Refocusing

We’re trying to have a different attitude on the farm this year. When we started out we were aiming to be homesteaders who sold our surplus. But over time it seemed that some kind of farming mission creep occurred and our emphasis and effort shifted to commercial farming and market gardening. We’ve decided it’s time to return to our original intent. We want to put our focus back on homesteading, first and foremost.

So that means scaling back in some ways. We have all the same gardens as before, but lower expectations for them. We’ll still grow most of our own food, but we may (or many not) have as much left over for the markets. Our freezers are full, so we’re going to take a break from raising pigs this year.

Cherie accepted a job with World Help, where she’s working with one of her colleagues from her time with Danita’s Children. That kind of work is her passion and she’s excited to be doing it again. She works from home, but it’s a full-time position, so I can’t rely on her to carry as much of the load around here anymore. When we started this life one of my objectives was to make sure that we didn’t take on anything around here that I couldn’t do by myself. But with Cherie available to help, over time I bit off quite a bit more than I could chew alone. This year I’ll be trying to stay focused on keeping the work load manageable.

Most importantly, we’re going to be more relaxed about things. No stress.

We’ve even taken the radical step (for us) of planning a vacation, after 12 years without one.

We’re calling it our “Office Space” attitude (which will make sense to those of you who’ve seen that movie). We joke that now that we have lower expectations, we’ll probably have our most successful year ever.

I don’t know about that. But however it turns out, we don’t intend to fret about it.

 

 

 

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36 comments on “Refocusing

  1. shoreacres says:

    One of the things I’ve found over the years is that I sometimes have to do something for a while, before I realize it isn’t working. There were some years when I was working up and down the Texas coast. There were some positives, but it could get complicated, fast — especially when I was somewhere like Corpus Christi, and the weather turned. Then — what to do? Go home? Wait it out. Needless to say, it wasn’t productive, but it took a while for me to figure that out.

    I was offered the opportunity last week to go up to Oklahoma and work on a boat on a lake there. At one time, I would have jumped at the chance. Now? Not so much. For one thing, I have a kitty to consider. I couldn’t — wouldn’t — just go off for a month and leave her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      And I doubt you’ll ever find yourself looking back at your life someday and thinking “if only I’d taken that assignment in Oklahoma…”

      That’s the boat we’re in too now. Our goal was to escape the rat race and live a quiet peaceful life, not to invent a new rat race.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. avwalters says:

    We’re not there yet, but look forward to being able to ease into our lives to see where that shift takes us. So far, it just feels like there is always to much that must be done. You have reached the point where you can adjust the outcome by altering the rhythm. Like music. Enjoy.

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    • Bill says:

      The first few years we were here were spent almost entirely building the infrastructure, cleaning up, etc. Then for a few years we put in the systems (gardens, animals, etc.) that helped us accomplish our food and fuel self-reliance goals. But as we had surpluses (and when I had a lot more time on my hands) we started adding market gardening and commercial farming on a greater scale. All that really did is increase our work load and divert us from focusing on the things we love most about this life. So now we’re just backing up some.

      We went through the phase you’re in now and I don’t think it can (or should) be avoided. In those days I was still working full-time (meaning lawyer full-time, not 40 hrs/week full time) so we had to outsource almost all of the work (of course I didn’t have the skills to do most of it anyway). I’m glad we did it, even though there are things I’d do differently if we had to do it over again. But my advice would be once you finish the “move in” phase, make the next shift slowly and assess each step as you take it before you add another. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • avwalters says:

        Good advice. The one thing we have learned so far is that we are not as young as we used to be, and that EVERYTHING takes longer than we thought. The good news is that we learn from our delays so we proceed smarter than we would have as younger folk. More than anything, the process gives me great respect for the First Nations people and the pioneers. Given the hazards, it’s a wonder anyone survived at all! (All this, without Kubota or internet!) We’ve been learning the challenges, and just the bunnies and the deer are formidable.

