Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Feeling Trapped & The Five Whys

I get so many emails and letters from folks who wish they could quit their job, change their life, and move to the country but feel they can't. Sometimes these emails are incredibly sad. Some folks say they are too old to start over. Some are dealing with a disease or death in the family that ties them to unexpected care for children or elders. Some people are stuck in prison, literally trapped. These are hard to read.

And yet, these people are never really suffering with desire. Most are at peace with where their lives are. Since they can't do anything to change things at the moment, they let go of their dream a while. The release is a kind of peace, one woman said. I have a lot of faith in these folks, because if they can get through whatever is holding them back now they will be even more resilient and dedicated when they do stick their shovels in the dirt. You don't get discouraged at a bad day at the Farmer's Market when three years ago you spent an entire summer in ICU. They are cultivating a perspective that lasts. It is worth acres of black earth.

Some of the emails I get are in the same sad tone but very, very, different. They come from people who want to farm as well, but aren't because the changes that farm requires seem too hard or complicated. People who have put emotional and social discomfort between them and their dreams, and they feel it is just as much a barrier as a prison wall. These are the hardest emails for me to read, much harder than the former. They always start out with "I love your life and wish it was mine! But!..." and then go through the lists of excuses why it isn't.

I have learned this much: No one can save people in this mindset but themselves. I mean, if a person writes me from an actual prison his limitations can be overcome soon as he is free. But when some one has already decided they can't leave the one they built around themselves - they can not be helped.

If you are unhappy about something you have two choices. Just two. You either can work to make it better, or walk away from it. Fight or let go, that is it. This applies to everything in our lives, from our relationships with our spouses to our jobs. It is true for our health, our weight, and how we let people treat us. You only get different results if you change your actions.

Some of them already own (or have access to) land and want to be full-time farmers. Others are in apartments and cities, but have no idea how to make next month's rent much less move to some brand new rural area. They feel they can't have what I have here at Cold Antler. Everyone tells them they can't. Their whole lives are angry balls of baling twine called Can't.

Yes you can. Of course you can. I promise you can.

The Five Whys

I recently heard about the Five Whys on the radio. The idea is simple: If there is something you want to change about your life and feel you can't, ask yourself why five times. It'll tell you a lot more than you realize. For example:

I don't like my job but I can't leave it.
Why?
Because I need the money.
Why?
What do you mean, why? Because of bills and the mortgage!
Why?
Because if I don't pay them, I could lose my house and fall into debt!
Why?
Because that's how this system works. I get money from this company, and then they get my daylight five days a week. And then every two weeks I get money that I use to enjoy myself in the evenings when I am tired and frustrated or on the weekends when I buy things with the money left over from paying for the things the job is required for.
Why?
Because that's where I am, and that's the system I am in.

It's been said if the Five Whys always either end with the person feeling validated or trapped. It's never one or the other. They either keep insisting that they are in a situation that makes them unhappy because they have to be—or they have none of those limitations but feel they are so invested in a lifestyle that leaving it would be more trouble and heartache than it is worth. So what does that leave us with? Victims of discontentment and Volunteers for discontentment.

I left my job to be self employed because my job did not fulfill me and I did not like giving up that amount of my life working for someone else's dream. I worked for a nice company, and it was filled with nice people and I can not say a bad thing about that organization. It just wasn't mine. No matter how high I climbed the corporate ladder, even if I somehow became the CEO, it was still someone elses. It was the dream of someone else, the work of someone else. Taking over the steering wheel is not the same as building the car. It took me eight years. It was worth it.

So what's the point of this long post? To realize that if you are willing to be scared, and take risks, and do something bold you can work towards the life you want. It may not be supported by the people who you have been told are the approvers of life's changes. If that is too much to bear, then you will remain stuck. But if you are willing to put yourself out there, make some sacrifices, and do the work you can have anything you damn well please in this beautiful world. Sometimes it takes money, sometimes it takes a different attitude, and sometimes it just takes guts. But money, attitude, and guts abound if you're willing to go after them. If that sounds corny, or eye-rollingly idealistic, I'm not sure what to say to you? Because it is true. I live it everyday and get emails every day from others who are doing the same. Meaningful lives are happening all around us. Better health, better relationships, better love..it's all around us. So go get it.

62 Comments:

Blogger Shannon said...

Jenna, you don't even know how much this speaks to me right now. There's so much I want to do but I've let my fear stand in the way. I've allowed myself to feel trapped by circumstances when I have almost complete control over every circumstance that's in my way. Thank you so much for posting this today!

