The top 5 apps I used in 2016

A screenshot of Google Fit, a GPS created map of part of my chore routine


In 2016 I used a few apps to keep me on track. Below are the 5 that I used the most and gave me a great return on investment, which was zero dollars. I do live in the Google universe, so it’s not surprising that the majority of my most-used apps are part of that world.

Google Keep

Google Keep turns my phone into my my life organizer. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve read that Keep is kind of the poor man’s version of Evernote, and perhaps one day I will upgrade to that app, but right now Keep has everything I need to stay organized and focused, it’s free, and it has a bunch of nifty features.

There’s a few different types of notes to use: lists, sketches, recordings, and photos. You can add other Keep users as collaborators who can then edit any of these notes. This makes it perfect for to-do lists and grocery lists. You can add color coding to any of these notes, and you can add time or place reminders to any note. So for instance you can add a place reminder to a grocery list that will then remind you what to pick up  when you are near your grocery store.

Lists are definitely my way of keeping focused day to day. Creating a list on this app is easy as pie, and you can check off things on your to-do list as you accomplish them and it will retain a crossed-out item below the active list so you know you accomplished something! I love that – If the items just disappeared there wouldn’t be the same sense of satisfaction.

The drawing note function has plenty of variety in terms of brush and pen points, colors, and thickness. You can draw on photos, and even add lists to drawings or images.

The audio recording tool is awesome to record ideas and thoughts – it creates a text and audio file so you then have a text version of your thought. You can take pics or add pics into your notes for visual inspiration, or you can have Keep use Google’s transcribing tools to grab text from a photo, a great application for grabbing business card info and the like.

Keep syncs up with your email contacts, Google Drive, Calender, and so on, so for me as a Google user it’s a fantastic tool . Can you tell I like it?

Weather Underground

As a farmer I need to know what the weather will be like in a few hours, and I need to know what it will be like for the rest of the week. I like Weather Underground best for my weather prediction needs. They have developed a Wundermap which is an interactive weather map in which you can select different layers of information and where I can track weather patterns in real time for personal micro-weather predicting.  I also love the Forecast Day/Hour/Summary Chart – its the most accurate and detailed weather info I’ve been able to find. This app, like Keep, is a must-have for me.

Google Fit

I like to know how active I’ve been all day. It is also helpful and humorous to check out your the mapping of your daily routine – you can see how efficient or inefficient your working patterns are. Since I’m an avid walker, I also like to note my times/distances/steps/calories burned on my walks each day.

Google Calendar

I barely open this app, but now I use it in conjunction with Keep to keep my appointments and remember birthday and events, as well as marking down deadlines for various tasks and jobs.

Podcast Addict

I spend tons of time by myself working outside. When I’m not in the mood to ponder life’s existential questions, I plug in my earphones and listen to podcasts. This player is free and it works well. I like to listen to farming and business related podcasts sometimes, but most of the time I’m looking for humor – I enjoy Judge John Hodgman a lot because I am a geek, and I also check out Put Your Hands Together which has tons of talented comics doing brief sets. Humor is the best medicine and in my mind keeps all my tasks easy and fun.

Let me know if you have a favorite farming app in the comments!

 

 

 

 

-25F wind chill

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I’m sipping on my morning coffee after letting my dog out for her morning business. It’s -16F below out there, with a windchill of -25F. That’s cold. It only takes 30 minutes to get frostbite in these conditions. I’m staying in as long as I can. In these conditions, it makes sense to let your animals stay cozy as possible, nested in their hay and sharing body heat. Keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort and pile on the hay and straw. Keep the wind off your animals, and give them plenty of feed. Feed can be fuel they use to keep warm. Water them with as much as they can drink twice daily.

Life becomes simple at these temps, but it can become dangerous quickly. Protect your skin, and wear layers. You don’t want to sweat and have your sweat freeze, that can lead to hypothermia. Now is the time to become super productive and take breaks every hour, although in weather like this it’s best to take breaks every 30 minutes, for up to 30 minutes or more. Better yet, focus on inside work. Get your taxes done, work on that novel, organize your kitchen. All these things need to be done, and now is the best time to do them.

