12 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

There are two times in a year I get swamped and start to deal with “Homestead Burnout.” (That’s a genuine condition, right?)

Those times? Sowing & Harvest season.

Sadly, many budding homesteaders allow their dreams to wither and die. The workload smothers them and they return to life as it was. I really do understand how that can happen! Many have painted an idealistic and romantic vision of this life that is sugar-dusted instead of manure-coated where everything is sunshine, weed-free, and baby chicks. When your animals are dying and you don’t know why and your garden has been overrun by insects and disease, when it’s 99 degrees outside and even hotter in the steamy kitchen and you’ve got several bushels of fruit to put up, it is often discouraging to the point of hopelessness.

After stubbornly plugging away at homesteading season after season, I’ve learned there are a few strategies to help avoid the dreaded “Homestead Burnout.”

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

How to Avoid Homestead Burnout

{Set Goals}

How does the saying go? “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit every time?” I suppose that’s one way to be successful, but it doesn’t really get anything done. When you’re homesteading, it’s a life or death job and there are many living things that are depending on your care and stewardship for survival. By making small daily goals as well as long-term plans… and actually keeping them, you’d will not only be more productive, you’ll feel more productive which means you’ll feel a lot less burnt out.

My children are learning the satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with making goals and crossing items off a to-do list as they finish them. They’re bringing me little scraps of paper and a pencil, asking me to make them a list every day. It’s really nice because I’m able to get more tasks accomplished on our farm while they build character.

{Delegate}

And those many hands working to get their lists crossed out really do make light work! Because I’ve got almost 2 handfuls of little farm hands, I’m able to actually only give them a job or two, leaving plenty of time for summer fun and water play. Done alone all those jobs would have me busy as a bee! I’ve had all the greenhouse plastic & mess cleaned up, tools put away, gardens watered, and tent caterpillar nests clipped and burned and I didn’t even have to lift a finger.  Frankly delegation is a good thing, because, like it or not, you simply can’t do everything.

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

{Scale Back}

“But we’re homesteader’s! We need to do it ALL!”

Yeah. That is a big fat lie. The truth is you can’t do it all! You don’t need to be “self-sufficient.” (Psst… you CAN’T.) You’re going to be dependent on somebody for something. That’s ok. We were created to need one another.

Instead of trying to do it all, consider scaling back and doing a few things really well. Find a friend who also does a few things really well. Perhaps you can raise them some extra chickens and in exchange, they can bottle you up some of their extra milk.

We had to scale back our homestead this year and I don’t regret it one bit! We discontinued our herdshare, sold our sheep, and decided not to raise heritage pigs. I was able to concentrate on a few different areas and it was such a joy and relief not to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to do it all.

{Reprioritize}

Perhaps you’ve learned of a gardening concept or animal husbandry idea and you really are taken with it and committed to following it through. But once you implemented it, it turned out to cause more problems than you expected. It’s time to consider if the benefits are worth the expense of your health and stress.

Let’s look at free-range chickens. I’m convinced that by ranging my flock I’m able to reduce expenses, increase the nutrition of the eggs and meat by giving them a more natural and varied diet, and decrease my workload because I don’t have to clean out the filthy coop over the summer. BUT. But after years of fighting the good fight I’m throwing in the towel. The damage that they do to my yard, perennial gardens, and most especially my vegetable gardens and the stress that it all causes make it not worth it for me to continue ranging the birds. I feel like we’ve tried every fencing option, every tactic to re-home them into the coop so they’d quit hanging out in the flower beds, and I give up. We’ll be putting them in a coop with an expansive run next year and the meat birds who are currently all hanging out under my front porch, making it stink to high heaven, won’t have a chance to figure out how to get outside the netting, discover the breach in our pasture fencing, and head straight to where I sit and relax when I get a chance. ‘Cause relaxing in that odor with all the flies it brings isn’t actually relaxing.

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout
Scribbling Notes For My Homestead Management Binder

{Get Organized}

I have found it such a blessing to be organized. Without working my homestead management system, I find that I’ll flutter from one thing to the next and sometimes the most needful things end up getting overlooked! After I got organized there are far fewer crises to deal with, everything runs more smoothly, and I’m able to actually enjoy these precious days with my family on the farm.

