the business of saying no

nick and i are turning into bad friends. we keep saying no. no to weddings. or half-no to weddings. let's see, you can have kate, but she can just come for dinner. or nick will be at your special day, kate sends her love from the pig pen.  we just called our dear dear friends who are in connecticut from california, who are having a baby in a couple of months, that no, we would not, could not meet them half way between here and there to have dinner. no to a friend's dance performance in burlington. no to another's brooklyn launch party for his new business. no to a best friend's wedding in the south of france.

no. no. no. no. no.

i hate using the word. so instead, i string the friend along, saying maybe or would love to....but, it always finds its way back to no. and we never fail to follow up by but! you can come here!?! as though any of our friends are just dying to be covered in shit and sweat for a weekend.

i don't recall ever being so throughly busy and exhausted in my life. at past farms we have certainly worked like dogs but the whole weight of the farm as a potentially viable (someday) business makes it all the more vicious.  i don't know how we'll ever do this with more animals. with human babies. without burning all the bridges of friends who aren't farmers.  without asking the world of our parents, our sisters and brothers and neighbors.

i imagine this is how parents with young children can feel. with their birth the importances of life change. you find yourself making excuses to your friends that don't have babies. asking the world of others. not calling the Well Meaning back, not because you don't love them but because you are too tired or you just forgot. maybe not, maybe i just hope some of you can Relate. help to ease my guilt.

it is uncommonly selfish. this no business. we could drive to see modern dance in burlington. we could have blasted down to brooklyn to support our friend's new project. you could twist my arm to take a week of in september to be in the S of F.

but every afternoon or morning or weekend or week we take one or both of us away from this farm we are hampering the success of the farm.  we don't have a boss anymore. we just have ourselves. and our selfish selves have made the (un?)conscious decision that the Farm Comes First. we have found our passion. we want this to really work. we want this to be forever. so at every opportunity to save our tired bodies, our time and our gas-money we reluctantly say, no.

in photos:
1. nick
2. tractor
3. kate
4. the Wretched of the Earth


  1. So very true,

    We've found ourselves saying no all too often since beginning this farming life. At the moment after events last year we have just chooks and the house animals and have said yes to a few things, but it causes chaos and confusion and hardwork both before and after, so after a holiday this year, and the guilt of leaving other folk coping with the lifestyle WE chose just so we can chill out for 6 days it will be back to the grindstone and beginning to say no again.

    I always say it with a smile, and like you, with a ' I'd love to but..... '!! Most folk understand.

    Sue xx

  2. As the mother of 6 I find myself saying no to outside offers all too often. I have learned to look at it in the light of when others tell me no because of their jobs I am understanding and hope that those who hear no from me will be understanding that my "job" of mom comes first. Many do and some don't. My "job" is my passion and it comes first. You can only do what you can do. People will understand and have a great appreciation for what you and Nick work for in your lives and there will be those that don't. But whether your or not your intentions may seem selfish they are you working to build your life, your future, your passion. Hold fast to your desire to build on those things and find comfort in what you accomplish each day.

  3. So very, very true...especially the part about parents with young children. Sure I COULD manage to take a Saturday night and go out, but that's my ME time.

  4. Some of my best friends are the ones who understand when I say no, wish we could make it, sorry yet again, etc. Your friends will understand too.

    And for the record, if I was one of your "real life" friends I would ABSOLUTELY love to come visit you at the farm! :)

  5. This is a topic that I deal with and know will become more frequent once we are farming ourselves. I daydream that I'll have farm days once or twice a year and offer all my loved ones a place to "vacation in the country". Set up tents, bonfires, teaching opportunities and enjoying friends and family while maintaining your responsibilities. I'm sure that it would be a success! :)

  6. i just wanted to say that i love how raw you are about the beginning of a farmer's life... so many of the other "homestead"-ish blogs i read show only the peaches and cream with some sugar on top. it is my goal to have a very small scale farm in the next several years- those blogs are lovely to add to my daydreaming, but you have opened my eyes to not just the lovely, but also the realistic aspects that one wouldn't know until experienced. thank you for sharing both sides of the farm :)

  7. I can Relate. So well. This has been the topic of discussion of the day in fact. I own and run a little business. I am the business. And it feels unbalanced, not quite right, the way there is no time for anything else but it. The way I have to say no to everyone and everything almost all the time. I love this business of mine, but there must be a better way to make it all fit together, right?

