My courage is uneven at the moment. I have a specific professional project that I am struggling to push myself on. I tell myself that it is something I want, but if the truism “having is evidence of wanting” is any indication, I am struggling to convince myself I really want it. Except I am fairly sure I do want it and I’m just scared.
I used to love it when people said no to me. I was the kind of “chip on my shoulder” young person that used a no to fuel myself. “I’ll show them” was somewhere between a mantra and a battle cry.
But now I find myself anxious to publicly go out and see just how many people will say no. I don’t know if I find it as motivating as I used to. I tell myself I don’t mind but perhaps some other unexamined element of reaction makes me afraid.
This could all be an elaborate ego protection ruse on my part. Maybe I still love the motivation that comes from no. Maybe I hate it. But I have not really done enough fucking around to find out yet to know one way or other.
My gut instinct is to simply declare in public my goals and a timeline to force myself into it. But then I’ve been working through my tendency to rely on willpower and force to motivate myself. Perhaps a big forcing function will simply send me back into my old coping mechanisms of addictive overwork.
I’ve always punished myself by doing things. If I am anxious I almost always find ways to kick a hornet’s nest to force an action rather than gentle build momentum.
Whatever I do I would prefer I do it with as much gentleness and respect for my inner child as possible. I am prone to abusing my inner child’s feelings by disregarding her fear or her desire to keep distance from the rest of the world. I deserve better than forcing misery onto my inner child.
I grew up in a hippie college town that was fond of bumper sticker activism. Showing off your sense of humor and your political priorities was a fun thing to do with your Subaru Outback in the late nineties and early aughts before Facebook and the rise of social media.
A classic of the genre was “Think Global, Act Local.” I found this example on Etsy. And no I’ve got no idea what charity it ties back into.
Maybe it was just less cringe to have this sort of thing on your car before we all spent half of our days yelling at strangers on the internet. I personally remember thinking Visualize Whirled Peas (a band from Austin) was a hilarious way to protest American war mongering as a teen. Of course, I still wrote Amnesty International letters at the time.
Now I’m not even sure who to donate money to at the end of the year as institutional trust continues to break down. Thinking globally is often the source of much anxiety. Currency collapses and the threat of nuclear war from Russia might be throw backs, but doomscrolling and feeling helpless is too modern. What is old is new again but in more potent anxiety inducing form.
So it was a bit of a relief to enjoy the “act locally” part of the classic bumper sticker this morning. Our local volunteer fire department had a pancake breakfast. Now as an adult my husband and I live outside of a completely different college town in the wider surrounding Gallatin Valley.
The rural (as opposed to city) county fire departments operate with a lot of local good will. They have a professionally trained but all volunteer force and cooperate with other districts through mutual aid frameworks. Practically, that meant a lot of college students taking advantage of living at the fire station to offset their costs while deepening ties to the community. A pretty ideal set up for a tight knit rural community. We get talent and they get skills and housing during their college years.
But calling them volunteers makes it sound less professionally run than the reality. I was impressed with not only the depth of knowledge of the entire department but also just how well maintained all of the equipment clearly was. Sure they probably cleaned stuff before letting their neighbors come in for a visit but everything was so shiny and new. I came away feeling a lot more secure about making a 911 call.
Now maybe that’s just function of meeting the fire chief and chatting with EMTS. And that’s probably exactly why they host these pancake breakfasts. But after two hours of touring equipment, and talking to everyone from the Medivac helicopter pilot to the youngest college kid on the squad, I felt like this was a team that has its shit together.
Now I’m actually excited to vote for a bond issue to get another fire truck or two! But in the meantime we dropped a few twenties into the boot on the table.
I was discussing with a friend their planned to trip to London to capitalize on sterling parity. The pound and the dollar being worth the same amount is an opportunity for American travelers. The conversation turned to optimizing for travel points structures, maintaining status, and other loyalty programs. I suppose anyone who finds traveling opportunities during a currency crisis almost certainly enjoys a good deal and being rewarded for consumption during hard times.
The pandemic upset so many consumer patterns that it’s a little bit hard to remember why we bought some of the things we did in the past. We’ve got vague positive memories and we are attempting to recreate them. Travel is inarguably one of the most confused spaces in the wake of those upheavals. Status got rolled over so when travel opened back up stuff got weird. Lounges got more crowded just as business travelers were being removed from the financial base of the space. It led to a lot of chaos this summer as the economics got reliance’s.
The most loyal travelers got back on the proverbial road in the aftermath and were met with materially worse products despite paying just as much as the remembered in the past. For all of the rich yuppies who showed up to say Italy or other Mediterranean vacations, they were reminded that travel wasn’t so glamorous without the perks. And it certainly made more than a few of us consider the economics of being on the road.