{Mix It Up}

The brain, or some portion of the brain, becomes exhausted when any given function has been exercised too long. -Charlotte Mason

I learned from Charlotte Mason that our children’s education is benefited by essentially mixing things up. If they’ve been doing math for half an hour, it’s best to do perhaps some reading. If they’ve been writing for a while, the best activity to do next might be to take a nature walk. In doing so, they don’t become so easily worn out. And this is good advice for us to heed as well.

Rather than plan to have a full day in the kitchen putting up pickles, sweet corn, tomato sauce, and sliced peaches, we might be less wearied (and therefore more productive in the long run) if we did one of those each day of the week, ordering them according to which would start to spoil most quickly, and then moved on to tackle an outdoor project, getting caught up on paperwork, or cleaning a room of the home.

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout
A Sowing Season Break & Walk in the Woods

{Get Outdoors}

Which brings me to my next point. As part of “mixing it up” deliberately choose to spend time outside each and every day. Maybe it’s just me, but if I spend too much time indoors I tend to get sullen, grouchy, irritable, and snappy. I need to make a concentrated effort, especially this time of year when there is so much food preservation work that needs to be done, to take a break and head outside for some fresh air. In the springtime sowing season, when we’re already outdoor in the garden so much, mixing it up for me means a change of scenery and heading to the woods.  Doing so improves my outlook and keeps me fresh to tackle the work ahead and it will for you too.

{Rest Well}

Listen to me carefully: There’s always tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what you get done today or not, you’ll still have a pile of work tomorrow. That’s life. If you set aside your tasks and make a habit of a regular bedtime, you’ll be better equipped, both physically and mentally, to face that task no matter what it is.

You might need to even consider taking a nap. Seems counter-productive, doesn’t it? Often, I’m the most productive and energetic after a ten-minute nap.

If you struggle with your sleep, explore some herbal remedies. I’ve had to deal with Restless Leg Syndrome during some of my pregnancies and was upset to find that it was bothering me a few months ago. I made an herbal tea for a few nights that worked so well I haven’t needed it since.

Of course, I can’t leave the topic of rest without touching on the Lord’s Day… The Lord was so kind as to give us a day and a pattern of rest & worship once a week and I can’t recommend enough taking advantage of it. It’s like a recharging of batteries for both mind and soul and greatly reduces feelings of burnout!

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

{Network}

I’ve talked to many homesteaders who have found the blessing in a close-knit, local community of homesteaders who can pool their resources and time and fellowship with one another while getting work done!

Our fore-grandmothers knew this well and that’s why they’d look forward to those busy seasons where all their friends and family would work hard while visiting and then, when the work was through, enjoy a good time together. We’ve seen this played out in our neighborhood and it is something else to see.

I think for many homesteader types, it can be a real struggle since we often are very independent and can feel like failures if we ask for help. Ahem. While my introverted tendencies (Who are we kidding? My MBTI has me at 100% introverted…) hold me back from utilizing a community, I do look forward to a day when my children and grandchildren will gather in our home to work together.

{Choose Joy}

Because it is a choice.

Finding joyfulness isn’t something that happens to us. We have to choose to see the blessings that each day brings and cultivate an mindset of gratitude. One that doesn’t dwell on the negatives (poop, death, ice, weeds, mess, heat, need I go on?) but fixates on the positive. The straight up fact is that no matter where you are in  your homestead journey, you’re living someone else’s dream. We homesteaders are prone to “land lust” and are always thinking about how we could do better if we just had more acreage.   After going from 2 ½ acres to almost 8 it felt like a dream and now that we have 8, we wonder what we might be able to do with 20 acres. And whether it would be more private. And how we could probably range the chickens like we want to without all of the troubles they are giving us right now.

Again, this one is so difficult for me, especially in the crunch times. I tend to get bogged down in details and focus on the goal with a determined frown to the exclusion of seeing all that is good. Choose to give thanks and be content with such things as you have. The attitude will make a world of difference as to whether or not you get burnout.

