Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Aches and pains of farming

My husband always jokes that we couldn't run our own farm because we are too infirm. Between my husband's bone marrow cancer and stress fractures and my chronic lower and upper back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, it's unlikely we would be able to get anything done.

This weekend was no different. My carpal tunnels was acting up like crazy, mostly from doing far too much sewing and a little too much vacuuming. I did get my potatoes in, but that require a lot of lifting of bags of compost and gription strength that I don't have. Fortunately, the weather was crappy, so I wasn't tempted to do too much.

But, I did think of all those things I would like to do out in the yard regarding building new beds but where I'm limited due to physical problems. We have a ton of lawn in the front yard that is begging to be turned into something edible, but between my back and wrist, I need to pace myself. I can't really ask my husband because he has more problems than I do. He could help out, but he doesn't really like doing yard work type stuff to begin with and, given his own physical problems, I don't ask.

I have to admit I'm jealous of those of you who can spend hours working in the yard without pain or have a husband who can help out with a lot of the physical stuff or, at least, one who volunteers to do it and/or likes to do it.

In any case, I have limitations that I have to work with. I can do a little bit at a time and I can get it done. I just can't over do it.

Are you dealing with physical limitations that prevent you from doing the kind of yard or farm work you want to do?


Always Learning said...

YES. I had my neck fused 2 years ago so I can hardly do any gardening so I had to find a new hobby...blogging!

Earth mama @ Inside My Heart said...

It is nice to hear we are not the only ones sometimes.... For the past about 4 years I have had undiagnosed chronic pain. Throughout most of my body I hurt everyday. Some days are better then others. It never goes away but it does get very minimal at points, enough that I almost don't notice it...

My husband had cancer years ago and has bad knees from an injury jumping out of planes in the army. He still has a lot of stomach issues as well too.

I don't know which of us is worse off but I think we were made for each other LOL.

It is very hard to get everything we would like done in a timely manner (especially with 2 munchkins too). I would LOVE my own farm. Would be a dream. But for now If we can just get my raised beds going I'd be happy... And then maybe in the future chickens and a few goats. Not sure if we would be fully up to it but I think we could do it. Time will tell..

Carpe Diem said...

You have just made me VERY thankful that my few aches and pains are nothing serious! Old age more than anything LOL. We really do take our health for granted.

Take care of yourself and just do little steps :)

utahlawyer said...

I've had fibromyalgia for nearly ten years. I have widespread chronic pain and chronic fatigue. Gardening aggravates the pain in my neck, back, hips, and legs to the point of being really severe (8-9). The day after I garden, my pain and my fatigue are much worse.

Also, when I bend down, my blood pressure drops and I get light headed, dizzy, and get a horrible headache that takes days to recover from.

Really takes the fun out of my garden.

Rosa said...

I have been working on making my garden less labor-intensive for years. I think real farmers get this down pat pretty quick, or they just give up on getting it all done, or both. I know several 80+ year old men still actively farming - you have to be smart to work with tractors all those years and still have all your fingers, but also you learn how to do it with tools instead of brawn.

And yesterday was my first free day of nice weather - spent it all digging and chopping ice and I'm sore today!

fae said...

Bad lower back, bad wrist, some mild/moderate generalized chronic pain - and my boyfriend is in a wheelchair. Although he has little interest in gardening, he'd love to help me, because it's important to me, but he generally can't.
I can't risk my back or wrist, because while it's not my only income source, massage therapy is an important one, and I love doing it. Yeah, that limits the gardening and related work to a large extent. I found a local friend willing to spend the day helping me build the raised beds I wanted this year. Fortunately, I was having a good day, so I was able to push myself a bit without too much trouble the next day.
That said, we're still planning to move out to the country and give it a go when we get a chance. I'm working to try and strengthen what I do have, and figure out workarounds for the bad days. We'll need friends and community to help with the big projects, and I'll probably never make it all the way to goats, chickens, children, and a cow, but we're going to try, and see how far we can get.

Aimee said...

