4 lessons I learned from being a blogging farmer

Homesteading! Living the dream on a small patch of land, growing your own food and raising some animals is a wonderful way to live and to escape the corporate existence. My wife and I work hard and get by on less, but it is our hard work, it is our less. Everything and every decision is ours and there is satisfaction that comes from that type of freedom, satisfaction and a lot of sweat.

Then some people said to me, ‘Hey, you should blog about your experiences!’. That sounded reasonable; maybe other people, who haven’t been able to live a drastically different life than the ones they were raised in, would like to hear about what it is that we do and how I spend my time. So I made the decision to ‘blog’.

That was almost three years ago now. What have I learned? Let me tell you.

1. 98% of my time has been spent learning how to make a blog.

I now run a multi-site wordpress installation. I have several domain names, I use amazon web services’ EC2 for my server and their S3 for image and document storage. I have a half dozen plugins out of the hundreds I tried that I like and continue to use. I can add html tags to my posts or emails, and I can adjust my style sheet manually. I measure my nearly zero traffic accurately with Google analytics. I have read all about ads and affiliate marketing, and have tried half a dozen of each.

And how many posts have I written in the past three years? It depends on how you count, but definitely less than 20. I have been, by any definition, unsuccessful as a blogger, but I definitely have learned some things about computer science. I have learned how to make a space where blogging is possible, but I haven’t actually done much real blogging.

2. Blogging doesn’t grow food.

None of this is to say that I don’t have anything to blog about. We continue homesteading, planting, growing and eating. Between my wife and I we have some 70,000 photos for me to draw upon should I ever summon the urge to ‘blog’.

But I rarely get that urge; I am busy farming. We both absolutely love planting trees, and I really enjoy pruning and caring for them, while Ledis enjoys gardening. We make compost, raise chickens and a sheep and have developed several infrastructure projects around the farm. We pick coffee, dry coffee, process coffee, roast, bag and ship coffee. We spend time trying to sell our coffee. We are busy, busy people.

3. Money makes things feel icky.

I don’t make enough money. I suspect some of you feel the same way. I am always on the look out for ways to make more money, because I need more. I need to build more things, buy more plants, buy or build machines, structures, materials, projects and on and on it goes. Some people say you can make money by blogging. And you can. But blogging is a lot like farming, you have to give a lot first before you get anything back.

When I grow a crop, harvest it and sell it, I feel good about the transaction. I worked, made something of value, and got some money. Blogging could be like this, I suppose, but to me it feels much ickier. Making money by blogging is about leveraging your audience. You make something of value, people look at it, and then you leverage those people while they look. You show them things they don’t really want to see. The best case scenario is when you show them things they only didn’t know they wanted to see, but that’s one in a million. Passive income with ads or even most affiliates feels a lot like using people.

4. (Almost) No one cares

But lets not put the cart before the horse. Unless decimals of a cent turn you on, you really need to generate traffic. People need to be going to your website, reading your blog. If encouraging people to go to your blog sounds enjoyable, you probably wouldn’t move to a rural mountain in South America. And from personal experience, those people who do move to rural mountains in South America probably don’t give a damn who’s looking at their blog. And so no one looks. Such is our culture, without constant prodding, most things get forgotten.

I suspect the real problem is content creation. Even if I enjoy a visit to a site, if its not updated but thrice a year, chances are I will forget about it before I ever see the second post.

As a content ‘creator’, I worry that if I spend all my time blogging and learning how to blog and learning how to get people to my blog, and learning how to backup my blog and learning how to learn how to blog, etc., then I won’t have any time to do anything worth blogging about.

Right now I have a nice backlog of writings and pictures and activities to share, and I am considering blogging a bit more. Maybe. But after learning these four lessons I can clearly state that I am blogging for me, not for you. I want to document what we are doing and develop the habit of writing. I don’t care if you look, but I will let you. I’ll even pay the server fees implied by you coming onto my site and loading my images. You’re welcome.

Ernst Gotsch changes your mind about agriculture.

Ernst Götsch works with Agroforestry systems to regenerate degraded areas in Brazil and improve the quantity and quality of food produced.  This video, Life in Syntropy, talks to him and two of his students about their quest to save the planet while producing more and better food for everyone.

Regenerative Agriculture is a hot topic, but there aren’t a ton of great examples cleverly edited with great camera work and drone shots.  This is the video that I have been looking for, showing real examples of Brazilian farmers who have actually transformed their own land.

Near the end of the film, we see 1200 acres that Ernst has worked since 1984, from above it is indistinguishable from a natural forest, but its the under canopy shots when you realize that he is harvesting many valuable products from a completely sustainable forest ecosystem.  Amazing!

Ernst Gotsch has many examples of his regenerative system of agriculture restoring degraded grasslands to productive agroforests.
Rows of production, used to recover bracharia grasslands.

 

Cooking With the Power of the Sun! Free energy!!!

