family farming

The Dancing Farmer: Honor System

 

Welcome to part II of our blog post on our road side farm stand.  We hope to share some insights into effectively running an unmanned roadside stand to sell your produce, meat, preserves, wood crafts, or any other item fit for roadside commerce.  Our roadside stand has been a blessing to our small diversified family farm operation.

Our roadside stand runs on the honor system.  We do not hire anyone to stand and exchange money, rather we trust our farm supporters to pay the asking price into an honor box, which is under lock and key.  When your hunger for vegetables grown without the use of pesticides,  herbicides, and chemical fertilizers brings you to The Dancing Farmer farm stand at MacCurdy Farm the first thing you will notice is the absence of any workers in it.  Do not be alarmed, we have a system in place.  The honor system.

The decision to employ the use of the honor system was born out of necessity as we needed to allocate money towards infrastructure and operating costs for the first year of small fruit and vegetable production on the farm however, charity is very much an aspect of the system because we want to see people eating well as well as make them feel trusted.  At the moment we employ pickers and farm hands when needed but we couldn’t justify paying someone to work the stand 10 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week.  After a little research online and some conversations with food conscious people about the honor box system use in other parts of our country, we decided to go ahead and try it out.  We had nothing to lose.

chalkboard-price-list

Our prices are listed on the chalkboard on the wall as well as marked on any packaged produce items.  A customer simply has to do the math.  Time to put those math skills you told your middle school math teacher you’d never use to work.  To keep things simple, our prices go to the 50 cent of a dollar.  We use competitive pricing bearing in mind that we charge a premium on most of our products as they are all grown according to organic principles.  However, we understand that times are tough in our economically challenged area so we try to keep our prices affordable so that everyone can eat healthy in our region.  You can always pay more if you feel the prices are too low but we ask that everyone please honor the asking price.  From time to time we have talked to people who were a little short on change.  We’ve told them to simply pay the difference the next time they pass by.  On a couple occasions patrons have brought the money they owed to our booth at the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  That’s honesty! We love it.

built-in-honor-box

Honor Box Code

Pay the asking price

If you are short on change, pay the difference the next time.

Cash only.

Place unwanted greens/bad veggies in compost pale

Spread the word.

Feel free to leave comments.

We’re watching you, just kidding, we trust you.

This year we stocked the produce stand with the following items: Strawberries, lettuces, spinach, rainbow swiss chard, radishes, tomatoes (different varieties), hot peppers, green peppers, carrots, beets, kale, dill, field cucumber, English cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, yellow beans, pickles, assortments of herbs, and hanging wave petunia baskets.  Everything sold well with little waste.  Any waste (swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuces) went to the pasture turkeys and chickens as an added source of nutrients.  Minimizing nutrient loss is essential.  Given the location of our farm stand at the base of the farm lane, we restock, empty the honor box, and check the shelf life of the produce periodically through out the day.  We plan on expanding the variety next year.  After a few conversations we made note of some regional culinary favorites that we will grow next year, which included potatoes, onions, zucchini, squash, and corn.  Regretably we only grew some of these items for family consumption this year.

Although work takes us many other places around the farm we always take time to stop and chat with customers especially if we feel they might have questions or have some confusion over how it all works.  A small diversified farm has a steady stream of jobs and tasks, much like the old time homesteaders, but much of our operation is set up within sight of the stand so we are always handy unless we are on our hay, garden, or woodlot acreage.  Availability of produce items is indicated in hand painted wooden signs attached to the exterior of the stand.  As items come in to season, the signs go up on to the wall.

As with any new venture, there is always room for improvement.  Next year we will increase our signage on the sides of the building.  We will have to level off the site with pea gravel as mud and wet became an issue this year.  Improved shelving and a double bi-fold door will also be an upgrade.  Currently, we stock the stand in the morning and bring back into store every night.

