What type of a worker are you? Do you prefer to work on one project at a time, and see it all the way through until it’s finished before starting on another job? Or, are you a multi-tasker — one who prefers to work on many different jobs at one time, moving from one to another, like a busy little bee, and finishing at many different time intervals?
I am a horrible multi-tasker. I get stressed out when I’ve got too many loose ends dangling. I perform much better when I can see a job all the way through, from start to finish, in one sitting. But, that is not always possible.
Now that the weather is warming up, there are a buzillion jobs that need to be done around My Happy Homestead. Seedlings need to be potted up and planted out, flower beds need to be watered, compost piles need to be turned, gophers need to be trapped, and I haven’t even begun to list the seemingly endless list of indoor chores that also need to be taken care of, not to mention the homeschooling year that still needs to be finished.
“You are one busy lady”, people tell me.
Yes. I absolutely am one busy bee!
So, how does someone who is averse to multitasking manage to take care of the myriad of tasks that lie before her and not get overwhelmed in the process?
By taking cues from the perpetually busy worker bee,of course!
- Worker bees have clearly defined goals, and they lead a very structured life in order to achieve their ultimate goal which is to make honey. Every morning, when I wake up, I mentally set clear goals that I can expect to achieve for the day, like: pot up half of the seedlings that are lying on the kitchen table, cook 2 out of 3 meals, handwater plants inside of the greenhouse, build one raised bed, complete new math section with kids, etc. Just like the woker bees, having clearly defined goals is key to task management for me.
- Worker bees foster a spirit of cooperation in the hive. Knowing that they “can’t do it on their own” allows them to successfully work together to create an amazing finished product. I’m still learning and growing in this area, but I’ve enlisted the help of my family in doing basic daily household chores (with the help of Chorebuster), some outdoor chores, and am requiring my children to be more independent and self-directed when it comes to their schooling, now that they are teenagers. Asking for help does not come easy to me, but I am realizing that, if I am going to be successful at all that I am doing, then enlisting the help of my family has got to be a top priority. (Oh, how I need to let go of the reigns when it comes to cooking!)
- Worker bees just downright know how to work hard! They are perpetually on their feet; you’ll never see a worker bee just sitting around, letting others take on their share of the workload. Proverbs 10:4 says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” While this is a maxim, not a promise, I know that in order to manage all of the tasks that lie before me each day, I simply need to diligently work at them, with all of my heart, and guard against laziness – just like the worker bees do.
- Worker bees are punctual, starting their day when the sun rises, and returning to the hive in the late afternoon, before the sun goes down, whether they’ve collected pollen from all of the flowers in their vicinity or not. In order to take care of all of my daily tasks and achieve the goals I’ve set for myself for the day, I need to keep good track of the time and begin and end jobs based on the clock, regardless of whether I’ve completed a task or not. This means that I might have to leave in the middle of hand watering a patch in the garden, and set up a sprinkler to continue watering in another section while I go inside to prepare lunch, or leave the homestead to pick up my girls from a class that they are taking at the local junior college. I don’t much like doing this – remember, I really dislike leaving a job unfinished – but, like the worker bees, I’ve got to keep the end goal in mind and understand that all tasks will, eventually, be completed if I just keep on at it.
- For worker bees, duty comes first, self comes last. In a hive, one worker bee serves as a guard who prosecutes intruders who try breaking into the hive. If threatened, it stings. When it stings, it dies. “It sacrifices its own life to protect its community and colleagues”, says Dr N Ganapathy, a professor at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Chennai, India. There is a high calling in the work that I do. I have a duty to perform it to the best of my ability, with all of my heart, in order to serve others and glorify God. There is no room for selfishness in the work that I do. When I focus on myself – on all of the work that I have to do, on all of the work that lies before me, unfinished, and on all of the tasks that seem impossible for me to accomplish, then I become overwhelmed and feel defeated. Selflessness is key when it comes to finding purpose and motivation for all of the work that needs to be done out at My Happy Homestead.
Do I achieve one hundred percent of the goals that I set for myself, each day? Am I always quick to ask for help when I need it? Am I consistently great at time management? And do I constantly put others before myself when it comes to work?
I am human, after all, not a real worker bee.
There are plenty of days when I wake up and don’t want to do much of anything and would much rather lie around and just be served by everyone else.
But, just as honey doesn’t make itself, the multiple tasks around My Happy Homestead don’t simply take care of themselves, either. So, I have to get over my dislike of multi-tasking, transform into a busy, little worker bee, implementing all of their little nuances, roll up my sleeves and, like Nike says, “Just do it!” The hive seems to operate much more efficiently and effectively, and I am much more happy when I plan, enlist help, work hard, watch my time, and selflessly work at serving my family, everyone and everything that God has put into my life.
