October 1, 2019

Discouraging Things

I've been working on chapter twelve of my upcoming book, 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel. Chapter twelve is entitled, "Discouraging Things," and discusses the difficulties we've dealt with, especially since 5 Acres & A Dream The Book was published. In trying to organize my thoughts for this chapter, I'm seeing several categories of discouraging things.

One division is things over which we have no control, such as weather, and things over which we think we have control, such as planning and execution. Another problem category for Dan and me has been outcomes that don't meet our own expectations. Lack of knowledge, skills, resources, and of course money are all things that are common sources of discouragement. I know these are things every homesteader can relate to, and I'll be telling a few stories of my own in that chapter.

As a compulsive encourager, I think this is an important topic. Why? Because discouragement can lead to frustration, and frustration can lead to burn-out. Somehow Dan and I have managed to avoid that, but it's caused others to give up. But here's the thing - I think the lifestyle changes homesteaders make have a significant positive impact on the world: environmentally, socially, and spiritually. That's why it's extremely important not to give up. So If I were to ask you

What discouraging things have you faced
in your journey toward self-reliance?

How would you answer? I'll be interested in your comments.

Discouraging Things © October 2019

26 comments:

Tim & Nicky Jarman said...

I could write a whole book on discouraging things but to summarise our experiences;
Fitness and health issues, not only are we unfit, obese middle aged townies but the hoped for improvement in health never happened. I got cancer (currently in remission), my husband got diabetes and his high blood pressure continues, I never have the energy to do the hard physical work required and he spends the nine to five at his computer earning the money that allows us to survive.
Plans going awry, we came here (northern Spain) nine years ago and he lost his job soon after, he then had to go back to the UK to get more work, it has taken us eight years to finally secure the job that allows him to stay here permanently. This has left us in debt and with little progress on the big expensive things such as a new roof that we need, and having spent too long apart.
Coming to terms with the fantasy lifestyle versus the reality. You picture the perfect productive homestead and you only get half of the work done. You either spend a lot of time beating yourself up about the undone work or you can admire the bits you have done and raise a glass of home made wine in celebration as you sit amongst the nettles and brambles.
Realising how many skills you don't have. Education does not teach us the survival skills that we need and there are huge learning curves and many disasters on the way. Loosing livestock is really hard and killing for meat when you have never done it before (we do slaughter responsibly, we would never let an animal suffer through our ignorance).
Having said all of the above I wouldn't change a thing. I love, love, love living with the land.
Nicky

Chris said...

Oh my, I'm still in the process of unpacking, some rather complex discouragements. To summaries though: it's about being able to dedicate time and resources to a natural equity system - which takes decades to see a return. All from within a capitalist society, dependent on over-development and the extraction of natural resources. Which only takes a few years to deplete. Even less.

In effect, what I dedicate my life to, takes decades to acheive. While the majority of community around me, works towards stripping all that natural equity, away. Such a deficit, impacts our land, and increases the money/time/effort we invest to compensate. Because now it's an island. Less diverse. Less resilent. But more work, on our part, to keep it functioning as a natural system.

Five acres, is a manageable parcel of land for a couple. But the more cut off it is, from the broader network of natural equity, the more work involved to make a natural return. Like I said, it's a complex set of discouragments. Something I'm still trying to work towards, figuring out. :)

Mama Pea said...

In a nut shell, even though we've been at it possibly longer than any of your other readers, first comes the money issue. Living the sustainable life is not cheap. (Is that the ultimate oxymoron?) Perishable supplies and even equipment we procure (always used, never new) are so expensive today as are repair parts (if they can be found) for our older equipment.

In our area of northern Minnesota, and I suspect in many other areas more conducive to the homesteading life, we often feel very alone and without others nearby who share our values and ideals. There are times when sharing equipment and a specific work load would be wonderful in so many ways.

Near the top of our list of what why we get discouraged is the fact that we never get it done. I know the idea is to enjoy the journey and not focus on the end goal which is the only sane way to look at it since . . . well, we never get it done.

There are times when it would be better for us emotionally and mentally to walk away for a short respite, but even that is hard to do when we know what awaits at home will have somehow mysteriously doubled in need upon our return.

Not that we would change our lifestyle. Never, ever. We feel safer and more secure on our little homestead than we would anywhere else. Plus, I sincerely believe our lifestyle of physical work and exercise in the fresh air has kept us healthier and happier than we would be otherwise.





Ed said...

Since I'm not striving to be self reliant, I find it odd to be saying my number one discouraging thing is to have to rely on other people. I'm happy enough to be reliant on the grocery store for my food but when it comes to hiring people to do things to my property, I hate the entire process. I like being able to do things myself when it comes to that.

