I've been wanting to go zero energy, grow my own, completely sustainable for like 6 years. First heartache was finding a place. That took like 4. Second heartache is making it happen. First there was kid and work, then there was pregnancy, kid, and work. Then I took the big leap and quit. But, then there was baby and recovery. As that was getting down to less hours, I busted my foot. No walking. I'm stuck again. The part set to permaculture runs great. But I've got so much undone! I can't teach what I'm going to do because it's all theory. So frustrating. This was supposed to be the year, but as they say, "man plans and God laughs".
Are you more self-contained than you were 12 months ago? Good. Celebrate that.
Make plans to move the needle a little bit more in the next 12 months, but don't beat yourself up if you are not completely self-sufficient and contained. Every day, every month, every year, move the ball a little bit farther down the field.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
We bought our place 5.5 years ago. I'd been reading and planning and dreaming about my own homestead for at least a year before that. The first year after we got our place, I was pregnant, and unable to do much. I think I got one hugel made and planted some fruittrees. The next year, I was carrying a coliky baby. I made one more garden bed and planted a few more trees. Not much grew, and we definitely didn't eat much from the garden other than the native blackberries and salmonberries that were growing here, and some peas. I got a bit more done the next year...but then was pregnant again. Then I had my daughter to carry around, and my husband was disabled by Crohn's, and my shoulder got injured. I made another hugel and two more garden beds and had some things that actually grew...but still not much was done, and a lot was not maintained that should have been.
But, even though every year I only got a few things done, now I have three hugels, 8 garden beds, and lots of fruit trees that will hopefully one year produce, and I've expanded my raspberry patches. It's slow. And frustrating! But, progress is happening!
These first years on a homestead are hard, especially if you add in kids, like we both have. It's so frustrating, because we want to do more. Just look back at what you have done, and know that once the kids start walking around, it usually gets a LOT easier! Hang in there!
Nicole, sounds like you know exactly how I'm feeling. It's true- I have ambitious eyes and only the body power of a mom with young kids. I have done a lot. Like 50 fruit growing plants, 6 raised beds, lots of herbs, resloping, woodburner and wood, half attic insulation, and many more small things. I guess looking at it from what one person and a little money can do, I'm quite the star- like you. It's so hard to keep it in perspective for me. I hope your husband feels better. Chronic illness can be taxing.
i believe in you amit. i have three kids, and wee house and some stuff struggling to grow. im am just coming out of what i call being under house arrest. my youngest will start school in September.
being a women in the modern world is so such harder in some ways. we want to do everything, be everything, have everything. but we want to do it right with the earth in the front of our hearts. we want to be the best mothers e know how, but w want to be people who do tings too.
One thing i have come to realise that tho being self sufficient in all things from from to firewood, to food, to building, to raising kids seems to be like a gold metal first place standing in the eyes of the permaculture gods, i do feel it misses something... and that thing is Other People. being self sufficient is hard work, full-filling work to be sure, but first and foremost it is lonely. pretty darn lonely. when everything comes from your own homestead you can easily remove the connections that make life so worth while (especially when you are under house arrest with young kids and your brain power circles the rain with the washing water.
we need stimulus in the form of interactions and going to a neighbours to get milk, or to drop off your best pickles or help pull in the hay so you can get some at a cheaper rate. this is all the more holistically sustainable on the longer term. and i thin it helps remind us that we are pretty amazing, strong and on the right track.
Just from observation, it seems to me that even those people who consider themselves self sufficient are usually so only within a definition that includes a lot of support from their community. Humans are inherently social creatures, and learning to work with your community is as valuable a skill as any other. I say this as a naturally antisocial person who gets support in this area from more social family members.
It's not just what you grow on your land or trade for that other people grow. It's knowing that person who has acres of land they don't mind you hiking and foraging on. It's that other person who is always happy to go on a fishing trip on the boat that is their pride and joy. Some people have land they don't use and are excited if someone else will hike that land and bring back foraged edibles.
