Working from a Farmhouse: The Dream

I do have a dream. By the time I retire, I want to own a house on the Isle of Skye, complete with fishing and farming rights.

This Xero blogpost gets close to the Dream – running a rural accountancy practice from an English farmhouse is….close. (Please, citizens of Scotland, do not shout at your computer; I’m just an ignorant American who doesn’t know any better.)

Amazing Progress

I’m amazed at (and encouraged by) quite a few things in this post about Jessica’s accountancy business:

  • Drive: Jessica’s ability to make partner in an accountancy firm based on pen-and-paper lines, and then bear a child within a few years, is astounding.
  • Early Training: Parents, never underestimate the fact that a good, hardworking upbringing can place your children miles above any Ivy League snobbery. Miles. They will remember every single lesson that you’ve drilled into them, and some of them will thank you later.
  • Planning: Instead of thinking, “French is my passion, so I should go to French business school,” Jessica thought through whether or not her target audience in England would be impressed. (They wouldn’t be; they don’t even like to admit to enjoying French cuisine.)
  • Culture Clash: Big business and small business really do not mix. They operate by completely different rules, different ethics, and different purposes.
  • Honesty: The admittance that growing your family, growing your business, and hiring the right staff members can be a recipe for false stars and disasters….well, it’s refreshing. Sure, everyone wants to be the out-of-the-box success, but that doesn’t happen often and often isn’t sustainable.

Remote Working + Moving Communities = Win

Forget the 4-Hour Workweek! Jessica is going to work in France for a year, while spending time with her children, and still be able to run her cloud-based business. Sometimes, it’s important to run away from all the lists and to-do’s of local responsibility. Why?

  1. People need to figure out how to run things on their own sometimes, and stop asking the busiest person who ‘always gets things done’ to chair the board and organize the meetings.
  2. Non-profits can be great for life satisfaction and for that inner glow that accompanies the idea of giving back to the community. They can also be vampire organizations that suck a lot of time and energy from their hosts, while always pleading for more. It is very important to say “No”, periodically.
  3. Being available for other people’s drama is a drain. If you’re a known leader in a small community, this can get old really fast.

Life-Changing Experiences

It’s important to be a hard worker, and to show your children (if you have them) that you can be involved in things other than their lives. On the other hand, parents who intentionally involve their children on an adventure with the whole family are really on to something good.

Farm families work hard. Really, really hard. One of the leaders in my church has a background in dairy farming in Vermont, and his nieces and nephews rarely go on vacations. Ever. Vacations are something that people do in their retirement years, and only if/when enough seasonal workers and family members can fill in the gaps. (Note: if cows have to be milked three times every day, that can fill up your 12-hour days really fast.) So I’m imagining that Jessica is making quite a sacrifice and group effort, to be able to move away from farm management for a year.

I have never lived on a farm. However, one of my pivotal life experiences very slightly relates to a combination of farm work, parental involvement, and non-profit labor. My mother and I spent one summer working together boxing up Food Bank parcels. Every Monday, we drove down to a large grocery store, hefted around boxes of produce and quickly sorted through cartons of milk, and tried to ignore the pervasive smell of rotting animal and vegetable matter oozing from the skips. (In Phoenix, at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, there is nearly nothing to beat the smell of rancid milk plus putrid produce.) Once all the bad had been sorted from the good/good enough, we drove down to our church and set out boxes for women from the neighborhood. To this day, it amazes me that many matriarchs would sniffily pick through those boxes, ask if there was any meat or cheese that week, and then drift away. I wanted to shake them – and still do. It’s one of the reasons why I will never believe that offering somebody free handouts on a consistent basis will help them ‘get on their feet’ for life.

Helping my mother organize Food Bank boxes was a good experience. Eventually, my mother decided that spending all day in bed on Tuesday, to recover from this back-breaking experience, was not a good way to spend time with her family. She had other goals in life. She had tried, a few times, to ask for other volunteers to take over; everyone thought she was doing a noble and important work, but nobody actually wanted to do it until she said, “I’m done.” Amazingly, two other similarly overcommitted people in the congregation, who really liked padding out their grocery bills with Food Bank boxes, took over the work.

If people really want to do something, they will. To spend time doing things that matter, it’s OK to say “No” to things that everyone else thinks are important for you to do. That could include work, too!

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