What choices are mine? It is easy to say they are all my choices, but when you have a family, a business, friends, co-workers, etc. they often are directly or indirectly involved. Sometimes I don’t want to make any choice. This often just leaves me in a quandary. I didn’t have to commit, but actually I did by choosing the status quo. I like to get other’s opinions and ideas, but ultimately I have to choose to make a change or not. And that choice ultimately needs to be mine, no matter how many people have weighed in and no matter what anyone else thinks. I have to live with the final choice.
My husband and I went down to North Carolina this weekend. It was wonderful to see his sister and mother. My sister-in-law pointed out that I had not visited them in 7 years. They had been up to visit us each year, but I had not driven down to North Carolina to see them. I was shocked and disbelieving. Surely I had been down here at least 1 time in the last 7 years. I thought it through. In 2009 I was laid off and I took my sons down there for spring break. In 2010 I went to MSU for the Organic Farmer Training Program and didn’t have enough time off to get down there. In 2011 I started Stone Coop Farm. I have had a few trips since 2011, but they have been business related or just long weekend trips in Michigan. How did 7 years disappear? This summer was the first time in 6 years that we had a family vacation.
Thinking this all through made me very sad that I had neglected having time for my family. Starting a business can be all consuming and apparently I had let it take over my life. All work and no play has led me to exhaustion and burnout. I love being a farmer, but I love my family more. This trip was a wake-up call that my family HAS TO COME FIRST!
This is all part of my defining my fantasy life. I say family is my top priority, but I need to reinforce that with actions. Although our drive this weekend to North Carolina was super long, we got to have 2 ½ days enjoying their company. That made the two days in the car worth it.
It also gave my husband and I time to talk without interruptions from the phone, email, and work. We had many hours of complete silence that we both enjoyed. It is great to let the mind wander with no agenda. We also planned our trip to North Carolina to take two different routes. We got to see parts of Ohio and West Virginia that we had not seen before. We also got to see the Appalachian Mountains again, drive on those mountain roads, see the incredible mountain vistas and enjoy the warm sunny fall days.
I will now be actively choosing how I spend my time. Where is the MOST effective use of my work time, so I can have more play time? Working the most hours does NOT make me the best business owner, it just makes me tired. What can be delegated? What can be eliminated? How can I simplify? How can I empower my employees? How can I focus on the big picture and not define the entire minutiae?
I finally started writing job descriptions. I have been breaking up things that are crucial to the farm operations and figuring out how to split these responsibilities so each member of my staff can expand their capabilities and skill set. It is easier to empower them when they know what needs to be accomplished. I have competent employees who want to take on more responsibilities. I just need to sit down with them and get an agreement as to what they want to learn and what they want to own. By empowering them, I empower myself to have more freedom and time for my family.
It is time for my Happiness Project update for the Abundance Cubed Program. I had many goals and I have achieved several of them. I didn’t have goals set up for October through December so I have been thinking a lot about what they should be.
This time of year for me is when serious burn out starts to set in. I am tired of a long harvest season and harvesting our salad greens is starting, so loads of work on hands and knees that will continue until April. The weather is turning colder and although the leaves are beautiful, Fall means Winter is coming, and the dreary grey skies of Michigan just bring me down. I’ll be getting my “Happy Light” out soon so I can sit in front of it for 20 minutes to get my dose of sunshine. Even if it is fake sunshine, it helps my mood during the winter.
I’ve been working with my coach Noam and he challenged me to define my fantasy job. He suggested I write down what my fantasy job would look each day for a couple weeks, and then see if there are any trends or patterns. He said when he does this exercise he likes to put these thoughts on Post It notes, and then put them on a wall so they can be moved around and sorted. I spent some time doing this yesterday and found out there are lots of patterns.
My birthday was yesterday and I turned 55. I thought about how I would like to spend the next 10 working years before I retire and I thought about what I wanted to do when I retire. My fantasy journal had a huge list of what I wanted to do, so why focus on waiting until I retire to do all the things on my list? I asked myself, why should I focus on a fantasy job, why not a fantasy career, and then took it one step further, why not a fantasy life? And why not start living it NOW!
Here are some of the patterns I found looking at my Post It note wall.
Noam also recommended we watch a video by Seth Godin – “Quieting the Lizard Brain”, where he talks about setting up “shipping dates” to finish projects, rather than continually perfecting them, and never getting them done.
