The hardest thing for new homesteaders...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by minnikin1, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Feb 3, 2003
    Central NY
    We've been planning this for years, and we took the plunge into full time homesteading about 6 months ago -
    and we have NO regrets.

    We're learning and working feverishly. The hardest part seems to be letting go of certain aspects of that burb mentality.

    For example, we're frantic to be "productive" every moment of the day. We fight the impulse but we're still constantly measuring ourselves against the very standards that we are trying to discard!
    We are making a conscious effort to slow down, to go with the seasons and to strive for the better quality of life we dreamed of. But then the little demon with the pitchfork starts whispering over your shoulder making you have doubts that you are doing enough. :eek:

    I wake up in the morning and can't help but feel scattered. What to do first? It's an exciting new, but foreign, world. How to make a routine I can follow?

    And how much is enough? Day to day, how much do you accomplish? How long did it take feel content with a days work, rather than overwhelmed by what didn't get done? There is so much going on, that sometimes it would be nice to have a step-by-step instruction book. First, rekindle the fire - then go feed and care for the animals - then do this, then do that...

    One day it was one o'clock in the afternoon and I realized I had been so busy that I never changed out of my PJ's! I realized this in the most embarrassing way - when a neighbor knocked on the door and I wasn't dressed yet....

    YES! I can get so overwhelmed that I can forget to put my clothes on! :eek:

    The irony is that if we sit and look at what we HAVE accomplished, its incredible - sold Mcmansion by owner - self-moved across the country, purchased new place - started remodeling - purchased acreage and farm equipment, repaired equipment - cut and split firewood, installed wood stove, starting saving old pastures and orchards, started learning to manage the timber, went hunting, learned canning, began selling off the old useless suburban stuff and trading it for meat grinders and stone crocks and canning jars and carboys, began researching and trying recipes and discarding yukky recipes, in fact, began learning a whole new way of eating - started acquiring livestock....

    and still as I sit on the hearth tending the fire first thing in the morning - there are pangs of guilt for not answering to the alarm clock and taking the commutermobile to the cubicle. (Guilt but NOT remorse!)
    Its difficult to discard old ideas that were drilled into you. Especially in a society that doesn't honor the alternative.

    The missing feature in all the homesteading books is now glaringly apparent to us -
    New homesteaders need a calendar of some kind- one that would guide you through the what-should-I-do-first dilemmas every morning.
    Those of you who are seeking mentors are on to something good!
  2. HilltopDaisy

    HilltopDaisy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Feb 26, 2003
    New York
    Hi Minnikin1, I understand what you are saying. I've been on my land 2 years. I've been killing myself in an effort to make my little homestead exactly the way I always pictured it in my dream.

    I still work at the hospital full-time and some OT, although over the past couple of months the amount of OT has gone down to almost none, by my choice. I take a few vacation days every couple of months, and I just had 6 days off. I realized that *this time* I was actually able to relax and enjoy my time at home. Why was it different? Because the fencing is pretty much up, the outbuildings are in place, I have hay for the winter, I have all my animals, the garden is quiet, there are no trees waiting to be planted, etc., etc., etc.,...... I live by myself, and no one is helping me with anything, so it took a full two years to get this far. Was it worth it? Oh, absolutely! I guess my point is that I didn't know how crazy the first couple of years would be, but really, it only makes sense when we start with nothing but a dream!

  3. Janene in TX

    Janene in TX Member

    Jun 27, 2004
    South Central Texas
    Sounds like you have a basic routine going in the mornings. In a good order, too! When I was growing up, we tended the woodstove, did chores & THEN ate breakfast. Sometimes this could be late in the morning depending on what 'chaos' :yeeha: that had to be delt with out in the barnyard!! Something to remember: there is ALWAYS something that needs done---Don't get overwhelmed! Prioritize & go from there. When you get discouraged....stop & think of how far you have come & ALL the work you have done!! (I bet when you think about it...that's quite a bit!!)
    As for the guilt--don't feel guilty for doing something you have choose to do. You don't have to deal directly with the 'rat race' anymore!! I have tons of more respect for an honest, hardworking person than someone trying to brown-nose & climb the 'corporate ladder' to aquire lots of useless 'toys'. UGH
    In my mind--you are one of the lucky ones. I still have to work P/T to make ends meet. :( I may have to go at a slower (turtle?!!HA) pace to get to a simplier life...but I guess it's better than nothing. I look back & figure I'm better off than a year ago..more (eatable/egg-producing) critters, lots more [cheap!!]canning jars, bigger better garden this past year....and the BIG bred Jersey cow! :) One step at a time.....Good Luck--you are an inspiration!!!!
  4. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    After I had been a stay at home Mom on the homestead for a while, I realized that I had gone from a dollar economy to an hour economy.

