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Staying Power

| 6/24/2015 9:48:00 AM


It is no secret that summer is a hectic season on a farmstead. As the snow melts, the waiting work unfolds before us. There are endless tasks to be completed in a limited amount of time….it can be daunting. Leisure becomes a thing of the past as we scramble to prune the trees, prepare the soil, plant the crops, weed, harvest, process the bounty, re-sow, repeat. And, of course, there are the animals and bees that require a similar amount of care and attention, implements and tools to be fixed and usually children to be raised.

For most modern farmsteaders, this list of chores happens in the hours before and after attending to another ‘real’ job; the 9-5 kind. To be fair, many farmsteaders are happy for this routine. In an age of unlimited convenience, we are a unique breed of individuals that still value hard work and gain satisfaction from doing a job ourselves….even if it means giving up our free time to do it.

The secret to being a successful long-term farmsteader is to find a balance that supports both mental and physical well-being and allows you to accomplish your goals at the same time. For our family, this has taken years of practice.

The burn-out rate for new farmsteaders can be pretty high. The utopian visions of a self-sustaining lifestyle often excludes the very real truth of an aching back, extreme mental fatigue, and the  financial stress of undertaking a new endeavor (That deer fence isn’t free, folks). However, it is possible to make it through the early years by learning a few hard-won lessons.

Lesson 1 - Be realistic with your time; life is long(ish). You don’t need to turn your entire yard into a victory garden in one season. Time is a commodity like all other goods. There is a limit to what can reasonably be accomplished before that commodity runs out. Set small, attainable goals that fit into your time budget.  For me personally, I have been slowly building our orchard over the course of the last 4 years. The first season I mapped out the location of where I wanted all of the paths and all of the crops to be located. Over the next couple of seasons I gradually added fruit trees, blueberry bushes, raspberries, black cap raspberries, grapes and even a flower bed. It would have been impossible to accomplish the entire vision in one season and if I had tried, I would have failed. Likely, my plants would have died or I would have lost the area to weeds. By slowly adding to the landscape I have been able to mentally ‘ease’ into caring for a new area without feeling overwhelmed by the task of doing so. This slow but steady approach has also offset the financial burden of the project, allowing the cost to be spread over several years of work. By staying within our household budget, we have harbored very little stress over the monetary expenditures needed to do this project well. This low stress approach does wonders for personal health. Everyone knows that stress is a killer.

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