Sunday, 22 August 2010

The worry of working a smallholding alone

It’s so stupid. Really, really stupid. But I’m… I don’t know. Not in trouble, not exactly, but not far off. Okay yeah I’m in trouble. I’ve got myself into this mindset and I can’t find a way out of it. Look, this is making no sense, so I’ll give you the bones and then try and work out what the hell’s going on.

Debbie developed this bad shoulder and she’s had some injections into the joint to try and help it, and then I nipped off to London to see my mother for a day, one day, that’s all, and left her with the farm. She did the rounds of the animals, and ripped her arm again. It’s as bad as it ever was.

I feel guilty because I left her, like it’s my fault, and I feel bad that she’s trying so hard to carry on around the home when clearly she’s in pain - though she can’t do the animals - and I worry about her, I worry about her a lot. But that’s not the problem. That’s not why I’m in trouble.

I’m in trouble because, and this sounds so stupid, I’m in trouble because with Debbie out of action I’m worried I’ll get injured and then neither of us will be able to do the animals, and the more I worry, the more I seem to keep hurting myself. Last night I pulled a muscle in my leg climbing over a fence. The night before I twisted awkwardly and caught my back. The night before that, the chainsaw kicked-back and smashed into my shoulder.

They’re not major, but it just seems every day there’s something. I’m trying so hard to be careful, but every day I end up feeling bruised and kind of beaten-up. But it’s not the physical thing I’m worried about. It’s who would look after the smallholding if I was out of action as well as Debbie. Not, you know, major or long term, something could be worked out for that, I mean an emergency day. A day neither of us could.

There’s nobody around here who can do the feeding and watering of the animals other than Debbie and me.

It makes me feel, kind of alone and kind of vulnerable. I’ve never felt vulnerable before, not really, and I don’t like it. There’s other stuff too. It also makes me feel angry. I’ve no idea why it makes me feel angry. The closest I can get is when I feel vulnerable there’s also this sense of feeling weak, and feeling weak is horrible, so, I guess, I’m smothering it with the opposite extreme and getting angry.

But it’s an odd kind of unfocused anger. Anger for the sake of being angry. Angry so that I don’t feel vulnerable, which of course I still do, so I just get angrier. It’s weird.

It’s all internal, I’m not punching walls or anything stupid like that. I just feel tense and on edge and angry, and the more I feel like that, the more I seem to injure myself, and the more I injure myself, the more worried I get, and the more worried I get, the more vulnerable I feel, and the more vulnerable I feel, the more angry I get. It’s a circle, but it’s a circle I can’t break out of at the moment. It’s horrible.

I know I just need to calm down and relax about it. I’m trying to. I’m trying to.


  1. You would be very surprised how many people are out there ready to drop everything to help out when needed. When a local farmer was suddenly taken ill the 'young farmers' were brilliant, rallied around both on the fram and in the home. No fuss just got on with it.

    There is a great community out there, who understand.

  2. I'd love to think you're right Sandra, thank you :)

  3. It's something that has been brought to the fore here lately. I've been stuck at home for two days as my sciatica has flared up after pushing myself to be more mobile at the weekend.

    This time last year I could bounce out of bed before 6am, but now it takes 10 minutes of careful physio exercises to drag myself out before 7.

    Still, if I can keep up the therapy for another 6 weeks, I should get back to something near normal. In the meantime, I do feel like I'm letting the side down.

  4. Hope Debbie is OK.
    No point telling you what you need to do; you already know and it's not a simple solution to achieve, it's a mindset.
    Could you perhaps take some time to enjoy your animals? Spend some time with them as you do the rounds and give your attention to them rather than to your own thoughts? Watch how they carry on without a care in the world.
    And, for what it's worth, unless your 'emergency day' is high summer, ask yourself just how much would they suffer?

  5. Hey! The title of this post really caught my eye because I'm planning my own move to a smallholding - everything is lined up, my knowledge has improved over the last year or two, etc but the thing holding me back is that I'm a woman on my own. I obviously (for the reasons you clearly point out here) can't do this on my own. I really like the village model but the legalities and bureacracy of keeping a village of strangers working together smoothly - this sounds like office life, which I'm trying to escape!! Moral of the story: you've got no people to manage, but, on the plus side, you've got no people to manage.

    I just wish you guys all the best ... you know, at Habitat for Humanity, one of their big rules is to take your time, do things carefully and mindfully because safety is #1. So, maybe just try to do things a little more know, "life with your legs, not your back!!" and things will get done.

    If all else fails, what about bringing on a WWOOFER?

  6. Hi Jen, thanks for the comment, but please don't let me put you off! I think you go through fazes, at least i seem to, where you're either completely gun-ho and almost chainsawing in shorts and flip-flops, or totally the opposite extreme and worrying about lifting a bucket of water - not literally, but you know what i mean.

    Ow, this sounds even more confusing than the original post. I don't have kids unfortunately, but from what i understand you get pangs of worry over how they would cope if something happened to you, and it's much the same feeling. Ultimately, yes of course you just shovel thoughts like that to the back of your head and get on with things. But also it's quite nice sometimes not to dismiss those feelings and hold them for a while, look at them and think about them. Short term it makes you panic, hence the post, but long term, hopefully, you understand things a bit more.

    And the offers of help and sensible advice from people help enormously (men aren't always known for their level handedness)

    But for all that i wouldn't give my life up for a moment, and if you have the opportunity to take on a smallholding, do it! And don't feel help back becasue you're a woman on your own, you'd soon find loads of people willing to help you.

    I'll help. If you need any help or advice, please shout.

  7. Ah, I sympathise. I think it would help if you lined up some emergency help so that, if the worst should ever happen, you could rest easy and know that your emergency plan was taking care of things. I think that would put my mind at rest if I were you! Have you tried putting a little advert up locally, to see if any helpful neighbours come forward?

    I did once hear about a charity that did emergency pet sitting for elderly folk who were suddenly taken ill. They had set up this service in advance and someone had been over and met the pets, introduced themselves, etc. Then a phone number was left which the elderly person, or whoever was helping them with their emergency, could call and those people would come out and either pet-sit or take the pets away and look after them until the owner returned. Seems there's an opportunity to do something similar for farmers and smallholders huh? Though I guess animal-sitting would be the only sensible option for farm animals!

    Well, hopefully your fears have passed; but I think they're entirely natural. If push came to shove I'd be delighted to help you; I have a basic knowledge of animal care (can at least make sure things are watered, fed and have shelter) and I have plenty of people around me who know about these things! If it were a true emergency and there was no-one else I'd def help :) Will send my phone number if you're interested (have always wanted a smallholding myself, so wouldn't be much of a hardship!)

  8. Molevalleyfarmers, you are truly wonderful, thank you! In fact everyone's been so kind, I'm really lucky. I'm back to my usual Gun-ho 'what's the worst that could happen?' attitude, probably because i now know that if everything went bad, my animals would be okay. Funny how just knowing that makes all the difference. If you ever fancy coming over to meet the gang and be a smallholder for an afternoon, you'd always be welcome!


    Are these the same Berkshire hogs that you have? These guys are near my area...