Thursday, December 22, 2016

Day 9 of the News Fast

In the last week, I've been completely disconnected from everything. I've stayed off the computer, kept the radio on music, and basically only exchanged pleasantries with strangers when I was out and about. 

 For the first four days of this last week the weather was warm and gorgeous and I spent the days outside. I had a Purpose and a goal. I was committed to finishing a big project, so there was no time for surfing because I was working (and had left my phone in the house). 

When the weather turned cold for a few days, I stayed inside and found that I had broken the habit of checking in to Facebook (WOO HOO), but was instead curling up on the couch  binge-watching TV shows on Netflix....nothing wrong with that if you just do it now and again, but I put in three days of it AND I wasn't doing anything while I watched. 

In the four days of outdoor work I had realized two things about me and my computer....I was sitting down at the computer or pulling out my phone every time I paused for physical rest or between tasks, every time my head went bored or blank. I was also spending inordinate amounts of time on the computer when I got up of a morning and didn't have a plan. I was filling every void with news and Facebook. I had stopped allowing myself to be quiet, still, and mindful. 

Yesterday, we celebrated the Solstice...just JC and I. We had breakfast out, went to the movies, shopped for books, did our evening chores, and had one of our favorite dinners while watching a movie. All the voids were filled, no urges to curl up and waste the day in front of Netflix streaming endless drivel, no need to see what everyone else was doing on Facebook. We had a plan and a Purpose (spend the day together).

This News Fast has had some unexpected results already....some revelations I wasn't expecting, so I'm going to push it another step and next week I'm going to give up Netflix TV shows. 

17 in the queue
There are 21 books on my bedside table (I think I've read 2 of them already and I'm reading 2 simultaneously). Next week's focus: no news and less screen time. 

NOTE: I am writing these posts here as rough drafts, please read them as such.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Day 2: Better Sleep?

I just got home an half hour or so and I had thought that I wouldn't sit down to write tonight as it is late for me, but after my shower I've got enough energy to recap today, Day 2 of the News Fast. 

First of all, I slept really well last night for the first time in weeks and weeks. Usually I wake up to go to the bathroom and then lie awake for hours fretting and thinking until, just before time to get up, I doze off again. Last night, I got up; I laid down; I fell right back to sleep...that never happens. Of course, it might not have been the reduced screen time and the lack of worrisome news, but just the fact that I was tired because I worked hard yesterday.

Today, I did not even have to fight any urges to check Facebook. None. I was surprised by that...I was also ass deep in dead, brown, dusty plants that needed to be removed from the garden beds. I set out to get the garden cleaned up and I did it...all tidy. So tonight I suspect I'll sleep well again and tomorrow we still won't know if I'm sleeping well because I'm so very tired or if lack of fret-worthy fodder is allowing me to turn off my head at night. 

Whole Garden: Pano (Isn't my greenhouse cute?)
Tomorrow I'm going to be making mulch, spreading mulch, and hauling mulch. I have plans and things are getting done, so for now I'm going to credit the reduced screen time for getting all of this done and I'll keep you posted on the rest....

The Longest Row

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Day 1: No News is Good News

Whew! I strongly suspected that I had an unhealthy attachment to Facebook in particular and surfing in general and today proved it. I'm going to tell you the truth, but I'm a little embarrassed. 

Apparently, I must check Facebook dozens and dozens of times each day. I say this because that is how many urges I had to pick up my phone or open my computer today. Literally beginning just minutes after my alarm went off I had to remind myself that I wasn't looking at Facebook or the news for the next month....WHILE I WAS STILL IN BED, y'all. That is embarrassing. 

Another sad and embarrassing thing...apparently, Facebook friends keep me company when I eat all my meals and snacks. Yep, every time I made a meal or a snack I headed for my computer...every.single.time. 

Also surprising was the number of times I considered checking Facebook on my phone while on the potty....I'm just straight up ashamed of that one. Really?

I also had to go to the dentist today and they were running late and I had to practically sit on my hands to keep from reaching for my phone...that was just boredom.