  8. RELATING! We have 20 month old twins, and that demanding new butcher shop- so we too are no-ers...your beloveds will understand, and at the end of this chaotic time (is there an end???) there will be (PLEASE OH PLEASE) yesses all around.!

  9. We don't have a place even close to yours, but we have a large garden, several chickens, and a handful of sheep. We don't live off our land exclusively, but, goodness, I do hear you, loud and clear. There is no place like home, especially when you put your whole self into it.

  10. pouty face :(

    slash hope we can make a visit work next year :)


  11. As the child of downsizers and one myself I can definitely relate. We were the kings and queens of no - those always missing form most family dinners, birthday parties and gatherings of friends. Farm life is all-encompassing and overwhelming, in a good way. It's difficult to see out when you have mountains of work to do; frequent "nos" seem rational and required.

    But as I crafted a life in the city away from the farm (that I eventually returned to) I began to realize that it is not farm life that's all encompassing, it's life in general. It's just the calculus is different. It's easy to forget that when you have to make hay while the sun shines - literally.

    Everyone is facing the pressures and there is a cost to excusing yourself and assuming that relationships can only be maintained on your terms. In my case it was those closest to us that understood the least. Our friendships changes - for the better maybe, but not without loss.

    Modern dance in Burlington may never make the cut, but as you grow as farmers and as a farm family the balance will get easier. Balance is necessary for the survival of yourselves, your family and your farm.

  12. We've been no people for a long time too. But please please please remember to go on at least one "date" of sorts per month. That's what we realized we needed as our wedding approached and farm stuff got even more tiring and we kept bitching at each other and losing it. You've gotta regularly take breaks like you're young and free and dating. You know what I mean...

  13. ... and I think your are totally right.

    The best wishes and even more energy for the next years!

    Garden Chair

  14. ... and I think your are totally right.

    The best wishes and even more energy for the next years!

    Garden Chair

  15. You aren't alone. And your words brought tears to my eyes as we address planning for the same struggles of trying to make it work. Hugs. Lots of hugs.

  16. You aren't alone. And your words brought tears to my eyes as we address planning for the same struggles of trying to make it work. Hugs. Lots of hugs.

  17. my wife turned me on to your blog, which i visit when I go into town (dialup only in our parts - your photos are beautiful posion!)

    i see a lot of ourselves in you two - young, newly exiled to the country, making a go of it

    we started in 1984 fresh from university with 12 acres owned and another 50 rented

    you two are incredibly hard working and brave - it took us four years to do hay serviceably

    now that i am not so young it is my policy to only offer positive observations on request

    (i know what it is like to get lots of unsolicited "advice" from farms and townies alike)

    but i am going to do something that's going to break my rules and get me in big trouble with my wife

    i swore to myself that I wouldn't respond to this post but after reading the above responses I have to chime in

    so i want to apologize in advance for the following comments (and for us meeting on these terms)

    ultimately it is your call, and there will always be priorities - no doubt, you cannot do everything and make everyone happy

    but after 27 years of farming starting much like yourselves i know that the guilt is a signal

    but this is not just about you - others are making sacrifices too

    they may not be as physically demanding or maybe as time sensitive as the ones families like yours and mine make

    but they are equally important, onerous, treacherous on the schedule and family dynamic and are to be equally respected

    your choices are indeed a subconcious judgement on the importance of your sacrifices vs those of others

