Calling it Quits?

2019 was the year of quitting. And while that might sound like a bad thing, we have zero regrets. This year, we quit:

  • My favorite “new” sweatshirt. Cost = 18 cents!

    Shopping for new clothes (with the exception of socks and undies). I don’t think we actually ever made the conscious decision to enact a no-shopping ban. It more or less, just happened that way. In the spring, we started a new Saturday routine of getting up extra early and having a bagel at Panera before browsing the Farmer’s Market and any garage sales along the way. I think once we realized that the very things we liked to wear (jeans, tees, sweats, and hoodies) were the most abundant items sold at garage sales, we just started shopping that way. I’m almost certain that our entire fall/winter wardrobe cost a total of maybe $20, and that includes my rain jacket and two black Land’s End polo shirts that I wear for one of my side hustles.

  • Buying meat (from the grocery store). As a facts and figures person, the science behind the health benefits of a plant-based diet speaks to me, so we’ve been eating mostly vegetarian for a few years now. On occasion we would purchase fish or chicken, and if you’ve been around this blog awhile, you know we also have a rule to “eat what we are served” at my mom’s house – even if it includes beef. Mid-year, we started watching homesteading channels on YouTube and started rethinking our position on a meat-free diet. There’s also some good science behind eating pasture raised livestock, so we bought a chicken and some pork from a local farmer friend. The crazy thing about that though – I didn’t enjoy the pasture raised pork or chicken like I thought I would. I wanted my salad, my sweet potato, and my veggie soup instead. But…in the end, we agreed…while we prefer plants, if we do buy meat, we’ll be buying it from a farmer.
  • Grocery store hopping. While we’re on the subject of groceries, we also stopped driving all over town to shop for the “best deals” this year. In our younger days, it was fun to store hop to find bargains but since we stopped eating processed foods, there’s not that much difference in prices among the major stores when it comes to pantry items. Next year, we’re thinking about trying a bulk service for these purchases. I’ve heard good things about Azure Market but we’re not completely sold on the idea yet. Has anyone used them before? Or do you have another bulk store recommendation?
  • The not so fun part of our housing survey side hustle – paperwork!

    Worrying about “job security”. Job security is a myth anyway. No employer ever has their employee’s best interest at heart (no matter what they say). Profit is king, even in a non-profit environment, and employees are replaceable cogs in the wheel of progress. You can work 20 years for the same employer and the day after you leave, it’s as if you were never there. Someone new has taken your place to carry on the money-making mission. It has been 3 months since I jumped off that wheel. Right now, we have no idea how much money we’ll make from week to week, but I do know that the only “bottom line” we have to be concerned about is our own. As my own employer, I do have my best interest at heart. My mission is to provide myself with challenging and fun jobs that earn enough money to pay the bills and give me enough time off to enjoy the one and only life I’ll ever get to live.

  • Obsessing over cleanliness. Right now, there’s a dead ladybug on our windowsill. I can see it from where I’m sitting but I’m in no hurry to cross the carpet that’s in need of a good deep cleaning to get it. I will, eventually, do both – get the bug and clean the carpet – but not today. I’m not procrastinating, nor do we live in filth. Our home is tidy and as clean as a lived-in home gets in the middle of the week, and that’s okay by me. We do some chores daily, like make the bed and wash the dishes, but other things get taken care of weekly (or monthly). There are simply more important things to do than worry about keeping a home “showroom clean”. Better Homes and Gardens may not want to use our living room in it’s January centerfold, but our little niece sure loves playing in it.
  • Thinking we always need a plan. Sometimes we put so much effort into the planning of something that one of two things happens: 1) we never actually execute the plan or 2) the reality of what was planned turns out so different and we are disappointed (or overjoyed). From big events to small tasks, plans can be great but they can also be limiting. For the past few years, we’ve spent the month of December planning out what we want the coming year to look like. We’ve outlined yearlong projects for this blog and then midway through, we’ve gotten interested in something else. Next year, we’re going without a plan. We have some goals and things we want to do, which we’ll discuss in January, but we won’t be doing a yearlong project in 2020. We want to leave room for new ideas, new interests, and new adventures.

Have you called it quits on anything this year? We’d love to hear about your experience!

Life Lessons from a Farmer in VA

We were watching a Q&A session with Joel Salatin a few days ago on Youtube. If you aren’t familiar with Joel Salatin – he’s a farmer in Virginia. I mean, aside from being a vocal advocate for sustainable farming, the author of a dozen books, and the man featured in most of Michael Pollan’s work – he’s just a farmer in Virginia.