Extreme weather can be beautiful, remember to play with it – don’t just huddle by the woodstove in fear all day!

play or pay

You know, there is a lot more to the phrase “Follow your bliss” then simply gravitating toward stuff you like to do.

It is one of those phrases seems simple at first but reveals layers of complexity the more that you examine it.

I’ve been noticing these days that I can barely stand some social media sites and at the same time I can’t seem to stop scrolling through the site. Finally I stop, usually after way too long, my break stretching out as my distracted mind finds one more tangent to follow or one more meme to be irritated at. Whatever the case may be, when I close the app and began living my life again, I feel much better. So why do I keep getting sucked into it, and neglecting my real life? There are a number of studies that show how literally physically addicting that type of activity is, but for me there is another layer.

Being self-employed allow someone a lot of freedom to create the daily life that they want to live. As self employed folks we can do whatever we want to to a large degree, but generally those who are successfully self-employed have figured out what works for them in terms of responsibility and productivity. Slacking off doesn’t help with building a business most of the time. But in any case, being self-employed means being self-driven to a large extent. Being self-driven can mean being your own worst critic as well.

Now I know I’m kind of a perfectionist. I can ignore it sometimes, but it’s always there. So even if I pretend something is good enough for now, it is still eating away at me until I improve it. That’s just the way I’m wired right now (I believe we can all change in many ways throughout a lifetime). So when I don’t want to start a project or a task sometimes its because I don’t want to work through all the repetitive stages that I will have to work through in order to get it right. Almost everything productive I do involves this repetition. Repetition is maintenance and practice, and a lot of life seems to boil down to those two things.

What does this have to do with “following your bliss” you may be asking…

First of all, the phrase doesn’t say “be your bliss” or “find your bliss” it says “follow your bliss”. What is acknowledged in this phrase is that you are always on the path toward finding your bliss and that the path itself may be the ultimate source of enjoyment.

“Follow” is an action. When we are on our social media sites scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, we are not doing anything at all. We pretend we are, but not really – it’s an illusion. Just like when you are tricked by a green screen and CGI graphics, no matter how realistic it looks nothing is actually there and the actors are flailing away in thin air. So getting away from illusion is a key concept in the “follow your bliss” idea. Getting away from illusion and actively participating in you life may be the only real step one needs to take to find bliss.

Why “bliss” and not happiness or joy? Perhaps because in bliss we lose ourselves, and in losing ourselves we reconnect with all others. Happiness and joy are good things of course but they don’t convey the ecstatic moment of being one with the universe like bliss does. In that moment, which can be called the flow state, we are more then simply ourselves, we are immersed in the sea of life and all it’s complexity is resolved in a dance.

Acknowledging that there is no perfection, that perfection is a myth, may help us move forward toward our bliss. I’m convinced that play is our ultimate secrete weapon, not only to find our bliss, but to follow it. The more that we can play in life, the easier it is to follow your bliss.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking you

img_20161230_1704450002016 is over in about three hours. Like most people I know, I am relieved to see it go. So much s%#t has gone down that I can barely remember it all, really amazing things and really difficult things. Suffice it to say that 2016 has been a transformative year.

In the beginning a marriage ended.

Then I moved my farm, and my wonderful pup Belle came along for the journey.

Friendships became stronger. I began to sleep again. I started to enjoy life.

I walked, thought, and wrote.

I worked hard on my farming practices and built my newly formed business up.

I met an amazing woman who lit a spark in my heart.

I bought my dream farm and moved there, about 25 days ago.

That, and the million things that went on in my daily life. My old Ford Ranger died and I got a newer truck. I learned how to replace the bearings in a U-joint. I began to write a book. I made pizza dough from scratch. I fed and watered my pigs. And so on.

And now I am here at home, Full Boar Farm, eating roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy with my girlfriend and our two dogs as we contemplate the past year and look forward to the coming 365 days of possibility. The hottub is heating up and I’m not sure if we’re going to make it to the midnight mark, but probably we will.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past year, it is simply this:

Never give up and always dream.

Always keep your heart open to the possibility that you will find happiness. As Rumi says, “What you seek is seeking you.”