 

There’s nothing that says you need to pay a gas company or electric company in order to use the energy of the world around us! In this video, we see a simple design for a solar oven that uses very cheap materials and could easily be done in an afternoon. The only downside to it is that your cooking time will be increased significantly versus conventional methods. As long as you have the patience to wait 30 minutes for your egg (watch at 3:45 for the result) to cook in the morning sun, this solar oven is for you.

Heat your water… with the sun!

In this video you’ll see another example of how we can utilize the untapped power of the sun. I once saw a similar system for heating an in-ground pool without relying wholly on propane and thought it was quite clever. In this instance you’ll see how recycled materials and even something as simple as an aquarium water pump can be used to get amazing results. One of the things I liked most about this video is the section on improvements to the design. Watch at 2:38 to see these, and enjoy your freely heated water!

Permaculture news article – Free Massive Online Education

Several months back I wrote an article that was featured on Permaculture News – check it out.

It had to do with available online courses from sites like coursera.org and edx.org.  I love these sites and use them frequently.  Here’s a video that I uploaded for a class project in Leaders of Learning through HarvardX.

Lately, more and more sites are coming out with free resources for online learning.

I fell in love with free and open online learning first with khanacademy.org.  Khan Academy, with its extremely likeable founder Sal Khan, came to my attention in 2012.  Since then I have been transfixed by brushing up on my remedial math, watching art history videos and generally enjoying videos about learning new things.

More recently, now that I am a legal temporary resident of Colombia, I have been trying out their national education program, which has begun to add great content, although its free, its not quite as open.  While time limits make things a little tougher, great courses like Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural are what, I think, will make Colombia move forward competetively into the 21st century.

Another young upstart is freecodecamp.com.  They use education as a great excuse to help make websites for worthy non-profits, and I have been (lightly, but every push helps!) helping with the spanish translation project so that we can eventually get this platform into local highschools here in Colombia.

The future is bright, and education is the key.  We are blessed to live in an age where education can unlock a lot of what we feel is missing in our society, but it will take many of us, working very hard, to change the world in a meaningful way.

Leave me a comment letting me know what online educational platforms you like, and for what reasons!

How can we reduce the ecological footprint of our meat? By 1 minute 13 you’ll be amazed at the beauty of this new system

I have heard a lot of talk about Carbon farming and mob grazing and all about how we can raise our meat in such a way that we are actually trapping carbon in the soil.  This is a huge and important change in how we raise meat, healing soils and reducing methane output.

One of the benefits of these methods is to strive to maintain constant green cover over all areas, which protects the soil and keeps the grass absorbing carbon.  This also prevents erosion and increases efficiency and output per area.  These systems are modified from natural observations of herbivores, so many like to call it working with nature; sure sounds better than the alternative, working against nature.

This is only one of the many solutions that we need in agriculture, but it does target a sore spot in our food systems.  We need to continue to improve upon our food production systems by increasing the sustainability of every calorie and reducing loss and degradation at every step.

 

Ever considered building your own home? Natural building techniques are the wave of the future!

Welcome to Natural building.  Using natural building materials, we can vastly reduce the ecological footprint of our dwellings and other outbuildings.  A myriad of techniques exist, and while this video addresses some – such as strawbale, rammed earth and cobb, Natural building is known for its customizability.

This is the second video in a series, Living with the Land, produced by two friends of mine at Permaculture People, over in the U.K.  They are doing good work spreading the word, and were nice enough to visit us on the farm a few years back.

Leave me a comment about Natural building, link me to your projects or your interests!

An Ecological Twist on Building Swimming Pools! Prepare to take the plunge at 1:14!

If you’re looking to invest time and money in building a swimming pool, check this out first! David Pagan Butler showcases this beautiful do-it-yourself project: natural swimming pools. Using no chemicals, Butler uses plants and a simple 12-volt solar-powered filter to clean the water. These pools can cost only a fraction of the price of a commercial pool, you’ll leave less of an ecological footprint, and the kids are sure to love it. Prepare to take the plunge at 1:14!

View Butler’s FREE 30-page DIY manual HERE!!!

Dr. Emilio Moran is has spent his life trying to save the Amazon rain forest, and what he has to say will shatter your preconceptions

Hard science versus soft science, public ownership versus private ownership, people versus nature, Dr. Emilio Moran at Michigan State breaks each of these paradigms open in an attempt to save the Amazon River Basin from a similar fate as Brazil’s pacific forests.

Many of Dr. Moran’s works can be downloaded to PDF on his website, just click the publications tab.

With nearly all recycled material, this man takes closed system hydroponics to a creative next level, he takes less than 3 minutes to blow your mind

Hydroponic plants with ducks!  Even more excellent that nearly all of the materials were found on the side of the road, this video just goes to show you that with a little ingenuity, humans are capable of really cool stuff.  We have the technology!  Go out and do something great today.