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

{Take Care of Yourself}

With so much to do, it’s easy to put ourselves on the back burner. Really, that’s nothing more than cutting off your nose to spite your face. If you’re struggling to get ahead of the workload, but you’re not eating well, resting well, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep at night, your mind won’t be as clear and your body won’t work as well as it could. When things don’t go according to plan and stressful situations arise, you’ll be able to effectively handle them.  Also, consider exercising. I know that sounds silly when you’re already doing the Homesteader’s Workout and swamped with chores. I simply can’t find the time to do so in the summer either, but in the winter, when things slow down a little, I try to exercise at least several times a week and believe that I have fewer of those initial sore muscles and back problems popping up when spring rolls around again. Get equipped. 

{Stay Home}

Homesteader or not, we all deal with this one. The world is pulling us in a hundred different directions (or trying to at least) and if you’re are a homesteader, you simply have to learn to say, “No.”  People aren’t going to understand. After all, you can easily avoid all of this work by running to the supermarket or supporting some other farmer. Then you can have a “real life.” They don’t understand that this is the life we want. We find pleasure and satisfaction in the land, in animal husbandry, in the quietness, and lack of hustle and bustle. By accepting this and staying home, you’ll not only be able to stay focused and better manage your farm, but you’ll also spend less money which is always good for the stress levels!

{One Thing At A Time}

Often times multi-tasking works to get things done, but if you’re feeling stressed it is easy to get flustered, screw things up, and set yourself back. If you find yourself stumbling over your work, try doing one thing at a time, doing it with all your might, and then mixing it up and moving on.

While homesteading is going to give you and your family the best food you’ve every enjoyed, it’s really about living the simple life, not trying to do as much as you possibly can. Relax, you don’t need to be self-sufficient (remember, you can’t be), try implementing some of these strategies that will help you manage your place so you can enjoy the path you’ve been blessed to travel.

13 Ways to Avoid Homestead Burnout

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9 Comments

  1. I don't Homestead but I have a large garden and also do all the gardening myself. Making garden beds, growing flowers and veg. I also do furniture makeovers, dog minding and also do the handyman stuff at home, such as painting and repairs. I work at home and there is much to do. Your advice on burnout seems sensible for people from all walks of life. My husband is self employed and works from home fifty per cent of the time. The other fifty percent he is commuting or travelling for work. He does not have time to scratch let alone help me around the home. I will be taking on board your advice here as it makes so much sense. Thank you!

  2. I can relate to most of the things mentioned here in this superb article while I have not even tried to shoot for self sufficiency. I too, had to witness the chicken flock destroying my garden before investing into a great, but finely closed run for example. I had to give up vasting energy for plants that just don't agree with the climatic and soil conditions of our small garden. I am okay with those. Unfortunately delegation of tasks is not as smooth as you described here 🙂 And although I do take a nap in the summer days, getting some useful rest is something I learn the hard way (aches here and there). But I keep learning and articles like this are great to help along the way.

  3. Just what I needed to hear Quinn.
    Being stuck in a flat for at least 5 more years, I not only have land lust, I have house and privacy lust. I was never meant to live this close to anyone. But your words spoke right to my heart:

    “The straight up fact is that no matter where you are in your homestead journey, you’re living someone else’s dream.”

    I know exactly who that someone else is in my life, I know someone who would love to do what I do and look in awe at ‘all the things I know how to do and get done’. I think I just needed to be reminded of how far I’ve come instead of thinking constantly of how far I want to go.
    I’m confident that the Lord has us where we are for a reason and that we have to be faithful with what we’ve been given. I’ve already seen Him bless us with more when we’ve done so in the past.
    Again, beautiful post – and joyful harvest to you and yours.

    1. I have a friend who once told us that we were living the dream and it struck me as odd because I didn’t feel like it since I wasn’t living my (land lust filled) dream…. I was living their dream at the time. It took many years of patience and they aren’t stuck in the suburbs anymore but are building their own farm from scratch and on 10 times the acreage we had when they were dreaming of what we had! It was a definite lesson for me and the Lord has certainly blessed their vision and patience and I pray He does the same for you!

  4. Well said! I think so many of these can apply to homeschooling and child raising, too:)
    Thank you for these practical steps to not burn out.