Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

In Summer of 2020, we had our 3 year anniversary of full-time residence and homesteading at White Sky Woods! We usually have a celebration, inviting friends, sharing food around the bonfire, but we didn’t do that this year – you know, pandemic. It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 years already … It’s hard to believe it’s only been 3 years! As with most things in life, the longer you do something, the more likely you recognize trends. Things become more predictable year to year. The homestead also brings some predictability of sentiments, such as the one that titles the blog.

Early snow, mid-October 2020

As a homesteader, the majority of the heavy work we do takes place April – October. Everything revolves around the outdoor work and the garden: planting, growing, harvesting, putting up the food. It takes a lot of care and effort to manage a garden that supplies our food for a year for us plus a touch more for what we grow for the farm stand. I love the work! I love being active and connecting with the land. Doing all the work means bringing my family and community healthy food. That’s one reason we made the life transition from rat race to homesteading.

By the time August rolls around, I’m starting to feel generally overwhelmed. This past summer there was a lot of work done to build more of the foundation for our business, and the workload was worth it, but intense. By August, it feels like everything is a rush, balancing work and play becomes nearly impossible, it can be tiring and overwhelming. This is when I start to daydream about a slower pace: reading books, spending casual time with friends, focusing on work I’ve been putting off, getting back to things I enjoy that summer doesn’t afford time for, and traveling beyond the homestead. In its absence, all these things grow fonder in my mind.

Then comes October, and the panic really sets in. Will everything be prepped for winter, before the snow hits? Do we have enough food? How about firewood? This year I had in my mind that our major outdoor work would be wrapped up by November 1st, and I’d gracefully slide right into our calmer winter months. Something a little different happened. We started getting snow in mid-October and in my mind I surrendered to the fact not everything was getting done as planned. Then by early November it turned back to summer (it was 70 degrees this week – crazy!). These little flukes require flexibility. Nothing on the homestead is graceful.

Last minute harvesting before the snow comes. Rutabaga!

Once winter sets in, the pace changes. There are still chores, homeschooling, community volunteering, employment and other regular responsibilities but the light of the days are short and the dark nights are long. We spend as much time enjoying the daylight as possible – snowshoeing, kids playing outside, and training time with our two young steer. There is more time to focus inward as well as spending extra time catching up on reading, handiwork, personal education, and generally time to do whatever ever sparks our interest. It’s really nice compared to the summer’s demands. It’s the break I yearn for during the end of summer when I’m overwhelmed and just plain tired.

By January we are ordering seeds. In February we shift to thinking more about summer projects and garden planning. By March we’re starting seeds inside (although all of this will probably look different in 2021 since we have the high tunnel to grow in, yay!). Suddenly, we feel an absence of summer and our heart grows fonder for those sunny days in the garden and we are eager for winter to be over so we can get to work outside.

Is it the human way to yearn for something we have absence of? I think most homesteaders who love what they do would agree, the work is great, but the rest is necessary. And once we’ve had the rest, we get antsy and ready to get back to the work. In this lifestyle, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder and is part of the work/rest cycle.

I recently attended the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network 2020 Virtual Conference and it was invigorating. Being held in November, it was reassuring to have conversations with other women who are experiencing end of season burnout. I took several sessions about how to support my well-being (something I generally suck at). Engaging in the conference was a form of self-care. I decided the best way for me to focus on the Virtual Conference was to do a little get-away to a place where I wouldn’t be distracted by my normal responsibilities. I’m grateful my family supported me in this. The conference was a great way to help me shift from end-of-season to off-season.

I know that in a few months I’ll be eager to have back the hard-working summer months, but until then I look forward to focusing on what is here, now, and creating new habits to help prevent burnout next summer.

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