As the final few weeks of winter approach I find myself remembering the season and the challenges, lessons and gifts that it has left with me. Spring planning is well underway, our vision for the coming season is full of potential and excitement. The first of many seedlings have sprouted, destined to fill the waiting soil beds with new life. The final checks and preparations are being made as the furnace is readied to fire up and heat the greenhouses, hurrying spring by several weeks. It is very easy to rush ahead in our hopes and dreams of spring and we’ll be sharing more of that in our next newsletter. I would like to take this time to share some of the winter’s experiences that I’ve had and how they have made an impact on me.
Personally, I have long been familiar with the onset of depression as autumn moves towards winter and this year the transition was especially difficult. It has subsequently left me feeling like this has been the longest, coldest, darkest winter EVER. It has always been a challenge for me to maintain the busy and often exhausting lifestyle that farming requires. Like many other farmers, I tend to neglect my personal needs for the needs of the farm. Because I love the work I do it’s been easy to focus solely on growing, building, planting, weeding, harvesting and a dozen other important, time sensitive tasks rather than nourishing my personal needs. When the long growing season finally came to an end in mid-November, I found that I hit very close to bottom, very hard and with a fair share of pain. The benefit of being in that space was that I could do very little but rest and recuperate, consider and console myself. Though my experience of depression this winter has been the worst in a decade it has also been the most enlightening. As the sun returns (by over 4 minutes a day as I write this) so does my emotional mobility and my need to use my ability and passion for expression to counter balance my depression.
The joy and passion I feel for doing the work of a farmer and steward, for learning about and building healthy soil and for sharing those experiences with others has been very good medicine. There are many helpful correlations between self-care and earth-care that have contributed to my renewed commitment to myself and to the ecology within which I live. In January I had the pleasure of sharing my experiences with Season Extension Technology, hosted by Alberta Agriculture and the Hort-Snacks to Go webinar series. In February, I presented on composting at the Organic Alberta conference. Putting together those presentations required that I ask for help, a useful strategy when I’m feeling alone and overwhelmed. I needed to have photos of the operation throughout the seasons so it allowed me to be creative and meant I had to slow down long enough to notice the small (lovely) details and to capture the moments. I had to overcome nervousness and fear to make the presentations, which taught me about value and compassion for myself.
Soil is the foundation of all life and abundance on the farm, Soul is the foundation of that health and abundance in myself. I carefully and thoughtfully spend valuable time in consideration of how to best nurture the soil, to provide it with the support and protection it requires to thrive, knowing that if I do not treat it well the future will hold only meager harvests. I am learning to feel the same way about self-care as I do about soil-care. The abundance and richness of my life is the direct result of the quality of care I commit to myself and it is my first responsibility.
There is a chance that one of you is also feeling the blues, that you wonder how to develop the soil at the soles of your feet or how to cultivate a deeper richness in your life. My experience is not unique, and I share it freely in the hopes of inspiring you to slow down, put your hands in the soil and care for yourself with the dedication and quality you deserve.
Good Growing! Dawn Boileau