A Woman and her Sickle

Back in September, we celebrated my 40th birthday at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA.  I attended a workshop there about bio-intensive growing with heavy use of cover crops.  The speaker, Cindy Connor, was a woman I’d guess to be about 15 years older than I.  She recommended a Japanese sickle for cutting down cover crops.  The vendor she recommended, Purple Mountain Organics, had a booth at the fair so I bought a sickle.  When I did, it felt a bit strange to be buying such a serious looking weapon and putting it in my purse–like I should need a permit or at least fill out a mental health questionnaire or something.

This spring, I have been using my sickle a lot to chop down the cover crops I broadcast seeded last fall.  The first time my husband came into the garden and saw me with it, he offered to do the work for me.  In his defense, he was being sweet and also knows I have a 40 year history of clumsiness and haste–2 traits probably not best for the task. However, I made it clear that the sickle was mine and I would be the one using it.

I was out cutting down cover crops so that raised beds could be placed on top of the beds and filled with great soil from another great lady grower’s compost business, Soilmaker, when I almost hacked one of my garden’s resident garter snakes.  I was startled and she was spared.  

My sickle has become a liberating symbol of  power.  I love chopping up cover crops and weeds with it.  I know many great lady farmers that have a serious amount of years on me and they are going and growing strong.  They are inspirational to me and I plan to follow in their footsteps.  I am feeling great recently due to some dietary changes and I know the best is yet to come.  I have every intention of going into the future wielding sickles and axes as well as vegetables and flowers.  I was recounting my sickle adventures to a friend recently and she said I sounded like She-Ra.  Exactly.  She-Ra moments are amazing!

Perhaps every woman should get a sickle for her 40th birthday

The Back 40 and the Front 40

This post really has little to do with the farm, at least directly.  “The Back 40” usually refers to acreage, but in this case I will use the term for the 40 years that are behind me as of today.  In general, I am a pretty positive person and find a lot of joy in my life.  I am very blessed,  but I was not looking forward to adding another year.

For the past year or two I have been thinking a lot about my age.  40 seemed to be the point where I could only expect things to go downhill for me physically.  I will explain why here to illustrate why I might have a dour outlook on my health.  I thought that my body, which has never really been on my side, would never be nicer to me than it is now.  My main complaint is fibromyalgia, which is just a fancy word for saying they don’t know exactly why, but I often feel as though I have been beat with a baseball bat.  My daily discomfort is feeling bruised around my entire body.  A poke, an elbow, or bumping a table hurts.  That is pretty tolerable.  When things are not good it means that it hurts to move or sometimes that I really can’t.  There are times that I need help to get up or really move well at all.  Inactivity is bad and over-activity is bad.  Even riding in the car 20 minutes or so means I am often stiff and in some pain before I get my body warmed up again.  The longer the period of inactivity, the more painful and stiff I become.  The opposite is also true.  Spending long periods on my feet can make the pain 100 times worse.  When it gets really bad, it feels like my skin is on fire. I often felt as though now that I know exactly what I am here to do, the clock is ticking and there is no way that I will have enough time and enough stamina. I didn’t want to feel that way.

Then I went on my birthday trip to the Mother Earth News Fair.  I don’t think I can put into words how that weekend changed my outlook, but it did.  Now I feel like the game is mine to lose.  There is no reason I can’t feel better and do more than ever before. I came home with a more positive outlook on the world and my life.

At the fair I attended a seminar about using cover crops that was a lightening bolt of information for me about what direction I want to move the farm in, but was also very inspirational.  The speaker, Cindy Connor, was not trying to be inspirational about anything more than cover crops, but her enthusiasm lit a fire under me.   She was also clearly older than me.  When I got to thinking about it, many of the farmers I call friends and find inspirational are women older than me–some considerably older.

I have decided to take on “the front 40” with a wide-open, anything-is-possible attitude.  I am making green smoothies for breakfast daily (getting in 5 veggies and fruits before 10 am everyday) and being much more watchful of diet.  I bought myself an exercise bike for my birthday to keep my muscles working year round when I can’t get my exercise from hoeing and swimming, and am doing lots of other little things to make sure I am doing my best by my body and soul.  A new medication has helped the daily pain greatly and I work with a Naturopathic doctor (Deb Lightstone) that has helped me immeasurably over the past 3 years.

In these past few years, I feel as though I have fully become myself.  I feel very grateful for all the wonderful things in my life.  I have been lucky in that I was born into a happy and loving family, a safe environment, and a world of opportunity.   There have been plenty of interesting and fortunate twists in my life.  I don’t think I got here by accident though.  I have always been about vision.  If I believe in something, I will go after it full tilt.  Believing in myself is one of the great gifts my parents gave me.  If you can do that, you can do anything.  If I had followed my head and not my heart I would not have gone to my fancy college, married the Toast Boy (inside joke) after a whirlwind 6 month courtship, started a restaurant by selling a car, trusted that fate would give me the daughter I was always meant to have, became a farmer, or teach kids about growing food.  And then where would I be?

So I need to take that risk on myself.  I believe I can improve my health and make the coming years even better than the ones behind me.  I am more resigned than ever to live life fully and the way I want.  There is plenty of time and I can do anything I set my mind to.  Big things are already brewing.