There are other industries where loyalty is being rewarded with worse producers and shittier user experiences. I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of disappointment with the offerings in cosmetics recently. I’ve complained endlessly about shittier packaging and lower grade formulations even though I haven’t really cut down my spending any. Like the loyal travelers, I am putting up with less quality as I don’t really want to simply stop a hobby I enjoy.
But how long will residual loyalty and affection remain? If travel to London must be combined with currency debasement and travel rewards perhaps our loyalty is not endless. Consumers often underestimate our power with industry because it takes them some time to adapt. But if we don’t change our behaviors in response to dwindling quality or service the incentive structures don’t force improvements. The balance is cost of loyalty.
The strength in my marriage with Alex has always been our commitment to working through our emotional journeys together. He was able to be reassuring my through slow climb back from the depths of my health challenges. He helped me turn it into a source of strength. Next year will be ten years together and Alex really got the “in sickness” portion of the vows a little earlier than anticipated.
This is the first time in both of our lives we’ve ever truly been stable. And that’s a strange thought. That our lives have been so chaotic for so long. We finally have money and a home we own and good health and it’s all at the same time. All of the instability of startups and limited resources and bad health are over. And only really in the last six or seven weeks has that been true. As we just finally bought our first home. We moved to Montana in August.
We climbed through the aftermath of the Great Recession together, made our first angel investments together, raised venture capital together, and now finally thanks to the pandemic we’ve been able to secure a place to live and a wide horizon to plan how to use our resources and time. I am responsible for talking this blessing and letting it provide the foundation for our long term goals. Millennials might just accelerate in middle age just yet! I know it feels like I am.
If I haven’t yet recommended it to you, my favorite sit-com is called Letterkenney. It’s about a group of young Canadians living in a small town in farm country. It follows the hicks, skids, and hockey players as they go about their lives of mostly manual labor and occasional drug dealing. This premise dramatically undersells the show which has the smartest writing and quippiest dialog this side of an Aaron Sorkin drama. Except it’s about ten times as vulgar and much less pretentious.
One of my favorite ongoing bits in the show is how everyone is always “choring” as a background. Or if you aren’t choring you need to get back at it. Want to go out? Pitter patter, let’s get at her by getting back to choring.
Feeling invigorated by the success of the mornings planting and by the nutrients in the head of butter leaf I harvested, I turned to other overdue bits of choring.
I unpacked and organized some of the books I keep on hand for reference materials. You might spot preparedness & resilience topics. Also my library on consumption, class & money. My capitalism meets Marxism meets political theory books. And then of course a lot of Greeks.
I then tackled the organization of the pantry. That’s got a long way to go but at least I took it from a bunch of stuff Willy Nilly into a basic organization. We’ve got shelves dedicated to dried fruit, an entire shelf for nuts, and other sundry spots for grains and sugars and the like. Shockingly there are drawers under this where I’ve put beans and lentils to keep the onions and potatoes companies.
I’ve got so many chores that listing out all the choring for one day both motivates me to keep at it but also reminds me that we get a lot day each day around the homestead.
I recommend having habits from which one doesn’t deviate. I’ve come to appreciate how much the daily exercise of writing has come to provide a kind of scaffolding on which I hang the rest of my day.
But it can be easy to get lost in a habit too. I had originally started the act of daily writing as the habit. But I sometimes forget that there is more I can do on top of the foundation I have laid over these past eighteen months. I could integrate more of my past writing into the daily writing. I could do more to make it visible. I could do more to make it accessible. I could do more to make it durable. Perhaps now that writing every day is a firm habit I can expand on it.
In that spirit I am doing a little link round up on what might warrant a look back. A few posts that I thought were particularly good. A few posts that reflect some of the zeitgeist that I am digesting. And a throwback that some of my internet friends reminded were worth while.
It’s hard to look straight on at your desires. Why is it that some of your life arises from your priorities and focus, but others are just chances and circumstances?
The hardest part about looking face first at being responsible for yourself is that you are both in total control and not in any control. We want to live with willpower. We want to be people of purpose. And yet life is happy to show us how much it’s all just dumb fucking luck.
Because we are what we make time for in our lives. And if we don’t make honest time for ourselves how the fuck will we ever know what we actually want. If you let life idle past you that’s fine. Because that is the path of fulfillment all along. And in letting ourselves just be maybe we find entirely new reservoirs of resources.
I’m considering taking a wilderness first responder course. I’ve got other priorities for the fall but I also made a commitment to a resilient rural life. Somewhere in my own desires I may find that what I want can and does align with the rest of my life. That by opening up to something new I also see who I am more clearly. I believe they call it getting perspective.
I went through our emergency food stores today and did some turnover and replenishment. We didn’t opt to move some things with us to Montana (some items had expiration dates necessitating donation) so it’s been on my to do list.
