We've all been there...and some of us are still “there”...
...on the daily treadmill of life, trying to figure out how to get all of the things done that we deem important while also trying to stay sane, healthy and energetic (and maybe even amicable to the other humans involved).
I would dare say that about 95% of our stress as mothers is not directly from the kids or husband or chores or life, but rather from the feeling of being stifled and unable to fit everything we value into our day.
Don't worry, this is not going to be another “take it easy on yourself” blog post.
I don't believe in taking it easy...because it stresses me out not to get things done.
However, I DO believe in working smart, not into-the-ground.
So for the past 4 years, my family and I have gotten into gardening. We really love using permaculture practices to harness the incredible power of Allah SWT's eco-systems to apply them on our little homestead.
Permaculture practice by definition, is to mimic natural systems and apply them to agriculture to create a sustainable, earth-enhancing mini-ecosystem.
One of the concepts that I love in permaculture is the idea of “stacking functions”. This one concept has freed us from a lot of financial and logistical burdens while we grow our homestead.
Stacking functions is to use the inherent behavioral patterns of people, plants, animals and climate to create multiple beneficial outcomes.
My favorite example of this is a chicken.
On my homestead, the chicken performs these functions:
8)More-chicken-production (in the form of hatching eggs, chicks)
9)Eggs are sold to buy feed for other animals
11)Education for my children
12)Entertainment (Chicken TV is real!)
One animal, soooo many benefits!
Same concept applies to plants.
I have fruit trees interspersed throughout my garden, instead of having just a stand-alone orchard.
A fruit tree offers:
3)Raises water table
4) Home for birds that are bug-control
7) Cuttings source (I have get more trees and sell them or plant them)
8)Micro-climate for shade/cool loving plants
There are lots of other intertwined organisms that make my homestead productive and increasingly self-sufficient.
These beings also save time, enrich my family's life and provide nourishment unmatched by any store-bought equivalent.
In life, we are taught to manage our time by compartmentalizing it into “slots”. We must “schedule” time for the gym, time for cooking, time for the family, time for recreation.
...and more often than not, we are chronically “in need” of time to do everything we need to to feel like whole humans!
What would happen if we decided to “stack” the different areas of our lives instead of scheduling eating into little scheduled slots?
Here is a personal example:
I value nature. I value time with my children. I want them to learn through being active and doing things in nature. I value wholesome food, and I value home-cooked meals.
So a scheduled life could look like this:
Go for a walk I nature (1 hour), go exercise at the gym (1 hour) go spend time with kids at home (1 hour), go grocery shopping (1 hour), come home and cook a meal (1 hour), take the kids out to a playground(1 hour). = 3 hours
A stacked schedule would look like this:
Take the kids out to the garden to play and help with growing food; pick some vegetables for dinner and teach the kids to build a wood fire; have children help with meal prep. = 2 Hours
I met all of my values to be in nature, exercise,be with my children, teach them, allow them to play and cook a meal with little traveling and all in 1/3 of the time it took for me to do everything on a “schedule”.
By stacking my life, I have saved 4 hours! In ONE day. That's a looooot of time to do other things!
(Like write a blog post on stacking your life)
Stacking your life is an amazing way to increase your productivity and life quality WHILE saving time and energy.
People often talk about “life-hacking” to create more convenience for themselves in daily activities.
But I suggest that instead of focusing on convenience, we should focus on the quality of time spent through the values that were respected by the time used.
In this spirit, I hereby coin the term Life-Stacker.
Life-Stacker (noun)- an individual who deliberately stacks the functions of their life with the purpose of creating barakah (abundance) and quality in the non-renewable resource of their time.
The label is nice and all, but the reality is that up until very recently in human history, Life-Stacking was the norm.Families were close-knit, they grew their own food, people were active and healthy and bonded.
Life-stacking is a natural human condition that puts the BARAKAH (abundance) back in your time.
So, you wanna be a Life-Stacker?