January 9, 2013 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

That was such an encouraging post. I don't believe in the saying "It is what it is" when it pertains to our lives. It should be "I can change what it is". There are degrees to farm life (at least, I believe). You can have a few chickens and some vegetable plants in containers on a city lot or you can have a few acres of land, a bigger flock of chickens in a shed and a big vegetable garden. The last degree is the Ponderosa (which most of us will never have). I think that a farmer can be happy in any of these situations since all it takes is a happy frame of mind, honest farm work and dreams of things yet to come. Keep up these posts, Jenna ~ they mean the world to us farmers.

January 9, 2013 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Heather Marie said...

I have to say your post got me right where I needed to shoved today! I've heard similar advice before and I have taken to heart about having choices. "You have three choices, give in, give up, or give it all you've got." I think it may have been accompanied by a pelican trying to swallow an unwilling frog :o) Either way, I think your message is to the point and well needed by a lot of folks, including myself. Sometimes we get so caught up in taking care of the right now, that we neglect our some-days. To get to the point where we are sitting on our own back porch, looking out at our own food growing, and our own animals eating, really can be as simple as taking the first step of picking up a thread of something and examining it until we find the rug. For me that is reading one thing everyday for a least five minutes that gives me something to tie into my dream, whether it is something helpful, inspirational, or just reading a note to myself from a while ago to remind me of how far I've come. Thanks for the inspiration today!

January 9, 2013 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

You have NO idea how much I needed to read this..
I'm quitting my job at the end of the month..
I've got a mixture of joy and being scared to death running through my head..

Thank you thank you thank you for this...

Hugs from a rainy TN
Denise in TN

January 9, 2013 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Black said...

"It took me eight years." This is the part I keep repeating to myself. Since I homeschool my small children, I can't compare my timeline to that of a single person, or indeed to that of any other person, since we all have different circumstances.

I'm also a writer, and I mostly write every day. Sometimes I tell myself this is too hard right now, I have too many ambitions, I'm making myself crazy and so I stop.

And then I start again.

Our true loves hunt us down, I think. We have to be courageous enough to be caught.

January 9, 2013 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Joleen said...

Thank you Jenna - I am right there at the Five Whys working up the strength to 'do it'. This post will help me.

January 9, 2013 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger The Mom said...

You are absolutely right. If you really want it, you'll do it. No excuses. It might take a while, but you'll get there with baby steps. I hate when people ask how I do everything. I wasn't born doing these things. I decided they were important and went out and did them. It wasn't easy. I wasn't perfect the first time, but I kept at it. It's all about attitude. Here I sit in my half duplex on 1/3 acre, half of which is septic or house, in the middle of suburbia. I could have said "I can't", but I didn't. I have a very large garden with fruit trees and bushes. I have 9 laying hens that help out as well. I make my own soaps, knit my own socks, mittens etc, preserve my foods. Attitude baby. I've got plenty.

January 9, 2013 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Such an inspired and eloquent post! Thank you for sharing it. After we bought our small piece of land, one of my frends was quite surprised at how "we manifested what we wanted," as she put it. Being able have our own place, with enough room to garden and keep chickens was all but a lofty dream to us a few years prior, until a little luck and lots of hard work made it a reality. I do think in many ways we create our own reality.

Just recently, I asked my sister-in-law the "why" question when she was debating about staying at the job she hates. It came down to money/lifestyle choice for her, and she couldn't really relate when I told her I'm working toward living on less and less money so that I don't have to return to a paid job. It is hard for people stuck in a certain way of being to see an alternative - I was once there, too - but I can't tell you how free I feel now, having let go of that path for this one! - Jaime

January 9, 2013 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Jennie said...

Jenna, Over the Christmas break, I read "BarnHeart" for the second time. It is wonderful how much you have achieved and will continue to achieve in 2013. You go, girl!

January 9, 2013 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

Good luck, Denise ~ You can do it & be extremely happy!!!!!!! Keep us updated.

January 9, 2013 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

I often ask myself if I'm stuck or not, and if so, am I doing it to myself. I actually think we're on a slow track towards the life we want. And we keep adding pieces, like the garden and the chickens. There are definitely areas of my life that are stuck, and I'm working on the unsticking. But overall, I'm happy with where I am as well as where we're headed. :)

January 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Eileen Hileman said...