Just as a not random example, our neighbors have friends who have land with a feral hog problem. They offered our friend the option to set up a trap on their land. We volunteered to help kill and butcher the captured hogs and got a couple of legs of pork for our freezer. (Off topic, but after dry rubbing with herbs and letting marinate for three days it was some of the most delicious meat I've ever had.)
I think these kinds of connections are why so many people who are 'self sufficient' come from large families. The only people I've personally known who claimed this distinction were old enough to have adult children and were very active in their community on several levels. Not achieving that level quickly is no failing.
I feel like I should make a disclaimer here, I am in no way self sufficient myself.
6 years seems like such a short time....I've been working at this for about 20 years and just when I felt like I knew how to proceed, my life was upheaved by family illness. Now it is a test to see what is "permanent" in my permaculture....
Tyler, I hope you are pleasantly surprised and the family gets better.
Us wannabe super heroes have this mental image of perfection involving an able bodied person, alone, well equipped, and in control, like what I saw in the movies. Really though resilience comes from diversity. Diversity in people not just soil organisms. I have really been realizing this. The problem is, even when I offered free garlic and other plants, no one has come to harvest with me. Even when over 100 people saw my offer. How do you build community where one doesn't exist? I don't even have anyone I can safely pawn the baby off on regularly, despite living in a town with family. So if I fail, the system fails. That's a lot of pressure. It's stupid. Not that I don't have friends or don't get together with family, it's just not the tight-knit community humans are supposed to enjoy. Everyone's 9-5-ing maybe??
*sigh* I'm sure my independent personality doesn't help with the whole community building.
I have been around a long time.
Can I suggest your hoped for concept may not actually exist.
I too looked for it, but after 45 years I have mellowed to a start of practicality.
Communities grow haphazardly, offers of 'free' are often mistaken.
Requests for help are also mistaken.
I lead by example, but I still have to be wary, as much as it may be against my belief system.
I cannot help the whole world, and get my own tasks completed, what ever they are.
Good luck with your efforts, I am happy to discuss concepts, since the distance will make it impossible in any other way.
I am a person who naturally likes to help others, but I have learnt it is very rarely reciprocated. In fact I am helping somebody at the moment who surprised me by offering to help me.
i have come to live with no expectations.
Then there are those who want everything, but are not prepared to help in return.
And others who value nothing, damage tools and don't repair or replace them etc, the list can be long.
I have often wondered if some form of barter may work, where skills and energy are shared, but not necessarily by the same people.
John Daley Bendigo, Australia
The Enemy of progress is the hope of a perfect plan
I have met those that take and don't reciprocate. I havemet those that take and reciprocate. I have met those who will not take or give, and I have met those who give while denying reciprocity. I am one of those people who does just fine alone on a mountain top, but the world doesn't need that. It needs those who can figure out how to create culture and community. That said, unlike you, I'm not naturally trusting. Blame my youth and natural personality. I will only lend you something if I know you will give it back, otherwise I will give without expecting a return, such as the garlic to the neighbors yesterday. I will also give with a calculation of this is the type of world I want to live in. I think community is a cornerstone of what I do that is highly unexplored. I can get people over for certain things, like I had a picking party that went well. I want to have a jam session soon (jam making, music making, and starting the liqueurs). But we are not at the point here where people understand that braiding garlic is actually sitting around schmoozing with your hands lightly busy. But, I have time. It's just frustratingly slow sometimes.
I think a key factor is that a lot of the times when people work together, are really 'fellowship' time.
That is just a great opportunity to have a yack [ talk] about anything and share experiences.
Perhaps if you can introduce the awareness of that point, it may help.
IE Come over for a chat, by the way you will be helping and maybe learning about Jam making.
