A Case for Telecommuting

IMG_0839 I awoke at 4:30 on a Monday, tiptoed past Alison, nine children, two dogs, and thirty-one brooder chicks temporarily camped out in a kiddie pool in the middle of our living room. By 4:40 a.m. I was sitting at my desk.

There are obvious benefits of telecommuting. The parts about not shaving, not showering, or not driving come immediately to mind. But one of the real underrated gems is never having to pack a bag, never having to search for the keys, never having to stress about what’s for lunch, never worrying about forgetting the power adapter or the checkbook. It’s 12 steps – a leisurely 15 seconds  – back inside to get whatever you really need.

I’ve been getting up earlier these days. It’s more consistent with a farm lifestyle, and I have found that in the predawn quiet my brain is more active and more likely to produce actual coherent thoughts. And in today’s modern world, with a workday designed to never end, rising early offers a rare chance to get ahead of the game. Nothing rattles the office sabres like a reasonable, thoughtful email composed and sent at 4:57 a.m. The optics are almost mystical. Louder than any power suit or garish French cuffs it signals: “I am Go-Getter, hear me roar.”

So in the predawn hours I sorted through my weekend emails. Should we divest of this asset? Should we upgrade this other one? If so, granite or corian? Stainless or black appliances? “Reply All” never felt so good.

I downshifted to the low-hanging fruit of trivial paperwork. Bank of America just sold my home mortgage to another servicer and the 401k custodian recently merged into a large international conglomerate. The auto insurer requires a periodic rotation of passwords. So does the bank. All necessitate some kind of response. Alumni magazines, catalogs, credit card solicitations, instant oil coupons, the never-ending parade of junk mail has never been so never-ending.

And that petty squabble with Marriott over 10,000 points that were never property credited to the account. They are points I may never use, but this one of the last vestiges of the old me. Scrapping and clawing for stuff that the rules have said are rightfully mine. Steamrolling around and around the Monopoly board, hoarding little paper dollars and plastic houses that, in the end, never really amount to anything.

I read all the accumulated bits of industry chatter. Reports on the latest employment trends, interest rates, construction pipelines, corporate relocations. Thoughts on recent capitalization rates and high-profile trades, the impact of lower oil prices on Houston, and the impact of water shortages in the Southwest.

So quiet in my outbuilding office, I thought, yet still so much noise. Our great grandparents never dealt in the false deadlines of an ephemeral economy. They just woke up and got right to the work that put food on the table and fire in the hearth. True, they never had power tools – and I for one would be extremely reluctant turn in my Stihl or John Deere implements – but they also never were required by corporate to wear a Fitbit. They never received a copy of Costco Connection. And there is something to be said for that.

Meanwhile, outside my window a gorgeous day was just beginning to dawn. From the desk I could see ewes leading new lambs to dew-soaked pasture, as green and verdant as an Irish postcard. Cattle worked their cud and asparagus shoots began to emerge after so many months of dormancy. It would be not days, but mere hours before that delicacy would once again grace our table. The fruit trees were just starting into blossom and the weather was projected to again be perfect, with enough daytime heat to coax a light sweat, and enough nighttime cool to dream comfortably, even in the densely packed parental/toddler mosh pit that our bed has become. After an honest weekend of good spring work, I could feel the pleasant stiffness of my own muscles, the farm muscles, knitting back into shape after the long, soft hibernation of winter.

On the computer I came across a spreadsheet detailing the inputs and outputs of our little hog production. Our first try was highly educational and mildly profitable. Chorizo, Banker, Anna, and Peppa are now in the freezer, along with enough beef and lamb to open a Brazilian churrascaria. Steaks, chops, roasts, sausages, even organ meats of all varieties. All of it pastured, organic, humane, and beyond scrumptious.

With said pork in hand we are almost all the way to the mythical 100% farm-raised breakfast I have often dreamed of. We have the eggs, sausage, bacon, and milk. We have the maple syrup too. All we are missing is the grain for the pancakes, fresh butter, and maybe a few berries. It won’t be long.

And all that thinking about breakfast reminded me again of the benefits of telecommuting. Because it turns out that early morning thinking about a farm breakfast on an empty stomach just 12 steps from an appropriately outfitted farm kitchen triggers, at least in me, a certain type of involuntary response.

Fifteen seconds later I found myself inside, whipping up a farm breakfast for a hungry, growing household just waking from a perfect night’s sleep.

8 responses to “A Case for Telecommuting

  1. Lovely description. I find some similar bliss working from home, but with a lot less acreage and view. 35 years I’ve worked from home. That is a lot of time saved not commuting! About 7,000 days of work – so even if my commute had been ten minutes i still save 1,000 hours – about 50 whole days. So far. Essentially almost 1/2 year of waking/productive time.
    You might consider growing buckwheat, for your pancakes as well as great bee food. It turns out to be easy to hull with a home flour mill. Or make your pancakes from acorn flour. I like the combination of buckwheat and acorn. I can teach you how to make acorns into food.
    Ive had that mythical and yet real breakfast – pancakes made with gleaned buckwheat, acorn flour, my frozen black raspberies, eggs and milk from a local farm, my own maple syrup, home made butter. The baking powder was the only import. And I could have done sourdough. That was an amazing and very special breakfast. So many stories!
    I hope you end up with a great farm based celebration of your birthday today.

    • My, that is a lot of time. It really does add up, doesn’t it. And time is the most precious resource we have. And thanks for the buckwheat tip.

  2. Another great post. Been there, done that. I greatly enjoy the well-crafted thoughts from a kindred soul.

    Just last night I was thinking that back in my old life I usually paid someone to cook my meals, and then serve them to me. But now we have an income that is, according to the folks who make such determinations, “poverty level.” So last night this impoverished homesteader sat down to a supper of venison meatloaf, sauteed lambsquarter, organic sweet corn on the cob, and biscuits made from pureed organic butternut squash–all from this farm.

    What would that meal have cost me in a restaurant (assuming that was even possible)?

    Just one of the many reasons I prefer this kind of poverty.

    • It is a good life, if you are willing. At this stage in their lives the kids have eaten more $$ worth of steaks than I ever did before moving to this farm.

      And, no, I don’t think you could get that kind of meal in a restaurant, not on my budget anyway.

  3. Once again, you’ve provided an interesting window into your life. You really walk in two worlds! My husband has worked from home since our youngest was 3 months old. One of those situations when being laid off was the best thing that could have happened for us. We are so grateful for all of the things he hasn’t had to miss in our boys lives so far because he is here to see it all (even if I have to yell for him to come upstairs for “just a second” to see something amazing they are doing.) This change was accompanied by a significant decrease in income (not “poverty level” but close) but we have never felt more wealthy. I echo what Bill said above. We regularly eat meals we know we’d never even be offered at a restaurant and that is the best feeling. Thanks for another great post! Oh, and I’m kind of glad I have no idea what a Fitbit is:)

  4. Beautiful post, thanks for sharing. Everything is so peaceful even with your busy family and life, plus your cooking breakfast… Wow, very impressive, the Miller’s will be right over 😉

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