Despite the repeated urges to sit down at the computer or get my phone, I didn't break. I swear. I read a magazine while I ate breakfast and lunch. I watched Netflix while I ate dinner. During the day, while working outside I found that leaving my phone inside was the best policy because yep, I had the urge to just "rest for a minute" and I'd reach for my phone. 

I also found myself thinking in Facebook pictures and posts. I "took" pictures and "wrote" captions in my head as I know, the kinds of things you post on Facebook. 

I was proud of myself for not breaking, but ended up feeling kind of pathetic (on the potty, really??). 

Harry Hou and his girls making more compost.

When I found myself sort of feeling anxious and out of sorts this evening and the urge to open the computer was strong, I dragged out my Wreck this Journal or my "Wrecking Journal" as I call it. I sketched the husk of a cotton bole and started on some ornamental pear leaves.
Wrecking the Wreck this Journal (by Keri Smith)

I suspect this will actually get harder the longer I go. I tried to be mindful and listen today when I felt the urges to "check in"...It seems like every time I paused in a task, I reached for something to fill the pause. That is my observation for today. Tomorrow, I'm going to work on WHY I'm doing that...

The News Fast: Breaking my Addiction to Facebook.

For the past month or so, I’ve been down…deep, deep down. It’s really nothing new for me to feel melancholy as the days get shorter in the fall, but this year has been different. In addition to my “normal” seasonal blues, I’ve been deeply affected by the recent election and the Pandora’s box of ugliness it released. I’m finding that I fret too much. I worry. I regret. I feel helpless and hopeless. I forget to eat. I cry too much and I scream too much.

I find I cannot stop myself from reading the news and my reactions run between intense sadness and an unhealthy rage and everything in between. With every new item I read I pick up a few more pounds of burden…please understand that for me emotional burden is just as heavy as physical burden (such are the perils of chronic depression and anxiety). I literally feel like I am being crushed to the ground by the weight of the world. 

In addition to the weighty burden of bad news, I find myself more and more at my computer, researching, reading, posting, reacting. I’ve begun to feel like the I might be a little addicted to the newsfeed…compulsively checking my Facebook page a zillion times a day…scrolliing, scrolling, scrolling…too much bad news, too many things I can’t ignore. It's a little paralyzing. And while I don’t want to ignore what is going on, I feel like I need to isolate myself for awhile to heal, to think, to process. 

I need some time to find balance again…I need some emotions other than sad and angry. I need my time back too.  

So, I’ve decided to begin a News Fast….just for a month…from today December 13th until January 17th. I’ve made some rules for myself, but really the goal is to free myself for a bit from all the negativity so I can come back stronger, better, smarter, kinder in the new year. 

As I’ve been thinking of this News Fast for the past few days I can feel the time opening up for me…I see time for yoga, and walks, and books, and paints, and fabrics, and recipes, and experiments that I will have time for when I close my computer. 

Don’t get me wrong…I’ll still have to use the internet…we don’t have TV service, so I get my weather online…and you are out of your head if you think I’m giving up Netflix!, but I just want to shut off the bad news for a bit. I’m thinking I can limit myself to Pinterest, ADDS (weather) and Netflix for the month, necessary research (ie. addresses or business hours), and of course, shopping. 

I’ve been making a list for myself for this month and I’m generally excited for the first time in a long time:
  • go outside, walk
  • be creative, 
  • work hard, 
  • finish projects, 
  • make things, 
  • collect leaves, 
  • watch birds,
  • hand gin the cotton
  • make a rag doll
  • make oak gall ink
  • write on the blog
  • take photos
  • try dying fabric with food
  • get the garden ready for spring

My goal is to write about the experience here and we will see how that goes because I don’t want to “over-schedule” myself…

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August Break Photos: August 4,5, and 6

I bet you were thinking that I had fizzled out, just 4 days in....but No, I've been taking my photos every day and thinking about them a bit. You know, thinking about WHY those were the images I associated with a single word.

Although I've been keeping up with the photos I just haven't had the time to post them. I did post a "sweetness" photo from the road....but I'm adding another one from that day too.

August 4: Sweetness. Gluten-free Almond/Lemon Donuts!

