Carolyn Burwash – That Damned Norwegian Work Ethic

Carolyn Burwash weeding her garden
Carolyn Burwash weeding her garden

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to check out Martin Burwash’s blog, Rambling West, I highly recommend it. He’s a spectacular photographer and this past week he posted about his family that homesteaded in Ohop Valley. I’m sharing some of that information with you now.

This first post is about his mom, Carolyn (Kjelstad) Burwash.

“This is a photo taken of my Mom back in 1970.  If my math is correct and memory clear, I believe she would have been 84 today.  She passed away about 4 years ago.

The Old Man was a hard worker, but Mom was the one with the driven work ethic. I think I get my work-a-holic ways from her.  This shot of her on her knees, weeding the big garden at the farm was taken on the 4th of July.  I remember Dad was up on the front porch taking a break before we went to the annual Grange picnic.  Not so Mom.  She had finished frying 6 chickens for the feast, and while they browned in the oven, with still an hour or so before we left, she took her weed box and trowel, and went to the garden, with me in tow.  I snuck away long enough to take this shot, before she was able to look up and realize I had skipped out.

Mom was well read, an accomplished musician, a very intelligent woman, and a career housewife.  When I say career, I mean that in a very industrial/corporate sense of the word.  She worked at that job with the same vigor, seriousness and intensity modern women put into their careers outside of the home.  By any standards, our house in Tacoma was a “shack,” but under Mom’s care the interior was immaculate, not a blade of grass out of place in the large yard.  Later, when she and the Old Man moved back out to the farm, her childhood home, we used to tease her.  The lawn in front of the big old farmhouse under her care was referred to as “the putting green.”

So if I work long hours at the mill.  If I spend 7 months out of the year farming nights after work and week-ends.  If during the winter months I spend my week-ends out in the fields weeding, it’s not my fault.

It’s that damned Norwegian work ethic.

It’s one of the many gifts Mom gave me.”

Martin Burwash

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