It took awhile but in six weeks, the corporate world for me is over. Am I scared - probably not as much as I should be - maybe that comes later. I'm so busy looking for the right farm, getting our current place on the market, reading everything I can get my hands on about sheep and Scottish Highlander Cattle I don't have a lot of time for fear. We've gotten rid of the people in our lives who told us we couldn't do this. I may still have ot face major surgery in the middle of this but like the proverbial rock going down the hill we're moving, we're on our way. For those who say we're too old - age is a state of mind - for those who say its too hard - anything in life worth having is worth working hard for - Are we guaranteed success - no. But we'd much rather chase our dreams and try than check into the retirement center and wrap ourselves in a cloak made of fear and can'ts. Its not success or failure its the man or woman in the area of life who is out their trying whose life is going be a satisfied one (apologies to F.D.R. for mangling his "Man in the Arena"). Good post Jenna. You can be a light to others but you can't walk that path for anybody but yourself.

January 9, 2013 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

I needed this yet again. I have this persistent longing that is felt all day, every day, to leave the cubicle world and “farm” full time. My dream involves a small vegetable csa that also includes eggs, goat milk and cheese, honey, and possibly a meat source via goat/chicken/etc. A percheron or two pulling farm tools would be great as well. Everyone says I won’t make money. That is a concern of mine of course, but I am willing to change my lifestyle – I’m not much for material objects anyway. More of a concern to me is moving away from family that I cherish. Land here in Bucks County PA is incredibly expensive, so to find even just 10 acres that is affordable I need to be a few hours away, at least. Ideally, I’d pick up and move to Washington County NY.  The other concern of mine is health insurance for myself, my wife, and my young child. I know we would always be well fed, as I have become very good at growing organic crops. Luckily, I’ve never worried much about going against societal norms. Most people would call me crazy for wanting to leave a very well paying job with good benefits to play in the dirt. However, my mantra to myself has become “you only get one life”. I want to live it outdoors in the fresh air, during heat waves, snow storms, and everything in between. I enjoy the temporary discomfort associated with physical work because the by-product is something that enriches the soul. I don’t want to, in fact, I can’t, spend another 30 years living in a cubicle, only to retire and dream about what I wish my life had been. My wife just lost her job, so we’ll be moving to a more affordable house so she can be a stay at home mom – might as well find our farm now.

January 9, 2013 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger lemontreelane said...

Thank you for sharing. Now I've got a lot to think about.

January 9, 2013 at 2:55 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

Thanks Jenna that made me cry this morning. Ive wanted to get a dog for the longest time and my family disaproves and I have to say what am I waiting for? All the negitivity to die off and leave me without anyone to critisize? Kinda I guess. Stupid. Life is short, I want dog love since I dont have people love. Im going to go to the shelter this weekend and everybody can go suck it. Thanks!

January 9, 2013 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

As long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other one, I figure I am doing pretty good. Every time we finish a project on the house, we get closer to moving. I could focus on the negative but it would only depress me and stall the progress. Not to mention, it's teaching me patience, not my strong suit. I have made it clear that I have to be moved by my 50th birthday in march. Or I will become a raging nighare. Only half joking. Now to find a place... Have a good realtor?

January 9, 2013 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger time4trees.mb said...

If was up to just me, I would be well on my way to getting my farm going...the problem is my spouse and his reluctance. Unless I want to leave my marriage, I am stuck until he is ready. I am NOT willing to leave my marriage.

January 9, 2013 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger time4trees.mb said...

If was up to just me, I would be well on my way to getting my farm going...the problem is my spouse and his reluctance. Unless I want to leave my marriage, I am stuck until he is ready. I am NOT willing to leave my marriage.

January 9, 2013 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger bookkm said...

Waiting...That's what we do. We plod and we wait. For what? I'm not sure.
For a day when there are no other demands? For a time when we have money enough? When will that come?

Jenna, your blog reminds us all that we can only wait so long. We are all running out of time. We CAN make it work.
Thank you for that.

January 9, 2013 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger Bluebelle Quilts said...

My husband and I are about to do what some of my friends (and probably family) think is crazy - sell our far suburban home and move to the city. We're working with a realtor now to find a home on a lot about 1/2 the size of our current one. There's still enough room for a tiny garden and my bird feeders. I'll be close to parks, libraries, shopping, etc. My husband will no longer have to spend 2+ hours a day commuting and it puts us closer to the activities we enjoy. I have my fingers crossed that I will be able to pursue my craft business full-time come the end of May and leave my day job behind.

January 9, 2013 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Stephen Andrew said...

Hahaha, damn straight! You're doing an incredible thing giving a shelter dog a home!

January 9, 2013 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Jenna-So very true! I stand at less than 3 months to full time farming and at times it is easy to be overwhelmed. House repairs, fencing, gardens to be dug etc...but also freedom to do it. There is a time to dream and a time to Do, 2013 is the year of the farm for this gal:)
Congrats Denise on new life w/o job off farm.

