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Saturday, October 1, 2016

How to Get Everything Done (on the Homestead) and Cope When You Can't - first round

In the previous post, I mentioned:
  • having spares, sometimes many multiples, of small, less expensive, easily misplaced items
  • not getting "target fixation" when a necessary larger tool is misplaced, but going about other tasks instead, allowing for time and memory to kick in and reveal the missing item.
I want to say just a bit more about that last point here, before proceeding. I used to become totally obsessed when something I needed was not where I left it, or where I remembered leaving it. I wasted HOURS, both tearing the house apart looking and then putting things in order again but NEVER did I find the missing item that way! Eventually something prompted me to give up looking, and almost immediately the thing appeared, in plain sight in a place I had looked multiple times. At one point, I mislaid a sum of money (which is a big deal when you live paycheck-to-paycheck.) I know when I had it in my hand as I entered the house, having been to the bank. I also know that, a day or two BEFORE this, I had started, but not completed, a project to clean and reorganize my books and bookshelves. To do this, I had emptied all the shelves of books, stacking them carefully, by subject, in chairs in my loft. I ran out of time and left that project for the evening chores, supper, bed and trip to the bank the next day, when I returned with the cash. At this point I honestly do not recall where I thought I had laid the money, but upstairs in the loft would not have been in the equation, as we used it only for sleeping, getting dressed and I read there at times (though not when the books were filling the chairs!) It was later the same day I needed the cash and could not find it. Though I did not go crazy, I DID look... unsuccessfully... and then gave up. Oh, I HOPED it would come back at some point, as we did need it, but I was not yet convinced of the surety of my "wait and see" process.

This was my first round of homesteading, and so I got busy with other necessary tasks (likely the book project was something for a rainy day) and it was several days until I got back to that project, and began putting away books by subject, as they had been previously sorted. When I cleared out the last chair, which had been holding 3 or 4 large stacks of books for the duration (which left a temporary depression in the chair cushion) there, in the center of the chair, under all of the piles, was my missing cash! To this day I don't know how it got there, but that convinced me that whatever goes missing WILL come back when it's ready -- and not a moment before -- and therefore more than a few minutes of dedicated thought and looking is wasting time.

Another technique I employ often will be familiar to all the Boy Scouts out there: be prepared.
Honestly, one can not actually prepare for specific bumps in the road, but there are many ways -- including an attitude of flexibility and a willingness to make do -- that will go a long way towards making every day a productive one, even though you may not be working in the direction you had planned.

Take the last few days here at Fussing Duck Farm and DutchHexSign.com as an example.
Artie, from R.T. short for Red Truck

After spending the day Saturday at the Common Ground Country Fair, giving my talk and helping out in other areas, I headed home only to have Artie, quite unexpectedly, loose power and refused to start about 16 miles from home. A kind, Newport, Maine cop, and a wonderful elderly tow truck driver got us home and Artie to my mechanic down the road. Other than Tractor Guy's motorcycle, Artie is our wheels, and it was Saturday night.

For many folks that would be a disaster. As things rolled out, Artie was in the shop not only Sunday (as they were closed and he was just hanging out in their front lot) but also Monday, Tuesday and much of Wednesday. And, as it turned out, was back in Thursday as well. Friends offered transport if we needed, and I did prevail upon one who was making deliveries for her farm -- and was planning to drop off some thyme plants here -- to pick up dog food along her way. But, even had she not done so, the pups could have been feed for the extended period with frozen chicken giblets (which they got some, but not all of) that had not been properly processed for human food during the first Chicken Plucking Day that our MOFGA chapter held, as well as some of the extra eggs -- of unknown age -- that our poultry has been hiding. The dogs may have regretted Mary Lou's part in all this!

Feeding us went off without a hitch. We have three freezers, mostly full, and a pretty well supplied pantry. We were out of bread but made do. I don't cook from recipes (other than vague guidelines for dishes passed down in the family for generations.) Instead I will look for what is in the 'fridge that needs to be used up (leftovers and aging produce usually) and work from there. Recently we had macaroni and cheese (always home made) as the cheddar was growing bits of mold. We had leftover meat loaf (when I get a freezer quantity of ground beef, I often reserve a bit of the fresh stuff for meat loaf, before pattying up and freezing the balance) so it got sliced and layered under a rice, onion, green pepper and tomato concoction (one of my jars of tomatoes did not properly seal) and similar fare. I always look for what I have that can substitute and almost always proceed with a version of the dish I had intended, adding any missing staples to "the list."

Projects that involved going somewhere, however, got put on hold. Instead of moping or fussing, I looked for projects that needed doing with what was on hand. I have 5 hex sign blanks cut, and currently all are in various stages of being painted. I had tomato soup ready to can, so much of it has been pressure canned, and the balance will go into jars tomorrow. I had hoped to acquire another batch or two of pint jars, but having the soup wait until the truck is ready -- or freezing it -- is not really what I want to do. I have enough quart jars (though it will make for a woefully sparse canner!) and the pint that remains will be lunch tomorrow.

You see, I had been planning to take a trip to view a couple of goats that seemed ideal for my starter flock... and ended up putting that on Thursday, when the truck was supposed to be done, early in the day. But, as often happens, things beyond my control changed. Our mechanic -- a great guy whose shop is just down the road -- ended up with half of his staff calling out today. When we finally checked in, he said his office gal was out so the paperwork wasn't done yet, but if we needed the truck, just come get and and we would deal with the rest later. (Did I mention, he's a great guy! Pomeroy's Garage in Corinth Maine.) So we did... only to have the truck pull the same stunt, but farther away from home and NOT close enough to see the goats!

We did get home, with the help of a young mechanic who happened to live across from where we ended up... as far as I can tell a "shade tree mechanic" with experience dealing with "rambling wrecks" like Artie. (Did I mention he's an 1990 Toyota pickup?) who diagnosed and "fixed" the  problem well enough for us to return home without issue, by giving the gas tank three good thumps on its underside! Apparently the issue is either a filter or fuel pump, both of which reside in the tank, and which probably gave our mechanic no issue when he went to move the truck and while he was replacing seals (there had been an oil leak) and doing the picky stuff for the state inspection.

So, we were grounded once again, and I took the truck to the shop again early Friday.  And painting hex signs, and getting Tractor Guy to put the plow on to help dig up potatoes.

yep, goats in the bathroom. Easiest floor to clean.
Some things are on hold, of course. The goat lady is being quite kind, and waiting on a time estimate for Artie's repair before moving on to the next interested party. I will be sad if these goats don't work out, but at the same time, if they DO, we will be working like mad to set up housing for them! Goats are in the equation, but I had not expected them to come this fall. But they are "my" breed and the price is right, so if it happens, we will make it work. And some of the other projects will be rescheduled. The goat trip DID happen late Friday, with an emphasis on LATE. It was dark when we got home, no time to introduce new critters to the guardian dog... so the goats overnighted in the master bath. 

Flexibility. Making do. And a nice glass of wine when I got home, while peeling up some of our already harvested potatoes and carrots to add to the leftover veggies from the recent pot roast, which I cut up for stew for supper.... helps for a good night's sleep. Sleep, and a nice bath are two of the best ways I have found to build resiliency and cope when things are left hanging.