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So who’s been fertilizing your lawn all year?

We don’t often stop to get to know who is bussing our table, who is painting our toenails or even who is scraping the plaque from our teeth. Knowing the young man or woman on your property, picking weeds, removing brush and rolling out sod is also unlikely.

Realistically, we simply do not have time to get to the people in service occupations, who make our lives easier and who grease the wheels of our existence. If you are a client of Sue Knighton’s and Earth Angel, you already know the type of candour you get from them.

With that in mind, here we profile your labourer Johnathan Tonge, a graduate and a world traveller.

Like many of his age, Johnathan Tonge is smart, educated and unsure about what path to take in life. Tonge has traveled Canada from East to West, settled in Saskatchewan for a spell, taught English in Tanzania, East Africa, and most recently spent time on Manitoulin Island with his girlfriend. He understands, as he so eloquently puts it that, “if the well runs dry, we just move along to the next.

How Tonge came to work for Sue is that he was simply “around” when Earth Angel was putting sod in and landscaping for Tonge’s mother and grandmother. Sue was looking for help and asked if he wanted a job.

Sue’s team cuts 40 lawns in 2 days, every week - week in and week out. This is the only job that Tonge has ever had that he can work a 15-hour day and is not constantly looking at the clock. “It’s not the most enjoyable work”’ says Tonge, “But Sue makes us laugh, instructs us and motivates us”.

At the end of those days the crew ends up sweaty, chaffing tired and spent. They go home for a rest and get up to do it all again the next day. Clients are paying for grass cutting every week, so the expectation is that the team visits every week.

Even when Tonge thinks the job is getting the better of him, one pleasant customer or one funny joke and he bounces back. As a trained journalist, Tonge often marvels at the stories that Sue’s clients sometimes tell. He is fascinated by how they ended up in Niagara and amazed by the number of stories he hears.

As any employee does, sometimes Tonge senses an organized chaos in Sue’s work-a-day world. With so many things to keep tabs on at once and things changing by the minute, Tonge can’t have all the answers that the client wants to hear. Sue is director, producer, actor and playwright all at once. Sharing the stage with such a big personality is bound to create some friction.

But like a big bowl of “Bits and Bites” every day is different. Some clients are talkers, some keep to themselves and others aren’t ever at home. One customer brings out food and drinks for the crew and while it is never expected it always makes a visit to that property especially nice.

For Tonge, traveling has its benefits, but by not staying in one place too long he regrets never getting to know some people as well as he’d like to. This winter he’ll be “around” working on snow removal for Earth Angel. He knows it will be a sh!t-show at times, what with the 2:00 am starts and the blistering cold, but it’s a job and not his life and after that, who knows?.

The North beckons and he’d never say “no” if Torstar media group ever called, but thinking about that nebulous future has a way of tempering some dreams and finding the right pre-apprenticeship program is a more likely outcome.

If you meet Johnathan on your job site, stop to say “hi”, bring him a glass lemonade and after you tell him how you came to be in the Niagara Peninsula, tell him to get back to work because there are 39 other properties waiting for his services.

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