J.L. Murphey said...

For the last 40 years of striving to be more self sufficient/reliant, I've learned one bold fact. For every up there is a down and for every down there is an up. If it was easy, then everyone would do it without the thoughtful insights we gain with the downs. In failing for the first time or the twentieth, we learn what works and what doesn't. Those valuable lessons count in molding you to be the best you can be in your walk in this life. The only time you've really failed is when you quit and the failure stands.

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

Well, health issues, had a ruptured disc 2 years ago, long recovery. That left me paranoid about labor/ yard work. Husband has been great but he feels overloaded sometime. $$$, we both work full time, and I hope to "retire" in 7 years or sooner. Processing food is tough too, with jobs, but we have learned to modify. It still works for us, some weeds don't get pulled, but we love being home, unlike a lot of our friends!

Helen said...

I'm not working towards self-reliance as you are, but I think any one who undertakes a 'farming' life style puts themselves in fate's hands and has to have a ton of faith and persistence. No matter what you plan for, something can throw a curve ball that you can't always predict and therefore plan for. Kuddos!

Lady Locust said...

Already some great comments. The first two things that came to mind were, you will easily become discouraged if you jump in with both feet and no experience. Much easier to go one step at a time. Thing two: finding items of quality. It often requires patience while looking for an antique that was made to last. Items today are made to discard after use. Perhaps it's different for others, but my goal is to buy something only once and have it last to the end of my life (not possible for all things.)
And 1 more tid-bit: I've learned to simply avoid speaking about certain things among the general public just so I don't have to get "the look" or explain how/why we don't make much garbage or don't eat fast food, or purchase certain things, ect.

Woolly Bits said...

honestly? most of the above mentioned! we don't strive to be totally self-sufficient, but even the most basic things require money that is always in short supply. and like several people above said - it would be so much easier if a group of likeminded people could work together, but there's nobody in the vicinity that would be even remotely interested. added to that our lack of transport.... we do what we can, but we don't beat ourselves up if we can't - not anymore at least. we all get older, less fit and the work doesn't seem to be getting less.... the worst bit for me is that we chose to live like this and don't care much what neighbours think, but the older he gets the more difficult it seems to become for my son.
enough "complaining" from me - Lorenzo is coming in (fat storm) and I have to secure my stuff:)

Leigh said...

Thank you to everyone who's taken the time to respond. I hope to hear from more of you. You are really giving some excellent answers. I can relate to them all, even so, you are giving me things to ponder.

Nicky - "Having said all of the above I wouldn't change a thing. I love, love, love living with the land."

That's not only a testimony for the lifestyle, it's a testimony about you!

Chris - "It's about being able to dedicate time and resources to a natural equity system - which takes decades to see a return."

This is something I've been thinking about as well. As I'm out there spreading seed and barn muck over a pasture that never seems to improve, I almost have to question whether or not it's "worth" it. I'm finally realizing that my faith must be the process, i.e. doing the right thing, not the immediate results (or lack of them). That's the way I keep on keepin' on.

Mama Pea - "Living the sustainable life is not cheap. (Is that the ultimate oxymoron?)"

Ain't that the truth! It is the epitome of irony. As Dan often says, "it takes money to become self-sufficient."

"Not that we would change our lifestyle. Never, ever. We feel safer and more secure on our little homestead than we would anywhere else."

Another truth I can relate to. There is something comforting about being able to tend to at least some basic needs by the work of our own hands. Very empowering.

Ed - "Since I'm not striving to be self reliant, I find it odd to be saying my number one discouraging thing is to have to rely on other people."

Considering you come from farming stock, I'm not surprised! Dan feels the same way. Especially, when we look at the work compared to what we paid for it. He always ends up saying, "I could have done that, and for cheaper!"

Jo - "If it was easy, then everyone would do it without the thoughtful insights we gain with the downs. . . Those valuable lessons count in molding you to be the best you can be in your walk in this life. The only time you've really failed is when you quit and the failure stands."

Very wise words. It requires getting over the instant gratification mindset, which is a huge challenge in itself. But it's true we learn more from our failures than our successes.

Nancy - "We have learned to modify. It still works for us, some weeds don't get pulled, but we love being home, unlike a lot of our friends!"

This is important. A repeated theme in the comments is frustration over everything that doesn't get done. Somehow we have to learn to be okay with that. Loving being at home is key too. I hope your retirement works out on schedule!

Helen - "I think any one who undertakes a 'farming' life style puts themselves in fate's hands and has to have a ton of faith and persistence."

Exactly! We can never predict and those curve balls are so unexpected; often pushing the envelope. I'm learning to have less faith in me and more in the lifestyle. I say that because I believe this is how we're supposed to live.