    i know this because we were "no people" for many years, like you it was just the reality for us

    a wedding was no match for hay, putting up for the winter more important than a show, meeting mid way just not workable given the animals

    but to others it is those little things and big things that are the equivalent of the burderns we eagerly accept as farmers

    we made this accidental judgement, farm first, those closest would understand - well it did not always turn out that way

    over time it was often those with the most invested that were hurt the most

    as time passed these years did untold damage to relationships that we not only cherished, but that i see now we undervalued

    turning into "no people" will run the risk of ruining you - you will eventually run out of steam

    emotionally, physically - you need the break from the work, the stress, the house, the land, the country

    but also you'll need these relationships untold times throughout your life - of course, always when you least expect them

    which is something we now realize not only affected us, but also our children

    and the relationships that they had with others through us, their parents, and how this affected them unwittingly

    life is full of friends and family that come and go, relations are like flowers, some annuals some perennialls

    but be wary of accidentally treating relationships as a one way street as it may come back to haunt you when you least expect it

    being "no people" is doubly risky when you offer a public lens into your daily lives

    full of beautiful photos, thoughtful observations and timely, well-written posts not only focusing on farming but also moments of leisure, hikes, crafts and other things that don't show the brutality of farm work

    just be careful of making decisions that have long-term implications

    i pray you don't take this the wrong way - just give thought consider some of the mistakes of those who faced this alongside you, but in an earlier time

    relationships, by and large, are not tools that we can put down and pick up at will

    they are a garden that needs tending

    my apologies for the length

    and again, well done and all the best

    - rog

    roger van veen
    peterborough, canada

    ps - richard - british? 'downsizers' - my inlaws used to call us that

  18. i have two girls - one is just slightly over two, the other is nearly 11 months.

    when my first daughter was born i noticed an immediate and drastic pulling-back of my energy. i had been giving my energy to everyone and everything, and it was all over the place with little organization, dipping into a bit of everything. i was even trying to invest energy into relationships that were not giving me back anything or not sustaining anything anymore. that in itself was a little bit tiring and overwhelming.

    then i had a newborn, and suddenly, all my priorities snapped into place and i realized where my energy had been going that was unnecessary. i felt like my energy could no longer go further than a four-foot radius around my body, and i didn't want it go to further either. i needed to keep it at home, near me and my daughter, and tone it down a bit in an effort to not spread so thin.

    with two babies there are days when i am so tired i feel like i cannot function. while these days are really quite terrible and the aim of the day is to just get through it without shitting on anyone, they are also a blessing. on those days when i find i can do nothing other than lay on the couch and try not to fall asleep while im supposed to be watching the girls, its just a reminder of whats important. when i have next to no energy left, those things that are crucial priorities rise to the top and everything else becomes unimportant, and sometimes im surprised to see whats actually unimportant.

  19. @ roger
    "life is full of friends and family that come and go, relations are like flowers, some annuals some perennialls

    but be wary of accidentally treating relationships as a one way street as it may come back to haunt you when you least expect it"

    thank you for your really beautiful insight. i appreciate you writing (and I hope it didn't get you in trouble with your wife :) ). i keep telling myself that i am just a "no" person for the first few years while we get our farm started out. but it has already been at the cost of some relationships, i can sense that. hopefully, we can hire some help some day and work a bit harder on meeting our friends "half way".

    @everyone, thank you all for writing in with stories on relating. i imagine its all a part of Growing Up. having to concentrate your efforts on a handful of friends and having to let others go as life throws you more and more responsibility.

  20. It is...life.
    We have three young ones and a new farm far away from everyone.
    We are learning how to adjust and make it all work.
    PS-I smile, but hate all the, "When I was young I had to....." stories. I am working as hard as I can. It is all new and we have no one to ask for advice, or learn from how another does it.
    It is so much easier to begin and do when someone else has started it all and you can learn as you go and grow up.
    And haying--it's hard work.

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