August 5: Midday

August 6: I'm reading.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 3: Handwriting

August 2: leaf

 Today's photo assignment was: leaf.

While I was drawn to many individual leaves it seemed most meaningful to capture the leaves above me who were offering me shelter from the sun. This is the same tree whose lower leaves had fed the goats just minutes before. Food and shelter...two basic needs.

Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1: Morning Light

It is deep summer in Texas, hot and dry. The pastures are beat down, but the creek is still running which means it is too soft to mow, which means it is too overgrown to pull electric fences so, every day I lead the eight milkers out to the forest to browse. I follow them, lead them, stay with them for two or three hours---our sojourns dictated by their thirst.

I carry a satchel with yarn and hook, scissors, a book, a water bottle, my phone (camera). I drag along a three-legged camp stool most days too. Today I have a paper and pen, a tiny clipboard for writing this post to be typed later.

Somedays I just sit, mind wandering, some days I crochet with frantic speed, some days I read and frequently find myself left behind (so engrossed in my book that the goats move away from me without my noticing). I take photos and carry on conversations with the goats. I explore and look for feathers and butterflies. 

It is quiet in the woods, not a breath of air most days and I am usually drenched in sweat in my jeans and boots and long sleeves. Despite the heat I'll sit with them or follow them or lead them to better browse. There are days when I am sorely tempted to stay inside after I finish the milking....on those days when the sweat rolls freely and the humidity is almost visible in the air. But this time of year, I go out. Every day.

One, I believe the girls need the variety and abundance that the unfenced portion of our land has to offer. I ask them to do hard bear kids, to produce milk for 12-15 months. I both recognize and respect the toll that such hard work has on them and I honor it by working hard myself. I can give them 2-3 hours of time each day to nourish themselves, since they nourish me all year long.

Caring for the girls can seem like drudgery if you don't look at it from a certain angle. I've chosen to throw off the idea of drudgery and instead embrace the idea of this being my job as a goatherd. I've chosen to go out each day because it is a privilege to share my life with this is a joy to "graze out," it is MY time to think or read or explore.

I won't lie, there are days when I dread it. I dread it until I'm out there and then I revel in it...I relish being in the midst of the herd in the quiet of the forest.

I know someday my grand plan for electric fences will come to fruition and it will no longer be necessary for me to "graze out" with the girls, but for now I enjoy the time, the quiet, the camaraderie of goats.

The above was written while "grazing out" and before I came across Susannah Conway's August Break Challenge. I've wanted to write more here, but, I'm taking Susannah's challenge to post a picture a day, but with it I am challenging myself to also write each day too.

Susannah Conway's August Break
August 1: Wee Tiny Mushroom in the morning light.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Writing and Making Space

Well now, I swore to myself I would write more here this summer and ah well, you see how that is going. But I do "write" every day, in my head....long narratives, funny anecdotes, explanations, justifications, and How-Tos. I "write" all day, every day really because there is no one but goats and dogs to talk to most days. I do most of this "writing" while my hands are doing other things.

It is rare for my hands to ever be idle as the chores of the farm are myriad----milking, cleaning, feeding, watering, harvesting, hauling, chopping, slicing, stirring, get it, or maybe you don't. It is impossible to be idle on the a farm because there is always something to be done.

Writing requires quiet and space and permission to ignore everything else for a sustained period of time. I rarely find that quiet and space and as for the permission...well, I can't give myself a day off. I just can't. I'm driven to work until I drop, because the list is so very long and behind that list in another list and another and another. The work is relentless and I feel a heavy sense of responsibility to the animals and land that I care for. Every day is some version of Overwhelmed for me. Somedays I buzz through the list, others I stress and fret and beat myself up for not being Enough, for not being fast, nor efficient.

But yesterday as I began writing this post (longhand on little paper while "grazing out" with the goats), I had lost sight of the ways in which the Universe intervenes sometimes. As I took the goats back to the barnyard and the secure pasture, I nabbed the naughty Midnight swinging him up into my arms and heard an ugly crackle-pop-snap in my back.

