TELL ME WHAT TO DO

            I spent Saturday at the Homesteaders of America conference at Warren County Fairgrounds in Front Royal.  What a wonderful gathering.  Some 2,500 people converged on the site and it was a true rush to spend the day with that many folks who don't trust anything orthodox.

             I opened the newspaper this morning to the big front page article about flu shots and how the Centers for Disease Control says we should all get them before the end of October.  I've never had one and have had the flu once in 30 years.  I know lots of people who religiously get the flu shot every year and get the flu every year.

  So having just been at this big shindig Saturday, I can't help but smile at this flu article, knowing that probably not a single one of those 2,500 people buys the flu shot orthodoxy.  That's the power of these kinds of gatherings.  When you swim upstream, it gets lonely.  Co-workers, family, friends all assault you with diatribes about being different, rebellious, or even injurious to society.  We need the encouragement and affirmation that assembling with likeminded people brings.  And by the way, I hope you've marked your calendar for next July 17-18, the first Mother Earth News fair held on a farm--here at Polyface.  It'll be a hum dinger, but it won't be the same without you.

             During the extended conference-closing Q&A session with all the speakers, I was struck by the number of questions regarding "how do you do it?"  For some, it was single parents trying to juggle a more self-reliant lifestyle.  For some, it was financial pressure that kept them from buying their little secluded dream place.  For others, it was job commutes that left precious little time to garden or tend a flock of chickens.  For others, it was health issues that consumed their time and energy, leaving nothing left for gardening and kitchen enjoyment.

             I was struck by these questions because this was from an audience that tends to be fairly self-reliant.  These folks are generally not peer dependent; they don't mind marching to the beat of a different drummer.  These are the elite change agents of our culture.  By and large, these folks garden instead of carting their kids 3 hours to play in a soccer tournament.

             My heart went out to the pleas.  Some of the hardships were heartbreaking.  I realized that no cookie cutter formula for success exists.  I can't offer a recipe to get out of every difficulty.  Looking back on my own experience, I realize how being poor and hungry was the best thing in the world for me.  Teresa and I drove a $50 car; we lived in an attic apartment; we never had a TV (still don't); we never--I mean never--went out to eat.  If we didn't grow it, we didn't eat it; we cut firewood for heat; we wore second-hand thrift store clothes.

             But it was that hunger and adversity that made us creative.  Eliot Coleman and I were talking about this one time because both of us started farming on eroded rock piles.  He observed that virtually all the successful gurus started on eroded rock piles.  Louis Bromfield; Ed Faulkner; Allan Savory.  If one thread runs through all of these stories, it's starting on an eroded rock pile.  So don't discount the adversity; it's the foundation of creativity and perseverance. 

             I can't tell you what to do.  You have to wrestle, struggle, seek, and do all of it aggressively, seriously, with gusto.  Attack it like Dave Ramsey says to attack debt:  beans and rice and rice and beans.  I'm startled by how easily folks quit and get disenchanted.   The opposite of success is not failure; it's quitting.  Successful people failed just as many times as everyone else--except they kept getting up.

             Objectives, if they are to be achievable, must be timed, measurable, and specific.  I think the biggest problem is folks want to whine or they want someone else to give them a recipe instead of wrestling with their situation and then formulating a set of objectives that are timed, measurable, and specific.  "I want a garden" is not an objective.  It's not broken down into measurable, specific, and timed parts.    If you're stuck, sit down and itemize smaller bits to get to the big elephant.  Make each bite measurable, timed, and specific.

             Are you stuck on something?