Beginner’s Mistakes on the Farm and in the Family

Hello everyone! I have taken a hiatus from all things farm & garden since the birth of our wonderful baby boy Michael James! My recovery has taken longer than average, but now I’m up and taking care of the house. I’ll be headed back to the garden soon if I get the green light from my doctor at my next appointment a week from now.

In the meantime, my sweet husband has been working outside trying to keep the newly seeded pastures watered while also making slow and steady progress on the garden without me. He’s done a few things that have had me pulling my own hair out, along with a few improvements I’ve been so thankful for. Since we’re getting such a late start, I’ve been reflecting on where we went wrong this season.

And how can I neglect to mention that motherhood is the craziest, most demanding job I’ve ever had?! A lot of it has felt very instinctual for me…but there is nothing innate or satisfying about the lack of sleep and piles of laundry, dishes, and dirty diapers! I’ve read books and articles and blogs on being a first-time parent and even still there is so much that I’m just making up as I go along. It’s a bit daunting and it’s certainly uncharted territory. So, as beginner partners, farmers, and parents…here’s a short list of beginner’s mistakes we’ve made!

1. Plan your garden space before you plant!

We were certainly the victims of our own procrastination this year when it came to planning. I drafted up a little illustrated plan but in the end there were obstacles that prevented us from following it. We ended up sticking the plants wherever – just to get them in the ground. They were malnourished plants in pots that the store gave us for free, so we acted immediately hoping to save them. What we didn’t realize is that the rows we made for them end up shaded most the day. Some of the broccoli is heading but I suppose it’s too early to tell how successful (or not) we were in saving them.

When you take the time to plan a garden, you can account for shade, water run-off or erosion, and general convenience. When you don’t take that time, the odds might not be in your favor.

2. Don’t transplant anything once it’s already been transplanted!

My husband decided he wanted the cabbage and tomatoes in a different spot in the field about 2 weeks after we transplanted them from pots into the soil.

Uprooting plants that have been transplanted already (from small pots or trays into garden soil) is a great way to kill most of your crops. The plants respond to the first transplant by sending its roots farther out to reach more nutrients. These roots are also anchoring the plant to its new environment to ensure its survival. Uprooting it will destroy roots and make it very difficult for the plant to get what it needs out of the soil. Our unfortunate cabbage and tomato plants show that by their yellow and brown, dry leaves and overall droopiness. They died from shock and starvation.

So don’t do it! Plant once and leave them alone.

3. Don’t let the dogs into your garden space!

Our whole pack likes to lay on the tomato plants for some reason. We have had to get very creative about securing the gates tighter and tighter as the dogs prove they are masters of breaking and entering.

4. If the baby is fed, diaper is dry, he’s not cold and he’s not hot, but he’s screaming…it’s cuddle time.

It took me a while to get it through my head that my baby has more needs than just food, clean pants, and staying warm or cool enough. He is a month old now and he is a social butterfly. I always look at my watch when he starts to cry and sometimes I have to rack my brain for reasons why he’s pitching a fit. I would hold him and rock him and put him down, just to have him freak out all over again. Couple that with lack of sleep for Mommy and you have absolute exasperation.

So when he’s fussing and I know all his needs are met, I take a break to lay down with him. Sometimes he keeps crying, but at least he’s comfortable. The goal isn’t to make the baby stop crying – it’s to make him know you’re there for him.

5. Don’t prioritize housework over yourself or the baby!

Having mixed up priorities is a recipe for frustration. There’s dishes in the sink, dinner needs to be cooked, I have laundry that needs to get done, I’ve left little cluttered messes everywhere, and my eyes burn with exhaustion…I have to constantly tell myself (and sometimes my husband) that it is OKAY for me to make slow-to-no progress in order to get sleep. In fact, it needs to be expected that my priorities have shifted. Here’s what first-time mom priorities should look like in order to stay sane:

1. Equal parts taking care of baby and taking care of Mommy
2. Sleep
3. Bathroom breaks
4. Hot showers or baths!
5. Husband
6. Housework

Basically any other arrangement of my priorities ends with me crying when baby cries. Mommy can’t help anyone if she can’t take care of herself. It seriously took me 2 weeks to realize I was denying myself bathroom breaks to keep the baby from crying. I said it at the end of #4 and I’ll say it again! Mommy can’t live to keep baby from crying. Mommy also can’t live without coffee and if baby cries while she’s making herself a cup, so be it.

6. Don’t get hung up on breastfeeding vs formula feeding.

I think I’ve wasted at least one cumulative week beating myself up for not breastfeeding. I had some issues with pain management from the injuries I sustained from delivery and the pain of breastfeeding was too much for me to handle on top of everything else. Little boy likes to smack instead of suckle and I was in such excruciating pain just existing that I took him off the breast before the end of his first week. It relieved a lot of stress I had about feeding times, but ultimately it led to a sadness I’ve never known before.

And it was such a waste of time being upset about it! My baby is now strong, alert, and well fed. I am now sleeping better, nearly fully recovered from a very traumatic birth experience, and excited for the days, weeks, and months to come. I beat the baby blues, but they came for me with a vengeance – all because I chose not to breastfeed due to the circumstance. I felt so guilty for giving him powdered stuff from a can when I am ALL about whole foods, natural living, organic everything…but it is not a betrayal of my values! It is a necessity for the time we’re in right now.

Formula is not best. Breast is not best. Fed is best.

 

I hope this summer season is going well for you all! And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! Feel free to respond in the comments if you liked this post. What are some beginner’s mistakes you’ve made recently, in any area of life?

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