The Strange Ambition of the Homesteader

As the boisterous summer season is replaced by the contemplative calm of fall, I cannot help but take stock of my progress in this homesteading adventure, and unfortunately I’m not entirely pleased. It’s true that, from spring to fall of this year, with the immeasurable help of my Ranch community, I have accomplished the following:

  • Rebuilt the crumbling chicken coop and goat pen into a cozy and functional (not to mention lovely) shelter
  • Increased my flock to five hens
  • Brought in three wonderful Nigerian Dwarf goats to start the Henge and Hollow herd
  • Prepped, planted, and harvested my first big vegetable garden
  • Explored my property on horseback for the first time in 20 years or so
  • Established my first colony of honeybees
  • Built a patio and bee garden at the back of the house
  • Threw a huge party
  • Put away 6 pints of peach jam; 14 packages of pesto; 16 cubes of tomato paste; two jars of pickles; one pint of peach shrub; two cups of sundried tomatoes in olive oil; 1/2 pound of dried peaches; and one quart of jalapeno pepper sauce
  • Replaced all the rotten trim on the house
  • Hauled two truckloads of firewood out of the forest
  • Fell madly in love with the most wonderful guy I’ve ever met

I guess you could say that’s not a bad 6 months for a single girl going back to back to the land. For sure, some of this stuff is magical and there’s no denying it.  Still, there is so much more to do. The new hens haven’t started laying and are just three more mouths to feed, there’s the kidding shed and milking parlor to be built and no money to build it, the doe has yet to be bred, my garden was something of a disappointment and all I can see is pile of work ahead of me tearing it all out and getting the winter garden in, the apple, olive, and grape vine all produced nothing but shriveled useless little fruits, I will be going a full year as a beekeeper without tasting any honey (if I’m lucky and they even survive the winter), my horse needs shoes and I can’t afford it right now, the back patio project is being overrun with weeds and I can’t keep up, my summer exercise regimen fell to the wayside before it even started, my fella is about to head out for six months of work somewhere far away from me, and we still have to paint the house and split the wood ahead of what they’re saying is going to be a very wet season.

Not to mention all the wild plans for an aquaponics system, broiler chicken tractor, cheese cave, and greenhouse up and running for next season! Holy mole!

So much for the gentle paced life of a country mouse. I seem to have replaced the striving and grasping of city life with an equally frantic list of impossible homesteading goals. What gives?

What is definitely true is that winter brings new priorities. The bustle of warm weather tasks must be set aside for now. They can wait. Life will slow down, become more methodical. Keep the fires going, keep the soup hot.  As the rain begins to fall I will learn a new meditation: appreciate what I have, be at peace with how things are.  Take comfort in a pair of wool socks.  The aroma of damp leaves and warm bread.  My ambition will rest underground with the bulbs, and come up again in spring.

11 thoughts on “The Strange Ambition of the Homesteader

  1. I love this word picture: ” As the rain begins to fall I will learn a new meditation: appreciate what I have, be at peace with how things are. Take comfort in a pair of wool socks. The aroma of damp leaves and warm bread. My ambition will rest underground with the bulbs, and come up again in spring.” that is beautiful! Reading your list from the last 6 months..I was struck by how varied and enriching it was…. and that last one…falling in love w/ the most wonderful guy you’ve ever met..that one is priceless. you are rich in things money can’t buy. I love your blog! DM

  2. You have accomplished plenty this year! Besides, if it were all done and went as planned, what would you have to look forward to in the future? It is definitely easy to get frustrated feeling that there is so much more to do, I feel that way a lot. But just look around you at the beauty you have created and been a part of through the seasons… And you have someone to share it with too!

  3. I am sorry that the pleasures of the life of the hand have overrun you. Seriously sorry. For the life you imagined making for yourseif could be massively beautiful and rewarding and important. But you must give over to it entirely. Only then will you be willing to pay the price. For one must pay for one’s life no matter the flavor. The trick is being sure the life paid for is worth buying. So so many are not. Be sure not to view your new life through the lense of your former one. Doing so will make you blind. all the best

  4. Oh, I SO know what you mean. Life on the farm is full, full, full of tasks and trials….but oh so worth it. Just put a snapshot of the past year in your mind and rest on what you have accomplished. Take it from this “original” back to the land gal….you will never catch up….and it’s ok. How many others out there would love to be liven’ the life we have?! Lots!

  5. This time of the year is a great time to stand back and reflect; and you have had a very big year, so you can feel very good about it. I think I’d be terrified if I ran out of things to do, and am grateful that if nothing else I’d need to keep growing and preparing food, although in fact there is so much more else to do. Lovely images, words and thoughts here.

  6. Just remember it’s about the journey not the destination :) And there is ALWAYS more work…..and when that’s done, there will be some more….and that is a very good start, you make me feel like I have been slacking :)

  7. Thanks for all the comments! I think everyone must strike a balance between the drive that motivates you to aim high and get things done, and the grace to enjoy the adventure no matter what happens. And after a summer of “go go go!” I am really looking forward to cultivating that grace.

  8. I love this post. Personally, I think that’s just how homesteading is. I could generate similar lists. I think that if you ever find yourself satisified that everything is perfect and there’s nothing else that needs doing, then you’ve probably quit homesteading. :)
    Next year you’ll have a different (and likely longer) list of accomplishments as well as a different (and likely longer) list of disappointments.
    Happy Homesteading!

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