Here are 3 Steps to becoming a Life-Stacker:
References: Movement Matters by Katie Bowman
So this weekend I went out to the farm. Every couple of weeks we go out, picked up a few gallons of Raw Grass-fed milk and then let the kids play around and watch the animals.
The weather is becoming more fall-like, and as I was sitting in the shade of a 70-year-old-pecan tree I began reflecting on how much the landscape has changed over the course the year.
The kids in the goat flock were fitting into their new found goat-hood. The calves from the Jersey heifers (milk cows) had all been weaned or sold off. In fact, some families in our community had bought two cows for Eid a little while back.
We ourselves just bought a cow and put in in the freezer as out year-supply of halal grass-fed beef.
A year of harvest. The cows harvest the grass, the farmer harvests the milk from the cows and then we harvest the cow itself.
Often when we talk about “seasonal eating” we are talking about vegetables and fruits.
... and “pumpkin spice”.
Animals, too, are seasonal.
On our little suburban homestead, we raise chickens for eggs and meat. But not all at once.
December through April are lean times for us in the egg and meat department.
Chickens lay eggs heavily in the Spring and summer months when the days are long and warm, but when the weather turns cold and the days get shorter those delicious little breakfast bundles become few and far between, even in a large flock.
Chickens need long daylight hours to set of the hormones that tell their bodies to produce eggs. (That's right! Chickens do not need a rooster to produce eggs... just to produce chicks-in-eggs)
Once the sun starts setting earlier in the Fall, egg production drops off and we have to find a new breakfast routine.
So in February we are rationing our eggs and sometimes we cave in an buy store eggs. (Once you go fresh, you become an egg-snob and store-bought eggs become an insult. Especially when you are feeding chickens while eating store-bought eggs).
But you better believe when those days get long and warm, we have a list of egg recipes in line for the coming abundance.
One of the things that amazed me when I started homesteading was how out-of-touch the supermarket had made me.
Chickens are one of those things that are more valuable alive and laying than on your plate.
Bare with me on this Chickenomic break-down:
Typically, an egg layer takes about 9 months to reach maturing and then a few more to put on enough weight to be worth culling.
The industrial meat-bird (the Cornish Cross) has been selectively bred to eat corn which gets them to grow to 5 lbs in 8-10 weeks. That is two and a half months!
We buy these little monster-chickens in February and then feed the little winged-piggies organic corn and grass until its time to harvest them in late April -early May.
Basically, late Spring is chicken season...and let me tell you, it is a hard-earned delicacy.
As a side-note, chickens are omnivores and they need protein to grow. That makes them more expensive to raise than beef. This year, we calculated the price of our home-grown organic, pastured chicken and found that it came out to about $8.00 per pound, not including our labor, and packing. In contrast, grass-fed beef was $5 per lb for the whole cow, all the cuts, labor and packaging included.
Chicken's ain't cheap meat!
Lamb is a late-summer treat. Lambs are typically born in late Winter, early Spring and then reach edible age by 6 months.
I love reflecting on Our Creator's wisdom in having animals birth in Spring. The weather just begins to warm up as they mature, giving them the maximum amount of time to feed on the rapid-growing, nutrient-packed spring and summer grasses to strengthen them before their first winter.
Yes, milk has a season, too!
If the natural rhythm is that babies are born in the spring, then it follows that that is the beginning of milk milk season is when all the babies are born!
But Milk is also really interesting, because it changes with the season and the changes in the grasses available for the cow/goat/sheep/camel (yes, camel!) to eat!
Bottom line: where there are baby herd animals, there is milk!
Fall is cow season. Many farmers have allowed their herd to graze all year, and now that Fall is here, the grasses are dying back in preparation for the cold winter months.
In order to conserve pasture, farmers selectively sell or harvest their cows in order to keep only the healthiest and hardiest to continue the flock.
The amazing thing about a cow, is that if it has been grass-fed, the meat will contain all of the vitamin and mineral goodness from the grasses it ate earlier in the year.
