All in a (Long) Day's Work

Mountain Farmgirl is celebrating the coming of summer and wondering whether it’s actually possible to get more done on the longest day of the year?...
Talk about Farmgirl spirit … that was one hearty, down-home welcome I received after my introductory blog launched last week. Oh, my … I was totally blown away by the outpouring of friendship and all the words of encouragement I received from farmgirls all over the country. I so much wanted to write everyone back, but the emails just kept coming and coming and coming … Try as I might, it wasn’t possible to respond personally this time around, but please know that each of your comments has touched me very deeply. I’m so happy to be here, and just lovin’ the opportunity for us to get to know one another. We all have so many connections we can build upon. Thank you for reaching out, and let’s keep the conversations flowing!
So here it is, officially summer in the mountains this week, and something tells me that it’s summer where you are, too! I don’t know about you, but the longest day of the year always seems to sneak up on me. Don’t you find that out of the blue one day you suddenly notice that morning comes around earlier than it used to, and that you’re eating dinner just a bit later than before? Personally, I’ve always been a morning person; I get up with the chickens. I just love waking up in the quiet, wee-hours of the morning, that time before dawn when all is calm and still. I lie there listening to the silence, thinking about the day ahead and waiting for the first bird to usher in the new day with song. Living as I do about an hour from the Canadian border, the first bird-trills on the solstice begin very early up here, about 4:11 am to be exact; and you can almost set your clock by it. I always wonder whether the morning sentinel is the same fellow each day or whether the birds take turns with the honor?
Although we always have the same 24 hours to work with no matter what the season, I actually think I DO get a lot more done in the summer. Like all of nature, it’s a time for blooming, blossoming and making hay. At this time of year, once I’m awake I’m out of bed and rarin’ to go. I started thinking about my seasonal rhythms the other day after a number of farmgirl sisters asked me how I manage to ‘do it all’ and if I could share my ‘secret’? Well, there really is no secret but there are several answers to the question that seem to have worked for me.
For one thing, as you get older you'll find that Life adds up! Having just turned 56 a few weeks ago, I’ve had a bunch of years (more than many of you, probably) in which to experience a variety of things and do a lot of stuff! (When you’re actually living through it, though, it's just all in a days work and doesn’t seem like all that much at the time … ). This is true for each one of us. I think we often don’t give ourselves enough credit (or even realize) how much we actually do. To give an example, as a Home school mom, I used to keep a large calendar on the wall, and jot down on it the special things or activities we did each day. When it was time to write the quarterly reports for the school district, I would always start out in a panic, thinking about all the things I had wanted to do, but didn’t get around to. I felt pretty inadequate. But then I would consult the oracle (my calendar) and start writing it up, and before I knew it, I couldn’t believe we actually fit all we did into just 3 short months. I think we’d all be surprised to find out just how productive we are on a daily basis if we only kept a journal or some kind of written record. I’ve never found it healthy to keep track of my ‘achievements’ like a score card, though. The ‘comparison thing’ is a trap that doesn’t work for me either; it just tends to make me sad to see how I stack up against others. To get around that syndrome, I have accumulated a lot of heroes, and love to use them as inspirations rather than measuring sticks. That’s what I love about MaryJanesFarm … the connections that are made between us, and how we can all learn so much from each other no matter where we live. After reading all the comments from my last post, I found out how many kindred spirits there are out there and how we can all be inspirations to one another.
Of course, there are many precious intangibles in our lives that should never be overlooked, and that we would never officially keep track of on a list. Don't underestimate them! I mean, how can you possibly measure the beautiful gaze of your newborn studying your face so intently; or the pride you feel for the picture-perfect tomato ripening on the vine in your garden … or the dewy spider web catching the morning sun that inspires a sense of awe for nature? Our lives are full of such precious moments, and while many of them may not seem like measurable accomplishments, taking the time to notice them are some of the most important things we do.
Everything has its season. Like chores on a farm, there are times to sow and times to reap. Daily living is a lot like that, too. When my kids were small, our house had that ‘lived in’ look; there was a lot of life going on within its walls. Its function and appearance was often more like a laboratory, and we actually called our oldest son’s room The Invention Factory. Today I’d consider myself a ‘PE’ (Place for Everything) person (see Suburban Farmgirl, 6/15), but that wasn’t a real option for me when I had tiny children. Back then ‘Cozy Clutter’ was the name of the game because my kids rather than my reputation as a housekeeper took precedence. Whether you run a household, oversee a homestead, or have an outside job, you have to prioritize what’s really important. The good news is that we’re not stuck in certain situations forever. Like the mountain weather, if you don’t like it right now, take heart: it’s gonna change eventually! Attitude and perspective are everything when it comes to getting through the tougher times.
There are two other things that I have found indispensible for getting stuff done and running my homestead, regardless of whether it’s the longest or the shortest day of the year:
  • The first is LISTS. I live by them. I might not be able to do everything on my list right now, but it gives me confidence to know that if it’s written down, it WILL eventually get done. (And doesn’t it feel great to cross those items off one by one? I’ll admit I sometimes write something down after the fact just to have that satisfaction!).
  • Finally, I have found that there has to be some rules regarding TV and computer games. This may or may not be easy to initiate in your home, but I can tell you that these things are addicting and some of the biggest time wasters ever invented. We didn’t have a TV until most of our kids had finished high school, and the only computerized game we ever had was about the Oregon Trail, which I thought was just fine. Instead, we read books, did puzzles, played games and took walks; it made all the difference in our family life. We love good films though, so one way we got around it was to have a DVD player, and be very selective about what our family watched. Limiting TV/computer time may actually be the most important of all when it comes to making good use of our limited time. No matter how many hours of daylight we may have this time of year, playing ‘Farm' games on a computer seems so senseless when you can all be out diggin’ in the dirt for real!
And so these are some common sense ideas that have helped me get a lot done over the years, but I’m sure the rest of you farmgirls have some tips as well… Can't wait to hear some tips on how you all manage to get things done, too. Until next time, Mountain Blessings!


