May 02, 2007

Motivation, labor, and projects

Ran seems to be having some trouble getting motivated (he doesn't have automatic archives, so look for his posts from 24-30 April, 2007). He's got some interesting points about motivational homestead writing, as well as projects and what it requires to get them done.

A few thoughts on those two topics. Ran called out Eliot Coleman for over-optimistic assessments of food production (it looks like he edited the post to remove Coleman...the point remains); an author I'd add to that mix is Joel Salatin. While his books and speaking are very inspirational, he doesn't seem to have much of a grasp of work that is required to get a job done for real people. Or at least has a very selective memory for the tough times. He discounts his large family and multiple interns when he says a job is 'low labor', and doesn't include his farm's infrastructure (paid for by his longtime farming family) in the financial analyses of his enterprises. Considering we followed some of his models fairly closely, it was pretty important to us that we get the information right.

Come to think of it, I'm probably stirring up a hornet's nest here, since Joel is one of the saints in Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dillemna, but so be it. Not like I haven't dealt with hornets before.
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Motivation is an ongoing issue, especially when you can't see any tangible results from a hard day's work. I try to avoid those situations, since they get pretty draining, interspersing funner work, or even just a stroll through the pastures (us scientists call it 'monitoring'), to break up the more tedious tasks.

We try to use interns and work parties judiciously...while we love to have them both, if we have them too often, we feel like we're taking advantage of a blessing that is all too easily abused.

Zane's got some good points on the volunteer issue, how new blood on the farm sees things with new eyes and energy, which helps us to keep excited about everything we're doing. I find they're a good tool for me to practice my communication skills, as well, since no one yet has showed up who was able to read my mind. I'm still looking, though.

Work parties are fascinating, and exhausting, processes. I'm getting pretty good at running them, and let me tell you, they are all about the running.

As an example, our barn raising party last fall...a quick run of the numbers is ~20 people, 4 hrs of work. "Right on, I got 2 weeks of work out of one day!" It was a huge help, but it wasn't like I was sitting around waiting for people to build my barn. I put in >30hrs getting the site ready in the weeks leading up to the big day, and then mopping up the remaining tasks after the party took about that long. So, I got a 4 for 3 return on the work I put into it. Plus, I got a party out of it, which made it all the better.

Posted by rich at May 2, 2007 03:46 PM
Comments

i could pretty much bitch all day about coleman and salatin (& especially michael pollan's outright WORSHIP & unquestioned ADORATION of salatin to the exclusion of ANY OTHER ORGANIC FARMER in that damned book -- sorry hot button of mine).

maybe we can dish tomorrow at early dinner. i think the kookoolan crew might be coming too, & i think they also have a beef with salatin. (ha ha. a 'beef' with salatin.)

Posted by: Katie at May 5, 2007 09:23 PM

Yay....Katie joins me in whacking the hornet's nest

Posted by: Rich at May 6, 2007 08:21 AM