I got a interesting comment on one of my recent posts about the fact that I don’t appear to have much outside help on the farm..
She is not wrong..
In 12 years, we have hired and or bartered our own helping hands to get
1)a tractor that did the gravel spread on our driveway, we did all the smaller paths by hand but the driveway, we paid 50 and had it finished for us
2) I hired a girlfriend to do some tricky tree cutting down to clear a power line.. it took six of us, with ropes, time and care to bring the tree’s down in a safe way.. it was the power line from the house to the barn, and we have a breaker switch, so the line was not hot!
3) We have hired the farm helpers (aka the local farm kids) the boys have helped me clean pens and haul compost and build hugel-beds.. the Miss learned how to garden, she helped plant and weed and harvest.. While they were great help.. on average in a year.. 10 to 15 hours between them all for three years, and then each one aged out into bigger more well paid jobs.. I was a stepping stone at that 12 to 14 years in age for them..
4) we hired a man with a machine to dig our post holes for the big pasture.. you can tell hubbies awesome hand dug holes vs the machine at a glance.. the hand dug are so much better lol
(the perk of the Farm Helpers) is that their momma trained them well, they can have something asked of them and then left on their own.. each one has their own strengths, and I tried to match them to what they were doing.
Which brings us to 2016.. over the years I have had a lot of folks tell me that they would love to come to the farm and learn from me, I have softly, kindly and as gently as I can said no..
I will do a post about why you should not bring folks to your farm.. so! SO! many reason’s to not have farm helpers and or teaching on the farm etc.
But D won me over.. I knew her for a good while before she got permission to come to the farm and we started with little, first I worked with her on an event off the farm in 2014, and she was great.. then we plan this and that in 2015 and she proved herself over and over again.. steady, calm, level-headed, smart and a hard worker.. This is a women that I am proud to call a friend!
So when she asked if she could come work on the farm and learn in 2016, I said yes, but only if I could do my best to spend the year working on all kinds of skills..
She came pretty much weekly, some days I struggled to find something worth sharing, and some days we just planted or weeded or harvested, sometimes we drove for things required for the farm..
But most of the time I made a point of there being some kind of lesson per time..
We covered topics like
- Wild Forage
- Birth or hatchings
- Raising of young offspring
- Breeding programs
- Feeding programs
- Worming and medical programs
- How to figure out weights and give oral meds
- Sheep and Goat foot care
- Sheep Shearing
- Weathering Lambs or Kids
- Butchering everything from Fowl to Rabbit to a full pig
- How to bring things in and create meals with them
And I am sure there is a good amount more that I am just not remembering today, I would look at the time of the year and we would work on the skills that you would use if you had your own farm.
The good points of this, a hard-working pair of hands, a great mind, and a good sense of humor, I found I loved working with someone who I could talk to.. truly it was as good as it gets.. 5 out of 5..
The interesting point.. I needed to really think about why I did things, I had to dig out books and check where I got this or that data and in many cases, as it was hand down learned or hands on learned.. I had to try an explain why this one got this and that one got that tweak and this one was this..
This was a good thing for me as I had to learn how to turn “get it done” into hand on showing and into explaining it in understandable way..
The downside if there was one, was that everything takes longer.. you are not doing.. you are teaching.. you move slower so they can see and learn.. in some cases you don’t have enough tools or you have to teach how they are used.. I never minded honestly because I found I quickly learned to enjoy the company..
But I will own that there was a freedom at times to doing something on the other days, where you just moved though it at full speed, quietly focused and so forth.
IF D said, I want to come learn this or help with this, I would say.. come on out..
I watched a group of women that I admire work together in the same year.. but I also feel that they did the same as D an I did.. they meet, they became friends, they learned about each other, they proved themselves as good people, good workers, hard workers with steady temperaments, and over a couple of years, they worked together on this and that project..
Then in 2016, they began to share a working space on of the ladies farm-land.. this allowed everyone to have positives and I wish them continued good luck in their plans, they have earned it..
Having said that, I can’t see myself opening up the farm in any way to the many requests I get.. and I know that I would never personally do a woofers or such..
So the logical questions that the above will bring.. is.. but what about as you age, what about if you had health issues.. what if you can’t get it done..
Well, the truth is we are looking that very question square in the eye.. because hubbies work is looking like, he could start regular travel again. Its possible that though out the year that he could be traveling for a few days to week or more monthly for upwards of 25% of the year in total.. and we are looking a that being possible for 3 to 5 plus years..
That is very much a major loss of help on the farm.. and the answer.. cut breeding programs, cut numbers, focus on what gives the best yields.. and all hands on deck..
Something you will hear often for new homesteaders or those that are going to be buying land, I will have lots of help, I have this person or that that has offered to come out and give a hand..
I have also read some very bitter posts about the fact that after they are on the homestead or farm or very large garden etc that the help didn’t do what they said they would.. Its often listed as one of the reason’s that many will leave their homestead or small plot in the first five years.
For me.. when someone says something like.. work-develop community on their lists for why they are wanting to or getting into homesteading.. its a big old red flag.. You need to do this for you and your family first and formost.. the extra’s go towards working or supporting your family, friends and community..
So I will finish this post this way.. NEVER count on outside help.. Any outside help you get is a blessing and bonus, and ideally it will be there for you when you need it..
But for the daily work, for the routine, for the day in and day out, for the yearly grind.. its all on you.. sick as a dog.. maybe you can call in help but the odds are much better that you will be dragging yourself out of bed, throwing feed, checking water and then falling back into bed
Its just how it is.. truly farming, homesteading is lonesome hard thing.. that is why when we do get help, when there is a helping hand, we feed and hug and say thank you we say, if you need us, call…. but (we know, that we or they will only call when truly needed) because you do need your community.. but it is not the village that will grow your farm or get your chores done.. its you.. only you..
This post needs to be required reading for anyone wanting to get into homesteading. Beautifully put. 😀
Thanks, its not that you can’t have outside help, its that you can not count on it..
Very thoughtful post. And your statement: “it is not the village that will grow your farm or get your chores done.. its you.. only you” is also reason why so many farmers and homesteaders have a reason to stay active as they age. The work may take longer to finish but the satisfaction of still providing for yourself at age 60, 70 or 80 is even greater.
very good point, it does keep you much more active as you get older and the better food quality adds to it as well
I strongly agree!