I was reading Wanton Tom's diary here and began to add a comment there. But as I thought about it on this rather gorgeous - although chilly, for here - day, it got longer and longer and seemed to be better suited on its own rather than invading the space there like some of the more insidious weeds we have. Follow me down the rabbit hole, if you like.
There are tasks I routinely perform manually - like hauling barrow after barrow of manure to refresh a bed, or using raw muscle to dig out a tree for its journey to a location on the property better suited for it to allow it to thrive. Even the beehives I relocated manually, albeit much more carefully than almost anything else I'd done, so as not to accidentally lose the queens.
It's a visceral connection to the world around us: sweat is good. Dirt is good. The feel of the mass of roots of a young tree as you carefully dislodge them from the dirt in which they taken root. The vibration of bees through the hive body against your chest, knowing that they know something is happening, but also knowing that the care you're taking means they don't be overly bothered and get enraged by the process.
I have too much property to use a manual mower, so use a lawn tractor for that; however, even then it's an opportunity to gauge what's happening in and around the place: a fresh gopher trail here, deer tracks or rabbit pellets there, wild blackberries moving into a space yonder (and left unmowed!).
These days when I look around at the next generation, I can see that the seeds of fascination with the natural world and the feel of calluses on one's hands has been, for the most part, lost, and I greet that with a sense of sadness. It is rare that they will understand the kind of satisfaction that seeing what your body can do when put to the test of doing even a simple thing that can now be done by machine. Small children are always gleeful about something new they've discovered they can do with their bodies - "Watch me dive! Look how high I can jump!" - but at some point many of them lose that in favor of easier, more instantly gratifying pursuits that are also far less physical.
If I could give those people one thing, it would be this: the gift of sharing the joy of the world as it exists outside the internet and video on demand and hours in front of the television. The amazement of watching a hummingbird flit from one flower to the next; the germination of a tiny tomato seed that becomes, with care, a huge, almost unwieldy plant that gives forth fruit with which no processed boxed food can compete; the salty taste of a drop of sweat streaming into the corner of the mouth; the satisfaction, with practice, of understanding the wind and clouds and what they will bring with them; the wonder of seeing the perfect symmetry of a spider web with dew clinging to it in the first light of the morning.
I firmly believe that it is often peoples' disconnect with the natural world that leads to their disconnect with their fellow humans. This is not to say that we all need to dance around naked in the woods, living outside via campfire, eating granola and whatever meal we can grab on the hoof. Even I have a great appreciation for indoor plumbing. But it's much more difficult to treat the world as a disposable commodity when you've discovered even a fraction of the beauty of what surrounds us every day. If just a tiny piece of that translated into a better awareness of the world around us and a willingness to engage it physically, rather than mechanically, I can't help but think we would all be better off for it.