The magic of taking time

Is there ever a reason to rush?

I thought about this as I walked steadily down a a winter road, melting ice running off the invisible pitch into the ditch. My lower back was sore and my cheeks were cold.

When we rush to another place/time/event/goal, where do we end up?

If we rush, we create a life lived in a whirlwind. At some point we will exit the whirlwind, and soon after we will die. The whirlwind is attractive to some, but not to me.

If there is any time to do something, there is time to do it right. We should never think about spending time, we should think about taking time because in reality it is our only real possession.

All things fade away and die and all things fall apart. But so what. It is also the case that all things come back to life and all things are recreated. The more we can breathe with that, the more we can feel in possession of our own lives. And really what we all most want is control of our time. Really we want to play. If we can’t play, in a way we’re already dead.

So as I walk down the road, cheeks cold and feet numb, I think about how rich I am, with an endless hour ahead of me that I can enjoy in whatever way I want to. Instead of focusing on the negatives of the moment, I let go and see the world around me.

Really there is no rush and I can take each moment to do what needs to be done. I can remember that this moment is just as important as the next one. You are actually living your life, right now. I forget that sometimes, somehow.

 

 

 

It’s been a busy couple of months. Now that the new year is almost upon us, I’m forcing myself to take some time to reflect. Over the last two months I have found and purchased a new property which took up most of my energy. Now, I sit in my new writing room and feel a sense of peace.

newplace3

Just kidding. I actually don’t because I woke up and my storm door was more or less torn off it’s hinges by the 50 mph winds that are gusting around and blowing shit all to hell. Not only that but on Christmas, yesterday, I visited my folks up north, but had to get my butt home as it was starting to drizzle and glare ice was forecast for the evening. Now all is covered in a thin to thick layer of very slippery ice. Neither I nor my animals are happy with this weather. It’s not the weather’s fault so much, but I can still loathe it for the time being.

I’ve probably consumed more sugar in the last few days then I have in the last few years, which could also be affecting my moods, i.e. blood sugar levels. But all in all I know that I need to write as well. If a writer don’t write (or a painter don’t pain) they get ornery. So I’ll sum up my last two months for you:

  • Went through the FSA loan application processed
  • Passed through it and was approved for a loan, but it dragged on for about a month or more and meanwhile;
  • Found a property I loved and put in an offer which was accepted after some changes that were not significant
  • Began to move some stuff over to new property, as the owners and I had an agreement in which I moved stuff over early and they had a period of time after closing to move stuff out
  • Moved stuff to a friend’s place, my folk’s place, and my girlfriend’s place as well
  • Finally realized I had to call the Title Insurance company to set up closing because no one seemed able to make that happen
  • Got the property insured
  • Set up a few thousand feet of paddocks at new property
  • Moved my pigs over to new property over the course of 4 trips
  • Finally moved everything off old property and then went to live at my girlfriend’s place for 6 days before the closing date
  • In those 6 days commuted to do chores at new property and continued to set up paddocks etc…
  • Finally got to the closing date and bought my property. Moved in to the new house that night. It was great.
  • Chores

So I probably missed a few things, but overall it was killer. It’s been three weeks now, and I’m finally starting to feel a little more normal. You can catch my advice on How to Buy a Farm in the February issue of Acres USA Magazine: http://www.acresusa.com/acresusa-subscription-us

Other writing projects are in the works and I will be updating you on that as they become available. As a new property owner I have a lot to do, and I will keep you up to date on my daily trials and tribulations as well, of course.

Now the snow is falling and the winds are gusting hard. As usual, everything falls apart and we have to put it all back together. I just wish the wind would die down a little bit…

 

Breathe for me

Life happens when there is a balance between contraction and expansion. My pulse and breath are the rhythms that keep me alive each day. For the most part they are ignored, but sometimes I focus on them.

I am amazed at some of the things that have occurred in the last two months. Things that actually fill me with wonder. At the same time I can see that without the contrast between the light and the dark in my life, I could not observe this time of expansion so clearly.

Many people are filled with sadness and dismay at the recent presidential election. But I will not post about that right now. I see the darkness looming ahead of us as only a manifestation of what we have subconsciously created. The shadow self in the flesh, a nightmare made true.

