256: Take on the skills that suck

256: Take on the skills that suck

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Over the weekend, my husband realized that there was a whole pile of big logs we’d cut from a downed tree behind the pig barn last year but never hauled up to the woodshed to split and stack. As such, our Sunday afternoon project was to go out and take care of those.

Let me set the scene for you. My husband has taken the tractor out to where all these big stumps are, brought a bucket load back to our wood shed area, parked the tractor right at the wood splitter, and is now standing on the ground, trying to roll these big stumps from the bucket on to the splitter. It’s going fine until we get to this one really big chunk of wood, and he tells me, “hop on the tractor and back it up.”

Now, let me interject here that we have reached the stage of life where the kids really aren’t around to help with farm projects anymore—and that’s only going to become more apparent when they move out. A few years back, there were many jobs that would get passed to them because they were better at it… or I just didn’t want to do it.

Like… driving the tractor. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of driving a tractor. It feels very “Farmgirl Awesome” to me. And I can do it. It’s just that it falls under the category of something I don’t do enough and so every time I do end up having to do it, I end up needing a whole big lesson on how to do it.

So anyhow, my husband asks me to back the tractor up from the wood splitter so he can differently maneuver this giant chunk of wood, and my mind goes blank. I don’t know how to back this thing up, because I haven’t been on the tractor in probably two years. So I get on the tractor, he’s trying to explain to me how to back the tractor up while he is in front of the tractor, attempting to maneuver this really huge chunk of wood off the bucket… and I can’t hear a thing he’s saying because, tractor.

I’m doing what I think he’s telling me to do, but the damn tractor won’t go in reverse. And just as I’m getting really frustrated, one of the kids pulls in the driveway from work. He comes over, to try and help me, and then yelled to his father, “it won’t go into reverse, it’s stuck.”

It was like some kind of hilarious comedy sketch that’s only funny if you’re not the one in it.

We finally get the persnickity tractor into reverse, and get the load all taken care of and he tells me to hop back on the tractor and drive it out to the field. And I’m like um, excuse me, what? He gives me a crash course in how it works and I drive out behind the pig barn with him walking in front of me showing me to the pile.

We get to the pile and it’s in a bit of a hole so he shows me how to set the parking brake. I hop off and we toss more giant logs into the bucket. Then he turns to me and says “ok, get back on and take it back.”

And I look at this tractor that’s on a bit of a decline into a hole, with the bucket is loaded as full as possible and I said, “No, you drive it back.”

And he said, “No. The only way you’re going to learn to drive it is if you drive it.”

Doing the thing even though you don’t want to

At 44, I can still occasionally look like a pouty 7 year old who has been told to do a chore that I don’t want to do, and I’m sure that’s what I looked like at that precise moment. But I got on and he walked me through all the steps again. And I got that giant load of big chunks of wood back to the woodshed.

You need to understand that to my way of thinking, this is some next level tractor driving stuff because in order to get from the woodshed to the field and back again you have to go through this tiny little part of a path that is only as wide as the tractor, and it curves around a ginormous stump on one side, a bunch of gnarly twisty trees on the other, and you have to have your tractor bucket at just the right height to not take out the gnarly trees as you round the corner. But I’m 5 ft 4 not 6 ft 5 so when I have the bucket at that height, I’m kind of driving blind for a few seconds.

It’s “exciting.”

But I went back for a couple more loads. I didn’t crash, I didn’t tip over, I didn’t hit anything or anyone. I drove the tractor and survived. 

Here’s what you need to get from this story.

The point to all it this, the one I really latched onto, is when my husband said “No, The only way you’re going to learn to drive it is if you drive it.” Friends, that right there applies to so many things. 

Sometimes when we are picking and choosing the skills we want to learn, we forget that learning is often uncomfortable, and we tend to weed out the ones that might suck to take on. Or pass them off to someone else.

But self sufficiency/self reliance means you will have to learn some things you don’t want to do in order to be able to do the things you want to do.

You don’t have to know how to do everything—that’s overwhelming and unrealistic—but if there is something that makes sense for you to know how to do it because it’s helpful to the life you’re living and the things you want to accomplish, you should probably get that skill under your belt.

There are people who want to raise meat but are held back because they don’t want to butcher their animals themselves. Yes, there are people who will do it for you. What if you can’t get in with the butcher next year? What if they are full. What if something happens and you need to butcher early?

Here’s the thing that some people forget to tell you. With some skills, especially those on a homestead, they don’t get less uncomfortable and they don’t get “easier” and they don’t get less risky, you just get more experienced at doing them. 

Related to this…

There is another part to this that always makes me shake my head a little bit: the folks who push off learning something because when the Zombie Apocalypse comes they’re just gonna get to it then. They’re gonna grow a garden when they need to, when they’ve never done it before, they’re gonna hunt for their food when they need to, when they’ve never done it before. Etc.

That’s really amazing and mind-blowing and also pretty stupid.

Yes, there is something to be said for having the zest to jump into a completely unknown and brand new situation with both feet and take it on, we’ve all probably had to do that in our life more than a few times. But that should not be the norm and it shouldn’t be the plan. Why, with so many ways to learn about stuff, ways that didn’t even exist 100 years ago, are we putting off learning something we believe we might need to know? 

Take on the skill!

Take on the skills that suck for you. Take on the skills that make you uncomfortable. Take on the skills for tasks that someone else usually takes care of. Take on the skills that you know you should know how to do but you don’t because you always pass them off to someone else.

Learn to do the things. Because you’re only going to be able to do them later if you start doing them now.

— Amy Dingmann, 11-14-23


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3 thoughts on “256: Take on the skills that suck”

  • This right here! In my early 20’s , early 30’s…I ran a backhoe for a living. I lost that job,due to a contract loss, which lead to being a stay at home mom,homeschooling mom,homesteading mom. We have a 22acre farm, yet , the John Deere farm tractor, iis one of my biggest fears! My 20/30 yr old self is much different,then my 50yr old self!lol My husband had to have surgery this last Summer…our farm bucket list for next Spring, is for me to learn the ins and outs of the tractor! Love your channel!

  • Not quite as complex as learning to drive a tractor (which I’ve done my whole life) but, this past summer, I canned chicken for the first time. I’ve canned for 40+ years and was always afraid of canning meat. I really enjoyed it.

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