Thursday, September 24, 2015

Too many monkeys

The other day I was planting my fall lettuces and in the midst of digging around in the dirt, I found myself muttering, "I am so bloody sick of doing this." I soldiered on through and got everything in the ground, but thought about what I'd said later on.

I was sick of it? Really?

It's a sad fact but sometimes frustration will make you turn on things (and even people) you love. For me, it's been a tough few months with some health issues (a labral tear in my hip socket, not fixable but it is getting treated at this point), some work issues for Big Ag, and an elderly relative going into a nursing home. 

We've definitely seen that for all the plusses about living in a rural area, there are definite drawbacks as well. Medical care is most definitely inferior, and if you want an even slightly complex medical problem solved, you'd better plan on a trip to the big city. If the weather doesn't kick your ass in one way or another, the endless, endless, endless chore list of a rural homeowner will. 

Days off are kind of a joke. Crisis with the relatives? Need something not available in-town? Plan on hours-long trips away to handle it. Big Ag gets one day a week off from his regular job and usually spends it ticking off a honey-do list I've made for him. Not meaningless chores, either. Mainly just doing the things I don't have the upper body strength for but which are absolutely necessary.

Yes, if you want that homestead, you'd better really, really, want it. Because even the ones who desperately want it still hate it sometimes. That's the secret no one tells you in the glossy magazines and pretty homesteading blogs, of which there are many.

That's because a few months of constant busyness can make you hate even the things you should love, because they're just one more "to-do" chore you have to complete by sundown, (which happens earlier and earlier these days  by the way). It's like putting 3 monkeys in a cage in a zoo, who do very well. 3 works. Add 30 more and suddenly even the ones who liked each other before begin starting to attack each other, because there are just too many monkeys in the damn cage.

And so, if you follow the metaphor, if chores and obligations are monkeys, we've just had too many monkeys in our cage of late, and it's even caused us to resent and attack the things we love, like me hating my lettuce (I have since apologized to it). That's a kind of sickness only found in our modern society, but luckily it's one which has a simple cure if we're willing to go into the cage and remove whatever extra monkeys we can.

Today the fog of all the work kind of cleared and I actually had an entire day when I could spend it doing exactly what I wanted. That hasn't happened in weeks. And so where did I find myself? Not in front of the computer, TV or even with a good book on the patio. I found myself in my garden, trellising olallieberry vines and pruning back the summer vegetables. Because, it turns out, that was where I wanted most to be in the world.

And I realized I'm not sick of it at all. I just need more time to do it so it's not the proverbial last monkey that makes all hell break loose in the cage that is my life's work.

Part of homesteading is, ideally, putting together a more simple life, but even the simple life can get impossibly busy if we try and do too much on and/or off farm. When canning, gardening or animal care interferes with work or family obligations, something has to give or you will absolutely resent your time spent in front of the stove, digging in the dirt or hauling hay into the pasture. It becomes the monkey you want to kill, which would actually be the worst thing possible. But your instincts are off at that point, and can't be trusted.When those chores you love are just one more mouth crying to be fed with your time and attention, it is possible to hate anything. Even the wrong things.

I don't know how the next month is going to shape up, but I'm making a concerted effort to bar the door to any more monkey business. But it is nice to know I've chosen at least a few of the right monkeys for my cage, and my goal is to feed and care for them well, enjoy and be entertained by them, but to resist adding any more at this time.


  1. I'm glad you're feeling centered again. It does seem like sometimes challenges follow each other much too closely. And it's easy to think a new monkey will be just the right thing to lift your spirits. Then you need more and more! Kinda like someone we know! I do worry about burnout if I ever get the big country property. Sometimes I have to check myself even when I'm cooking and remind myself that I love it.

    1. Cooking is most definitely a monkey, you are right! I also love it, but not always. If you have the time and energy, it's wonderful and centering...if it's the last thing you have to do in a long line of chores, it's annoying at best. But I do feel that when you begin to hate the things you used to love, it's time for some monkey removal. Cooking and gardening (I think) should almost always be creative and therefore joyful, not a pain in the ass. It's a sign we're too busy when we no longer feel that joy.

  2. Hi ,just found your blog .We are neighbors .I live in Atascadero. Looking forward to reading more of your posts

    1. Welcome Kathryn! You're not too far from where we live, and now that Von's has closed in Paso I'm visiting A-town more than ever, since you still have one. : )

  3. Yes ..but we don't have Haggens anymore :-(. Vons is going to be jampacked now. Not that we have a choice so we'll just have to deal with it. I am SO ready for this hot weather to go away.
    Just a little bit about me. We've lived here for 37 years. We live on 2 1/2 acres in the hills on the way to Morro Bay ( but still on the hot side unfortuately ) 2 girls ,2 grandaughters,2 rescue horses ( not rideable ) 1 dog and 1 cat . I
    I'll be looking for you at Vons ;-)

    1. Thanks! I'm also ready to lose the heat, even thinking about pumpkin spice anything right now is revolting, it's just NOT the season yet. We're in Paso on the same amount of acreage as you, but your hills are much greener down there than ours are right now. I'm a little jealous every time I go down there.

  4. LOL I agree. Pumpkin Spice is not on my list yet at Trader Joe's or the coffee shop.
    Have a great and hopefully a bit cooler week !