Have you ever had one of those weeks where one day is fantastic, the next day you just want to punch a wall, and by the end of the week, all of your projects are in chaos, and you’re not even sure which direction is north? That happens to me a lot more than I think it should, but it usually boils down to me trying to do too much in a given time period, aka trying to stuff 10 pounds of excrement in a five-pound bag! Taking things apace is a difficult thing for me, but for my own sanity (and the sanity of those who deal with me on a daily basis), it’s one of the things I’m intentionally working on improving. Total success may be impossible, but I’ll take improvement if it means a calmer mental state.
A dear friend of mine is in the process of moving. They own their current property and have signed the papers on the new farm. There is work to do on both farms – cleaning up, clearing out, moving items from here to there. All the normal bits of moving a household, plus the bonus of moving the implements and animals of a farm. We were texting the other evening about their progress, and I remarked how nice it is that they can “slow move” - they don’t have to rush to leave their current property and get everything to the new property. Especially since they will need to put in all the fences for their new pastures, they can take the time needed to watch where the water runs when it rains, where the shade is in relation to the barn – the little things that can make the difference in having a potentially mud-filled loafing area that bakes in the summer heat or a shaded, grassy area for the animals to rest and graze. Or moving all of the household items in, then having to move them again to repaint. Having done that, I can confirm that it’s not fun!
One way I keep myself from scheduling too much - write it all down!
I was thinking about their slow move as I was moving sheep the other day. The spring lambs and goatlings are weaned, and it’s time to move the mamas back in with the rest of the flock, leaving the weanlings in a separate pasture so they don’t get bred this year. My goats are very friendly, but the Shetland sheep can be skittish at times, even with the Bucket Of Bribery (sheep pellets) in my hand. If I move too quickly, or make sudden movements, they will scatter to the four corners of the pasture and the whole process begins again. Moving slowly and deliberately, I can usually get them to go where I want them to go. It’s much better than moving quickly and having to try, try again after they’ve scattered. When that happens, stress levels rise, tempers flare, and there are usually only two outcomes. In the first outcome, the animals run for the hills, a lot of time has been spent, the task isn’t finished, and the humans are irritated. The other typical outcome is eventually the animals are contained, but the humans are irritated, the animals are now stressed, and what’s left of the day is spent grumping around at how poorly the task was finished. In both scenarios, the humans are irritated! Anyone who has worked with livestock probably has piles of stories about “roundups gone wrong,” complete with irritated humans hollering at each other.
To borrow a line from one of the Star Wars movies, how do we become “one with the force” - not rushing around, taking the time needed to metaphorically (or in reality) complete the fence before we turn the animals out to graze? My somewhat imperfect solution is a write-on/wipe-off book. Each page is labeled with the day of the week and some dividing lines for AM and PM. Morning and evening chores are “hardwired” onto the page. Ideally, I would have one “large” thing or two “small” things in the morning, and the same in the afternoon, but I’m sure we all know how that usually goes. But when I force myself to write down *everything* I want to do, it quickly becomes apparent how much I won’t be able to do because, well, time! If I finish my scheduled items, I can start adding from the running project list. Or I may just take that “extra” time to rest – knit, read, hike, watch This Old House reruns, stuff like that.
In farming, in moving, in life, pace is so important. I know the feeling of burn-out due to long periods of high stress and high activity, and it’s not a fun place to be. How do you “find your zen” when things get stressful? What have you done to keep yourself centered and moving apace to keep a task or a situation from getting stressful in the first place?