But that happens. The darkness can overwhelm.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been holding my breathe for twenty years. Waiting for everything to fall apart. Holding my breathe doesn’t keep things from falling apart though. So many of my close friends have died at a young age.  They are gone. They only live on in memories and feelings. I have the chance to live again every time I take a breath. In my mind, they live on through me by what they taught me about what it is to be alive in this world, in this moment.

There is no expansion without contraction and vice versa. The excitement I feel right now could be shattered in a moment by some unforeseen event. But worrying about that, thinking about that, analyzing that – these are all contractions into myself.

Letting go is the ultimate act of expansion. Sometimes words can get under our skins, sometimes people really mean to hurt us, sometimes events happen that scar us. But the fact that we can breathe again and let go gives us the power to heal. Even if I have held my breathe for the last twenty years, I can take a breath right now.

five minutes

I have five minutes. What should I say?

The universe is full of magic. When everything is dark and nothing seems to be going my way, I can remember that my whole entire life is just a speck of dust in  our vast spilled milk galaxy. The infinite and finite hold hands, and perspective is the Great Clarifier.

Regeneration is not just a word

Regeneration is not just a word.

It is not a catchphrase or logo. It is not a commodity or pyramid scheme.

When the soil is teeming with new life, when the mist covers the field, when the biota surges forward and recedes backward, we find the wave of regeneration moving through us. When after the pain of being born a life reverberates, when our eyes are full like moons, when our thoughts echo nature, we know that every day billions of our own cells die and billions are reborn. Regeneration is the acknowledgement of the cycle of life and death, it is the acceptance of the circle, it doesn’t shy away from death and it doesn’t cling to profit.

A moment comes in our lives and we are regenerated. Skin shed like an old coat in summer. What was unclear becomes clear. Those that oppose the circle oppose regeneration – to them, fear dictates that all must stay the same. But nothing stays the same, nothing stops time, and everything is relative to where we stand in the moment.

Senses magnify, perception clears. A regenerated landscape blooms and thrives. A regenerated heart opens and heals. Rivers cycle and trees eat photons. A fox skitters like an electron.

Linear models collapse. Sinusoidal rhythms rule. We are not getting out of this thing called life alive, so we must surf.

No thing

“What I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Perhaps it is time to quit.

When I begin to practice “letting go”, when I give up clinging to an idea or feeling, I feel relief. As if my body has been a clenched fist until I let it relax. I realize that the control I have over my life is only in the moment. I can’t ban suffering, I can’t mine joy. I can only do what needs to be done and enjoy the process.

Letting go is not the same as giving up or procrastinating. Those actions give us a sense that we are off the hook, while still hanging on it. Letting go is the outbreath, the savasana, the relaxation of our muscles, the clearing of the mind. It is the truth that we can’t know everything, and we can’t control anything for long. The knowledge that the end will come, and the absence of fear.

Letting go is stepping back into the flow.

Quitting is an action. When you see that the path you are on leads over a cliff. Quitting is the positive step toward a different path. Sometimes we have to quit so that we can start walking in the right direction.

All of these things are part of living. No reason to judge ourselves constantly. Just take a walk.  What do you really want to do today?

 

The Dalai Lama says that the goal of life is to be happy.

It seems simple, but what if we forgot what makes us happy?

Life never stops, there is no time to catch our breaths. We are aware that we need to live in the present moment, and not dwell in the past or future. Otherwise we’re filled with stress or regret.  For so long we’ve been grasping at straws and losing our selves, but when we practice “letting go” we find ourselves. Freeing ourselves from the tyranny of possessions and concepts feels right, Sometimes all we need is a walking stick and a gravel road. Or a cup of tea and a friend.

Do we really think that cleaning up this room or fixing this thing or landing this project will make everything all better? Doubt it. In the short term it’s great to get the list done, but we need to look at the long term list.

What is it I want to do before I die? What really makes me happy? What do I want to do for the rest of my life to make a living? Why am I not doing it?

