Farm Fridays: Death Days

More syrup boiled, no lambs yet. Death continues to visit the farm, this time wearing me as its guise. Today I slaughtered the eighth chicken from the smaller flock, an egg-eater caught in the act. The farmer leader commented that at the rate it’s going, I’ll make enough Horcruxes to live forever.

References aside, I have never been so consistently exposed to death before coming to the farm. I have never personally dealt death, before coming to the farm. I’m still mulling over the experiences, what it means for me to care for the animals, to be involved in all parts of their life and death. And it is a caring, even in death. To care for the dead, is both a mundane and profound experience simultaneously. Even with chickens. Perhaps especially with chickens and the other animals on the farm, because I look after them and care for them while fully aware that I will later consume them. It is a most holy symbiosis.

I don’t have more than that today. The first full day of spring carried light snow flurries, and I brought death even as I turned my thoughts a step closer to planting and new life. It’s all interwoven; it’s all cyclical.

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Farm Fridays: Syrup, Seeds, and Snow

Sunday into Monday saw the unexpected death of the oldest ewe, Dollie, from a suspected case of pregnancy disease. (Not kidding, that’s what the condition is called.) Sheep are tricky when it comes to illness; once they start showing symptoms, you have between 24-48 hours before they die. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time.

More heartening news: the first batch of maple syrup has been boiled, and my house received our first 750ml bottle of it. It’s light, with a sweet, almost buttery flavour. Pancake breakfast tomorrow!

I’ve also been inventorying the seeds the farm has on hand. Despite the three inches of powdery snow we got this week, with more to come tonight, the greenhouses are beginning to thaw out. As long as temperatures don’t plunge again too far, we’ll be able to start working the beds by Equilux.

Soon, we start seedlings. The year is waking up, shaking off the slumber of winter, slowly but surely.

Posted in Farm Friday

Farm Friday: Dispatch 1

Each week we take a look at what’s up on the sustainable farm and life-sharing community I’m currently living at until early August. Follow the seasons with me and press your fingers on the lifebeat of a farm.


The sap is running! We hope. 38 sugar maples have been tapped in anticipation of the warm weather we’re slated to have over the next few days. This will help stop the farm from being the icy death trap it’s been aiming for. (We’ve been in winter for so long that warm means anything above freezing. My personal cold perception has settled into three categories: scarf worn over the mouth; scarf worn over the nose; and, ice crystals freezing to one’s eyelashes.)

The greenhouses are thawing out though. We’ll be able to start building beds and planting early lettuce and spinach within a week.

The five ewes are inhaling impressive amounts of hay as they enter the end of their pregnancies. Because all ewes have different gestation periods, the lambs can arrive any day between now and May.

A neighbourly boar arrived today for a few weeks’ stay with our two huge sows, Sweet Pea and Bacon. Depending on when the piglets are born later this year, we’ll know if it was the work of this boar, or the one who was visiting before. (I’m hoping for the first boar–he’s a mulefoot!)

We’re finally at roughly two dozen eggs a day again, primarily thanks to the big flock. The small flock will get smaller as I continue to catch and slaughter the egg-eating hens.

Our lovely heifers are weathering the winter nicely. Victoria gives us about two gallons of milk a day, while the old matriarch Violet gives probably less than two cups. Victoria’s daughter Gingersnap isn’t milking yet, and is expecting her first calf in early June. The bull calf Vern is slowly getting stantion-trained, though his head’s too small to make use of his stantion yet. Soon!

And last but not least, our sassy-pants Morgan horse Amos is still very unhappy about being snowed inside. I’m leading him daily, and training him out of some bad habits as we do so, but he’s craving a good snow melt.

Posted in Farm Friday

Drop Everything and GO! 3 Steps to Never Losing an Idea Again

One week ago today I got blind-sided by a new project. You know the feeling–an idea so exciting, so terrifying that it makes your heart race thinking about it for too long. By too long, I mean more than thirty seconds.

A week later, I’m one week from launch (Oct 1st!), have a day-by-day list of action steps in place leading up to that launch, and feel like I have my shit together for once.

Guys, this never happens. So I’m going to go back and documenting what I did from that initial point of creative Best Idea Ever epiphany, in the hopes that I’ll be able to do it again in the future.

Told Someone About It

Around the time when I realized that sleeping was not an option because my head was so fired up about my new project, I told my partner. The positive feedback and encouragement to pursue this idea (even if it meant putting other projects on hold) went a long way to avoiding possible guilt about jumping projects. It went even farther in securing my motivation to take the next steps.

Wrote It All Down

I was terrified of going to sleep and losing my initial burst motivation. My two-hour oops-you-thought-you-were-sleeping-tonight conversation with my partner was conducted over text, which made this step fairly easy. I already had the words down in the text record; failing that, I would’ve jotted down key points in a notebook that lives next to my bed. Writing it all down captured enough of my motivation to carry over to the next day.