I spent the afternoon on the couch in a funk, a stupor, and bored out of my fucking mind. I don't like to be MADE to lie down, but our bodies tell us what they need. Today, I'm nursing my husband lectured me about taking it easy and asking for help and followed it all with, "I don't know why I'm telling you any of this. You aren't going to do it. You're just going to do what you want. You're stubborn" and he was mostly right, but it really isn't about being stubborn, it is about feeling Purposeful and strong. So, although I get overwhelmed at the daily chores sometimes, I need that Purpose to keep me moving,

Today, I am taking it easy and I keep thinking the word "shirk" and reminding myself that I am not actually shirking my responsibilities, but re-prioritizing to put myself first at least for today. I did my morning chores diligently and well, but I can in and cleaned up and fed myself and had a second cup of tea today. I started in on making cheese, which is sometimes a chore, but was today, a joy to create, To take our (mine and Ruby's) hard work and make mozzarella and ricotta for this week's dinners was a celebration.

I've had my lunch and I've given myself this little bit of time to write and now I'm off to my sewing room to create something...but I don't have an agenda, just the Space I need for myself for today at least.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Looking for Hope

Birdhouse Gourd.
In the interest of being totally and truly authentic I must confess that I have some serious Depression issues. Although I am most plagued in the Winter months when days are short and can be gray and dreary too, I struggle with it year round. Most of the time it is just my own malfunctioning neurons, but sometimes it is the world around me that weighs me down.

Generally in the Spring I am full of Hope. The garden is full of promise, there are goats kidding, trees budding, bees buzzing, birds nesting and I can't help but feel hopeful, but this year...well, this year has been different.

The last weeks of February turned to Spring, warm days and warm nights too and oddly enough I suspect that this early Spring is what started all of this downward sliding that I've been doing. The weirdly warm weather caused problems in the greenhouse and I lost most of my seedlings and I'm feeling now like this may have been the beginning of my funk...we have committed to growing our own food because we simply don't trust anyone to meet our very high standards for organic/chemical free. 

 I know, I know. This is the part where I would tell you, "You should know your farmer," and you should, but here's the thing. I am my own farmer and my standards are HIGH. I only know one person who adheres to standards as high as my own and she, like me, just farms for herself and her family. I'm also not always comfortable asking the hard questions (because really, I already know the answers). 

So, we decided that if my seedlings don't make it, then I just won't grow those plants. I say I'm okay with that, but really I can hardly imagine my summer without a garden. Some part of me is like, "Whew, a summer off!" but I know that in reality I will feel like something is missing. Growing my own food is so important to me. Of course, it doesn't help that this is registering as a Failure and there is no fixing it at this late date.

The warm weather has also brought out the neighbors with their mowers and pump sprayers full of glysophate a little early this year. For a couple of weeks now I've listened to the drone of mowers as people mowed every square inch of their property, acres and acres mowed flat. After mowing they head out with the sprayers to nuke the fence lines and kill the "weeds." During this same time, I have been crawling around our property looking for wildflower seedlings, watching the bees sip nectar and collect pollen, looking for "weeds" that goats like to eat and daydreaming about how much more growing I can do and how much LESS mowing. 

I try very hard to live by the motto "live and let live," so I keep my mouth shut as long as the neighbors stay off our property with their poisons (trespassing with their glysophate has been an issue in the past). What generally happens when I witness them spraying is A. paranoia that they are spraying my fence lines (see above), and B. anger that everyone around me is using chemicals. This year has been different. Oh, I got out the binoculars to make sure everyone was staying on their side of the road and yep, I was angry, but then I just got sad. The crippling melancholy of Winter descended on me and I dropped into a major funk that I'm having trouble shaking. I don't want to leave the farm; I feel like I'm surrounded by the enemy. I haven't been eating. I feel like I could begin sobbing every time I think of all those chemicals, all that we are expected to eat, and breath, and spread on our skin without ever questioning it and I can't even escape it at my home because it is all around me. 

