Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to the Country - Not the Perfect Life

My last post generated a whole lot of emails! Blasting me for being antisocial, for trying  to keep paradise for myself, for trying to scare people away from living on a farm. From my position, I'm just announcing why I decline all the requests for farm tours from people coming to Big Island on vacation. Besides the fact that the County of Hawaii requires special permits for farm tours that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, my insurance company will not insure farm tours. Anyway, there was enough said repeatedly in the emails that is prompting me to make a few comments of my own about the "perfect life on a farm".

This pertains to me, but it very well be pertinent to many. Leaving behind the hectic, high stress, high population areas and going to the less populated rural areas doesn't mean that I ran to paradise, the good life, the perfectly happy life, a safe life. I chat with many people who appear to believe that if only they can manage to move to a small farm, they will achieve instant happiness. They congratulate me on my move as though I've left all problems, failures, depressions, and other negatives far behind. In my experience, life is never without problems. My hope is that they will be fairly minor and readily resolvable. But I've discovered that I tend to carry my habits with me everywhere I move, thus if life depresses me in location A, it will repeat itself at location B unless I make the effort to change. So just because I now live on a small farm doesn't make my life idyllic. Every day isn't perfect, things go wrong, I'm not happy 100% of the time, nor is life here one big vacation.  

Farm living on any economic level is difficult and dangerous. I read about other farmers' problems in the trade journals, and it doesn't seem to make a difference if it is an 3 acre farm or a 20,000 acre ranch. Farm life is not heaven and it's not automatically "the good life". 

Farming is work. It is long hours. It is disappointment and disasters. A 5 day a week, 9 to 5 job is a cinch compared to farming. On a small homestead style farm, another factor is added into the equation - you're the only employee and you seldom can afford to hire others. So if a job needs to be done, it's all up to you. And there's no one else it blame it on. No manager to vent your frustration on. So suck it up. 

I've seen a number of people move here to small acreage assuming that life would be instantly wonderful. Many have failed for various reasons. All these became disillusioned, blaming their failure on everything but themelves. Some managed to injure themselves, yet still place the blame on others. 

Yet I've seen others move to country life and be content. They willingly admit that they left the crazy, problematic lifecycle behind and ran toward a simpler life. Perhaps they didn't expect work-free bliss? Perhaps they were willing to accept responsibility? Did they lower their expectations? I'd answer yes to all 3. In order to maintain a happy life, I still need to lower my expectations on a regular basis. I take this to mean that my life isn't perfect and that I create my own happiness by changing. 

My blog is not intended to be an instructional book for wantabee homesteaders. I'm not here to tell people about a perfectly happy life of living on a farm. I don't want to give readers the impression that running  to the countryside will solve all your problems. Please note, I am not an expert. I like to experiment and learn but make plenty of mistakes along the way. And I often prove myself wrong when I see the results of my own test runs. 

 I get asked a lot, "How did you do that?" Thus I find that doing a blog is the easiest way to answer. 


  1. 100% correct! For success, one has to work as hard or harder to adapt, let go of preconceived notions that lead to disillusionment, and adjust to local realities. One must never surrender personal principles and values in the process, however. Success is not certain, but recognize that it is not defeat to decide to try anew elsewhere. You are right, those who romanticize "farm living" will likely fail, no matter where they try. I recall a wise fellow who told a parable about fruitlessly whacking away at a jungle trail, only to climb up on a ladder, whereupon he proclaimed "Wrong jungle!"

  2. Barry, it's not defeat when one tries again. There is a fellow here who succeeded in his dream finally on his fourth attempt. He's been happy for the past 9-10 years, so he claims. It just took him some rehearsals to learn what he needed to make it actually work for him.

  3. +1. I think you mentioned the magic word for rural success, "content." And contentment doesn't come naturally, it is something that has to be learned. For some of us, the choice of adapting to a rural life or returning to the rat race isn't a choice at all. We either adapt and learn to appreciate what we are able to do, or we die.

  4. I am reading your blogs with laughter, shaking my head in amazement a and disbelief of the stupidity of some people.. Mainly what I have learnt is that we are doing this the right way, and we have learnt from your mistakes.. You have pointed out important stuff that has really helped us.. Ie the solar panels not being on the roof, or why have big propane bottles etc... All good stuff.

  5. You could get paid for what you write. Especially this one. It is so well done and well written and it's great topic. You set the expectations just right!