January 9, 2013 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

There's a lot to be said for that old sports logo "just do it". To someone whinging about their lot in life and how they want to do blah blah blah but won't for whatever reason, I always say "just do it! Or don't!" Whinging takes up so much energy. Your post speaks the truth! I'm going to bookmark it and show it to the next person who is inactive about making the changes they want to make to their life. So thank you!

You might be interested in this flow chart - I had it on my desk for many years when I had to work with a lot of unhappy people. I would point to the flow chart and say "read this!" http://capitalogix.typepad.com/public/2010/07/are-you-happy.html

Have a great day!

January 9, 2013 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Good post and it makes me curious. How much of your farming pays for your farm and how much of your writing/blogging career supports your lifestyle? I'm not talking actual dollar amounts, but just a general percentage. Could you still have your farm if you didn't have a another income (ie: writing)? I know you make some money from your homestead, but I get the impression your writing is the real "cash cow". Would you advise people to secure income from either a personal talent/skill that might or might not have anything to do with farming first or would you recommend just buying the land and worrying about the income later?

January 9, 2013 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Shelby Edwards said...

Great post and equally great comments from everyone.

I too left my corporate job recently. A job that in our society could only be called a dream gig --trips to Europe and Asia, Director level, very comfortable paycheck. And yet, as I was sitting in yet another meeting with a team leader that I was just never going to click with, what popped into my head, clear as a bell, was: "You don't want this". And that was it. 24 hours later I was exiting. I walked away from it all.

I think something is afoot on this front in our country. People are reaching out asking "how did you do it", people everywhere, for many reasons, are looking for something. Something different, more meaningful, more real perhaps.

I've taken my newly unemployed self to a rural island in the NW, found myself a modest cottage to rent on 3/4 of an acre on a 100year-old farm. I don't own it, but it's mine and there will be a garden in the spring. I move in a few days and everything, everything in me, tells me what I have done the last four weeks, is the right thing. The most right thing I could have done.

It always feels like you are trying to step off a cliff when you make these big changes, it usually turns out more like stepping off the curb. The anticipation of change, the anticipation of the unknown is ALWAYS the worst part. Off you go everyone --face your dragons, they might just give you a ride....

January 9, 2013 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger Shelby Edwards said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 9, 2013 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger melinamarie said...

I love the last paragraph. You know reading this blog over the years has encouraged me to seek what didn't seem possible. I think it is important to have a very clear vision. I don't even bother asking why. I just wonder HOW? That is what is important to me. In 2012 we had to live in a small apartment for a month even though we had farm land we gave it up because it wasn't our vision of how are future should be. It was a leap. We lived in a shed, a cottage, and a cramped apartment. It felt like prison. Yet every day I found something to be grateful for and I made sure I kept my journal and vision alive. Don't ask why. Just ask how? For me it was reading this blog, the book The Moneyless Man and a powerful storm that made me find what we were looking for.

The storm terrible. It was hailing the size of golf balls. I couldn't see. Yet I felt like it reflected how I was feeling so I just embraced it as I drove. I couldn't see what was in front of me. I just kept going. At the end of the storm the mist came off the Catskills mountains and a rainbow formed. The storm had passed. It was at that moment. Right then I knew something was going to change for the better. A week later we packed up our trucks and settled on the mountain farm we now call home. There is a way. I hope your readers find it.

January 9, 2013 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Robin Follette said...

We had to figure out whether we were going to move from city life and suburban living to a tiny town in county I'd never visited. Money was the deciding factor. My husband would be moving to a new job but I'd be living mine behind with no prospect of full time employment, and certainly not at the money I was leaving behind.

We added up the expenses of my job: gas, wear and tear on the car driving back and forth, pre-packaged food because I was worn out at the end of the day, day care, clothes for a front desk office job....

I quit my job and we moved. I'd been working for $50 a week after expenses. No regrets.

January 9, 2013 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Panswife: I would say that the farm pays for 25% of my bills, and 75% of it comes from books, blogging, google ad clicks, and workshops. I think of CAF as just another cottage industry though. It's a skill set I use to cover my expenses and I love doing it. I think this would work for a lot of folks. We all have something we love that we can't imagine making a living doing, but we can. I write, others sew or cook, some build barns and others write songs. It's all out there if you want it.

January 9, 2013 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

But I should point out: that 25% income isn't including the dent I put into my grocery shopping, the gym membership I don't need, and the quality of life it brings me.

January 9, 2013 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger TheHotFlashHomestead said...