I have decided to set up a shipping date of November 15th to start my fantasy life. I will outline what I can accomplish first and will establish shipping dates for the other goals. I am tired of talking, scheming, and wishing. I am ready for doing.
Each fall we have a Farmer Appreciation Potluck Dinner for all our Working Shares and employees. The afternoon starts with Farm Games. You may ask “What are Farm Games?” Well, we have some creative ones that folks who work here can relate to:
Let me share some photos and videos of these spectacular games. Most of the photos are from this year, but a few of the videos are from past years and just a ton of fun to watch. Thanks goes to Dennis Gonzalo for this year's photos!!!
First you have to find the perfect weed, then you figure out the best way to toss it. The record is 120 feet! Some of the young men below tossed their weed over 70 feet!
Here’s a couple videos of how the weed toss can be done.
GARLIC BREAK UP
One of our jobs at the farm that takes loads of time is breaking apart the garlic right before we plant it. It is important to separate each clove, and do it gently so we don’t bruise it. We then plant these cloves in the field in the fall so we can have beautiful new garlic bulbs next July. This was a great farm game and we got close 20 lbs of garlic broken up in under 2 minutes!
BULB CRATE CARRY
The bulb crate carry is not only a matter of finesse, but each crate weighs a little over 3 lbs. The record is 19 crates for men (about 60 lbs) and 17 crates for women (about 54 lbs). The challenge: Successfully lift, carry 10 feet, and lower without tipping. The first video is 15 crates, next is 17, and the last is 18 crates.
It is always a blast to share a relaxing afternoon that includes fun times, laughter, and great food with those folks that you work with each week. Thank you to everyone that helps us at Stone Coop Farm!!
I love to be spontaneous, but it can be hard to do when you manage, own and run a business. We do spontaneous things at the farm, sometimes. True spontaneity is rare for me. I am obliged to be at the farm all the time because I live here and because I am ultimately responsible.
Last Friday I was spontaneous. My husband popped in the barn, and said “Hey I have to work in Sandusky, Ohio this weekend. Wanna come with me? I need to leave in 30 minutes.” “Yes” I said, but then I thought of the rest of the farm work that needed to be completed and I hesitated. My employee Nydia looked at me and said “We can handle getting everything ready for market. We’ll be fine. Go.” So I did! THANK YOU Nydia for that reassurance!
I ran into the house, ran upstairs, and stuffed my clothes and toothbrush in my bag. I texted my son to let him know we would be gone and jumped in the car and WE LEFT! I haven’t allowed myself that freedom in years! Not since we had kids, not since we had dogs, and not since I became a business owner. I can’t remember just jumping in the car for an overnight trip with less than 30 minutes notice.
We had a wonderful time. He had a few hours of work each day, but I drove around seeing beautiful old homes in Norwalk and Sandusky, Ohio. I read a book. I sat in the coffee shop and dreamed. We enjoyed great meals together and saw the sights while walking around downtown. We even got to see a sailboat race on Sunday morning on Lake Erie. It brought back great memories of our racing days when we lived in North Carolina and San Francisco. I am so glad I went!
It made me think about situations where I am spontaneous and cooking immediately popped to mind. I love to cook, but need inspiration and time. I also hate to waste food. Weekends are the best time for me to cook. I look in the fridge, see what’s there and start creating.
This week at the farm we ripped out all the pepper plants. We have over 200 pounds of red, red-green, yellow, yellow-green, purple, and green peppers, of all shapes and sizes. So I took several of the farmer peppers (they have a hole or bad spot, so I can’t sell them, but they taste great). Stuffed peppers came to mind. I usually use ground beef, tomatoes, onions, rice and cheese.
Today I didn’t feel like shopping so I here’s my spontaneous new type of stuffed peppers, based on what I already had:
First I cooked 2 cups of a rice mix (black and white rice with radish seeds) – with 3 cups of lamb stock.
Next I cut off the tops of 10 red bell peppers and set them aside. I seeded the peppers and then boiled for 3 minutes to soften. I took them out, draining the water and arranged them in a baking dish with the open peppers ready to be stuffed. I lightly salted the inside.
Next I chopped and sautéed together until soft:
Then I then added:
I cooked it until boiling and slightly thickened.
I then took it off the stove and added:
Lastly I stuffed the bell peppers and cooked them for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
They were delicious!
I need to look for more opportunities to not only cook, but jump in the car and have adventures. Spontaneity in my life is a necessity!!