Many that I've talked to (or stalked on blogs) have used their land and garden as a place to grow their own food because it's the cheapest option. Food can be used to find health (or at least a lessening of symptoms). The problem, though, is that fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and herbs are not cheap, but if you have the space, you can do it yourself for less than it would cost at the store (in theory anyway). As someone with a chronic illness, the lure of being able to do something for yourself can be thrilling to say the least. There's something that's within your control, right? Wrong. Anyone that has spent any time on a farm or in a garden will tell you that there is always something running amok or it's one problem after another. But you really want to do this. And do it successfully. So here's a quick list of some suggestions that can help you when you're homesteading with health problems.
1. Only take on as much as you can handleI know that you feel like you want to do everything. I'm in the same boat. I want to have a lush garden, a productive orchard, prolific berries, buzzing honeybees, all the meat animals to supply us for all our meat-y needs, dairy goats, sheep for wool (and to be able to spin all that!), soap making, cheese making, meat processing, all the herbs I could ever need just outside the door, raising elk, a u-pick flower farm, and more. Hey, a girl can dream, right? Ooh, throw in a livestock guardian dog in there too!
Please pace yourself (I'm preaching to myself here too).
Whenever you add a new aspect to the farm, you inevitably have a learning curve to go with it. If you have a chronic illness, there's only so much your brain and body can handle. Instead of diving in full force, try just a trial run at a small scale. This way, you don't invest as much time, money, or energy into something that might not be for you. Another option would be to tag along and learn from a mentor who's entrenched in your interest. You can get a feel for what is to be expected and decide if it will fit with your limitations.
2. Set yourself up for successLearn as much as you can from other sources before throwing yourself into the fire. Make sure that you have all the supplies you need before you dive into the project (I guarantee you will need to make an emergency run to the farm store though - it's how life works). Or really think through the entire process and where the hangups might be.
For our family garden, we've never been all that proficient. Yeah, we've had plants that survived in spite of our best attempts to kill them, but at the end of the year, you look at how much effort you put into something and see what you got out of it... Not the best use of energy, resources, or time. This year after spending hours pulling up the morning glory that appeared (that was a frustrating discovery), we finally threw in the towel, laid out weed block, made cedar raised beds, and installed drip irrigation with a timer. The summer garden was for naught this year, but the fall garden is right on schedule. With the raised beds, we have a limited space that requires weeding and can be weeded easily. The timer and drip means we don't have to spend all day watering (okay, I might be exaggerating the time requirements there just a little). It's taken us years to get to this point, but I'm really excited about what all we can do with the space now.
3. Organize like your life depends on itYou might only have a certain amount of time before your body says, 'Enough for today.' Instead of running around getting all your materials assembled or animal feed pulled together or whatever you might have going on, set up systems that make everything easily accessible and found. Keep animal feed in bins or barrels. Have tools all lined up in the same spot nearby where you will be using them. Have files in your desk for each category that your farm needs be it equipment/tractor, veterinary contact info and notes, garden plans and resources, animal information, etc. It will take some time to get this all set up, but in the end, your brain and body will thank you. And you won't have to spend all the your time scrounging around looking for that one piece of paper. ;)
4. Many hands make light workDo you have friends that want to experience the farm life but don't have the land? Bring 'em on board. You can host volunteer work days in exchange for some product or produce from your farm (many folks would be just fine with a hearty meal). Get the whole family involved in whatever capacity that they are capable. If chicken dander kick off asthma or allergies for some, they can be on the watering crew.
5. Make things easier for your bodyUse those tools ergonomically correct. You don't have to prove to yourself that you can lift those heavy bags - let the wheel barrow do the work for you. Use a work bench. Make sure that you stay hydrated. Electrolytes are your friend. Keep your skin protected. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed. This ties into #2.
6. Do things at your own paceDon't over do it. This speaks for itself, and I can't stress that enough. If your body is screaming at you to stop, then stop. You'll pay for it later if you push your body beyond the limits. If that means only getting a couple of trees pruned or only a single bed planted or only one goat's hooves trimmed, then so be it. You can just keep chipping away at things as you can.
7. Don't kick yourself for not doing everythingAs much as I wish I was Wonderwoman, I'm not. You might wish you could be doing more or think that you're not doing enough. Silence those negative thoughts right now; shove them out the door, and don't let them back in. I know that to-do list is every increasing and changing in priority, but you're doing the best you can with the time and energy that you have. You're juggling doctor appointments, family and social life, and all the crazy farm adventures. You've got a lot on your plate, and you're taking things as they come. Everyone is on their own unique path towards health and in their homesteading journey.
8. Let something goYou have a very full plate on your hands, and something new comes up. Be it a new symptom, a new phase of life, a family emergency, you just can't handle juggle anything anymore and something's got to give. Now this one is super hard because it's so closely tied into #1 and #7. You want to do everything but you hold yourself back. When holding yourself back, you feel like you should be doing more. But there are times when even holding yourself back is still too much. Even maintaining the status quo might be too much and make you reach your breaking point. Some friends of mine just had to sell some of their dairy goats because the family's health was needing more attention than they could give. I hurts and it's hard to say goodbye to furry friends that you've bonded with for so long, but making sure that the new home is perfect and maybe nearby so you could pop in every now and again to say 'hi' could help ease some of the sadness.
Do you have any other ideas to add to the list? If so, comment below! We all could use tips and tricks to help us along the road.
Until next time!