Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

I used to carry my production schedule everywhere I went. It contained customer contact information, order dates, frost dates, birthdays, notes about President Cleveland…everything. Inside the front cover is a note to myself saying “There is no get rich quick in farming!”


I needed that reminder. Everything moves slowly. Things take time.

Our pastures are lacking in plant diversity, minerals, humus and just biological life. We have cow paths across all pastures with compacted soils beneath, from years of open pastures. The cow paths only turn where a thorny tree blocks their progress. Given the option, the cow will walk a half mile for a bite of sweet grass…always taking the same path. That sweet grass is slowly selected against because the root system never grows out, the grass is not allowed to go to seed, the plant fails to tiller properly…the cows just love it to death over time. Then the cows lounge under the same grove of trees each day compacting the soil under the tree (killing hardwoods) and concentrating nutrients gathered from the entire pasture in one spot. This happened over time. You can’t fix it immediately. It is a slow process.

Our cows are no longer genetically adapted for grazing only. They are built to eat grain so they can wean heavy calves…no matter the cost. This didn’t happen overnight. For years we (cattlemen) kept back the biggest heifers. Then we kept their biggest heifers. Then we fed a little grain to get those heifers fat enough to breed. Then a little more grain. The genetic makeup of the herd doesn’t make an immediate return to grass possible. It has to happen over time.

I dare you to go out and pay cash for a half-million dollar farm. You can do it…eventually. But if you are like me, it will require a lifetime of production and savings and frugality to pile up the cash a little at a time. Just like building fertility in my soil. Just like returning my herd to grass. Just like everything else. There are no real shortcuts. It takes time to heal…to grow.

I was thinking of this today when I decided to write my wife a letter. Like everything else, my relationship with my wife requires consistent investment spread over years. She doesn’t need a daily list of chores from me (well, she does) she needs reminders that we are partners in this, that the dream we are living is ours (not mine)…that I believe in her and that I will always love her. There is no get rich quick in farming. You can’t make up for years of neglect with one afternoon’s worth of work. This is even more true with loved-ones.


I am very proud of you. It seems like I never find the time to say it though. You are a great friend to me, a wonderful mother and a fine cook. You are beautiful, strong, healthy and intelligent. None of these attributes came after a reading a how-to book or by changing your habits for a week. You have made small changes over time and have stuck with it making a big difference in many areas of our life. Let’s look at a few examples.

You have never had a problem with your weight but last year you started making a few changes…changes I resisted. You stopped baking bread and started drinking lemon water. Lemon water! You made many small adjustments to our diet…so many and so small I don’t even remember what they were. Over time I couldn’t help but notice that your shape changed…in a way that I liked. This isn’t because you started some fad diet or some intense workout regiment…except for the 21-day sugar detox. It is the result of small choices over time.

We home school our children. This started out simply, teach them to read and cipher and the rest will take care of itself. Over time that has changed. We have added complexity and, later, simplified again…over and over. But always with small changes. Nothing drastic. We just stick to it, working through the problems that come up, taking them on one at a time.

On the farm it is much the same. We started raising a few birds for ourselves and a few extra to sell. We initially bought 24 layers not knowing what we were doing but thinking that was starting small. Then we got Olive for milk. Later, we got 3 pigs…then 8 pigs. Then cows. Then the farm. Then more farm. Always moving toward a specific goal, always moving slowly, growing organically. No huge leaps, no big changes…just small tweaks. We try something, evaluate the results and make additional small changes. Together.

Now you are starting a new business selling (FDA says I can’t say the vendor’s name) oils. Again, this is a methodical process. Learn the products, attend classes, teach classes, attract interest…rinse and repeat. Over time your knowledge of product, of business, of clients increases. Over time your revenue builds until, at some point in the future, your income will replace mine.

None of these are 30-day cures. These are major shifts brought about by a series of small decisions over time. We both know I am resistant to change and, at times, have been less than supportive but I see where things are going and I believe in you. I know you will succeed. I am with you.

So tomorrow morning when you continue your newest practices (listing the 6 most important tasks for the day and yoga) know that I am proud that you are my wife. No matter how I react to the small change du jour, I am behind you 100%. I am with you and I am supporting you. I love you.

5 thoughts on “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

      • I should be clearer… if you can’t make it as a poor farmer then surely you can’t make it as a middle class farmer and then you can’t be a rich farmer. You’ve got to start somewhere. That somewhere requires leaving the cubicle or flipping burgers or whatever and giving it a go. And if it works and you struggle through the stages or you fail and you go back to the cubicle or flipping burgers. I know there is no virtue in poverty or riches (that moth and rust corrupt). Just not confident enough to give it a go I guess…
        oh well…there’s always the half measures…

        • Yup. You have to stop spending before you can build savings. No matter how much you make.

          You have to have savings before you can invest in business…preferably your own business…as in Mind Your Own Business…good advice. I mean, what do you really know about that hot stock pick anyway?

          And BOY! let me tell you about struggling through the early stages. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. But an object in motion…well, a farm in motion…tends to stay in motion until acted upon by government. lol

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