We female farmers are a unique bunch. From raising heritage hens on pasture to milking dairy goats for artisan cheese, there are so many awesome products that are being brought into the market thanks to all my soil sisters out there. While there may be diversity in our farming styles, products, and ideas, there is one thing we all have in common - and that is the need for self-care. For me, this time of year can feel like an all out race. Planting, mulching, composting, caring for sick hens, managing a farm stand, etc - it’s so easy to let self-care take a back seat as you race the weather to get your crops in the ground. I am writing the post today as a lighthouse in the storm of your budding growing season. Don’t forget to take care of the most important part of your farm - you.
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Let’s talk about the self-care you can do for your body and your mind as a female farmer, but know that these two halves are a part of a whole. While taking a magnesium salt bath may be a physical act, you will feel the benefits emotionally too. These suggestions have helped me immensely as I gear up mentally and physically for the next six month of farming here in Southeastern Wisconsin.
The most important tool in your arsenal as a female farmer is your body. I want you to read that again. You are only given one body to farm with, my dear, so it needs to be given the utmost respect and care. When our bodies are neglected, chronic pain and injuries are much more likely to crop up, bringing your season to a screeching halt. Have you tried planting 50 lbs of potatoes with back pain? It’s not fun. Luckily, I have some friendly nudges below to help you refocus on caring for yourself physically.
Get a trigger-point therapy massage monthly during the growing season. No Swedish-style whisper hands here ladies, you need clinical-grade thunder-thumbs to get your body to recover. I know when I stoop, bend, and haul around my land my hips and shoulders won’t shut the heck up. I’ve started forking over the 80$ for a trigger point therapy massage and do not regret it one single bit. With trigger point therapy, the massage therapist focuses on releasing knots and working with the myofascia in your muscles. You will often experience referral tenderness and tingling in other areas while they work. My neck has a spot that sends the craziest referral pain sensations to my jaw and deep shoulder muscles, but ultimately the pressure brought there by the therapist brings me immense relief. Working deep in your hips, back, neck, and shoulders with trigger-point therapy massage is a huge step in the right direction for female-farmers needing to incorporate more self-care.
Perform myofascial release at home with a foam roller or tennis ball weekly. This is like the inexpensive form of trigger point therapy massage, benefits listed above. Get down on the floor with a foam roller and work your muscles. This YouTube video is a great starting point, but feel free to venture into other methods! The tennis ball works perfect for shoulders and back if you stand up against a wall and put the tennis ball between your back and the wall, then lean into it and start working it around. You’ll find the tender spots, believe me. When you do find those knots, spend 45 seconds leaning into them and wait for the pain and tenderness to release. Work the tennis ball around the spot a bit if the pain becomes unbearable. This is supposed to be therapeutic, remember! The next day you may have some soreness, but the tightness and pain should be gone - back to broadforking!
Take an epsom salt bath. Grab yourself a premium bag of magnesium salts, some yummy homemade soap, and a bottle of essential oils and take a bath. I like to add 2 cups salts and 10 drops lavender essential oil to my bath. Yes, this may be a generic self-care suggestion, but man oh man does it work. The magnesium in the Epsom salts takes about 20 minutes to be transdermally absorbed so take your time soaking. Magnesium does wonders for your body and mind. This powerhouse mineral is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from regulating our blood glucose levels to keeping our heart rate in check. When it comes to sleep, magnesium helps decrease cortisol, our stress hormone, and it relaxes our muscles. Currently, less than 30% of adults in the US consume enough magnesium according to the RDA. So get your fill with a bath a few times a month!
Do a morning mobility routine before you hit up your morning chores. Whether its yoga or just some gentle stretching, get your joints warmed up. I’ll do a few simple sun salutations in my office to get my hamstrings to loosen up. This five-minute mobility video is wonderful. Next, I’ll do some rounds of squatting to forward bending to bring mobility to my hip joints and low pack. This is such an easy habit you can practice daily to say to yourself “my body’s health is important to me.”