Designated My Immediate Next Action

Since I had already tanked my bedtime by close to three hours, I decided my immediate next action was listing what I would do the next day. First on that list was create an action plan for the rest of the week. With only two or three things blocked off each day, my list was designed to give me achievable, trackable units of progress. I also had a side-column of actions that weren’t 100% necessary to launching the product, but would be nice to do. If I found myself with extra time on any given day, I would shift to that secondary list.

This seems like straight-forward advice, and it is. I’ve heard these steps before, separate from each other. First time implementing them in conduction with each other, and I’m sold.

Quick recap:

  • Sharing it with another person created mid-communication clarification.
  • Rather than jot down one or two lines about the idea, I brain-dumped enough info to re-excite me later when I went over it in the morning.
  • When I reviewed my midnight revelation, I crystallized it into a plan of action that would carry the idea to fruition.

Now I’m poised to strike out on my first ‘official’ business. I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t followed these steps.

How do you capture out-of-the-blue ideas? Share below in the comments!


Posted in productivity Tagged with: , , ,

Can’t Focus? Check Your Health Stats

Too often we approach a project with guns blazing, inspired to create amazing stuff, but find ourselves distracted and listless in what feels like a short amount of time. Before despairing about how you can’t focus, lack the motivation for this schtick, will never get anything done, check your health stats.

As a long-time D&D fan, both playing and running campaigns, the gaming metaphor comes naturally to me. Here’s the concept:

Imagine you have a thin green bar floating above your head. That’s your energy bar. When it’s full, you’re ready to go; when it’s empty, you’re too tired to do anything. Getting stuff done lowers your energy bar, and the task’s difficulty determines the amount of energy it takes. Tying your shoes? Next to no energy loss. Running a marathon? Probably the whole energy bar.

As this bar empties, focusing on a single task because more difficult. That lack of focus is often your first warning sign that you’re running low on energy. When your attention starts to wander, look for ways to replenish your energy bar. The first culprits and often times easiest fixes for low energy are your health stats.

Your Health Stats

These three categories are key to not only starting with a full energy bar, but refilling it throughout the day.

Water: Dehydration is rarely given the credit it deserves as a force of ill in your life. It causes headaches, crankiness, and will destroy any hope you have of focusing. If you’re not sure that you’re dehydrated, two rough guides will help: if your piss is yellow, you’re dehydrated. If there are little bubbles in your spit, you’re dehydrated. Thankfully, this is an easy one to fix–drink some water! (Preferably with electrolytes in it, preferably not all at once.)

Food: This one is more well-known and just as misleading. You don’t to be starving before lack of food will affect your focus. You just need to be hungry at all. As a very rough guideline, biological males need to eat approximately every six hours, whereas biological females need to eat approximately every four. Listen to your body and discover where your personal rhythm is. I can practically set my watch by how regularly I need to eat. Again, to fix this all you need to do is eat a meal.

Sleep: Everyone knows about this one, and it can be the hardest to fix. I’m going to skip the time-honoured “you need eight hours of sleep” line because frankly I don’t know how much sleep you need. I happen to need eight hours; you might need more or less. Again,  listen to your body. Anyone who’s ever had to deal with school beyond fifth grade knows how hard it is to get through the day when you’re tired. The best fix is preventative; failing that, take a nap (either 10-20 minutes, or 90 minutes. Anything in between will leave you groggy and feeling more tired.) Failing that, responsible use of caffeine.

Dealing with Low Health Stats

Having just one of your health stats off will damage your focus. Two or more, and you’re in for a rough time. Out of whack health stats mean lower stress tolerance, less patience, greater chance of arguing over nothing, poor judgment/decision making, greater chance of messing up behind the wheel–it’s a long list. Thankfully, it’s all avoidable.

Once you notice a health stat needs adjustment, make it your priority. No really–the boost you’ll get from drinking water/eating a meal/etc is absolutely worth the time it takes away from working on your essay/business plan/miniature rocket.

Be gentle with yourself. Realizing that your focus is gone due to health stats does not automatically readjust them. Guilt-tripping yourself for having to fix them is unhelpful. Understand that you’re not quite up to snuff at the moment, and that you can fix it.

It’s common practice among my friends to give a verbal warning if we notice a health stat needs work. “Hey guys, to let you know, I’m food crashing.” This heads up lets everyone know that we not at our best, we’re aware of it, and we’re taking steps to fix it. Being patient and understanding of friends with low health stats goes a long way to avoiding unnecessary fights and preserving relationships. (Honest to gods, every time my partner and I have had an argument, one or both of us have been dehydrated/food crashing/sleep dep’d.)

