Working Up To It (A Guide for Women and Men)

| May/June 1982

Heading the following advice might help you avoid some of the "labor pains" of heavy work.


Getting a new farm up on its feet, or remodeling that city home, or even putting in a new suburban garden can be a real challenge, whether the laborer is a man or a woman, single or married. The fact is that most self-reliance ventures share the common element of involving a great deal of plain old hard physical work. . . and the manner in which each individual or family approaches the necessary tasks will often determine whether the dream is realized, or—instead—the longed-for ideal turns into a never-ending nightmare of exhausting chores and guilt-inspiring half-completed projects.

Of course, it is possible to succeed . . . even when you're tackling a job the likes of which you've never attempted before. The main tricks in pulling off a successful project are [1] to prepare yourself, physically and mentally, for the tasks at hand ... [2] to work at a pace and on a schedule that will allow you to get ahead, but not burn you out in the process . . . and [3] to use the proper tools and equipment.

These guidelines are especially valid for folks who are just beginning to sink their roots in the country, yet a good number of novice homesteaders (particularly women) unknowingly—and through no fault of their own—use tools that are unsuitable, and/or work at a pace that's inconsistent with their physical conditioning.

Many back-to-the-land women, for example, are now—either alone or in conjunction with mates or friends—actively building their own houses, putting up the fences and sheds for keeping livestock, and working the fields... in short, doing the heavy labor once thought of as the domain of the menfolk. However, the female worker often doesn't realize that the equipment available for construction and farming has been designed for the generally taller and heftier frame of the male. Moreover, especially when they're working with men, many women—in an effort not to appear "weak" —labor at a pace inconsistent with their own energy patterns . . . which, when combined with the oversized tools, often results in strained muscles and unnecessary fatigue. In addition, both men and women, when starting out on an unfamiliar undertaking, often have unrealistic expectations of what they can reasonably expect to accomplish in a day's work.

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