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Redd Dog Farms

Trimming The Fat

Robert BoylesSo you have decided that maybe you took on a little too much. For one reason or another it’s time to get in there and weed out the things that don’t work and make room for those that do. I admitted to you before that I have made the mistake of spreading things a little too thin. There I was complaining that I didn’t have the resources to work on a project that I knew could bear fruit, and that I would enjoy doing. At the same time, I was crying a river every time I had to go out and work on a project that had turned sour and rarely produced anything at all. So what did you do Redd Dog?

Honestly I didn’t do much of anything for a while. My stubborn pride is such that the poets will be writing long ballads about it, to be passed down through the ages, until they take their place in the great tales of mythology. Eventually I accepted that throwing good money at bad money didn’t really make it any better. I took an inventory of the resources I could repurpose from the project gone foul, and considered the resources needed to start the new one. Between selling used equipment and saving the physical materials that I could, the loss wasn’t really that bad after all. I had everything I needed to redirect my efforts and the old headache was gone. Looking back, I reckon that I came out of the whole thing smelling pretty good. The old project taught me a great deal, and I was able to use what I had recovered as a foundation for something new.

Since then I have learned to streamline a good number of projects around the homestead. The result has been fantastic! Everything is getting done and it is getting done the way that it should be. Heck, I even have enough time on my hands now to consider a new project! Or maybe not?

If you find yourself in a similar situation as I did, perhaps you can benefit from my experience of moving forward. First thing I recommend is to just get on with it. Every drop of sweat you shed and every coin you spend toward that headache just makes it harder to let go of. If you already know that it isn’t working, stop! Now you need to decide if you are going to replace one job with another job. Be honest with yourself here. Can you really afford something new or would it be better to spend that sweat equity on something that really needs your attention? Either decision is good as long as it is honest. Those last two bits are probably the hardest part. From there you can determine if there is anything you can recover in terms of financial and physical resources. Don’t worry about how much work you have already invested. That effort is already spent and I am willing to bet that you got something in return for it. If all you did was get a little wiser than you are making out pretty well!

Perhaps the greatest benefit of all this worry is the gift of freedom. And isn’t that what most of us are living for anyway? It’s the freedom to accept that something isn’t working the way we would like it to, and letting it go. It’s the freedom to try new things! Because we know that if it doesn’t work out, we have the strength to move on and grow from it! It doesn’t matter if we are talking about tearing out those old grape vines to make room for a bigger garden or stripping out a barn to make room for new livestock. We are making choices for ourselves! We are exercising our freedom to live the lifestyle we choose. Even if that means changing directions every now and then.

The next time we talk I want to share with you some thoughts I have on choosing and designing projects in a way that they actually benefit each other. With some thoughtful planning I believe we can stay busy, but not too busy, all year long. I think we can actually reduce our workload, and financial output, by combining elements that work for each other instead of being totally reliant on our personal inputs. If you have a story about how you dug yourself out of a project gone wrong or think that you may be heading that way, I’d love to hear about it!


Photo by Fotolia/SGr

Too Many Eggs in the Basket

Robert BoylesIt happens so fast!  When the rural lifestyle hits you, it is instant addiction.  A seed catalogue, an article in Grit magazine, or a post from your favorite blogger has you excited about trying a new project.  You want to learn everything you can, you do the research, maybe put a little egg money on the side to get you started.  Next thing you know, boom, you are now knee deep in the next project.

But it all takes time, right?  It often takes money to get started too.  Egg money only goes so far!  No big deal, this is the lifestyle you love and you want to keep going.  So you read more articles.  One day while weeding the garden, or mucking the chicken coop you think, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this, I could raise sheep,” or goats or pigs, or bees, or insert your next project here.

Hay that has gone to seed.

Before you can count the mason jars of canned peaches in the pantry you realize that you don’t have the time to do all of the chores you have made for yourself!  Or maybe, and this is very likely, you find out that none of your projects are going just as you planned and you don’t have the time or resources to make it any better.

The folks who get paid to put labels on things call this “over diversification.”  If it hasn’t already happened to you, it very well may.  I actually grew up in this lifestyle and have often talked with likeminded people who understand the threat of over diversification.  But I did it anyway.  Yep, that’s right; I knew better and still did it.

It is very easy to spread yourself too thin, and it can be very difficult to remedy.  Once the resources have been spent on a particular project it’s hard to accept that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea.  We are hard workers, dedicated, never say quit folks. Right?  So we keep it running, put a few more resources in the pot.  The truth is, there is actually a limit to what one can accomplish in any given day. 

All of your projects were probably great ideas.  You probably did prepare yourself fully for the task at hand.  It is also possible that you will be able to continue pursuing that goal sometime in the future.  If you are like me though, sometimes you bite off more than you can chew.  For me the final clue was when I actually started complaining about working on the projects that I once really enjoyed.  Sometimes you have to be willing to put on the brakes and accept that maybe right now isn’t the best time.

If you have not already found yourself in this condition, congratulations!  Just keep a weather eye on that project list and remind yourself to do one thing really well, before starting a new thing.  Perhaps you are already there and have accepted that it’s time to do something about it.  Congratulations to you also!  Now you can start making good decisions about how to get yourself back on track.  You have some choices to make.  Can you put the project on hold, repurpose some of those resources?  Which projects do you enjoy the most, and what is the resource versus return ratio?

In the future I want to talk more about planning projects that work well together, and even benefit each other.  I’d also like to talk with you some more about what to do when a project has run its course and you decide it is time to move on.  Until then, I’d love to hear about how you got yourself in deep water and what you did to find your way out.  If you are still discovering how deep the water is let me know how you are able to keep it all afloat.

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