Taking Your Lumps: Tough going gets better.
In a past life, I thought it would be a great idea to start a kayak fishing guide service in Puerto Rico. Getting paid to do something I love to do sounded amazing (sound familiar?) So after gathering some meager funds, watching a ton of YouTube videos, and hanging around some forums online, I bought the gear and hit the water.
For the next few months, my business partner and I battled wind, tide, and salt trying to make this system work. We put all of our research into action. We were determined, and then one day, like a light switch, we started catching fish. We caught them consistently. Something had changed, but we couldn’t figure out what is was. Looking back after a great year of fishing, we had decided that we had “taken our lumps,” and were rewarded with fish.
That phrase, “taking your lumps,” brings to mind boxers duking it out. It’s hard to win a fight without being able to take a hit. What matters is what you do after the hit with the information that you’ve gained. In my short guiding career, as well as in my homesteading, it is often the small, almost subconscious, tweaks that make the difference between a season of survival and a season of bounty. It is the myriad of data points that we take from our failures that allow us to press forward to bigger harvests.
If you are struggling in those first years or if you have a hit a difficult plateau in your homestead venture, let me offer three areas that get better, despite the “lumps.”
- Schedule: Homesteading, market gardening, and almost any business venture runs in cycles. From putting seeds in the dirt to doing taxes, we are involved in a seasonal endeavor. Farmers market application deadlines can fly by before you know it, and a one week delay in planting or harvesting can have an impact on your bottom line. ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES. Next year will be a new year and you will be ready. Soon enough, you’ll be running like clockwork.
- Systems: There are many ways to skin the agricultural “cat”. There are almost as many systems as there are homesteaders and gardeners. I suggest sticking to a system for AT BARE MINIMUM a full year. Give yourself a chance to fail completely or succeed. Evaluate and move on. It may take time to develop your own style, but as for me, I have found that gleaning the good from many systems has worked well. Just like schedule, you’ll nestle in to what works for you, then you can just make minor tweaks to adjust for the unforeseeable factors that nature has in store. Continue to educate yourself, but once you have found what works for you, do not be quick to abandon that.
- Soil: This is a physical, mechanical, and sometimes spiritual phenomenon. If you are growing with good practices, your soil should get better with time. Breaking new ground can yield great results, but after we deplete those initial benefits, things can get I tend to battle grass in new beds for a while. Grass rhizomes clog my equipment. The broken pieces seem to spread the scourge, but given time that soil gets oh so sweet and becomes a dream to work.
All of these areas tend to settle into the nice rhythms and textures that probably drew many of us to this life. Right now, I’m feeling good– more tired from doing what I love and not mentally frustrated with how things are unfolding, but then I rub the back of my head and remember the “lumps” that got me here. There are just some things that can’t be learned in books and blogs. Those lessons are the lumps that can change your life—for the good. Take them well.