Traditionally, cows were culled in the Fall and their meat would be preserved to become nourishment in the dead of winter when vegetables and fruits are scarce.
The longer I homestead, the more I realize the beauty and wisdom of the Seasons.
I know there are arguments questioning the ethics of eating meat, the quantity we consume and the quality of life the animals have before they or their products reach our plates.
Much of the uneasiness around raising and eating these creatures could be resolved if we took a step back and submitted ourselves to the Natural Rhythms that Our Creator has put in place.
There is a huge blessing Allah (God) has put in meat. Meat is like a Divine multivitamin; in times of seasonal scarcity, the nutrients of the summer and spring are made available to us through the food these animals provide. Some nutrients we can only derive from animal products.
By respecting the lives and seasonality of each kind of animal, we are respecting ourselves and submitting ourselves to the Divinely Decreed rhythms of the Earth.
We label these “mental health issues” and are lulled into the belief that these disorders are just all in the head and therefore can be solved by positive thinking and affirmations.
To those people who say such nonsense, my reply is...
Your mind is kinda attached to the rest of your body...right?
As someone who has gone through both chronic anxiety and moderate-severe depression, I can tell you there is no “off-switch” for run-on thoughts (at least not in the female brain), nor a “happy button” for when you are feeling very very off …
...and no, chocolate isn't helping because everything has lost its taste.
* sigh *
In fact, if you have been graced with the experience of either “disorder” you will know it feels like you have absolutely NO control over your body or your mood.
It's like your body has hijacked your brain and you are along for the ride, whether you are sitting down with family at home or in the office....your body has a bone to pick with you...and it doesn't care that you had plans.
Unfortunately, going along with it is kinda your only option as long as you are in your body so....yeah...
But before we go, let's think....
….before your body decided that you are no longer fit to steer it...what happened?
I have long pondered over this question for myself, because anxiety and depression sometimes seem to come on “all of a sudden” and we are left curled up in a ball in the corner, not knowing what in the world happened or how to undo it.
To explain, let me first set forth a story...
There are two women who live out in the country, far away from any stores or gas stations. Neither of them has a car, so they get around by horse and carriage.
Everyday, the women load up the carriage for the day with the kids, packed-lunches (for her and the horse) and some goods to take into town....and on the way they have some stops that add a few more things to the carriage.
In the evening, there is the return journey ; some of the load has been delivered into town, but groceries and children and a few last-minute “must-haves” are in the carriage to return home.
One woman has developed an awesome relationship with her horse over its lifespan. She knows the subtitles of how her horse acts; when it needs a break from pulling, when it needs a drink . The woman has noticed that her horse does very well on a special diet of oats and hay (and the occasional carrot for morale). In the evening, she removes the bit and bridle from the horse and lets it frolic in the evening light before she bathes and brushes it, and put it to rest for the evening.
The second woman tries to take care of her horse, but she is busy. She runs around after the kids, trying to be efficient in filling the carriage . When the horse is feeling the weight of the burden of the carriage, it gives her signs but she is always too busy to notice or to tend to its needs. The horse gets slow because of its exhaustion, and she cracks her whip to push the horse to keep a steady pace.
Her horse tends to make her late pretty often.
She feeds the horse whatever she can find around and in the evening, she shuts the horse away in its stall.
Sometimes if the horse is particularly unruly, she will let it run around a bit...but not too long!
Soon it must be called back in because -of course- the next day will be busy.
One weekend, both women were invited to a wedding in their small rural community.
The first woman loaded up the carriage with her family and rode to the wedding. The venue was busy, and she notice her horse was unsettled because of the crowd, so she gives it a moment to get its barrings, and then guides it to a suitable parking place.
They enjoy their evening, and then retire home.
As the second woman and her family get close to the venue, the horse starts to buck at the site of the crowd. The second woman cracks her whip and pushes the horse forward, rather embarassed by its behavior.
Immediately after the woman gets down from the ride, the horse turns and runs with the carriage (still filled with some of the kids) into the forest.
