My homestead is new – just a few years old. So how is it that I’m feeling burned out already? Maybe it’s because my “To Do” list never ends. Maybe it’s because in the 11 years we’ve been on this piece of land I’ve planted more gardens than I can weed.
Maybe it’s because I’m constantly fighting the pests that eat my vegetables, the deer that decimate my young fruit trees, the diseases that take the lives of what I plant, and the animals that try to kill my livestock.
Maybe it’s because bees have an instinct to swarm no matter how hard I work to prevent it. Maybe it’s because feeding chickens organically doesn’t cover the cost of grain. Maybe it’s too many 12-hour days of canning or weeding or doing whatever else this lifestyle demands. Or just maybe it’s because I’m still grieving the loss of my mother and grief can dull our passions and cloud our vision for the future.
Whatever the cause, burn out can cause me to crash and burn or it can lead me to contemplate why I do what I do. And contemplation asks the hard questions like, do I still want to do what I’ve been doing. And if the answer is yes, how can I make what I’m doing work better for me - what do I need to change? Would landscape fabric reduce my hours of weeding? Would a drip irrigation system mean I could spend my time doing something I enjoy more than endless hours of watering? Do I really consume enough honey to justify spending so much time and money on my bees? Am I even enjoying beekeeping anymore?
While living by my emotions is a dangerous game, not listening to my emotions is risky as well. When I repeatedly dread a specific chore, I need to ask myself if this is a chore I want to keep doing. And if I quit this particular endeavor, does that make me a bad homesteader, or disqualify me from calling myself a homesteader at all? Is there really a check list of criteria somewhere I’m obliged to follow? Or is it possible to just be content with being a gardener who has a few chickens and a pet rabbit? Maybe too much of a good thing can take all the pleasure out of it. What would happen if I quit being an overachiever? Would it be okay if I sat on the porch swing more often? What if I gave myself permission to just be, nothing more?
I just might find the joy and pleasure I felt at the beginning of this journey. I might spend more time with my family. I might read more, travel, paint again, rediscover my passion for life.
And what would my ancestors say to me? My own mother milked cows, washed clothes over a boiling kettle, processed chickens and hoed the garden, but she welcomed the convenience of a grocery store and a washing machine. Is there some virtue in doing it all myself? Or could I participate in the greater community of farmers that could provide me with some of the food I wouldn’t have to grow on my own land?
In the light of the fact that I probably have 25 to 30 years remaining in my life, what matters most? God and family. That’s all. So, am I quitting this lifestyle? No. Am I modifying it? Yes. Because at the end of the day, homesteading is just an occupation and life - my life - is bigger than that.