Party in the Batch

The corporate headquarters on a frosty morning. The smoke comes from the wood stove.

This weekend I threw the corporate Christmas party. You know. That dreaded event where you stand around with your work mates out of obligation not desire. Kiddie-size glasses of red dyed drink in your hand. Not a drop of hooch in there because, you know, Corporate reserved the ball room and it doesn’t look good when Rupert in accounting gets sauced and does the Dirty Boogie on the banquet table. Nope. It’s just you and your sad punch with a wedge of pineapple bobbing around in there somewhere. Taking on the color of bubble gum.

Then, if you’re a guy, there’s your neck. Gettin’ the old pinch from that button down shirt that’s gotten a scooch tighter this year. Because you’ve gained a few pounds. But you don’t want to unbutton it because you’re afraid folks will whisper, “Wow. Look at Bernie. Gettin’ a little thick around the neck he is.” Those collar stretchers don’t lie worth a damn.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, well, it does to me. So, instead of donning coat and tie to thank the road warriors for all the miles they slogged for the Corporation I put out the word is was come as you are. Oh, and bring a friend.

And they listened. Well, Polly listened.

Polly under the corporate “Welcome” sign at headquarters. She looks casually comfortable in her custom-grown winter coat.

Polly. That’s my trusty mule who in the past half year rode 2,400 miles in my trailer to a large rock in a foreign county. AKA Newfoundland in Canada. There, she spent the summer hauling my wagon across the island. From St Anthony, on the northern tip, across the upland tundra, out to the tip of the Bonavista Peninsula (one of the numerous places John Cabot allegedly landed) then on to Lethbridge. Just so we could get run into by a car.

Then she climbed back into the trailer and commuted a week home.

All without asking for a raise. Wow, some employee.

Coming as her date was Smokey.


Smokey, a mammoth donkey, belongs to my friend Ronald Hudson of Asheboro, North Carolina. Polly lives with Ronald and Smokey when she’s not on the road. Or visiting with me on the farm like she was this weekend.

So the three of us stood around the office reminiscing about the year gone by.

By office, I mean the headquarters. I call it the batch. I built it from scratch in 2010. Sort of an oversized gypsy wagon made of recycled locust boards, tin, thrift store windows and home made wood finish (1/3 part of each boiled linseed and tung oils plus kerosene). It’s served me well. It’s built strong. Very strong. Strong enough to host a mule and donkey. At the same time.

The batch. Fenced off in lattice panels is the winter garden. The plastic sheeting protects my salad from western North Carolina frosts. While sailing around the world, I spent a year and a half in New Zealand. I was smitten by the the small cottages they called “batches”. They were named after their builders. Early in the country’s settlement, Kiwi bachelors would build small structure to live in. Sometimes they were little more than branches and bark. Fancier ones used boards and tin roofing. Such a structure was called a “bach” or “batch” after who lived in it. I liked the term and concept. They remind me of me.

Inside the batch, Polly engaging in a bit of mandatory corporate schmoozing. An astute art observer, she recognized herself in the painting on the wall.

In a show of corporate transparency, I invited my guests inside and we sat around the batch chewing on hay and crackers and sipping on stuff stronger than my homemade varnish. Polly checked out my most recent painting. A friend sent it. She was impressed. Smokey just wanted to get back outside. Worried a moment his ears wouldn’t clear as he rushed for the door. Had to go through the door head-sideways like a Texas Long Horn. Jumped off the front porch and headed for the pasture.

Smokey never was an indoor corporate man.

Smokey fleeing corporate headquarters

Then we (Polly and me because remember Smokey ran away) raised our sales targets. Because that’s why they have corporate parties, right, to tell you what a great job you did – then tell you next year 10% more is expected.

Soon Polly got to missing her date so off we trudged to find him. It didn’t take long. Sure enough. There he was, plopped down in a furry heap in the lee of his favorite brush pile. Taking a nap. Polly quickly caved. Then I joined them on the warm December ground and we dreamt of faraway lands where the roads are traffic-free, the grass is tender and the sales targets never go up.

My heroes. My staff. Smokey and Polly dreaming behind the RiverEarth equivalent of the watercooler – a brushpile.

Happy Holidays friends. Thanks for supporting my adventures (and books, programs and Donate Button) in 2012. And now I’ve got this wagon Idea to tackle. Did I mention…? Oh, never mind. I’ll tell you later. All the best in 2013!

Bob Skelding
2012-12-23 11:32:03

Merry Christmas to the Triscuit wagon crew from the ‘Oregon-landed’ crew of the Biscuit wagon. Take care, Bob

2012-12-23 14:08:38

Tell corporate, that any mule who knows to turn down poison when offered as a foreign carrot stick and gets towed head long into a hurricane deserves a nice big raise in 2013. She’s got her retirement to plan one of these days. You can’t stay twenty something forever.

2012-12-23 22:43:59

Merry Christmas and good wishes for whatever sort of adventure you dream up for the coming year. Thanks for letting us live the Newfy trip with you.
Take care, Leo

Roland Keats
2012-12-24 08:58:22

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and Polly from myself and the rest of your friends from Port Blandford, Newfoundland.

2012-12-28 16:21:48

The Batch is looking great in its corporate world headquarters role. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Oriental crew.

And Happy New Year also to those Newfy readers on Bernie’s site. We’re kinda jealous that you get 2013 an hour and a half earlier than we do…

Keith Levy

Seasons Greetings to you Bernie.
I have the honour as do many others, of appearing in Lloyd Kahn’s Tiny Homes book along with you.
I’m just a few pages back on page 170.
I live in New Zealand as you might see and write a blog that you also might like to have a look at.
There was no real reason for getting in touch other than to say hello to another kindred spirit and congratulate you on your lifestyle choice.
I would also like to do a story on you sometime.
A Happy New Year to you and I shall look forward to hearing from you.

Kindest wishes.
Keith Levy

2012-12-28 20:35:34

Dang. This’ll have to be a scattergun howdy. Newfoundland, Roland, say hi to Margaret for me. Kiwi Keith. I know Gary of “Shoestring” design fame well. Hell, rented his boat house for a year. Ask him how I almost burned it down casting 2,500 pounds of bullets, wheel weights and scrap lead into a new keel…. Yes, I spent a few damn entertaining nights on your old boat – after you sold it. The other Keith. I’ll see y’all in a bit. And Julia, fear not. Polly’s had so much sweet feed lately she’s been asking to use my electric toothbrush. Now she’s asking for dental insurance in addition to retirement benefits.. Cheers. Bernie

Capt. Nat
2012-12-28 21:48:54

Hey Bernie old friend! I hope ya had a grand Christmas! I read about your little accident and am glad all the livin’ are still livin’! Hey, I saw the write up about you in the Tiny Homes Book and guess what? I’m gonna be in the next one he publishes with my little wagon home and the Huckleberry Houseboat. Won’t be until next year though cause he’s slow.

Take care old friend and try and keep the shinny side up!

Capt. Nat


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