When I’m not farming, I teach fitness classes in Northfield. Every week, I teach a couple classes in the pool at the YMCA, and I teach a few classes at the senior center. One of my favorite classes is Silver Sneakers, which incudes participants from about age 55 to 100. (Yes, one of my regular attenders will turn 101 in just 2 months. He is amazing.)
I sometimes tell stories to go along with our routine. For example, we’ve done a bike trip theme and a winter sports theme. In early spring, while leading a series of exercises with hand weights, I asked the class to pretend they were doing the chores with me. We pretended to fill buckets of feed, carry them across the farm and dump them in feeders. We gathered eggs.
People liked it, or at least the ones who spoke up about it. Maybe the people who felt otherwise just kept it to themselves! When I didn’t have a story to go with our exercises last month, someone suggested maybe we should do chores again. On the farm, it was a time when we were mostly working on dragging coops around with the tractor and getting them ready for the chickens. The motions of tying down tarps over coops and driving a tractor around was not matching so well with the exercises I had planned for the day, and I explained this to everyone.
I added that actually, I hadn’t learned to drive the tractor yet, and I was kind of nervous to do this. In part I am nervous because our machines don’t have modern safety features. In part, I’m nervous because I worry that my husband and I might get annoyed at each other during the learning process. Running a family and a business and a marriage is just a lot to be trying to do with someone, even if you love each other very much. Taking my husband on as my teacher might just push things a bit too far. This captured everyone’s imagination and became the topic of discussion. It was like a large focus group of experienced women, earnestly and kindly considering my situation.
We continued with our exercises as everyone offered different advice. A couple people, speaking from experience, said I should leave well enough alone because I was busy enough without taking on the work that would surely come my way if I knew how to operate a tractor. Another believed that the key was communication, and I should have a good talk with my husband. Someone else said that asking your husband to teach you how to operate large machinery is just inviting marital discord, and if I was absolutely determined to learn, I had better ask the neighbor to come over and teach me.
Later, I broached the topic with my husband, who said that the larger, newer tractor was physically difficult to drive, so he wasn’t that excited about me learning it. We both know that when I muscle my way through physically difficult jobs, I get more migraines. My husband and I had many other things to talk about, so the subject just fell by the wayside. Very soon my driving a tractor became a moot point because both tractors broke down.
For a while, our only working tractor was the lawnmower, and the whole family drives that. Even the four-year-old sits on his dad’s lap and practices steering while I try not to wince and cry out that they’re about to hit the chicken coop. Our 12-year-old is right at home on the seat of our John Deere.
The time may come when I should learn to drive a real tractor. It seems that time is not yet upon us. When it arrives though, I know I will think about all the advice I got during the exercise class, and it will help give me the boost I need to step up and do whatever needs to be done.