Mental and Emotional Self-Care
They say anxiety is fearing a future that does not yet exist and depression is being stuck in a past you no longer have the power to change. Thus, living in the present moment seems to be the best way to keep your mental tennis court in check. How can you accomplish that though when you have pasture rotation to plan and dead lambs to mourn? While I may be the teacher’s pet when it comes to physical self-care, mental and emotional self-care is what I struggle with the most. I’m a planner and an organizer, that’s how stuff gets done on our five acre farm! Unfortunately, I find that my to-do lists begin to feel more like death sentences unless I take a step back and incorporate the following self-care suggestions.
Read a book by one of the farmers you admire. A few of my personal favorites (besides those pictured above) are Barnheart by Jenna Woginrich, Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Gaining Ground by Forrest Prtitchard, Folks This Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin, The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, Letter to a Young Farmer by Gene Logsdon, and of course any book by Wendell Berry. My friends, the amount of farm porn out there is endless and it soothes the tired farming soul. When I take an evening and read the words of other farmers fighting the good fight, my cup runneth over. So if you feel stuck in a mental rut, sit down with a good book and let your heart be moved.
Every night take five minutes to say out loud, to your partner or yourself in the mirror, three things you are grateful for. These can be big or small things in which you feel gratitude. If you are sharing with a partner, have them share three things too. Talk about why you are grateful for these three things. Discuss the feelings that come up as you list them. Give yourself time to actually feel those feelings. When it comes to kicking your hysteric mental tennis court in the butt, gratitude is the one true game changer. This habit has helped me in so many ways, beyond just calming down my racing mind before bed.
Reframe failure as an opportunity for learning. When chickens are injured, pests take out a whole crop, or the tractor breaks it’s not game over. Rather then let these moments derail you, look at them like the universe is giving you a gift to learn something new. This is one of the hardest ones for me personally, but I’m getting better at it. When our chickens are dealing with some godforsaken issue this awful mean girl shows up in my brain and starts barking at me, "You're terrible at what you do and you should be ashamed of yourself." I’ve learned to say very gently to her, "I’m doing my best over here. Then I tell the universe I’m ready to learn something new, bring it on!"
Share your farm with a friend. When ever I have someone over who hasn’t seen our place, I feel like I’m looking at our land with new eyes. The joy and awe people feel when they get a tour or come over for dinner is contagious. It reminds you how lucky you are to live this life in this place. Sharing your love of the land and your never ending hard work with others is essential to making this farm life a sustainable one.
Don't be ashamed to ask for help. Whether it’s volunteer help from your family (my wonderful family is pictured above) getting the sweet corn planted or its professional help from a therapist getting your mind in check - don’t hesitate to ask for it. There is no shame in saying you need a second pair of hands to carry the load or help you sort through your emotions. On our farm I do much of the work myself, calling on my partner for mechanical and engineering help as needed. There are still small tasks that pile sky-high come June and I’m happy to have some extra hands at the ready if I need them. I know many women become first-generation farmers having left a life that was painful or hard to forget. Those demons don’t deserve a place at your harvest table, but they do deserve to be fully understood and released from your care so they don’t continue to haunt you. Lean on others. Remember, people generally like to be needed.
Find community. Thanks to social media there are countless opportunities to bring other female farmers in your area together for Q and As, meet-ups, and workshops. Seek out other women in your area who are doing this crazy thing we call farming or start your own group if there isn’t one. We need our tribes to thrive.
I hope you found this post on self-care for the female farmer helpful. These are habits I’ve incorporated over the last few years and I still am finding more that bring me peace. Do you have any self-care suggestions for the female farmer? Comment below and chime in! I would love to hear from you and what you’ve used to bring more goodness into your farming life.
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to orchard planting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we strive to live sustainably and turn these five acres from just property to a fully functioning small-scale homestead.
1. Joe Salatin
2. Rachel Carson
3. Wendell Berry
4. Temple Grandin
5. Sustainable Dish
6. Zero Waste Home
7. Allan Savory
Favorite Books of 2018
2. Bringing it to the Table
3. Holistic Management
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. In The Company of Women