I walk each day past the bee hives and encourage our girls to stay close. I caution them that they can't trust the neighbors with their sprayers and GMO corn. I can envision toxic clouds of overspray coming over my fences, settling on my goats' backs, coating the grass, the leaves, the food they eat. My heart is breaking and there seems like nothing I say or do makes a difference. I'm an educator and some part of me believes that if I talk long enough and loud enough someone will hear, but a bigger part of me believes that people are greedy and lazy and selfish and they want their weed-free, green lawns and sweet corn at whatever the cost. The cost for me is too steep.

I think part of my funk is due to the fact that I just can't fit in to this mentality. I have no tribe. I want to live and let live, but yet, I can't help but feel like I need to speak up. When I don't speak up (because I'm living and letting live) I feel guilty. There are all these conflicting emotions and I feel so very strongly about this that I am making myself crazy (literally) because I don't feel like there is any hope at all that people will be convinced to forego chemicals because they want the green lawn, less work, or that fucking GMO sweet corn.

Today, I saw the pump sprayer come back out across the road and something snapped in me....No, no, no y'all, I did not strap on my holster...I went up there and I roped off a buffer zone to keep my girls out of harms way and then I decided that every time some moron brought out the chemicals I would do something pro-active and positive. After I moved the electric fence, I then went all around the property and hung six birdhouses made from gourds I grew on this land, with seeds I've saved over years and years. Seeds that came with me, and will out last me too. I walked the woods slowly and carefully; I let the earth cradle me and give me gifts. I talked to trees; I stood still; I listened. I heard.

The pond was full of ducks who flew, quacking when I crested the hill. In the woods behind me a woodpecker tapped. High above the hawks called, mating. When I reached to pick up a piece of trash, leftovers from previous owners, I found a cardinal feather, red against the brown leaves. Wild plums are blooming and trees are budding and I found peace and calm out there. This farm is truly an oasis from the chaos and stupidity.

The next time I hear mowers droning all day and I see the sprayers out, I'll find another way to lift myself up. This land is the only affirmation I need that my way, our way is THE way. I suspect I'll keep my mouth shut, it is after all their land (but I share the water and air and I can't say that I'll ever stop feeling uneasy). Maybe this post can serve as a call to action too...or a permission stop mowing, stop spraying, leave things be...

PS. Y'all, I just want to say that if you are reading this blog I appreciate it. Despite the fact that I teach writing and harp on the whole Writing Process, blah, blah, blah...everything I write here is a rough draft, straight from my heart with little to no editing or revising.


Friday, February 12, 2016

February in the Garden and the "Second Life"

February is a strange month for weather here in Texas. Most years it is cold and dreary (at least in my memory) with the occasional warm day fluke. This year has been so very mild that I've got some serious gardening fever, but I know better. So, what do you do in the February garden?

In the greenhouse you can start: Basil, Swiss Chard, Cucumbers, Melons, and Squash. Of course you need to tend to the little seedlings you've already sprouted. Oddly enough I've been more concerned with avoiding cooking the little babies than keeping them warm (which is what you would expect from February). 

Outside, you better have your potato and onion beds prepped and ready, because they go in the ground on Valentine's Day....that is unless it is pouring rain or we are getting some deep freeze that day. With that said, I don't know that I've ever missed my Valentine's Day planting. That is just when you do it. 

The other thing you can do in February (especially when you are having fabulous weather) is to build new beds which brings me to the idea of the "Second Life." Now our farm is pretty productive and we tend to have plenty of milk, cheese, and yogurt. We also have plenty of veggies and even some fruits, but the thing we produce the most of...."waste" and compost. 

Let's just start with that lovely milk I just get milk we feed bagged feed (from the lovely folks at Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill). The feed comes in 50 lb. bags that are made entirely of paper (Yay, Coyote Creek!). We go through around 80 bags of feed a year...that's 80 empty bags. This time of year we hoard some to use as clean pads for obey-gooey just-borned kids, but that still leaves a lot of bags. We don't like waste around here so we've found a second life for those bags.

Coyote Creek Feed Bags heading to the garden.
 We do most of our gardening in raised beds and every year we have to grow a little. We use those paper feed sacks to line the bottoms of the raised bed frames. This serves to kill the grass underneath without adding anything nasty to our growing space.
We also find ourselves with lots of little piles of deadfall in the winter. Some of that makes its way into the house for kindling, some gets left in a pile awaiting the yearly renting of the chipper which turns it into mulch, but some of it goes into the bottoms of the raised beds for drainage and for slow composting. (Look up Hugelkultur).

