Sunday, January 18, 2015

It's a new year

Hattie: Warning.
Mom's been thinking too much again.
I don't make New Year's resolutions.

Well, let's say, I don't make the kind of New Year's resolutions that matter or get kept.

But this year, 2015, begs for a more disciplined and organized approach to my farming and fiber efforts.

Cause, if not now, when?

So I have a resolution of sorts.

My inspiration comes from my work.

Say what?

My work.

I don't talk about my work much, cause this is, after all, a farm blog and sadly, I'm not really a farmer. Yet.

No, I'm a scientist by training and profession.

Have I ever mentioned that? I don't think so, but there it is.

Here's why it's relevant in an indirect, obscure, roundabout sort of way.

One of the hardest parts of being a scientist these days is the shear amount of individual discipline, organization and administrative effort required to keep research and its infrastructure (a lab) going, no matter what field of science you're in. Theory building, hypothesis generation, data collection, data analysis, data reporting, grant writing, etc. and that's just the science part. It's a big, expensive, complicated longterm process with many scientific steps and lots of bureaucratic regulatory obstacles just to get from a simple idea to a published result. On top of this, competition at the top levels of American science is fierce -- competition for not just ideas, but funding, jobs, students, etc.. All of which to say is that an individual scientist has absolutely no chance to succeed longterm if they work on only one project at a time from start to finish, before starting the next.

Juggling is key.

I was taught by my graduate school mentor, so many years ago, to think of my work as a pipeline. It's the only way. The trick is to keep every stage of the pipeline full and moving at all times. While polished journal articles are coming out one end, raw ideas should simultaneously be going in the other, and works in progress should be percolating the whole length in between. All at the same time. Never let the pipeline empty. Never let the pipeline stall.

Well, it has occurred to me of late that the farming I'm trying to do is very similar, especially as a fiber lover who's committed to  obsessed with producing and using my own fiber. It's a very long, multi-step process from feeding and caring for the animals to tying off that last knot of fringe on my latest woven whatever. Yet, in the past couple of years, since I stumbled backwards into this life, I have had the tendency to get bogged down at one stage or another of this long pipeline, for all intents and purposes bringing the whole thing to a mind numbing standstill.

In part, this is because as a beginning farmer on a start-up farm with only novice spinning and weaving skills to start with, it is easy for me to take ten times as long to do something as it would a more expert practitioner, at virtually any point in the process. I spent an entire summer doing nothing but nursing sick lambs. I spent an entire winter's evenings processing and spinning just one dirty goat fleece (it was really dirty. :)  ) Meanwhile, fences go unbuilt, other fleeces pile up, my fiber storage system is still in boxes, my big loom goes unwarped, my online shop remains little more than a logo and an idea.

Some of this is natural growing pains. I didn't become a practicing scientist over night. I don't expect to be a reasonable farmer or fiber artist overnight either. But there is no graduate school for me to go to in farming and fiber production. No formal education for me to acquire. I'm pretty much on my own, to succeed or fail, in my own way at my own pace.

As long as I don't give up my day job -- that darn science stuff -- nothing really hangs on my success, (except the health and wellbeing of my animals, which matters to me), so I'm not really complaining, just thinking out loud.

But of course, as long as I hang on to the day job, my time on the farm or in the studio is squeezed and it feels like I never make progress.


Well, I won't be giving up the day job anytime soon, cause...well...

I may be obsessed, but I'm not actually stupid. :)

Yeah, I don't need to explain the money thing. We all get that.

But if I want to ever quit the day job I've got to get this pipeline moving. At every stage. Every day.

So my 2015 resolution is just that.

Think pipeline.

Think stages.

Every stage, every day. If only five minutes each.


  1. The pipeline...makes complete sense. I'm in! Yesterday I washed two pieces of cloth that are the start to some spinning aprons. Something little, but hey, they're done now and not stagnating in the wool house like they HAD been for almost 2 weeks.

  2. Having a full time job off farm as well, I can relate. I find that, if I can focus on staying one step ahead in the day-to-day, I am not as stressed about it. Of course, that one-step-ahead thing doesn't always work. I like the idea of a pipeline - logical!