I met Andy, a licensed builder, in a Michigan State University extension class in 2004. Adapting to a serious health diagnosis, Andy sought employment to suit his new limitations. And I was a writer who needed a handyman to help build my vision of a lavender farm.

Andy afterward raised my henhouse and compost bins. Then he transformed an orphaned Coachmen into my little Happy Camper. He nestled her beside the pine cove in what I call “my back acres”.

Sometimes, after weeding and harvesting lavender, I’d rest on Happy’s bed and pray for Andy. The evidence of his friendship and God’s faithfulness surrounded me in peace and gratitude.

Whatever I needed that fit within Andy’s abilities, he provided with a sketch, estimate, and an invoice to follow the completed project-the beautiful, hillside steps he built with trees harvested from the creek on his property, for instance. I planted echinacea along the steps handrails.

One day I couldn’t remove a small tree growing behind Happy Camper, and Andy was up north fishing for the week. His eyes would light up whenever he said, “I’m going up to The River.”

In Andy’s stead, I called my friend Erna, a gardener extraordinaire who lives nearby. “I need help removing a sapling growing too close to Happy Camper, and Andy’s out of town,” I said.

“I’ll talk with Wally,” Erna replied.

Wally, her husband, showed up with Erna. They carried an axe, and a Sawzall stowed away in its case. I stood by in awe as Wally toppled the wildling in seconds.

“I’ve got to buy a Sawzall!” I said.

Then came the tree’s roots. Wally, a gray, tall, fit man, picked up the axe and began chopping.

“Wally, I can do this. I do own an axe,” I said.

“No. I will finish.”

And he did.

Days after, my husband brought home a Sawzall and simplified my life.

After a decade of Andy and Erna rescuing me from one farm chore after another, I closed my lavender business at the end of the 2014 season. On a chilly, drizzly, spring day, Erna joined some former farmhands to remove lavender plants and weed cloth to reclaim the southern plot to grass.

In June 2015, Andy succumbed to the sickness that had plagued him. The henhouse, Happy Camper, and hillside steps testify of our friendship and mutual devotion to husbandry.

Sadly, I lost the man who’d become like a younger brother.

This December second, two former farmhands and I visited Wally and Erna to sing them Christmas carols. Erna opened their door and waved us into the foyer where her Christmas tree almost touched the vaulted ceiling.

Dear Reader, today, December ninth, I attended Wally’s funeral service in honor of his remarkable life. A German immigrant from Ukraine who married a German immigrant from Romania, I’ve lost an older brother.

A transplant from Appalachia, I thank God for His loving kindness to bring us together in my back acres to help build a vision.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com