For more information on the story, you can check out an article by Bridget Yard of CBC on the Dancing Farmer.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Bay of Chaleur, family farming, farming, Food Awareness, four season farming, organic agriculture, organics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

MacCurdy Farm Roadside Stand Build

dancing-farm-roadside-standLate in the Winter of 2016 we sat down and tossed ideas around about a sugar shack and roadside stand build. After browsing the internet, contacting timber frame outfits, and surveying our current set up, we decided to proceed with a 20′ x 10′ double bay building with a lean-to roof.  As with everything we build on the farm, we try to always find multiple purposes for it.  The roadside stand will triple as a sugar shack in the Spring, a roadside stand in the summer, and wood storage in the Fall for our greenhouse operation.  If we happen to add a farm store in subsequent years, the design will allow the building to be used as a run-in-shed for our livestock (horses, sheep, cattle, etc.)  The ability to plan ahead saves a farmer time, energy, and money.  Each of which is a precious commodity for a small farmer.

In March of 2016, Jonathan and Justin purchased a 1996 air-cooled Skandic 500 to haul logs off of our woodlot to the farm.  We cut down 10 sizeable spruce and cedar trees to be milled at a nearby neighbors saw mill.  He cut our logs into beautiful rough sawn boards, 2 x 4, 2 x 6, 4 x 4, and 6 x6 timbers.  Given the restrictions of the length of lumber he could cut on his mill (14′) we decided to sister 2 x 6 lumber together to get 21′ skids, which formed the base of the building.  The sistered 2 x 6 lumber formed a 4″ x 6″ skid that we could use to tow with the tractor.  After the skids were nailed together with 3.5″ spirals and screwed together on either side of the joints and at the ends with 3″ lag screws, we put the circular saw and chisels to work to farm 1/2 lap joints on our 4 x 4 x 10 cross pieces.  The cross pieces needed corner half laps and the skids needed 3 dado joints (notches for the half lap to sit into).  The dados can be made by making multiple passes with the circular set to a 2″ depth.  The slivers can then be knocked out with a hammer and then the seat of the joint cleaned up with a chisel and rasp.  With the base finished, we moved on to the front and rear walls.

Flying solo, I used 2 x 6s to temporarily brace the three front sections of the 10′ high front wall and the three 4 x 4s on the 8′ rear wall.  Once the walls were erected and temporarily braced, I fastened the top plates to both front and rear walls with 10′ rough sawn 2 x 4s.  The front and rear walls are connected with 9’6″ rough sawn 2 x 4s that are toe nailed at a four foot height on both corner 4 x 4s of the front and rear wall.  At the midway point on the side walls I installed a 4′ stud to remove any sag in the cross piece.  Each bottom corner (with the exception of the two bay openings) are knee braced with 4′ 2 x 4s while 2′ 2 x 4s are used on the top a the plate height using 4″ spiral nails.

Our lean-to roof uses 12′ 2 x 8s purchased from a local lumber yard.  The pitch of the roof is 2.5/12 so I used a framing square to cut the birdsmouths for the front and the back walls as well as the ridge and tail cuts on both parts of the overhang.  The rafters were positioned with 2′ spacing on centre and toe nailed into place on the separate top plates.  Afterwards, I nailed the 2 by 4 purlins at 2′ spacing perpendicular to the rafters.  The purlins will be used to give the roof more rigidity against prevailing winds as well as provide a surface to fasten the royal blue metal roofing sheets.

The royal blue metal sheet roofing came from a company called Vicwest through one of our local hardware stores.  The royal blue is in keeping with our color scheme for the farm that includes green and blue as found in the MacCurdy tartan.  The metal roofing went on lickity split, as they say, and I was careful to follow the manufacturer’s suggested installation technique to avoid any future issues.  Always be careful to not overtighten the self tapping roofing screws as the gaskets will wear more quickly if compressed too much.

back-side-of-roadside-stand

Sheathing the structure involved some creative license.  I had tried board and batten before but with growing carpentry skills I thought making our own cedar shiplap siding by using a 3/8″ rabbeting bit with a guide on our router.  By clamping the boards to both sawhorses and passing the router and opposite edges of each side of the board some beautiful shiplap siding was made from this year’s rough sawn cedar and spruce as well as last year’s boards, which I removed from our smaller chicken barn.  This was very time consuming but worth it in the end given the beautiful look of the vertical shiplap on the three enclosed sides and the horizontal ship lap on the front wall.  It took a lot of measuring and cutting over the course of a week during free moments to make the shiplap.  After running out of full length 10′ boards I used shorter 8′ boards and jig-sawed the pieces together to make the siding.

