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If you could do anything, what would it be?

Potty training is going to look a little different the third time around. While our older kids were potty trained on the ordinary-est of white porcelain toilets in a little house in sunny Florida, our youngest will be using a compost toilet on a farm in Texas. Crazy, right?! We’re in the process of a cross country move so my husband can do a livestock internship at a non-profit sustainable agriculture farm – the fulfillment of one of his dreams.

The whole adventure started over a year ago when I asked my husband Daniel, “If you could do anything, what would it be?”

The kids had all fallen asleep in their car seats. We had a few hours of our road trip left and the time together to talk uninterrupted was the closest thing we’d had to an actual date in a long time.

“I’d want to farm, have plenty of space for the kids, be involved in the homeschooling, and eat three meals a day as a family.”

At the time, that certainly wasn’t what life looked like for us. For the past five years, I’ve been homeschooling our kids and working from home as a writer. Daniel was faithfully working an office job we’d always planned to be temporary – a pays-the-bills job that wasn’t using his education, talents, or fulfilling his passions. While a steady paycheck certainly isn’t something to sneer at, doing a job just for the money isn’t ideal. For a long time we made the best of it, but it was time to get unstuck. Time to be a little reckless.

So after a year of planning, Daniel quit his 9-5 job with great benefits for an unpaid internship. In a week, our house sale will close, and soon after we’ll move our family (with three kids ages 2-6) into a 650 sq ft apartment on the farm. And we’ll be leaving a great support system of friends and family. When I write it all out, it does sound a little crazy.

And sure, moving three little kids across the country is no joke. We’ve only just started packing and it’s making my brain explode. But I’m not concerned about sacrifices like moving into a small space, getting used to a compost toilet, or having a smaller budget. Because the creature comforts we’re leaving behind are negligible compared to what we’ll gain.

We’ll be living on a farm and eating farm fresh food. We’ll be pursuing a dream of owning our own farm someday. Daniel and I will both get to do good, honest work we love. And because he’ll be working on the same farm where we’ll be living, we can eat three meals a day as a family. His work load will mean that he’ll have more time than ever before to help with homeschooling and we’ll have more opportunities to spend time together.

HALEYSTEWARTPhoto by Simone Perrone

And maybe it’s because we read too much Wendell Berry in college, but it’s very important to us that our family has a connection to the food we eat and the land where it’s grown. We believe those things matter. And whether it’s the raised beds of vegetables and the chicken coop we’ve had in our front yard in the city, or the farm where we’ll be living in a few weeks, it’s a priority for our family to raise our kids with that knowledge.

In the past year and a half, we’ve done lots of soul searching to discover what’s important to our family, and what changes we need to make in order for our life to match those ideals. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve gotten rid of at least half of our possessions. We’ve scrimped and saved. We had our home on the market for almost four months while homeschooling three small children there (that was the worst part, never again). And then everything from figuring out health insurance to finding a new pediatrician has been a huge headache.

When we got ready to share our big news, I felt a little nervous, a little embarrassed that we were giving up a perfectly good, comfortable life. As if being able to pay your bills means that you aren’t allowed to want anything else, or consider what other opportunities might make your family thrive.

But since making the announcement that we’re taking the plunge, the response has been fascinating. What we’ve mostly heard is, “I’m so jealous. I wish I could do something like that!” People have come out of the woodwork to share with us about how they desperately want to be doing work that makes them come alive.

So maybe it’s not so crazy to quit your job, sell your house, and potty train your kid on a compost toilet (okay, that part IS a little crazy). But considering all the ways this move will help our whole family to thrive, staying in a safe, comfortable life and ignoring our dreams sounds far crazier.

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  1. Katy

    Good for you! I hope you plan to keep us updated on your great adventure. Going against the grain isn’t easy, but it is so worth it. If we hadn’t decided to make the changes we did, I cannot imagine how life would be.

  2. kariane

    My oldest son potty trained himself one day at 2.5yrs when he came in and announced, “Mama, I peed outside just like [our dog].” He wore underwear after that, continued peeing in the yard for a month or so before moving into the toilet, and never had an accident. I say go for it with the compost toilet. No problem there.

    I love that you’re pursuing your dream. I also stepped away from a “good career” to pursue mine. It’s been over a decade, and I still love it, though it’s definitely not the easiest route. Enjoy yourselves!

  3. Karen

    This sounds like a wonderful (though also hard) adventure!

