What living on a rural block taught me about getting things done (and not done)

For the past 12 years I’ve lived on 5 acres just outside a small country town. A (get out your air quote fingers) “lifestyle” block I believe it’s called (when I’m ready to sell), a grass farm I call it in the meantime.

Over the years I’ve become very good at not hearing jibes, ill-intended comments and gentle suggestions that I really should move somewhere more manageable for a ‘busy woman’. And don’t you worry, when I turn 50 in a few months I’m anticipating ‘woman of your age’ to be added to the list. But just for now, despite the work, I love the peace. The serenity if you really must.

There was logic in moving to the block. Getting the kids out of town, living the nuclear family dream, well, my dream anyway. Managing it by myself was never something I would have planned and yet with nearly eight years now notched up I know without doubt it’s been exactly what I needed.

Despite growing up on a dairy farm I was a pretty hopeless farm girl when I moved to the block (did you like how I threw the idea of a farm in there? It’s not a farm). While family stepped in to help in the days I was too numb to see the grass growing, eventually I knew I had to get on with it, or pack it in.

I chose to forge forward and in doing so have learned some lessons that I draw on when I need to get pretty much anything done.

If you don’t know what to do, do something

Let’s keep in mind when I say I didn’t know what to do to keep the block in order, I SERIOUSLY had no idea what to do. So, I dressed myself appropriately in leopard print gumboots, took myself outside outside and I did what seemed to make sense. I pulled weeds, I moved wood piles around, I trimmed hedges, I did whatever was in front of me and seemed to scream “I need to be done” the loudest. I was probably not right all the time, but I was moving. Things were getting done, and weed by weed I started to feel like I was achieving something. That build confidence.

Find a teacher

In time I was tired of not knowing what I was doing so I engaged a friend to help me build a garden. We cleared space, we chipped, we dug, we sweated and as the sun set and my body ached I felt an enormous sense of pride in what we’d achieved and the new skills I’d learned. I repeated what I’d learned again and again each time adding in a twist, trying something new, asking for advice when I was stuck. I remembered there were lots of ways to do things and funnily enough I learned along the way even my most revered teachers also didn’t known what to do sometimes.

Pay for help

In time I realised that I had a choice. Invest my time in the yard and make that perfect, or earn money and pay someone else to assist me. I realised that while I was enjoying my new found skills and really enjoyed the hard work and getting my hands dirty, my time simply was not best spent on the land alone.

I’ve been particularly delighted to engage a local social enterprise who make sure my whipper-snipping is up to date and when I need some help with the alpacas they try their level best.

Stop chasing perfection

While I will never subscribe to “you can only do what you can do” mentality, it’s been quite a while since I’ve aimed for perfection. Lucky. Because this is a status I will simply never achieve on my property and probably not life either. And I’m completely OK with that. What’s even better is that sans perfection helpful people point out what I’ve missed, where I’ve made a mistake or what I’ve overlooked – everyone needs a free editor.

Focus on what matters

Knowing I could and would never cover everything I focused my attention on what mattered most. Some days it was the lawn, others it was the chicken that forgot how to use it’s neck and did headstands in the yard, most days it was the kids and often it was the project I was delivering. Some days, good days it was me too. Rarely has the thing that matters most been removing the tobacco bush from the back yard or scooping alpaca poo out of the shed however those days have happened.

Minimise drama

There are so many things I could have chosen to be dramatic about in the last years but drama is distracting and frankly it wears me out. When I sit on my back deck in the evening, glass of wine in hand I can choose what I see. (a) an unmowed lawn and paddocks desparately craving attention or (b) peace.

My eyes are tuned in to the things that serve me best. I tried the opposite, it didn’t work out. And besides, I do far too many stupid things to not laugh at myself. Why be dramatic when you can smile instead.

I often work without my glasses on

One of the most blissful symptoms of ageing I’ve realised is limited eyesight. OK, of course not in the obvious that’s a bit shit sense, and not in a dangerous nor embarrassing way (noting I become accustomed to waving at people I don’t actually know in my 20s pre-glasses). Having eyesight that’s just a little blurry without glasses means that dust and weeds are just a little harder to see and much easier to ignore. Try it next time. In fact, I try to never wear glasses in my house, it’s quite liberating and saves a lot of time.

Be kind to yourself

There are so many things I could berate myself for on any given day. These days I choose (or at least try) not to. Afterall I’m trying to support cohesive regional communities and it’s hard work goddamnit. My to-do list is often lagging because it’s loooooong, and then there are the days that get hijacked. But I notice, when I’m the first in line to be kind to me others often follow suit. I rather like that.

Whether you’re getting things done in the yard or in your office the rules really aren’t that different. We spend so much time judging ourselves for our not-enoughedness and frankly I’m rather tired of it.

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