About this time last year–when I was looking back and reflecting on what I’d gotten done–I called 2015 “the best year yet.” I got so much done on the farm, I felt good, and, really, the most energizing thing about checking stuff off my list is that I didn’t spend 2015 mentally berating myself for not being able to check things off my list.
2016 was a different kind of year altogether. That quiet but insistent voice telling me “I’m not getting enough done” started in early spring and I’m honestly not sure I ever shook the feeling. After years and years of riding this wave– this highs of being “in the zone” with work and projects, and the lows where I don’t get nearly enough done (and spend a lot of time worrying that I’ll never feel energized or inspired again)– I have a few strategies to help get me through it. The biggest one is giving myself grace.
That doesn’t mean allowing myself excuses. And it’s not a matter of tallying up how much I’ve done (or weighing it against how much other people have or have not done) to make myself feel better. Giving myself grace often just means that I consciously change my internal dialogue from saying “this is where you should be” to “this is where you’re at, and that’s okay.”
And sometimes I try other strategies: I try to give myself quick wins (which occasionally backfires since almost all “small” projects in a 150 year old farmhouse become more complicated than they originally seem), I focus on things I know have given me energy in the past (sometimes that’s a physical challenge, or an interesting TED talk, or dancing around by myself to music I love), and sometimes I let myself indulge (I’ve DVD-marathoned all of Star Trek TNG and Voyager this year, and read 7 books cover-to-cover in the last two weeks.)
And sometimes? Absolutely none of that shit works.
Or maybe it all works, but not right away. Or not after Daylight Savings. Or not when things with my job are crazy. Or not when Mercury is in retrograde, which it obviously has been for all of this year. I don’t even know what fucking retrograde is, but I’m right there with you Mercury, I promise.
If I had to pick one word that described 2016 it would be this: Exhausting.
Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t full of so many great things. It was.
I finally put a greenhouse up in my garden (and got the wild half of it mostly tamed with raised beds and walkways):
I planted grapevines (and kept most of them alive) which has been on my list for longer than I’ve lived at this house:
My orchard grew with more apple, peach, and cherry trees…
I also finally started the kitchen renovation, which first mean a small laundry-room renovation…
And some time in the shop building cabinets on the fly. Drinking wine and being able to walk out to the shop and knock some kitchen cabinets together without so much as a napkin drawing to go off of is actually one of my very best memories from the year…
Also, sometime in there the film crew that created this awesome footage of life on the farm came back for a weekend, and I built these storage cubbies for my mudroom:
While I’m not moving forward with any specific film-related projects right now, I still have a ton of footage from that weekend (including a part where my dad shows up with some big guns and we blow up exploding targets out in the field, because dads) which at some point I’ll hack together into a video to show you guys.
Oh, and speaking of target practice, I also built this portable archery/axe-throwing target:
And upgraded a lot of the outdoor seating around the farm…
As well as some updates to the patio, like planters…
And a charcoal grill with a fun little pizza attachment (which allowed me to check “build a pizza oven” off my list for this year way quicker than I expected.)
Plus there were the usual farm shenanigans, like babies!
And, the inevitable losses, which I haven’t talked about as much. My one “special” chicken (who loved to be held, and didn’t mind taking a nap in my lap) was hit by a car– which is one of the risks of letting them free-range and they often find things across the street at my neighbors as interesting as they do here.
I also lost my original guinea pair. The male to a dog or other animal, and the mom wandered off one day (I assumed to sit on a nest)… that was a couple of months ago now, and she never came back.
However, they left a legacy in the 11 guineas who currently “guard” the property…
Mostly they just make a lot of noise, but my neighbors don’t mind and we’re all hoping they’ll earn their keep by eating all the ticks in spring.
And then, of course, there were the bees…
I’m still spending a lot of time reflecting on the loss of two of my hives.
If you factor that in with having friends and family up to the farm a few times this year…
And taking a weekend up north with some of my favorite people…
And picking up a few new “good for the body and the mind” hobbies, like learning to rock climb and slackline…
I mean, okay, no wonder I’ve felt nothing but straight fucking exhausted for the last twelve months. I certainly got things done, (and, yes, feel privileged that I even have the option to get those things done), but the hard part is that I don’t remember a time this year where I actually felt good about what I was getting done. (Well, okay, I felt good about getting the big barn organized, but other than that…)
It feels like I’ve had to mentally force myself to put one foot in front of the other all year– every project, every bit of progress, and sometimes just getting out of bed on the weekends– nothing came easy, and then writing about it didn’t come easy either.
And you know what? Some years are like that. Not horrible, and, in fact, full of a lot of good things, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t difficult.
That was 2016. Not horrible. Not personally or emotionally trying in the “I went through some really hard shit and just had to survive it” kind of way… I’ve had those years too, and this wasn’t one of them. 2016 was, at face value, full of a lot of good things that I am very grateful for. And, at the same time, looking back on the year fills me with the sense of “not enough.” You didn’t do enough. You didn’t do it well enough. You could have managed it better. You could have managed yourself better while getting it done.
