Farming Without Pain

I’m a 50+ year old woman who is not particularly strong and vertically challenged to boot. Arthritis and lower back pain are becoming chronic. Please join me as I look for ways to reduce the hard physical labor on this small farm, so I can continue farming into my 80s.
There are products on the market today that either reduce the work or are ergonomically designed to prevent strain. All manual labor can’t be eliminated. Using these innovative products can, at least, prevent the painful aftermath. What are these products and where can they be found?
Of particular interest, to me, are small scale agricultural systems that reduce heavy work. Chicken tractors and pigs for tilling benefit the animal’s natural inclinations to scratch and root. Their actions till and fertilize the soil, making less work for the farmer. Sheep grazing in the yard feeds them and eliminates  having to mow. Companion planting to enhance plants growth and protect against disease/bugs saves having to find an organic pesticide. Season extension in the garden gives fresh produce over a longer period and eliminates unnecessary canning and freezing.
Please share any experiences you’ve had. What worked well or didn’t? How would you do it differently?


Farming Without Pain — 8 Comments

  1. I’m 58 and I think about this all the time. My goat mentor is 80 and still managing quite well. Of particular interest to me is creating a farm layout that minimizes non-essential movement and effort required to take care of livestock and garden. I’ve tried to make caring for my livestock as easy as possible by locating barns and food storage close to the house with prevailing wind blocks etc. I’ve also begun using the heavy mulch gardening, popularize by Back to Eden, to minimize weeding and for water retention. Because I live in the dry part of central Washington and do not have irrigation and marginal pasture, I buy a good bit of hay. I’ve been able to find a farmer to custom bale organic alfalfa in smaller bales that are easier for me to move. There’s so much to this process and trial and error tends to be the best teacher.

  2. Thanks for commenting & telling us about your setup. You have a lot of things working in your favor. How fortunate to find someone to custom bale hay. Heavy bales are problematic for me, also. We are turning all the grassy areas up against the house into garden beds by using deep mulch. Non-essential movement is definitely where it’s at!

  3. Love this often overlooked area of concern. Just turned 50 and am in process of developing my farm. Physical strength is not the same as it was in my earlier years plus I have a chronic knee issue. Glad to hear of successful accomodations others have used:)

  4. I’m not sure how many people are starting their farms in their 50’s, but I bet it’s significant. Seems like someone ought to publish a book about the topic. I write but don’t feel like I know enough about farming to do so, but I can illustrate!

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Holly. It’s a bummer to be limited by the lack of physical strength and pain. How well I know. It takes me much longer to do some simple things, very frustrating.

  6. I think many people include a small farm or country home in their retirement plans. Some of them are probably not prepared for the amount of work it takes.

  7. I am in my thirties and have been homesteading since I was nine. The most important thing I have done is to allow my animals to do the heavy lifting for me. I compost in place with layers of straw and manure (lasagna gardening) put in place by the goats. I don’t haul mulch, I grow and chop by using comfrey, squash, and alfalfa. I use large-wheeled carts for moving anything heavy and sleds in the winter. My chickens turn the compost around trees and manure for me. I use LOTS of mulch instead of hauling water–I have a foot of straw in my backyard and don’t have to water at all here. My children do almost all of the hauling, redundant chores

  8. jmponygirl, please elaborate about the composting in place. Are you talking about deep litter that composts on it’s own? You have smart practices that diminish heavy work.