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Love and Mud: How to Keep a Relationship Strong on the Homestead

As you may recall from past blogs, Brad and I had been looking for a chunk of homesteading land for a few years before we found what we were looking for. (Actually, Dennis Harcus found it for us. We are forever grateful.) In that time, we were idealistic dreamers, spending our time looking at Pinterest, drafting out our ideas one sketch at a time. We had no clue that buying the farm would be a true test of our relationship endurance. No clue!

But here we are, 6 years into this huge decision, probably the hugest, that not only changed us individually, but as partners as well. And we’ve learned a lot through those bumps in the road, and lets face it; sometimes those “bumps” were full fledged, big, door slamming, crying, arguments that did not sound very nice. Through time, conversation and actions, our relationship has positively grown instead of declined. We’ve come a long way, baby.

This photo was taken shortly after Brad and I purchased the farm.

So in writing this blog, not only am I going to share my insight on what has helped to keep our relationship growing stronger each day, I have also asked you for some of your advice as well which I will share in this blog. I have saved what I think is the best advice in the resource library. I consider it a bonus trait that is definitely of utmost importance that you’ll want to check out. 😉 As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Without further ado…

10. BE PATIENT AND TOLERANT

Brad and I have different philosophies on how to get things done. Once I make a decision on something, I tend to roll up my sleeves and drive forward on that idea as far as I can take it. Brad on the other hand, is more of a “what if” kind of guy that will come up with a plan, and then change it, and change it again, and again. We have had to learn patience and tolerance of each others thinking style and how we act on those ideas out here at the farm.

I’m more open to shifts in ideas now, even though I’ll pout about them for a while. An excellent example is when we bought two shipping containers and spent years collecting information and drawing up designs for making a two level, shipping container house and studio at the farm. We were so close to taking it to the next level and getting some architectural design work done when we ran into some issues: how do shipping containers hold up as living spaces in extreme temperatures? How much will a crane cost to put one sea can on top of another? How expensive and time consuming will the insulation process be…you know…practical logistics. Dang it, Brad. You and your “what if’s”.



I used noodle boxes to make sketches for the now defunct shipping container idea.

The shipping containers will definitely still be used at the farm, but not as I hoped they would be. Brad actually saved us a TON of frustration and extra work, and I developed a smidgen more tolerance from this 3 year experience. This is important to consider in your relationship; your partner is not trying to be argumentative. He/she may just be thinking about things in a different way than you. As one contributor said, “Things will never work as planned so be flexible….”

So…

9. PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR PARTNER’S SHOES

Brad has a good 11 inches over me in height, and I think I am actually shrinking…vertically, at least. Because of that, it takes a lot of communication to remind Brad that sometimes life is a bit easier if he puts himself in my shoes. For example, we are clearing brush from the tree line. He whips through the wilderness with the brush saw like nobody’s business. Even though some of the trees are small, they’re hard to drag. I kindly ask that he cuts the trees in smaller pieces so that I can do the job more efficiently. The same goes for gas cans. I appreciate gas being put in smaller jerry cans when I’m filling up the tractor. Those suckers are heavy. I am smaller and not as strong as Brad, so he has to put himself in my position and consider how I approach jobs that we do together. And I remind him when he doesn’t. haha

The shoe is on the other foot too, er I mean, the rubber boot is on the other foot. Brad is a bush crasher, so when we’re at the farm, he wants to explore new land. I tend to like sticking with trails. Even though it’s out of my comfort zone and I am internally freaking out about bugs and bears and worried that if I break a leg we’re both in for a long trip home, I go for it and explore the back 40 with him. And I am always thankful for it because I see things I otherwise would miss out on. Brad’s enthusiasm is contagious and worth the creepiness of the spooky wilderness. We try our best to do these things for each other with understanding of each other’s perspective, but sometimes it takes communication.

Brad and I at the top of our “mountain”. No bears were seen! Whew!

8. COMMUNICATE

When you’re working at the homestead, you HAVE to communicate with each other. Sometimes there are literally acres between the two of you, so you need to know what each other is up to and make contact with each other every so often. (BTW, texting doesn’t work at the farm. Either the signal isn’t strong enough or the external noises wash out the sound of the text notification. The same goes with walkie talkies.) That means coming up with a bit of a game plan:

Rhonda: I am heading down to the stream to plant some perennials. I am taking the four wheeler and Willow with me.

Brad: I am going to be working on the tractor and might head up to the neighbour’s to ask a question or two.

It’s not a ton of detail but it is enough to give each other a general idea and to check things out if one seems to have been out of contact for a bit too long.

Helloooo back there! Can you hear me?

But beyond touching base with each other, the communication needs to be kind and respectful. We take the time to praise each other on the jobs we completed that day because as you know, on the homestead front, there are always tough jobs to be done and it’s nice to hear that it is appreciated. We take time to sit a spell and chat with each other, sharing stories of the wildlife we encountered or things that piqued our interest that day. And sometimes we just keep our mouths shut and don’t say anything at all. There are times that we won’t see eye to eye and instead of being snarky and speaking emotionally, we just take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery instead (most of the time, we’re not perfect.) As the proverb goes, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”; strong advice shared with me by a contributor to this blog.

7. BE OPEN TO LEARNING

If you walk into a homesteading lifestyle thinking that you’re the expert on everything, you’re going to have a tough go of it. When we took on this lifestyle, we walked in with our own skill sets so that means sharing and being open to learning from each other. Sometimes this is difficult in a relationship, especially if you let pride or a fixed mindset get in the way. Sometimes I don’t like reading manuals. I do not refer to screwdrivers as “Robertson” or “Phillips” (I had to Google that just to give you those names). I call them flat, square or x. Why name them something when their visual appearance is obvious? I am left handed so sometimes I want to turn things the other way. Sometimes tools are awkward to use, which can actually make them dangerous to use too. But I am willing to learn; just slower than perhaps someone else. This is where patience and tolerance comes in again, and I’m sure there are times Brad is thinking, “Hooo boy” when he’s showing me how to do something for the seventh time while I have the unread manual in my hands.

Brad has a thing for buying screwdriver sets and sometimes stashes them in the basement because he knows I don’t like going down there.

And I’d like to think that Brad is learning from me too. I am an organizer and am making our farm more efficient so that we aren’t spending hours looking for the square or x screwdrivers. I like flow and spend a lot of time ensuring we can easily move throughout our space. Sometimes this is difficult for Brad, as he tends to drop and go and find later, but he’s also slowly learning the benefits of living a life of half-assed feng shui. Plus he knows it drives me crazy and the nagging is not worth it. You don’t want to deal with Rhonda that has spent time looking for a hammer that should be back in the hammer spot. I spent 20 years as a high school teacher telling students to put their supplies away. My tolerance is low.

Holy cowabunga this was a big, big job that took years to complete to a usable state!

But Brad and I are both pretty receptive to learning. We are always sharing information with each other, as we both have a passion for research and education. When we don’t know something, we are definitely not too proud to seek sources. I am on several homesteading groups on Facebook, and love both asking questions and contributing to conversations. That’s how I was able to obtain feedback for this blog.

6. ACCEPT EACH OTHER’S FOIBLES

I can’t stand the thought of animals being killed. Don’t get me wrong; I have been a hunter. I have my gun license and my hunter’s safety certification. I will definitely hunt for food if and when needed. But if something is just innocently living, I cannot end it’s life for no reason even if it decided to make a nest in our on-demand hot water system (like a mama squirrel did a couple weeks ago. It’s ok. We moved the nest and mama found them.) And remember my incident with the baby hares last year!!? Gah! Even hearing the snap of a mouse trap makes me sad, but I don’t want pestilence and disease in my house either. So I cry, and I worry, and I tell Brad not to tell me when an animal is at risk of being hurt or dying, and then I incessantly ask him about that animal until he tells me what happens and then I am sad, but understanding. sigh And I scream every time Brad just flings a dead mouse into the snow where it’s little feet can be seen sticking out of the bank. Yuchhh. But Brad just accepts me and lets me be.

And I let him be himself, too. Most of the time. 😉 Even when he’s wearing that ridiculous straw hat that my dad bought him.

Work it, Beckman.

Ok, ok, maybe I have worn it once or twice too….

The sooner you walk into a relationship accepting your partner’s mind set, phobias, thoughts, feelings and ideas, the sooner you will be able to support each other. One contributor said, “Compromising is huge!!” and it really is. It helps us take on specific roles at the homestead with empathy and understanding. Brad is the critter ridder and I am the critter finder, most of the time. (You can hear the scream a mile away). That usually makes us giggle, which is another important relationship goal.

5. LAUGH OFTEN

As absolutely cheesy and overused as the saying is, “live, laugh and love” is really the way to do it. There’s no way in the world we’d do what we’re doing at the farm if our day wasn’t sprinkled with laughter. It’s probably one of the best things about our marriage, I’d say, and the homestead gives us lots of reasons to laugh. We laugh at each other, we laugh at ourselves, we laugh at our silly Willow. Sure we have our ups and downs, aches and pains, frustrating stub-a-toe kind of days; we can’t be happy all the time, but Brad and I don’t take too much seriously and thrive on ridiculousness most days.





And do me a favour….on those days when you’re being a bit of a crabby pants, kindly announce it to your partner. Let them nicely know that you are having a bit of an off day and request to be left alone if possible. The receiver of that information should be appreciative of the head’s up. There’s nothing wrong with giving people space to themselves. That will bring them more happiness in the long run, which in turn is good for the relationship. Save your jokes and ribbing for the next day where they’ll be received with laughter.

And perhaps needing that space is an indicator of needing a really good break.

4. WALK AWAY FROM THE WORK

One contributor said it best when she said, “I think the important thing is to make sure, regardless of the to-do list, that you spend time not accomplishing anything but being together and enjoying each others company. No goal. No chores. Just you both. ”

Celebrating a hard days work with a glass of wine? Yes, please!

This might seem like common sense, but it is incredibly surprising how easy it is to get caught up in just working all the time and not taking breaks. When we first started at the farm, we would literally work until the blackflies drove us inside. Now we have a deal where we stop at supper time and usually spend the evening together, watching a movie, having a bonfire (when we’re allowed), walking through the fields and just enjoying the sunsets. It is beautifully romantic and a fantastic reward to see the changes made to the property. The only time it sucks is when the dog runs away. Remember that? If you’re not familiar with Willow’s great escape, I have the story posted in my resource library.

Even the bugs couldn’t stop us from smooching.

If you can afford the time, take a full day or two off to totally regenerate together. Not only will your muscles thank you, so will your mind. We usually go exploring somewhere and come home with pockets full or rocks, pine cones and a lot of stories and experiences shared.

3. BE TEAM MATES

Sometimes Brad and I work separately, and sometimes we work together at the farm, but regardless of the task at hand, we know we have each other’s back if need be. That’s what team mates do. If Brad needs an extra set of hands, I will stop what I am doing to help out and visa versa. We’re there for each other. This is no place for a “you’re on your own” mentality. It is safer to work together, it is more productive to work together, and you have a sense of accomplishment as you complete jobs together. It also makes for great stories, like the time I fell flat on my face when I tripped on a stump, or the time I flipped the fourwheeler when we were stretching chain link fencing, or the time I sprained my ankle carrying a load of wood. Wait a minute here…every time I hurt myself, I am with Brad!!




Ouchie mama!

2. BE THANKFUL

Yep, sometimes life on the farm can be downright painful. But having that partner right there to pick you up and help clean your wounds is what it’s all about. And that will happen at the farm. A lot. You have to take the time to be appreciative of that person that stands beside you through snow storms and wild animal scares, naked dancing in the rain and playing in the mud. You have to find the time to do extra things for each other, like making a special meal, or treating each other to a massage of those weary muscles.

Baking at the farm is a special treat; this is a rhubarb peach cobbler in the works.

One person said, “Make each other a priority. Tell each other not only how much you love them but why. Tell them what you see is their strength, (the) best thing about them.” It’s easy to let that slip if you’re not careful. This person is not only your partner in homesteading crime (hopefully without the crime), they’re your lover, your teacher, your student, your moral support, your best friend and the one that accepts you the most.

So with that, I hope that you’re taking some time right now to reflect on your relationship, whether you live the homesteading life or not. If you’re single, consider this an opportunity to think about what you truly do want in a relationship. If you’re separated, take the time to see what you can change in yourself before pursuing another partnership. If you’re married, check in with your partner and see if you’re meeting each others needs together.

But most importantly, go check out what the #1 advice was that was shared with me. (It’s in my resource library). It is the ultimate recommendation and sage advice indeed!

And with that, I wish you love and happiness with the one you choose to spend your time with. Mwah!

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