Sunday, January 26, 2014

Farm Life's Hardest Lesson

If you read any "What I Wish I Would Have Known" articles written by modern homesteader types, one of the first items on their list is always going to be this:

You don't have to do it all at once.

Take it slow, they say. Give yourself grace, they say. Just a little bit at a time and don't overwhelm yourself.

I've read dozens of those articles. And I've always nodded in agreement, as though I've always known perfectly well that that one little bit of advice is absolutely correct.

Except that I didn't.

My best friend and I used to joke that whichever one of us ended up moving to a farm first was going to end up sitting in the middle of her pasture, crying the ugly cry, absolutely overwhelmed by what she had taken on and that the other friend was going to have to listen and comfort and try not to say "I told you so."

Turns out, I was the first one to move to a farm. And that prediction wasn't as far off as I'd like for you think it is. Except that it's snowy outside, so I was sobbing in my bedroom, while staring at my pasture. Which really isn't any better.

I haven't blogged regularly in almost a year. There's a reason for it though.

The past year has been seriously rough. My husband has been working out of town - sometimes out of state - for the past year. He's gone two weeks and then home for a week. That means that two thirds of the time, every responsibility of this property falls on my shoulders. In the past year I have raised a rather large garden, milked two goats and kept another 50 or so animals alive, homeschooled a first and fifth grader, kept a 4600 square foot house clean, raised 700 bales of hay on a 25 acre pasture using nothing but a shovel and some tarps. I've raised and butchered enough chickens to last a year, canned a year's worth of fruits and vegetables and dried or frozen what wasn't canned, cooked dinner every night,  run my kids around to their extra curricular activities, driven an hour each direction every time I needed groceries, hauled horses to 9 gymkhanas and rodeos, and hauled chickens to the county fair. And almost all of this with very little help from The Man of My Dreams, except for the weeks he was able to spend at home.

What I learned is that I really can do it all. I'm working from 5:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night, every single hour of the day, but I can get it all done. Until something goes wrong. As soon as the slightest little thing happens to upset my very rigid schedule, I lose it. I get so overwhelmed that I can't function and all I want to do is give up. Or cry.

The bad part of that, though, is that in this life, something happens to change your plans Every. Single. Day. Nothing ever goes the way you expect it to, or plan for it to. An animal gets sick. A kid misbehaves. A neighbor needs help. A fence needs fixed or a goat gets out or a deer dies in your front yard or your dog gets skunked or the well runs dry (again) and you have to spend an hour hauling water. The list of Things That Can Go Wrong is infinite. And each one of those things is guaranteed to happen when you least expect it. That is reality.

And with a schedule as packed as mine has been this year, and a brain so overwhelmed by constant mental to-do lists, there just isn't time to stop and enjoy all those little things that are supposed to bring me joy. I don't have time to watch my kids play with animals or build a fort or raise a puppy. I don't have time to relax with my husband and just sit and watch the sun go down. I've spent every waking moment just keeping up, keeping my head above water, that I've lost touch with every reason we moved up here in the first place. And that makes my heart hurt.

It's a lesson no one can just tell you and expect you to understand: You don't have to do it all at once.

You have to learn it, first hand. And it's painful. And it involves a lot of frustration and even more tears. But eventually, you take a step back, and you realize what you're doing to yourself, and you decide things have to change. Priorities have to be considered. You have to give yourself room to bend, and time to relax. You have to remember that there are so many years ahead of you to figure this all out and get it all done. And there will never be one single year when you actually accomplish everything you feel like you should. Living this life isn't something to mark off the to-do list. It's a process - a life long process - and it will never actually be finished.

And so, at a time when so many of my friends are moving out to the country and starting their homesteading lives, here is my advice:

You don't have to do it all at once.

Take it slow.

 Give yourself grace.

Just a little bit at a time.

Don't overwhelm yourself.

And when you are sobbing in the middle of your pasture, don't hesitate to give me a call. 

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