Pecan Tree Deadfall
For whatever reason, I find the using of all the "waste" materials very gratifying. I love it that I am using something that would otherwise have to be disposed of. I'm not one of those Zero Waste Fanatics and although I just called them fanatics I do respect them...It cannot be easy to live that lifestyle. I'm a little more realistic, because I'm pretty sure I can't run this farm without creating some waste...okay, a LOT of waste. My job then is to use it up, turn something into nothing, redefine my waste and I'm getting pretty good at it.

Raised bed lined with cardboard boxes.
Rather than cart our "waste" to the recycling center (which is a pain in the ass) we try to use as much of it as we can. The above bed is lined with plain cardboard with all the labels and tape pulled off. Remember it's job is just to kill the grass below and this works great too.
Hugelkultur style: feed sacks on bottom, sticks next.
Once the sticks are in the bottom I clean the stalls in the barn and bring out load after load after load of "waste"...both hay and poop. That lovely milk comes from some very messy and subsequently wasteful goats. They drop half of every mouthful of hay on the floor and then (thank goodness) they don't eat it off the floor. Sometimes folks with animals complain about the wasted hay or the volume of poop, but I would never complain about either of's just mulch and compost to me. Those whiners just need to start gardening and give their "waste" a Second Life.
Sacks, Sticks, Hay and Poop

Once I've filled all the beds, I then begin spreading the hay/poop from the barn in beds that are not raised using what I now know is the Ruth Stout Method. For me, "it was the holy shit (no pun intended) there is too much of this...what do I do now?" method. You might say this method is for lazy people, but I'm definitely not lazy. Mostly I'm desperate...desperate to clean the barn and not just make piles of composting materials that will have to be moved again and again. I figured out this deep mulch method after a couple of years of moving the same compost two, three, maybe even four times. Now, I dump it where I would eventually like to plant. It is a slow process, but it yields beautiful results.
Jen's Lazy Method
The picture above was mulched last year. In the picture, I'm just beginning to add another layer of mulch because what you see mid-photo is soil, weedless, lovely soil ready for planting and I. DID. NOTHING. Nothing at all except dump my "waste" and spread it out a bit.

A couple of days ago I cleaned the milkers' barn and moved about 25 loads of beautiful future compost, thus giving their "waste" a Second Life. It helps me to define it as a Second Life. It reminds me that we and the gardens and the animals are connected in inextricable ways. I care for the goats, whose milk nourishes me, whose "waste" nourishes our gardens and feeds us and them. This farm is one big lovely circle and we try to keep all the elements in the loop. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeping all the Balls in the Air: January 2016

With a new year upon us I decided to try a few things to stay more organized, waste less (time and food and energy), and keep better records. It almost sounds like I made a Resolution to get organized, waste less, and keep better records, but really I'm not making any resolutions this year. Really, I swear; resolutions never stick. 

Instead, I did the whole "choose a word" thing for this for me (Authentic) and one for the farm (Simplify). Last year's farm motto was "Work Smarter, Not Harder" so I feel like I'm just continuing 2016 on the foundation I laid last year with my attempts to simplify (and organize) things further. 

If you have more than one job and wear many hats like I do, then you know that keeping all the balls in the air is crazy-hard sometimes. Seriously, it is NOT easy. I only work two days away from the farm, but even on those days I have to do the farm chores too. Some days I juggle like a Master Level Ninja Clown....some days I am just a clown. I have to have routines to get it all done.

The barn command center.

Some time last year I added the chalkboard to the barn. Occasionally someone else does the chores without me there to boss them around, but all the feeding info was in my head. It occurred to me that if I ever got knocked on the head and couldn't do the chores or boss someone around we might find ourselves in trouble. The board immediately came in handy, until we realized that I never updated it when I changed rations. Oops! I rectified that problem and the board is now current and correct and anyone could come in and feed my girls. So a couple of weeks ago I went one step further and I added the dry erase board. This assigns chores to specific days to remind me, or point someone else in the right direction if I'm not there to give orders. So far, things are going pretty smoothly using this system.

