“How do you have the energy to do all that?! I’d be exhausted!” That’s a comment I’ve heard quite a bit these past few weeks. Truth be told, I am exhausted. I’m also mighty happy to be accomplishing things.
Instead of avoiding taxing activities, I try to find the most efficient (and least expensive) way to get them done. Yes, I get tired. No, I can’t work a full-time job and then spend seven hours in the evening canning fruit like I did twenty years ago, but I can still manage to put enough by that we have food to eat without wondering how to pronounce all the chemicals on an ingredient label.
My tips for how I manage canning season with RA would just as easily apply to other situations:
Know Your Limitations
In preserving foods, the hardest part, for me, is picking. There’s much more fruit than I’m physically able to pick – especially when the fruit is overhead and my rotator cuffs don’t want to do their job. When I pick, I pick from the lower branches, and leave the upper branches for people who are a) taller, b) tree-climbers, or c) comfortable picking from ladders. I know my limitations.
It can be difficult admitting that we have limitations. We’d like to think we’re invincible. RA teaches us otherwise. Work with what you have. Whether it’s canning or anything else, knowing our limitations is important.
One of my favorite quotes, by R.G. LeTourneau, is “Work smart, not hard.”
I look for ways to work smart. When heavily laden branches are relieved of their burden, the boughs rise – usually several feet. If I started picking apples closest to the ground, and worked my way upward, the branches would quickly spring up out of my reach, limiting how many apples I’d be able to pick. Instead, I start picking as high as I can reach. As the empty branches move upward, the lower apples are still within reach. I’m able to pick much more by grabbing those upper apples before they move too high.
That’s true with the rest of life, too. Hard isn’t required. Focus on working smart.
Sometimes we want to prove we’re capable of doing things on our own, but it’s okay to accept help. People want to help. After canning twelve lug of peaches, knowing I’d be starting on apples next, I posted about it on Facebook. The responses included:
If we put one more person in the kitchen for peaches, we’d be tripping over one another. Apples are a different story. Apples are tons more work than peaches, and I need help. I have to set aside my pride and ask – or accept help when it’s offered. People really do want to help.
I’ve been thinking about this. My children have no qualms about inviting friends over to help them pick apples. The apples need to be picked, and it’s fun to do things with friends, so they invite friends over. Everyone has a lot of fun. One weekend my daughters and their friend had been picking apples for about an hour when I heard a knock at the door. It was the friend’s parents. They’d heard we had apples to pick and wanted to help.
Whether it’s canning season, or grocery shopping, or working in an office, accept help!
Develop Efficient Processes
Know what you need to do, then figure out the best way to do it. Apples and peaches, rhubarb and cherries, as well as beans, corn, and pumpkin are all very different foods; they need different processes. It can be hard to break away from the habit of doing things the way we’ve always done them, but it’s a good idea to step back, analyze what’s truly needed, then eliminate all the extra (unneeded) steps to fine-tune your workflow. Make everything as efficient as possible.
Always ask if there’s a better way to do things. For example, every recipe I’ve ever seen for applesauce involves putting cut-up apples into a pot on the stove-top, adding apple juice/cider, then cooking carefully to avoid scorching the food. My shoulders don’t like all that stirring. My feet do not like standing at the stove long enough to cook apples down into sauce. I’m guessing yours don’t, either. There’s no need! It’s significantly easier to make applesauce a different way.
It doesn’t apply only to canning applesauce. I’ve found ways to streamline many different tasks. Never settle for doing things the way others have always done them. Aim for efficiency.
Life with rheumatoid arthritis can be tricky. To make things easier, it’s a good idea sometimes to pause, analyze situations, know your limitations, accept help, develop efficient processes, and work smart.