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Overwhelmed ... need ideas  RSS feed

 
Posts: 35
Location: On a Farm
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For 20 years I grew 75% of our food, raised goats and chickens, foraged, canned, learned every skill I could for homesteading while living on an urban lot. Over all those years it seemed that having more land would just give me more space to grow more of our food, have a few more animals, get away from the endless neighborhood dramas, etc ... I couldn't wait to move to the country.

Now that I have almost 6 acres in the country I find I'm simply overwhelmed by it all and I just don't get it. I'm not trying to plow up the whole lot and garden endlessly or add ten new varieties of animals so I'm baffled at why I feel so overwhelmed by it all now. Is this a normal thing for new-ish landowners? (we bought the place 2 years ago July)

I am, now, taking care of my mom who has alzheimers which is a challenge but before I had children and special needs foster children, so that comittment to dependents hasn't really changed. We're also renovating an old house ... but we were doing that in town too.

I've tried making lists, setting schedules, focusing on one project at a time and I end up with my brain buzzing, feeling like I've done nothing, accomplished nothing, and worried about the future.

This farm is supposed to be our place of peace and I'm finding it anything but peaceful.

Help. Please.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1171
Location: RRV of da Nort
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Just a couple of thoughts

--The presence of the neighbors would have brought drama, but perhaps also a core of assistance that you could use at times to help you out?...or was this not a factor?

--You mentioned learning the other skills for 20 years,....do you mind revealing your age?  Living at the same rural homesite for about 25 years now, I find that my energy level in my mid-50s is quite a bit lower than it was in my 20s and 30s.  Even given that I mostly attack chores 'smarter' than before, the loss of energy is a pretty important factor.

--Don't minimize the possibility that caring for your mother with Alzheimer's is a different dynamic than what you had with special-needs kids as it's a different relationship and may have some hidden aspects that are causing you additional stress.

--Do you feel that the un-plowed acres have to be "managed" in some way to suit some vision of where you wanted to be? Sometimes it's best to leave the fallow stuff for later and let nature take its own course on those acres while you just settle in with the amount that is directly providing food.  We too had grand plans for a lot of the extra acres in terms of management, but the best decision was to plant it to native prairie grasses and even with the succession of local trees, just keep it cleared as best we can.

Just perhaps some starters for us to get more information.

 
Posts: 944
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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John Weiland wrote:--Do you feel that the un-plowed acres have to be "managed" in some way to suit some vision of where you wanted to be? Sometimes it's best to leave the fallow stuff for later and let nature take its own course on those acres while you just settle in with the amount that is directly providing food.


I'd like to second John's advice here. Six acres is a massive jump up from an urban lot, and 20 years or tending an urban lot [and possibly defending against nosy neighbors not minding their own business] can especially condition someone to try to make things far more structured than they need to be.

Sure some structure is a good thing, but nature has elements of chaos that help it thrive.

If you really wanted to do something with the 'back four' so to speak, maybe rotating your goats through it would be a good start? Don't know your time or energy levels, but I'm rotating a steer and lamb through several acres one day's paddock at a time with a time-frame of about half an hour per day setting up the next paddock of portable fencing.
 
master steward
Posts: 6245
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I have five acres, and the first few years here were really overwhelming. Part of that, for me, was just figuring out where I was going to put everything and how I was going to do it. With five acres, there's just so many variables, and it's hard to know where to start and what to work on, and how you want it all to look. And, I was afraid I was going to mess up things permanently by making the wrong choices. It was more mental and emotional fatigue than physical in that aspect.

For me, what helped was focusing on zones. Like, just start working on the area up close. It's going to be the most intensive, and it's going to be what you use the most, so start there. Don't worry about the rest of the property! If you want to keep the fields from turning into forest, mow them twice/year and call it good. This really helped me with the mental overwhelm. And, a large part of permaculture is observing, and we're told to observe for at least a year before doing stuff. So, work on zone 1 and maybe 2, and just observe the rest! I think, too, with a smaller property, there's less options and variables, so it's easier to figure out what to do--because there's only so much to do! But, with multiple acres, it's a really big empty slate. I can only use 3 of my acres (2 of mine are protected wetlands), and it's still hard to figure out what to work on where.

