Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Plan the Work and Work the Plan

It should tell you something about my general motivation level today that I've put off writing this blog piece because I couldn't figure out what photos to use.  So, you're getting a promo photo for one of my books (that's available on Amazon and through the link at the right, thankyouverymuch!), and we're going to plug ahead.

As a college instructor, I notice that we spend a lot of time telling young adults to follow their dreams and to find work that they enjoy so much they "never work another day in their lives." I love the sentiment.  May we all find pursuits in life that are the most pleasant and rewarding ever.

However, even your favorite job - even the best aspects of your favorite job - will sometimes drag you down.  Sometimes, there are days when you are simply unmotivated; sometimes, work hits a rough patch or you simply have to do things you are not in the mood to do.

I'm not immune to these feelings, and it is never easy to struggle through a patch of low motivation, but I do have a system that helps me stay productive during those times.  I divide my work into roughly two "moods:"

Dreaming and Executing
These are the days when motivation is high.  It's not that these days don't involve work; indeed, some of my best productivity comes during my planning days.  But these are the days that the clouds part and I can see the big picture, and one thing I'm sure to do is make lists.  I make lists of all the things that need to be done to reach my long-term and intermediate goals, and I break everything down into individual tasks, ranging from making copies of documents to outlining new books.  Everything goes on a list.

I also execute the difficult stuff that requires a lot of brain work.  So, I won't make copies on days of high energy, but I will do a book outline (I must have 5 books in the queue behind the one I'm currently writing), rework a lesson for class, design a new product for my Carrot Creations store, or market for new work.  These are also great days to get lots of writing done, and these are the days to make lots of necessary phone calls, because I'm probably feeling gregarious.

Work the Plan
Inevitably, though, I will have a day when work seems insurmountable, and I just don't have the energy to go forward. The goals seem so impossibly far away, to say nothing of the dreams.  Working hard seems an exercise in futility.

That's when I pull out the lists.  I tell myself that I don't have to do anything big or far reaching; I just have to cross things off those lists.  That's when the photocopying comes in, or the filing.  These are the days for research that involves looking up specific facts for an article or sending bunches of emails to people who need information or who I need to get information from.  And these are great evenings for simply sitting and churning out crocheted items for Carrot Creations.

The ultimate point is that these lower motivation days may not be the most fun or the most inspirational, but work keeps moving forward.  Tasks keep getting done, and I'm making progress toward the goal, even if it doesn't feel like the goal will ever be reached.  Then, the next time I'm well-motivated, I have all of the little tasks done, and I can once again think big because I can once again see the big picture.

What do you do when you have a low motivation day?
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Friday, January 20, 2017

Crazy Gardener Tricks

January means a certain amount of "twitchiness" among gardeners.  We console ourselves with seed catalogs and plot planning, but, at least in my area, true seed starting can't begin for a few more weeks.

What am I doing to break the tedium?  Well, one project I have is saving and crushing my eggshells.

Eggshells are a great addition to your garden; I like to put some in the holes with my tomatoes when I transplant.  When in the soil, they add calcium, which helps the cellular structure of your plants grow strong.  Sprinkled on top of the soil around the base of your plants, they also help control slugs, because the sharp edges of the little pieces cut their little slug bellies.  (Graphic, I know, but gardening is war, people!)

Because I'm saving these egg shells all winter, I rinse my shells and let them dry thoroughly before crumbling them in my hand and putting them in my jar.  In the summer, I just take the fresh eggshells directly out to the garden and crumble them at the base of the plants.  For this batch, I will crumble them more before spring planting.

It's a quick and easy project to do to get you ready for gardening season; I love the thought of getting out there in the dirt in my bare feet, putting in this year's garden.

The Analysis

Fast:  It doesn't take much more time to rinse, dry, and crumble your eggshells than it does to throw them in the compost bucket.

Cheap:  As you know, my favorite projects turn waste into benefit.

Good:  If this helps ensure a good harvest next year, I'm ready!

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The 2016 Garden Wrap Up: How Much a Garden Didn't Grow

2016 Cumulative Totals

Expenditures: (-$232.88)

Total ounces of harvest: 1280.5
Total pound of harvest: 80.03125
Total value of harvest: $310.11

Total net saved: $77.23

Ladies and gentlemen, that stunk.

I mean, I had a better garden year the first year we moved into this house, and the garden was a 6' x 8' patch the previous owners dug up, and I still got something like 8 quarts of tomato juice and a few quarts of pickles out of it.

This year, I got bupkis.  And I worked my tail off.  I mean, if I hadn't put the gym membership on hold while I gardened for six months, this wouldn't have been worth it financially at all.  (If you are keeping score, I did cut $150 off my total yearly gym fees this way.)

It was all that stupid oak tree.  I think.  I hope.  My theory is that my garden just didn't get enough sun, so I'd get healthy plants that grew until the tree started to shade the garden, and then they just sort of stopped.  So, that tree is gone, and we'll see what happens.

I'm also going to go back to using a rototiller this year and dressing the garden with manure.  My heart breaks at not being able to make a go of my modified lasagna gardening with the eco-friendly broadfork, but I think maybe my soil is too full of clay to let that happen.

What did work well this year?  Well, I brought in $32.12 worth of greens, mostly from a batch that I planted last February and I'm still getting harvests from.  Greens (kale, in this case), are very shade-friendly, so you do the math on that one.

I also harvested over 5 pounds of blueberries for a retail value of $30.78, which I think is pretty good for three bushes.  The blueberries also sit in the one remaining sunny spot (pre-tree removal) in the yard.

Cucumbers and zucchini were relatively good, but I didn't really get to make pickles.  That said, there was a very solid 6-8 weeks there where I ate a plate of cucumbers for lunch every day and had something zucchini-related for dinner most nights.

So next year is the big test.  I may be exaggerating a big, but with the new, expanded, sunnier garden, I swear I'm going to plant 75 tomato plants.  I told Mr. FC&G that we were going to spend the month of August buying nothing at the grocery but pop, cookies, and canning lids; everything else is coming out of the garden, and I'm going to can around the clock.  We are going to have one of those garden years where I finally get to make those Facebook posts in May that say, "Oh, the new tomatoes are in, so we'd better hurry up and finish eating the canning from last year."

Hey, if the Cubs could win the series, I could hit one out of the park too.

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