From Computer Tech to Homesteader: Why I Choose to Farm
I’ve gotten told by more than a few folks in the last couple weeks that they don’t know how we do everything we do out here. I got called a renaissance woman.
I got some head shakes. I heard some disbelief that I sleep. It made me think. I started to wonder, why do I do all this? Gosh…..am I taking on too much?
After spending a couple of weeks marinating on it, I’ve decided that no–I haven’t taken on too much. I’m doing exactly what I have to. Staying busy is one of the things that manages my anxiety. It keeps me from getting too in my head or getting depressed over the state of the world. Staying busy with my own activities keeps me from being so quick to pick up other people’s issues or energy. First off, I’ve designed my life these days to stay on my homestead six days a week. I seem to only need 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night. I don’t have the most important job in the world–of raising any youngins’. There’s no TV here. I haven’t had a cell phone in six years. I only follow a handful of my very closest friends on social media, and I seriously limit my scrolling time. I have to save some energy to promote my own business on there. So I have roughly 115 hours each week to fill with activities I enjoy…. and the farm is only one of those.
In the first couple years we were here on our land, farming was all-consuming. My lack of experience and the fact that I constantly overextended myself meant that 115 of those hours were getting eaten up by panic, putting out farm fires, or having tear-filled meltdowns. As we are now a quarter of the way into year five on our own land… less things burst into flame with each passing year. This means I’ve had time to really settle into being the renaissance farmer in the last six months. It feels so darn good! At this moment in time, I can say with total faith and belief that I want to homestead for the rest of my life. I understand that may change as I get older, but somehow – I doubt it. I think it is so good, for homesteaders to have a lot of different things they enjoy. I think it is important to not get too sucked into farm life or never take breaks. I feel that way because the latter is exactly what I did in the first two years we owned our farm. I’d rather not start to hate this or burnout, so… here’s a few things that I’m just loving spending my time on.
Farming. I do love it so much. It still feels like a new love affair. This time of year, it’s all about planning next year. Making maps, diagrams, lists, and project goals. That’s always such an exciting time, sitting inside by the wood stove and talking possibilities. Reading books, studying, and making next year’s garden maps. The introduction of permaculture farming in my world in the last two years changed the game. It was like rekindling a relationship with a partner that was way too much work to keep dating. Switching from mono cropping to permaculture made farming seem like a simple, sexy, and super hot new flame. So, the warmest parts of the day this winter will be filled with clearing brush and terracing it on contour for future gardens. Building swale irrigation systems and organic soil. We will be continuing to implement our shiny new permaculture design plan. And of course, there is always wood to chop or water to carry for our going off-grid house…. food to ferment or to cook on the wood stove into warm tasty meals.
Running and my new garden obstacle course. I still have weight to lose, and just farming hasn’t been enough to get off the last ten pounds of the 160 I needed to lose. I’ve been stuck on those last ten for a good while now. So, I’ve stepped it up. With the help of a friend I built an obstacle course–down in my garden where I already love to work out. I run on contour, hop over logs, practice my balance and climbing skills, I’m up to seven pull ups and eight push ups. I’m loving it. My friend and naturopathic doctor, Dr. Glenn, had plenty of tips and tricks to tell me about how to avoid injury. He even came out here to supervise me and check my form and full range of motion so I won’t hurt my back or joints! My mp3 player full of pop, hip-hop and country music pushes me when I start to pant. It feels so good to run, I’d never been able to in my adult life. I was too overweight to go more than a few steps. I didn’t have the confidence to even try it. Yet these days, I can all but dare those roosters to try to escape my speed!
Writing. I’ve come to love it so much. I never wrote much of anything but art history papers before, and it was like pulling teeth for me. I never in a million years dreamed of becoming a writer or blogger. I started a blog so my friends and family could keep up with what was going on at our homestead atop Panther Mountain. But, I fell in love with it over the last few years. It feels so darn good for me. I journal, I write letters to friends or former staff, I write down my stories. It feels much cheaper than therapy!
Art. This was the first love that I had all kinds of issues with. We’ve been together since I was fourteen years old, that 23 years now. I used to blame her for making me fat. For forcing me to sit at a computer to make graphic design for years on end. When I started farming, I all but broke up with her over it. Yet, art was my first love. It wasn’t art’s fault I got up to 300 pounds – it was mine. Graphic design doesn’t seem to mind if I take a break to go to the garden. If I only hang with her when it is rainy, winter or dark outside. She seems fine with me needing a lot of my own space in the height of summer. So, graphic design and I got back together a couple years ago and decided we could do different things together. Help small businesses and non-profits. Musicians and other artists. Holy crow, we could promote for scrappy new organic farms and homesteads!!! I also sew, love photography, make a mean mixed media collage, and can fill up a coloring book like a champ.
All of that and it doesn’t keep me from continuing to build confidence so that one day… I’ll sing and dance the way I dream of too. All of my extracurriculars don’t seem to keep me from spending Saturday night dancing around the living room with the love of my life in socks. Singing a new song I just love…. out loud. Like we did last Saturday night. It doesn’t keep us from going to a drawing group together once a week. All this activity sure doesn’t seem to keep me from being part of a couple, that’s still goofy in love after going on eight years.
Being a renaissance farmer won’t make me break the tether between myself and my self care Sundays or an afternoon nap if I need one. These activities I love won’t slow me down from taking the time to pray or be extra grateful every day. They won’t keep me from stepping outside into the sunshine and worshiping in nature. Nature always accepts me just exactly how I am. It won’t keep me from forgetting that if I don’t take care of myself and take a day to rest, I won’t be able to keep juggling all these things I love.
It doesn’t even keep me from aspiring to do even more. I have an old violin back in my art studio collecting dust that I’d like to pick up again one day. There are a lot more ideas in my head about how to help our community. One day, I want to know what it feels like to only want to eat our own food and not buy anything in. But for the moment, those things will have to wait while I get good at balancing what I’m already doing. It feels great so far, but I need to see if it can be sustained before I pile more on. I need to see if it keeps feeling good.
So, I’ll close now with the forager’s very favorite piece of tea bag wisdom. She says it is just perfect for her, and I’m finding it is for me too.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” -Lao Tzu
About the Author: Rain Parker is the Co-owner of Eight Owls Farmstead, a women owned homestead. "We focus on sharing our story about what organic and wild food means to us, now that we are a collective 225 pounds lighter than we were when we started! The homestead was established in 2012 and does three things. We share information on growing, raising, and foraging your own food, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and host educational events, workshops, our new YouTube channel, and online Skype/FaceTime consultations with new homesteaders. We grow, forage and sell no spray and non-GMO produce and food. And in our massive amount of downtime on the farm since it is so calm around here, we also make and sell wild crafted art supplies and functional art on Etsy.”