Another thing that helped was daydreaming. I'd do my planning for the up close zones, but just daydream about the rest. When we first moved here, I worked in a preschool and would pat kids to sleep for something like 1-2 hours/day. I'd just daydream about the property then. And, when I had my own child, I was often up late nursing him or patting him to sleep, or lying in bed attempting to fall back asleep after putting him to sleep for the umpthenth time. These were perfect chances for daydreaming, and it actually really helped keep me from screaming when it took 2 hours to put the boy to sleep! I don't know what caring for your mother looks like in practice, or if you have these moments of being stuck doing mindless things, or if you take a while to fall asleep, but if you do, just freeing your mind to play with your property might help.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 6245
Location: Pacific Northwest
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Another thing that also helped me was posting questions here on permies. Throw up some pictures &/or an aerial sketch and ask for help. Sometimes I get lost in my own mind, debating with myself about what to do and all the pros and cons. But, then, when I ask a question here, it gives me fresh perspectives, additional knowledge, and someone other than my own self to talk to.  You might not take or like anyone's advice, and that's fine! Sometimes, someone else's idea spurs a new one in your mind. It can't hurt to ask, and it might help!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1362
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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CAring for someone with alzheimers is a big commitment, and running the acreage! Maybe you need holidays for some days from time to time - there are other family member who can take over some times! Nothing big or fancy just go camping.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 6245
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I see in your first thread (https://permies.com/t/68410/Hey) that your property is completely wooded and very natural. That makes it doublely difficult to figure out what to do! Not only are you working with a blank slate, any disturbance you make is pretty permanent--cut down those trees, and there went that beautiful bit of nature. And, it's hard to make an informed decision, because it's hard to see the lay of the land and visualize it, because it is so wooded. I have acres of protected wetlands and another acre is very lovely natural woodlands. I want to plant chestnuts, but I don't want to disturb all the natural beauty and ecosystem. It's not hard to plant and dig and mess around with the areas that the previous owner had cleared and mowed. But, I can't for the life of me cut down any of the native canopy trees to add in non-natives! And, there's still some areas on our property that we have no idea about, because there's no paths and there's LOTS of blackberry which makes passage hard.

One thing I have been able to do is to look for areas in the woodlands that are monocrops. Like, we have TONS of salmonberry. I don't mind hacking out some of that to add in some diversity. If there's a lot of, say, one type of tree in one area, perhaps try clearing that out? Or, if there's some invasives in one area, that might also be a good place to start. Also, look at aerial views for the topography. That might also help with figuring out where to clear out an area for a garden/food forest, while doing the least disturbance to the woods. You could also post an aerial view/google map/sketch of the property. I understand about not wanting to have that visible via a google search. We do have private forums, like our PIE only forum. That might be good place to post a question with more details, because only permies with PIE can access it, google cannot. I'll give you some PIE so you can go check it out.

I also try to expand on wildlife paths when I find them. Fall/winter, in my area, is a really good time for this, because there's no leaves on a lot of the plants, so it's easier to hack through places, and to look through the bramble to see where there's less bramble and aim for there.

 
garden master
Posts: 2046
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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I find that just changing locations can be challenging.  First, there is the frustration of moving. Then, making new friends, getting to know your neighbors, finding where to get the best prices or supplies.  Two years is not long enough to get comfortable with your surroundings.

Did you move your animals from your old place or did you have to start over with getting new animals, that can be frustrating.  And every animal has its own personality that you have to learn.

Then there is the aspect of learning your new land.  What happens when it rains, what areas get the most shade or sun.

One of our biggest challenges was finding people to give us estimates for work we wanted to have done. We had to do it all ourselves.

Just take it one day at a time and ask lots of questions as there will be someone here who can help you with whatever it is.
 
pollinator
Posts: 516
Location: 6a
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Hi Bernie,

Sounds crazy but the stress factor seems to be part of the Permies process.

I can't really comment on the animals as I don't have any yet but I imagine it can be a stressful situation.

I recently moved to my location due to life circumstances and I would not have chosen to live here.  I get the stress of a new location and really a different culture.  You may want to look into your local AG extension, gardening groups or permies groups (if there are any) and meet some like-minded folks.  

Everyone has given great advice.  

My personal situation is three acres of lawn.  Not much by way of microclimates or trees in place.  Almost zero biomass.   The first year I tried to make additions all over the place. Everything is done with a shovel and an old Ford Ranger I started to get a little fried.

I would chip an area throw a few plants in the ground and move on to the next project.  I started to have little patches of struggling plants and trees but nothing was vibrant and there was little addition to the flora and fauna.  I didn't have a zone 1 close to the house where I could just enjoy a vegetable garden and a nursery for baby perennials.  

Last year I changed my tack and so far it seems a lot more doable and enjoyable.   Now instead of planting all over the place I'm focusing on a small area and planting the heck out of it.  I find that if you don't really focus on an area and get stuff growing, you will be doing a lot of work over.  Grass and weeds will grow if there isn't shade or something planted.

My new plan seems to be working.  It helps me focus and keeps this fun versus the chicken without a head syndrome I had before.

1. I have an oasis mentality now. I focus on a couple of islands, I can really do well, and plan on using them as a base (creating edge)

2. I put together a small fenced area for the propagation of perennials and trees.  I'm doing cuttings, seed planting etc.  A place to baby trees before planting out.   This gives you the option of planting an area at your own pace and saves money.  I find this relieves the sense of urgency to get the entire space planted out.  You have this space where stuff is growing but it's all together and easier to manage.