Our paths weave the cosmic fabric. Nobody but you can choose your way. Sometimes we have to go with the flow instead of struggling forward, sometimes we have to fight to find the new way. No matter what, though, we are here, right here, now.

Janet Echelman makes art out of strings

 

 

wild 1

I live a domestic life, but I love the wild life. There is that thing inside me that is magnetized to the wilderness, regardless if it is a thousand acres or just that little patch of wildflowers behind the shed. Nature without a human touch, the most rare thing of all.

I don’t make my living from the wild, I make it from the tame. I take chaos and turn it into form. I’m just an organizer. The wild exists outside of those efforts, but we must add wild to our lives to have perspective. Without perspective into the natural world, we miss out on the spark of life and everything is just cause and effect, law and order.

Notice the wild patches today.

Momento mori

There is stress and there is STRESS. There are moments of stress, and then there are long-term panic sessions that lodge in the gut, causing sleeplessness and an underlying sense of dread. Managing this latter type of stress is perhaps my biggest struggle, and I would go so far as to guess that many small business owners and other driven people share my predicament.

As a young man I shrugged off stress with ease. My whole motto was “Relax, we’re all going to die in the end so we might as well enjoy life now.” I don’t think I was too far off the mark, but as the years have progressed and I’ve taken on more responsibilities, especially taking on the responsibilities of raising livestock, I’ve forgotten this principle and morphed into that bulgey-eyed Mr. Stressball-type whom I used to pity.

I’m kidding. I’m not always Mr. Stressball, and I’m not always Mr. Laidback. Behind the masks we wear through our daily lives we are just who we are, doing what we need to do. We each have a different path, but we meet eachother thousands of times in between life and death.

Having perspective is when you understand that even though everything in your life seems just slightly beyond your control, everything is still probably okay. It is all out of our control to a large degree. By grasping onto some idea and identifying deeply with the idea, we essentially create our own stress. Why the hell would we do such a thing to ourselves?

Because we don’t want to let go of the idea of who we are, or how we live, or what we do. These ideas make up the narrative of our lives. Losing control of any of those ideas is somewhat akin to losing any sense of our own existence.  Stress is really our minds and bodies reacting to fear and we think “It’s all up to me to make things right, to figure things out, to protect my world.”

If we’ve lost something like our friends, family, home, we feel sadness and fear of losing again and again until there is nothing left to hold on to. The weird thing is this very fear is what will definitely happen. My breaths are limited and one day I will no longer be here. No matter what happens in my life, I am blessed to live in a wealthy country. I don’t have to worry about war destroying my life, or lack of potable water and food. I can make actual choices about what I am going to do every day and what I am going to eat and drink. I can sleep in a safe warm bed. I can see my family and friends when I want to. When I have fears about the future, when I have doubts about my path, when I regret the past, I know that these are all privileges.

And I know we are all in this together. We are all passing through the cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth in some form. Fear is like a cloud that blocks the sun. Behind that veil is the bright beating heart that fuels all life, and we all yearn to be warmed by it.

So, daily, I remind myself that this life is it for me. It isn’t a competition – history shows us that all winners eventually lose. The real work lies in compassion and cooperation.

 

 

Oscillations

I am struck by the idea that everything oscillates, and that all stasis is  an illusion.

We have an impulse to strive for stasis. Even that impulse oscillates as we grow weary of our day to day activities. We jump outside of our comfort zone and learn and live and jump back in.  Oscillations change frequency, amplitude, and form.  It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re talking about our lives, our relationships, our gardens, the migrations of butterflies, our taste in clothes, or our skill at crossword puzzles – all things oscillate.

Karma is simply the natural flow of energy.

Here’s the thing – we deny that is the natural state. We go through life thinking it should simply be a steady increase in peace and prosperity. That is a successful life. In that way we deny the reality that we will always have ups and downs, there will always be high points and low points in our lives and in our societies. Life isn’t a yellow brick road straight to Heaven or Hell. We visit both poles equally within the brief span of our lives.

Well, at least that is what I believe, and what meditation has shown me.

We seem to be at a low point, where hate speech and the proliferation of fear is becoming common and ordinary. A time when black lives are being gunned down with impunity. A time when compassion is considered blase and vapid consumption is the norm. But people are waking up, people are beginning to question the authoritarian solutions that are handed out like candy in every institution.

