For many of us, we are perfectly content to just be on our farm and that is the best life for us.
I’ve heard that George Washington said: “I had rather be on my farm than emperor of the world.”
There is also the saying that it is wise to create a life that you don’t need a vacation from.
And for many of us, this is what farm life means to us. It is our dream and where we choose to be over anywhere else. And the ability to make a living from what we produce on our farm is the ultimate goal.
To reach this goal takes a lot of hard work, focus, dedication, sacrifice and most of all…time.
Farms gobble up a lot of time. The calling is there day and night, weekends, holidays, birthdays, free time, vacation time, sick time. And when your farm becomes a business, you may find that your time is dictated by business hours, seasonal cycles, farmer’s market schedules, and customer needs. And like any other business or career, it can be hard to balance.
And like most of you, I’m willing to make these sacrifices in exchange for the pleasure that living on a homestead brings.
But that still doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do other things.
Like, go on vacation…not necessarily to get away from things but to experience new ones. To go to the movies or visit with friends and family.
In the first 3 years, we had our farm we barely saw our extended family. Every waking moment was spent building, mending, constructing…we had animals that were depending on us so we owed it to them to get their living conditions in proper working order as fast as we could. I think we hurt some feelings turning down invitation after invitation from friends and family. It can be hard to explain the demand that a farm can have to those who don’t live it.
And to be honest, while this post is about “how to have a life outside your farm” the reality is that if you truly want a farm, your life is going to change…a lot!
Kids may have to drop after school activities, hobbies that take you away from the homestead may have to be scaled back. Vacations might be spent haying rather than on a sandy beach…A lot of this will be determined by individual factors, but…things are going to change.
Below are some ways to help you live a more rounded life and still keep your farm in working order.
Vacations can be tough when you have a farm. You have to trust, educate and may have to pay someone to take care of things while you’re gone which adds substantially to the cost and stress of planning a trip.
Zach and I rarely travel, but when we do we try to involve an element of the farm in part of the trip. Last year we traveled to the Ohio National Poultry Show and planned a bunch of fun things while in the area. I was able to pick up some show chickens I’d been wanting for a long time and we had a nice time getting away.
If you live in a farming community offer to barter with your neighbors to care for their farm while they take a vacation and vice versa.
- Spending time with non-farming friends and family
In those early years spending time with family looked different than it used to. My family was big on all day gatherings, sit down, homemade dinners and playing cards into the night. As much as I adored these activities, when we were first starting our farm we simply didn’t have time to devote an entire Saturday to “celebrating”.
Instead, if it was my mom’s birthday I might meet her for lunch and celebrate for a shorter duration.
We also offered to host parties in the offseason like the winter.
We would also welcome people to our home but warned them that we would be working on X project so if they came they should plan to help or at least stay out of the way.
At first, this can be difficult. It can feel selfish and imposing, but at the time, it’s what we could do. Now that the farm is somewhat settled we are more flexible with our schedule and able to get back to the traditions that our family holds dear.
- Other hobbies and interests
The truth of the matter is that depending on how involved you get in homesteading, you are probably going to have to give up some of those other hobbies, or at least reduced the time you used to spend doing them. Especially if you have a “real job” day job. A farm is demanding of your time and energy so something has to give.
But with that in mind, it is normal and healthy to want to do something else once in a while.
Zach and I tend to return to our “other hobbies” in the winter. The evenings get dark early and the weather prevents major farm projects from happening. That’s when I start to get back into creating art, knitting, and sewing. Zach likes to woodwork, leatherwork, and blacksmith. Honor that the seasons of the farm will dictate a large part of how you live.
- Let people help you.
Think about before you had a farm. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been given the opportunity to spend the day helping a farmer?
If people are willing to help, let them. Many hands make light work and help save time. Many times when our family comes over to help with a large project we end up sharing a meal and an evening around the bonfire. What started out as a day of hard work ends up being a party.
- Honor the place you are in your life and be patient.
If you still feel overwhelmed and you’ve tried all these things then maybe it’s time to rethink your business plan. Have you bitten off more than you can chew? Is this a relatively busy time that will pass?
Honor that there are busy times of the year and plan things for the slow times. It will give you something to look forward to and prevent burnout.