3. Planting for hardscape and materials and nitrogen fixing.  I've planted locusts, willlow and bamboo so I will have materials down the road to make fencing, trellis etc.

4.  I created a raised bed area right off of my patio for annuals and perennial beds.  I'm using this as a nursery for beneficial flowers, annuals etc.  Using polytunnels on raised beds is easy.   Having a zone one is enjoyable and super handy.

5. I'm composting.   I don't have enough biomass.

6. I find that doing things like hugel mounds, in an oasis area is fun an gives me a feeling of accomplishment and permanence.



Anything I do outside of these  items is done when I want to do them.  If I have an area that I want to plant at some point I bust the sod and throw down a deer mix.  

So I would say make a simple outline of things you "need" to move your area forward.  You might "know" you want a bunch of willows but you dont know where you want them. Plant a nursery of willows and they will be ready when you want them.  Same goes for anything else you know you want but aren't sure where to put them.

I wish you luck.

Regards, Scott






 
pollinator
Posts: 2461
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This is a common myth, that farming is supposed to be a picnic in the back forty with the kids and the wife, cows merrily grazing, and clean air and soft soil underfoot.

The reality is, while veterans get a lot of media attention for suicide, the American Farmer is twice as likely to carry it out. The stress is insane, the ties to the land deep, the need to make sound decisions on everything, many costs and prices that are beyond the farmer's control; all take a toll. You are not alone, in fact you are in very good company, it is just that many of us suffer in silence...yes even me.

Is there help? Perhaps if people can get beyond the embarrassment and reach out for it. Yet I commend you 1000 fold for being so honest. It is a great start.

Myself; while I certainly get overwhelmed, especially now that I am sick with cancer, I try to do one big thing a year. Just one big thing. Over the last 10 years since I have taken over this farm, those 1 things, have really added up to a lot of improvements. If I feel up to it, I do smaller things too, but to me just doing 1 big thing is enough. After that I cut myself a break.

This is a good read regarding the topic...

webpage
 
Posts: 589
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Being overwhelmed by the whole place is something I slip into from time to time. For me I create designs, start to collect the items I need for one project or many. I can multi task and enjoy it.
As bits and pieces appear I may take time off to read the papers or books. I may spend a few hours on the internet and even had 'nana naps'. If I feel I am being overwhelmed I just slow down and do something differently.
I have even stopped all work for as long as it takes and just do other stuff.
It works for me.
 
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I haven’t read any of the several responses but as someone who grew up on a massive 10,000 acre farm in Kansas I know a few tricks though meditation helps everything by the way. So keeping your plowed ground crops simple we only grew 2 with all those acres. Use greenhouses and other long lasting solutions as structures and only plow and plant when necessary structures last years not a season. Find frees horses that are abundant and can be found where the good home will make free delivery and tack a welcomed option to many overwhelmed but loving owners. If you find this reply helpful I have more to offer just hit me up
 
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We've got only 2 acres.  .  . But you'd be surprised how much work there is to do.  This is a marathon, NOT a sprint!!  
-I made a list of problems, planned the solution, then prioritized.  -Change takes time, & I have the rest of my life to do it.
-Enjoy the process.  See the little improvements along the way & appreciate them. Remember what it WAS like before you started.
Examples of improvements I've seen in the last few years:
-No birds, no wildlife- Planted trees & shrubs, transplanted wild rose bushes & formed a hedgerow.  Put in an ornamental pond with recirculating creek- You should hear the birds in the morning & evenings. Such a happy sound. Quail moved-into hedgerow & we feed them in the winter.  TONS of wildlife! (raccoons, possums, birds, garter snakes, preying mantis, And the occasional badger, cougar & coyote.
-From hard-pan ground with very little production- added goats & 100 wheelbarrows of natural stuff (leaves, poo, garden debris, etc.) - Now, pasture is 2 feet deep of grass- producing wonderfully !!
-Garden- hard-pan cracked clay with superman weed growth- Put in raised beds & filled with leaves, poo, kitchen waste & mixed- Now, garden is producing & rarely find a weed- SO HAPPY!!
- It just takes time.  Go slowly, research a lot, form a good plan. Take your time.  Hang in there.



 
Posts: 235
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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Everyone has already given wonderful help, and I don’t think I have much to add in that regard because it’s mostly all the same as I would suggest.  I currently have a moderate sized property and I can visualize it all once completed, at times it has felt overwhelming, yet I keep moving forward and I keep seeing the progress I’ve made.  Pictures are wonderful because I can go back and see the ground before I began working on it and I can see all that I’ve done thus far and it is relieving to see the progress, especially at those times that I feel I haven’t accomplished much.  I started in the areas closest to my house location, and work my way outward from there.

