Spring in Appalachia: Starting a Farm With Trauma

It’s an absolutely beautiful day here in western North Carolina. We’re having a run of unseasonably warm weather which has me itching to get the garden going.

I have dreams. Big dreams. Lush flowerbeds, a full-on witch’s garden with all my favorite poison plants, and of course enough veggies to feed a small army (or maybe to share with Bigfoot?).

But because of my trauma, I have to pace myself.

A photo of yellow daffodils blooming beside a wooden walkway.
Daffodils Blooming Already

Living With Trauma Means Planning Around it

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in the past. Too often spring finds me excited and in a good headspace, thinking I’m over all this trauma nonsense and I can Do All The Things. I start a huge garden, or even several, start a jillion seeds, and set myself up for a massive maintenance effort. Then at some point in summer, I hit a slump. I get triggered somehow, or just cycle into a depressive period. And for several weeks I let things slide.

By the time I make it back to my garden, weeds have taken over. And at that point back in southeastern NC temps would regularly be in the upper 90s or even over 100. I don’t do heat well. So it would be just too hot to repair the damage. And so the garden would sit, looking horribly embarrassing (and I lived on a main road in a neighborhood there) until the next spring when I could start the process all over.

This year will be different. I finally realize that my mental health has to figure into all of my planning.

It started when we were property hunting. Every location we looked at, we plugged into every delivery app we could to make sure we could get food and necessities when we were mentally unable to go shopping. The property we chose was close enough to town that Doordash, instacart, and Walmart all deliver here along with several pizza chains.

I chose delivery over having a property truly out in the middle of nowhere because I planned ahead with CPTSD in mind. I can hear traffic as I sit on my deck. There is no fireplace or creek here, 2 things I sacrificed from my must-have list. Instead, I got nearly 4 acres, much of which is wooded, unrestricted land (so I can has goats and nobody can stop me)… most of my wants while still being close enough to get groceries brought in when necessary.

A forest in late winter, thick leaves on the ground and two large boulders among the bare trees.
Close To Town, But I Still Have A Magical Forest

That’s the kind of compromise we have to make in order to live the life we want with CPTSD.

Farm Planning With CPTSD

Of course, I want more than a fancy garden. I want a farm. So far, we have chickens and a rabbit. I can’t necessarily make it outside every single day to check on the chickens, so I’ve set them up to be fairly independent. They have an automatic feeder which I can fill every day or every few days. They have several water pans that collect rainwater – I only have to fill them when we have several days without any rain, which is uncommon. They free range, so they also get lotsa bugs. And the rooster keeps them safe.

Same for the bunny. She lives inside and also has free roam of my bedroom and bathroom. The biggest maintenance with her is cleaning out her litterbox- which since she’s free range is a full sized cage and so once a week is manageable. Twice now I’ve had to just leave the bag of hay open outside her cage because I wasn’t in a space to keep the inside clean and stocked. It’s not ideal but she seems to enjoy that actually. If I leave it too long she will start pooping outside the cage, but that’s an easy cleanup. And so far she goes back to normal litter habits when it is cleaned.

The Bunnibelle Chills While I Watch TV

The garden, unlike my efforts in the past will be mostly in raised beds. I also bought a wood chipper on craigslist, so we can make our own mulch with the abundance of fallen twigs/small branches you find in a forest. Weeds ain’t gonna get me this time.

The only thing I have yet to figure out is the goats. Once we get a doe in milk, they will have to be milked twice a day. While I can’t wait to have fresh butter and cheese and soaps, I will have to put some planning into milking. Probably we’ll start with one at a time in milk and see how we can work that. Under no circumstances will we jump in with multiple goats needing milking at once. Again, Lisa: under no circumstances will you buy multiple goats that need milking to start with.

Y’all remind me of that when we get the fence built in the next few weeks, k?

Finally, my property is at 3100ft elevation, and nobody can see anything during the summer. We’re well screened when the leaves are up. It’s also much cooler here – last year we got here end of July and it rarely got to 90, much less over that. It’s a MUCH more workable temperature range. It’s also much wetter here, so I won’t need to water as much as I did before.

How Do You Plan?

So that’s what I’m doing to work my dreams around my CPTSD. Granted, I’m EXTREMELY privileged in that I do not have to also figure in a paying job- my husband works overseas to support all this. You probably have different goals, and also different challenges.

What do you have to plan around your mental health, and how do you do it? Let’s share ideas in the comments!

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