A time for everything

Although we may have a couple of hundred acres, our garden area is comparatively small at this point in time. It's been a steep learning curve moving from the hot, arid climate of South Australia to our current growing climate in NSW. In our valley we get a sub-tropical summer and a temperate winter with hard frosts overnight. Learning what grows when has been hit and miss. In summer things grow like mad, including the weeds. In winter, frosts burn off any tender plants and growth grinds to a near halt. Though there are a few things like kale and spinach that remain reliable producers.  

But these spaces, though they are not huge, actually provide our family of six with a surprising amount of food. Things like herbs, asian greens, kale and spinach are incredibly generous plants. I just harvest the outer leaves as we need them and they continue to produce. Pinching out the flowers helps to prolong their productivity and likewise if you cut spring onions off at the base rather then pulling them out they quickly re-shoot. 

Every week I plant another 1-2 of punnets of seedlings to ensure we have a continuous supply. It's not the most frugal method of buying plants, but I can buy punnet of seedlings for around the same price as I can buy a bunch of kale, so it works out far more economical in the long run. And I'm supporting a local business at the same time.

In an ideal world I would grow everything from seed, and some things I do. But in this season with young children, livestock and living off-grid with a haphazard system, seeds are somewhat less forgiving. There is plenty of time for that in the future. We do not need to do everything perfectly all the time and I'm a big believer that giving things a crack is far more important perfection.

This garden for me is not about doing as much as humanly possible and building something I cannot sustain which then makes me feel like a failure that I'm dropping all the balls. (A feeling most of us can relate too I’m sure.) Instead, it is about slowly creating something that works for us, in this season of our lives. If I add one or two new garden beds and plant 2-3 fruit trees every year, then in 5 years time that's going to end up being a really substantial and well established garden.  And the process will have been enjoyable and workable around our lifestyle.  Sure, I could throw myself in and do all the things all at once, but I'm not sure that putting ourselves under enormous pressure and working around the clock is the most sustainable path to success. Instead, in my experience it is a sure fire way to burnout. 

It might be a surprise to think of burnout existing within the simple living/homesteading community, but it does, just as it is in any other group of people. Which sounds odd doesn't it? People jump into this way of life passionate about growing, preserving, sewing and making things. People want to produce their own meat, dairy, veggies and live off-grid. They want full freezers and shelves of beautifully canned goods. They might want to "stick it to the man” who ever that is. But then they get so busy doing all the things they eventually find themselves  just as unhappy, stressed and worn out as they were when they decided to start to simplify. 

And suddenly, simple living isn't that simple. 

They might rush into buying equipment they feel they need to meet their sustainable living goal, discovering with dismay the costs quickly add up and they have fallen down an alternative rabbit hole of consumerism. They might find they can't produce or sell their produce for the money they thought and the realisation on them dawns that it takes a huge amount of time and effort to produce anything well at all. Then throw in the uncertainty of the weather which can make or break us and it all gets too much and people find themselves feeling like they have failed their dream. 

It is a sobering thought.  

"Busy" is the modern day narrative to success and it takes work to unpack that mindset and§ pursue a gentler path. It's been my experience that the most profound and soul enriching experiences usually occur in the quiet. Sure God, (feel free to insert your personal spiritual lean here) can work in the busy, loud stressed and chaotic. But can we hear Him in that environment? I'm not so sure. And I'm less sure that we are meant too.     

There are many pieces of scripture which have impacted my life, but the following is one that I think of almost daily, and I think no matter what your belief system, it's stands as a beautiful and profound piece of writing.   

    There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

I have found when I try to do all the things that are important to me all at once I end up stressed and feeling unless. Like I am failing at doing the things I feel so strongly about. But it doesn't necessarily mean that thing is something I shouldn't be doing or that I can't do, instead it may just be a thing I have picked up in the wrong season. The season for that thing still exists, it's just a little in the future. 

Gardening, simple living, cooking from scratch, establishing a farm or a homestead. These are all good things, but that doesn't mean they all need to be done at once. Perhaps in this season you plant a few pots of herbs near the kitchen, or source one garden bed in which to start to grow a few easy pick greens. Perhaps you might try and cut out one packaged item, like biscuits, and make your own most of the time. It's ok if you can only do it some of the time. Starting is the most important thing. Maybe its bringing your own bags to the supermarket for now and later on you might work out how to minimise more plastic packaging. Perhaps you might cancel one streaming service, or reduce your kids screen time 5 minutes at a time until it's at a place you feel happy with, that lies in with the life you want to be living.  

There are some people for whom huge sweeping changes work. But I suspect for many of us, maybe the majority of us, that making small steady changes work better. 

It is through many, many small changes I have found myself here today. Living off-grid, establishing a beautiful farm with goats, cows, chickens and veggies with my family by my side. Sure there have been a couple of big leaps of faith along the way, but the truth is that all of them first started with the little steps.

I wonder if you are feeling overwhelmed and burnt out? Is this a season in which you could, and maybe need to put something down? Or are you itching to live a life that seems unattainable? My encouragement today is to simply start where you are. To perhaps give yourself permission to try something a little different. 

Much love,



  1. Your words were mana to my soul. Thank you, my friend.

    1. I'm so glad Patricia. I often wonder about sharing faith based thoughts on this platform, as it is certainly not everyones cup of tea. But they are a part of my life and our family life and so occasionally it seems appropriate.


  2. Thank you for this post Emma. I always pop on over to see what you are up to and come away with a sense of peace from your writing. This post is very relevant to us at the moment. We are seeking a simpler, more self-sufficient lifestyle which may involve a move. So many things going round in my head (kids, school, income, property)! But maybe we need to slow down, implement a couple of important principles here and now, and wait. Slowly, slowly, God will show the way.
    Best wishes, Jodie NZ.

  3. Thank you Emma. You are an inspiration to so many. I love the way you share that it is not all paradise, you tell the good with the bad. Let me tell you that you are doing much better with four young children than I ever did. As a grandmother now I am still waiting for all the nappy pins and dummies to re-surface! Emma you are sharing the dream that so many people want and there for they are living it with you. If things ever get overwhelming just look at the last picture of Elsie on the post 25th August, sitting in the dirt. That beautiful happy smile says it all. Frame it ! Carol


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