Volunteers working hard unloading, sorting and stacking up logs to prepare them for splitting and adding to the firewood pile after clearing trees at a work bee in 100 Mile House on Oct. 22. Carole Rooney photo

Column: work bees – many hands make light work

Regular columnist David Zirnhelt on the spirit of co-operation

Over the past two years and during previous bad fire years in our region, there has been a clear reminder of the advantages of members of communities working together.

From helping to look after livestock, to feeding those people fighting fires, we are all better off for the collaboration.

Now these were during extreme events. Will the lessons of working together during these extreme events carry over to working together to build stronger communities?

I will argue that it was (is?) co-operation that led to the development of civilization(s) and considerable abundance in the material world.

However, sometimes we are too successful; for example, in the overproduction of some foodstuffs, leading to surpluses that drive down prices, sometimes below the cost of production.

I recognize what many experts say about there being enough food in the world but that it is not distributed well enough to feed all the people. And there is considerable waste in the food system.

In our history, peasants, the people doing the real work of producing food, worked together to lighten the drudgery and to get the job of planting and harvesting done.

Threshing bees come to mind. When the crop is ready, it is ready and should be processed for storage.

The other kind of work bees common in our cultural history were the building bees well known as ‘barn raisings’. At our place during the early days of starting our ranch, we held bees to build some parts of the house.

When cedar shakes were the preferred roofing material, you could find a half dozen or more people on the roof.

When we built a 150-foot log bridge (three spans), we held bees for peeling logs, for laying in the cross ties and for decking.

A decade ago, preparing for a wedding on the ranch (our second son), we thought the bride deserved the barn dance she wished, for so we built the barn.

We did not open up this bee to the community, as it was a family event. Could the boys all work with the old man and raise this timber frame barn the way the Amish were accustomed to doing it? Except we used machinery to lift the sections, rather than dozens of people with ropes, pulleys and A-frames.

A common work bee is when neighbours and friends help out for the branding of calves before they are sent out on the range.

These become traditions and bond us closer to one another. Good feelings of helping each other out make us willing to do it again. Big dinners frequently follow, allowing for the conduct of many little pieces of business and information exchange.

We all spend a lot of time on our electronic devices. At our peril we forget that human interaction and co-operation are what made us who we are as social beings.

The strength that comes from practising co-operation will keep us fit for any big challenges that come our way. “Many hands make light work,” as the saying goes.

I was thankful for a recent bee to put in a new water line under the driveway. All three of our boys helped and a neighbour provided the excavator.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher in the Cariboo and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus.

READ MORE: 4-H Club cleans up Quesnel River Walk

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