    Instead of a chore spending $x dollars and a weekend, a chore took x number of hours, and could I afford that many? Did I have that much energy?
  5. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    I never feel guilty about not having a "real" job, but then sometimes I do wish I had one because I had all that leisure time! There are no days off on the farm! There is always something to be done. As surely as the fences are up and good, a tree will blow down on them!

    Everyone's calendar is different. It depends on desires, resources available, time available, etc. Schedules and routines can be quickly thrown out the window due to unforseen circumstances. I have often set out with a clear plan in mind for the day, only to have it trashed by a heifer in trouble, broken machinery, weather or something else beyond my control.

    You can't fight mother nature and she is definitely in charge on a farm. Control freaks will learn that eventually or give up their tendancies or go crazy! I used to be a control freak....

    Any routine I end up with soon will be obsolete. Winter routines, don't work in the spring. Cow-only routines don't work during calving.

    Flexibility, adaptability, creative solutions and hard work. Those are all the things I have needed. Vacations, days off and lazy days don't exist anymore, but I didn't want that. Sometimes I do, but the trade off is M-F 8-5 in panty hose and no thanks.

  6. Corky

    Corky Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2002
    If you are in the north like I think you are, then the weather will slow you down some. It is not your old habbits that are causing the problem. It is the excitement of owning your own piece of heaven.
    I have been here 9 and 1/2 years now and I remember it well.
    First thing you do is try to redo all the land and barns A.S.A.P..
    Then you go out and buy all the animals for old mcdonalds farm. We did that.
    It won't take you a long time to realize you don't want most of them. Some critters are a lot of work and then you realize you don't like the meat or eggs they produce. They become either a pest or a pet. You will need to sell those.
    I do not regret any of the animals we have had though. Even the useless ones.
    They were fun to watch. I have loved all the trial and error except the ones that caused harm to an animal. I have learned that good intentioned advice can cause real harm. Even from a vet that pretends to know something but doesn't.
    When you have been at it a while you will know when he is blowing smoke but when you are very new you trust him completely.
    This caused us to founder our donkey by feeding him what the vet said. Also we rode her much too soon causing bad hips. Donkeys are not horses! The one vet didn't seem to know that. They should never be ridden before age 4. We rode her at age 2. Due to the founder and the early riding she can only be ridden by small children now. She is still useful as our guard animal though. Besides, she owns us! :haha:
    We lost an alpaca by taking the vets advice and changing his worm meds and decreasing the frequency of worming.

    Don't worry about working too much. Enjoy! You will slow down when you get tired of busting your backside. Then you will spend long hours by the wood stove planning too much work for Spring!!
  7. bare

    bare Head Muderator

    May 9, 2002
    Put all your clocks and watches in a drawer. Take cues from your critters who get up at dawn and head for the roost in the evening. Even though I have to work away from home at times, I avoid firm appointments, instead, giving a range of time when they can expect me.

    Lists, lots of lists. I have one with long term needs, like new chicken coop, fix the old clunker out back for a backup vehicle and the like. Seasonal lists, like firewood that I break down by the cord just for the pure pleasure of crossing off one more cord of wood.

    That's the secret you see, crossing stuff off. I gives you such a feeling of accomplishment to look at your list and see all the things that you have already done. I even make little lists. I make one every morning with my coffee with stuff I want to do during the day and even tv programs that I may want to watch in the evening. Then there's the town list, an ongoing list of stuff needing done or picked up on the next trip to civilization.

    And coffee, tea or good beer on hand, just so that you can enjoy going out and sitting on your porch to enjoy looking at the fruits of your labor and the beautiful world we are fortunate enough to live in.
  8. Ann-NWIowa

    Ann-NWIowa Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 28, 2002
    Scott & Helen Nearing's books talk about their way of working. They worked so many hours per day on necessary survival projects i.e. building, gardening etc. and 4 hours on hobby type jobs. Of course, some days they had to work all day on survival but that was their general rule. I guess that could work for anyone and might keep you from burning out. A good rule is to ALWAYS get up and get dressed first thing...I found it saved a lot of embarrassment in the long run.
  9. sidepasser

    sidepasser Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    GA & Ala

    Since I work full time and will have to for another year before I can slow down, I make lists and cross off the list what I have accomplished that day or that weekend. Whatever isn't done, goes on the next day's list. It gives me a sense of direction to list important things like "fix fence so horse can't get out", put out fire ant poison", and then the little things that are for pleasure only, like plant daffodil bulbs, paint another hot box and stencil it, those kinds of things.