What strategies do you follow to complete all of the tasks that you face, each day? Do you see your work as a high calling? Which of these bee tips do you find the most helpful?
Raised beds are all the rage, right now, and for good reason. They look amazing, keep the garden looking neat and tidy, are easy to keep weed-free (especially if you’re starting with soil and amendments from the garden center), can be elevated, making it easier for people with back problems/disabilities, can be portable, can extend the growing season by allowing the soil to warm up faster in the spring, and can result in higher food production rates.
Out at My Happy Homestead, I have a few raised beds that I garden in.
I prefer to grow lettuce and other short-rooted veggies in my 6″ tall raised beds.
I have an orchard of semi-dwarf fruit trees that I’m growing inside of raised beds. I love the look that the beds create – the trees are actually planted in deep holes in the ground, then the boxes are built around the trees and filled in with compost, garden soil, and topped off with dry leaves. (I’m experimenting with permaculture techniques in this area, planting in other edibles and herbs underneath the canopy of the trees and inside of the boxes to add beauty and create a sustainable landscape).
Mini raised beds are used for our Harvest @ Home garden rental service.
And, here is a newly constructed, deep, raised bed that hubby just put together for me…
I’ve planted it out with melons. I love how it acts as a garden “room” divider, setting this area of the backyard off from other surrounding areas. Yes, raised garden beds add definite aesthetic value to the garden – another great benefit I forgot to mention earlier. Also, it’s physically less demanding to construct these raised beds (at least I think it is) than it is to double-dig a traditional garden bed.
However, there are a few drawbacks when it comes to growing in raised beds, too.
First of all, it can be quite costly. By the time you pay for all of the wood, garden soil, and other (in my opinion) necessities, like chicken wire (to gopher-proof the bottom) and weed barrier, you’ll need to grow quite a bit of food to re-coop your costs. To save money, look for salvaged, or scrap wood. I’ve found a lot of free wood on Craigslist, and by putting out requests to friends and family. Just make sure that the wood is untreated and free of paint or varnish if you’re going to be using it for raising food.
Also, when the temperatures heat up, it can dry out rather quickly. If you live in an area that experiences hot, dry weather in the summer, like I do, plants that are growing in raised beds may become stressed from overheating and lack of water. To remedy this, you may need to water more often (sometimes more than once per day). I’ve found that setting my raised beds in areas of the garden that get afternoon shade, mulching deeply with straw hay or dead leaves, and providing shade cloth for beds that get all-day sun helps to conserve water and keep the plants from getting quite as stressed. Choosing plants that are more drought tolerant (like canteloupe and eggplant) is also a good thing to keep in mind when planning what to grow in your raised beds, especially if you are worried about how heat will affect your fruits and vegetables. If you are curious, the Veggie Gardener has a list of 12 drought tolerant fruits and vegetables to help you make the right choice.
Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that some fruits and veggies just aren’t meant to be grown above ground. According to an Ohio University fact sheet, “since the root system is restricted by the size of the container, some plants may produce smaller fruit, and some vegetables don’t grow well in containers. Vegetables that grow well in containers are those with a confined habit of growth, such as salad greens, spinach, eggplant, Swiss chard, beets, radish, carrots, peppers, bush beans, determinate tomatoes, bush varieties of summer squash and cucumbers, green onions, and many herbs. It isn’t that other vegetables can’t be grown, but that they may not be as suitable for container culture. ” For me, the veggie that I just won’t grow in raised beds or containers is the potato. Yes, I know that growing potatoes above ground, in boxes, barrels, and bags is totally “in” right now, but I’ve had absolutely no success growing potatoes this way. Mine always seem to do much better growing in the coolness of the underground, so that’s where they’ll stay.
So, back to the question: to raise or not raise the garden bed? In the end, I believe raised beds serve a wonderful purpose in the garden, and I think everyone should have, at least, one to grow and experiment in.
Want to know more about raised bed gardening? A standard on the subject is All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew . A great article on the topic of container gardening can be found at Ohio State University online. I particularly appreciate the chart, at the end, that matches plant varieties with container sizes – perfect for helping determine the best varieties to grow in containers and the depth which each plant requires to thrive in that kind of environment.
I am super excited to be selling at a small Farmer’s Market in a nearby town! I don’t know that it’s going to be a huge income generator, but it is a wonderful opportunity to get out and meet people, share some of the wonderful produce that I am growing, here, at My Happy Homestead, and talk to people about growing and eating heirloom, organic food, and everything to do with gardening.
As with any business venture, I think it’s going to take some time for me to figure out my niche, but I am eager to learn, grow, and get better at what I do.
As the weeks go by, I hope to learn:
- what the community that I am serving desires in terms of products – my favorites may not necessarily be theirs.
