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Are You Discouraged? Homesteading Can Be Tough!

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Are You Discouraged? Homesteading Can Be Tough!
Do you ever feel discouraged?  Maybe you feel there isn’t any point in trying because it’s all just too much!  It’s too big, and you can do so little?  Why should you even start when think you will fail?  You know you should try your best, it’s still so hard to get moving sometimes!

Sometimes we don’t know what we need to do.  Sometimes we know exactly what to do but we are afraid.  There’s something holding us back.  Sometimes it’s so easy to try and fail and try and fail.  Other times the tiniest though of failure is enough to scare us from even trying.

But The Lavender Didn’t Die

I have a black thumb.  It’s true!  I kill almost everything I plant.

When my husband and I moved into our first apartment we had a little balcony and I decided we needed some potted plants and flowers for our little balcony.   I bought pots and plants and potting soil and spent a few afternoons creating a mini-oasis on that tiny ledge.

Every single plant died.

The next spring I tried again, different balcony, different plants.  Almost every single plant died.  My tiny lavender plant, no more than a few sticks really, lasted all summer, managed not to drown that winter and grew ever so little the next spring.  I kept planting and plants kept dying.  I don’t know why I kept trying except that I knew I should grow some herbs and tomatoes or at lease something edible.

But the lavender, it kept growing, and I kept putting it into a bigger pot, until finally we purchased the house and I planted it in the yard, and it’s still alive.  It’s huge!  It’s thriving, happy, and covered with bees.

Sometimes trying something again and again until you get it right, is the way to get past disappointments and failures.

If I had given up any of the first four years I attempted gardening.  It took five years before anything but the lavender lived.  But the lavender lived, so I knew it was possible.  Latch onto a glimmer of hope and go for it!

Should You Push Through or Should You Quit?

I recently had another feeling of failure when thinking about getting rid of my goats.  I tried to make it work, but ultimately decided that they just weren’t right for me on this property at this point in my life so I sold them to an awesome home who needed a companion for their older pet doe.  It was hard walking away from something, especially when I had invested so much time, money, education, and pure sweat into it.  But despite it not working out, I’m still better off for having the experiences.

Sometimes it’s really hard to know when you just need to persevere and when it’s actually time to quit.

Here is what to try when you are feeling discouraged:

Try Doing Less:

  • Take a break. Sometimes all you need is a short break to rejuvenate and get your energy back.  It can be hard sometimes to take vacations when you have animals, but look around for someone to hire and just go away from it all for a few days.  Many times when I try this I return home and remember exactly why I love homesteading so much.
  • Scale Back.  If you have a lot of projects going at once it’s easy to get discouraged when nothing seems to get finished.  Look around and pick one thing and decide to not do it.  I was trying to learn to tan rabbit skins and two of the three in the batch dried properly and the other one I had problems with.  It’s okay take something off your to do list!  Two skins are finished, and one got composted.   Maybe this means you skip some canning and instead give your produce away to friends, or you plant a garden bed with a cover crop and let it rest until next year.  It’s okay to downsize!
  • Don’t take on too much at one time.  I’m really guilty of assuming I have more time than I actually do.  According to the article Five Reasons Why Homesteaders Fail by Living Life in Rural Iowa and Nine Homesteading Tips For Success by The Farmer’s Lamp this is actually a pretty common mistake we newbies make.  Start small and don’t over commit!

Work Smarter, not Harder:

  • Rearrange or clean up.  Moving things around can help you see them with new eyes.  It’s also a free way of solving problems.  It usually takes me a couple times before I find the perfect spot for something and I’ve been known to even move plants around to a better location.  Also, sometimes a deep clean of an area makes it much nicer to be.  Pretend you are getting to host a party, or move, or something like that.  Be ruthless in throwing out all those “just in case” pieces of baling twine, chicken wire, plant pots, so on and so forth!
  • Automate as much as possible.  Look at where you are spending your time and how you could automate that or make it easier.  I was having a hard time running out to let the chickens out of their coop every morning so I made an automatic chicken waterer that could go inside the coop without taking up floor space or making a mess.  That took a lot of pressure off my mornings to run outside as soon as the sun comes up.  Filling the rabbit’s water bottles was starting to take a lot of time so I switched to bigger bottles that last a full two days in moderate weather.   If can put in even fancier automated systems, do it!  That’s one of the things I love about permaculture too, is that it’s all about creating self sustaining systems the do the bulk of the work for you.
  • Learn more.  Many times the reasons we get discouraged is because we don’t have the knowledge or experience we need.  Taking some time to do some studying and learning can help with this.  Tenth Acre Farm’s article 7 Ways to Start a Homestead Without Being Overwhelmed has a good reading list for those who are getting started.

Look At The Big Picture:

  • Make a gratitude list.  Take some time and really articulate the things you love about what you are doing and how it has blessed your life.  This seems small, but it can really shift how you feeling in a big way!
  • Get inspired.  Maybe you’ve been so detail oriented that you’ve forgotten the big picture.  Take some time to look around at what other homesteaders are doing.  Let yourself dream about where you’d love to be.
  • Network with other homesteaders. If you are the only homesteader around other people may not understand why you’re feeling discouraged.  They may think that the only solution is to give up homesteading, even if that’s not what you want to do.  Reach out to other homesteaders either in person or online and take comfort in the fact that it’s very normal to feel discouraged sometimes!  I really love this article over at 104 Homestead.  It helps me remember I’m not alone.

Why Stick With It?

Keeping my lavender alive for over ten years is quite an accomplishment for me, considering I’ve managed to kill just last year alone already established mint, echinacea, blackberries(!), brussels sprouts, chard, lettuce, kale, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, rhubarb, mushrooms, and potatoes.  The seeds I’ve planted that never really got going are too numerous to list.  Sometimes even when I manage to sprout something and it lives to bear fruit I manage to mess it up somehow.  Those tomato plants I got ripe fruit from for the first year ever?  Yeah, I tried canning tomato paste and every single jar went moldy.

But the lavender.  It’s still alive.  So something went right.  Every time you mess up you learn something.  Even though my family would be dying of starvation right now if we were trying to live off our land, I keep trying.  Because maybe someday I’ll figure it out.  Someday all these tiny steps will add up.  We can look back and see how far we’ve come.  Maybe each time we leave behind an ideal because it was just too idealized brings us closer to other ideals.

Because after all, the lavender didn’t die.

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