On the triangular ends there is some math involved in cutting the appropriate angle on the board to run plumb up the wall.  The pitch of the roof is 2.5/12 so depending on the size of the board used (4″, 5″, 6″, or 8″) I solved for the unknown rise for each board width by finding an equivalent fraction to 2.5/12.  For example, for an 8″ board, the rise is 1 and 2/3 of an inch which is about 1 and 11/16″ on a measuring tape.  Measuring down from on end of the board 1 and 11/16″ I would make a pencil mark and then using my speed square draw a line from the mark to the opposite corner of that end of the board.  It is important to note that each board width has a different rise which must be used to cut the board to the appropriate dimensions.

After the siding was attached with 2″ spiral nails, the building had to be stained.  We used a semi-transparent cedar stain to completely stain the outside of the roadside stand.  After many brushstrokes and a day of drying it was ready to move to the roadside.  In order to haul the stand on skids, we drilled holes in one end of the skid in order to insert 8″ eye bolts.  Make sure these eye bolts are heavy duty i.e., thicker gauge.  Do not use them if they have rings.  The weight of the building combined with the pressure from the steel cable can pull the eyelets apart.  For a 10′ building, we used a 18′ braided steel cable.  We roughly calculated 18′ from the length of a semi-circle of a circle with a diameter of 10′.  C=pi x diameter.  Circumference = 3.14 x 10′ = 31.4′.  Half of 31.4′ is approximately 15′ 8″.  The braided cables have to be looped so we add at least a foot of length to each end to get us to 18′.  Once the steel cable is passed through the eyelets it is brought back and run through a cable clamp that matches the gauge of the cable.  Tighten them with a ratchet or wrench.  Once this is done you are ready to haul and set up your roadside stand…by the roadside.

eye-bolt-hitch-with-braided-cable-and-clamp

We used our 5445 Massey Ferguson Tractor to haul it slowly and carefully down the hillside to the preset location.  It’s best to have your site prepped in advance so that you can pull it into place, unhitch, and start your season selling veggies.  More to come on the honor system and our first summer with the roadside stand in a blog to follow.

Categories: Bay of Chaleur, family farming, farming, four season farming, MacCurdy Farm, multi-purpose housing, small family farming | Leave a comment

The Bridge and the Brook

Bridge over trickling waters

Bridge over trickling waters

There is a brook on our farm that collects mountain runoff and empties into the undulating Bay of Chaleur.  The brook serves as a water source for our family and is a favorite place no matter the area on the farm that we find it.  It meanders within a pebblethrow of the cattle pasture through the mixed forest often exposing the root systems of the moisture loving cedar trees that accompany the brook along it’s journey through the farm acreage.  It brings the love of nature and the awe of God’s creation into immediate thought as it is difficult to avoid the beauty in sound, sight, and smell that surrounds you while you walk along this watercourse.  This experience has led me to follow a lifelong dream to make a trail system on the farm that can be used by visitors and family alike to reconnect to everything nature and farm life has to offer.  Family walks were a mainstay for our family growing up and my wife and I continue to do this with our children.

Today’s world is nothing but distractions.  Technology especially.  I say this as I write a blog on a laptop, however, that comes after many years and hours spent enjoying the great outdoors.  Reconnecting with our natural surroundings has been on my mind a lot lately.  At Christmas we purchased tablets for our two kids (to be shared with their parents), which have proven a great deal of fun but have also pulled our kids away from spending more time at the farm.  In an effort to have our kids share in the experiences we had during our childhood I set out to create an area along our hiking trail where our kids could go and play while I worked at the farm or when I had a spare moment to play with them.

A bridge over the brook was first on the agenda.  In the fall of 2015 I promised my neice, Brooke, that we would build a bridge over the brook where we could create a picnic or lounging area in the woods as a safe place for the MacCurdy grandkids to play.  We set two 20′ long logs we had recovered on the beach in front of our property across the banks of the brook in the Autumn of 2015, cut the railings and posts and then waited through winter and early Spring to recommence the project.