Lady Locust - "finding items of quality. . . Items today are made to discard after use. Perhaps it's different for others, but my goal is to buy something only once and have it last to the end of my life (not possible for all things.)"

Poor quality of tools and equipment is a big problem. More and more we find ourselves looking for alternatives to buying lightweight, mostly plastic items. It also make us question what we really need.

Bettina - "We do what we can, but we don't beat ourselves up if we can't - not anymore at least."

That's a hard lesson to learn!

It looks like Lorenzo is headed right for you! Stay safe!

The Wykeham Observer said...

One of the discouraging things for me is the fact that even out here in the country, your time is not truly your own. If you like to be busy as I do, it seems that the other commitments I've made to the church and other civic organizations tend to take a lot of my time. I don't want to quit everything and be selfish, but I wish I had more control over my own schedule. I don't ever feel I'm managing my time very well. Maybe I'll get it right someday.

Goatldi said...

I am tired of starting over. I know God has His reasons and I will also admit I can look back and see where that change in venue was needed. But yet putting down new roots about every 6 years just isn’t in my nature.

I am thrilled when permanent progress is being made and things are accomplished. I have learned more patience although I thought I had enough.

I find myself being resentful of any time that takes me away from home. Even though it is for a valid reason.

Like you Leigh I am learning to choose gentle substitutes for chores that aren’t as time consuming or require heavy tools or brute strength. And for years leverage has been my new best friend.

wyomingheart said...

I think my self reliance journey began in my youth and continues through to today. We moved to the ridge to become more self sufficient and wanting a better way of life. The learning curve has been sometimes frustrating, and sometimes hilarious, but we work hard and do learn. I agree with some comments that the expense to get the things we need is overwhelming at times, and we almost always buy used equipment, but that is still mostly high priced. We are also purchasing solar pieces to have a backup, but it is a slow gathering process. We are surrounded by commercial growers, and the chemicals some of them use is discouraging, because we are working hard to become as chemical free as possible. We have purchased more acreage surrounding our farm, which will no longer be used for commercial farming, so that is a positive for us. We also have learned a lot from our blog friends, and especially you, Leigh. Thanks for all your sharing !

Leigh said...

Phil, I think it's near impossible to determine how much time any voluntary activities will require. That's especially true when we're enthusiastic and the activity is a beneficial one. I hope things work out for you soon.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, bless your heart! You've had a lot of changes thrust upon you in the past year. I think you've born up extremely well.

Wyomingheart, congratulations on purchasing more acreage! That's always exciting. Your comment brings up another important point - the world simply isn't geared toward people becoming self-reliant. Lady Locust said something that we've learned as well - not to mention certain things in public. They just don't get it.

J.L. Murphey said...

I expect instant gratification in some thing, but homesteading takes practice and learning what works and what doesn't, what you physically can do and what you can't right now. I've spent the last seven years since my strokes relearning to do another way. But then, I'm stubborn that way.

In this world of instant gratification, I can understand why folks get disappointed easy. After 40 years of living or attempting to live a more self sufficient lifestyle, I'm still not there yet.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

My biggest discouragement has simply been the fact that I have not been able to make the progress I would have liked to as we moved from effectively the country to the city. The struggle has been, even in the urban environment, trying to make small steps in this area.

Leigh said...

Jo, your stubbornness is to be admired! More people should be stubborn that way. Understanding one's limitations and adapting alternatives for them is another kind of self-sufficiency.

TB, that's a huge one. In fact, that's probably the biggest one for Dan. Sometimes it's hard to deal with the difference between our expectations and our reality.

Rain said...

Hi Leigh, that's an interesting question and everyone's answers are good to read. As you know, I'm not even homesteading yet. My biggest discouragement (as you also know) is the bank. Not having the money to pay for a property outright, I need to rely on a mortgage. Also, not having more than 5% saved, I qualify for a first-time home buyer's mortgage where I can only put down 5%, but the rules suck. The banks won't mortgage an off grid place so we are stuck buying a house near other people or on a road. The banks also won't pay for a property that has more than 10 acres. As you and Dan did, we will have to compromise.

Leigh said...

Rain, trying to find suitable property and financing it can truly be discouraging. I didn't realize you were prohibited from buying more than ten acres. We didn't run into that specifically, but really had trouble trying to buy one five acres from one person (with a mobile home) and the adjacent five acres from another person (undeveloped). The bank absolutely did not get that we wanted to use the two parcels as one piece of agricultural property and wanted to treat the vacant 5 acres as an investment property. That meant a triple interest rate until we contracted with a builder to build on it (which we weren't planning to do). The idea is that the building loan will also cover the property and so pay off the investment loan. It was a mess. Obviously we didn't end up there, but as you say, where we did end up was through a series of compromises with ourselves. I'm hoping you find your dream property next time!