I say there are no simple answers – I say that in a world where debate and conversation is becoming base and crude, and ignorance and anger is shared instantly and constantly in soundbites that eat our brains alive like mad cow disease. But I do think there are simple solutions, for the parts and for the whole.

Chaos theory shows us that the initial conditions in complex systems will determine their actions,  but since we can never know all of these conditions in perfect detail then we can only create possible models of the systems future behavior. The only way forward is to address those initial conditions and stabilize the turbulence  – each act of violence or hate is like a fractal inside a fractal, showing us what the underlying problems are.

There is a lot of noise out there. Nobody really wants to hear the negative stuff – but anything internalized becomes expressed externally, as Jung posits.

Farmers, healers, artists, and all folks involved in the practice of the Regenerative Arts have the power to cure this rampant illness. We have the ability to divert the negative energies into productivity and a regenerative cycle, for we can understand the ebb and flow of life itself. All the static and linear thinkers and doers  of the past fail us now, as we plan for a new type of living, one that acknowledges that, at the heart of designing a planetary populace instantly connected via electromagnetic waves, we must cast off linear thinking and doing.

 

 

Heroic Chores

Sometimes your animals seem to be plotting a coup and can’t wait to escape their paddocks or break everything in it to bits.

Sometimes every little chore turns into a heroic effort to overcome your own incompetence at the simplest of tasks.

Sometimes you don’t remember why it is you chose to do any of this.

At these points, it is good to take a break from what Robert Pirsig calls the “Gumption Trap”.  Simply put, when we suffer setbacks or hangups, a negative feedback loop can start and spiral out of control.

Whatever you call them, the negative feelings we encounter as we farm are vast and uncharted for the most part – dark tides pull and clouds gather many times in the course of a day or week or year. The assumption in our culture is that the mentally healthy thing to do is to shake off these negative feelings – what Thich Nhat Hanh call mental formations. These formations arise out of our selves, and are like knots that need to be untangled. An essential part of that process is patience.

I see little difference between the various types of formations we create in ourselves  – like a mollusk secreting calcium carbonate around a sharp object . And like a pearl, we can transform our formation into something beautiful if we acknowledge and work on it.

But I will not pretend that it is all chocolate and roses.

There are good parts galore, but plenty of bad times as well.

In the small-scale farming world, one of the most common default reactions is to beat oneself up over perceived inadequacies. It is extremely difficult to find the time to get everything done every day, and so instead of coming to terms with that reality, we end up criticizing ourselves incessantly until we have broken down our own sense of self-worth into tiny bits. This leads to a collapse of meaning in our day to day lives, and turns our actions into repetitive gestures that we perform unconsciously.

The unconscious has more power in our lives then we let on. The Jungian concept of our Shadow Self grows larger and more powerful the less we pay attention to it. Unconscious reactions to perceived hardships become the norm, and everything falls apart. The shit hits the fan and we get covered in it, basically.

How do we approach and work with this deep well of unconscious behavior that continuously builds and deconstructs manifestations of our hopes and fears? I believe the best way we can consciously attempt to knit our diverse mental and physical landscapes together is through the process of individuation, via a whole systems design strategy, utilizing ways of integrating the infinite smaller parts into a finite big picture approach.

It all starts with one small action.

 “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.”

-Emily Dickinson

 

 

 

Falling over

In a way, every time we take a step, we are committing to not falling over.

Commitment.  What a strange concept, especially in this day and age, when mostly we are oriented by our passing desires. Bingeing on Netflix is the closest thing we come to committing to a long term endeavor.

And yet without commitment, some of the most amazing things we take for granted and that provide our lives with such luxury and ease would not even exist. Commitment and a dream. For instance, the World Wide Web – It took an idea and the commitment to create by Tim Berners-Lee to allow you to read these words right now. And barely anybody knows who he is. Similarly, paper is such a blase item in our daily lives, and yet, when you think of it, it is an amazing thing – wafer thing flexible sheets of magic invented by the Chinese in 105 AD. So we can get bills for our World Wide Web in the mail. You get the picture.

