It’s hard to see with a flashlight when the batteries are running low. It’s frustrating to tackle a project with a cordless drill that stops working halfway through. Keeping your batteries charged makes life easier because your tools work correctly when you need them.
The most important tool on a farm or homestead is…you! It’s easy to let yourself feel drained, and it’s hard to take time and rest when there is work to be done and animals who need care. But just like that flashlight, if you’re not fully charged, you won’t be working to your full potential.
This is one of my favorite times of the year. The air is crisp and cool, but it’s still pleasant to be outside. Nature’s rhythms mean that many tasks are coming to an end. By and large, farm baby season is over. Garlic, the last crop of the year to plant, is in the ground. Frost has come to the garden. Tomatoes and peppers are done for the year, and other crops like winter squash and cabbage have been picked and will keep in the farm stand for now. While there are still a multitude of things to do around our farm, the frantic pace is slowing. Many of those projects aren’t as pressing as spring planting or late summer harvest and preserving. There is a chance to take a breath and look around and appreciate the wonders of another successful harvest. There is also a chance to take a little time here and there to simply enjoy doing things.
Since we have many small streams of income, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with work. If I’m not gardening, or caring for the critters, or canning, perhaps I should be crafting something to sell. This time of year things like lotions or jewelry start to sell well as people begin to do their holiday shopping. I feel pressure to keep the farm stand and the Etsy shop full. But it’s also important to give myself permission to do things because I want to do them. I need to remind myself sometimes, it’s OK to keep a few beautiful handmade things rather than put a price tag on them. I made an apron last week from a blue fall print I fell in love with at the fabric store. The pattern was a reprint from the 1940’s. I started out undecided as to whether I would keep or sell it, but before I’d even sewn the first stitch I was in love with it. I needed to give myself permission to do something for me. It also freed me to enjoy the project more. Making mistakes and learning is part of the process of improving any skill, and there is value in working through the process. I love the pattern and intend to make it again, and it will be easier the second time around. I also have something beautiful I will love for years to come. There is value in stepping back and doing things because I love the process.
It’s also important to do things that have absolutely nothing to do with your hustles. It’s easy to neglect to schedule free time. Farms don’t come with vacation days, after all. But again, it’s important to step back and enjoy other things. I find when I do get back to work, it’s easier to focus on tasks at hand. My husband Dan and I took a couple days away from the farm this summer to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to leave the farm, especially in the summer. We used to simply not do it. But it’s important to set time aside to do things as a couple, not just coworkers here at the farm. It was wonderful to go, be tourists, and do and see things we normally would not. But we also find that we can do things off the farm locally as well. It’s easier to take time away when you can do it in an evening.
We have a small tow-behind camper and are fortunate to live minutes away from the Allegheny National Forest. Dan and I both love to immerse ourselves in nature. Camping takes us physically away from the farm so we don’t feel we should be working all evening. It gives us permission to relax, read a book, enjoy a campfire. Dan enjoys hunting. I love to wander in the forest and teach myself how to identify wildlife, plants, and mushrooms.
As a new farmer or homesteader, there is pressure to do so many things. It’s easy to neglect self-care. It’s a mistake we’ve all made before. The longer I farm, the more I realize how important it is to be able to step back, recharge my batteries, and come back refreshed and ready to go. While it often seems that there is just no time to relax, it’s extremely important to do just that to avoid burnout. Coming from a background in social work, I’ve seen firsthand how something you may be passionate about can become exhausting if you don’t take the time to take care of yourself. Life on a farm is always busy, but now we are in the sweet spot between the end of harvest season and the craziness of the holidays. It’s a good time to make time to relax a little and come back refreshed.