John Daley Bendigo, Australia
The Enemy of progress is the hope of a perfect plan
Amit, I understand. Years ago, while carrying a bale hay, I slipped on ice and total broke both bones in my right ankle. I had to have a titanium plate, 5 screws, and a large bolt installed. It took forever to heal! I was bed (couch) ridden for weeks, without putting any weight on that ankle. Being my right ankle driving was out of the question, and I live in a very rural area without public transport. Then I became disabled because of my last job, which includes Depression, Anxiety, and panic disorder. Then I fell (at the dump) and broke my right hand! A few months later, my husband was diagnosed with a
Tracheobronchomalacia, So he has been on oxygen for the last 4 years. For a year I had my 90 year old mom living with us as well. So trying to work on the land, going back and forth from my mom at one end of the house, and my husband at the other end was exhausting. My husband tries his best to help, he loves to garden, and this year we have our raised beds growing great. We have already harvested lettuce and radishes. But my hügelkultur bed is still a work in process. Our new roof is only 1/3 done, and stubborn husband doesn't want anyone else doing it. What I need is one or two strong people to help. But hubby will have none of it.
a recent 'revelation' has helped me: "JUST ONE THING!" I was visiting a nearby farm a week or two ago that has long impressed me. The owner and I share 'widowhood' in common, and her persistence inspires me. In conversation with her, I mentioned my difficulty at seeing my own progress; I tend to look at all the work in front of me and forget to look at how far I've come (considering my limitations.) She mentioned the book "Just one thing" and briefly expounded on what it meant to her. For MY purposes, just the phrase and our short conversation was enough (and I don't have time to read the book!) Since then, I have started each day with just ONE thing (or two, I can't help myself, but they MUST be 'reasonably achievable' things) to accomplish, and then I make sure that no matter how scattered I get, I DO finish the ONE thing. I DO now end the day with that sense of accomplishment. (Which shouldn't surprise me, since I used a similar tack to get through the first two years after my love passed away. To try to keep my grief at bay, I looked for any ONE good moment, no matter how tiny, in the long and lonely days - sometimes it was only that the coffee tasted good, or even that I didn't FALL down the stairs. Eventually, there were several good things in a day, and eventually, the balance started shifting, until there were some sad times in mostly GOOD days.) So re-employing that focus, JUST ONE THING, resonated with me. There is incredible energy in FOCUS, and I'm feeling better about what I SEE myself accomplishing (no matter HOW little), instead of worrying about what I haven't done or how much more there is to do.
I also have a long term goal of creating a community. To keep me from quitting, I have one 'pot luck' event each year since my husband died, making myself accountable to my friends (most of whom don't share my permies thinking, but are good FRIENDS none the less and come JUST to hold me accountable.) And though I have far less help than I WANT, I'm still here and still trying. Until others find this beautiful space to share, the LAND is my community. (And isn't this list community too? Not quite the same, but help comes in different ways, and this web space and SO MANY of the folks who contribute here DO help!) Keep going, Amit! It's the journey.
We don't have kids yet, but the last 2 owners of our farm have had alcohol/drug problems, so we're starting with a place that has suffered from neglect and half-arsed fixes since the mid seventies: there's a *lot* of work needed just to maintain things in their current state, and get basic systems and infrastructure functional. One thing we do is lists-lots of lists. We do a dated, dailyish list of the day's things to do, and cross things off as they're done, then we save the lists. When we're feeling overwhelmed with what needs to be done yet ( and we're still at the point where for every big project we get finished, we discover 2 or 3 new ones), we look at the old lists and remind ourselves how much better we've made the place already. Remember, having final goals is good, they give you something to work towards, but as you go on, you're going to change those final goals, so you'll never actually reach them, or at least, when you do, they won't be the final goal anymore, so it's important to look back from time to time and remember what you've gotten done- at some point you'll look back and say, 'hey, wasn't that thing there one of the things we wanted to end up with when we started? cool! Now, back to the new thing we want to end up with'
I think one of the biggest problems I see in this kind of stuff is not having a Farm Plan from the onset. Planning only gets a person so far granted, but to be without one is sure disaster.
