Busy Busy - Is a Good Thing?

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As usual, it's been a while since I posted. As usual, it's because I've just been too busy, and continue to have more important things to do than sit down and write. For example, right now I'm forgoing making banana muffins to do this, because it's been so long - but I really should be dealing with those mushy bananas!

Part of why I haven't written in a while is because I didn't have anything particularly exciting or profound to say – the summer is progressing as usual, we have 2 calves so far, 3 baby turkeys and 2 more nests being sat on, an alpaca cria expected any time now, very little in the way of gardens. I'm making soap, and knitting and spinning, making cheese, I did another craft fair, Caleb's working on hides recently, the boys are doing well... Basically all the usual, and it just didn't seem “news-worthy”. But I just now realized what I should chat about, something Caleb and I talk about frequently – why we stay so busy. Bear with me, I'm going to wax philosophical for a few minutes. This is a “Day in the Mind of a Homesteader” post rather than a “Day in the Life of a Homestead” :-)

I can tell that people I talk to, that I constantly tell I'm too busy to do whatever thing, think that I'm just too busy, that I'm missing the important things in life. You know, “take time to smell the roses” and such, that farm life is just a mind-numbing blur of chores and demands and projects that tie one down ("good for you - but I'm glad I'm not living like that!"). I think myself, occasionally, that it would be nice to have a life that allowed me to just read a book all day, or spend hours playing with my kids, or have hours a day NOT with my kids :-) - to not always have some responsibility hanging over my head. But then I remember that (in addition to the fact that all adults always have responsibility hanging over their heads!) all these things I have to do, are by choice. And I don't mean just that “I got myself into this mess” but that most of those things that I “have” to do are things I put on my plate because I want to do them. I don't spin and knit because someone told me I have to in order to earn a paycheck so I can buy groceries – I love to do them!  As wearing as it can be having all 3 kids around all day, all year, we do it because we love being there to see them grow, learn to think and interact with life, and we want to (selfishly, or egotistically) be the ones actually shaping how they think and see the world (and so far we like the results!).

Caleb is working on cowhides, and soon a bunch of deerskins, because it's something he's always wanted to do. He will be so happy to have a handmade buckskin outfit, regardless (or maybe even because of...?) the hours and days of work it took. I've been spending an inordinate amount of time just reading forums, working on my Etsy shop and SFH Farm Stand, researching marketing, etc. because I am a perfectionist, and love the confidence of something “done right” and feeling really knowledgeable and educated about what I'm doing. I grumble about yet again, in an entire week, not finding time to prep more wool, but that's because I told myself I “have” to do it because I want it done – not some overlord somewhere! I have a never-ending to-do list because I have a never-ending want-to-do list.  We love acquiring knowledge and skills, even if it's just for our own satisfaction.  

Of course, there are those things that we truly do have to do and don't want to (fold laundry, wash eggs, clean the toilet, grocery-shop with 3 cranky kids) but, as we tell the boys, if we don't do those things then we'd all run around naked, have to pee outside... oh wait, the boys already live like that. Well - the world would stop working right and we'd starve :-) I really feel, though, that if you consider an 8-5 job to be in this category of work that we really don't want to do (hopefully it isn't for you, but for too many people it is) then our family spends proportionally much less time on the truly have-to-do things than we do on the want-to-do ones.  And even then, the have-to-do chores - making cheese, meal prep, breaking up yet another argument - are the necessary payment that allows us to live our goals - provide our own food, raise our own kids.  Another way to see it is that I would rather spend 2 hours making cheese or chopping veggies than 1 hour at a boring desk job to earn the money to buy quality imported sheep cheese (and in reality, at $10/hour, I'd have to work 4 hours for that block of cheese!)  I can spend what feels like roughly 87% of my time arguing with kids, or I can go off to work for an actual 50-60% of my waking hours, so that I can afford daycare/school and have a "real career", and then spend an actual 87% of my few "free time" hours fixing what an industrialized school system has done to them.  

What I've come to learn from a self-inflicted crazy-busy life is that a productive life is often (and/or should be) a meaningful one. I see so many things on the news that, to me, boil down to: people are lacking a purpose in life, that the answer to “why am I here? Who cares if I'm here – or not?” is often blank silence. I always have something I want to accomplish, a result I want to see. When people tell me just how incredible the food we grow is, or how the soap they got from me is the best thing they've ever done for their skin, (at the risk of sounding corny) it gives me a reason for being here.  

