Farm Life

Slow and Steady

The tortoise and the hare is one of the first stories we all learn as children. In the story, a slow moving tortoise races a super fast hare. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, the tortoise wins the race by steadily placing one foot in front of the other, while the overconfident hare wastes time on a nice long nap. It’s a good lesson about the power of persistent, steady effort and the downfall of overconfidence. Lately, I’ve been wondering what would have happened if the hare had really put in his maximum effort. What if he ran at maximum speed for the whole entire race. Would he have won, or would he have developed an overuse injury?

As I write this, I’m sore and tired from physical therapy exercises. I’m wearing a few different supportive braces to minimize stress on my (several) overworked body parts. I’m feeling a little discouraged. I always try to give things my all. I do my best. I work hard. Maybe that’s not the best strategy. I don’t think this injury was caused primarily from my farm work, but it has been almost two weeks since I was able to do any substantial gardening or farming. The mental and emotional strain of injury and pain and uncertainty has made it hard for me to concentrate on other kinds of work as well. I have been forced to essentially take a hare’s nap. I’m starting to think that the tortoise has much more to teach me. Maybe that story is not just about consistent effort, but also about pacing oneself. Moving slowly and carefully, and not trying to sprint the whole race. Maybe the hare really was tired because he spent all his strength too early in the game, and he truly needed that nap.

Slow and steady has always been a struggle for me. I have an abundance of enthusiasm, passion, and energy. I want to be out there making the most out of every single moment of every single day. I love life, I love my work, and I want to do all of it. I try to mix up my activities to reduce my risk of injuries, and I try to remember to rest, but objects in motion tend to stay in motion. That’s just physics.

I’m getting better, and I’m starting to return to some of my work. I can type with two hands now. I can carry my trays of seedlings outside and inside, inside and outside. I can wash dishes and fold laundry. But this spring will have to be a different kind of spring. It’s not going to be a spring of 14 hour work days, big projects, and maximum effort with huge rewards. It’s going to be a spring of self care, clever workarounds, and contemplation. I’ll have to work smart, rather than hard.

Self care has become a marketing term that is often used to guilt people into spending money on gadgets and services that they might not really need. To me, self care is not a consumer activity. It is about taking the time to prepare and enjoy nourishing meals. It’s about sleeping at least nine hours every night. It’s about mind-body work, like yoga and meditation. It’s about setting healthy boundaries that allow us to give our work and show up for our loved ones in a sustainable way. All five elements are within us all: earth, air, water, fire, and spirit. A good self-care strategy nourishes us with all five of these sources of life. By eating nutritious foods from the earth, practicing conscious breathing, drinking plenty of good quality water, moving our bodies with intention, and doing the work and play that sustains our souls, we care for ourselves at the deepest levels and bring ourselves back into balance. It sounds simple, but it’s one of the hardest things to do in life, especially because many of us live in a culture that does not support this way of living. In some ways, this kind of self care is a radical act. When society tells us to push harder, do more, be more, earn more, achieve more, and spend more, choosing to keep pace with the tortoise is not for the faint of heart.

I encourage you to honor your own needs of body and soul this spring. Take good care of the magical creature that is you, so that you can be your best self and keep doing your good work. Take the time you need to put one steady foot in front of the other. That’s how we’re going to win the race.

Note: This article discusses edible and medicinal wild plants. Always do your own thorough research before touching, foraging or ingesting any plant that’s new to you. Identification mistakes can happen and so can allergies, interactions, and idiosyncratic reactions. Information presented in this article and elsewhere on this web site is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health conditions. View our full legal disclaimer here.