A dream, and  the will to see it through.

Without the will, of course, nothing can be created. Will is commitment in action. Will is the dream’s course to fulfillment. Beginning in the ether of our souls, Will spins a web of matter to gradually edge itself into the world, like a hatching duckling, covered in the goo of birth.

As I talk with those who have started and run their own business, there is a current under their words that thrums with the will that keeps them thriving. It’s that current, that vein of will, that differentiates between the doers and the talkers. That is a real division in the realm of homo sapiens, one that is evidenced by a life led by others or a life led by one’s self.

I don’t have a moral judgement whatsoever about the right or wrong way to live, just this observation. I think a lot of dissatisfaction in people’s lives are created by a lack of commitment to a dream.  Really, the only thing to fear is failure, and failure doesn’t really exist anyways. There is only steps forward or steps backwards, but it is always a journey somewhere, through life.

 

Pissing on trees, part 1

In the act maintaining any relationship, there are boundaries that must be established.

A co-evolution of what that means to either party is probably necessary. There are always 2 or more parties – with 2 or more different ideas of  what is correct. But in reality, nothing in life is correct. A fundamentalist will fail at any real relationship because they think there is 1 way to do things, when there are almost an unlimited smorgasbord of ways to do this thing called life.

I’ve made many mistakes in this arena and I’m bound and determined to figure out why it is such an intense part of what makes me, and most likely every living creature, tick. Our most ancient reflexes pop up when our territory has been invaded.

So in our romantic relationships, we start out without a care in the word, happy that some wonderful person is part of our lives and making it sparkle again. After a while we start to get irritated at all the little things that our partners do that seem to infringe on our personal space or time. The person hasn’t changed, only our perception and feelings have.

How can we remain uncritical, and what is the fulcrum that tips our minds to critiscism? When critisicm, which implies moral judgement, enters the picture, I tend to become extremely agitated and thus unreasonable. But is there really a time when any off us are really reasonable? We like to think we are, but we are running around motivated by emotional states, hormones and neuron patterns, all day long.

I’ve found that those most convinced that they are logical are usually the least able to admit the illogical nature  of most of their behavior. This makes me nuts- mostly because I was like that for quite a long time!

I will simply say this: Reason can be used to justify almost anything, reason based on so-called logic. Using logic gives the user a sense of moral superiority and holiness that they imagine the other  person or creature who isn’t using logic lacks. So I don’t think it is the best tool in our toolbox. It creates hierarchies of control. He who has the most logic wins.

I believe our subconscious is the only compost pile that can really break down our lives and create a nutrient rich fertilizer. The answers are there, but our minds have so many mazes we can never really find them until we let go and let grok.  As we break down the raw detritus of our lives within our subconscious, we also need to be working on reconciling our conscious lives with our core beliefs. Again it seems that the most sensible thing is to balance out any extremes. Our answers can’t all be based on logic or emotion, we can’t imagine that we can even clearly see the big picture, let alone the small events that make up why we do what we do. Discarding hubris, we enter into real relationships outside of ourselves.

A fence is there to keep something in or something out. My life as an animal farmer is made up off a lot of fence work. Even in the relationship between me and my animals, we are still establishing a certain amount of understanding – they have a sense off where they are supposed to be and stay there as well as they can. If they really wanted to be elsewhere, they could. Most animals can escape their fencing if they really want to. So there has to be a level of understanding there – they know I will be there for them as long as they are where I left them. It’s much more complicated then that, but suffice it to say that it is never simple. It isn’t simply putting up fence and walking away – it’s a daily maintenance situation, a constant monitoring of what is going on with them.

Establishing respect and understanding in a personal relationship is a little like making those fences. It might sound a little harsh to those who haven’t kept larger amounts of animals, but believe me when I say a fence is little more then a suggestion. We do need our personal space, and we do need our personal lives – and we need those who we love to respect whatever it is that makes us tick.

Since in reality we don’t want to build fences around ourselves or create impenetrable shells, establishing boundaries is a little more like pissing on metaphorical trees. It’s important to inhabit the space that makes you happy – your happiness creates happiness around you. My happiness is essential to creating happiness throughout my circles.