This Spring came the assembly.  Over the course of a few days in mid-may we fastened the pieces together.  First we leveled the bridge over the uneven terrain by shimming with 2″ x 6″s. Then I fastened the pieces together in the following steps:

  1. With 4″ spiral nails fasten the 30″ rough sawn 2″ x 6″ with a 2″ spacer between each across the expanse of the bridge.
  2. At the beginning, middle, and end fasten 54″ rough sawn 2″ x 6″ lumber to hold the posts and knee braces.
  3. Using 2 lag screws, fasten the posts at the beginning, middle, and end 2″ x 6″s underneath.
  4. Cut knee braces out of small 4″ cedar posts and fasten to post and 2 x 6″ with 4″ spirals.
  5. Using the chainsaw, saw a v-groove at the top of each post to partially recess the railings.  The middle post will need a larger v-groove (approx. 4″) to fit two posts.
  6. Nail the railings using 4″ galvanized spirals.
  7. Lay down on the bridge and soak in the sights and sounds while the sun shines.
Bridging the generations

Bridging the generations

Along the brook we find items of curiosity like purple trilliums, fiddleheads, small tree seedlings and juvenile yellow spotted salamanders.  Each species has it’s own lessons to teach us as we explore them in their natural habitat.  Some can be eaten, some can be looked at for their color, some can be measure year to year, and some can be observed as they move around their natural habitat.  Adding a bridge to the brook allows our kids to safely cross the brook and explore everything our mixed forest has to offer. It keeps learning in the hands of learner.

Yesterday as I pondered ideas for writing this blog, I decided to take a walk to the brook and have a nap on the bridge.  A little shut eye from time to time is good for the heart and soul.  Listening to the sounds of nature not only put me at ease and took my cares away but it made me realize the wealth of knowledge and discovery that exists at the tip of our senses in our natural surroundings.  Nature’s classroom is a powerful educational tool.  It might even help us cross some bridges.

Categories: Bay of Chaleur, bridge building, family farming, future generations, MacCurdy Farm, trail systems | Tags: , | Leave a comment

MacCurdy Farm Timber Frame Sign

For those of us not intimately acquainted with the old road (Route 134) and the farmsteads, homesteads, woodlots, and family businesses that can be found along it, signs can come in handy when you are trying to get to your final destination and the GPS wants you to turn into the Bay of Chaleur (It could happen…I’m just sayin’).  We sometimes take for granted that people visiting the farm to purchase farm goods do not know where the old green MacCurdy Farm house is precisely situated.  Our rural address, 29347, can be hard to locate on our mailbox if a passerby blinks or becomes distracted by the beautiful scenery that adorns the landscape and horizons surrounding Point La Nim, N.B.

New to the property

New to the property

After some discussion with family about putting up a sign to welcome visitors to our soon to be landed roadside stand and to our annual pumpkin pick/farm visit weekends in the fall, we decided to try our carpentry skills at a timber framed sign frame.  Justin set out with a chainsaw and powerdrill to form the mortise and tenon joints that would tie the two 9′ cedar posts to the 6′ beam and the  7′ bowed cedar log character piece on the top of the sign.  It was his first attempt at it so equipped with his helmet, ear protection, and safety goggles he set out to form the joinery that would hold all the pieces together.

Given the absence of any appropriately sized 2″ chisels in our carpentry tools arsenal the tenons are formed by measuring the cut lines to form a 2″ by 6″ by 12″ tenon with an angled end to act as a drip edge.  This was done with a framing square and carpentry pencil.  Very precise and careful cuts with the chainsaw (Yes, I said chainsaw, not circular saw) were made along the cutlines by idling out the chain along the cut lines and cutting carefully to save the 2″ thickness of the tenon.  To form the length of the tenon the 6″ x 6″ post was laid flat on a level area and then sighted by eye for plumb along the cutline.  I wasted an old piece of 6″ x 6″ that was meant for firewood to practice the first time around.  In all, only two tenons needed to be formed.  The difficult task came in cutting the mortise joints, which involved plunging the chainsaw bar into a 6″ by 2″ rectangular hold that was previously bored out with a power drill to form a slot to guide the bar into the mortise.  By steadily cutting away both faces of the mortise and plumbing up the narrower face 4 mortises were formed, two in the beam and two in the cedar log.  The danger in forming mortises in this manner comes with the high possibility of kickback from the chain saw.  Forming mortises in this manner requires every ounce of your attention and a steady downward cutting action.  Familiarity around a chainsaw is essential.  The saw was filed twice during the whole process and the oil checked regularly given the downward position of the bar.

