A glistening drop of moisture drips onto lap as the tangy taste of the lemonade washes over my tongue. Birds scatter as the squirrels chase each other around the one of the leafy maples in the front yard. I lean back in my rocking chair and survey the bright green, weed free pasture. The lambs playfully run from the yearling calves as their mothers lazily chew their cuds. The soft sounds of horses are heard from the freshly painted barn and a rabbit is sighted sitting on the edge of the garden. I wonder if he is nibbling in the rich thick lettuce or on a bright green giant head of cabbage. The sun settles low in the western sky. I consider clipping a pest free rose from the trellis for my lovely wife.
Nice picture isn’t it. Unfortunately, it’s the cover of a small farm magazine, not my farm. Can I get an amen. One of the first mistakes that I made when making the move to our simpler life was painting a mental image that was unattainable. While you certainly should plan and set goals, you have to keep it real. Those pictures sell magazines, but they don’t always reflect what 99% of us face on a daily basis.
The ideal image created by many companies (trying to sell me something) and by some bloggers (trying to make themselves feel better), causes two very big potholes on the road to simplicity. The first is mental anguish, with the second being financial anguish, which by the way, leads to more of the first. While dreams are useful and goals are necessary, unrealistic expectations can become burdens. The constant frustration with the real farm never reaching the unattainable bar that you’ve set will eventually lead to burnout and just plain giving up. There will more to follow on this subject in several future posts about expectations, priorities and purpose.
Anyone reading this that has attempted to make all or part of their small farm look like the magazine covers, you know what I’m about to talk about……money. Simple lifestyle it may be, but it still takes money to make it work. There are definitely some things that can be accomplished on the farm with minimal funds, but if you want it to live up to the ideal, you had better have a rich uncle close to death. The subject of money will also be explored in more detail as I go along. It is a very a complex part of the simpler lifestyle that must be analyzed piece by piece.
While I wouldn’t say that we have tried make the cover of a small farm success magazines and journals, I would say that I’ve often made myself crazy trying to achieve many of the ideal philosophies espoused by small farm/self-sufficiency experts. Julie would say my anal type “A” personality doesn’t help, but I figure if you’re gonna do something, do it right. The problem I’ve run into is figuring out what is right for us.
Check back over the next few days, and throw your own opinions and observations in as we go.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
With the new home and property, we've certainly been spending a lot of time discussing what can be done with the land, animals we would like to have, fruit trees, landscaping, etc., etc., etc. Our new farm has great potential and is an opportunity for a do-over on some of the things we messed up with our old farm. But amid all the discussion and new ideas, I've spent a great deal of time in reflection on our original plans when we first moved to Tennessee.
After having spent many years in the military, moving from state to state and really not being able to enjoy country life, we were ecstatic when we realized we were actually going to be moving to Tennessee 10 years ago. The final few months prior to moving were consumed with planning for a farm, and a simpler lifestyle. I was making plans to continue working in a off farm job for enough years to obtain land, equipment, and animals, then transition to full time farming and self sufficiency. We were so excited and happy with those grand plans. We read everything we could on the Internet, in magazines, articles, etc. that pertained to self sufficiency, small farming, direct marketing; you get the idea. Upon arrival in TN, we immediately began to take action on those ideas and a great deal of our adventure has been chronicled here on this blog.
Needless to say, we've obtained a plethora of experience in the last 10 years. While some of that experience was practical (how to administer animal meds, planting techniques, soil preparation), much of it has been learning about the realities that come with this lifestyle. These realities have not always been encouraging and have caused us to evaluate our priorities as we move forward into this new season. The single biggest lesson we've learned is how complex transitioning to a "simpler" life can be. Over the next few weeks, I will share our thoughts about what we've learned; the good and bad, how our priorities have shaped; and are shaping our farm life, and maybe vent some of the frustrations we've experienced. Who knows maybe I can get Julie to weigh in on some of these things.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
grace and peace,