I’ve got a spreadsheet that includes fats, starches, sweeteners and less glamorous proteins like beans and canned fish. It theoretically calculates our our caloric needs and what is provided for in our supplies so we can more easily assess if we have enough on hand for different scenarios. In reality, I’ve never actually had full inputs clean enough to generate an output I trust. So I kind of wing it with this basic level of precision.
I don’t think we’ve quite got a year of food on hand but I have taken a lot of tips from the LDS suggestions for food storage. We’ve got pounds of wheat (and a hand crank grinder). We’ve got 25lbs sacks of rice. We’ve got big jugs of cooking oils. We’ve got sugars. We’ve got spices. I’ve got quite the collection of dried legumes.
I feel like I basically have what is necessary for a bad winter in Montana. I hope we’ve got enough for any supply chain constraints that might make it harder to get things to our modestly more rural homestead. But in truth I’m just following lists and hoping if something happens I didn’t fuck up too badly. And I’d we did well we’ve got shotguns and ammunition and the local deer are a little too cavalier about their safety. For now.
I’ve been procrastinating on two core projects for the fall. Both of which involve making a modest investment between $100 and $250 depending on how fancy I want to get. So it’s not a throwaway amount of money but it’s also not money I should be hesitating on.
I’ve been in my head about it for two or three weeks even though I regularly need to make decisions about much larger sums of money for projects with much longer time horizons. I finally got myself over the hump on clicking order after going over my plans with my husband Alex for an hour. Which we’d definitely bill at more than we spent.
PROJECT ONE: TEST APPLE ORCHARD
The first project is getting in a few apple saplings in a fall planting to test out where we want an orchard. It’s not a full orchard with a big wiz-bang multi-year permaculture plan. We literally just want to get in four to six dwarf trees in the soil as soon as possible as we’ve been told it’s feasible to do fall plantings of heartier Zone 4 varietals.
We did a soil sample and the results came back with very encouraging results. Our back pasture has excellent quality soil despite being compacted by horses.
And yet I struggled to make a purchase. I made a trip to the nursery. I fucked around on a bunch of websites. I ordered catalogs for next year’s spring plantings. Finally this afternoon we threw caution to the wind and bought six dwarfs from Stark Brothers. The total came to about $250 and if it all fails well I’m glad I spent the money on fruit trees instead of a disposable consumer good.
PROJECT 2: SEED STARTS
The second purchase was seed starter supplies for our winter hydroponic crops which we plan to cultivate in the barn. We got a LettuceGrow system early in the pandemic and absolutely loved the quality of greens we got out of it. We’d been able to buy starts (aka seeds that have sprouted and begun to grow) for it in Colorado but this winter I wanted to do my own growing from seeds up into starts.
The goal was to have constant rotation of red and green leaf lettuce along with romaine and kale by staggering seed tray starts. It would be easier and have fewer failure points if we did a new batch of seed starts once every couple of weeks for consistency and move them from one grow light seed tray to the LettuceGrow once it fully sprouted.
Here were all of my friends and colleagues just out there doing the work. And I was too scared to experiment myself. Finally today we bought everything we needed from Amazon and purchased six or seven seed types from Johnny’s hydroponic collection. All told for everything it was $86 for a set up that should work for many seasons.
While I’d never tell anyone to just go nuts putting shit in the ground without some research, I do think it’s possible to be too in your head about growing. I’ve been reading so much about fancy techniques like permaculture that I had neglected the most basic lesson of both startups and gardening. Execution is exponential. Just start doing something. Make it small. But you have to just start. Just plant. Just make things.
I never had a wedding so I missed out entirely on “you did a big thing” gifts. City hall weddings don’t inspire Boomers to open their wallets as it turns out. But buying our first home seems to have triggered a celebratory mood amongst our nearest and dearest. People are happy for us.
While we don’t have a gift registry (though maybe we should), I’ve been impressed by the thoughtfulness with which our friends have approached our house warming.
One of our friends sent a card that perfectly captured the intensity and joy of the situation.
“There is no better feeling in the world than than going from ‘wondering if you can do it’ to realizing you’ve just done it.”
I assume this was some kind of Hallmark graduation card but it really did capture some of the awe of the moment. Having spent 18 month searching for a homestead I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely sure when we’d actually graduate to the “just done it” phase. It sort of happened all at once when we stumbled onto a property that met every single one of our criteria.
We took a very research intensive approach to deciding on where to live and what to invest. Maybe it was the founder mindset that plagues both my husband and, I but we just couldn’t help but do an aggressive deep dive into all the variables. Some people move on vibes but we needed the numbers to back up the feeling. Checking the math is probably a good habit.
It’s a relief to get to the “we just did it” phase though as with any long play you find yourself wondering if it’s all just an elaborate fantasy. In an age of quick fixes and instant gratification, the slow roll isn’t that glamorous. Trusting that your preparedness will positive yield action is hard. Trusting that you will act when your preparation are needed feels even harder. But here I am. Having done the thing.