Rain said...

Hi Leigh, I'm not surprised to read what you said about the additional 5 vacant acres. The banks here don't want to finance more than 10 acres because they are afraid they won't be able to resell the property if there is too much land on a foreclosure. I guess the trends now are that people want compact condos and smaller lots or something like that. That leaves a lot of properties for sale with large acreages that we can't get!! Ugh!!! very frustrating!!! Our realtor said that the likelihood of the bank financing a property over 10 acres is little to none, but that we should try anyway, just in case. It's always worth a try.

We decided that no matter what, we're buying in the spring. If we can't find our dream property, we'll buy a very inexpensive house - even if it's near other people or a busy road and has a little lot. That way we aren't sinking our money down the drain by renting another year. We could stay at the little house, pay it off in a few years and sell it when we find the property we really want. You wouldn't believe what you can get for 20K here in the Maritimes. We found a nice little 2 bedroom cottage in good condition with 2 acres for $19,900 online. We would never have considered it last year because it wasn't a large enough acreage and also, it was right on a busy road. Now we're thinking, crap...we should have gone that route and we'd not have had to rent another year! So many lessons to learn in life huh?

Leigh said...

Rain, yes, it never seems to turn out the way we plan. But how else would you find it out!? It sounds like you have a very good plan plus some options. You can actually do a lot with just a couple of acres. And any improvements you make will only be to your benefit. Hang in there!

Helberg Farm Stories said...

All of the other comments are very true. Becoming self-sufficient is not for the weak or meek. My sister and I grew up on an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin and ended up here in northeastern Colorado on our own 20-acre place. When we decided to go back to farm life, there were tons of choices to make:
- to kill or not kill animals for income (choose not to)?
- Build or not build a greenhouse (eventually did build)?
- Research and list all kinds of other types of possible income sources to keep things operating.
Purchased in 2000. The worst drought in Colorado history for the first 3 years we were here. Quit my job of 11 years to build our 32'x86', 3'underground greenhouse (many trials on that sucker). House fire and loss of my youngest grandson in it in 2014. Tornado-from-hell in July 2018 that took out the top of the greenhouse, among other things. The blessing we took away was that we were forward-thinking enough to build the greenhouse with a 3'high, rebar/cement reinforced base wall. (we have to step down to get into it) The "bones" of the greenhouse held up to the monster, but the top is completely gone (also both ends from the hail damage have holes the size of baseballs in what hard plastic is left). While building the greenhouse in 2011, I searched high and low for insurance just for such an issue - NO ONE WOULD TAKE US...saying they don't do greenhouses due to the high winds and hail risks out here - great! At the time we were not discouraged thinking we would be able to get an income from it and put aside funds for repairs -ah - best-laid plans. The funds ran out as we were starting to set up our plots in the structure so we have only been working 1/2 the building. There was always something that happened to side-track our efforts. I had to go back to the regular workforce, then the fire, followed by 12 months of 6 major surgeries for me (osteoarthritis). It feels like it has just been a never-ending struggle just to get by - BUT WE DO NOT GIVE UP! I love working in the gardens. I love the critters (over the years there have been cashmere goats, chickens, rabbits (angora), ducks, geese, turkeys, llama, horses, and cattle), but we have had to downsize them to just the farm cats, a couple of dogs and chickens. Between foxes and coyotes, most of our fowl has disappeared - but we still get more because we love them. It is a hard life, and a life that is not for everyone, but I could never see myself going back to any other way of life. It's in my very soul and I love it.

Leigh said...

Helberg Farm Stories, what a story! Yes, this lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. It really takes gumption to stick with it, especially when adversities stack up the way yours have. And after all that you say, "I could never see myself going back to any other way of life. It's in my very soul and I love it." What a testimony! You're my kind of people.

M.K. said...

Homesteading/prepping/self-reliance really have never been our goal, although I do recall a time when my husband expressed interest in being off the "food grid." I think it proved to be much more physical work than he knew, and physically he is not in the kind of health to do it. Also, we simply don't have money to buy the equipment/tools/materials needed to make this little farm what we'd need it to be. Some projects we spent money on, we realized partway through weren't feasible. Weather and weeds are enemies also.

Leigh said...

M.K., gardening is always a challenge! Proper tools are so important, I agree. Still, I agree with getting off the commercial food grid as much as possible. I like being able to eat healthy food, real food. I think we all have to come to terms with what's realistic for our individual circumstances.