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Regrets - starting or not starting?

 
pollinator
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Which have you regretted more often; starting something or not starting something?

I'm a planner and I researching and plan stuff to death. I like efficiency and like to do things right the first time rather than having to go back to change or fix things later on.

My dilemma now is I'm seeing that many of my projects are not going to be started for years into the future if I keep waiting for things to be just right and all ready.
Now I'm think to heck with it! I'm going to get started in every way I can, even if it's not perfect, even if it means I might have to move my garden plot, or loose some fruit trees, or design a chicken set up that doesn't turn out the best. At least I'm DOING something. Even if it's just learning from my mistakes and gaining some experience.

Half of me is thinking NOOOOOO! You'll end up wasting time, money and effort! The other half is thinking ya but I'm not going to live forever so I might as well get going and maybe something might even workout!  

How about you all, what have you regretted more - starting or not starting?
 
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I'm the exact opposite.  I launch into projects with minimal planning and often find myself having to "make it up as I go", or backtracking to re-do things that I got wrong, sometimes multiple times.  But you know what, I get a LOT of projects done.  In one year here at our new mini-farm I:

1) Built a 8' x 8' chicken coup
2) Removed horse/cattle pasture fence, enough of it to repurpose for the new "chicken pen" -- a very large area
3) Built and put into operation a 10000 gallon rain capture water tank
4) Roto-tilled and got ten 100 foot by 4 foot wide rows ready for planting
5) Hauled in dozens of pickup truck loads of composted horse and cow manure from surrounding farms to mix into my new garden rows
6) Grew a LOT of vegetables, corn and other stuff
7) Planted 100 hazelnut trees on one section of my property
Cut down a lot of oak trees that were in inconvenient locations and bucked them up into firewood -- got all that firewood stored in the shed

And a lot more.  Unless you're an expert on something, in my opinion, the best thing to do is plan your best up front knowing that you're going to have to learn as you go, then just dive in and DO IT!  It works for me at least.  My two cents worth.
 
pollinator
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I am both a researcher and a creature of impulse. Once the impulse has been had, it’s only a matter of time, but I often do quite a bit of planning before the ultimate execution. I pretty much never regret anything, with a couple of memorable exeptions. But the learning and experience are almost always worth it to me. If nothing else, it’s a relief to get it off my mind, even if things don’t work out. I will say that I have learned to always start as small/low cost as possible on big projects in case the enthusiasm doesn’t last.
 
master pollinator
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Not starting.  I've learned a lot by starting, messing up, and starting over.  If I had never started, I would not have learned anything.

 
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I'm more likely to regret the things I didn't do, so I tend to launch myself into projects with both feet.  This sometimes leads to a steep learning curve, and the occasional utter failure.  I'm okay with that.  If I waited for everything to be perfect, I wouldn't have done most of the things I am the most proud of in my life.  
 
pollinator
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In my experience, you never know ahead of time the things you don’t know. In other words, until you try something and it fails there’s almost know way of figuring out what works. Sure, you can do lots of research, but it won’t tell you everything.


When we moved out here I was under a lot of pressure from family members who didn’t approve. Because of this, I felt guilty putting money towards certain homestead things. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had bought several hundred dollars worth of fruit and nut trees even though it seemed crazy and everyone said as much. I did build gardens, get animals, and plant a few trees, but I wish that I had soldiered on and gone with my gut. Everything turned out well, but it’d be even better had I done so.