Next time I will muse on the opposite practice – opening up boundaries.

 

 

whirl with it

Calm down.

It’s as simple as that.

There is literally nothing that isn’t solvable with some thought, time, and action.  The last couple of months have been a whirlwind, and I have been stressed to the max at certain points. Moving my whole life from my old farm, and the cabin I built there, has been intense. I need to give myself some breathing room, but it is hard with over 40 big mouths to feed and house and take care of, as well as situating myself in a new place, on new land, with new partners of various sorts.

There are only a few things that stand out in my brain at this point, the most important being that none of us can go through life without depending on partnerships. We need many to survive, and many to thrive. We don’t and can’t exist in a vacuum, and all that I’ve done these last few months has been possible with the help of many kind souls. I do alot on my own and that’s just my DIY independent farmer spirit, but only when I start working in partnership with others do things grow and flourish.

Not only that but I have been pondering how important it is to really find out who you are to be able to live your life fully. Partnerships help us thrive but only if we really know who we are and what we’re on this planet to do. Otherwise partners can be crutches and help us stay in stasis. Stasis is what the unrealized soul longs for, the comfort of the absence of life and death.

But that is what makes the universe spin – our infinite beginnings and ending.

No need to cry over spilt milk because there will always be more milk. No need to grasp on to some wonderful experience because there will always be something wonderful to experience. No need to fret endlessly over the possibly negative outcomes, because they will come and they will go.

We can’t grasp water (or slippery pigs) but we can flow with it, become it, dissolve in it. There is our only real comfort, that impermanence is permanent.

So let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low is the tempo.

 

Living on the land

“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land… In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”

-Aldo Leopold

We are bone wrapped in muscle packaged in skin. An infinity of hydraulic and electrical systems intermeshed – molecular programming and elemental exchange bubbling along at nanolevels and quantum rhythms. We, as part of the universe, are evolutionary machines. But unlike the metal machines we make with our hands, we are complex beyond understanding and filled with the tendrils of chaos. Love bubbles up out of pain and happiness bursts from depression.

What are we?

What a question.

One answer is that we are great apes, primates, with humungous brains and sparse hair. As members of the Homo genus with an evolved skillset of  hand/eye coordination we can drive cars, drink lattes, and facebook, but we still contain the morphology and genes that yearn for hunting and gathering on the savanna.

We move toward happiness and fulfillment, just like any animal on the planet. Individual units banding together as tribes, tribes banding together as cultures. We meet our needs, our tribes needs, then our cultures, and humanity overall.  Our priorities start with our own breath and expand outward.

When our basic needs are met we search and find meaning and love.  Religion and art arise out of an abundance of material resources . Life becomes less about survival and more about pleasure – whatever stimulates our neo cortex.

We are stimulated by the act of doing. Activity is what starts growth. Inactivity promotes depression, sickness. Perhaps it is a simple evolutionary trick – the survival of the tribe hinges on its weakest link. So we applaud positivity and health and shun depression and illness.

We have become experts at creating satisfactory analogues for our primal needs. We are saturated with the ability to join interest groups and participate in social media. But a trickle of dopamine will never truly satisfy the the soul.

Connecting with nature is the first step toward a healthy  life.

We need a comprehensive reeducation in what it means to be a member of our land communities. To start with, an appreciation and respect for the elements: the earth, water, air, and fire.

To know nature truly we need to be connected to our local foodshed and soil: the complex web of life it contains and the food it produces. We need to understand where our water comes from and where it goes, and we need to tend to it on it’s journey through the landscape. We need to learn and live within the climate of the land that we live on. We need to be connected to our sources of energy; the carbon we harvest to produce our warmth and heat, that we burn to power our engines and lights and vehicles.

Furthermore, we need to be connected to our fellow creatures: the tame and wild animals that provide more sustenance then we can understand: not just muscle, fat, bone, and skin, but all of the countless activities they do that support our land community.  We need to be connected to our shelter; the materials we gather to create buildings, the fibers we cultivate to weave into fabric and tools. We need to be connected to our tribes, and ourselves.

All of these things are possible right now. All of them are necessary for survival.