It really is a two fold affair:
1: Plotting out where you want your farm to go
2: Looking back at what has been accomplished
When I did my farm plan, it took 10 months to develop before I even bought a sheep, to which I was ridiculed. "Just stop planning and go buy sheep", yet when I did, things feel into place. Only when I went outside of what my farm plan was, only when I went against my research, did things go awry.
Today, only 10 years since taking over this farm, I look back at all the accomplishments and I am amazed. Yet if a person never wrote those down in the beginning, how can they remember all that has been accomplished...yes even the small ones?
In the last two years I have experienced almost Job-Like circusmstances that have really taken their toll on me; mentally, physically and even spiritually, but as gloomy as things seem, the farm plan is being carried out. Slower than I anticipated, slower than I want, but it is being carried out.
But as important as proper planning is, so is carrying it out. To that end, one of the biggest problems I see people doing is, taking on far too much.
For me and my wife, we do one big project per year, and then a series of little ones. When I look back after 10 years of doing that, some major accomplishments have taken place, from the building of sheep barns, to clearing forest into fields, from building heavy haul roads, to buying more land.
Today it seems a lot of people want to acomplish big jobs after big jobs and do not allot themselves enough time to recover. All that does is create burnout, and there is no Permanacy of Agiculture (Permiculture) in that. It is not a race after all. It is all about planning, then prioritizing, and that is done on by evaluating a particular farm and moving forward in stratgic areas.
So what are "strategic areas"? It is focusing on three major areas that your farm excels in.
For instance, where I live dairy farmers abound, but the soil is very acidic so it is not conducive at all to growing the crops needed for dairy farming. Instead we should be growing potatoes and broccoli. But as much as I would love to beat up on big agriculture, a lot of small farms do the same thing by reading articles in magazines and getting into that crop or livestock of choice without thinking about it much. Pretty soon they are overwhelmed with a series of unproductive, unprofitable (money or in terms of worth being the effort), and overwhelming duties that they soon dread.
When I decided to get into sheep farming it was based on a Mattrix. I wrote out everything I possible thought I wanted to do, o what might be possible to do with profit. Then I cross referenced that against what my soil had for buildings, soil type, topography, climate, interest, etc...and what I came up with was sheep, but for solid reasons, not because they were cute and wooly, or because a guy I knew was getting rid of 20 of them for cheap.
So why three choices and not 1 or 20? Because it really allows some diversification, without being overwhelming! A persons time cannot be divided among 10 different things and it be done well on all 10 things. It just cannot be done. A person can esily tend to some fruit trees, a garden, and raise sheep, but to raise sheep, goats, pigs, fruit trees, raise a garden, maintain alternitive power, breed puppies, make and sell crafts is not going to be possible. I am exhusted just writing about it, much less trying to do all of it. And how can people maintain passion about so many different things. Fooey with that, find a few things that you love, and do it well, not a lot of things with lackluster enthusiasm.
Sadly, when people are overwhelmed, they look for help, and often times their spouse is just as overwhelmed or never had the desire in the first place. When I do my classes on sheep farming or taking a farm from hobby farm to full time farm status, this is one thing I address pretty quickly. In some relationships the spouse is just not going to be involved and so a person might have to scale back. Katie does a lot on this farm, but still 90 percent of what happens here is all on me. I have to therefor make sure I only do what I can do. That is limited now as I deal with debilitating cancer. Another aspect of this, is mking the farm enjoyable for them. I talk a lot about not over-buying equipment especially in small farms, but if a persons spouse loves tractors, and it keeps them helping about a farm, then it is better to buy a tractor and get that buy-in from the spouse then be frugal and save a little money. I fully understand that.
I agree. It takes time and there is a waxing and waning, especially if it's just an army of one. I also like to think that injury may give us the opportunity to teach others without being able to take over and just do it. It reminds us that us alone is not sustainable. I have now had the opportunity to help design, manage, and implement a few more gardens. It gave me perspective big time: giant stands of thistle, weeds galore-and not the edible type, garden plants buried. Bricks needing to be laid on lead contaminant soils, no fence, pests like crazy. Then I look at my yard where my biggest work is harvest and the things I want are like phase 2 of permaculturegardening. I guess that's one more reason community is so important- it's a sounding board.