One page of the bullet journal.
 Someone (hrmm, hrmm) pointed out that I had not done a very good job of keeping my farm records this year and I almost always screw up the monthly budget by forgetting to add something, so I needed a better way to manage all the papers, receipts, info, and numbers that bombard me all day long.

I googled around and happened upon the idea of a bullet journal and I started immediately. OH MY, you are going to laugh at me when I say this, but this freakin' thing has changed my life! I actually think this Bullet Journal thing might be a cult, but I DO. NOT. CARE. This is awesome. Since today is February 1st I can go on record as saying that this works for me. I've made a few adjustments, but WOW...I kept records for a full 31 days. Accurate, complete records. That's never happened before. NEVER.

So, true to form I'm not doing it exactly like the traditional bullet journal, but this way is working for me. Pictured to the left is the daily column system I'm using. I decided up front what I wanted to keep track of....some is business and some is just fun.

Each day I fill in my "template" which includes: What I'm reading; what I'm watching; what's going on on the farm; how many eggs, how much milk; who milked; what's happening in the garden/greenhouse; the weather; what I'm doing that day; What we are eating that day; money spent; blog post ideas. That might seems like a cumbersome list; however, it is so NOT.

The column prompts are all abbreviated and look like this: R. W. F. Eggs. Milk. Garden. WX. Do. Food, $$, Blog. Same thing every day and so much easier keeping everything in one place.

Each day (or couple of days) I stick in a post-it list of things to do on those days. I mark them off, then record them under the Do category. Instant record keeping and my counters and desk are no longer littered with To Do Lists that we lost or abandoned. One list. I used to feel like nothing was ever getting done because I had 3 or 4 or 5 lists running at once. Now, I feel like I've gotten better at juggling all the things that have to happen in a week. Of course, I've employed a few other sneaky tricks to keep myself on track that didn't come from the bullet journal. Each week I label each of the seven days as either: Work (2), Farm/Garden (2), Sew (2), or Housekeeping/Laundry (1). I use a post-it note to make these days mobile and, if the weather is nice I might switch a farm/garden day for the sewing day. Or if something pops up that needs priority I just swap the post-its. I haven't felt like I was giving all my time to one thing...ahhhh, balance.

 Under the $$ category, I put all the receipts, rounded up, but I also added a page for recording farm receipts and mileage. Again, ALL IN ONE PLACE. I've been a little bit of a Spendy Sue lately and I've been tracking the days that I don't spend anything. Alas, I could do better, but I coded each expenditure as household, personal, crafts, books, or farm. So, sometimes when I'm spending money I'm not actually being naughty and I can tell at a glance what my habits are; which brings me to the Habit Tracker.

Habit tracker.
The Habit Tracker includes quite a bit of legit info, but it also serves as an accountability partner. For example, I would really like to get back to a daily yoga practice...sadly, I only marked three days this month....but next month I can do better. Visually motivating, huh?

I'm tracking a lot of very different things here, and it is cool to see the whole month at a glance. Besides yoga, I am trying to get a walk in each day...this month: 13. I milked 22 days (but was in the barn all 31 days of the month for morning chores). I worked 32 hours at my teaching job. The chickens laid 67 eggs. I did 23 loads of laundry, but only hung 4 on the line. See? Cool, huh?

Besides the daily bullet list and the habit tracker. I included a page at the beginning with goals for that month with little check off boxes to tick off when I accomplish something. I divided my monthly goals into several categories: Garden; Farm; Creative Business; Personal; and Blog. I didn't accomplish every item on the list, but I'm happy with what I did accomplish. I got every thing done that had a specific date, i.e. all the seed starting for this year's garden was done on time (probably for the first time ever).

The beautiful thing about the bullet journal (at least for me) is the idea of "migration". This means that things that don't get checked off this month, just migrate to the next month. I love pressure. I have also been applying the migration technique to the daily To Do sure does make the list less daunting.

