On the homestead I am learning that we need both routine and spontaneity. Animals, especially, thrive on routine. If things aren't predictable, they aren't happy. I try to set my routine according to their species nature and stick to it. If I'm late, I hear about it! Their care and feeding are my daily chores. They are the foundation of my day. No matter what else I'm doing, when it's chore time, it's chore time. Everything else must be set aside for another time.
Spontaneity on the homestead isn't exactly the same as it is in the rest of the modern world. We can't not do chores for the spontaneity of it, or load up the car on a whim for a weekend getaway. Our spontaneity must exist without the framework of our routine. Even so, interruptions in routine often happen when unexpected things present themselves, such as goats getting their horns stuck in a cattle panel, goats getting their horns stuck in each others' collars, guinea fowl squawking in the middle of the road and blocking traffic, or animals getting hurt or sick. All of these demand immediate action, and the day's plans are delayed if not down the tubes. We've learned that it's not so much spontaneity that's required, it's flexibility.
Weather is an unpredictable factor which requires flexibility on the homestead. In the typical modern lifestyle, weather is considered either cooperative or uncooperative; peoples' lives go on regardless. On a farm or homestead, weather determines everything. It's why we got so much done on our master suite last summer - rain! If rain looks imminent, we'll jump to projects that will be effected by it: raking in the hay, getting that building project covered, garden picking, etc. We try to schedule working with the soil around it. Unexpected rain or snow can put a halt to the day's plans and make us change direction. That's why we keep an outdoor project and an indoor project in the works at all times.
Our routine is so intertwined with the weather and the land that I have gradually come to see ourselves differently in the grand scheme of things. I no longer see nature as something we simply observe, appreciate, and preserve; nature is something we are a part of. It isn't something we can put fences around, scatter educational placards throughout, and build pathways with a donation box at the end of the trail. It was never meant to be that way, but modern life, which is all wrapped up in technology, pretty much thinks it can go on without it.
One challenge to flexibility is work style. Dan and I have very different work styles. When Dan commences a project, he sticks with it until it's done. He doesn't like unfinished, loose ends. I'm the kind of person who has several projects in the works at any given time. I'm not actually a good multi-tasker, it's just that there's always a gardening project, kitchen project, housework project, and writing project all floating around in my day. Dan tells me he couldn't work like that, but I remind him that my projects are ongoing ones, while his are start-to-finish ones: new fencing, installing a wood cookstove, installing a rainwater collection system, or building a new chicken coop. For me, there will always be dishes to do, weeding to do, laundry to do, meals to cook, food to plant, pick, or preserve, errands to run, etc. I suppose it's part of why that saying came to be "A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done." Dan's projects can be marked with check boxes, mine are a lifestyle.
That doesn't mean developing a homesteading routine has been easy for me. I tend to get distracted by things that suddenly seem urgent, such as, "Oh no! The library books are due today!" In the beginning, especially, it was hard because there was so much to do. Then we got animals and were so thrilled when they ran up to us to beg for attention and food - so cute. One day I realized that the animals were dictating my day. The goats kept hollering to be fed earlier and earlier, and the chickens were jumping the fence to see if I had some tidbit to eat. I realized they needed a routine just as much as I did.
I do think there's a difference between spontaneity in the modern way of life and flexibility in an agrarian one. I think the worldly minded usually want flexibility to suit themselves. On the homestead, flexibility is required to suit everything else. I suppose that's why so many folks left the farm in the first place, for the freedom to not have to be flexible for the sake of everything else. Life appears so much simpler when everything appears to be predictable and one can be spontaneous simply for the fun of it.
Both Dan and I are still learning how to mentally balance routine with flexibility. There's a fine art of switching mental gears that neither of us has yet perfected. Sometimes we're mentally and emotionally set for one thing, but must switch to something else without losing motivation and enthusiasm. Hopefully we will someday be able to take it all in stride, simply saying, "It's all in a day's work".