Joining the pieces together required a little bit of MacGyvering to be done.  We didn’t have any hardwood pegs and I didn’t want to make any so my physical restraint brought about mental creativity.  An old hardwood broom handle cut to the appropriate 6.5″ lengths would do the trick.  I tapered the ends with a belt sander and left the whittling to the boredom of mountain men.  With the pieces connected, but not joined, the pegs were gently tapped through the 1.25″ holes through the mortise and tenon.  Sign complete? The frame was but we still had to stain and create the “MacCurdy Farm, Point La Nim, NB” sign to go between the posts.

Home Hardware had a great deal on a gallon of cedar stain so we bought that as it would also coat the exterior walls of our roadside stand.  Always think ahead when you buy more than you need.  With two coats of stain applied only the sign had to be created.  An old piece of 3/4″ plywood was laying around the basement and it just happened to be a 4′ by 2.5′ piece that fit the sign opening.  Fortuitous discovery!  The inscription was formed freehand by using a router with a straight cut 1/4″ router bit.  First, the sign was measured out into a grid to properly place the lettering in pencil.  The style was borrowed from our MacCurdy Farm facebook profile picture.  After some very careful edging and two applied coats of stain the sign was mounted to the insides of the post using small slotted pieces of 2″ x 2″.

MacCurdy Farm Timber Framed Cedar sign

MacCurdy Farm Timber Framed Cedar sign

Thankfully, through all of this I had a very helping hand from our cousin, Brenda, who was visiting with her mom, Marion, from B.C.  Her encouragement and excitement over the project, not to mention the help in erecting the sign, were hugely helpful in bringing the project to fruition.  To know the kindness of a loved one is one of life’s greatest treasures.  We even had the blessing of having my grandmother, her mother, the kids, Brenda, and myself take a family picture in front of the sign.  We hope others do the same when they stop in to visit or sign in to the farm on our facebook page.

Our Directions to the farm can remain the same, “Take exit 397 off of highway 11.  Turn North, cross a set of railroad tracks and come to a set of flashing lights.  Turn right towards Dalhousie.  Travel just under 3 km until you come to 29347 Rte 134 Point La Nim, NB, Canada.  The farm is on the South side of the road.  Look for a large green farm house next to an old timber frame barn.”  Well, we can now add, “Find our MacCurdy Farm Sign at the base of our farm lane.”  There is nothing like a sign to welcome newcomers and old friends to our slice of agricultural heaven in Northern, NB.  We hope the character of the sign is inviting and welcomes you to our family farm as you drive past it and up the farm lane to a place we lovingly call, the farm.

More to follow…

Next blog, MacCurdy Farm hiking trail and the new bridge.

Categories: Bay of Chaleur, family farming, four season farming, MacCurdy Farm, pumpkin pick, Timber framing, wooden sign | Tags: | 1 Comment

2016: A New Year Brings New Ventures

After a quarter annual hiatus from the blog, we are back with some updates and ready to roll out some new blog posts in the next few months as we build towards more changes and additions on the farm.  Despite our absence from the blog, we’ve continued to plug away at farming on MacCurdy Farm.  Winter has a tendency of recharging the batteries, when sickness is held at bay, and tends to reinvigorate the body.  Lots of quality time snowshoeing on our family acreage helped to reinstill a hope in the members of the family to further establish our transitioning farm.

Multi-season farming has been a goal for Jonathan and Justin since they began to pursue their separate farm endeavours.  Without abandoning previously established elements of the farm, Jonathan and Justin have decided to put their knowledge sets together to increase productivity on the family farm and partner together in the birch syrup, small fruit, pastured poultry, and greenhouse operations.  They’ve both come to the realization that together they can accomplish much more in seasonal aspects of the farm that require man power and brain power.  Who better to partner with than a brother or sister?