I think another important thing is although treading lightly on earth myself is something I try to be very sensitive to, having a community of others adopt even 1/10 of my insanity makes a bigger difference in the world than me alone, and it can't happen by force or me living on my mountain top. It has to be with me admitting I need others and offering others what I can give (i.e. community). So looking at how sustainable I am is depressing, but looking at how much I've changed those around me just by being a good person and "giving my gifts to the world" makes me a little tingly every now and again.
Sometimes what helps me is remembering what I CAN do. Right now, I get more time at the computer. I can help people online. I can write dailyishes. I can share permaculture information with people on my local homesteading group. I can help run author events do more knowledge is shared all around.
When the kids outgrow their naps, I probably won't be able to help as much online, as I'll be outside more. As it is, I'm already on permies a lot less some days, when my daughter only takes a 1 hours nap, rather than a 2.5 hour nap, or the two naps that she used to take.
Times change. What we can do changes. Like Laura, having lists and looking back at those lists helps me. It shows me that I CAN and DO accomplish things. I try to work on my "contentment"--my "being happy with what I can do, and not being frustrated at what I can't." Some days that's really hard, especially when I'm SO CLOSE to being able to do something...and the kids need help, or they scream all day, or it's too hot, or my husband has to do something, so I'm stuck watching the kids rather than doing the project I want done, etc.
I read something from a stay-at-home-dad, and he wrote about how being a parent is hard because what you do doesn't stay done. There's not much that's "accomplished." Instead, the day goes in "waves": the house is clean and then it's dirty; the diapers are washed and then they they aren't; the kids are fed and then they need more food. Parenting is like riding the waves. It's surfing! In many ways, permaculture is like that, too: We get the seeds planted and harvested and then we have to plant them again; we put up a fence and then we have to mend it; we build a bed and then it settles and we have to build it again; we build a bond with a neighbor and then we have to go and talk to them again to maintain it.
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose"
Man, thinking about that in this context gives it new meaning for me. What is your purpose right now? What is your season? We can choose to be content in what we are doing, or we can be cranky that things aren't as we wish. Just a few sentences before the famous quote that turned into a Beatles song, it's written, "There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor." What's your labor right now? See the good in what you are doing and enjoy it, as best as you can. I totally need to work on that!
And, I totally need to sleep, too, which will be my striving now!
Something that has helped me is trying to time the different tasks and routines so that I do the most difficult things when I have the most energy. That means for me that, if at all possible, I try to wake up a bit earlier and do the challenging stuff first thing in the morning. My energy levels are highest then. In the afternoons I'm pretty tired and that's when it's best for me not to try and do anything other than being with the kids. I have another "energy peak" between 6 and 8 p.m. and I try to take advantage of that too.
My kids are at school already so it is possible to accomplish much more now. When the kids were small it was a big achievement for me if I washed my teeth! We certainly weren't self sufficient then and didn't even try to be, my husband had a regular office job then and we bought all of our food even though we had the farm. Now we produce all of our own vegetables, all of our eggs and honey, most of our milk/ dairy products and we sell vegetables, eggs and honey. It took us 10 years to get to this point.
Now things are changing again as our parents are aging. They need more help and at the same time our house came to the end of its life and we have to build a new home, so we are again struggling to find time to do everything. There doesn't seem to be an "easier time" in life! But there does seem to be a kind of wavelike tendency to life in that sense too that you may struggle and struggle for weeks and accomplish nothing more than your daily chores and then all of the sudden the day comes when you have the time to do what seemed impossible, the kids get along with one another, your mother doesn't call and even the cooking goes smoothly.
"But if it's true that the only person over whom I have control of actions is myself, then it does matter what I do. It may not matter a jot to the world at large, but it matters to me." - John Seymour
Would anybody like some fudge? I made it an hour ago. And it goes well with a tiny ad ...