Monday, March 31, 2014

How To Live The Simple Life Part Two - Deciding What You Want

Part Two is going to help you decide what you want to do and why, and then tomorrow we'll get discussing the 'How' of the whole thing.

This will be the most difficult post to write simply because of the fact that we all want something different out of life. So I would like to share some of the considerations from my own list. But first I want you to go grab a piece of paper and something to write with...I mean it, go get them, I'll still be here when you get back.

Does your pen work? Okay, then I want you to think about your dreams and aspirations regarding your life in ten years. I say ten years because this is less of an action plan and more a dream. It's about finding out what is fundamentally important to you. Now write a list of the things you want to be able to do. Just scribble away and we'll look over your list later. Here's my scribbles:

quality personal time
time with loved ones
time for recreation
making a living
reducing consumption
having a quality of life - what does that look like?
teaching myself new skills
trying new things
teaching my kids my values and some practical skills and appreciation for work
building my own mortgage free home
having autonomy
livestock, I like having them around
be environmentally aware, off grid maybe, self-sufficient
freedom to prep. and have a root cellar
sense of security
sense of belonging and rootedness for myself and my children

Now that we've got a list to work with it's easier to divide it up into categories. I think they should be
feelings and ideas,  physical space,  physical activity and work. But that's just for my list.

Feelings and ideas
This includes all the things that are intellectual and emotional for me. I want to have time to spend with my loved ones, particularly my husband and children. I think it's vitally important that we teach our children a good solid work ethic and that they learn to value things of worth. I have seen so many teenagers who get whatever they want and then complain that the new car their parents bought them wasn't the colour they wanted or doesn't have a sunroof. And that drives me crazy when I see other kids who work really hard for everything they get. But I think that the kids who work for things appreciate them more and take better care of them. I think it makes them better adults too, but that's just my opinion. Other feelings I want to have are the ability to just wake up with an idea and try it without a landlord telling me I can't. I want to have that feeling that the farm is mine and nobody can take it away from me. That it's going to always be mine as long as I want it and that my children and grandchildren will feel a love for the place too and have that sigh of peace when they come back to visit the ol' homestead. Sort of a secure base from which they can venture into the wild unknown but always can come home to. Does that make sense to you?

Physical space
Many ideas and feelings in my list relate to a specific space. Stephen and I realized several years ago that we'd need to actually have a farm, so we started working on that and eventually looking for our own place when we realized that rentals weren't going to work for us. Of course that led us where we'd never have guessed and here we are in Nova Scotia due to the attitudes, climate and land prices. It took lots of research and soul searching but we finally found a place that checked off most of the boxes on our wishlist. We had a general idea when looking and our list included at least 5 acres of arable land, some woodlot, a river or body of water, reasonable distance from town because of the children's school activities and jobs, high speed internet (Steve made me take photos of the power lines so he could check if I was out looking at a property by myself), nice neighbours who aren't too close, some south facing slope we could build on, and we even knew which county we wanted to live in due to building restrictions. It really pays to do all the research you can and then you'll be a much more informed buyer when the time comes to compare properties. Of course we had to have a real vision for our place as it didn't have a house, well or septic. Just 42 acres with a porta-potti. This wasn't the first place we put an offer on, but I'm SO GLAD we were blessed to get this place and not the other, it's a much better fit for us in the long-term.

Physical activity and work
To be realistic, by getting our farm we've opened ourselves to a never ending list of things that need to be done, and they greatly outnumber the list of things we'd like to do. But none of them are beyond our ability to learn. When it comes time to build our house, we'll already have practiced by building 2 additions, and then another barn and a garage. We can incorporate strawbale building, lime plaster, timber framing etc. into all our smaller projects until we're confident enough in our skills and planning abilities to tackle building our home. As well as all the projects around the home and homestead we still need to be able to make a living that lets us pay our bills. Having 5 teens isn't cheap so we have to find ways to feed them, pay our taxes and have some fun too. Life isn't free, and while we're aiming for self-suffiency we're not there yet.  Most farmers start either with savings in the bank or with one person working off the farm. We have no savings so of course Stephen has to go to work. While we don't owe money on our house we still have a mortgage for our land that's got to be paid off.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you have to be flexible and you must understand that this is a lifestyle shift that takes time. Your plan, your farm or garden, your whole being are a work in progress. If it's something that's really worth doing then it's worth taking the time over. Whether you're starting out small growing lettuce and tomatoes on your balcony or retiring and emigrating to Canada, if you have a clear vision then it makes planning easier.

So have fun tweaking and musing over your list, and if you skipped actually writing one then I encourage you to take 5 minutes and dream of a better life.

I'll be back tomorrow with Part 3.

      Elizabeth



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