As of tomorrow, it will be two years since we packed up and moved to the country to begin our semi-self-sufficient life. I have been thinking about lessons learned and goals I’d like to meet for the future. It hasn’t always been terribly easy, but it’s never been terribly difficult. I will be the first to admit that I have been pretty lazy this year with the canning, the gardening, etc. I think that I pushed so hard that first year, I burned myself out a bit. So, here are some things I have learned:
1. It’s very easy to try and do too much, too quickly. As I learned the hard way with getting in over my head with 12 goats, countless batches of baby chicks, and a mile-long list of projects. It’s very easy to romanticize country living and get swept up in a farm fantasy life. Truth is, it’s a lot of hard work and money and a lot of what I did was NOT worth the effort we put into it. Animals (and plants) need a proper place to go before you bring them home. And when you do, the work and expense of upkeep has just begun.
2. It’s more difficult than you’d think to live simply. Initially, it was difficult giving up some of the things I had, but with time I have even sold my own car and have given up television. I’m now going through a LOT of our ‘stuff’ and either selling or donating it. Sure makes cleaning up around here easier, too!
3. No matter how much you plan, you’re going to have setbacks. The goats are going to rip down your fence, the chickens are going to walk right through the 500 dollar fence you just put up to keep them in, or the roof is going to spring 5 new leaks in a downpour. While it can dampen your spirit, you have to learn to laugh it off. After Jason spent a week putting up a beautiful new fence to keep our chickens in the orchard, he shut the gate….and the chickens walked right through the wire. Oops. I was trying not to laugh (not at his expense, but it just figures!), and he had to stomp off and scream some obscenities at the chickens, but eventually we could both laugh it off. Besides, they’ve now figured out if they stay in the fence, they’ll get fed, so they try not to stray far. On a more frightening note, our house almost caught on fire this past February due to old wiring. Fortunately, it didn’t, but it sure had us put out for several days, both literally and in spirit. Always expect the unexpected.
4. Take notes. Lots of notes. I have a garden journal that is indispensable. I have recorded which vegetables and fruits do best, when they were planted and when they produced, and the location of each. This will provide me with invaluable information for each growing season. Every time I have neglected to write something down, it’s bit me in the butt.
5. Read, read, read, and then read some more. Our local library is such a great place for information. If I find a book that I really need to keep on my shelf, I buy it used from Amazon. The internet has a huge amount of great information. If you haven’t done something, chances are, someone else has, so learn from them!
6. Plan ahead without getting ahead of yourself. There are so many things that I WANT to do. I’d love to get into aquaponics, breed Cayuga ducks and heritage chickens, and do some terrace gardening on the back side of our house. However, the reality is this: I’m busy as it is raising 2 kids and taking care of what we have now. So, the current plan is to become debt free, then repair this house (by paying cash). After that, who knows? But for now, that’s the plan and I’m trying to do my best to stick with it.
Well, those are just a few things that I’ve learned out here on the farm, but I think they’re among the most important. The last thing I would tell you is to laugh a LOT. Laugh at yourself and at your own mistakes.