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Page One of a new book. A fresh start. A different perspective. These things, and many more, are what a New Year is all about. We have an opportunity to shake off the dirt, shut the door, close the gate on the old year and all the good, bad and indifferent that it brought with it. We take the lessons we learned into the next chapter of our life, build on them and brace ourselves for the new ones.

The end of 2017 taught me a valuable lesson – one I never wanted to learn, but knew was inevitable. There really is such a thing as ‘Too Much’. For years, I have always felt that I had to do more. Work more jobs. Earn more money. Prepare and execute more projects for the farm. Make the farm earn its keep – which starts the cycle all over again: work more jobs, earn more money…

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In doing so, I discovered that my body could not keep up with my self-inflicted demands. After living a life where I seldom got sick, my body crashed and burned three times since October. The first time it took a week to recoup. The second time, two weeks. The third, three weeks. When I recognized the cycle, I decided I wasn’t up for a fourth time, and four weeks of recovery. My farm, my home, my jobs – all would suffer greatly.

Unfortunately, this third time I wasn’t able to stop. We were in the throes of milking, and with the Country Boy putting in 50-60 hours a week, that chore landed on my list. Nine weeks into milking once a day, and we discovered Bossy had mastitis. A late night run to try and reach Tractor Supply before they closed netted us enough Penicillin G – Procane and 16-guage needles to help her out. Unfortunately, in order to completely get rid of the mastitis, I now had to milk twice a day, and the Country Boy had to slip away from work for the morning dosage. A hoof-print shaped bruise on my knee will tell you that Bossy didn’t like this new addition to her routine any more than I did.

Sadly, we had no idea how long the mastitis had been coming on. We hadn’t seen any ‘real’ signs of it, but there were a couple of milkings that made us suspicious. Consequently, we decided to err on the side of caution, and tossed all the milk in the refrigerator out.

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In the midst of all this, my two bosses from the Counseling Offices decided to retire at the end of 2017. I will have some ‘clean up’ work to do in January or February, but after that I will be down to two part time jobs. This decision has taken quite a bit of time on my part in preparing for the end. Insurance companies to contact. Forms to fill out. Billing to do and prior billing to follow up on. Clients to inform. New therapists needed summaries.

Decisions on our part have had to be discussed, pondered and worked out. Do we move forward on one or two of the ideas for the farm? Do we stay as we are and maintain for a while? Do we expand what we have? Do I need to find another part time position? These are all still in the works.

The hardest part in all this has been the lesson that, no matter how much I love writing, it has had to take a back seat. As well as a blog, I also write a column for four newspapers. Fortunately, many of these are written in advance in order to accommodate their deadlines. But the creative juices for fresh blog posts has been slowly draining away and puddling at the feet of whatever project, job or errand that has taken precedence.

What I have learned from all this is that it is time for me to slow down. Losing the Counseling Office position is a hard, sad, pill to swallow, as I have been with Beth and Patti for over 15 years – and two better bosses I will never find. But all three of us finally realized that we need to step away. The decision to dry Bossy up was tough, as I was just figuring out what adjustments I needed to make to improve my cheese making skills. I finally had to learn that the farm doesn’t have to look like something out of Farmitechtural Digest. And I had to face the fact that all the part time jobs in the world won’t bring in enough money to make it look picture perfect. It was time to see the beauty it has – just the way it is.

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2018 will find me ‘wiggling in’ to find the best that can be. It will be my year of joy. A new camera for Christmas will help me to learn to view the charm and grace of our acreage in a whole new way. Financially, I will be able to learn the lesson of the difference between want and need (stay tuned later for a post on this). I will be able to focus more on the little things – instead of being in such a big hurry to do bigger and better. And creatively, I will have a chance to stop, think, feel, see, touch, smell and absorb, with the hopes of getting back to regular posts.

For those of you who have stuck with me through this time of desert wandering I have had to go through, Thank you. You will never know the depths of my appreciation for your support (A special thanks to Gary and Roberta for checking up on me – y’all are wonderful, beautiful people who really need to come South for a visit!!! ). For those of you who are new – Welcome. I hope I can satisfy your desire to learn more about how daily life works on a farm, and how your passion for all things creative, farming, living and joy can blend together into a contented life.

Happy New Year. May you have all the love, stamina, determination and tenacity to make all your dreams for this fresh start come true.