        Soon it really will be spring and that means, finishing the orchard (five trees to plant) and our annual commitment to tree diversity (this year we have some help) with another hundred trees to plant. I ache, just thinking about it.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. gatheringplaceseasonfour says:

    my spouse (family a large part of 70 years) almost 60 years ago purchased a cottage on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay – three hours away from us – where we can get away on occasion.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s good to have a “happy place.” Once upon a time we thought this farm might be our weekend getaway place. But I loved it so much we ditched the other life and made it home. So now we need an occasional getaway again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. valbjerke says:

    ‘Farming mission creep’ is a good way to put it. It’s difficult to find that work/life balance, it’s difficult to keep your eye on the prize when it’s so easy to forget what the prize was – especially when at every turn there are people who want your product. It’s important to recognize that what others think should be your fulfillment – isn’t necessarily anything close to your own reality.
    Taking a step back and reassessing is a good thing – learning to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty about it might be a bit tough – but in the next few years you will find yourself making a few more adjustments to fine tune the balance.

    When I think back on the incredible number of pigs/chickens/goats etc. we used to raise and sell – none of that has made me as happy as having my kids drive up and being able to send them off with coolers full of the same – for their families, as they live where quality healthy organic farm food is not readily available.
    For us, that’s when we feel the least amount of stress, and the happiest in doing what we do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      Well said. Y’all are the kind of people that inspire us. It’s a question, I think, of finding the “sweet spot.” We used to give away a lot of food. Nowadays we can’t meet demand and often our most desirable products sell out so fast we don’t even get any for ourselves! That’s just crazy.

      Cherie has been telling me for years–“work smarter, not harder.” Easier said than done for a workaholic like me.

      Funny thing about our new attitude though. Our first quarter was our most successful first quarter yet. And after 3 years of getting turned down, we just heard we’ve been awarded a grant for a hoop house. We just shake our heads and laugh.

      We want our focus once again to be clearly feeding ourselves and (thanks for the reminder) our families. Any thing beyond that is just gravy–it’s not the point of what we’re doing.

      I’ve always had trouble saying “no.” It created a lot of heartburn for me in my previous life too. Learning when to say “no” is something I need to get better at and I’m determined to try.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joanna says:

    Just doing some catch up after being away visiting grandchildren and catching their germs 😀 You have been having some interesting thoughts along the way it would seem. So here’s to a new economy and a new rhythm for you both and for us.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Joanna. We reassessed everything during the time I was on break from blogging. I’m just now getting around to doing a post about it. I wondered whether it was something I should post about and it occurred to me that there must be lots of other homesteaders who go through this kind of reevaluation. So I thought it might be helpful to someone else to see that it’s OK to step back.
      Hoping you enjoyed your time away…

      Liked by 2 people

  6. EllaDee says:

    Even though our tree change has taken some getting used to and catching up, I can highly recommend balance. Ultimately we’re aiming for semi-sustainable within the scope of our skills, space and time – a balanced lifestyle that suits us rather than ticking boxes. And holidays… we were out practice but we’re working on it. You’ll love it ☺

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    • Bill says:

      For what it’s worth, I think y’all have the right attitude. Just be careful not to start slipping back into the rat race. 🙂
      It’s not easy to leave a farm. We’ll have multiple gardens in full production and pastures with animals. Not sure how we’re going to handle that but something will work out. We’ve already bought our airline tickets. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, we all need to evaluate our lives from time to time and determine if it brings joy into our lives or grief. I have adopted a phrase from the TV talk show host “Dr. Phil”. He always lets his guests tell their story and then hits them with his trade mark phrase. “How’s that working for you?” It’s been a mantra that’s saved me a lot grief over the last few years. It’s been easy for me to fall into long term things gradually that seem to drag on and on. Once I decide to head in a direction, I ride that horse right into the dirt before thinking about maybe this isn’t working for me. It’s been detrimental many times in my life. I commend you and Cherie for taking a step back and evaluating how things have been working and how to change directions. That’s always been a very difficult thing for me to do. My thoughts and prayers will be with you as you change back to the original dream of country life.

