You can’t sub-contract your diet….

Wow.  It’s been a year since my last post here. How time flies….  So what’s been happening in my world? Divorced – which was painful and – truth be told – still is: work is complicated – with brilliant bits (such as a new appointment as Visiting Research Fellow at University of Leeds) and difficult bits (it’s a recession: I do consulting… duh!): kids growing, leaving to explore the world, coming to terms with their own versions of the changes in the family and their own lives…

In amongst all that, I’m still plugging away with the plans for the farm. Frustratingly, one of the things I’m discovering about being a single, working, farming, parent, is (how boring and mundane!) everything takes so much longer.  And my absolute, cast-iron, copper-bottomed priority is to maintain some sense of security and continuity for my brilliant kids and my aged parents, who also live here.  So I’m not as far ahead as I thought I’d be.  But I AM moving ahead.

I managed to keep the farm, cashing in everything I had in the process and wangling a massive mortgage from a sympathetic mortgage adviser.  So when that finally happened at Christmas, everything else became possible.  Wwoofers ( have been a godsend. I have a French couple living with me who exchange six hours of work a day/5 days a week for bed and board.  They are hard workers and really sweet.  And they’ve taken on the everyday farm jobs and some of the ‘development’ jobs – expanding and developing the kitchen garden and looking after the orphan lambs and calf, among many other things.  They even painted my kitchen when it rained 🙂

I have grant applications in, to build the infrastructure for the farm business, courses and visits – some compost toilets; improving the access; a posh polytunnel and aquaponics…  Again, it’s been slow, but if I stop berating myself for a moment and take a clear eyed view, there’s progress.   I’ve installed a big solar PV system (just in front of the tariff change, phew!) and have first courses booked.   Monmouthshire’s Adventa team have been brilliant.  I’m even in their Wye Valley Guide already!

The Llananant Farm Facebook page is up, at last – pop across and ‘like’ it, if you do – that’s where I’ll update that particular strand of the story most regularly, I guess.

And the biggest lesson I’m learning?  Whether I like it or not some things have their own rhythms, their own patterns, their own pace – and you have to do them yourself…  You can’t sub-contract dieting , you can’t get someone in to practise the piano for you, you can’t contract out your learning.  And you can’t short-cut the basic human processes of loss, grief,  fear, anxiety, anger…  But since I know a bit about all of this stuff – after all it’s what I help other people to do – I suspect I thought I could ‘know’ my way through, with all the frameworks and models and theories at my disposal.  But knowing what to do is not enough.   You still need to roll up your sleeves, grit your teeth, gird your loins – what ever metaphor you choose – and just get on and grunt your own way through it.

So what helps?

1. Knowing when to talk – and when to stop talking,  let it go for a bit and give yourself space to notice when things are shifting

2. Accepting the wisdom and experience of those who have lived through their own distresses – acknowledging you’re not alone in this

3. Appreciating the love of friends and family who want to help – and also remembering that they have their own worlds, lives, issues

4. Letting go of ‘grand plans’, strategies, visions…. and instead living with ’emergence’ – using ‘planning’, ‘strategising’, ‘imagining’ as verbs – doing words – trusting that things will shift, adapt and change depending on what happens next

5. Coming to terms with the fact that progress doesn’t come in neat, straight lines – and sometimes you might slip back a bit.  This is not a disaster.

6. That it’s possible to be, feel, think many – often seemingly contradictory – things simultaneously. This is normal.

7. When things seem impossible, taking a next baby step – ANY next step – in the sure and certain knowledge that the world will look a little bit different from a new place…

Perhaps I won’t leave it so long until the next post…


About suepritchard

I live a portfolio life: researcher, writer, consultant, organic/permaculture farmer, single mother of three grown-ups and social activist..... My main work is running SULEiS, a consulting network for building leadership and change capability, inside and outside traditional organisations, to make practical progress on the difficult issues.
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One Response to You can’t sub-contract your diet….

  1. Thanks for sharing this Sue. It appears that you are going through a tough time right now, but have a good attitude. 🙂 I liked the part about the French couple. Sometimes people show up right when you need them, strange, huh?

    Happy blogging, and I appreciated this post from you.

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