You hit it right on the money. Six months ago we left the place that had been home for a couple of decades, where we had roots and bought a home and land in wine country. SO MANY people told us how jealous and envious they were at seeing us do this. Yet a good portion of them could do it as easily as we did, with a little bit of patience, sacrifice, and willingness to embrace the unknown. We were by no means capable of the superhuman. We just believed if we wanted it badly enough we could make it happen. I wish they believed as much.

I hope your post encourages some of the people who think they might be able to farm/homestead to begin working towards that. Truly, they will never do anything more satisfying than living their dream.

January 9, 2013 at 6:03 PM  
OpenID roseandphoenix said...

Six months till I get started! Not the land, though the video of your farm makes me ache for it. I have some other things to do first, and I'm generally very excited. But I was in a bit of a trough of doubt about how totally stupid my plans are and needed to be reminded of this, that even if it's not certain -- what is? Thank you.

I am also reminded of a passage from Jean Craighead George's "Julie of the Wolves." Julie is trying to fall asleep on the tundra and is afraid, and remembers her father teaching her that when you're afraid, what you need to do is change something. Getting stuck in the fear doesn't help (especially if it's a tangible fear, as it would be in the High Arctic!). Changing something does.

January 9, 2013 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger Paul Molnar said...

Jenna, You are wonderful. Another excellent post. Like many of the others I found it very timely. I've reached the point where I feel like I need to start moving toward my dream or giving it up. I'm not entirely certain which of your categories I fit best into, but I'm definitely in there somewhere. It is nice to be reminded that it is possible to change your life, especially from someone that actually has done so.

January 9, 2013 at 7:39 PM  
OpenID destinationisjourney said...

I'm moving to my farm this april! It's taken 2 years of work, one divorce, and a lot lot lot of hope, but I'll be there in 4 short months!!!

January 9, 2013 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Thanks for answering. I'm sort of in a similar position where I make money from a skill I can do at home which makes it possible for me to seed some lettuce, mushroom hunt or hang laundry in the middle of the day. I certainly save money on groceries and would never have the energy for gym membership. I also don't need much of wardrobe or gas for commuting. My first year on my homestead I lived comfortably on under $10,000 (no mortgage, just taxes). Maybe the key here is for people to possibly translate what they do for others into something they can do as a cottage industry. It's probably more realistic than ever with computers making it possible to have an office anywhere. Hoping you all follow your bliss...

January 9, 2013 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Linzleh said...

Hurray for you Jenna for the boldness & truth in your words! Every time I do something really scary, I think of Indiana Jones in that search for the holy grail movie. The scene where he takes that giant step off the cliff edge expecting to fall but landing on a hidden bridge; life is like that... There's always a hidden bridge or an extra dollar left over when you didn't think you had enough. The point is to be true to your heart and dreams and go for them. Actively living means feeling those sharp edges and choosing life directions, not letting the winds of circumstance define the borders of your life.

January 9, 2013 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Yep. Well said. Left the job 2 1/2 yrs ago, and have been self-employed since, doing all manner of things to pay the bills. Built a house with a good deal of salvaged materials. Grow a garden, can, keep chickens... Is it hard work? Absolutely, but as you said, it's MY dream I'm working for. I always anticipate reading your posts, and hope you'll be writing for a long time.

January 9, 2013 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

I think Jenna has said this before but you have to be happy where you are - that's the starting place. If all you have right now is a city lot, then dig up the grass and plant a veggie garden. Just start something! I'd wanted goats, pined for them even, for years, and one day I told myself life is too short and I have to make do with what I have. So, on my suburban/rural boundary house on a double lot I got goats! Just two and they are miniature breeds but it works. And I have goats and they are happy, healthy, and well loved! I'm now looking into starting a very small business selling goat milk soap and if that goes well, then the larger acreage follows even more quickly than I had planned.
So, I repeat what Jenna has said before. Just start. Start small. Plant a fruit tree, get a couple of hens. And it will grow into more than you ever dreamed of!
Yeah Jenna! Yeah farmers! Yeah everyone takes the steps to follow their dreams!

January 9, 2013 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Melanie J. said...

Here here! I'm halfway there. Moved to outside Asheville. Starting to explore. Surrounded by farms and mountains that fill me with a priceless peace. Working from home. All it took was the decision to finally not take no for an answer. Next step...