Warm me up Scottie!

Warm me up Scottie!

Justin and Jonathan will be tackling birch syrup production beginning in March when the sap starts to run.  They’ve set amibitious goals and have made filling last years crowdfunding backers the first priority for this season, with birch syrup for the market and other stores within Canada to follow.  We’ll be putting out an informative blog series on everything pertaining to birch syrup production in the coming weeks for those of you interested in trying the product.  An informed consumer is more likely to be a satisfied consumer.  We have hopes of potentially sharing our knowledge in the school systems in years to come as well.  We’ve started to prepare our evaporator, sap collection equipment, and temporary sugar shack for our big boil downs to come.  The next few weeks leading up to March Break/Study break will be busy, to say the least.

In other news, Justin and Jonathan have added a wood fired furnace to the greenhouse to get an earlier start in march with herbs, cut flowers, tomato and pepper plants, and some in ground cold hardy plants for the table.  In our winter with the greenhouse, we are pleased to announce that we’ll be able to produce a substantial amount of produce, herbs, and flowers.  Our goal is to open up the greenhouse as flower shop in the Spring to provide hanging baskets, cut flowers, container herbs, and other floral arrangements.  More to come in the coming months.

We will be sharing more about our seasonal adventures on MacCurdy Farm/Nature’s Estate Farm in the near future.  We apologize for the hiatus from the blog.  Jonathan will hopefully be able to contribute his keen knowledge set on everything pertaining to birch syrup in the following months.  Please look for another tab on the website related to birch syrup.

MacCurdy Crest Dartboard Cabinet

MacCurdy Crest Dartboard Cabinet

Taking care of health and family relations have been a priority for us this past year.  Justin has kept busy with teaching school and some small carpentry projects, Jon is constantly studying his craft and mom and dad are busy being busy.  Together, they are very excited to tackle birch syrup, small fruit production, market gardening, our cow/calf operation, pastured poultry operation, and greenhouse growing in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2016.  We are hoping to satisfy the local palates of our devoted customers and locavores.   Until we get to see you at the market this Spring, enjoy some of what’s left of Winter in our beautiful region in Northern New Brunswick.

 

Categories: birch syrup, family farming, four season farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, small family farming, small fruit, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learning Through Trial by Fire: How to prevent farming burnout

Farming can test one’s mettle no matter your prior level of experience.  The tail of the tape can read very differently for each individual farming journey.  If one is not careful, the fiery flame inside your heart can quickly become extinguished and leave you burnt out.

Although I’ve been working the farm from a young age, like the previous generations before me, the past three years have been particularly trying as we attempt to establish ourselves as local food producers on top of running our cow calf operation.  This blog attempts to elucidate some of the warning signs for burn out.

Entrepreneurial pursuits can, in retrospect, seem as though they went very smoothly when one peers back into their origins from a perspective of feeling burnt out.  However, burnout can begin in the very first year if we blaze into terra nova without any respect for our mental and physical health.  It is important to always lend an ear to voices of reason and advice concerning the level of work one does in attempting to bring a farm to sustainability.  Often my parents have kindly suggested that I do one of the following: (1) Slow down, (2) Stop doing so much, and/or (3) take a break and do something fun.  However, we can’t simply assume that our loved ones will have timely advice.  If we fail to have conversations about our emotional, physical, and spiritual health the tell-tale signs of burnout might go completely unnoticed and we’re left to suffer.  Thankfully, farming is usually a family endeavor with shared responsibility.  Our co-workers are often our family, so there is a pre-existing safeguard in place.  Attending to advice from parents, siblings, etc. can free us from the mental stress of not living up to expectation and remind us that others can see our fatigue and stresses that we wear on our faces.

It is important to have some safeguards in place as a prevention for the damaging effects of stress.  They may seem like common sense but often these safeguards are overlooked as we strive to meet our goals.  Entrepreneurial nearsightedness sometimes keeps us from seeing the bigger picture.

