Learning to dabble

It was exactly one year ago this week that I got home from Saskatchewan, having quit my job at the University. I wanted to come back to the farm and grow all our own food for the year. I fantasized that I would have so much time on my hands: to read a raft of books that I’d wanted to for years, to ride my horse every day, to do everything from making our own maple syrup, to milking the goats, to making our own mustard and other condiments–was I ever wrong!

The reality was that I rode my horse only three times last summer, read nary a book, didn’t even get the goats bred (mercifully realizing there was simply no time), and bought mustard and mayonnaise. I did manage to make maple and birch syrup!

While my ‘Year in Provisions’ project has been successful (I have learned a lot of useful skills along the way and I still am living off the bounty of the past summer’s labour), what I was unsuccessful at was letting go of my guilt. I felt guilty that I was no longer earning a wage, and I couldn’t let that go. I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but I was driving myself overly hard in order to ‘make up’ for my lack of cash. I went at the project last year with such a guilty vengeance that I managed to seriously hurt myself.

Despite the fact that my husband was totally supportive of my project (and still is), I created this mindset all on my own. Because of this, I didn’t enjoy the work as much as I had envisioned enjoying it before I left Saskatchewan. Instead of biting off what I could actually manage sensibly, I took on too much. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was when I set to converting an extra 3000 square feet of grass into a vegetable plot, far too late in the season to be realistic. The result was I spent several weeks on crutches having blown both my knees out working up this new garden spot.

Fast forward to this summer, and the project is on again. In February we had about a ten day stretch of really nice weather. Suddenly I felt totally behind and stressed right out: I’m not ready, I haven’t gotten my seeds yet, I haven’t set up the tomato beds, I need to plant the green manure crop, sharpen the tools, clean the garage, make labels for the eggs, build a raised strawberry bed, and so on.

After a couple of days (and an exhausting reverie of unnecessary, self-inflicted mental anguish) the weather once again returned to its normally frosty late winter state, and I began to relax. As I felt my body unwind, I finally realized what I was doing to myself. I recalled what a friend said to me one day last summer when she looked at my crutches: “You’re too old to be that stupid.” Apparently you can work yourself nearly to death when you are younger than 40, but older than that and, well… she’s right. Getting older should mean getting wiser.

One year older and a bit wiser, I recognized that if I didn’t ‘get a grip’ I’d likely hurt myself again this summer. So I have vowed not to push myself to the brink of disaster. I am going to consciously enjoy the fact that I am living my dream: I’m developing a farm, growing my own food, learning useful skills, and  am surrounded by wilderness and animals.

I finally accept that I can’t do it all. This year my goal is to learn to balance these aspects of my life better, and realize that these moments of my life are fringed with joy. Instead of being obsessive about not being normal, I’m beginning to dabble.

My mobile napping unit.

A new found use for my wheelbarrow: it's my mobile napping unit.


Filed under Food Security, How to..., Just for fun, personal food sovereignty, To do lists

10 responses to “Learning to dabble

  1. Good for you, Kristeva.

    Knowing when to push and when to hold back is, I think, one of the toughest lessons that nature, farms and animals have to offer. Push too hard, and it breaks. Not enough, and it doesn’t work. My worst habit is too much of the latter, leading to too much of the former, which exhausts me so it’s back to the latter…

    One day, I’ll learn. One day…!


    PS Love the wheelbarrow photo. I might try it out next time we get some sunshine. Which will probably be 2010!

  2. Kim

    Just added you to my blog roll. Looks like we have lots in common. looking forward to seeing how you do breeding the cornish rocks.

  3. Oh, K, I LOVE this post!! And that photo is adorable!! I can relate to this, in a very different field of course, but oh yes…I can relate!

  4. P.S. And seeing that I turn 40 in a few weeks, I guess I’d best smarten up…and quick! 🙂

  5. I had similar guilt issues when I moved down to just working part-time. It is funny how we are so trained to be going full speed ahead at all times and anything less seems wasteful and lazy. For me, the past year has been a chance to slow down, look at the flowers and changing seasons and get comfortable with life at a more realistic pace. I hope we both get there!

  6. Congratulations on enjoying the fruits of your labor! And, congratulations on realizing you already have it all. There’s too much guilt in the world & most of it’s self-inflicted. Relax, weeds make good salads & you don’t have to Do it All at once. Took me years to be comfortable with part time & contract work so I could sit in the sun & knit when I want. Enjoy relaxing in the sun on a two hour lunch break – you’ve earned it. Think about the poor slobs who slave away in steel & concrete caverns with artificial lights while you embrace the birds, trees & natural surroundings.

  7. Sue

    My husband retired 3 years ago and we finally seem to be in a comfortable routine. Our solution was to make mornings “work-time” (yardwork, gardening, misc chores), and afternoons are for fun. Life is too short…take time to enjoy! 🙂

  8. kim1708

    LOVE that green ‘bathtub’!! Looks perfect!! I can just imagine it full of nice hot bubbly water with epsom salts and a quart of peroxide in for extra oxygen.
    We need to be deprogrammed. I can see you are becoming free, but it is a process. I get a paycheck for only 6 hours a week, but am so exhausted every night that I know there is no way I could put in 40 job hours every week and yet I need two or three of me to get everything else done that I would like to do.

  9. LittleFfarm Dairy

    Thanks so much for this post, K –

    it’s helped give me a proper perspective into my exhaustive schedule & not to ‘punish’ myself if I’m not working every moment of the day.

    Like you I’ve felt guilty that my OH has a full-time paying job whilst I’m working on the business; & that when he’s at home he too works hard.

    Thankfully, at last we’re finally starting to see a bit of ‘payback’ although every last penny will be ploughed straight back into finishing the Dairy Complex with more quality caprine accommodation & the establishment of our on-farm process rooms.

    But throughout April things have been incredibly busy & I haven’t even had a moment to write a blog post for over a month….so this afternoon I’m giving myself an hour’s ‘relaxation’ before tackling the quarterly tax return (already late!) & then giving the Milkforce a pedicure & paint-branding their bums with their new numbers for our recently-computerised, state-of-the-art Milking Parlour (otherwise we all get confused as we know their names, not their numbers & the computer only accepts numerics – although it at least then displays them as names!).

    Meanwhile the Arrivals Yard is a sea of dandelions & the veg patch has disappeared under a carpet of weeds…but hey, there are only a set number of hours in a day; & if that means that this year something’s gotta give whilst we concentrate on our business priorities – which next year will hopefully pay-for-the-seed that grows-the-veg that puts-food-on-the-table – then sadly this year our own veg-growing activities will have to be curtailed. We’ve even sold most of the sheep so that we can concentrate on the goats; although having discovered not one but two broody hens over the past couple of days I suspect we’ll have more chickens ere long!

    And with our pair of Shetland ponies along with the two horses to care for I got to ride even less times than you, last year; the boys were ‘turned away’ all summer & never got to see a saddle 9nor the Shetties, their carriage). Subsequently the horses are now enjoying an indefinite (& I suspect, lifelong) holiday with our friends at their stables in Cambridge; where I know they’ll be loved, looked after & cared for as the special horses they are. I miss them dreadfully; & although we still have the Shetlands it doesn’t make up for the thought of saddling up one of the ‘big galoots’ & heading off on the trail….

    One day.

    And in the meantime – I don’t intend to let life outpace me, either. Thanks for the ‘wake-up’ call before I overdid it! 🙂

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