January 9, 2013 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Thank you Jenna. This is the most inspiring thing I have read in awhile. I quit my job 2 months ago with no where to go in a place where jobs are scarce. Not really sure what I am going to do. But last weekend, my daughter and I put in a raised bed and filled it with sproutlings. (I used christmas money to buy the dirt and bricks.) My daughter is a senior in high school. When she figures out what she will be doing and where she will be going, I can make better plans for myself.
I have one of those negative families that think I am nuts for wanting to farm. But in my head, it is the only logical thing to do. It is what I have dreamed of for more than 25 years. I just haven't really figured out how it would make enough money to pay expences.
I have such a good kid. She talks about how she will go to school, get a good job and buy me a farm. She is the only one who understands. And I guess that's enough. I will keep trying. One raised bed might not seem like much to many people, but to me, I'm ecstatic. Only bad part is that I live in a rental, so I will have to take it up when I leave....but that should give me at least one growing season :)
Thanks again for your encouraging words!
~Rebecca In FL

January 9, 2013 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Very well said. Sharon in Oregon

January 9, 2013 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Oak Forest Cooperative said...

Wait a second, your writing prisoners?I did that when I was in Texas, there are alot of goodlooking women in prison in Texas.There are alot of people in prison in Texas period.No,I'm just teasing you.I would reccomend checking the Communities websites.When people band together it's alot easier and the buy-in cost is alot lower.Good luck.

January 10, 2013 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger enchantedhollow said...

I am right there with you. Not only my spouse but I have kids that need to finish school where we are. I've finally decided to do as much here to learn the skills I will need for there. It's not perfect but it will hopefully keep me less frustrated.

January 10, 2013 at 7:19 AM  
Blogger enchantedhollow said...

I am right there with you. Not only my spouse but I have kids that need to finish school where we are. I've finally decided to do as much here to learn the skills I will need for there. It's not perfect but it will hopefully keep me less frustrated.

January 10, 2013 at 7:19 AM  
Blogger enchantedhollow said...

I am right there with you. Not only my spouse but I have kids that need to finish school where we are. I've finally decided to do as much here to learn the skills I will need for there. It's not perfect but it will hopefully keep me less frustrated.

January 10, 2013 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Catcoco said...

While I do admire your enthousiasm and will - and everything YOU have done to take your life where you want it to be - I cannnot help but feel that, while I wish life was as simple as you define it, it is just not.

For some folks, they may dream with all their hearts and soul, the possibility of getting there just does not exist.

Sometimes this situation is due to an illness or something else that is out of their control... Sometimes it is due to bad decisions that were made years ago. Sometimes it is because their children's lives and education has been put before their own dreams. They had to choose to go after their own perfect life or one that would offer their kids the tools they need to go after their own dreams when the time comes. A hard decision to let go of your dreams so that someone else might be able to go after theirs.

Some are just completely out of luck and no matter how hard they try, something always happens that takes their dream a little farther from becoming a reality. Some just do not possess the stamina required.

In a former life, a long time ago, I was a counselor. I met all kinds of people with all kinds of problems. One thing I learned during those years is that we are not all equals when it comes making our own dreams come true... and I have also learned that it is much easier for someone who is single and without children to think about what they want and go after it since they are the most important person in their own lives and nobody else has to suffer the consequences of their decisions.

I really wish I could still think that we can all make our dreams become a reality but life and experience have taken that illusion away from me...

January 10, 2013 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Framing Fowl said...

We learned the hard way that there is nothing as thrilling as pursuing a dream. We risked everything for a dream and lost it all. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.

Would we do it again? ABSOLUTELY. With no doubt or hesitation. Do we have any regrets? NO. Yes, we learned things along the way that we wish we had known before we started, but no regrets.

May I suggest that if you have a dream, don't just keep dreaming about it. Research it and find out exactly what it would take. How much money, how much time, what resources or skills do you need to acquire, etc. Then put all those things in writing along with a written plan on how you will accomplish each step and when. Revise as necessary and read it daily. This will translate the dream in your head to the reality you want to be living. You really can do it!

January 10, 2013 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger chesapeake said...

@catcoco-I feel like Jenna addressed this with the whole post. Especially the part "do it or let go." Sometimes you just have to let it go.

I think it's also a matter of definition as to "achieving dreams" as well. Life is about constant redefining, not just giving up. Say someone had a lifelong dream of being a world-class ballerina. And then they broke their leg or became paralyzed or irretrievably injured, or didn't have the right body type, had kids, etc. They can obviously no longer be a world-class ballerina. But that doesn't mean you give up. It means you tweak your dreams and turn them into something else. Maybe that person starts to teach ballet, or learns to sew tutus for young ballerinas, or volunteers at a local dance center or even starts a dance center for underprivileged youth. And the reality with most dreams is that they do not belong in such a specialized field. Practically anyone can grow basil in a glass jar on a windowsill, but most people by sheer body type cannot be world-class ballerinas. Out of their control. Farming (for one) is not like that.