Since my bullet journal has a Food category, I'll tell you too that labeling the outside of the freezer is the BEST thing I ever did to help us avoid food waste and stay organized.
Freezer Inventory.
Mom and I have discussed more than once the shared perception we have of our preserved food. 
There is this window of time when you don't allow your to dip into the reserves because it is "for winter," but then winter comes and you're still running to the store each week.

So, after we talked about this a couple of times I challenged myself to cook from the pantry, freezer, and garden. Without this nerdy organizing method I would have NO idea what was in the freezer and it is working really well. Part of the information I included in my bullet journal is the recipes I'm using during this time and perhaps I'll share that in another post.

Well, that's the January recap though it appears to be a major plug for bullet journaling and maybe it is. I'm gushing over this technique. I feel calm and balanced and in control. I know what has to get done: I have time to do it, but if I don't it can just "migrate" to the next page. There is freedom in that and sanity and less call for juggling and more time for Me and Us.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

January Garden Report 2016

 Well now, it is that time of year again...time for retrospection and resolutions. I'm good at the retrospection, but the resolutions? Not so much. Yeah, Yeah I resolved to write more on this blog LAST YEAR and you can see how that turned out. I resolved to write a garden post every month last year and I managed January, but I'm nothing if I'm not hard headed so I'm going to try this again.

So, it's January and here is my Garden Report. So far it has been pretty mild (probably just threw out a major jinxy by saying that), but we are still swampy from a 10 inch rain we got just at the end of the year. The garden is almost 100% prepped for the new season except for a few minors things. I'm still waiting for my compost pile to dry out!!

Last year's garden was a really abundant one (of course, you would know that if I ever blogged about it!). My hopes this year are to produce as much as or more than last year. I still feel like I'm on the steep part of the learning curve even though I'm organized and on time. I keep doubting myself and my I turn the heater on? do I plug in the heat mats? do I need to water? Soak from the bottom or sprinkle from the top? and on and on and on....I wake up thinking about (okay, obsessing about) these things.

Despite it being only 25 degrees when I went out to milk this morning, I went out the greenhouse and puttered about. It was about 40 degrees in there with the heater on and the skies overcast. I had to execute a "do-over" on the cabbage planting because I had dropped the whole flat and blasted the soil (and sadly, 4 tiny babies) out in the stones. UGH! I also started eggplants and tomatillos. Last week I had (with the cabbage seed) also planted 5 types of peppers and parsley. I was sad to see that nothing was germinating....I felt bad; I beat myself up; I got angry and frustrated and then....well, then I read the seed packets...Oops, nothing to worry about. Parsley needs three weeks and peppers need consistent soil temps of around 80 degrees.

I vacillate between being a total nerd (see garden plan diagram from 2015 above and at right) or being totally willy-nilly about the garden and I'm trying to find the middle ground this year.

If you are starting a garden in North Texas yourself here's the run-down (from the nerdy part of me).

In January you can start these seeds indoors:
Broccoli. Cabbage. Cauliflower. Eggplant. Kale. Parsley. Peppers. Tomatoes, and Tomatillos. 

The Bullet List:

  • I use a 50-50 mix of peat moss and perlite (or vermiculite) for starting seeds.
  • I use any container that will hold soil (just remember to punch holes in the bottoms.
  • I use plastic wrap (you know the kind people use to cover food) stretched over the tops of the containers (until they germinate.)
  • I have heat mats, but I'm not sure they are necessary/effective.
  • I am using a greenhouse and a space heater on really cold nights, but no extra lights.
  • I try to keep the pots damp, like a rung-out sponge.
If anyone is following along (and why would you be, since this poor old blog is pretty hit or miss) I hope this helps you get going....and PLEASE please please use ORGANIC seeds for the bees and your health!

EDITED: I thought it might be helpful to add the two major references I use this time of year beside just reading the seed packets (from which you can glean much info).
I use THIS Seed Starting Plan Sheet from Growin' Crazy Acres
I use Maximizing Your Mini-Farm by Brett L. Markham (right now I use it for my notes that I've added the last couple of years, but when it comes to planting time I use this for spacing and such).