    Our house is about to go under contract after 6 months on the market and I am ready to be able to plan that big family trip for next summer! THAT is what I would do if I could do anything! 🙂

    • Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas

      We are taking our first long family road trip (six weeks!) this summer and we’re so excited. It just wasn’t in the cards until now! I hope everything goes great with the sale of your home. We JUST signed our closing papers yesterday and now I feel free as a bird.

  4. Caroline Starr Rose

    Congratulations! I love this sort of thing.

    I quit a perfectly wonderful teaching position to write full time. I’d been writing for eleven years at that point, and while I had many manuscripts under my belt, I had no agent or sale. On paper, it was ridiculous. In life, it was time. Four months later, I had an agent. Four months after that, a book deal. While writing will never bring in a steady pay check, I am doing what I’ve always wanted to. I’m definitely speaking from a place of privilege — my husband’s job pays for insurance, for example — and I’m grateful for the opportunity to even contemplate a leap like this.

    Here’s to an equally rewarding road-less-traveled existence!

  5. Rachel

    Hooray for farming! I’m married to a farmer, and the life is wonderful though at times grueling. May I give you just one tidbit of advice as a fellow farmwife? If you intend to spend more time together as a family, prepare to spend some time bouncing along with your man on the 4-wheeler, tractor or whatever. It makes wonderful memories, he will love sharing his job/life with you, and it will (during some seasons) be the ONLY time you really get to spend with him!

    I’ll be looking for updates! Have fun!

  6. Julie

    My husband and I love Wendell Berry!

  7. Susan

    What a gift that your husband knew what he wanted and had a passion to achieve it! So many people have a hard time even getting to that place.

  8. Carrie

    I don’t have personal experience with potty training on a composting toilet but imagine it might even be easier than a regular flush toilet. No scary sounds with flushing to keep your little one nervous about using it.

    Congrats on seeing your dream come true. Best wishes to you and your family on this new adventure.

  9. Dana

    Best to you on this wonderful adventure. Almost 14 years ago when I was 7 months pregnant with our firstborn, my husband called me on his way home to let me know he had just resigned from his very-stable-but-suffocating-to-him job. I had already given notice at my workplace since we had planned for me to be home full time with our soon-to-be newborn. He decided to start up a business with a colleague, and was able to jump off the treadmill he was unhappily on. Since then, we’ve had four children and many successes, as well as our share of bumps along the way. We’ve seen that life isn’t as it’s portrayed on Madison Avenue, but rather much more real.. sometimes raw and other times surprisingly and crazily joyful. I admit I’ve had fleeting moments of wanting more security, but there’s a Hand that guides us, sustains us, and provides us everything we really need. Enjoy your journey!

    • Kim K.

      Perfect! Beautifully said.

  10. April

    I feel like I could have written parts of this. On a recent road trip, I asked my husband the same thing. “What makes you come alive?” And he knew right away that he could answer, “Not this job.” So, we’re at the beginning of this process. We think ultimately it will involve an RV and a long stint of travel with our kids around the country, but that’s just an idea so far. I’ll be watching this with great interest to see where this journey takes your family. Right now, we’re still looking for the road map for our adventure. 😉

  11. Tracy B

    For this one success story, you can’t ignore the thousands of folks who’ve tried this and had their world blow up as a result. Keeping your family in food, clothes and a roof over their heads is nothing to sneeze at. So the job is hard…so it’s not what you’d rather “do with your life”. Taking care of your family and not throwing their lives into uncertainty if you can possibly prevent it is pretty darned heroic.

    • India


  12. Wendy

    If we all did what we’d love to do. .we would be happier. And yes, there would still be people to do the core stuff. It is just sad that people try to squash your dream. We tell children to dream all the time. .and we graduate. .Or start a family and poof..dreams are gone. .it is time for reality and pay bills. Maybe when you retire you can live. That is bs.. I’m 40 and I’m sick of this 9 to 5 stuff.

  13. Linda Sand

    One of my favorite bumper stickers says, “Farming is everybody’s bread and butter. ” Thanks for doing this work from which the rest of us benefit.

    I know several very happy families who quit their jobs, learned how to work on-line, and moved their families into RVs to travel the USA. There’s nothing else like learning history on the site where it happened.

    And there’s nothing else like learning where our food comes from by being part of its production. I fully support your decision.

  14. Roni

    You’ll NEVER regret this decision to connect with your family and dream like never before. I’m impressed you’ve chosen to follow your path, not the world’s path. I’ll look forward to more fabulous stories as you continue to live and raise your family fearlessly. Yes, you are….