Meanwhile, there's the city dweller with not so much as a balcony and thinks "If only I had 2 acres, imagine what I could do..." There's ahomesteader who has 2 acres and thinks "If only I had 300, imagine what I could do..." The 300 acre guy says "If only I had 10,000 acres, imagine what I could do..."

So to anyone who wants to farm but made the choice to have kids, accidentally married a city-fied husband, became terribly injured or ill and cannot have the 300 acres they want: you can still be a farmer, maybe you just need to alter your dreams. Redefine them. Actually LOOK at what it takes to make it happen. I often think, "If only I had the money" then I sit down and think "For what?" I run the numbers and realize that really, a few thousand dollars would change my life. A few thousand dollars is completely doable. Most people think they need to be millionaires to do anything. But most people's dreams don't require a million dollars. Most don't require even $100,000. But few people run the numbers on them, preferring to sit and be victims.

The reality is that 100% of people are in situations where they can change SOMETHING. 100%. You can't change life traumas, you can only change how you let them affect you. Everyone goes through shit. It's how you muck through it that makes you who you are. Most people who have say they have dreams don't actually want them to come true. Because if they did, they'd be making it happen.

Thanks for this post, Jenna.

January 10, 2013 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Myriam Diamond said...

One of the reasons that I read this blog, & that I love reading this blog, is that you remind me that I am not trapped. I am really inspired by your journey from renter to farm, & reading this blog also reminds me that even though I'm not all the way there, to appreciate the steps that I have taken, from urban apartment to cottage on five acres of land (although still renting), from city community garden to my own garden & 15 chickens, from central heating to a wood stove. Thank you so much for continuing to write here, & thanks especially for posting this now. My husband & I are expecting our first child this June, & I had a few recent panic attacks that this ends all our dreams of farming. It is good to remember how much we have achieved & also that having our child have the chance to grow up in a farming environment is a huge motivation. So thank you, & keep writing.

January 10, 2013 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Melina said...

You don't need 100,000 dollars or a million to get farm land. We got our first farm land for one gold dollar in 2011. It's a matter of finding the creative solution.

January 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

In response to Cat, I understand what you are saying. I've seen a lot of dreams dashed, destroyed, and have plenty of personal experience with things not working out. But dreams are like farms. You diversify. You don't just bank it all on one thing. Look at me, I have a pile of dreams and some are coming true. The farm, the horse, the day job quitting..but I have other dreams, like falling in love, getting married, having kids, all of that. It may not ever happen. No matter how much I want it. But it's also not the one dream in my bucket, you know? And it's also a choice I made. If I wanted a friendly and comfortable boyfriend I could find one. I'm holding out for something a little more, more feral, more meaningful, more intense. It may never happen, but I'm leaving the light on.

So my point is, dreams aren't really about the getting of them. They are about living with hope, and for something, and with this idea of something more all the time. It's a mindset, and some of us need to be taught it, or trained to allow ourselves to want things. But I firmly believe that anyone who wants something can try for it. And the trying is often enough to validate a life well lived.

January 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Amen!

January 10, 2013 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Umble Wife said...

I wish it were so easy for all of us. My husband and I own land, and we are building a little cabin on it with out own two hands. But we're not living there, and who knows when we will be? We are trapped, halfway to our dream. You say "money abounds", and I'm glad that it does for you. For us, it does not, and it never will. We are inching our way there by single dollars, and might never reach our goal. Those of you who have the means - live your dream! Live it for those of us who are working so hard for ours, and might never achieve our goals. Live it for those of us who truly are trapped, with no way out of the corporate rollercoaster. Don't wait for next week, or even tomorrow. Tomorrow is too late.

January 10, 2013 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Umble! when I said money abounds, I mean there is a lot of it out there. myself, I have a checking account with 321 dollars in it and no money on the way. That's it. That's my savings, my whole life right now. I won't have more until someone signs up for a workshop, or people click on google ads.

But here's the thing. Money does arrive when I need it. An ad sale may come up, a company may sponsor me, sometimes a logo is requested by a reader. Money is out there, it's the getting it to me that is the trouble at times!


I watched that DVD The Secret, and you know what, it works. It really does. You should watch it. If nothing else to change your mind and thoughts about money and abundance. It's available on netflix, amazon prime, and DVD and a bunch of other places.


