Almost one year ago I pulled into the driveway of my new home. I always dreamed of living in the country where I could look out and see my horses grazing in a pasture and have a place to let the dogs run….
The beautiful 9 3/4 acres gives me that and more but it’s come at a price and to say I’ve learned a lot is an understatement. Things that should be common sense escaped me but I’ve also learned I can do more than I ever thought I could.
So this post is dedicated to the some of the most important things I’ve learned this year.
1. Wait. Get to know your property before you make any changes
Before I even officially moved in I spent hours walking the property and just sitting looking out over the land. I made plans…lots of plans. Thankfully plans cost money and I had to budget and decide what needed to be done first. Everything happens for a reason and I’m now thankful for that.
A good example is my “backyard” fencing. I needed to put up fencing as a backyard for the dogs. I was going to put up chain link but the contractor couldn’t get out there right away so I ended up buying welded wire panels instead. This actually worked out for the best since I’ve changed the size and configuration of the yard twice, and honestly, I prefer the welded wire over chain link. What I thought I wanted, what I saw sitting on the deck, didn’t work in real life.
I could give you another handful of examples on this topic but they all come back to just wait. Give it time if you can. Don’t change anything you don’t have to immediately because you won’t really know what works and what doesn’t until you’re living it.
2. Plan ahead – a month, 6 months, a year…
I’ve always boarded my horse and when you board you pay monthly and you don’t have to worry about things like how much hay you will need to get you through the winter. I was also very lucky that our barn had a trainer that was out there every day so when we had to call the vet or farrier we would also just call the trainer and she would hold the horse for us. No need to take off work, the bill arrived in the mail. It didn’t require anything but a couple phone calls – and sometimes, not even that. Ahhh…the things you take for granted!
Having your own place requires planning – when can you schedule the vet/farrier/workers so you can take off work…when will hay need to be delivered so they can even get to the barn through the snow or mud…then there’s the cost – to go from paying a set amount for board (which included all feed, stall bedding and water) to suddenly needing to come up with thousands for hay can be daunting. So I can hear people say “just set the monthly payment aside” Great Idea!! Not as easy to follow through on…budgeting becomes extremely necessary. Knowing how much you are going to need and what it’s going to cost for the next few months or year - hay/grain/grass seed/repairs/updates…budgeting changed from something I managed to fit in over lunch (pulling up my bank balance online) to an excel spreadsheet where I track everything.
3. Time Management
Now this one is actually kind of funny. I have A.D.D on the farm…but only on the farm. I remember one day not long after I moved in – the dogs got me up at about 6:30, I let them out and saw they needed water so got them water and by that time I was wide awake so thought I’d start my day. Excellent! I was going to get a TON completed…it was only 7:00, right?? Got dressed and headed outside…went to the barn to feed the horses, saw they needed water, decided that since I had time I should go ahead and empty and scrub their water tank before I filled it. Great start to the day…unfortunately it went downhill from there.
So the plan was to work in the barn in the morning, power wash the house, garage and deck in the afternoon then mow into the evening; nothing too strenuous, but just a busy day. Know what I actually completed? I fed and watered the dogs, cats, birds, and horses…and mowed a little…that’s it.
I started out working in the barn but needed a tool from the garage…went to get the tool but decided to take the long way and go all the way around the house (instead of cutting through the fenced yard) so the dogs could run more; on the way I saw the hose I would need later to do the power washing…thought I may as well move it to the hydrant for later, got the hose moved and thought I would go ahead and attach it then wash the dogs water bowls and wading pools because it was going to be hot; finished that and made my way into the garage where I caught sight of the empty bird seed container. Thought I should fill the bird feeders while I’m thinking about it…needed the keys for the vehicle so I could get the new bags of bird seed out of the SUV…keys were in the house – went to the house, got a drink while I was in there and could smell the litter box (bad kitty) and decided I should clean that before going back outside…my entire day went like this. In the end I had too many things started to even count and nothing, except feeding and watering the animals in my care actually completed. Oh! And I never did make it back to the barn with the hammer I needed from the garage!
Now I have a list of what I want to get done. I choose a task and complete that task before I touch anything else. Yes, it physically hurts me to walk away or by something I see that I “should do while I’m thinking about it” but it’s necessary…at least for me.
Yes, I know I still need to work on my time management skills but I consider this one a work in progress!
4. Make one change at a time.
Looking back, I guess this one is pretty amusing now too…Again, when I moved out here I had plans (yes, there is a theme here). I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, eat organic, and make my own natural products for beauty and cleaning. Heck, I was even considering raising my own livestock to butcher! I was going to Live Natural – and not just because it’s the in thing to do, but because I’m getting older and that scares me. I want to live a long life and be healthy enough to enjoy what I’m creating out here.
So I read blogs and websites and had a long list of what I was going to do. Jumping in the deep end I hit Amazon and ordered several hundred dollars’ worth of things I would need to make my new healthy beauty and cleaning products. Then I hit the grocery store and purchase a cart full of fruits and veggies. I contacted a local farmer that had organic beef…Everything arrived and I pulled out my recipes and got started. I made my own soap, body wash, body scrubs, face products, perfume (yes, really), toothpaste, lotion, deodorant, cleaning products, dryer sheets…you name it, I made it all WHILE making healthy bone broth I was going to drink every day (when I wasn’t drinking my green tea, that is)! Take that cancer and heart disease!! (Both run in my family)
I felt so superior to my friends that are killing themselves using (gasp!) store bought products! So what’s my take-away from this? I’m an idiot. You can’t change your ENTIRE life in a matter of days, or even weeks. By the next week when I ran out of dryer sheets and fresh fruits and veggies, I was stopping at the store and buying Bounce and frozen pizza. Today I make one change at a time. When that change becomes routine I will find something else. In the meantime I have an entire cupboard full of ingredients I can play with on a rainy weekend…after I’ve cleaned the house, garage, barn, brushed all the animals, and cleaned the vehicles and trailer….
5. Give yourself a day off
This took a while. When I’m outside working on the property I’m not cleaning the house, when I’m inside cleaning or cooking I’m not outside…I’m one person, with a full time job and 40+ animals in my care. It took a while to realize that the night or weekend warrior mentality isn’t healthy or sustainable. You have to remember to take time off and really enjoy life.
I realized that although the dogs are usually with me I wasn’t actually playing with them. I found I didn’t take time to ride my horses or drive my ponies. I have always wanted my own place so I could walk out the back door and just hop on my horse…but I wasn’t actually doing any riding.
When I was about half way through summer I realized I could count on one hand how many times I had been on my horses I knew something had to change. Now I give myself a day off. I allow myself to sleep in or go back to bed; I go riding with friends, or just sit on the deck and read a book (while throwing the ball for my dogs, of course)…and I do this even if the grass desperately needs mowed and the weeds are waist high and the house needs cleaned. At least a couple times per month I do what I want to do instead of what needs to be done.
6. Where there’s a will, there’s a way
I’m single and as someone who has been single more often than not in life I rely on myself more than others. I also hate to ask people for favors. I mean HATE it. I will go without, take 15 times longer to do something or wound myself trying before I will ask for help. Yes, I’m pretty sure a psychologist could have a field day with this one…
Due to my complete mental block when it comes to bothering other people with my problems I have found that usually, if you study a problem and think outside the box there really is a way to accomplish what you need to do all by yourself. I have moved washing machines, dryers and refrigerator; changed tires without a jack, done some things with electric I won’t even talk about and I’m still alive and relatively unharmed. I don’t take (many) unnecessary risky but my motto (besides a tired dog is s good dog) is where there’s a will, there’s a way!