With a little awareness, you can keep up your focus and live happier.

How are your health stats right now? Tell us a time when low health stats were a problem–how did you fix it?

Posted in health, productivity Tagged with: ,

Dear Me: A Letter to the Me from 2008

I’m working through Emilie Wapnick’s excellent eBook The Renaissance Business and the second chapter challenged me to consider what advice I’d give if I met myself five years ago. This is the resulting letter. If personal insights aren’t your thing, feel free to pass on this one. If you think tough love can be constructive and uplifting, read on. (Warning: it’s long. I was in a crummy place five years ago.)

Dear Me,

You’re about to go to college, congrats! This is you/me from five years into your future–it’s currently 2013 and I’ve been out of college for a year already. (Spoiler: you graduate on time, yay!) I have some pearls of wisdom I’ve choked on over the last few years that you’ll find useful, but before I get to that I want to give you a few quick mood-boosters right off the bat: you do get your double major and minor, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude. Dude, nice job!

More spoilers! Within the next five years, you will: go to three different countries because you speak the languages; start a blog; have your worldview shattered and reformed through life-changing revelations about health, relationships, friendships, identity, money, and more; go to the hospital twice; move to two  different states; meet some frikkin’ amazing people; participate in the largest nationwide protests this nation has ever seen; start your own business; and be happier than you currently think possible.

Sounds fun!

There will be rough patches. You’ll stay in a relationship until things fall apart beyond repair and you work up the courage to walk away for your own good. Heads up: that’ll hurt beyond imagination. You’ll also push yourself harder than is smart in junior and senior year, to the point where breakdowns and internal-compression freakouts occur monthly. Those will also suck. And you’ll get through it.

I’ve learned so much in the last year I’m having trouble condensing it into advice…

Okay first, good job keeping up a (fairly) reasonable sleep schedule. It’s a major reason why you don’t completely lose your shit from stress over the next few years.

Second, kudos on mostly intelligent food choices. Try to cut out more sugar, increase the amount of dark leafy greens you eat, and front-load calories in the morning. Oh and stop eating gluten, but you’ll figure that out in about a year.

Next, remember all that exercise you got from colour guard in high school? Aside from keeping you fit, it was also keeping you sane. News flash, past self: you get anxious has hell when you don’t exercise. No really. Yoga is amazing and saves my sanity. Try that coupled with tai chi and maybe something with cardio, your choice.

So many health concerns. Here’s another: don’t wait to get scoliosis treatment. I am dead serious. Those headaches you get? Yeah, that’s from your back. Too much sitting, too much head tilted down to read. The exercise you’ll get from the previous advice will help, but don’t push yourself too hard. Toughing it out until you’re limping doesn’t win you any points. If people think it does, stop hanging out with them, they’re poisonous. You’re allowed to be picky about who gets your time– if they doubt you, ditch them.

I think that’s it for physical health– WAIT I LIED! Take fish oil, calcium, and vitamins D and all the B’s. Your cramps will stop. Start studying herbalism while you’re at it.

Okay, actually done with health tips now. What’s next, productivity? You’re going to learn time-management skills over the next few years. Write down all your assignments, keep a weekly list of thing you need to get done, and schedule out your time. Use the Pomodoro method to help with focus and switch up tasks if necessary. Set goals, tell people about them so they hold you accountable. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet them. Perseverance is key here.

Now for advice that sounds scary up-front: start thinking about what you want your life to look like. Paint a vivid picture of your ideal day from start to finish. Ditch the idea that you’ll be poor forever (you won’t be) or that you’re bound to hate your job (who said anything about a job?)

I’ll say it outright: you are brilliant and determined, a powerful combination in life. You are literally designed to break the status quo. Hell, your very existence breaks the status quo–wait ’til you see what happens when you put some energy behind that. We are building a life where we enjoy our work, can travel as we’d like, study what/when/where/how we’d like, all while helping a lot of people. The faster you realize how frikin’ talented you are, the faster we reach that future.

That free time you have? Use it to keep writing. Stop selling yourself short: you’re good at it. Expand beyond fanfics to include a blog (doesn’t have to be niche-specific) and be confident knowing you have done, are doing, and will do astounding things. You’re not going to be poor; you’re not going to fail at life; you’re not going to lose your dreams. In fact, you’re going to grow bigger ones. And achieve them. Fantastic things are coming your way– people, opportunities, experiences. Enjoy them, learn from them, and know that your future fucking rocks, for one reason above all others:

You built it that way.

tl;dr: Stop doubting yourself, you’re badass!

From the future with love,


P.ostS.cript: I’m living on a farm right now. It’s fun, you’ll like it.

What advice would you give your past self of five years ago?

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