    I try to include one really needful thing on the list, like clean harness for draft horse, sharpen chain saw with two or three pleasureable but need to do things, like clean up garden. That way I don't really see it as all work and no play and get to do something I hate to do (set fence posts) along with something I enjoy, wash broodmare or plant flowers.

    Another thought - no matter how much you do on a farm or homestead, there will always be something left over, so don't kill yourself. Take breaks, get away every now and then and go for a drive or a movie or even to the "oh goodness the local plant nursery". It will help you not get worn down so much. If you are a type A personality, you will burn out in no time as you will not be able to control everything, like the weather - so have some alternate things to do. Once a week I just sit down outside if the weather cooperates and just look and think of what I would like to do, and then appreciate what I have done. That helps alot too. Us corporate types are used to timeframes, x will be done by y on such and such date. Well, that doesn't work so well on a farm. Your plants may not sprout, the weather may be bad, your tool may break, etc. It took me almost five years before I could relax and do a little every day and be proud of what I did get accomplished instead of berating myself that I didn't get everything done on one weekend.

    Take care and slow down, it'll happen all in good time,
  10. Corky

    Corky Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2002
    Your problem was doing too much if I remember.
    Anyway, I too make lists. It helps me get more done, not less.

    I have taught the guy around here to do that too. They make themselves lists everyday of what they need to get done that day. It does work but it sure doesn't incourage slowing down any! :haha:

    We have a son that has found himself at the end of a very bad relationship which caused him to also loose his job. He did not get fired but he worked on commission and he just couldn't do a good job anymore so he resigned then came home to mom 7 dad to lick his wounds and heal.

    He has been a great deal of help to us. He wants to stay very busy so he loves those long lists.
    The side effect of all this is he now loves it here. We can't get him to go to the city with us at all. He has wired the shop and loft above for electric. Special wireing for the air compressor.
    He has built us two trailers. one small one for hauling wood out of the woods and one large one to haul equipment or hay.
    Plus anything else we have needed done.

    Maybe I can send him to you so he can do the work and you can rest a little. :haha:
  11. jassytoo

    jassytoo Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 14, 2003
    Western WA
    You'll find with time you will settle in and slow down. We've been here 30years and we are still working on our place. Believe me, its never all going to be done. Your ideas and needs will change and some projects will fall by the wayside while new ones will take their place. Thats part of the fun. Make a list so you can see what you've accomplished. We make a list every Jan. of what we want to do on the place for that year. I've kept all those lists, its interesting to look back at them. Some of the things on the list never got done because by the time their turn came up we had changed our minds. That can be a good thing. Better to scrap a project before you start than to find out it didn't work after you've spent time and money on it. Homesteading is learning by doing so give yourself permission to take things slower and make mistakes too. Its all part of the fun. Its the lifestyle that counts not just the amount of work you can churn out Enjoying the experience is just as important as doing it.
  12. Bob Mc

    Bob Mc Member

    Nov 9, 2004
    Alarm clock? What’s an alarm clock? LOL. I haven’t set one in years. The critters will tell me when it’s time to get up. When I get sleepy I go to bed!

    Reading these posts reminds me of the time I left the city and the 9 to 5 job. Actually 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM was more like it; and 12:00 PM on weekends! That was 28+ years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

    I remember when I moved up here, it seemed like the farther north I went the more it was like moving south. I may have been in a hurry to get things done, but I was the only one. Manana seemed to be soon enough for everyone else. After awhile I learned to prioritize. The essential things got taken care of first. The rest could wait until I got to them.

    I still occasionally need to get my priorities straight, and remind myself why I moved here, and continue to live here. It’s easy to get so involved in a job that I forget to go fishing, then have to open a can of something for dinner when I could be eating fresh caught trout. Have to keep those priorities straight! :)
  13. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    Slow Down?!? Slow Down?!?