I seem to get feebler every year. Ever since I fell out of the hayloft my back has been pretty bad and I can't do heavy work for more than about a half hour at a time. I do a lot of container gardening and pace myself as much as possible. Luckily my husband is strong as an ox and doesn't mind helping out with the heavy work like planting trees. I could plant a tree but it would take me three hours to dig the hole whereas he can do it in ten minutes.

Ibuprofen is my friend.

Robj98168 said...

"I can do a little bit at a time and I can get it done"

It's doing the little bits that does get things done. I had an uncle who I couldn't stand but he did say one smart thing- "Get one thing done on your house a day and before you know it, the house will be done.

Sage advice.

April Alexander said...

This has been the first year I've been seriously limited by physical issues. I've always had health problems, but recently found out I have a twisted pelvis and hips. :( After 6 trips to the chiropractor it's getting better. Even though moving hurts it will help my muscles and tendons heal quicker, so I'm moving as much as possible. Lucky for me my husband does have good health, and he loves being out in the garden even more than I do, so he does most of the work and I blog about it, we're blessed. Healthy people don't realize how good they have it until their health is gone. I think issues like arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. are much worse in winter months. Good weather is right around the corner, so hopefully those of us with aches and pains will feel better and get more done soon!

Brad K. said...

Moderate depression, chronic back and neck pain, and ongoing stomach/GERD issues.

I noticed the blurb about 'going Amish'. Historically, farming takes a lot of hand to get all the work done - and leans heavily on having children. You use the children for heavy work, age and growth appropriate, of course. Then the adults when they reach the time of infirmities, they do the actual farming - the planning, the designing, the adapting that defines what work needs to be done.

My grandfather drove tractor for my father and uncle, until near his death at 75. Grandpa Herman lost a hand in a corn picker incident about 12 years earlier, and sometimes had to pick his days.

We look at today's modern livestock-free or automated feedlot 'farming' practices and see all the older, firm and sound folk with modern medicine and modern health insurance, and overlook how that differs from sustainable agriculture as the Amish and the rest of the undeveloped world practice it.

I am currently working through pinched sciatic nerve (left hip, leg) and pinched neck (right arm, shoulder) issues. And I am finding that it can be amazing how much work you can do while hurting quite a lot. I don't think my ancestors would be nearly as surprised as I am. But then, I am not used to some of the old-time remedies. Like Saturday fights (chiropractic realignment), horse liniment (massage therapy), and folk good with this remedy or that, from Epsom Salt baths (bubble bath) and barn dances (gentle therapy, social release) to freedom from electronic stimulus, night lights and TV/radio while sleeping, and no attention-destroying 30 and 60 second commercial messages. Or SPAM.

The Mom said...

I have a bad back from working as a nurse for years. Lately the carpal tunnel is what has been killing me.

My hubby is not an outdoors, physical labor kind of guy. I swear he would spend his life in a dark, poorly lit room if I let him. As a result, if it needs to be done, I do it. Every year I add to what I can accomplish and I plan to do things slowly. It all gets done though. My house on the other hand....

Rachel said...

A friend of mine is a SERIOUS urban homesteader and she recently had back surgery, not once, but twice. She's still healing. She does what she can, but what she can't she has friends help her. She has work parties where friends come and do the physical labor for her in exchange for a good meal and her undying gratitude. For building things like beds she hires someone to do it. I think the important thing is to realize that sometimes you can't do it all and you just have to ask for help.

Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) said...

I am healthy now but worry about how I'll handle things when I get older and presumably feebler.

I wonder if you might be helped by hiring some teens or college students to help you build in really raised beds - ones on 3 foot legs? They have several styles of these at my local plant conservatory and they look very friendly to people with pain issues.

Kate said...

Other than the fact that I've officially entered my fifth decade of life, I have no serious physical limitations. But I definitely feel the strain of spring work, and my hands are already thrashed because I don't like to wear gloves unless it's absolutely necessary. Here's the thing though: limitations are a gift when it comes to homesteading and gardening. Whether it's to do with our bodies, our finances, or the amount of space we have to work with, limitations slow us down long enough that we think things through more carefully. It doesn't eliminate mistakes, but I do believe it reduces them. Everything we do has to be more deliberate with limitations. I honestly believe that's a good thing.