She assumes the horse was spooked by the crowd. Instead of enjoying the wedding, the family spends the better half of the evening trying to catch the horse and coax it back to the venue.
Having not been able to enjoy the wedding, the second woman gathers her family and pushes the horse and carriage on home.
As soon as the family gets home, the horse collapses. The woman figures a good nights rest will make the horse feel better, so she removes the bit and bridle and puts it up for the night.
The next day, the horse is still lying down. It refuses to get up. No one knows what is going on or why it wont get up and perform its duties.
The horse refuses to get up for 3 weeks. All it can do is nibble a bit of oats here and there...and it doesn't even want carrots (which is pretty odd because that is a treat!).
When the horse finally gets up, it is emaciated and tired. The family wonders if the horse will ever be back to normal. They try to get the horse to do what it used to be capable of, but each attempt sends the horse back into a period of illness.
The horse cannot seem to recover.
The family decides to take the horse to the vet, who quickly prescribes the horse anti-depressant drugs.
Ok....ok....you get it, right?
Most of us can clearly see the second horse is being neglected aka “unintentionally” abused. It is being required to do more than it is enabled to do by the care that is given to it.
Funny thing is, when it comes to our health most of us are the second woman, and our bodies suffer like her horse.
We do not have a responsive or attentive relationship with our bodies and its needs.
We feed ourselves “whatever” while we are giving and giving our all.
We fuel ourselves with stimulants to keep us going at a “normal” pace.
Our definition of “normal” and “productive” are defined by what we see other women doing, by what society tells us we should be capable of doing and by the whipping guilt of not being able to keep up with those expectations.
Our nutritional deficiencies, fatigue and lack of “freedom to frolic” adds up until we either:
A) Have chronic anxiety that culminates in a panic attack(s) (the body's cry for help) --- think the horse at the party.
B) Breakdown into a Depression (because our body just can't take it anymore and breaks down) ---think the horse at home after the party
Then we go to the doctor and are told we have a Mental Health Disorder. Social anxiety or chronic depression or something to that effect....
Would you like me to write this up for you or call the prescription into your pharmacy?
Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to down play the significance of Anxiety and Depression...I am trying to push the point....
.... we were neglecting our bodies for a while before we got to this point, right?
That is good news! Because if we caused it, we can fix it!
You may be thinking “But I am health conscious! I eat organic, local, home-grown, home-cooked food! I exercise! My mental health is still crazy, what's going on?!”
Yes, I can understand that confusion. That was me, too!
Eating well and exercising and all that good stuff is important, BUT when trying to be healthy is a cause of stress, and we spend our time stretching ourselves thin trying to do EVERYTHING “right” , that constant emotional stress takes a toll on our bodies physically.
Not to mention all the chronic physical stress if you've been on hormonal meds like "the pill", have been pregnant, are breastfeeding, or are a caffeine addict....
We can't even benefit from all that good nutrition because we are too physicall wound up to absorb any of it!
I am not calling for us to not care about food and exercise. I am calling for us to become attuned to what WE as INDIVIDUALS need, when we need it and in the amount we need it in. And you are the best judge of that.
The reason I used the horse analogy (as opposed to a car or something mechanical) is because horses are living things. Their needs are dynamic as ours are. Their biological needs are in constant ebb and flow, just as ours are. They are seasonal. Rhythmic.
And in order to know an animal's needs, you have to develop a relationship and notice changes and responses....
Our bodies are of the earth. We too are seasonal, rhythmic and in ebb-and-flow constantly. Getting to know ourselves is a process, especially since this kind of self-awareness is not taught by society or even in our families.
That's okay though.
It will takes time.
We SHOULD take care and time to develop a relationship with our live-in vehicles-- our bodies.
So here is an Anxiety/Depression prevention check-in list:
Take time to check in with yourself, whenever you are tired or feeling off. Be responsive!
Your body will thank you for it.
This is part 3 in the "When Food isn't Food" Series: