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bringing work home

I used to think that bringing work home at the end of the day was a problem,

until I realized it’s actually the solution…

We have a quite a different calendars that everyone keeps track of here at the farm. Their’s one named Work, others named Home, Farm, Festival, School, Hall, etc… Each are color-coded and meant to help us keep track of what is happening and when, and what bucket each item is for.  But they’re all part of one main calendar that is meant to be the big-picture calendar of the farm.  As you can imagine it can be a bit overwhelming at times, and difficult to find a good balance between the things that are work, and the things that are personal.  But most of the time these days it’s actually not, as long as we remember that we are blessed to be ‘doing what we love, in the place we love, with the people we love”.

Not all that long ago, work was something I did somewhere else. Away from home. I would make the trek daily to Nashville to fulfill my creative dreams and make an income to support my family.  And it was also something I had to try to leave behind when the work-day was over and I headed back to the farm.  Like most people, I struggled with it always creeping into family time, and taking away from being present with the ones I love.  But thankfully, in the last half-dozen or more years, as I began to see ‘work’ and ‘home’ differently and how they could and should be tied together, and that bringing work home, in a much different way, was actually the answer I was looking for.

Nowadays, we are making our living farming and storytelling, here at the farm, all together… myself and a number of family members and close friends.  And most of the time, we all wake up excited about all that is on our to-do lists, knowing what a gift it is to get to do them at home and in our community, with family and friends we care deeply about. 

It doesn’t really matter what it is we’re doing day-to-day or calendar-to-calendar, they are all part of the same thing. There is no separate ‘work’ or dreams or goals, other than to build a good life and living here at our farm together. We still chase creative dreams, only we do it from where we are, with what we have. Completely interspersed with growing our own food and a better life for our families.

This past June, we held our 2nd annual Homestead Festival here at the farm and had more than 5000 people a day come and spend two days learning how to build a more sustainable life.  It was a lot of fun and also very rewarding to see come together.  Because behind the scenes, it’s taken most of the last year, just to bring it to be.  But we did all the work - from planning and prepping, to setup and execution, and this week wrap up - here, where we are, together.  And it has a way of making what you achieve even more meaningful,.

In the past few years I have been reading and thinking a lot about the ‘family economy’… a term and concept that before then, I’d not heard of.  The basic idea is that throughout all of time, for most people and families, there was little to no separation between their work life and their home life.  They were pretty much one and the same.  Their businesses were most often part of, or intricately connected to, their personal lives.

And although it many ways I was already subconsciously making decisions and moving in that direction with my work and home life, a few years ago I began to realize it, and even more so, why my heart was leading me there.  For most of my life, the world had been telling me that me that my dreams and my goals are somewhere ‘out there’, and that we should do whatever it takes to achieve them.  And in essence, reducing our homes to just a place we eat and sleep at (if we even eat at home much at all) while we pursue the more important things that are waiting for us somewhere away from our homes and usually, outside of our communities.

Like many people, I began to realize that even when we reach out goals, or many of our dreams come true, they leave us wanting and wishing for more.  And at first it feels as if maybe what we need is more success, or the next bigger goal. But in time, the emptiness we feel by trying to attain ‘more success’ or ‘more money’ tends to take it’s toll and we begin to look for more than just ‘more’.  And for me, and many others, it will lead us back home. Back to the place we come and go from everyday, but usually aren’t actually ‘living’ in.  And I began wanting to tie those two things together in a way that I had never thought of doing before.  Asking “what if I could make my living from home?” and “what if it my living and my life were one and the same?”

Those can be scary questions, since when we look around, we don’t see many people these days doing it, but they can also be incredibly liberating.  You start to imagine all the possibilities and how amazing it would be to combine ‘our passions’ with ‘our purpose’.

But this work/home balance and idea of the home economy isn’t the same thing as just ‘working from home’.  As we all know, millions and millions of people all over the world were sent home as a result of the recent pandemic, and many of them have only had to come back to the office a time or two a week, if at all.  But working from home isn’t the same as building a home economy.  It can be I suppose, but I think the work you’re doing ideally needs to be what you are passionate about, and something tangible that is actually tied to your home and home life.

Of course, these things are easier said than done.  Making the transition from having a separate work life and home life, and bringing them together can be difficult.  It takes much thought and prayer and often a re-evaluation of the life you’re living.  You may have to live on much less. Desire less. Need less to get by.  But that is also the point.  Most of the time, the reason the two things are separated is because we have bought into the American Dream of always wanting and needing more… a bigger house, a newer car, plenty of money in our old age to retire.  And all we do is try to make more money that we can spend it on more ’stuff’.  Most of us will have no idea how to build, make, or grow a single thing. We rely on others for everything we need.  But in the home economy, we begin to take responsibility for as many of those things as we can.  And we become more self-sufficient on much less. We stop just being consumers, trying to purchase the life we want, and become producers, resolving to make the life we want.

*this article was originally written for and part of the May 2023 issue of Plain Values magazine.

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