Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This is it.

Of all the emails I get sent, one variety is getting harder and harder to read. They are the letters from people who are certain it is too late for them to change their lives and start homesteading. These are not elderly people, disabled people, or impoverished people. They are just people who have made up their mind that choices they made thus far are solid brick walls in the way of something they want. The letters always begin with how they wish with all their heart they could sell their home and move to a farm but their current circumstances make it too complicated, political, and possibly divorce-inducing to up and leave. It's heartbreaking.

And it isn't heartbreaking because these folks are in victim of life's cruel game. It's heartbreaking because of their certainty. It's bad enough to think of yourself as a prisoner of your past, but to write it down and send it out into the world... that's practically making it binding.

I'd like to say this to all of you who are certain your life can't change. It can. It may not happen fast as you like or as easily as you like, but it can.  Because for every letter I get from people who feel it is too late to farm I get three times as many from folks who are making it happen. These letters are celebrations and not one of those letters starts with "So, we won the lottery and..." No, they are all letters of long journeys, ten-year plans, long waits, retirement farms and/or drastic choices that made a lot of friends and family uncomfortable. The only difference between the first set of people and the second set is the ones on farms never bought the lie. They made it happen because they decided it could happen.

If you are in a house you don't want to be in, don't send letters condemning it as a prison. Thank the gods you have a house to begin with. Imagine if you wanted to live on your own farm and you were homeless?  You have a home! And if you have enough spare cash to buy a bag of potting soil and some seeds, guess what, you just started a farm. It may be just one pot of peas on the windowsill but who cares? Imagine if you set aside 20 dollars a paycheck to buy a container, soil, and a plant? In one spring you could have five different types of vegetables ready to harvest by fall. By September you may have a pair of hens laying eggs in your backyard. These are small and inexpensive purchases. You don't need a perfect raised bed garden laid out with gravel walkways or a coop from Williams-Sonoma. Turn a cinderblock on its side and fill it with dirt, instead herb block. Get a few pallets from the warehouse on the corner - get some nails - chicken shelter. If you are reading this, then you have the internet and therefore ALL the information you could ever need to do these things! How lucky are we to live in a time where horse carts can be bought online?! Amazing!

Not everyone can or will live on a farm that wants one. But the luck sure does live among those who don't let their circumstances stop them. Small choice are seeds. They lead up to larger decisions that change lives. Part of making your dreams happen is understanding that it is the hardest work you will ever do but what is the alternative? Regret? I've made a thousand mistakes here, but I regret none of them. What would haunt me is living a life where I never gave myself the opportunity to fail at a dream. Trying is what matters, hope is what matters, and taking that away from yourself is the ultimate tragedy to me.

So you'll never have your farm? Why? Because you won't have a country estate and gamboling beasts in the field tomorrow? Well, you can have a package of seeds today, or a rabbit hutch today, or start looking at the WWOOF page today and instead of going on vacation in Disneyland you can take the family to Italy to pull weeds and eat around the table at night with a dozen new friends.  What are you waiting for?

If you're looking for a sign. This is it.


Blogger Andrea said...

Ahhhh, beautifully put. I find myself constantly envious of the gutsy moves people make, starting all over with a farming life. Could I do it? I always come up with the excuses you read over and over in those letters. If I wanted it badly enough and was willing to make enough sacrifice... Yeah, I could. It's the 'willing to sacrifice' part I struggle with. And fear, of course.

July 28, 2015 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Tanya T said...

I agree with you about the little seeds. I always dreamed of living in the country. I grew up on dirt road on an island in northern Ontario and spent my summers in the country on a lake. I moved to the city when I was 12 and I craved the country. We visited my aunt at her country house several times a year and would always point out our favorite place to put a house on the drive. I read farm blogs, homesteading blogs, gardening blogs. I never thought we could afford to live in the country but I never gave up hope. And then it happened, we were offered a tenancy on a farm, long term. It's a lot of hard work and the winters have been brutal but I've never regretted it. If you want it bad enough, you will plant little seeds everywhere in your life that will grow into it happening I truly believe in that.

July 28, 2015 at 10:24 AM  
OpenID inquisitivefelinesandfibers said...

You are absolutely right and you phrased it beautifully. I live in town, but yet I have a vegetable garden, flower gardens, and I appreciate all of the wild life in my area. Your life is exactly what you make of it!

July 28, 2015 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger A.N King said...

My current home in sleepy Rockford is not my final destination but even though it is just 1 acre and sports no livestock, it is the Heart of Home farm. For one started lemon balm plant led to spearmint, chocolate mint, oregano, lavender, thyme, basil and savory. Growing so many herbs organically gave us the faith in ourselves we needed to move onto bigger ventures. So, Heart of Home added Japanese pumpkin, acorn squash, rainbow chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes and strawberries. The night before last we sat down to a dinner than included three of our Japanese pumpkins, baked under a glaze of cinnamon, honey and ginger. Even under the spices, you could taste the terrior of the pumpkin; it was the breath of our acre. The golden-green sweetness of the hay in the field beside us. That sweetness was all the proof I needed to know that I am on the right track.

"For where our hearts truly lie is in peace, quiet and good tiled earth. For allhobbits share a love of things that grow." -J.R.R Tolkien

July 28, 2015 at 11:00 AM  
OpenID milesawayfarm said...

When reading Joel Salatin books, he talks about this too. How he gets a long line of people writing letters and at talks he gives telling him how they can't start a farm, with a long list of reasons why. His advice. Just start. START. Exactly what you ust said. Buy a packet of seeds. Learn how to can the apricots from the neighbors fruit tree that are falling on the ground going to waste. Learn how to ferment a batch of sauerkraut on your counter. Bake a loaf of bread. Strip compost your kitchen scraps. START.

July 28, 2015 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

I love this post! Thank you. I like to think I am a case-in-point. When I started reading your blog in 2007, I had a farm dream. But over the years I have slowly been turning my suburban acre into a "farm" that right now has a garden and chickens. But two dwarf milk goats have been offered to me (and I could have them tomorrow!)! And someday I want a little pig to raise and eat. And last night, I was voted in to my town's Farmer's Market advisory board. So I am a voting member! As I am breaking all the "rules" my marriage and some old friendships probably won't survive, but I have new friends, adventures, wins and losses, that are all farm-related. Including the watermelon and cucumber plants growing right now smack dab in the middle of my front-yard landscaping!

July 28, 2015 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger gothicmuse said...

I am reminded of the saying by Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." The biggest obstacle to doing or starting anything is convincing yourself to get started.

July 28, 2015 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Chris12 said...

I have lived on my 20 acres for 22 years. We have always had a huge garden, but the past few years I have had to put my garden on the deck due to knee problems. At the age of 62, I need a knee replacement, which I will have in about a week. We still have apple trees, blackberries, and flower beds. My deck garden includes 15 tomato plants, lettuce, kale, peppers, and green beans. I also have a large herb garden. No, I can't do what I used to, but I still live in the country and have many farm stands and farmers markets to supply me with what I am unable to grow. My only regret is that I did not feel "Barnheart" until I got older, and my husband was set in his ways. He doesn't want animals, which I love more than people, truth be told! But I am content with what I have, and hope that once my new knee is in shape, I will be able to do more. I still can, preserve, etc, which makes me very happy!

July 28, 2015 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Su Ba said...

Jenna, you're so right. Joe tells it simply..."Just start". Because of my homestead blog, I too get emails from people wishing to live my life (or your type of life, Jenna), but have all sorts of excuses why they aren't. I like your response....buy a pack of seeds. It's a very good first baby step to take. I had been taking little practice steps for years but it wasn't until in was in my 50's that I finally took the big plunge. So I'm an example that age isn't a valid excuse not to try a new lifestyle. All I can say is that I'm glad I took the leap. I urge others to try their dream. It's better to try repeatedly than to die with regrets, in my opinion.

Jenna, I love hearing about your life. It surely helps me get along with mine when things get a bit difficult. If you can do it girl, then so can I!

July 28, 2015 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Crystal-Joy said...

This is a great post. My husband is retiring from the Army (here literally in the next couple of weeks) and our dream is to start a homestead with a garden, chickens, ducks, dairy goats, and eventually mini horses and a full size horse. I spend time every day researching different aspects of our dream...everything from goat care 101 to what veggies to plant together to how to mend a fence. I immerse myself in everything I can get my hands on to learn more about homesteading/farming so that when the time comes, we will be prepared. There are days when it seems like it will never happen, but then I remind myself that all dreams take time to accomplish. Until we move into our new house, I just keep my stack of farming books handy and escape into the vision of my dream farm...I also, of course, watch lots of Youtube videos like yours to live vicariously through other homesteaders. :)

July 28, 2015 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Spiderjohn said...

Jenna, I have always loved your passion.... and envy it.

July 28, 2015 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

Today, as I read the suggested-by-you book, This Dirty Life (only 1/2 way through), I sat with the neighbor's kids about the activities they do. An 8 year old told me that her mom told her she couldn't start ballet because she should have started when she was 3. THREE!!! C'mon!! (see where it starts!?)

So your post comes at the right time.

And the book...............you were right. It is Amazing. I'm at the point they're at the Amish auction in the snow..............

July 28, 2015 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger daisy g said...

This post hit me right where it counts. I've been feeling so discouraged of late. The garden doing poorly, the house not selling, health issues, other stuff. Never giving up the dream, mind you, but really feeling the tug of impatience at my heels. Thank you for saying it just the way my ears needed to hear it. I think I'll sow some flower seeds today, in your honor. Continued blessings, farmer.

July 29, 2015 at 6:13 AM  
Blogger esther said...

And this is the reason i love reading your books and blogs..

July 29, 2015 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Charlotte Boord said...

Jenna, this may be your best post EVER!!

July 29, 2015 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Mel Baker said...

For more years than I care to admit, I read the books and the blogs wondering if I would ever get to live my dream of owning a homestead. One day in January, I woke up and realized the only thing stopping me was ME. Now, my husband and I at ages 48&46 are making it happen!! Many people, including our kids think we are crazy, but we don't care. We will be living our dream and nothing is going to stop us!!

You are such an inspiration, Jenna. I know that this wouldn't be happening if it wasn't for you writing your blog and books and sharing your life with us. Words cannot express my gratitude.

July 29, 2015 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

In the late afternoon I finished reading This Dirty Life. A GREAT book. LONG and fulfilling. Good stuff. I need a nap! And my own MARK. ;)

July 29, 2015 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger Sara Turner said...

Thanks for such a beautiful post Jenna. For although every day I dream of getting out of my apartment and finding myself in a house in the country with a big back yarn full of fluffy white sheep, I make a point to utilize the he!! out of my apartment for as long as I'm stuck there. I mean I'm paying a heck of a lot of rent, but have free utilities, so why not clean fleece in my bathtub, spin yarn in front of my tv, dye it on the stove and dry it on my balcony.

Sure to some people it might look crazy, but to me it makes it home. (although in all fairness to the people who think I'm crazy, I should probably at least vacuum more often, I've been spinning back fibre full of kemp and it just doesn't look pretty when it sheds all over my carpets).

yarnlab.ca if you're interested!

July 29, 2015 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger David The Good said...

Great post.

July 29, 2015 at 9:13 PM  
Blogger John D. Wheeler said...

Thanks, I really needed this post, but not in the way you might think. I have been making small steps -- the biggest one was getting my birds in the summer of 2012 -- but I have been a little discouraged lately that I am not further along. This makes me feel better that at least I am making progress every year.

July 30, 2015 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Of all the blog posts you've done, this one is the most powerful. It is the most up front and honest and anyone who truly, that is the caveat, wants to become more self sufficient and have a homestead should take it to heart. The ones who just say I want to be a homesteader and then throw up all the reasons why they can't have been called out. You have to set your goal and then work towards it step by step.
I saw myself in Barnheart so I started to plan how to get a barn. Last fall, my 8x16 Amish built storage shed aka My Barn, was delivered. I house my goats and some rabbits in it plus grain and hay. I raised 40 meat chickens in it. When I'm in my barn, I'm at peace. I just needed to set the goal and plan for it.

August 2, 2015 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Kendra said...

This song is my mantra: https://youtu.be/SKUJLGBKt_M

August 5, 2015 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger turningwheelfarm said...

It is the only option for me. Everything is leading up to it. I have heard the same thing and it is sad but on the other hand if people don't want to make a sacrifice maybe it isn't their dream afterall. A friend said something like that won't happen now. Or I have heard "it isn't in the cards." Well then put it in there and go after it. One step at a time.

August 7, 2015 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Jamie Koonce said...

What you speak of is known as the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Some people believe that since they've already spent X number of years in the corporate world or bought a house in the city, they must therefore keep doing that until retirement because if they change their mind now (and start a farm) all those years up until now will have been wasted. The have an error in their logic that leads to the poor decision of staying in a job and lifestyle they despise.

August 8, 2015 at 8:52 PM  

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