I have a dear friend who owns twenty acres of fertile land. She’s been there for years. She too suffers from “paralysis by analysis.” She’s into gardening and homesteading in theory, but I don’t think she’s planted a single tree. She’s spent all her time getting other things “just so”--infrastructure, bee hives, etc. She’s a more extreme example, but still a good cautionary tale about taking research too seriously. Of course, it’s good to know what you’re getting into, but still…

Lastly, I regret having invested so much into livestock. That, in my opinion, is a big mistake for many (maybe not all) beginning homesteaders. The return on trees, shrubs, and gardens is much higher usually, even if you’re having manure and compost brought in. And honestly, you can usually buy good quality animal product locally for nearly the same price (or cheaper even) than you can produce it. I think that if you want livestock, especially in my area, it makes much more sense to take a few years to build your soil and get your perennials going, so that you can feed yourself and your livestock (at least partially) from the land. I meet people who balk at the idea of buying chestnut seedlings for $10 a piece or fruit trees for $20 or $30, but who will readily buy a $2,000 milk cow and invest in the infrastructure for her. The cow *may* break even, but the trees are almost guaranteed to pay for themselves many times over, even with failures. Granted some places just aren't as suited to vegetative production, but most places are.
 
pollinator
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25 years ago, a lady came by with a petition, to try to prevent a bypass from being built through my city. I looked carefully at the map and realized that hundreds of buildings would be in the way. We absolutely needed the bypass. I went home and announced that I had figured out how to get a free house and I was now in the demolition business. 25 years later I still am. I didn't dilly dally. 18 months later, we were living in the house.

I have a fiance in the Philippines. I'm going there to start a plantation. They have typhoons, poor people and some people don't signal when they turn. So I've received dire warnings, that I should not act. But I'm moving ahead with my life, while many of the naysayers  stagnate in theirs.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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James Landreth wrote:
Lastly, I regret having invested so much into livestock. That, in my opinion, is a big mistake for many (maybe not all) beginning homesteaders



Yes.  I think we have the impulse to "animal up" which can turn into a nightmare very quickly when one has all these living beings to take care of.  It can become overwhelming.  And heartbreaking.





 
James Landreth
pollinator
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I agree 100% with this. People tell me all the time why we’re doomed (and don’t get me wrong, I can see their point). A friend told me that planting trees isn’t helpful because someone *could* cut them down. But the thing is, we have to do something. And if we don’t, we’ll get left behind.
 
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Nearly always, I regret not starting.

You can usually decide to cancel or delay most things if you decide you don't want to do them anymore or if you want to put them off until you have more time. The biggest exception I can see is if you're looking at something that involves making yourself responsible for other sentient beings. Pretty hard to change your mind about having kids once you've already had them, and it's also not good if you try to take on too many animals and can't take care of them properly. Not great to make community commitments that you don't follow through on, too. So I'm most cautious about things like that.

For everything else, if you can find a way to do it on the cheap and take a growth mindset about it (https://www.mindsetworks.com/science), I don't see the problem even if you never finish. It's great if you can do it right the first time and that should be your goal if you have the knowledge and experience to do so, but if you don't know how to do it right yet, sometimes doing it the best that you can will teach you a lot (or sometimes it'll also just be good enough).

For fruit trees and other long-lived perennials especially, I feel like you'd most regret not starting. Not only are there a lot of things you'll only learn from experience, I think it's difficult to plant a fruit tree and have your site be worse off for it several years down the road. It's not a lot of work to plant and tend to a young fruit tree if you're being reasonable about it. I think it's much better to buy a bunch of really cheap young fruit trees today, rather than buying a smaller number of more mature ones 5 years down the road.

I've read somewhere (trying and failing to dig it up) that women are especially prone to this mindset that we have to do things perfectly correct and in the correct order, and it's actually quite damaging. "Failing" with a growth mindset and stretching your abilities to their limits is a really valuable way to learn. If you're not hurting anyone (including yourself, financially) then what's the harm? If you buy 10 fruit trees for $100 and half of them die but you learn a lot about how to care for fruit trees in the process, can't you mentally file $50 of that towards education?

EDIT: It was Tara Mohr on "Playing Big": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my7hIjQJRG4
 
Dale Hodgins
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The sky has been falling since long before I was born. When I was quite young, our preacher told us that there was no point in making long-term decisions because we were all going to hell in a handbasket, or heaven if we followed him :-)

At school I learned that we were doomed because of the population bomb and the ozone layer. And the Russians were going to kill us all. The ozone layer looks better now and Russia seems content to meddle in elections instead of invading.

