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.