By: Lane
On: 06/28/2010 13:41:32
Thank you for the gentle reminder and the example of not wasting time on our computer/tv. I also homeschool and get overwhelmed sometimes. I need those lists. Thank you for your wonderfully inspirational writing. I'm ready to be productive now. Off I go!
By: Heather H :) :) :)
On: 06/28/2010 14:20:13
I'm not sure how I get it all done either...but I'm definitely a person who likes to get up early in the morning. I love to get everything done during the first half of the day if at all possible. That way I have the rest of the day to myself/my family!!!

It's funny you mention computer/tv time. I have quite a few friend on Facebook who play "Farmville" a LOT...but don't seem to get out and do some real gardening or farming. For myself, I've really cut down on the amount of tv that I watch. I don't miss it at all!!! IN fact, I'm spending more time working on my crafts like knitting and quilting. That's more fun for me!!! I lived in Europe for a total of 4 years and I never had a tv that entire time. It was wonderful...I did stuff with friends and crreated memories that are much better and longer lasting!!!

I look forward to reading more of your posts :) :) Oh, that last photo I recognize from "Pride and Prejudice" with Keira I right? I loved that film. I think I'll have to watch it later this afternoon!!!

Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)
By: Marie
On: 06/28/2010 15:45:03
Oh my! Lists are my best friend sometimes. And you are right about that great feeling of crossing things off the list.
My house is definitely "lived in" with three small children, but those games of Uno and time spent coloring in the middle of our messy living room floor are so much more important than the housework.
I work full time outside of the home, too, so it's a constant juggling act, but if I look back on a day...I wonder at myself sometimes as to how I did all that I did in a single day.
Thanks for the inspiration you pass along from your daily life!
By: Tammy
On: 06/28/2010 17:56:35
HI Cathi,
Your thoughts were wonderful to read. I like lists like you do. It helps me to organize and I love crossing things off. I am a morning person as well. I love to have tea and listen to the birds and then my day begins. I am a teacher and I find these things keep on track at school as well. I enjoy reading your blog. It is very inspiring.
By: KimberlyD
On: 06/28/2010 19:05:27
I live in the counrty but live in an apartment(4-plex) so I only have a small space for a few flowers and 2 tomato plants. I like getting up early too, before the house stirs it gives me a little my time, listening to the birds, and sometimes I can pop online and read all the farmgirls blogs. I take care of a elderly dad, and run him to a lot of appointments, sometimes I need a little me time reading and relaxing.
By: Raynita
On: 06/28/2010 21:10:49
Thanks for another great read:) Oregon Trail!!! My two older children (now 25 and 22) played that game to death. They loved that being a part of their schoolwork.
By: Beth
On: 06/29/2010 05:31:58
Hi Cathi,
I know I'm just repeating the thoughts of others, but you are an inspiration! I'm 54, a mother of three sons & soon to be grandmother of a third grandson. I homeschooled my sons and my second son has just asked me to homeschool his son! I have to say I, a notorious list maker, thought I was likely the only person on the planet that probably wrote down tasks already done just to have the sense of acomplishment of crossing it out! Thanks again for your posts-they generate really great comments. Have a great day!
By: Juanita Massey
On: 06/29/2010 08:04:34
