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Trying to Keep Balance

January 9, 2012

Buff Orpingtons from Murray McMurray

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary since Mr. B and I first stumbled across the property. It was sometime in February, we were trying to find 20 acres for sale another 20 minutes up the road, it was dumping snow. We saw a “for sale” sign, climbed down a steep hill, fell in a creek, and I was smitten. At home, the property pictures looked so lush and green, both because it was winter and because every other property we looked at was a barren square. The one year anniversary marks one year of obsession, hard work, and vacillating between happiness and the feeling of being sucked into a pit of exhaustion (physical and emotional) and debt.

One of the things I told myself when we started working on the house was that the crazy work schedule and mental domination by building codes would be worth it, but that within a year we would be back to at least where we were before. A house, a garden, chickens. While we are making daily progress on the house (pictures tomorrow, I promise!), we are by no means close to being done, not even very close to moving into the house. Even though I tell myself that soon we’ll be working on things we have experience with (tile, drywall, wood work), I can’t deny that even in our old house these kinds of projects were time consuming and stressful.

So, what is the connection between these thoughts and the picture of the chickens? Basically, I’m trying to figure out the best way to have some balance in the coming year. Mr. B and I were just talking about how our work progress has slowed down in the last few months; we’ve been taking more nights and days off to spend time with friends, eat early dinner, watch an entire season of Revenge in two nights, and I’m a lot happier for it. This summer we made a lot of progress on the house, but never once went canoeing, floating, fishing, camping, or hiking. We sat by the creek exactly once when our family wasn’t here to convince us to take a break. However, due to our new construction loan our timeline has been reduced from two years to one year, meaning that this coming year isn’t one  where we can slack on the work. I’m partly glad for that though – we never wanted to be the people who took 20 years to finish our house. I’m torn between wanting our old life back and to be done with the house, realizing that the best way to get the first back is to finish the second.

I was very excited to get chickens and a garden this year, and I created some pretty ambitious plans. The garden that I staked out last fall is bigger than our house. I planned to order 50 meat birds on top of the six hens we normally order. I was debating between chicken tractors and electric poultry fencing last night when Mr. B looked at me and said (to paraphrase): if you want to do this, you are on your own. Wait a year, please. I put up a fuss, but after a night’s sleep, I’m wavering. The problem with getting back what you had is that you still have to do all the work you forgot about. It isn’t just getting chickens, it’s building and/or buying structures to house them in, watching to make sure they don’t get pasted up when they are chicks, and always have enough water and food. If we do meat birds, that adds butchering (which is time consuming), as well as the purchase of another chest freezer to store them in, which leads to the question of where to put the freezer. I’m determined to have a garden this year, but that also has its own hurdles: I need a place to start seeds, need to plow and harrow the field, need to build a fence, need to deal with frost and herbivores.

My question is: which one leads to more balance? Focusing exclusively on the house and wishing I was doing other things, or taking on new chores/hobbies/tasks that make me happy but come with the risk of being just too much?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rita permalink
    January 9, 2012 7:50 am

    You know me. I’d just sit by the creek and read. Maybe not now while it’s cold. You two are amazing, no matter how you do things.

  2. sue permalink
    January 9, 2012 10:28 am

    here’s my two cents: nix the chicks this year. you are so correct about all that needs to be gotten ready before they even arrive. then, once they do, they are so very distracting…like television. all i ever want to do is watch them, hold them, check their butts, make sure they’re not dead when they run and stop in their tracks and sleep, etc. you know what i’m talking about. and, since you’d be getting more meat than egg chicks there’s that whole other aspect i’m unfamiliar with that you mentioned. to create the balance you’re looking for, i’d suggest just keeping it to the garden for 2012. plant 1/4 to 1/2 of the space you have so it’s not overwhelming but your needs beside the house are being met. lettuces, tomatoes, squash and other things that will keep over the next winter. this summer, while you’re still finishing up the house, take more days to sit by the creek together, go floating, take a hike and don’t forget to look up at the stars.

    it was so good to see you and mr b when you were here, and i can’t wait to get back to visit!

  3. seattle steve permalink
    January 9, 2012 10:31 am

    the question remains which comes first the chicken or the egg?
    Balance is important, but how much, and at what cost? Gardens do take alot of time; but are a stress release. Maybe downsize the garden and create a balance. I have a small garden 500 sq.ft. but its a great getaway. and yields some goodies, and sense of accomplishment.
    You probably already know that this is coming from a guy, because we always try to fix thing!
    Nice to here you thoughts
    Mr. seattle steve

    • January 9, 2012 11:16 am

      Thanks for the kind and thoughtful comments everyone! I agree with sue and seattle steve – this is probably not the year for chickens, no matter how much I want it to be. As for the garden, I’m determined to do it, but I might have to give up on some of my more ambitious plans (mobile hoop house) and accept that there will be less time to weed and manage.

  4. John Brown permalink
    January 9, 2012 4:21 pm

    Hi Alexis and Mr. B, Just took some short January sun to read several of your posts and enjoy the pics. You are doing terrific stuff there. Much of it bringing back Montana memories. Some of my John Deere days early with a D, then 70 (little higher than the 620), R, and 820 (these two in the old horizontal diesel engine style) then into bigger more modern stuff. We had some farmalls and fords in the lot as well.

    Purple Pruden tomatoes were fantastic last year – heirlooms that just kept going. I kept some seed if you would like some. And Scarlet runner beans going strong for several years saving seeds.

    What adventures –

  5. cammi permalink
    January 10, 2012 6:45 pm

    alexis, totally know how you feel! All of the sudden it is winter and I looked at John the other day and said ” where did the summer go?” We didn’t go hiking much or camping or anything this past summer or fall for that matter. Once up to maroon bells but not sure if that really counts. We are trying to find the same balance and now that it is winter I want to go play in the snow. However, we spent our first really snowy weekend inside working on the house. I do feel like it is starting to own us and then I remember that there will be plenty of winters and summers down the road. So I hope that you can find some balance and not go crazy, as I do have days where I feel like things are just super nuts! The house will get done over time and then there is the fact that it will never be done so enjoy life and hobbies and things that make you happy too!

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