Now people will tell you not to bother planting a tree because pollution from China will cancel out whatever you do... But you'll still have that tree.

Somebody mentioned "paralysis by analysis." Some people live their lives by that.
 
gardener
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Not starting. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Good research & a good plan is always advisable but one will never reach their goal without taking the first actual step. Things might not ever be absolutely perfect.
 
Adrienne Halbrook
pollinator
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Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences!! I loved reading them all. I'm taking it as the kick in the butt I needed to just start taking action and consider it the next step in my learning.  Can't beat myself up for making mistakes and having failures if it's the next phase of my learning right?!

Thanks again everyone!
 
gardener
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After reading this thread I realized that while I don't usually jump in without first looking for that big rock at the bottom that will be in my direct path to the hospital, I also don't wait too long to make the leap since that could keep me from ever jumping in.
Case in point is this site, I came here several years ago and did a lot of reading, then I started sharing my own knowledge base.
I currently have 7 experiments running and some of them have been running for 4 years now, while I continue to collect the data needed to complete them.
I have the farm to run and buildings to build, pastures to seed, slopes to terrace and cancer to slow me down.
While I used to be able to run at full speed, today finds me walking slower than I ever have and I have to stop after 20 or 30 minutes to catch my breath or let my body recover some.
This I think was done so I would not get to many things going at the same time, or maybe this is the lesson to move along a little slower so what I am working on gets completed sooner because I didn't start those extra projects while working on the ones already started.
Thing is, if you never start, you never have the opportunity to finish.

I remember my first time jumping from an airplane in the Navy, the guy in front of me froze, I pushed him out the door so I could get it over with.
 
steward
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Adrienne, what a great thread and good for you for wanting to just get those projects started!

Here at wheaton labs, we've had loads upon loads of projects that have failed....and now we have more and more that are working and thriving.

Paul is far more likely to try things without a lot of planning or prep than I am, though he usually bases his choices off of loads of research and experience. Here at base camp though, I have been impulsive in that I bought and planted (or paid others to plant) a LOT of plants that have died. The biggest losses were probably two summers ago when we had a drought plus such horrible forest fire smoke that it just wasn't healthy to be outside and water some things that weren't established enough to make it through a drought. It was sad, but I'm moving on.

I think the thing is that we see gorgeous pictures online, or in the news, of success stories, and not as much about failures. We all have failures, which can be hard, but are part of the reality. There's predator pressure, weather events, diseases, all kinds of things. You grieve a bit and move on.

The same thing with our attempts to build community here - people move in, I get attached, and then they move on. As with the plants, I grieve a bit and move on.

As for regrets, in the first few years I regretted some of my impulse buy plants that I couldn't properly nurture to survive some of our conditions here. Though I'm mostly over and able to joke about my poor plant care now. I do have some regret about being SO busy with my three jobs (3 or 4?) that I haven't had more time to play games or bond with some of our community members in other ways. I'm trying to change that, though I have certain tendencies that make me who I am...

Here are the upsides I try to focus on:
  • the hole dug (some times pick axed out of rock!!) for that tree that died, can now be used for another plant
  • the more we keep adding organic matter to our soil, the more likely things will (and do!) survive challenges
  • building something out of wood, even if amateurish, is far better than that thing in plastic, or some store-bought or a more make-shift thing
  • we've invested a TON of energy in educating people here, which is a noble thing to do

  • Also, I'd like to echo the thoughts about investing in plants and soil instead of livestock at first. One example I particularly admire is this homesteader we met. His plan was to introduce no more than one animal system per year. I just thought that was very wise. It seems so often that new homesteaders get chickens, *and* pigs, *and* cows or goats all right away or in the first year or two. Learning, and really managing one animal system well takes time and experience, and if something comes up, I think it would be far simpler to roll with the punches, so to speak, if just that one animal system was brand new.