  15. Jane

    Sounds exciting! My only experience of a composting loo is when we stayed at a friends gorgeous straw bale house for a week’s holiday. I had a 2 year old boy still in nappies and a 3 1/2 year boy toilet training. The 3 year old was actually scared of falling into the toilet, this one had a big drop, and so refused to use it. The other thing was trying get the kids to understand that you can’t put whatever you like down the toilet, hopefully the jocks that fell in composted. Also that it needs to stay mostly dry and you cant put lots of toilet paper in because someone has to empty it when the whole thing is full. Oh it will be a great experience! Though maybe stick with a separate potty to start with.

  16. Shannon

    Haley! So cool to see you writing here! Carrots and The Art of Simple are two of my very favorite blogs, and there were two new posts from you today on BOTH, what!!! By the way, my husband and I are also Wendell Berry fans–we got to see him speak at a little bookstore in KY when we lived there and it was pret-ty neat:) Thanks for writing about pursuing your dream. We’ve have had some discussions of our own, sparked in part by your writing about your big news.

    • Shannon

      delete extra *have :}

  17. Sandy

    “As if being able to pay your bills means that you aren’t allowed to want anything else, or consider what other opportunities might make your family thrive.”

    That is a wonderful phrase. I can imagine the fear you had in telling people what you were about to do. We are at a different stage in life and I have no passion to pursue. It is a very empty feeling. I am so glad that you have found a passion and are willing to walk out there. I think this will turn out beautifully for you. Our story didn’t follow passion but it did involve stepping out -my husband sold his solo CPA practice after 10 years of 80 hour work weeks when he aged about 20 years. He did not have anything to move on to but we did have the income from the sale of the business to tide us over. As he was searching for another job he was approached by former coworkers about starting a new business. 11 years later they sold that and we retired before the age of 60. It was a matter of being in the right place and position to take that chance and we were lucky. I remember the fear of what people would say about walking away from a very successful business with no real security on the other side. It will all be good and it sounds wonderful. Enjoy all of that time with your kids.

  18. Amy

    This sounds great, but be prepared for hard work and culture shock! I moved from a city to a small town and couldn’t believe how different it really was. It took me years to get use to things and to really enjoy the hard work of it all. I totally romanticized the country life and when I finally got over what I expected and excepted the way life really was going to be I found some peace. I can’t wait to hear more about your ‘adventure’ and how things work out.

    The hardest part of homeschooling for me was the lack of personal (mom) time. I incorporated ‘dad school’, where the kids once a week (Friday afternoons mostly) went with dad and he taught them things I couldn’t (change a tire, check the oil, work with chickens, and so on). That gave them a more well rounded education and me some time to do what I wanted (this was NOT time to catch up on housework or plan more lessons).

    My husband and I also had a similar conversation in January of 2013. I decided we would move to S. Korea for a year-we had tons of different reasons, but one was to have the kids get to know my husband better (he was a truck driver for the first 7 years of our children’s growing years). We were in Korea by May 2013 and returned home June 2014. It was perfect and we accomplished so many of our ‘wants’ during that time that I have felt a satisfaction in life that I haven’t felt in years,

    You can do this and it will be frustrating, maddening, tiring, energizing, educational, and rewarding!

  19. Andrea

    Good for you–pursuing your farming dream. All the best! One thought I’d share as a full-time farm family. After 7 years of homeschooling we are having to stop due to the demands of the farm. We simply can’t farm and school. One or the other is done poorly if we attempt both. And the three meals a day together might not happen also because of the demands of farming. We aim for two shared together but often only get one. That 40 hour work week becomes 80 hours. We feel farming is worth it but we also are very aware what we’ve given up and the main thing is family time. If our kids want time with us they come work alongside us which is wonderful as they are gaining an amazing work ethic.

  20. Anna Brown

    HIya, I wish you well. We had a compost toilet for nearly 2 years while we lived in an old library van out girls were 3 and 7 when we moved in. They loved our compost toilet, the biggest plus side was when I dropped my phone in it. it simply landed on clean sawdust. No harm done. We would have installed one in our house but building regs in the UK wouldn’t allow it. Loads of love and blessings on your journey.

  21. Gillyan

    This makes me feel so much better about my insane decision to move away from everything and everyone I know in New York City (I know, who LEAVES New York??) to be an art teacher/nanny in San Diego, California where I know NO ONE AT ALL. It sucks a lot of the time and I question myself every day, but I can’t pretend that I’m not ridiculously happy waking up exactly where I want to be 🙂
    If it’s meant to be it’ll all work out, I promise!!

  22. Melissa

    Awesome! Best of luck! Yes, keep us posted, please!
    Hope to do the same someday! 🙂 We are a family of 7 thriving in a 700 sq. ft. house! Now for the farm part… 😉

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