Jack of All Trades

Sometimes it amazes me how much some of our staff members have to juggle in their jobs, let alone how many subjects they must have at least a working knowledge […]

Sometimes it amazes me how much some of our staff members have to juggle in their jobs, let alone how many subjects they must have at least a working knowledge of in order to do their jobs. JustBob is a good example of that challenge. JustBob’s job title is Building & Grounds Supervisor, which in itself requires him to be a jack of all trades – plumbing, electrical, woodworking, boilers, landscaping, to name a few. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

A few years ago, JustBob did some research into wildflowers and prairie gardens. He wanted to enrich our habitat for pollinators as well as transform some lower-lying areas of our grounds into something less swamp-like. As a result, he decided to plant and nurture an assortment of wildflowers native to this area of Wisconsin. Now, that area requires no maintenance, which means he no longer has to tow the lawnmower out when it gets stuck in the idyllic swale or try to ignore the overgrown grass there. Instead, the prairie garden in the front yard has transformed the area into a beautiful spot that attracts birds, bees and butterflies.

Shortly after that project, and perhaps because of what he learned in that process, he researched beekeeping. Bees are primarily pollinators so would be a good addition for our garden, especially the fruit trees and shrubs. If they generated a little honey for our table in the process, that would be a bonus. It has been a struggle to keep the hive going, but I doubt he has given up completely on them.

Last fall, JustBob had to learn all about logging and tree health and invasive species so he could make some very tough decisions for proper management of our woods. There is still a lot of clean up work to do in the woods, but in the long run the trees will be healthier and more birds and other animals can be at home there. He has also been rescuing hardwood seedlings planted in our flower gardens by squirrels and chipmunks. He takes the rescued trees, nurtures them in pots for a couple of years and then replants them in open areas of the grounds.

Two weeks ago, he met with an environmental expert. The gentleman came to check out the pond to advise what is needed to support fish in the pond. Snapping turtles, a few minnows and some crayfish live there now, but JustBob would like to stock small pan fish. He considered raising the water level by building up the dam, but was concerned it might cause erosion along the lower areas of the banks, especially near the fire pit. The expert confirmed JustBob’s assessment. As for the pond’s ability to support fish, JustBob received the news he feared: an aerator was needed. The pond is too shallow and the water flow to slow to properly oxygenate the water without an aerator. The good news is the trees and tree branches that have fallen into the pond make for an excellent fish habitat, so no clean out work is needed there.

Now the challenge is to find the most cost-effective way to aerate the pond, so JustBob turned to our history. Photos from the archives reveal a windmill used to stand on the east side of the pond, just south of the screen house. (If you are walking in that area of the woods, you can still see the cement foundation now serving as frame around a small tree.) Last summer when JustBob was redoing the drainage by the grotto he discovered it had been built with a waterfall feature, and he wonders if the windmill may have been how the friars got water out to the grotto.

Last week, in his “spare” time after supervising and coordinating volunteers on spring clean up, JustBob cleared out the Fr. Dan Crosby Conference Room to prepare for the upcoming makeover. The plan is to install two additional monitors so that guests are better able to see whatever is displayed on the monitors from anywhere in the room. This week, the makeover began. JustBob met with a new volunteer, Kevin, who happens to be a licensed electrician. They talked about what it would take to have three monitors all connected to one laptop. Kevin installed a couple of new outlets, a signal splitter and ran cable to where the new monitors were going to be installed. He also installed the mounting brackets, attached the monitors, hooked everything thing up and gave it a test run. Next week volunteers are coming to help paint, then the carpet installers arrive starting May 22.

JustBob is a gardener, beekeeper, forester, ichthyologist, historian, detective and technology guru on top of maintaining a 104 year old building and 40 acres of grounds. As amazing as all that is, he is not the only jack of all trades here. With such a small team, we all need to be able to multitask and pitch in when someone else is unavailable. Jackie H. and Candy frequently help out in the kitchen and sometimes fill in for Kim when she’s not available. Sr. Barb has to know enough of Jackie K.’s responsibilities that Sr. Barb can handle Jackie K.’s essential duties when Jackie K. is out. Adele and Sr. Barb are well versed in hosting duties to fill in when necessary. Even the residents have to know enough about maintenance to troubleshoot for JustBob in his absence.

For all of our skilled team members, and for their willingness to learn new skills and pitch in as a jack of all trades whenever needed to help keep St. Anthony’s going, we say Deo Gratias!

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