    We've had animals at wheaton labs in the past - not Paul's and my animals, but livestock owned and managed by other residents here. In many cases, Paul and I would have managed those animal systems far differently. We've been criticized for not having our own chickens at base camp yet. We're still building soil and building paddocks and planting forage at base camp (which is a huge ROCK). We don't want chickens until they can rotate and forage in a secure paddock system. The fence building we're doing is slow, by choice/design, so it's going to be a little while yet. We're okay with that for a variety of reasons though it's surprising how some people are adamant that we're "doing it wrong."

    Plus, we've heard from loads of folks who planted a gazillion fruit trees or berry bushes, getting them established before they observed their property much. Then, it's later that they learned they would have preferred to have those trees and bushes elsewhere - and a road, or a berm, or a hugelkultur, or a pond would be better where they put those plants. So, even though this thread is about trying to get projects started, there are legitimate reasons to wait, too!

    So, I guess I want to encourage you (or anyone), that whether you're starting or not starting, if you have your own design or plan that you're following, don't let others' tell you you're "doing it wrong" either! We each have our own pace and priorities.


     
    master pollinator
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    Also, I'd like to echo the thoughts about investing in plants and soil instead of livestock at first. One example I particularly admire is this homesteader we met. His plan was to introduce no more than one animal system per year. I just thought that was very wise. It seems so often that new homesteaders get chickens, *and* pigs, *and* cows or goats all right away or in the first year or two. Learning, and really managing one animal system well takes time and experience, and if something comes up, I think it would be far simpler to roll with the punches, so to speak, if just that one animal system was brand new.



    I think this is excellent advice.  I also think it's good to start with the cheapest livestock available, like quail or chickens if they're in your plan.  I'd also suggest planning on feeding bought feed for the first year if you've never had livestock or if you're in a different environment than you're used to.  You'll be able to supplement bought feed with grown feed and may be able to get most of your feed from that, but it's great to have a safety net.  Once you've got one animal down, it'll be easier to add the second as a lot of your experience is transferable.
     
    Adrienne Halbrook
    pollinator
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:Adrienne, what a great thread and good for you for wanting to just get those projects started!

    Here at wheaton labs, we've had loads upon loads of projects that have failed....and now we have more and more that are working and thriving.

    Paul is far more likely to try things without a lot of planning or prep than I am, though he usually bases his choices off of loads of research and experience. Here at base camp though, I have been impulsive in that I bought and planted (or paid others to plant) a LOT of plants that have died. The biggest losses were probably two summers ago when we had a drought plus such horrible forest fire smoke that it just wasn't healthy to be outside and water some things that weren't established enough to make it through a drought. It was sad, but I'm moving on.

    I think the thing is that we see gorgeous pictures online, or in the news, of success stories, and not as much about failures. We all have failures, which can be hard, but are part of the reality. There's predator pressure, weather events, diseases, all kinds of things. You grieve a bit and move on.

    The same thing with our attempts to build community here - people move in, I get attached, and then they move on. As with the plants, I grieve a bit and move on.

    As for regrets, in the first few years I regretted some of my impulse buy plants that I couldn't properly nurture to survive some of our conditions here. Though I'm mostly over and able to joke about my poor plant care now. I do have some regret about being SO busy with my three jobs (3 or 4?) that I haven't had more time to play games or bond with some of our community members in other ways. I'm trying to change that, though I have certain tendencies that make me who I am...

    Here are the upsides I try to focus on:

  • the hole dug (some times pick axed out of rock!!) for that tree that died, can now be used for another plant
  • the more we keep adding organic matter to our soil, the more likely things will (and do!) survive challenges
  • building something out of wood, even if amateurish, is far better than that thing in plastic, or some store-bought or a more make-shift thing
  • we've invested a TON of energy in educating people here, which is a noble thing to do

  • Also, I'd like to echo the thoughts about investing in plants and soil instead of livestock at first. One example I particularly admire is this homesteader we met. His plan was to introduce no more than one animal system per year. I just thought that was very wise. It seems so often that new homesteaders get chickens, *and* pigs, *and* cows or goats all right away or in the first year or two. Learning, and really managing one animal system well takes time and experience, and if something comes up, I think it would be far simpler to roll with the punches, so to speak, if just that one animal system was brand new.