- how to price my goods fairly, yet at a level where I can make a little bit of a profit.
- how much inventory to bring with me so that supply levels keep up with demand and don’t over-exceed it.
- how to plant at the right intervals, in the garden, so as to keep a steady supply of fresh produce stocked for the market.
- how to maximize space, in the garden, to grow as many different species and varieties as possible so that I have an abundance of fresh produce to offer.
- as much as I can about what I grow and how I grow it so that I can easily explain and answer any questions that my customers may have.
I hope to grow:
- as a farmer
- as an entrepreneur
I hope to get better at:
- time management
- plant production, propagation
- meeting the needs of the community that I am serving
- honing in on the best products to sell
I know that a learning curve comes with every new venture, but I don’t think this one is too steep for me to overcome. There is a ton of great information out there, on the web, by people who have been doing this for years that I have already learned so much from – especially in terms of booth display (which, by the way, I got great compliments from the Master Gardeners at the market on – yay!). My favorite post on the subject can be found at the Rodale Institute.
The biggest challenge, for me, is going to be not casting my net too wide. There are so many different and wonderful opportunities that I envision happening at my Farmer’s Market booth. In addition to the fresh veggies, I imagine selling baked and prepared goods, like our family’s favorite Chocolate-Zucchini bread, and single-serving, ready-to-eat, fresh garden salad with homemade salad dressing. To go along with my fresh herbs, I’d love to venture into selling a homemade, herbal body scrub (I’m thinking lavender-rosemary and sweet pea for starters). I have lots of great ideas that I’ve started to pin on my Fruit Stand board on Pinterest, and I’d love to try my hand at utilizing every single one of them!
I know that I cannot possibly do everything that I want to do. So, I will do as Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.” (He always does).
I’m so thankful for this opportunity and look forward to this new adventure in my life. It may not make me a millionaire, but like everything else that I put my hand to, out at My Happy Homestead, it will be done -first and foremost- 100% to the glory of God, and then it will be a labor of love – measured in new friendships, business opportunities, life experiences, and the opportunity to pursue one of my greatest passions – gardening – things that can’t be measured in mere dollars, after all.
Have you turned any of your talents or passions into a business? What is the greatest thing(s) you’ve learned? In what areas have you grown? What have you become better at doing?
Thinking about turning your talents into a business? What’s holding you back? What do you envision for your business?
Here’s a great, little landscaping tip that I picked up over at Fine Gardening Magazine : ”Inside the house or out”, says Ray Baker, “a clean, smooth line provides a finished look and a sense of clarity to an area.” It’s absolutely true. Just think about how much crisper your bedroom looks when you make your bed, or your office looks when you tidy up your desk, and your kitchen appears when all of the counters have been cleared and the sink has been emptied of all of the dishes. Things look messy when there aren’t clearly defined lines. Tidying up instantly remedies that. The problem is that, no matter how hard we try, those well-defined lines never seem to last for very long.
Out at My Happy Homestead, when weeds are constantly encroaching upon my garden borders, keeping well-defined lines is tough to do. All around our 2.8 acres, crabgrass, mallow, stinging nettles, pineapple weed, and a host of other weeds are constantly swallowing up our landscape, making it impossible to distinguish between the wild and cultivated areas out here.
But, I am determined to try and keep well-defined lines in my garden lanscape.
It makes such a huge visual difference when all of the “clutter” has been removed, and the lines have been restored.
Believe it or not, creating well-defined lines, in my garden, begins with a simple garden spade and some good ol’ elbow grease.
I know. I’m crazy.
But, I have my reasons…
- It’s cheap
- It’s a great workout
- The results are instant
- It provides green waste for the compost bins
- It’s safe for the environment and my family and pets
- It’s keeping money out of Monsanto’s pockets (perhaps another post for another time)
This year, in an effort to keep the weeds from re-encroaching, I’m going to make use of an organic weeding tip that I found over at Pinterest, where it was suggested that baking soda be used around all of the edges of flower beds, twice a year (spring and fall) to keep the grass and weeds from growing into beds. The Pinner said that, “the baking soda neutralizes the PH in the soil [so that] nothing will grow there.”
I’m very anxious to find out if this method actually works.
I have a sneakin’ feeling, however, that – just like the Golden Gate Bridge painters, who, once they finally get to the end of painting the entire bridge, have to turn right back around and do it all over again – I’m going to be right back at it with my trusty spade and elbow grease to clear the weeds and make well-defined lines at least two or three times, throughout all of the gardens at My Happy Homestead, this year.
Ah, so it is with organic country living, where the work is never done. Well-defined garden lines, like clean, smooth lines that we create anywhere else in our lives, are like a mist that is here one moment and gone the next. But, oh, what a fabulous moment that is! –exactly what the stuff of home and garden magazines are made of.