We also love the fact that our busy-ness is ever-changing.  If Caleb had gone to medical school, and was a "real" doctor - we'd still be paying off his loans, and he could never have basically retired before 40!  He would be a doctor, and everything else would be a hobby in his spare time.  He would have social and financial obligations/expectations, from loan repayment to "how could you throw away such a good job?!" But he knew what he really wanted to do, and made it happen, and now he can spend his days in the sunshine, with his boys, scraping deerhides or planting fruit trees, or doing the laundry and cooking so I can make soap, or getting the baby to sleep so I can go to a gardening class, or reading up on permaculture, or dreaming up our next major home improvement...  And maybe, in 3 years, he decides he really doesn't enjoy tanning hides after all.  Or I decide I am just sick of making cheese 3 times a week, and the demands of milking every morning, or it's too much of a hassle to go to craft fairs.  Well, we just stop.  That's it, we just don't do those things anymore.  Ultimately, we don't answer to anyone but ourselves, and we LOVE that!  Honestly, I haven't made our own bread for years.  I buy the local artisan breadmakers' bread, and use that time for something I'd rather do.  Who knows, maybe next year I'll change my mind, and start up again.  Maybe Liam will take on breadbaking.  Last year I made pasta, multiple times a week, for ourselves and for sale.  Now I don't.  I used to have a garden, this summer I don't.  I'm sure next summer I will.  The flexibility is priceless for us - it allows us to be constantly doing something, and it's always something we enjoy.  I really hope that we can show our boys that life is not about what you "have" to do, but what you want to do, and that you should be the one deciding what that is.  And that a full, busy life is not wasted, but fulfilled and valued, productive and meaningful and rewarding.  

Comments

Life

While I see that you all rarely sit down!!what I have sensed, and this post confirms, is that you are living the life you both want. And are providing invaluable experiences for my grands, and those of us lucky enough to spend time with you. Thanks for taking us in side w you for a few minutes. Mushy bananas manage fine in the freezer till you choose to make time to deal w them

Staying "Mindful"

Yes - we are making a specific effort recently to stay aware of how lucky we are to be doing what we are, When projects start feeling like chores, and we think "We never do anything fun" we remind ourselves that a good part of every day is actually "something fun", namely whatever we want it to be, with our kids!

Your post

Dear Amy,
I just read your post. How blessed you are at your young age to discern what it takes most people a lifetime to learn. If you do a job that you love it is like not having a job! Although, David and I worked so hard for many years (and we loved roofing and meeting people) we were always together with our children at the job in the afternoons. Looking back I really wish that we had homeschooled our children but they turned out pretty good anyway. Part of that result was we pounded into their heads about the RIGHT way people should be. And I wasn't even a Christian back then although I thought I was..lol...
I am walking on a new path now without David. I can not believe how much I have learned in 15 months. (most of it bad..lol..but I am trying to just go on) I am searching hard now for something to do that will bring me joy and still make enough money to pay my bills. But life goes on and most days I am at peace. I am seriously praying for God to show me the things that I should do.

Everything has changed and although change can be exciting sometimes it has been overwhelming for me as I am getting older and don't like change..lol...
Just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your post..
Much love to you, Caleb and the boys,
Ellen Campbell

Thank you!

I'm so glad this post was meaningful to you - I can only imagine how completely life must change after losing a spouse, and I think you've been doing it right! I'm glad to see you taking time for yourself, and just stepping back to see what life is for you now.

I get it, and good for you.

I get it, and good for you. Keep doing what you love and when you stop loving it or it gets tedious.......don't do it.
I"m trying to escape my job and get into things I love. Or at least things that amuse me. It makes no sense to me to stay in a job I don't like, simply because I get a steady paycheck and have insurance. Staying with a job you don't like because the insurance and pension is good is wage slavery. I have 15 more years till retirement. I can't do it.
I teach in public school, and even though we have pretty good schools in Tullahoma, I cant help but see that students are not challenged, there is no rigor, and the government bureaucracy we are forced to deal with gets exponentially worse by the year. If I had kids I wouldn't send them to the schools I work in. Now, I would LOVE to teach Forest Kindergarten, if you are familiar with that.

Thanks!

Yes, it's easy to get trapped in work and social expectations, and I'm so glad that we've managed to avoid that! I think being home-schooled myself is a large part of that, and giving my boys that different way of looking at life altogether is just about my highest priority in life! I have heard of forest schools, it's a pretty neat concept, along with a number of other European versions of schooling (Montessori, Waldorf, Finnish, etc) that seem to have figured out some things that we haven't in the US.

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