    We've had animals at wheaton labs in the past - not Paul's and my animals, but livestock owned and managed by other residents here. In many cases, Paul and I would have managed those animal systems far differently. We've been criticized for not having our own chickens at base camp yet. We're still building soil and building paddocks and planting forage at base camp (which is a huge ROCK). We don't want chickens until they can rotate and forage in a secure paddock system. The fence building we're doing is slow, by choice/design, so it's going to be a little while yet. We're okay with that for a variety of reasons though it's surprising how some people are adamant that we're "doing it wrong."

    Plus, we've heard from loads of folks who planted a gazillion fruit trees or berry bushes, getting them established before they observed their property much. Then, it's later that they learned they would have preferred to have those trees and bushes elsewhere - and a road, or a berm, or a hugelkultur, or a pond would be better where they put those plants. So, even though this thread is about trying to get projects started, there are legitimate reasons to wait, too!

    So, I guess I want to encourage you (or anyone), that whether you're starting or not starting, if you have your own design or plan that you're following, don't let others' tell you you're "doing it wrong" either! We each have our own pace and priorities.



    Thanks for sharing you thoughts and experiences Jocelyn!

    I think there is definitely a balance that I would like to find for myself - a certain amount of planning/research then a "now just go and do it" point. And like you said somethings don't workout, you grieve it and then move on and if you can you use that failure as a solution for something else. It's good to be reminded that life is fluid, it doesn't stop at those failures, it goes on flowing onward. So the dead tree or plant, that mistake, whatever, changes in some way into something else; organic matter, a lesson learned, scrape material, a new insight, etc.  Those failures don't have to be viewed as waste, they could even be seen as part of the whole system! Those failures become part of solutions.

    I think going slow with animals is a very good idea. I have experience with chickens so I'm comfortable with raising them but milking goats are gong to be totally new so I plan on being fully ready for them and able to give the new learning experience as much of my attention and energy as needed. Definitely not something I can do this year.

    The chickens will be a whole new learning curve in their own way too though, I want to in time feed them 100% homegrown feed. Originally I wanted to have all the feed systems in place and THEN get the chickens but that will take quite a long time and now I think it's actually better to get them and then start growing stuff and experimenting with different feeding options. This seems like actually the better method for me because I can get immediate feed back as I go along. I can learn as I go and work with the chickens. Maybe they will love a certain feed but I discover I can't keep up with it's production or it's way to much work or maybe I will try something else and my chickens just don't really like it. For me in this situation I feel working with the chickens getting feedback as I go along will definitely be the most advantageous way for me to design in a balanced, healthy year round feeding system and I imagine this system could potentially be years in the development.
     
    pollinator
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    neither. regret is not good. it saps energy and is counter-productive. but to address the question, i agree with everyone - start everything! torpedoes be damned; fire away, gridley! (misquoting belligerent admirals)
     
    Timothy Markus
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    I've waited so long to get started on farming (had to raise a kid, so no regrets about that) that I'm stupid-eager to get going now.  Right now I'm trying to buy a few acres, over the 'net, out east.  I know that it may not be smart, but I'm trying to find something for under $10k with at least 3 acres.  I figure that, worst case, I'll have a woodlot that I can build a camp on and also a place to stop on my way back and forth to ON for the next little while.  Plus it will give me residency, so I can hunt and fish in the meantime.

    If it gets me out of the situation I'm in, I don't think I'll ever regret it.  Add to that the fact that I won't have to pay rent and I think it's not a bad idea.  If I can't get an acceptable property soon I also have a line on renting some land super cheap so I can get out there and look around.

    I'm considering WWOOFing to get a lay of the land but, I've got to be honest, I feel like 30 hours of my time per week for room and board isn't a great deal for me.  I know that it probably is for most WWOOFers, but I bring a lot to the table.
     
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