Sandy said...

Well said, Kate. Like you, I'm in my 50's, and have the usual aches and pains, but this year is much better. last year, I had hand surgery and knee surgery in the beginning of the summer, which really cramped my style (so to speak!). This year, things are looking up. I've found that physical labor actually relieves some of the fibromyalgia pain I have. And arthritis is just what it point complaining about it.

Greenpa said...

Whoohoo! Ya want the whole list? :-)

I've had OFFICIAL chronic fatigue syndrome since around 1989. And unofficial for years before that; took around 8 years of endless bullshit doctoring to get official. Spice had to have reconstructive surgery on her foot last year. And oh, I could go on.

Yeah, it all really gets in the way. Sorry to hear about the carpal tunnel; I've had chronic tendonitis in my right wrist for years. Limits.

Still. We live it; work as and when we can. And when we have visitors from the city, they are pretty uniformly amazed at the work we do, the loads we carry, daily. They don't think they could; and for sure, they can't lift the same weight. We regularly carry 5 gallon water jugs (40lbs) long distances; sometime 2 at a time. City folks- tend to carry one about 10 feet and give up. (we find it a little hilarious)

You work your way into it. And for sure- raise the kids so they get REAL work in their life; I think that can make them physically stronger their entire life; and the corollary is, childhood couch potatoes may never be as strong as they should have been.

E said...

In a well populated place like Seattle isn't there a way to tap into young, healthy, eager to learn folks?

You provide space and direction, they provide labor and you both share enthusiasm.

Chile said...

Hours of yard work? Yes. Without pain? NO! I still have neck and shoulder issues and all the digging I've been doing for trees has not helped. I overdid it with the drop bar in very rocky and cly-filled soil Friday and both wrists hurt still. (I have carpal tunnel-like issues.)

The worst, though, is the heat. Hubby got heat exhaustion several years ago and is now far more sensitive to the heat. If he gets at all overheated, he gets sick - headache, nausea, and low energy - for the rest of the day. It means he has to really pace himself in the summer.

I haven't had that problem...until now. Friday morning, I apparently overdid it even though it wasn't terribly hot. I pushed to do more work than I knew I should and ended up with heat sickness (not quite heat exhaustion). I was useless for two days afterwards and don't feel that energetic today. Saturday was awful; every time I walked outside into the sun, I immediately felt overheated.

This scares me that I may now have the same sensitivity to heat as hubby. It will be very limiting this summer - well, already. we hit 95 degrees on Friday.

Dianna said...

Right now I don't have any aches or pains but last year I was pregnant and definitely feeling it. This year my limitations are that I probably won't sell the condo with enough time to start a garden at my place and my kids.

I garden at my friend's house with her and our kids make it hard and one of us has been pregnant the past two summers. My friend has bad allergies in the summer.

I did have bad back pain for a while after last daughter was born but luckily it only took two visits to a chiropractor to fix.

It is definitely hard work and I did have my husbands help in making the bed and shoveling the dirt.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

I aactually follosed through on New Year's resolutions this year and I have been working on getting in shape since the end of January(I didn't follow through IMMEDIATELY ya see). I had a severe case of rotator cuff tendonitis which is just now getting so sometimes I don't notice my shoulder at all. That has slowed down some of the resistance exercise, I still can't do heavy bench presses, but I will soon. Oh, and I have lost 26 pounds! This spring and summer will be one of the most enjoyable in a long time as far as gardening and yard work go.
I am sorry you have such problems at such a young age. But good gravy woman, you get soooo much stuff done!

Mitty said...

I have found that self-watering containers have helped me turn an asphalt pad in my yard into garden space, and they make it far easier to garden with my physical limitations.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I'm 4'11" that in and of itself is sometimes a limitation. Last week when grocery shopping I had ask a clerk to reach the items I wanted on the top shelf at Whole Foods. The things I have to do for organic tomato sauce!

I have physical limitatios from too many hours at.a keyborad or sport injuries. Sometimes I wish I could do more or do it like the rest of all you tall to me people. But ya know, I do pretty good even when I have limitations. I used a jackhammer in garden and do a big chunk of the building and repairing. Mostly because I like doing it and my husband doesn't. Unless the job is tweaking our home network. That's the kind of job he likes.

