As I sit on the Prayer Bench down at the pond, I often reflect on the sheer quiet of the moment. I am usually embracing this time about half an hour after I have arrived home from working in Shreveport. I honestly think that the more I am entrenched in the hectic pace of life and traffic, that the more I physically and spiritually need the solitude.
Not that life on a farm is slow paced or easy. Not by any chance. But after 14 years, the Country Boy and I have figured out how to structure our days to keep it more manageable. We finally trimmed down our goals for the farm to what we call The Seven Point Plan – 7 major areas of focus that entail the things that we feel can be done on the farm, and come as close to spiritual, financial and sustainable as possible. As a disclaimer, those 7 areas do shift a bit, according to what we learn is doable, and what we want to find out if we can accomplish.
For the past several years, most of our SPP has included raising cattle, hay for feed and income, chickens for eggs and meat, and the garden for produce and value-added products. Those things have been set in stone since the beginning. But now we are in a position to do more, so in addition to that, we have also added bees to the plan. We chose them because of the multiple benefits they would provide: pollination of our fruits and vegetables for better crops; honey for home use and sales; and eventually, as our hives begin to outgrow our maximum goal of seven, we will be able to sell the broods that we can’t use or don’t have room for. We love the multi-purpose benefits of the bees, and the start-up and maintenance costs are minimal. We have our first permanent broods ordered, and that point on the plan will kick off this spring.
The other two points on the plan are still a work in progress. We want to start selling vegetable and herb plants, and are in our second trial year. Although the start-up cost is small, we still have a huge learning curve to travel before there is any success. The next point will begin for the first time this year, and that is trying to grow pumpkins to sell. Again – low start up, but huge learning curve. And a lot of labor.
Each point has several bullet points underneath. To raise healthy cows, we have to fertilize pastures, and we want to cross fence one. Once that is done, we will close the gate to one half of the pasture to keep the cows out, and then disk, fertilize and plant a mixture of bahia and rye grasses. The bahia will provide grass during the summer, and the rye during the winter, which will cut down on the amount of hay we have to feed. Of course, they will be more limited to the rye grass, as they could easily gorge themselves on it and cause bloat – something we want to avoid at all costs. I have a trochar and know how to use it, but cringe at the thought. And no. You don’t want to know.
In making out a SPP, I realized that our lives became more focused, and although not easier in the arena of labor, but simpler in terms of knowing what I need to do at any given moment, and where to focus our money. I no longer have to wonder if it would be better to do this, or smarter to buy that. All I have to do is think back to what is written in the SPP, and I find my decision has really already been made.
When I see people in stores or driving down a road, I often notice an expression on their faces that are daunting. It’s a cross between frenetic energy, stress and confusion. I often wonder if they are stressed because they are in a hurry to get somewhere, but don’t have a clue where their final destination is. I want to be that crazy person who flags them down or stops them in the aisle and ask them, “Do you have a Seven Point Plan?” Considering I have too much work to do here on the farm, and can’t afford 30 days in the slammer, I keep my thoughts and comments to myself. But here in my posts, I don’t have to worry about spending the next few weeks in a cell – I can go ahead and ask.
Do YOU have a Seven Point Plan? Are you stressed, harried, and have no idea where you are headed, much less if you even want to head that way? If not, try making out a list of all the things you want to accomplish in your life. Select the top seven, and then make notes on what it will take to accomplish each one. From there, focus on the opportunities that are in front on you. We don’t necessarily follow our plan from I. Cows A. Goal of 20 breeding cows, 1 bull. It takes time to build a herd. So while we are building it, we take advantage of something else on the list, like III. Chickens A. 100 layers. a) hatch out 24 chicks quarterly. We now have 24 eggs in the incubator, so that’s in progress. While I’m waiting for them to hatch, I am doing maintenance on the other things, preparing a spot for my bees and researching growing pumpkins. In other words, I can wake up in the morning, take a glance at the SPP, and automatically know where my day will be headed.
Need to ease some stress? Want to live with less stress? Want to avoid the traffic build up you can cause in your own life by not knowing where you are headed? Try a Seven Point Plan. It can slow you down enough to enjoy your life.