Many people would look at the life my husband and I have chosen and see it as the ideal American dream. We work at home; work for ourselves, are in complete control as to how much money we earn, where our business goes, and when we work. We have our small 2/3 of an acre plot which the jury is out on whether this will be big enough for us or would we want to upgrade in the future. We are on the road to practicing self-sufficiency, growing as much of our food as possible and working on renewable and low cost fuel and energy sources.
Self-Employment is Not all About Freedom and Independence
The thing is that being self-employed is not always a picnic in the park like so many people think it is. We may be in full control of our paychecks, but we don’t get sick days, work holidays sometimes and often late into the night in order to get everything done. Our world is based on how much work we do, so it is not forgiving, if we have a bad day or get sick, we have a smaller paycheck, while that is not the end of the world, getting contracts done on time, not falling behind on work that is scheduled can be a challenge that is often overwhelming and there is simply no lack of work and the to do list never gets shorter.
Running a hobby farm is as most people would tell you much the same, the livestock don’t care if you get sick and the weeds do not stop growing because you want to take a vacation. If it is zero degrees outside the animals still need to be fed and cared for and like self-employment there is no lack of work, and the list never gets shorter.
Its Trying to Fit Both Worlds Together That Can be a Challenge
I am not complaining, we love our life and every day we are grateful for what we have, but the life we live does get overwhelming and out of control sometimes. There are only so many hours in the day, and some days those hours are not enough for our paying job, and other days they are not enough for our work outside, but on those days when the hours are not enough for either one, is when it really gets challenging.
With spring here, we are both needing to spend several hours outside, we have a lot of extra expenses since this property is new to being used for food production, we have had fencing to buy, animals to purchase and tools, seeds and plants and much more to come up with. It is also tax time, so yes you guessed it we are pushing on our business to bring in more money as well. But there are simply not enough hours in the day for either one, nor can we ignore either one, so it would be easy to panic, but panic paralyzes and sends dreams out the window, and our dreams are far too important to let them go by so easily.
The excitement of that first egg, that pleasure of putting our own home grown meat in the freezer and lining the shelves with produce is a thrill that you never forget. I have done this before, but it seems every year the satisfaction of feeding my family just gets better and better, and my husband has caught that fever as well. It is worth every moment, every frustration and the stress that often comes with it.
Figuring out How to Make it all Work
We have however learned a few tricks about making things work, it is not a perfect symbiosis, in fact some days are stressful to the limit, especially as my husband has some medical issues he is working out, my daughter is in physical therapy and it seems like every day we have somewhere we have to be. Money is short, the expenses of a lot of traveling, and getting the essentials together for our new homestead have left us pinching pennies everywhere, but we know this is only temporary, when everything starts to come together money may still be tight but we will have plenty to eat and be debt free with minimal energy costs.
For weeks we despaired that we would be able to make enough money, plus get all the work done that needed doing, we were both stressed and frustrated, and wondered if we needed to put a hold on gardens and livestock. We always knew that it would take time to put it all together, but it seemed that just crossing the first hurdle was more than we could manage.
So we took a leap of faith, I cut my work load almost in half, shifting some of it to my husband, and giving some of it up, and now I only spend about 3 to 4 hours a day working on business. The rest of my day is devoted to my passion which is raising my own food and taking care of my family. I have always known I could make more money this way by what I saved in food and other expenses but it was convincing my husband that it would all work that was the hard part.
Finally he understood, when I worked full time, we spent a lot more money on eating out, or buying convenience foods, something had to go and if it was not to be the garden or my work it had to be cooking. Now I am back to feeding my family and taking care of the garden and the livestock, I am happier and I made a believer out of him. I am the logical choice to do this, since I have the most experience with all of the above and while he gets jealous sometimes, our new plan has allowed him to be a part of the action as well.
We Learned to Get Into A Routine
For months I despaired of making it all work, gardens, animals, work, house, family time, and somewhere in there a bit of sleep as well, I knew somewhere it was not all going to work the way I wanted it to. In addition to cutting my schedule we worked on getting into a routine.
This is not a schedule, nor is it getting organized, I find it hard to do these things, and really with the life we live a schedule would make it unbearable. I am however a creature of habit and a routine is essential for me, if I am going to make such a busy life work. By getting into a routine we did have a schedule of sorts, but it was one that was flexible enough to deal with the hiccups and unexpected challenges of each part of our lives.
Now we get up early, work on business until lunch, taking time for breakfast and morning chores, my husband would not miss these, there is something about collecting eggs and taking care of his ducks that never gets old. I get as much house chores done as possible then after lunch if the weather is nice, and this year we have been blessed with wonderful weather, we go out and work outside. Sometimes we each do our own thing; other times we work together it really depends on what needs doing.
At dinner, my husband goes back to work and I do whatever needs doing, whether it is kitchen work or more outside time, this is my time to catch up on whatever I might be behind on. Our routine is not perfect, I often fall into bed long before my husband does, but we are getting things done, and we even manage to scratch out a bit of time for family things along the way.
We learned to Be Flexible and Live Life in the Moment
Life has thrown us all sorts of curves this past year, more than either of us wanted to deal with, it has taught us a tough lesson about living life in the moment, not worrying about what has not been done, and what is coming up to deal with. We have learned to be flexible out of necessity, when we need to do more work on the business we dig in and get it done, when the property demands more of our time, we often stay out there until it gets dark. When doctor appointments take us away from home when we need to be there working we just deal with it. Most importantly we have learned not to be hard on ourselves, the work gets done, one thing at a time, and living in the moment lets us give our full energy to the task at hand, knowing that when that is done, we are one step closer to where we want to be.
We are very grateful for what we have, and fully aware of how lucky we are, it is hard work, sometimes harder work than we have the energy for, but it always gets done, no matter how much it might seem like it won’t.
To those of you that want to leave a job for self-employment or working a small hobby farm, it isn’t a fairytale life, running a fulltime business and trying to grow your own food will be one of hardest things you have ever done, but then the satisfaction you get at the end of the week and at the end of the year, is something beyond words and the ability to set goals and feel like you are not on the road to nowhere is motivation to keep going no matter how tired you get. We never look back and wish we were not where we are, we keep moving forward knowing that every year is only going to get better and better.