Overcoming resistance and Homestead Abundance
Freud talked about a self-destruct mechanism that motivates humans to sabotage their own goals and desires. Freud called it a “death wish”. Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, labels this self-destruct behavior, “The Resistance.” Pressfield offers several ways to help you overcome the resistance, that sabotages your dreams and desires, in order to be who you were created to be. The Resistance is at work in the homestead life, too.
The Resistance is a formidable foe. It shows up on the homestead in the jobs that never get finished, the animals that just don’t thrive, the barns that never fully get cleaned out, and the mini-carrots that never quite grew to their full potential because you never got around to thinning them or weeding them. When you are dependent on what you grow yourself, resistance will make sure that the crop is never quite up to its full potential.
I’ll give you an example of how the resistance hurts your homestead from my own experience. There always seems to be jobs that almost get finished on the farm, but never quite get done. I planted 100 baby asparagus in their own well prepared bed 3 years ago. The second year after planting almost all the plants came up. We were hoping for spring asparagus in 2 more years. They were protected by an 8 foot high, field fence and were safe from deer and marauders — well, almost. The free range chickens climbed through the fence and started scratching in the garden last Spring – the first year that we should have had a harvest. We chased them out of the garden. We put up a 4 feet high fence of chicken wire to keep them out – well almost. We encircled the entire garden with chicken wire, clipped over the outside of the field fencing. We left a 6 to 10 inch piece of chicken wire on the ground and bent it out to keep chickens and rabbits from going under the fence. Well, we almost did the whole garden fence, except for the last 6 feet. So there was a 6 foot gap in the fencing – on the far side, away from the garden gate. It was out of sight from the house. We thought about finishing the job a few times last summer, when the chickens were scratching around.
We didn’t get any asparagus. Both chickens and wild rabbits found their way into my garden all summer long and even into the winter. There was rabbit damage to my 7 year old apple trees that were just coming into bearing. The chickens scratched up 75% of the seed that I planted in the garden, last summer, and pecked out the seedlings, and uprooted the carrots. The asparagus was wiped out in a single season. And it was all for the want of a mere 6 foot piece of fencing. Yesterday morning, that remaining fence was wired into place. It took about 20 minutes. The resistance was overcome.
Another place the resistance rears its ugly head at Joybilee Farm is the routine selenium – vitamin E injections that we give our ewes and does. Our soils are deplete in selenium. Selenium affects muscle tone and the growth of the baby in the womb. A mother that is low in selenium will have a dead fetus, might reabsorb her pregnancy, have a weak kid that can’t stand at birth, or even need help delivering the baby due to poor muscle tone in the womb and poor muscle strength in the baby. It’s a serious issue. Low selenium is a costly problem on many farms. Our way of dealing with it is to inject with selenium-vitamin E, before breeding and again 1 month before birth. At least that’s the plan.
A selenium injection only lasts for about 8 weeks in the ewe’s body, so this is why 2 doses are needed during the winter. We also offer a mineral that is high in selenium, but because of the risk of selenium toxicity, there never seems to be enough in the mineral to actually keep our animals from having selenium deficiency. Knowing that we need to inject them before breeding and before they give birth, you’d think that we’d have enough needles on hand to do the job when it needs to be done. Well, for at least 5 out of the last 10 years, we’ve had to go to the feed store in the Spring to get more needles before we could do this critical job. And for 5 years out of the last 10, the feed store has only had about 1/3rd of the needles that we needed and we’ve had to order more. That’s where we stand this Spring, too – waiting for a call from the feed store. So we are rationing our remaining needles.
Our Ewes never got their 2nd dose of selenium and they started having their lambs on Sunday morning. This morning we had a set of triplets born. They each got a shot of selenium and the Ewe got a shot of selenium – 4 doses instead of just 1 for the ewe. And the Ewe cleaned within an hour of getting her selenium dose. Retained placenta is a symptom of selenium deficiency. The resistance costs us money and makes more work, too.
The Resistance means that you never get your work finished. If you never actually finish your work, you never get to rest. You are always tired. You are always frustrated. Even when you experience homestead abundance, you are too tired to actually see it. Triplet lambs aren’t “Hallellujah!” they are just 3 extra shots of selenium and more hay to feed. The Resistance robs you of your homestead abundance.
So how can I overcome the Resistance on my homestead? I knew you’d want to know. First, I’d recommend reading, The War of Art. Steven Pressfield does a great job at identifying the Resistance and giving you some important tools to help overcome it, in every area of your life. You can read it in a couple hours, and it will change your mindset about The Resistance.
