We've been doing a lot of the tangible on the farm, securing up fences to keep livestock in, predators out. But fences are just those borders we put up on the farm, there are also the boundaries we use for our relationships with others on a daily basis.
I'm a big fan of boundaries. I think if more people knew what their limits were and expressed them in appropriate ways we all would get along much better. I think that much of what I've learned about the importance boundaries comes from my relationships with animals and plants. Their needs are so basic and undeniable that it has forced me to examine what is basic for me, too. This one of the many gifts of farming. When you push your body to be tired, it helps your mind sort out what it needs and rest easier.
Here's an example:
Baby chicks make a lot of noise and frantic movements when they need something. They look like a tangled mess of school children who have seen Big Foot, Live and He is After them. But if you keep their food and water filled high, their noise is much different. It turns into a cheerful peeping. They do not appreciate extremes. They like consistency, to be dry, and not to be startled. I can appreciate this. I am more flexible with inconsistency but need to be fed and watered at regular intervals. Anyone who knows and loves me is very aware of this. I've been known to give a public service about it, carry snacks, and request breaks to take care of my all consuming need to eat something.
But farming has taught me a lot about emotional needs, too. I have learned much about my patience levels from our goat kids (pretty high, but has limits) and about my independence from working alone. I've spent the last year working pretty much solo, for many hours of the day. As it turns out, I really like my own company and can spend extraordinary amounts of time without interacting with another person. But, that has draw backs. Socializing takes a lot of effort for me, and the more I allow myself to withdraw- the harder it is to regain comfort in the presence of others. I do like other people, and I like to spend time with friends, but when I spend so much time alone, it becomes harder for me to remember that. So it's better for me to work alone in smaller doses, and ask for help often, and spend time off farm.
A lot of people think that farming is all about the physical acts required. And that is true, a good portion of the work is direct, and clear cut. Water buckets must be filled. Seeds must be sown. Fences must be repaired. And those are all specific skill sets. But farming is also about looking at your own fences- the ones that keep you safe and then the ones that hold you back. It's so demanding, so involved, that you can't help but learn from your experiences, grow as person.
I never would have thought that the some of the best therapy I could receive after a youth of struggle and a predisposition to anxiety would come from a sheep, or a cucumber plant. But it is. And I wonder, if more people reconnected to the acts of agriculture, if they would find that too.