Hi Cathi, Yes I like to get up early too. The Birds are singing and that puts me in a happy mood also. Not only that you can get things done out side before it gets to hot.I am a list keeper to It really helps me get alot done, I am 66 and Iam retired now, But it amazes me how many people think you just sit and wait for the phone to ring for somebody to have something to do ( mostly the Kids) lol. My husband and I are hardly ever idle. I always have 2 or 3 prodjects going, I have a quilt started and I knit and chrochet dish cloths, etc.Any way you are an inspiration to me, I love the farm girl connection, I don't live on a farm but I am a want a be. I do have flower gardem amd veg garden. Well keep up the good work. Proverbs 17;22 Hugs Needy
By: carolj
On: 06/29/2010 09:00:31

I just came in for a break from working in the yard and decided to check my e-mail. First, may I say I really enjoyed your blog this week. Thank you for sharing your tips about priorities, lists, and computer games. (I, too, add things to my list "after the fact.") Also, I really like the e-mail reminder that you have updated your column. Very helpful. Thanks again for the great reminders. I am trying to live by this motto, "The best way to get something done is to do it."


By: Marcia
On: 06/29/2010 15:26:44
Keep the "To Do List" shorter, it makes one think that the accomplishments happen more quickly and keeps one from discouragement looking at that loooooooong list! After the few items are crossed off, toss, smile, and begin your next list. :)
By: Cheri
On: 06/30/2010 10:10:27
Oh how funny. I LOVE early quiet mornings. Mostly to feed the cat, 2 dogs and 3 horses- they are always HAPPY to see me. Then i need that PE part and things from fireplace to microwave are pickedup. That is what i can see fromt eh kitchen sink. Usually a load of clothes- or 2 if i am really good- are done before leaving at 6:45 to drop off kids at school and head to work.

I also felt a HUGe responsibility to get more done on the longest day. I use the DVR to maximize whatever time i have to watch tv- later and dont have a problem deleting something I didn't watch.

Lists are critical. Even in this age of iPhone and blackberry=- I NEED to be able to write it down and cross it off.
By: Jodi Dundas
On: 07/01/2010 16:07:36
Thanks for the reminders today to enjoy every moment and make the most of our time. I enjoy getting up early to go out and milk my cows, so many of my friends can't understand it. My alarm goes off and I am up, dressed, and outside. It's peaceful, although not quiet, in the barn and I use that time to talk with God, pray for my family, and prepare for the day. A year ago we cancelled our TV and the kids have actually thanked us for doing so (often kids know they are overwhelmed by things but can't make the decisions). I've never looked back with regret. There are days when I realize the computer is getting way too much use so I appreciate the reminder to get out there and live it!
My one suggestion for other moms is to have a weekly chore chart, ours is on a six week rotation because we have six kids. Every week the kids are in charge of a certain area of the house, jobs aren't done perfectly but they are done, keeping the house out of utter chaos. Even my six year old can sort and do laundry, clean bathrooms, and load/unload the dishwasher.
By: Denise
On: 07/17/2010 10:17:31
Oh list,how I love thee. I can't live without them either.I have memo pads for every facet of my life. The knitting pad,cooking,gardening etc.etc. Major projects are also broken down into small step.That way large undertakings are not constantly pushed to a "later date" as was often the case.My blog reading time is limited and hope to catch-up next time around.Talk to you soon.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir