What is Homesteader Burnout?
Perhaps homesteader burnout needs no explanation, especially if you’ve been homesteading for any length of time. But let’s take a moment to describe the condition ‘Homesteader Burnout.’ When you feel that you just can’t finish all of the chores, make hot meals, take care of the kids, and remain sane, you just might be suffering from homesteader burnout. What are the symptoms?
- The garden is waist-high in weeds
- You have 3 tons of tomatoes, beans, peppers, and cucumbers piled on your kitchen counter…waiting to be canned or frozen.
- The kids haven’t had a bath in a week, and they don’t seem to mind (but you do!)
- Your chickens are knee-deep in poop (they don’t seem to mind either)
- It’s almost August and you haven’t even looked at your homeschool curriculum. Oh wait, you haven’t ordered it yet…sigh.
- The fruit flies around the compost bucket don’t even phase you anymore.
- The bread dough you started 2 days ago and left (forgot) in the oven to raise is now squishing through the cracks around the door. Ugh.
- You fall asleep at 8 pm when you stop to ‘rest your feet for a minute.’
- The ‘To Do’ list on your refrigerator taunts you one too many times and you rip it up, screaming “Don’t tell me what to do!”
Does any of this sound vaguely familiar? If so, you just might have homesteader burnout. Don’t worry, there are ways to deal with it. The first step in dealing with this condition is to say to yourself…
“I can’t do it all, and I can’t do it alone.”
Once this sinks in, you need to make a plan. Start by listing the things that are really important that you can’t, or don’t wish to, give up. I would list taking care of the children and feeding the animals as the top priorities. Next, think about the things that you can live without, or that take up way too much energy for the payback.
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Ideas for Saving Time or Cutting Back:
- Freeze your tomatoes whole, in Ziploc bags. You can make sauce during the winter
- Freeze most of your fruits and veggies instead of canning
- Instead of canning pickles, try making brine-cured pickles
- Trade veggies, eggs, or milk for help on the homestead
- Have your children do chores to help out
- Use modern conveniences, like the dishwasher and dryer, when time is tight
- Keep only as many livestock as you need
- Freeze extra milk to make yogurt or cheese later
- Keep a few convenience foods on hand
- Make casseroles, soups, and stews in large batches and freeze some for later
- Bake more bread in the winter and freeze it to use in summer
- Make jam from frozen fruit in the winter
- If you want to raise your own meat chickens, try doing smaller batches instead of one large batch.
- It’s great to butcher chickens yourself, but take them to be processed if you don’t have time
- Buy a locally raised steer or pig instead of raising your own
- Find a friend to farm sit so your family can enjoy a vacation
- Research new projects before jumping in to avoid tackling more than you can handle
Plan Ahead to Avoid Homesteader Burnout
Maybe you’re not knee-deep in the homesteading lifestyle, but you really want to buy that rural property and get started. Before you jump in, ask yourself some questions. Do you have any experience? Have you done your research? Will you be working full time and trying to homestead too? Don’t set yourself up for homesteader burnout by jumping in the deep end.
Start out slow with a garden and add a few chickens once you have the hang of gardening. After you’ve mastered the art of chicken keeping and preserving the bounty of your garden, reexamine your plans for the future and see if they are realistic.
By starting out slow and adding just a few new projects each year you can save a lot of time and avoid headaches down the road!
My Experience with Homesteader Burnout
I grew up on a farm. I knew what I was getting into when we moved to our small rural property. Raising animals is a 24/7 responsibility. Taking a vacation can be a complicated issue. Yes, I knew all of that.
But there are times when I, too, feel overwhelmed and want to run away from it all. One year I raised 30 meat chickens and 20 ducks and needed to butcher them all during a span of one week. Our laying flock was up to 63 hens. The garden was only half planted and we were getting ready for a camping trip. If you have a full-time job and family to take care of, things can get overwhelming very quickly.
Dealing with Homesteader Burnout
Did I dump the chickens off in a field to be eaten by coyotes? Did I abandon the garden? No! I did go on Craigslist to sell more than half of my laying flock. I also sold a few of the ducks and I decided not to butcher all of the rest. Once the meat chickens and 5 of the ducks were tucked into the freezer and the rest of the garden was hastily dug and planted, we were able to go on our camping trip while friends and neighbors cared for the remaining poultry. I came back feeling relieved that I didn’t have such a large flock to feed. The garden was producing food, we still had enough eggs for our needs, and I had a little time to sit on the deck and drink my coffee in the morning.
Do you ever burn out? Have you left the homesteading lifestyle behind because of it? What advice would you give someone suffering from ‘Homesteader Burnout?’