    Have a great refocusing day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dave. I have to keep reminding myself. I’ve been working on prepping gardens all day and I don’t see how I can possibly tend well as many as I’m planning to plant. Next year I may scale back even more.

      Like

  8. It is important to reassess and evaluate what is working, what isn’t, and what are we enjoying (or not!). Enjoy!

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  9. ain't for city gals says:

    I had a feeling this was happening….we are in the same mode of thinking. We are finishing up our last big house we will sell and then we are done…or at least I am. Larry might have a harder time adjusting…probably not though. My favorite saying is “If not now…when”?

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    • Bill says:

      I like that saying. That’s exactly what I was thinking when we decided to take the vacation. We don’t yet know how we’ll manage the farm while we’re gone, but we’ve given ourselves a few months to figure it out. When thinking about whether to go we asked ourselves, “If not now…when?”

      Glad you’re coming to a nice fork in the road too.

      Like

  10. Good for you guys and enjoy your vacation! ❤
    Diana xo

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  11. farmerkhaiti says:

    Best wishes and thank you for sharing this decision, there are many of us who are wanting to do just what you are- scaling back and enjoying life instead of go go go farming mania all the time!!!

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    • Bill says:

      I still enjoy farming and it’s how I want to spend my days. I just don’t want to take on such much that I risk making it not fun anymore. Right now I think I’m growing way too much for just one person to handle. There’s a very good chance that downsizing will actually increase our production.

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  12. Moderation may be the hardest lesson I have ever learned, and I am still not sure I have learned it, Bill. It sounds like you and Cherie have had a similar challenge. There is always more that can be done. Vacations/escapes/or whatever you want to call them are critical to our sanity. One of the reasons that I love backpacking so much was that it was a total escape, simple basic survival. No phones, no computers, nothing to do but get over the next mountain. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      The way you live is a real inspiration to me Curt. Moderation (when it comes to work) has been tough for me too. I enjoy my work, but I don’t want to let it consume me. I just need to keep messing with the dials until the picture is clear.

      Like

  13. We are doing the same this year, after I injured my knee last fall, we have had to reassess. I’m making good on my threat of cover cropping half my gardens and condensing down to growing what we actually need. Sort of the KonMari method of purging for gardens. I can either hurt myself gardening to the max, or I can step back and do less with probably better results and a whole lot less worry.

    Congrats to you and Cherie for giving yourself a break!

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    • Bill says:

      I’m glad y’all are scaling back, even though I’m sorry the injury set it in motion. I think there’s a good chance we’ll produce just as much or more by using less space. I’ve got Jean-Martin Fortier’s book and the Lean Farm book on my read-soon list. Even as I’ve been typing these comments, after prepping summer gardens all day that are going to be way too big, I’m realizing that I probably ought to scale back even more. Let’s compare notes at the end of the year and see if in our cases less was more.

      Like

  14. Laurie Graves says:

    Sounds like a very good decision. Life changes, and we must change with it.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      So true, but despite the fact that I’ve made radical life changes in the past, I’m pretty stubborn once I get set in my ways. I can be slow to make changes even when the need for them becomes obvious.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        So are most of us, Bill. I must say, especially after reading the bio of Beatrix Potter, that I’m so glad the days are over when women weren’t allowed to have lives and careers of their own.

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  15. I’m so glad you shared this. I sometimes get overwhelmed with all that we PLAN to do. I struggle to balance the thrill of the possibilities with the reality of our limitations. Our original plan when we started this journey was to do the same as you and Cherie – homestead and sell our surplus. I find great comfort in that model and like the idea that we can scale up as needed or desired. I’ll just have to keep reminding myself of that…
    Congrats to Cherie on her new job and yay for both of you committing to a real vacation! That’s next on our list – figure out a way to take break. I think I’ll take a cue from the White Flint farmers – just do it!

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    • Bill says:

      Just being away a couple of days has me nervous. I don’t know how we’ll be able to leave for two full weeks during the peak of production. But something tells me that the farm will survive just fine and we won’t look back 20 years from now and regret having taken a vacation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. dilipnaidu says:

    Wow way to go! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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