Nearly every real farmer carries pliers as well as a pocket knife that possesses two or more keenly sharpened blades, and maybe has a screwdriver among its essential tools. Swiss Army knives aren’t the only option with a screwdriver — many farmers have pocket knives with a broken blade that they use as a screwdriver.

Farmers usually also carry a mobile phone, ever since cellular phones became readily transportable, and for good reason: They can call for assistance and check with people and websites as needed. The cell phone can be a life-saving tool.

If you are like me, you also keep a book of matches in a pocket where it stays dry when you sweat so you can burn empty seed bags and other trash, start bonfires, find something in the dark when you don’t have a flashlight, heat up something that doesn’t work, such as a frozen hydrant, or enjoy a smoke.

The website www.quora.com said the axe, hoe and shovel are the most common farm tools. Quora.com may be correct about worldwide farming methods and tools used by subsistence farmers in third-world nations who farm mostly manually, but not by most U.S. farmers.

Another online source that has a Top 10 list which I chose to mostly disregard, although I understand the logic of its choices, says farm jacks, the come-along, cordless power tools, chains, tractors and farm implements are among the most-used farming tools. Sorry, baling wire and duct tape are more necessary, and not just because television show host Red Green says so.

Like most farmers, a smartphone has replaced my earlier cell phones, even though I don’t know how to use many of its available functions. It substitutes for a watch when needed; it helps me find routes while driving; it displays the weather radar and forecasts; it enables me to keep up with current news and more.

Like most people, I detest robocalls and any telephone messages aimed at selling me something. Political messages are also too common these days, especially in my state, Iowa.

There are additional important tools agricultural producers can rely on. My votes to include on this list: equipment to fish, to hunt, and stuff to carry out meaningful retreats from the work environment, like a camping trailer. Sports equipment such as bicycles, balls, skis and any equipment that help us escape our usual duties for a while also qualify as useful tools.

These items can be lifesavers. They provide agricultural producers, and everyone, opportunities to not think about work. Our perspectives change when we have a big fish on the line or aim a shotgun at a pheasant busting out of a weed patch.

Even the preparation for the activities associated with recreation can relieve stress, such as tying flies for fishing, reloading shotgun and rifle shells and getting a camper ready for an excursion.

We all become bollixed and we need tools to help us disconnect from the sources of our stress periodically. That’s why I protested when I couldn’t find my fishing rods this spring after a contractor painted the walls of our basement this winter.

In the process of painting the basement, somebody moved my fly-fishing rods and equipment. I couldn’t find them, even though I found my other fishing equipment: waders, a float tube that doesn’t leak, flippers, fishing flies that I tied, reels, a net and a fish storage bag.

For weeks I searched for my rods and I had to forgo opportunities to fish because the most essential items — my fishing rods — were missing. I blamed my wife, partly because she hired the painter.

Accusing Marilyn without proof of a misdeed was another reason for me to distance myself from work. Guess what — a couple days ago Marilyn asked the painter if she knew where my fishing rods were hiding; the painter promptly found them in a place I had not checked.

All I could say was “Ahem, sorry.” I meant it.

The necessity to solve problems that occur regularly for farmers, and all of us for that matter, should be addressed by more than keeping our favorite mechanical tools handy. Our well-being can be improved by how we take care of ourselves with properly implemented planning.

Restorative activities like fishing, hunting and whatever suits us as recreation are especially important tools this year, when uncertainty about farming outcomes is rampant. Recreation changes our perspective when we think about something else besides farming or whatever our vocations are.

Taking a vacation for several days is best, but even a few hours away from our work scenes can open us up to new thinking, to meditation, to repairing relations with loved ones we may have ignored or treated harshly, and to options we haven’t thought of previously. Use your therapeutic tools this summer.


Dr. Mike Rosmann and Marilyn live near Harlan, Iowa. Contact the author at mike@agbehavioralhealth.com.

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