As with any venture, business, project, you always suffer some sort of loss or setback, but in homesteading, the losses seem to happen in clusters. Your just-ready-to-harvest veggie gets taken out overnight by some hungry bug, then your favorite hen becomes lunch for a predator, then your current building project gets postponed by Mother Nature or her good friend Murphy who runs that famous company, Murphy’s Law LLC.
Setbacks and frustrations are commonplace in any business, but in farming, when it comes to death (plant or animal), that’s a-whole-nother emotional problem.
You may have looked through Instagram accounts or visited popular homesteader’s websites that are littered with beautiful, amazing, and precious photos, but let me tell you, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns out here in the real world. We don’t post the photos of empty garden beds, or dead animals, or red, swollen eyes from crying.
Without going into all the frustration I seen in the last two weeks … well, okay… carrots didn’t come up, swiss chard and radishes were eaten by something, red ants have taken up residence in my greenhouse, a late spring freeze killed the little peaches, something (rat/snake?) is in my coop eating my eggs, the hatchery didn’t have a successful hatch of the Sebastopol Geese I ordered and didn’t let me know until it was too late to find more, so no geese for me this year, the ducks I ordered are coming three weeks late – messing up my plans for brooding the new chickens which are arriving the following week, I feel like the $5000 (YES, 5 big ones) I spent on the new goose house and run and the excavator to dig the swale and grade the land are now a big waste of money, the spring forecast is not allowing me to put my 102 tomato plants in the ground this weekend and I don’t know if they’ll survive another two-three weeks in Styrofoam cups after I’ve been nurturing them for two months, the $1000 of new soil delivered for my new raised beds turned out to be nothing by clumpy clay (read: not a single seed will grow in this crap!), and so on and so forth… nothing life-shattering, no dying animals or foreclosures or divorces, just basic frustrations all at once! I admit, it is overwhelming! Anyway…
How do you deal with disappointments and frustrations on the farm? Even for larger issues such as livestock loss, major storm damage, financial set-backs?
Let’s be clear – NOTHING will make these things go away.
Let’s also be clear why you are living the life you’re living, and a bad run of luck is NOT the time to throw in the towel and move back to the city. It may not be possible at this time to “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “Put on your big girl panties.” The only thing you can do during trying times is remind yourself why you are here. Remember why you want to grow your own food and raise your own animals. Those reasons haven’t changed.
So, what do we do? Let’s try this! When things SUCK, take this step-by-step approach to getting through it.
- Accept it! Accept that things suck right now and it will take time to feel better. Give yourself that time. You may feel better in the morning after a good night’s sleep, or in the case of a death of a favorite animal, it make take weeks or months or even years. Some heavy issues, such as the loss of a sweet pet, are not just simple setbacks. They are intense grief. There is no way around or through grief. We will always carry it. It just hurts less as time marches on. Time is the gift. We all process set-backs and losses differently. Allow yourself to feel however you feel. Put it into words. I feel ______. And that’s okay. Accept how you feel and give yourself all the time it takes to feel better. You will feel better… eventually.
- Look for support. Whether it’s your friend, your spouse, your online community, a motivational website or book, journaling, praying, meditation, sleep, your pastor, your garden group, don’t suffer in isolation. Someone has gone through the exact same thing and can support you. Find the support you need. Some folks only need a pat on the back and to be reminded it’s okay to feel bad. Others need a shoulder to cry on. Some folks just need to talk. Some need serious counselling as the latest loss may be bringing up past trauma. Don’t be a martyr. Look for what you need, and don’t stop looking until you find it. Also know that bad things happen. It has nothing to do with your self-worth, your intelligence, your karma, your destiny, or anything else you’ve imagined or have been told by self-righteous zealots. Sometimes bad things just happen. Period.
- Take care of yourself physically. You may not have any control over what has happened, but you can control your response to it. Go ahead and feel sad or mad or frustrated, but while you’re having your pity-party, eating an entire quart of ice cream is NOT going to make you feel better. It won’t take the situation away. It won’t make you feel stronger physically or emotionally. As a matter of fact, you’ll most definitely feel worse afterwards. So, cook yourself a healthy meal even if it’s just eggs and juice, go for a walk, take your vitamins, nap, relax in a hot shower. At the very least, just stand and stretch for a few minutes.
- Get out of your routine. If your loss was large, as in losing an animal or a structure or garden to a storm, or an entire home, go do something else! Don’t walk around in circles replaying the “what I should have done” story in your head. Go for a drive or to a movie. Visit a book store or library. Go visit a friend for the weekend. Do something different to break your routine. It’s amazing how even an hour-long picnic in the fresh air will clear your head so you can gather your thoughts and move forward.
- Be supportive! No matter how bad your situation, there’s always someone who has it worse. If you feel up to it, find that person and be a support to them. Just pulling your head and emotions out of your own problems has a way of clearing your focus so you can move on.
No matter your situation, I wish you time, support, health, happiness, and love. This too shall pass.
If your issues have you sinking into depression and contemplating something as serious as suicide,
please call 800-273-8255. People are there 24/7 and want to help you. 800-273-TALK