Anyway, a lot of folks who are trapped could still quit their jobs, cash in their 401k, and live long off that enough to figure out a few months of bills and a business plan. It wont make you rich, but that's what I did, and it made me happy.

January 10, 2013 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Umble Wife - Wow! You are building a cabin on your own land, with your own two hands with the love of your life?! Sounds like a dream to me!

January 10, 2013 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger MollyKnits said...

When I realized getting out of my house in town was going to be very difficult (housing marking in my area is BAD), I just started growing and raising livestock in my fairly large backyard. I have been happy that my neighbors are actually amused by the chickens and the garden. I have inspired more than a few to start gardens of their own.

January 10, 2013 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

I have to comment one more time because I really think some perspective is needed. Most, if not all, of us reading this blog are living in developed countries. We have food on our table and a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. We have nothing to complain about. NOTHING! Yes, it would be nice if that roof was over a cute farmhouse on 5 acres with our dream sheep, goats, pigs, etc. but in reality we are sooooo privileged that we fail to see the reality of the majority of the world. Are you building a house on your own acreage? You are one of the few lucky ones and truly privileged - even if you have to scrape for those dollars to finish the house.
See where I'm going with this? If you put a little perspective on this issue you see how truly lucky and rare we all are to even be able to dream of something (even) better. Enough said. I'll climb down off my soap box now...

January 10, 2013 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Laney Butler said...

Hi Jenna,

I found your Barnheart book at my local library today and I'm loving it! I've been dreaming of my gardens and flock of hens for years. At the end of this year my husband and I will be moving to a family cabin and starting a "new' life. I'm so ready!! It's taken years of hard work to get there too.

This post was perfect for what I've been feeling lately. Thank you!

January 11, 2013 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Marcheta Gibson said...

Jenna,
I am a long time follower of your blog. I had dreams of my own similar to yours when I was younger. I now live on 30 acres, but like you it was not easy getting here. One book that inspired me was 40 Acres and No Mule by Janice Holt Giles. If you have not read it, I think that you might like it.

Here is a quote from the last page of her book that describes how she and her husband carved out a farm from Kentucky ridge country when they decided to leave the rat race of city life in Louisville, Ky, in the late 1940's or early 50's.


“But what have you got a brain for? What have you got two hands and a back for? What have you got nerve for?”… from Forty Acres and No Mule by Janice Holt Giles (1905-1979), author and full-time country woman.

If the book is not at your local library, it is still available at Amazon

January 11, 2013 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I think many of us who dream of farming don't have deep pockets or unlimited wealth. What we do have is a great desire and a grit to make do until we can do better. And for me and my kids, if that means moving into an unfinished shelter on our farm...then so be it. I am wiling to make the sacrifices needed in the short term to accomplish the dream. And, like Jenna, my checking account is easily under $500. Month by month I buy or barter what materials I can need to fix up what I can. What I am doing is not unusual, I see gritty people all the time doing what they need to do to get what they want out of life.
Awesome post. Kale on the warming mat:)

January 12, 2013 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Beverly Miller said...

Hi, I've been a fan of your blog for quite some time because I've wanted to do the same thing. My husband finally realized my dream and joined in. We bought 3.3 acres in So California for a song. I'm curious how you bring in money. I see that you have the seminars and such (too far for me to travel, heh) but is there anything else you are doing to help your income? Thanks.

January 15, 2013 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Christina Amos said...

I relayed this post to my husband a few days ago while we were grocery shopping. I've always wanted to settle down, find some land with a decent house near a job my husband could build a career in and SETTLE. Really settle. Yet, his job is pretty much like the military - he works engineering for a construction firm. Even if we landed a cushy office job, they only let you stay in office jobs for a few years before you're shipped back out to the field. At best we could hope for an assignment that might last 5-10 years. He pressed me back.. what would we do if we had to move? Even if you go to a long term assignment, there's no guarantee you can stay? How would we move all the animals? Would we buy or rent? What would we do if the next location was somewhere we couldn't afford to live on a farm? He could leave his company, but then where would be left? What if he got laid off? In his current company we trade off stability of location for stability of career - if one job ends or the money stops we just move to another one.

I have to admit I gave in to his reasons and conceded that least for now The Farm needs to remain a dream we will someday build to. We're in our late 20's, there is still time. I have to say though, if we have kids I want them to be raised on a farm. Maybe I'll get lucky and our next assignment will be long term and I can get him to agree to some land and a few animals. Till then I'll just keep sighing when I read about awesome farm things, remembering this post but thankful that he has conceded back one thing too - our 3 dogs are not optional.

January 18, 2013 at 4:51 AM  

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