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.”