Greenpa said...

Jeez, Crunch; looks like you've uncovered a phenomenon here- there's a book in it, I bet! :-)

"Back To The Land; Crutches And All!"

Crunchy Chicken said...

I should just change my name to "Crutchy Chicken".

Heather said...

Yeah. Both my husband and I are relatively young, but we both have our limitations.

Mine are, thankfully, related mostly to pregnancy at this point and a pelvis that likes to separate way before it needs to and causes me plenty of pain. After this August (when the babe is due) I should be well on my way to mending. Just in time for winter. ha ha I also have the occasional carpal tunnel flare, but I seem to have mostly gotten rid of it - perhaps through copious amounts of knitting, to strengthen my wrists? I have no idea. And of course, lifting is getting more difficult as well.

With my husband, though: his is a little more full time, related to the fact that he has a mild scoliosis. We always thought it was just crappy back, but when our chiro took xrays to better figure out what exactly was going on, apparently the first he'd ever had of his torso, it was found and it explains *so* so much. But he still gets out there and pushes as much as he can, and sometimes more than he should. As we get busier, I have to stay on top of his activity levels, otherwise he just kills himself to get things done.

DaFoz said...

I'm not going to add to the list of painful people but am going to ask if you have someone to barter heavy chores with? They set up your gardens in their lawn and you ? Hugs Roz

Brad K. said...


The Amish believe that a farm is the proper place to raise children. The amount of work available can easily be extended to nurture everyone available.

And part of the belief is that it is the work that develops the mind and soul, as well as the body. Perseverance, overcoming limitations, working together, patience, awareness of the world - and hazards - around, time spend productively, often with parents or usefully employed siblings - what part of this does Nintendo or Wii provide?

Grace said...

Absolutely. It sucks! Every time I get in the yard or the garden I pay for it physically, sometimes for weeks on end, but it is so worth it to me. I refuse to give up, sit down, and rust!

Magic and Mayhem said...

Funny, I never thought of being 4'11" as being a drawback here. :) I have plenty else on the list (chronic neck pain, CFS, yadda yadda) but also being 42 and pregnant with my (surprise!) 5th baby is currently taking a bit of a toll!

Have you read Ruth Stout's books? The lady rocked at finding ways to make gardening easy no matter how old or banged up you were. I really believe in lazy gardening and it's not really work for me. It feeds my soul. I rely heavily on compost, mulch, EASY garden plants, perennials, etc. I plant things like raspberries that will take off without any coddling by me and just produce tons for us to keep up with. We have raised beds for the trickier stuff and we throw other veggies everywhere else in the millions of beds and spots we've created. I mulch the heck out of weeds around my plants so I don't have to weed, too, and I am definitely a no-till gardener.

I use the kids too, but they're busy building forts, holding spelling bees, climbing trees, making obstacle courses and otherwise being children. They do *help* of course, but I'm the one who plants 30 tomato plants alone and I figure I need to man (woman?) up and take care of them. :)

We had such a long, cold, miserable winter here in Minnesota that I'm loving getting into the dirt again, sore muscles and all. Ask me again in August I suppose!

Sue said...

I am a physical wreck, but my dear hubby loves to garden, he is transplanting tomatoes as we speak. I say you grow it I will pick it and cook it. He says its a fair trade.

Mrs. Keller said...

I have fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and weigh...well...we'll just say over 300. I hurt constantly but it just makes me more determined not to let it get the best of me. My husband does help, I would be SOL if he didn't. We have an orchard, veggie garden, blueberry and blackberry bushes, chickens and a greenhouse. We don't have weekends. We have workends. But we love it =)

Sandy said...

I tore the miniscus in my knee bringing in a calf two years ago, and have some cartiledge loss in both knees and in my thumbs. Most days I can push through it, but every now and then they just won't cooperate. It makes me MAD!!!!!

Karl said...

The usual pain that farmers feel is lower back pain. Farming all day under the sun can really cause that pain. There's a need for them to take what's necessary so they can stay well always.`

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