Letter Re: Preparing Your Spouse

Mr. Rawles,
Several years ago I took a serious fall and was out of commission for several months. My husband had to completely take over the household responsibilities during that time. Fortunately, he was working at home and I was available to give him direction and information. Had I not been, he would have really struggled to figure out just how I got things done. As he was buttoning up the house in preparation for winter this year it occurred to me that, if he were suddenly unavailable, I too would be at a loss to remember all of the details that go into his part of household management. Realizing that each of us has a critical role to play in running our mini farm put me to work on putting together a plan that will provide each of us with a guide for taking over should we be thrust into managing alone.

I started with two simple three ring binders, a sheaf of notebook paper and twelve pocket dividers for each notebook. Each divider is a one month plan. I use the notepaper to jot down what we each do each month. November would include things like planting the seed garlic, getting my daughter a birthday gift and ordering the turkeys (for me) and getting the cider press under cover, turning the compost heap and replacing furnace filters (for my husband). I use the divider pockets for things like business cards of businesses we use or to hold index cards with instructions for various tasks. This month, we have to get new tires put on the truck so the pocket will hold the information on tire size and the contact information for the business we use. In December, when I usually put in a big wheat order, I will include the recipe I use for the bread we all like, the contact information for the farm I order the wheat from and directions for how I store it.  My husband knows when to order a load of compost for the garden and I know when the fiddleheads will be out. He will note when he orders new queens for the hives and I will jot down where the best place is get the kids new sneakers.

These may seem like small things but they aren’t. They are the details that make this house run smoothly. It is very easy to lose sight of the contributions of a partner, especially when they are done so well as to be invisible in execution. For instance, I expect that no one in my family actually notices when I make up a new batch of laundry soap. It just appears. I never see my husband sharpen the saw blades. I just know they are always good to go.

If we are both diligent in keeping our notes, in one year we will have a comprehensive guide to what needs to be done, when and how it is managed. An added benefit is that it will be kind of gratitude journal. We each know the other works hard but to see it on paper will probably be an eye opener. I know my husband had a new appreciation for just how much I accomplished when he had to do it.

If a crisis catches one of us away from home, the other is going to have to do the work of both. How much easier it will be with a guide. – A Prepared Wife