But this is where I’m at, and that’s okay.
So long, 2016. I know you’ve paved the way for some great years to come…
Kit I think you are way too hard on your self, you are a bloody great inspiration to me, and you get so much done. You just don’t get everything you list in your head done. (I know you know this) and you make me tired as well lol. For a moment when I looked at the post title I was thinking “so long”????? she is quitting the blog and I really panicked, now I know this is your thing and if you did stop of course it is your prerogative, but man I would miss you, this best blog on the internet for sure, honest, interesting, real, just plain fantastic.
have a wonderful 2017,
I’m in awe! And tired just reading all you did. You continue to inspire me. Thanks for an honest “holiday letter”. I always appreciate when people put a human face on their year. I’m exhausted too! Here’s to 2017!
Kit — all that you do takes a toll on you. You probably are tired. Plus there is just you. Not like you have someone you can hand stuff off to. Place looks great. You’ve done an amazing job.
Hi! I’ve been stalking your blog forever but never commenting. But I thought about your recent posts about the bee hives the other day reading a post by a friend who keeps bees. She actually has an infrared thermometer that she uses to take a look at her hives to see the heat and activity inside. The photos that she has are amazing. I though of you when I saw it though! Maybe it could give you some peace of mind through the winter?
P.s. I think that’s a pretty amazing year!
Dude,I am exhausted from just reading about your year (and I’ve been reading all year as you’ve done it so I know most of these things already)! Give yourself MORE grace. Seriously. You are amazing. And entirely too hard on yourself. If you looked at someone else’s life and they had accomplished all of this in a year, how would you feel about that person? EXACTLY. On another note, I’m right there with you and Mercury.
Goodness…. if I could only get half done what you accomplished ~ I’d be thrilled.
Love the coat/cubbies.
I think, when your projects start becoming about orchards, greenhouses, animals, and bees, you open a door into the future, where there’s no “done” state, and victories, successes, and progress can be faced right back with loss, hard lessons, and setbacks.
But as a gardener, I can say that the long view into the future can give you amazing power to shape your land.
The 5 foot tree I planted 9 years ago, and which is now 30 feet tall and just perfectly blocks the view into my neighbor’s driveway across the street, providing shelter for native wildflowers growing at its foot, where before it was sun-baked dirt where nothing would grow – so gratifying. That’s the kind of project that simply cannot be knocked out in a weekend with a glass of wine in hand.
And whenever the long view is just taking way too long to come around, go for one of those projects that CAN be knocked out in a weekend with a glass of wine in hand. You seem to have a few of those still left on your list 🙂
The photo of the you with a wine glass in one hand and a circular saw in the other is kind of scary. Well, it would be really scary if it was me, but as it is you, it is much less scary.
As you’ve done with everything over the years, I feel confident you will find a balance. 2016 was a bizarre year everywhere, maybe it was a collective exhaustion or strange rumblings within the universe. We all have to find a better balance after that year.
I hope you find your less exhaustive path and thank you for sharing your journey so generously with us.
I think it’s easy to overlook how outside forces can weigh us down making any progress feel like we’re slogging through peanut butter. Maybe, instead of making the whole year “great” or “exhausting” it would be worthwhile to reflect on the past month and adjust every 30 days.
Also, if you ever invited fans to the farm for a week of chicken hugging and work you could get so much done… I know Sarah came and helped you finish tiling that bathtub but the farm looks like so much fun I can imagine you putting people to work in exchange for the fire pit, donkey kisses and tractor rides 😉
Great perspective from RT Boyle above! 2016 WAS exhausting. Different reasons for me. You accomplished a lot in 2016, Kit, and if you’re going to give yourself grace, also accept it! I read everything you post. I love learning about farm life that’s not romanticized and how to do things I may or may not attempt. You don’t gloss things over/up and I appreciate a blogger states away I can trust to guide me in my DIY attempts. Your worth isn’t based on The List! You’re priceless in spite of it!
I like to take pages from the things you write about to inspire me to just get out there and do it. 2016 was a meh year for me. I want 2017 to be less fast-and-loose and instead be more focused-and-challenging. Finish the master bath remod, do more endurance events, move into that dream job I’ve been thinking about, etc.
Long story short, even when you’re having an off day/week/month/year, keep the blog rolling. It helps the masses. 🙂
Time for a real vacation. At least two weeks with no responsibilities and nothing to accomplish somewhere you have never been.
Well, there is no doubt that you got a lot done this year. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Each day we get to start over and try again!
I was so ready for 2016 to be over but I have to remember some great things happened in 2016. I got my first chickens and I got a new puppy! So it is all how you look at it.
I am ready to rock 2017!
Hi Kit – because you are the kind of person that loves to learn things, here is a short video on planet orbits and the retrograde illusion:
I hope you enjoy!
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