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.
Ideas for Saving Time or Cutting Back:
- Freeze your tomatoes whole, in Ziploc bags. You can make sauce during the winter when the garden is under the snow. In fact, freeze all of your produce if you have space. It’s much faster and creates less heat than canning.
- Instead of canning pickles, try brine curing them. It’s much faster and they will keep in the fridge for quite a while.
- Do you have friends who would pull weeds in exchange for some veggies?
- Are the kids old enough to help with chores? Youngsters can gather eggs, feed chickens, and pick tomatoes to help out. Older kids can muck out stalls and care for the animals.
- Have you considered a more relaxed homeschool style? I found that my son did very well with a student-led learning style. He may be a little behind in some subjects, but he’s way ahead in other areas.
- If time is tight, go ahead and toss the laundry in the dryer, use the dishwasher and other modern conveniences. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t use the ‘back to the basics’ approach on all of your chores, all of the time.
- Take stock of your livestock. Do you need 63 chickens? Do you have 7 goat wethers taking up space and your time, but not giving anything back to the homestead? Cull your old laying hens and sell some of your extra animals on Craigslist.
- Is it possible to hire someone to help with heavy work? Perhaps you have a farmer in the area who will bale your hay and split the harvest. Hire a friend to help mend fences and fix the shingles on the barn roof.
- Freeze the extra milk and make cheese later.
- It isn’t a sin to buy bread, cereal, and lunch meat from the grocery store. If you need to occasionally buy healthier convenience foods, don’t sweat it.
- Bake more bread in the winter and freeze it to use in summer.
- Freeze rhubarb and zucchini in the summer to make baked goods later.
- 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. You might pay more, but are the savings worth your sanity?
- Find a friend or pay a farm sitter so your family can enjoy a vacation each year. You need to rejuvenate and come back happy to be a productive homesteader.
- Remember to take time to stop and enjoy this homesteading life you chose to embark on. If you never have a moment to sip your coffee on the porch and listen to the birds, you will burn out.
If You are Thinking About Homesteading
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. Then add a few chickens. 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.
In recent years I have read or heard about people abandoning their horses because they can’t afford the feed anymore. Old laying hens are being dropped off at shelters or abandoned on the roadside to fend for themselves because newbie chicken keepers can’t bear to butcher them, but found out the hard way that hens don’t lay eggs forever. Do your research and don’t put yourself in the position of being unable to care for your animals.
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. This past June was a very good example. I raised 30 meat chickens and 20 ducks and needed to butcher them during a span of one week. There were over 40 laying hens mucking up the coop. The flies were turning into a cloud and the scent of chicken poo assaulted my nose every time I left the house. The garden was only half planted and we were getting ready for a camping trip. Add to all of this the writing job I accepted and my own blog that needed attention and I was feeling like I’d never get it all done.
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?’