    Good Dieties Above! Slow Down?!?

    You want to slow down you move to the suburbs and get a real job! You want to be moving 18 hours a day and wondering if you're always going to be a day late and a dollar short and you homestead.

    This morning we made a frantic dash to Johnson Woolen Mills because I'm sick of being cold all the time and my 20 year old britches have "shrunk." Johnson's stuff is expensive, but I'm thinking 20 years of unrelenting abuse, and a size change or two in there wasn't the britches fault... anyhow, they have new overalls, and an XS sort of fits me with a few alterations which they're happy to make.

    So on the way home we pass this little neighborhood of townhomes and we start speculating on these people's Sunday. Good chance they aren't running home to finish a sheep shed, feed the chickens, move soiled bedding up to the garden... or the zillions of other chores on our plate today. What are they doing?

    Judging from teh satellite dishes... watching TV.

    Anyhow we started adding up all their toys.. the canoes and the skis and the bikes and the boats... and decided their amusements probably cost as much as keeping a farm up, but we just couldn't identify with them.

    Slow down? Ha.
  14. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b
    In with my two cents--to sort of summarize all the excellent advice and tips in the previous posts. I'll share some ideas I've learned over the years.

    Step one is: THE PLAN. Get all the pertinent people together for a brainstorming session. (cider and ginger cookies will make it a party) Include even the very young. Write down every idea, no matter how silly (makes the little ones feel like contributors). Just make an evening of it, letting conversation flow a little, and have fun. Then, the owners (hus and wife, SO's, responsible parties) sit down at another time for a serious planning session. It is time to prioritize, eliminate the things that are out of the question financially (keep on a wish list--dreams do come true), etc. I was taught a system using a grid of four blocks, stacked two by two. Across the top were the words "urgent" and "non-urgent". Down the left side were the words "Important (or essential)" and "not important". Fixing a leaking hot water tank is UI, repairing stock fence could be UI,etc. Only you can set those. You could also make divisions that include Long-term and short-term goals. Even a five year plan, if that helps.

    The Plan will change from year to year, but that is OK. See the post above about setting your goals for the year each January (or whenever) for the year ahead. Having this in writing in a somewhat formalized way will keep you on track. Many of the goals listed above can then be further broken down into smaller pieces. Building a barn may start with building a chicken coop. Keep The Plan in a large notebook that zips up. (handy for keeping reciepts, seed pkts, etc. You can buy little plastic pouches for these) Build some categories in this notebook--eg: chickens, pastures, beef, bees, etc. Be careful here. Some of us :eek: :eek: can get carried away. Keep the most current page in each category on top for ease of entry. (This is sounding a lot more complicated than it is.) This will be your permanent record/log, and will become increasingly important and useful as the years go on. Keeping the high-lo temps outside and in the greenhouse is especially useful. Date each entry. Make this notebook useful to you, and as simple as possible. This does not have to be flowing prose and watercolor illustrations, but can be.

    THE DAY: Michael Ableman required each intern to carry a notebook out early each day and make notes and observations about the entire place. I feel that is a good idea, but can be made more workable, by carrying a pocket notebook (no more little flying bits of paper) and mechanical pencil in your pocket as you go thru your day.This little nb goes with you everywhere, incl into town. eg: As you feed the chickens, look around, is one a little sluggish?, does the bedding need to be renewed?, how many eggs, hi-lo temps if desired. Then same thing as you go to the cattle, or out to the pastures, or the building project. You'll take care of the urgent-important (sick heifer)right away, others may slide a day or two (bedding). And be patient. UI's often all happen at once, in driving pouring rain, on a Sunday, and the temp is one degree above freezing. Just catch up and start again on a sunnier day. Give yourself some time off after one of those days.

    At the end of the day, try to make tomorrow's list using the same priority grid. Leave plenty of room for emergencies and pleasure. At the same time, enter pertinent (temps, plantings, observations) things in the permanent log. Listing for tomorrow in the evening will get your subconscious working. While I realize the homesteading is all supposed to be fun :haha: there will be some jobs that feed the soul more than others. Be sure to keep the balance between shoveling s--- and arranging the flowers. Take notes during the day and it will keep you focused on the long term goals. This was one of the biggest problems on my little place. I was so scattershotted, I was useless. I'd head out to renew the bedding and end up weeding the flowers. If you catch yourself pulling more than one or two weeds, make a note of it and continue out to do the bedding.