  1. A routine, preferably written on paper or on your smart phone notes can visually remind you of what lies ahead in the day, week, or month.  As we know, there are only 24 hours in the day, 12 of which should be spent working, 6 – 8 sleeping, and 4 -6 spent with family.  I am by no means a type A personality but learning to write lists allows me to prepare for a week ahead and feel a sense of accomplishment as jobs are stricken from the farmer-do list.
  2. Eat well.  Having a big breakfast has always been a staple ingredient in our recipe for work on the farm along with snacking through the day and a large supper.  Do not skip meals.  Our bodies require a substantial amount of nutrition and it’s recommended that you eat your own supply, seriously.  I even have an extra plant protein shake a few times in the week to repair the muscular wear and tear from the daily grind.
  3. Listen to your loved ones.  Taking time to converse with those closest to you will help you identify areas of imbalance between home and work life.  It’s often overlooked and is a best practice for any farmer, especially those who travel the work path alone.
  4. Set a limit to your work day.  There were days this year that I worked, manual labor, 12 – 14 hour days for extended periods of time, often working into the moonlight or with flood lights to finish a job I started or wanted to get a head on. Given that I don’t live on the farm but nearby, 8 km away, I try to be home before it’s time to put the kids to bed so I can spend quality time with them and unwind.  Going to bed with work on the mind keeps us from resetting our batteries and robs us of a sense of fulfillment by allowing us to think that we didn’t accomplish enough.  Get your rest, shut it down early, and get to it early in the morning. If you don’t establish this as a best practice you will find yourself experiencing an unceasing fatigue.
  5. Relax.  Easier said than done  Find a time at least once a week to do something that brings you peace and rest.  Whether it be prayer, music, or a walk in nature.  Do something where you cast your worries aside and focus on something outside of yourself.  We can’t live our lives forever walking backwards into the future.  We need to find outlets to release stresses, worries, regrets, and mistakes so we don’t carry them with us.  I find time to pray, time to walk through the fields, time to kayak, and time to anything completely unrelated to work.

You’ll never get anywhere you’re meant to be by travelling yesterday’s road.  It’s a new day, find a new way.

Prior to investing a great of time and energy into revitalizing and diversifying the farm I spent time competing in the highland games and in preparation for events, in the gym.  I weighed a solid 220 lbs but in the three years of farming I dropped 25 lbs on account of overworking, not eating a high enough calorie intake, and high levels of stress,  Burn out can happen in the snap of the fingers if we don’t pay attention to warning signs.  Below is a generalized listing of some of the warning signs that I have paid attention to:

  1. Nagging fatigue.  We all know fatigue leads to poor decision making and a higher incidence of farm related injury.
  2. Anger outbursts.  Nobody is perfect and this unfortunately happens when we are pushed to a point outside of our mental flexibility.  The key is to be real, accept that it happened, and ask for forgiveness if someone else was on the receiving end.  How easily we can misdirect our anger so take responsibility for it.
  3. Irritability/Frustration
  4. Feelings of loneliness.  If you put too much on your plate we may feel helpless and start looking for help.
  5. Weight loss
  6. Altered perception of events.  For example, small troubles are amplified to a higher degree. It can take the form of worrying about the state of your health
  7. In severe cases, panic attack, tremors, and high anxiety.

I first thought about writing a blog on burn out after a conversation with another farmer at a local saw mill.  I had driven back, by myself, to get a load of shavings for bedding for our chicken and cattle.  At the time, I thought it strange that the woman and her kids loaded their truck while the father and husband sat in his truck.   I struck up friendly conversation with them to find out who they were and learned that the husband was burnt out.  His doctor had put him off work.  I felt terrible for him knowing how difficult it would be to let go of a passion, even if just for a while.  Flash forward three years later and here I am writing this caveat to help any of you who may be on the verge of burn out or are currently experiencing it.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking it can’t happen to you because, it can.  Set some safe guards in place and make yourself acutely aware of warning signs.  Everyone responds to stress differently so your safeguards and warning signs might not be written on this list.  Take some time to write them down and save yourself the stress.

Finally, entrepreneurship is characterized by innovation.  We purposely cast ourselves into the fire as we establish our businesses.  We have to learn through trial by fire.

Categories: burn out, family farming, mental health, stress | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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