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This Homesteading Mama’s Struggle: Getting it All Done

I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of belly-aching around here lately. Primarily because there is SO much to do and I’m just not feeling that there are enough hours in the day to get it all done. My running “joke” (because it’s not really funny) is that I’ll squeeze it – whatever it may be at the moment- into my 2-3am time slot. Which could be funny, but only since I go to bed by 10 so that I can be up by 6- I’m not exactly burning the midnight oil.  Anything less than 8 hours (minus mid-night nursing) and I can’t collect my thoughts to form a sentence. The kids love those days though. They love telling me while I’m serving up eggs & bacon and calling them for dinner that it isn’t for another 12 hours. Or that we don’t keep books in the fridge when I tell them to put them in there.

I have dandelions and thistle the size of tropical plants growing in my flower beads, my window box petunias have been dead and crispy for weeks. I haven’t balanced the checkbook in going on 3 months. Due to the scattering of the kids outdoor toys, the lawn looks like that pile of technicolor vomit that my first pooch threw up onto the floor after she ate all of our plastic fake kitchen food when I was a child. I haven’t dusted the house all summer.  On a good week the floors are getting done once. And with the chickens covering the same turf as the kids, it’s not pretty. I know that playing in the dirt is a healthy pastime, I don’t know about chicken poo though. I need to get that under control before the baby starts crawling!
And schooling? What’s that? You mom’s that are checking your reader right now during a break in between your math & history lessons, I envy. I haven’t even made a rough draft of goals for the year. At this point, I’m shooting for Hannah to read proficiently by 14. I mean if you aren’t meeting your goals, change them to something more realistic, right? Sure, she can read technically, but it’s like pulling teeth. I can’t believe that I have a child that doesn’t like to read. I don’t even know her. Maybe I’m just not giving her material that she’s interested in.

Blogging is made possible because the only way the baby is eating right now is if I put her to sleep first and do a switcheroo with the binky making for a long sleepy lunch.

It’s very obvious to me that my system around here is not operating smoothly… in fact it’s flat out broken and in desperate need of an overhaul. I need a fresh vision and I need systems. I love systems! They allow me to look at little people with missing articles and direct them towards a failure to comply with a system, thereby making them culpable for the missing item. (Because there are few things more irksome than a 32 year old who can’t find their keys four times a day.)  If only I could find the time to overhaul it.

Days ago, as I was lamenting my woes and crying out that all I ever get done is laundry (gathering, turning, sorting, returning what was actually clean, washing, hanging, tumbling, folding, ironing, putting away, arranging drawers, going through tubs for fall clothes, putting away summer’s, calculating what should be purchased for the next season. I haven’t even begun with my fall sewing)….

and food (On top of regular meal planning & prep, I’m muddling my way through managing all of this milk & cheese making. We seem to be increasing our bread intake so I need to make two loaves daily or risk running out, I’m trying to get back on track with cooking breakfast after my pregnancy/postpartum induced oatmeal slump, and I’ve still tomatoes, apples, and pumpkin to can.)

Now I’ve whined plenty about the laundry before and I’ve spent a great deal complaining about all of the food, but until then, I’ve never actually griped about both at the same time.

Immediately, this verse came to mind:

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

And while it’s not technically what the verse is speaking to, I’m now trying to be content with only getting the food and raiment done around here. I’m trying to be thankful that the children have enough clothes to wear 16 outfits a day and still have something to wear at the end of the week and that when I’m sorting mine for washing they reek of spoiled milk and tomato sauce and are lightly dusted with flour at the waist.

Rather than plan to squeeze as much in a day as humanly possible, I’ve stepped back and examined what the typical rhythm and flow is of our home and pieced the puzzle together around that as well as completely and radically overhauling our schooling system. I’ve committed my work to the Lord and pray He will establish my thoughts (Proverbs 16:3).

I’ve boiled my workload down into  four basic around which my day revolves: Food & Raiment, Homeschooling, and Cleaning. (With homesteading falling under the “food” category.)

Looking back over the past year I’m amazed at how busy we’ve become while managing our homestead!

We’ve steadily increased the amount of food we grow and preserve, have added a dairy cow… and then a bull who we butchered ourselves, learned cheesemaking, we’re doubling the number of hogs and broilers we raise, our flock of hens grows and shrinks and grows again without ceasing. I’m learning about herbs & edible flowers, growing my own seedlings, and am muddling my way through home-grown grains. It’s all so exciting!