He operates a farm. He raises his own food. He teaches others to do the same. He is a farmer in Virginia.

And he is successful.

Now, try as I might, I have never read one of Joel’s books, though I do admire his style of farming. What I admire more though, is something that he said in his interview. He was talking about slippage – how things fall through the cracks on the farm when you can’t attend to them every day. Vegetables rot on the vine, calves are born and die without human intervention, and fields are left fallow. It’s very hard to be successful if you’re a casual farmer.

As I heard that, I thought – heck, it’s hard to be successful if you are a casual gardener! Weeds won’t wait. It doesn’t always rain when you want it to. Things go crazy all at once.

Hmmm…

Just like life.

Now, you don’t have to be a farmer (or a gardener) to know just how true it is that things fall through the cracks if you can’t attend to them every day. I’m sure if you check those cracks right now, something fell through them this very day. Take my day – I started out with the good intention of working on a grant for one of my freelance clients and then taking a walk, but neither of those things happened. Phone calls, minor emergencies, a trip to the store, and spending way too much time figuring out lunch – now, that’s what didn’t fall though the cracks today.

It occurred to me as I was watching my day get away, that I may I need to organize my time better. But I know, that’s not true. Even the most organized person can’t do it all. It also occurred to me that I may need to put my own needs and interests aside to take care of more pressing concerns, but that’s not true either. In fact, the one sure thing I’ve learned from doing that in the past is that the “pressing concerns” only continue to press even more when you start putting them first. It even occurred to me to think that setting proper boundaries might help me get more done with my day. And maybe it would. But that’s not really the problem either.

Focus. That’s the real issue here. Since I left my job, I haven’t really had any. I’ve been trying to make sure we stay ahead of the curve financially, trying to spend more of my free time with family, trying to cram in all the things I always wanted to do but couldn’t because work took up my weekdays, and all the while trying to maintain the same balance we had before. As Joel Salatin might say, “Folks, this ain’t normal!”

If I were to really get down and think about it, I’m pretty sure I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off these past few weeks and all because I haven’t quite settled into my new life yet. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I might be a little afraid to settle in – like somewhere in the back of my mind, I still think this is just a temporary thing. Ah, fear…she’s not exactly the kind of creature one needs on a farm (or anywhere else really).

If I don’t work on anything income producing at all this week, we’re not going to go broke. I know that in my head, but the “fear of failure” is a very real thing. Which brings me back to the Q&A video with Joel.

In the early 1980s, Joel Salatin and his wife made what most people would have considered a crazy decision. They took their nest egg of $10,000 and quit work to farm full time. Their great big plan was to live so frugally that the money would last one full year. When asked if he was afraid of failing, Joel said something so profound, it will probably stick with me forever.

He said that back then he looked around him at the people who were hiring workers. All of them wanted one thing – someone who would show up, do an honest days work, and come back the next day. He thought – if that’s the bar they’re setting, I qualify for any job out there and folks would be happy to have me. With that mindset, he felt a sense of security. If he failed at farming, he would just get a job. Maybe not the best job out there, but with his work ethic, he knew he’d climb any ladder set in front of him, and climb it quickly.

If you don’t know the rest of the story, Joel and his wife made that $10,000 last two years, and by the third year, they were breaking even on the farm.

Joel Salatin is successful because stayed focused on what he wanted and not on fear.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past few years I got up in the morning and begrudgingly opened my computer to see what email greeted me, what task lay ahead, and what deadline was looming. And every day, I would tell myself that I was doing it all for a greater purpose. True or not, that’s how I made it through. I focused on what I wanted – a simple life, where I had the time to spend with family, the time to learn new things, the time to try new recipes, the time to work on things that gave me a sense of worth, and most importantly, the time to breathe. 

Nearly a month ago, I stepped off the career train onto the platform that was to be that simple life and in the days since, I’ll be honest – I’ve struggled a bit. It’s been like waking up on Christmas morning to a giant pile of new toys and not knowing which to play with first. And if you’ve ever been that kid (or the mom of that kid), you know how the scene unfolds – we try to play with everything all at once!

But we are human beings, all of us, and we cannot possible do everything that we think we want, need, or plan to do. At least not all at once, and sometimes not even in this lifetime. The best we can do is try, and cut ourselves some slack when we don’t meet our own expectations.

That’s my pep talk to myself this week. Slow down. Breathe. Trust the plan.

There’s great reward in patience.

Just ask a farmer.


Interested in watching the Q&A video? Here you go…