    In making your daily plan, try to be realistic about the time required. I U]always[/U] underestimated here. You need to be able to watch the soaring eagle as you are weeding the lettuce. Nobody except you is keeping score. The efficiency challenge is strictly for you. Certain things will be routine (feed children and chickens) and others will be seasonal. Enter them on the daily, anyway. They look so nice crossed off! Put this list on a fresh page of the pocket notebook and date it each day. All of us do this to some extent each day in our heads, but I recommend a period of writing things down for two reasons. One is to keep a record. If a plant was a disappointment, you will know that in January when you are ordering seeds. The other is to keep you focused so that you can actually cross things off the list. Cross it off in the pocket notebook, but add "Mission Accomplished" in the permanent log.

    I am very aware that not all people can do these things--I'm one!!! :no: However, if you can force yourself into this plan of organization, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. My writing it out is a lot more complicated than your doing it. The most time for you is in making THE PLAN. After a few years, you will have everything you need to write a book! :eek:

    I see that you have accomplished quite a lot already!! If you will copy your post in it's entirity into your permanent log, you'll have that for your discouraging days. I think you just want a little order and some means of slowing down. By writing all this down in the PLAN and on the DAILY, you'll relieve all the pressure. If you finish the Daily early, you'll have "free time" guilt free to contemplate. You need that!

    Best wishes--wish I could start over.

  15. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

    Oct 18, 2004
    NW Pa./NY Border.
    Great post Sandi!

    Let me also suggest that if you prefer not to write out a list of what you do during the day, one of those new digital recorders are handy little devices, or a microcassette recorder. You can record alot of what you do as you do other things, like drive to town, driving the tractor back to plow, feeding the chickens, or just whatever.

    With a decent set of rechargable batteries, you will be suprised at all the uses you will have for the little gadget!
  16. brosil

    brosil Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 15, 2003
    Isn't farming great!? You never lack for something to do. I can hardly wait to get home from my day job so that I can work on the combines fuel pump, try to find parts for my sicklebar mower and shovel manure. I hate idle time.
  17. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Feb 3, 2003
    Central NY
    Thank you all so much for these great answers!
    It's such a relief to have this forum where there are others who not only don't think we're nuts for wanting to do this, but have actually been there/done that!

    We had a long talk about it and we will be making an effort to SLOW down. I need to sow some patience seeds, I suppose.

    What an excellent way of life this is. And you are excellent folks to share it with!
    Thanks again.
  18. mamabear

    mamabear Well-Known Member

    Oct 15, 2004
    NW AR
    Oh honey, I'm so happy for you. If the only thing you've forgotten to do is get dressed, you're doing wonderfully!
    And, ain't it grand that you don't HAVE to get dressed if you don't wanna...
  19. Leah IL

    Leah IL momto6

    Aug 14, 2004
    Oh, gosh, we've only been here 2 months and some days I just feel so overwhelmed I think, "Were we CRAZY to do this??" We have 4 kids and my husband works full time, there is so much to be done, and I just don't know when we'll find the time to do it all... I started reading your post thinking, oh, I know just how this person feels- and then I read all the things you've gotten done already and you are leaps and bounds ahead of where we are!! You should be proud of all you've gotten done so far. It sounds like you are really doing a great job. I hope that in 6 months I will be able to look back on a list of accomplishments like that. Right now all I can put on my list is "Got up, managed to clothe and feed everyone, going back to bed now," LOL This house is quite old and we are doing a lot of work on the inside, so everything is out of sorts and upside down- we're not even fully unpacked yet. I look forward to the day when I feel settled enough to concentrate on other things.

    I guess I didn't give you any advice :) I don't have any!!! Just know that your post was encouraging to me, to see what another "beginner" could accomplish in 6 short months. Keep it up!

  20. Jan Doling

    Jan Doling Well-Known Member

    May 21, 2004
    Zone 9b
    My granny taught me to write the things I did on the calendar (the free kind with the large daily squares) along with notes about the weather and who came to visit. I have one of hers from a quarter century ago and still enjoy seeing what she accomplished and how her days went. The weather part is important for noticing the pattern at your little end of the galaxy. It also is a big help to look at this time last year to remind you it is time to plant or prune or whatever it is needs doing again at this time of year.

    Wear scrubs or sweats to bed and you'll never get caught in your pjs again (wish I'd had at least pjs on when I got caught!).