Homestead Burnout

     I’m tired. Tired as hell. There just aren’t enough hours in the day right now.

     Our youngest three kids are 4 1/2 years, 2 1/2 years and 6 months old. They’re all boys. Our preschooler and toddler sons seem to operate on only two speeds: endless font of bubbling energy and fast asleep (while snoring loudly.) The frequency of the former by far outweighs that of the latter. They climb everything like miniature Sherpas, empty bins of toys at lightning speed and throw down like tiny MMA fighters. Their baby brother is a sweet, happy baby but as all babies do, he’s teething. He’s also growing like the proverbial weed and requires near-constant breast milk refills and corresponding diaper changes around the clock. Our three older daughters rightfully need attention too (and often need their limbs and possessions saved from their brothers.) The laundry, the cooking, the errands… I’m tired. 
           Luckily the garden is finished for the year. The turkeys have been checked into Hotel Sub-Zero and are no longer crapping on our porch and menacing the barn cats. The goats are still their goat-ly selves, requiring their own care and taking advantage of every chance to cause mayhem. Breeding season brought its usual shenanigans; the does taunting the bucks, daring them to rip down the fence for the fifth time, escapes here and there that had to be carefully documented ‘just incase.’ Half the chickens are thrilled with the lovely little coop Justin built them, but the other half stubbornly retreat to the barn every night instead. The rebels are staging a protest and ignoring the nest boxes, laying their eggs in top-secret hidden nests and forcing us to search the barn for them every day. Tired… So tired.  
          We were warned that the aptly named ‘homestead burnout’ was inevitable. They weren’t kidding. Even with as long as we waited and as much as we want to be here, I can totally understand why the last hundred years have been spent propelling people into cities in the name of progress. Taking a more active role in providing for your own needs, as worthwhile as it is, has a great way of devouring your free time and your energy right along with it. Those cartons of pale CAFO eggs and gallons of hormone-laden cow’s milk start looking like a vacation in plastic casing when the dirty laundry is towering so high the kids start asking if they can sled down the pile. 
           Its so easy to want to jump in with both feet and want to take on every project immediately . A year ago I had been completely gung-ho to take on even more as soon as financially possible; Bees, a small herd of fiber sheep, a 1+ acre pumpkin patch on our back pasture. I looked into raising a few pigs and was all set to order 200 Red Ranger broiler chickens. Even after we discovered that the goats weren’t the only mammals expecting new babies in 2013 I was still ready to take on the world. Luckily, the resident voice of reason (aka Justin) was willing to use his executive veto power to save me from myself, and we agreed to give it a year and then reevaluate. I agreed to humor him; I never thought I’d get burned out, not for a second. But for the last 4 months it’s been Burnt Toastville, population me. 
     I’m using this time to reevaluate a lot of things; the usual time, energy, and finances as well as taking a long second look at just what we want to accomplish with our land in the long term. Now that the giddy enthusiasm has been more curb-stomped than simply curbed I can hopefully focus on reality a little better. There’s nothing like grating soap for detergent and shearing off half the flesh on the tip of one’s finger or having to care for livestock in the midst of a polar vortex to put things right into perspective.
         Rejuvenate. I’m making time to be lazy here and there. I’m taking naps, even though they’re few and far between and it takes more choreography than the Rockettes’ Macy’s parade routine. I’m turning my brain off sometimes. It’s nice, I’d love to do more of it.  
          Rewind. I’m re-reading old favorite books. We’re re-watching some of the documentaries that originally piqued our interest in homesteading years ago. Since our hens are in winter rest-mode and laying less frequently I bought store eggs for several breakfast casseroles, and one look at those sickly pale yolks made every pile of chicken crap we’ve cleaned worth it. Reminding myself just how far we’ve come and why we’re here in the first place has done a world of good. 
           Re-inspire. The spring seed and hatchery catalogs couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Nothing gets my green thumb itching like Baker Creek Heirloom’s annual publication, and if there was ever a time to look forward to spring it was our recent -30• temps in SW Michigan. We’re researching fruit trees and planning a strawberry patch, and waiting on more baby goats any day. Getting excited about the future has been the best way of all to throw off the burnout blahs. 

         Wherever you are in your homesteading/ self-reliance/ preparedness journey, a little burnout here and there is inevitable. BUT, it gets better. Learning to be more self-sufficient is never time that’s wasted. That knowledge and those abilities are investments in yourself, your family, and this rapidly-changing world. It’s exhausting but far from futile, it’s expensive but worth every penny. In the end it’s the chances we didn’t take that generate the most regret, and I’m still SO glad we made the leap from suburbs to homestead… In spite of my trashed fingernails and goat-chewed hair. 


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