set the hardware into the fresh threads, a feeling of peace and satisfaction fell over me. I reflected on all of the things that had to happen to make this moment so special — all the Sages in my life and their experiences being poured into my family in this day.

Because of them, my son will be able to begin his journey into independence and my wife and I will on the road to freedom from diapers.

These men have more knowledge forgotten than I have gathered.

What is going to happen when we can no longer tap into their library of experience? When they are gone, will YouTube be enough to sustain us?

In agriculture, Hunter and I have these life-changing brushes with unexpected Sages quite often. Men and women that embody craftsmanship in their trade. Neighbors and community members hidden in plain sight with the answers to questions we have yet to ask. Not because we are afraid to ask, but because we have yet to discover the question to their answers.

When we come across someone like this, we both get immensely excited. We make a conscious effort to identify these people and connect with them. We are hungry for their time, because we know they hold the keys to locks we have yet to find. 

But there is another side to this exchange that we’ve come to recognize. 

It’s a focus on purpose and connection. It’s a perspective of usefulness and legacy. 

Hunter and I have recognized that when we are intentional about gathering our Sages’ wisdom, these men and women become alive. Filled with purpose and glowing with pride. They know we will keep their legacies going. They understand that we become the medium by which their lives will make a difference.

It is a life affirming relationship.

The farm is teaming with these relationships. We get to experience their skillful wisdom each day in how we raise our animals, how we cultivate our land, and how we treat our WonderTree family. 

The farm is a brush with a time nearly forgotten. We hear it every week when a community member recalls their upbringing in rural life. We’ve seen tears in the eyes of first-time visitors as they are transported back to a time of connection to their heritage. 

Not just this Christmas, but going forward everyday of our lives, let’s be intentional with our Sages. Find those people in our lives or cultivate new relationships outside of our normal circles. Let’s give them our time and be sponges. Let’s ask the questions and listen to their insights. Then we can preserve their legacy as we implement the passed-down knowledge into our community.

Merry Christmas and we look forward to having you out on the farm!

Chris Jackson
December 22th, 2020 

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