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So often we start things with the best intentions, never to end them. To see them dwindle and rot as if they were meaningless. Even if they were not. Often the modern homesteading is like that. We start with the best of intentions and then become involved and overwhelmed in modern life. And it's often hard to handle.
We live here for 3 years now. We started our plans as soon as we moved in and I can not tell you how many times I've given up. How many times have I questioned my reason for accepting this lifestyle. So often I feel like I'm being pulled in 10 different directions, and none of that is the direction I really need to go.
There are gardens to look after, animals to feed, buildings to repair, coops to clean, compost heaps to cook, meals to cook … To be honest, it would be more worrying if I were not overwhelmed. It often feels like you do not know where to start, and it's normal for you to feel that way. Whatever is normal …
But that does not mean that overpowering and burning out of the farm can not be avoided. It is to a degree. There are certainly ways to reduce those feelings. Ways to suppress those feelings that you have to be as crazy as everyone thinks you are. Because while it is difficult and certainly a little unorthodox, there is nothing more worthwhile. Nothing is more fulfilling. And nothing that makes you feel more than homesteading.
The freedom to know where your food comes from, to teach your children what it takes to make food. The victims who have to be brought. The hard but incredibly rewarding job. And being able to spend some time with the earth between your hands … it's the most rewarding way to live your life. But that does not mean it's never overwhelming.
However, during the hardships of the last three years, I've learned a thing or two about minimizing the overburdening of the modern world at home, and I wanted to share these tips with you.
How do I avoid Homestead Overwhelm?
Make a vision board
Our vision of what we want to do here in our homestead was the biggest driving force to actually achieve something. When we started I just dreamed what we wanted. I did not write it down, I did not take any notes. I just … kept everything in my head and hoped that I remember.
And then I came up with the idea of Vision Boards and everything changed. I no longer just had to imagine what my head would look like. I could actually put those pictures on paper and keep them nearby to watch whenever I want.
If you've never heard of a vision board, you can easily visually show what you want to do, do, or want to have in your life. It can be a simple billboard with newspaper clippings or something more elaborate.
The idea is to simply take photos, whether they are cut out of magazines or printed online, and to stick them on a billboard or other surface and display them prominently, where you day after day, month after month, even year year after year.
Some people make secret boards on Pinterest and while that works, I prefer being a physical display. The photos do not have to be as practical as they are. You can just be dreams of your eternal home and where you hope to be in the distant future. I have two. One that displays my current annual goals and one that displays our long-term goals (located on another property).
It does not have to be pretty, just make one. Select the photos that appeal to you and make your heart say, "Yes, yes, I can see that in my homestead."
Write it out
You have this beautiful picture, now it's time to put everything in writing on paper. I am a list producer. If I do not write it down, it will not happen. I have far too many thoughts to rely on my memory to get it done.
So I write down goals, big goals, small goals, things that just have to be done and work them through. My goal for this fall was to expand our garden bed, add compost to the bed, plant garlic and cover crops, and then perform some interior work such as soap making and cheese making when the weather cools and I'm done in the garden.
I write annual, seasonal, monthly, weekly and daily goals. Each list is just a breakdown of the larger list. One of our goals next year is to plant our orchard. I am working on the seasonal goals for this winter. I want to order our trees. Next spring, I have to pinpoint where to go and prepare the sites. Then I have to plant and nurture the trees, which are then added to the daily and weekly lists.
Whatever your goals are, make them realistic and divide them into steps. Then, you can add the steps you need to your daily to-do list until you have completed it and achieved your goal.
Everyone has different ideas about what is important. And some things are inevitable. But you have to set priorities. Work through your lists and decide what is important and what can wait.
Do you have plants that will die if you let them stay longer? You probably have to harden them and put them in the ground. Do you have chicks in a brooder that need to be taken to a stable that you do not have? You should probably do that soon.
This helps you decide what to put on those lists and where and makes things much easier to handle.
No one is an island. We all need help. None of us is a superman and none of us can do anything. If you try, this is a sure way to get overwhelmed and burned out quickly.
I know it's hard for me to let go of the reins and sometimes have someone else take over. It's that dreaded personality guy who's coming up to me. But I've learned (albeit slowly) to let go of that perfectionism and let others help me.
Our two year old brings the eggs every day. Half the time they crack them, they have to be brought in, stirred together and usually fed back to the chickens. The two older people help with feeding and watering. They all help with planting, weeding and harvesting in the garden. Does the biennial pull things that she should not? Sure … but she'll never learn if we do not teach her.
They all help me in the kitchen too. And, of course, my husband helps if he can, and our neighbors came over and helped with projects that required equipment we did not own.
Never be too proud to ask for help and let go of a little control. You will be amazed at how many people are willing to get involved with your children, family, friends or neighbors. There is help available that you will need.
Treat yourself with mercy
Homesteading is hard. I will not lie and say that it is not so. It's time consuming, it's hard work and can be emotionally challenging when things fail or animals die. So you have to show some mercy.
I have made this mistake before. I just keep pushing, even though I'm exhausted physically and emotionally. And then I'm incredibly overwhelmed and burned out. And spend a lot of time returning to a kind of normality.
Do not do this. We are all humans. Things happen. Life happens. It's okay to take a break. It's okay to postpone until the next day (assuming it's not about life and death, of course). Do not press yourself so hard that you can not walk anymore. It makes this lifestyle too overwhelming and not nearly as rewarding as it should be.
do not give up
I can not tell you how many times I wanted to throw in the towel. Homesteading is not easy. Especially in the modern world. You often feel like you live in two different worlds, but you can not escape one, no matter how hard you try.
But every time I tried to give up, I was immediately pulled back into it. There is nothing better than to get a fresh tomato out of the garden. Or make an ointment with herbs that we have grown here on our property to heal a scratch. Nothing tastes better than a backstrap steak from a deer we harvested and slaughtered ourselves.
This life can sometimes seem unbelievably overwhelming, but do you know what? This is incredibly worth it. Remember why you do it. Take a moment and return. You will not regret having taken a break and reviewing your priorities. Just do not give up.
How do you avoid being overwhelmed at your homestead?
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