I also wanted to mention in case you were unaware, there are herbs/plants that regrow neurological tissue.  Some ideas to help you get started searching by typing this in your preferred search engine…. herbs + NGF, herbs + NGF + alzheimer, mushrooms + NGF, mushrooms + NGF + alzheimer….NGF stands for neural growth factor so you can try NGF and/or neural growth factor to see if the search results bring up more info.  Off the top of my head, here are a few I know of….which may be inaccurate so look them up if you desire.  Astragalus, ashitaba, rosemary, and ginko biloba promote neural growth.  And from what I recall you can also use rosemary essential oil in a diffuser, squirt bottles with water and essential oil spritzed around the room work pretty good too, just shake the bottle every little bit to mix the oil and water as you spritz.  All the berries regrow neurological tissue, and I recommend eating them fresh/raw, and not cooked into a pie or something like that.  Some mushrooms I know of are lions mane, and I think maybe reishi….???  Also there’s a little mushroom that I am sure I'm not allowed to specifically name, often found growing in cow dung in wetter climates which can make you see vivid colors if you eat too much.  <—microdose or small doses throughout the day for this one so it’s not overwhelming and won’t cause the known effects that it’s popular for.  Good searches for that would be, the mushroom type + NGF + alzheimer….etc.  It would be worth mentioning as well that taking multiple herbs consistently throughout the day is better than taking a single large dose or taking a single herb.  They can work synergistically so it’s better to combine them to achieve results.

Schedules and lists can be stressful for my long term projects.  I can start a project and then something else requires attention, so my focus needs to go elsewhere until I can resume the previous project.  I have a swale that I started last year, yet I’m just finishing, and my list/goals I made were to have the whole area completed, with multiple swales, within a few months.  LOL  Too many other things required my attention so I had to stop for a while….plus the stress and laziness sets in at times and all I want to do is rest/think/learn.  But progress continues to be made through it all.  Again, pictures are excellent for helping feel that sense of gratification as I look back through them and see where I started from, all the way to where I’m at currently.

Long term visualization and one foot in front of the other keeps me from stressing myself out too much.  I know that what I’m doing will take time, so I have accepted that it’s okay to miss goal/deadlines that I had written and it’s okay to make progress tomorrow if it isn’t required to be finished now.
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Bernie Farmer wrote:For 20 years I grew 75% of our food, raised goats and chickens, foraged, canned, learned every skill I could for homesteading while living on an urban lot. Over all those years it seemed that having more land would just give me more space to grow more of our food, have a few more animals, get away from the endless neighborhood dramas, etc ... I couldn't wait to move to the country.

Now that I have almost 6 acres in the country I find I'm simply overwhelmed by it all and I just don't get it. I'm not trying to plow up the whole lot and garden endlessly or add ten new varieties of animals so I'm baffled at why I feel so overwhelmed by it all now. Is this a normal thing for new-ish landowners? (we bought the place 2 years ago July)

I am, now, taking care of my mom who has alzheimers which is a challenge but before I had children and special needs foster children, so that comittment to dependents hasn't really changed. We're also renovating an old house ... but we were doing that in town too.

I've tried making lists, setting schedules, focusing on one project at a time and I end up with my brain buzzing, feeling like I've done nothing, accomplished nothing, and worried about the future.

This farm is supposed to be our place of peace and I'm finding it anything but peaceful.

Help. Please.



So you grew 75% of your food before, did you do that overnight? within a week? I would imagine it took time to get to that point of being able to provide so much. Same goes for your new place, small steps will get you there faster than trying the willy nilly approach.
Break the 6 acres down into plots that are a size you can handle in even smaller bits and do draw out a plan on paper, I use mine every week, it keeps me on track and it shows me how far I've gotten (because looking out at the land doesn't do such a good job of showing you what you have accomplished).
I truly understand the care giver role, this is the one thing that I had to stop and adjust my thinking about. My new motto is "I'll get done today what I can and the rest will still be there tomorrow". For me, this motto has kept me from loosing it because of how far behind I really am.
Lists are fine and dandy if you don't have "emergencies" springing up all over the place. I prefer the drawing of the final layout, I use colored pencils to mark in what I did this week, this turned out to be a  far better method for me.
Yes I too have the goal of a peaceful farm, be assured you will get there. It may take longer than you wanted, it may take longer than you were first willing to accept. As long as you plug along at it, one tiny project at a time, you will get to the finish line, even if you feel like the short run turned into a marathon, you will get there as long as you put things into a perspective that allows for Uh-Oh's and Oh-NO's.

When all else fails, remember that there are lots of us in the same boat and we are all rowing towards that one shining place on the horizon.
You may feel like you are alone, but here we support everyone else because many of us are in that boat and we are not about to let it sink.
 
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