Not surprisingly, all of these things take time, and time doesn’t grow on trees any more than money does. We’re given what we’re given and our responsibility is to make the most of that gift.

I have not been satisfied by how I am adjusting to the constantly changing seasons, both of this world (as a homesteader) and of my life (as a homeschooler who has spent the last 9 years either expecting a baby or nursing one).

In trying to manage my household and days well, I forever make adjustments, tweaking my schedule, to accommodate those changes just to get back to the beginning of a cycle and find that I’ve made no real progress at getting into a groove. The indecisiveness is ultimately mismanagement and counterproductive to my goal in creating a schedule which will improve the daily flow.

I believe my approach was wrong. Rather than trying to fit a complex system of daily tasks (the standards of which always seem higher than what I can attain to!), I ought to have discovered a basic pattern, the flow, to our days that is unchanging. An outline that will be useful regardless of whether it is seedtime or harvest, when the other third graders begin or finish their schoolyear, whether I’m carrying new life or nursing it, or what the average 13 year old is learning from a textbook.

Something needed to change. The question was where does the change need to occur? What must be done to simplify our days?

I need to be realistic about what I could (or should) get accomplished in a day. There is so much to be done on any homestead and to try to fit it all in one day is just not sensible- or fair to the children.

I find that there are essentially two parts to my day- the parts of my day that I planned and the parts of my day “that the Lord has made.” Life’s little emergencies. A tripping toddler, chickens in the corn “field”, skinned knees, today it was a chunk of my thumb knuckle diced into the onions. (I found it) I wish I could say that I have handled the interruptions to my plans that He gives better than I do, but all too often I don’t and I believe simplicity to be the key to a daily plan that I may better “rejoice and be glad in it.”

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I’m going to (try) to learn to be happy if feeding and clothing and loving my family is the only thing I get done in a day. I realize that days like that will be the exception, but what needs to really change is the gnawing guilt in my gut when I get to the end of the day and I haven’t hustled enough “getting it all done.”

If all the little lives under my care were well fed and watered and no one was naked or too filthy, I’ve got to learn to be ok with that. But the reality is that, most days, I can make one small area of the home cleaner than it was in the morning. And even on the worst of days I can find the time to do at least a reading lesson or read a piece of literature aloud. And even when I can’t I’m thankful that there are free online math programs, audio books, or even educational apps that the kids can occasionally use to fill in the gaps so at least their minds are working on something.

The thing that really makes me sad is to know that I’m not alone in the struggle. Mom’s have so many hats to wear and we’ve gone and added the whole challenge of homesteading into the mix and what we’re finding is that we don’t give ourselves any permission to be anything less than perfect. We keep slaving to our to-do list, keep beating ourselves up on the pillow at night and running over the list first thing when we wake up in the morning, defeated before we even get out of bed.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with a keeping a to-do list, organizing and managing your home(stead), or sticking to a daily routine. I thrive on all those things! But I do believe that we ought to be more mindful, that we are the master of these tools, not slaves to them. They are their to help us do our job a little better, not point to our shortcomings and failures.

This Homesteading Mama's Struggle: Getting it All Done

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4 Comments

  1. I just discovered your blog through Homestead Revival and by just reading a few posts I can see I will be enjoying it! Charlotte Mason, gardening, loving the Lord, family – are all on my heart as well. This post on managing my time and how to get it “all” done (really, getting everything done He’d have me get done!) is an area I’m growing in as well.

  2. For those of you who previously posted a comment on this post, I’m sorry to say that there seems to be an glitch in my commenting system and they’ve disappeared. I’m contacted them and hope to get them back soon 🙂

  3. I am encouraged to read your post! We have been decluttering and re-prioritizing around our little farm, a lot lately. I have benefitted greatly from ditching my schedule which was based on the clock (with which I was forever playing catch-up, skipping over things, or abandoning altogether) to a schedule which is more focused on routine. The kids all now know that when they finish a job, they simply need to move on to the next one. It has been so freeing! We are still working out the bugs, especially now that my oldest has taken on a job “off the farm”.
    I can’t wait to hear how you create your schedule.

  4. How encouraged I am from your post! I’m not alone. I am learning so much as I have gone through your various post. I am a young mother of 5. The youngest is 4 weeks. We just moved on 20 acres so the possibilities are endless, but I can’t even catch up enough to walk outside most days. Add homeschooling and nursing a newborn and the time just disappears. But I know that I have just as much time in a day as anyone else so I am encouraged by you today. Thank you:)