Sow Good Seeds: Of Lumbar and Labor

Deborah Haak-Frost and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma plant potatoes at the Huss Project Farm in May 2015.

Sow Good Seeds is a column devoted to environmental issues, gardening, cooking, and anything else connected to the natural world that has so graciously hosted us on this earth. My hope is that it will encourage you to see the world around you in a different way, to make incremental changes in your daily living, and to treat our planetary home such that we honor the generations of life that will follow.

Last weekend, I spent some hours in my yard: weeding the creeping grass away from the edges of the garden, digging out and relocating hostas to make room for herbs near my back door, and squatting on a cinder block as I brainstormed a way to bring the rainwater from a downspout closer to the tomatoes.

It was glorious: the sun warmed my skin, the breeze swept the hair out of my face, and the soil stained my fingers. I collapsed on the couch at the end of the day with a satisfied sense of exhaustion. 

The next day and the day after that, though, I shuffled around the house with an ice pack firmly strapped to my lower back.

Clearly, any gardener knows that some aches and pains come with the territory. As an otherwise-fairly-healthy-ish 32-year-old, though, I’m a bit frustrated that my body is exhibiting tendencies of one that has endured much more time and wear. The “ish” qualification also includes the fact that I’ve found my weight rising and my energy levels and stamina slumping.

I’m not a gym person, so that’s not in the cards. I finally acknowledged a few years ago that saying, “I ran track and played basketball in high school” is no longer a remotely valid reason to think that I’m still in shape. I’ve got a Pinterest board filled with stretches and exercises to strengthen joints and muscles, but it turns out that I need to do them regularly for them to be effective.

My husband and I recently downloaded a health and wellness app that asks you to put into words what your goals are, and then asks you, a number of ways, why you want to achieve them. (They’re not paying me, so I’ll let you guess what app we’re using).

I want to feel better, eat healthier, lose a few pounds, yes. But, I realized underneath those goals is a desire to be able to care well for our land, to sustain ourselves by growing and preserving our own food, and to contribute to the ecological healing of the planet on our suburban plot. We also hope to grow our family with children.

I have plans to expand the garden, transition the lawn to a no-mow alternative, add elements like water catchment and tree guilds, and more, to move toward a permaculture system on our property. I get excited when I imagine all the possibilities, and I love daydreaming about these ideas. All of these things will require an input of time and money — neither of which we’re flush with at the moment, but working in phases will help with that. The bigger challenge is that these projects will also require an input of labor on my part, and I’m not certain that my body is currently up to the task. 

I wrote my last column about families. Just like growing a garden requires hard work, endurance, and strength, raising children requires a constant supply of energy and a lumbar region of steel. I am forever in awe of mothers, and if I am destined to join them, I hope to enter that hall of fame with a body best equipped for the journey. 

Deborah Haak-Frost is the Caretaker for Community Engagement at GilChrist Retreat Center in Three Rivers, and volunteers with *culture is not optional, a Three Rivers-based community development organization.

Any views or opinions expressed in “Sow Good Seeds” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed 


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