Saturday, July 17, 2010

Some Thoughts on Dreaming

Let's face it, anyone reading this blog is guilty of some unrealistic dreaming at some point. You're either an old pro at homesteading and have learned from experience the painful impact when dreams collide headlong with reality. Or you're just starting out, dreaming your homestead dreams while sugar-plum fairies dance in your head. Or maybe, like us, you're somewhere in the middle and having to re-evaluate your dreams. I'll start right out saying that dreams are not evil, as many scoffers would have you believe; without dreams we'd all still be living in caves only eating meat that was unlucky enough to get cooked in a lightning-strike wildfire.

Dreams are the spark that make things happen. Skills and determination are the fuels and machinery... but no engine will run without that spark! So Dream On... just dream with a bit of focus. Instead of aimless wool gathering, spend a little time in there doing some fact gathering and lots of soul-searching.

Be honest with yourself, and don't be shamed by anything you discover. Better to realize and accept right now, before you've invested in $1500 worth of tile, that you really despise terra-cotta even though it's a durable, relatively cost-effective flooring option. If your secret love is midnight microwave popcorn and B-grade horror movies, it's just not realistic for you to give up electricity forever. If you're a morning person, it's not a good idea to put your bedroom on the north side of the house no matter how perfectly it might fit there; conversely, a night person really should avoid putting their bedroom on the southeast corner. If you can't stand putting your hands into mucky filthy icky stuff, perhaps homesteading isn't for you (unless you have a partner willing to do the nasty chores -- check first, don't assume!).

Know your limits, and which ones you can push past and which ones you really can't. If you don't, you'll just wind up beating your head against the wall, wasting valuable resources and losing motivation. Neither of us were the fittest folks in the universe when we started all this, but we knew we could build up strength and endurance as we went... but nothing was ever going to change the fact that we both have dodgy knees and backs that are prone to spasms. And absolutely nothing was ever going to change my complete lack of balance or coordination.

Another example, both of us are Designers more than Do-ers. This is not a failing, so much as an opportunity for us to flex our Design muscles and create simply-executed solutions to complex problems... the hard part of abstract problem-solving is where we're strongest, so this works for us. If we were more Do-ers, we'd be stronger at stubbornly and methodically muscling our way through a problem rather than trying to figure out a clever way to do it easier (or avoid it altogether). There's nothing inherently wrong or better with either style, you just have to know and accept which type you are and understand that sometimes you're going to have to solve a problem in the style you're not strongest in. It sometimes helps if one partner is strong in one style, while the other is stronger in the other... but be careful because this often means you can't work together well as a team, and one person feels like they get stuck with the crap-end of the stick (whatever their definition of that is).

Another reality I had to face was that I was never going to have a horse, donkey or mule as much as I love them. Nevermind that horses, mules and donkeys make excellent homestead animals because the can be used for transportation, draft, pack and guardian... I just ain't gonna get them. Well, at least not unless G's disappears somewhere along the line. See, he's deathly allergic to equines... game over, end of discussion. Also, it's kinda hard to feed horses up here through the winter, and donkeys don't quite like the cold so much. Which sort of eliminates oxen, too... G's not allergic to them, but having them big enough for work also means they're too big to feed. So we get to settle on dogs and goats... no worries, they'll work, but it's good to know your constraints and options ahead of time. His allergies also mean I'll probably get stuck with more of the animal-related tasks, which is cool with me because I like critters more than people anyway... I'm certainly not going to complain that I'm the one who has to care for and pluck all the fowl because it's sure better than him sweeling up into a puffy snot-ball and possibly being MedEvac-ed to hospital if the EpiPen or inhaler doesn't work.

It's good to dream big; but you do eventually have to put your toes back on terra-firma and realize that you can't have everything you want... at least not immediately, and probably not exactly the way you envisioned them. It's OK, it all evens out in the end, sometimes you get just what you've been yearning for through complete happenstance. If you're faced with a dream that just can't realistically emerge in our time-space continuum, try to break it down and figure out exactly which parts of the dream are so compelling. Most of us are surprised to find out that we don't actually want what we think we want, we want the feeling that it evokes or some other mundane practical consideration. If this is the case, filtering your dreams a bit may actually result in a few creative solutions that fit the bill and can actually be materialized in this plane of existence.

Take, for instance, one of my friends who was convinced she wanted a huge stone hearth and fireplace. This was a matter on which she would not budge. It didn't matter that she was in earthquake country, nor that she was 4 miles off the road with no driveway and no 4WD pickup to get all those stones back to her place. After some very direct questioning on my part, she actually realized that she wanted a centralized hearth that felt weighty and lent a feeling of security. She also liked grays and earth tones because she found them peaceful. In her mind that equated to a massive stone fireplace... in my mind that equated to, well, a hearth that felt weighty and secure and was gray/earth-toned. I didn't have any preconceived notions, so I set out to see if I could figure out a more realistic hearth that met her criteria. What we came up with was a large wooden box mantle that simulated a big hand-hewn beam (at 1/4 the weight) which was stained a dark mahogany and rested on large faux-stone corbels. The actual fireplace and hearth were covered with manufactured river-stone tiles. The whole things weighed a lot less than stacked stone, was sure easier to carry and work on alone, but still lent the same feeling of weight, security and serenity she was looking to acheive.

Anyway, enough rambling about dreams and reality and possible solutions... I've got brush to clear and a foundation to get started :D


Linda said...

You need to go see Inception, its just out. Talk about dreaming. I thought its pretty strange to see your post on dreaming after watching this movie yesterday.

I wanted alpacas for the fiber. I even had three fiber boys picked out, down payment and names. My daydreams were raising these animals. Reality set in, cougar sighting and the thoughts of just putting up a make shift fencing in order to have alpacas was not going to cut it. I realized if I wasn't going to make the best fense possible I wasn't going to have them, also the problems they incounter as well. In other words I did my homework after I got my foot in the door.

I should have been doing the book work, hands on before I invested in time and money getting these cute little animals.

The owner gave back my deposit (she didn't have to)and said it was not my timing yet.

Then alpacas started showing up in our neck of the woods, lots of em. I can go pet the critters and buy all the fiber I want : ). It turned out really better for me and those fiber boys.

geneva in missouri said...


I sent your website link to my Mom and she actually agreed to sit down and read it in an attempt to 'figure me out'... hehehehe - good luck on that one, Mom! I've been me for almost 39 years and don't have me figured out...!!

I've worked and reworked and refigured and completely changed my Alaskan dreams so many times over the last 15 years, I can't even remember what started me dreaming of it!!!!

Regardless of the fact that every person I know thinks I'm insane, I'm not going to give up on my dream of a small Alaskan off-the-grid homestead. Somedays I feel my very soul is attached to it... if that makes sense....

Cheers and be safe!!


Unknown said...

I realize you posted this over 2 years ago, but I had to say thank you. My fiance and I are considering "homesteading" very similar to what you guys did. This post really hit home for me right now and I thank you eternally