3 Tips to overcome Resistance on your homestead
3 tips that I gleaned from reading the War of Art that will help you overcome Resistance on your homestead:
Think like a professional farmer
If you start your homestead lifestyle thinking that you are “retired” you will fail. The resistance will squish you like a bedbug. Resistance plays for keeps. If you think you are “retired,” you will have a hard time getting outside to milk the goats when it’s cold, and still dark out. You will get up and sit with your coffee by the warm wood stove, when the storm is raging, and you will lose lambs.
You will be thinking of what you are going to do this afternoon to relax, instead of paying attention to the nuances of goat behavior that should alert you to a problem, before it becomes a crisis. You will avoid the important things, like injecting selenium when your ewes are 4 months pregnant, and instead focus on the crisis at hand.
Get the term “hobby farmer” out of your vocabulary. Don’t even put it on your liability insurance. Hobby farmers will never win this war. But professionals have the mindset to win.
Professionals are orderly, punctual, and consistent. Professionals expect to be paid for their work—that includes getting paid enough for farm produce to cover both the cost for production and the labour to get it to market. Professionals invest in education, books, and periodicals to improve their knowledge and skills. Professionals show up every day and do the work. Professionals improve their technique and invest in tools to be successful. Professionals are persistent in the face of adversity.
Are you a professional homesteader? Not sure? Ask yourself, “if I was my own employee, would I give myself a raise?” If you hesitated to answer, “definitely, yes,” you could benefit from some work in this area.
Do the work every day
If you want to win against the resistance, keep a schedule and stick to it. Show up every day and do the work. That’s the only way that you will succeed. The war on the homestead is that the work never stops and you start to think that if you rest for even a moment, something will sicken, something will dry out, or you will lose something important. The problem is you can’t keep up this intensity for the longterm, and so you don’t commit to the long term.
You will find that if you show up every day and work for a set time – you will accomplish what you set out to accomplish. Your time will be fruitful. Your animals well cared for. And your homestead will become orderly.
Do the hard things
Bring order to your homestead. Put tools away in the same place after you finish with them. Plant crops on time. Inject the selenium when it should be injected. Take 30 minutes to finish that chicken wire on the fence to close the gap that the chickens are getting through. Transplant the seedlings before they get rootbound. Ask for help when you need it.
This year we hired two young men for 2 weeks to help us get our barns and outbuildings cleaned out for spring. We paid them well and they worked with enthusiasm. The barns were cleaned out before we needed them for new born lambs, for the first time since we moved to our rural homestead. It was worth the $2,000 we paid them. It’s made a huge difference in how easy our lambing has been. In the past, we’ve had to clean out a stall of a winter’s worth of manure, just to have a place to put a ewe with her newborns. And when you have newborns every day, you are always cleaning out stalls and never getting ahead. Asking for help, and like professionals, paying for the service, has made a huge difference to our homestead abundance.
So how does this translate into Homestead Abundance?
I was hoping you’d ask. Homestead Abundance is the prize for winning the war with The Resistance.
By bringing order and professionalism to your homestead, being consistent in the work – help shows up. Pressfield suggests that when we fight the resistance, “angels” show up to help us be successful. Others suggest that our inner fortitude rises and moves us to success. I like to think that when we move to bring order and self-discipline to our lives, God helps us. But regardless of the definition of the “favour” that comes to us, when we move toward conquering The Resistance – favour does come. Lambs are born healthy and strong. Animals grow to trust us and cooperate more fully in their own care. The garden responds to planting and weeding. We have the courage to ask to be paid for our lambs and our carrots, in line with what it actually costs us to grow a superior organic product. We have the courage to not just settle for the “market price,” knowing that the market price is so far below cost, that the market price will bankrupt us in a few seasons. And we find that the right customer is happy to pay what the food is actually worth.
And when we are professional and consistent for a few weeks or months, we find that we actually have more time to do the things we love. We are able to take walks at sunset and enjoy our homesteads. We are able to take a Day of Rest each week to rejuvenate and renew our strength. We gain insight into problems that we have been struggling with for weeks.
I am less worried now. I am less tired. I am more grateful. And I see the homestead abundance in every day blessings. This morning Linen, a white Ewe, gave us triplets – 2 ewe lambs and a ram lamb. The barn was cleaned out a week ago. I had a clean, empty stall to move her into this morning. She was easy to move, because she trusts me. I show up every day at the same time. I’m consistent. But I have fought my own resistance. My family members are fighting theirs, too. We will win this war. The prize of winning is Homestead Abundance