Keep On Keeping On

one foot in front of the other

Another week has come and gone. The coming spring and summer are very double-edged this year. Normally I can’t wait to be done with spring semester and moving into the few weeks of summer when I feel like I am in control (which is always a joke, but every year I think “this summer will be different”). Now I want this spring semester to take as long as possible because I really don’t want to go back to my normal day job. This has paradoxically made me feel crappy lately because it feels like I’m stuck in a very long Sunday night funk, which is not helpful. I should be enjoying the hell out of this last month of my sabbatical. Of course part of that is the pressure to actually finish the things I need to do for said sabbatical. Shocker, I have been procrastinating. A quick aside – a few years ago I did my first round of textbook reviewing and they only give you two or three days to go through this whole chapter and unfortunately it happened to coincide with a conference I was going to so every free moment at the conference involved me sitting with my laptop somewhere going through the book pages and I got a lot of sympathy from my fellow conference goers. However one of them asked, with no malice, if I had had an entire month or even a week to get it done would I have actually worked on it over that entire time or it would have always been just two or three days to get it done? When I thought about it the answer was – no, I would not have worked on it the entire time, I still would have waited and only had two or three days to get it done. Procrastination has been and will always be an issue for me – though I am coming to terms with it. For example, I still have three whole weeks before my last two papers are due so I’m not *as* bad as I used to be. Or rather I have the potential to be better, I haven’t actually done anything for them yet…

Speaking of conferences I will be at a conference this Saturday through Tuesday so there will not be a Monday blog post this week. I have been trying really hard to get something posted every Monday and Friday, though they are getting done later and later in the day and I missed one last week entirely. I’m still not entirely sure what the purpose of this blog is and I’m not sure posting twice a week is something I need to be putting my energy towards. However, if I wait until I have “something important/entertaining to say” then I will never actually post anything. Some of the posts that people seem to enjoy the most, or comment on the most, are the ones that were last minute pieces that I viewed as just filler to take up the space but clearly they held value for people. So for now I will keep on, keeping on. Who knows, maybe I can get some work done on those papers while at the conference and free of the many distractions of home, and then I will be able to enjoy the end of my sabbatical more completely.

Spring is coming

Tapping Out

mother nature, you win

I am officially over and done with winter, as are Juniper and Leeloo (Nate has been done for a while). The latest round of snow and extreme wind brought frozen gate latches and crabby mares; okay crabbier mares. A windchill of nineteen below in the middle of March is total bull sh*t. We fed the girls mostly in the shelters so they could stay out of the wind but they still had to come up to the house for water. Juniper takes longer to drink than any living thing I have ever met. Overall she and Leeloo are getting along okay, but Leeloo gets impatient with how long Juniper takes to finish getting a drink and the antics can be rather amusing.

Since the weather was such garbage my goal was to get some indoor things done and on that count I was not particularly successful. Though I did finally get my kitchen clean (mostly), so that’s a thing. Historically I have blamed my job for why I struggle to get everything else I “want” to get done, done. Being on sabbatical however has really shown that work isn’t the issue, or rather it is just one of the issues. Becoming minor hermits in 2020 and not really coming back out of that also made it clear that extrinsic motivation is actually really important for me. People coming over to our house is still the only reliable way to get me to clean it. For some reason cleaning for other people (who probably don’t care) is more motivating than cleaning for myself even though I know I feel better when my house is clean. But some things I have never ever been good about getting done; usually the less visible things or things with little to no consequence for avoiding them. Like cleaning the vents above the stove. If I clean the vents they will work better and extend the life of the motor which will save me money, which are good things. If I don’t clean the vents though nothing bad will happen, at least not for a long time, and even then, at worst it will cost me some money sooner than it would have otherwise. How do other people motivate themselves to do those kinds of tasks? I’ve been pondering listing literally everything I do that isn’t “fun” and identifying those things that I don’t have issues accomplishing (or have only minor issues) and seeing if there is any pattern to them that I could use to help me with the other items that sit on my to-do list for weeks or months.

If I don’t get something figured out I might have to resort to inviting people to our house again.

Challenge Accepted

okay spring, any day now

Mother nature apparently read my last post and decided to test my “snow is better than bugs” resolve. I still don’t mind the snow and lower temperatures, I am however done with the wind and the drifts that keep closing paths that were open just a few hours ago. I know we don’t live on the true great plains and that we only have a taste of the wind and drifts they have to deal with, but our location definitely tries its best to live up to the great plains wind standard.

We have managed to not blanket either Leeoo or Juniper at all this winter. However they are starting to shed because that process is dictated by the amount of light not the temperature, and we’re in for a week of below average temps, so I’m watching them closely again just in case. Hoping we can make it to spring without a blanket. It would help if they would bother to go in the f*ing shelters!

This photo was taken about 45 minutes after we had finished morning chores when the shelters were still clean (relatively) and fully stocked with hay. But no, apparently being reasonably warm and dry isn’t that important and they’d rather be out in the blowing snow. I do not understand.

While Leeloo and Juniper were out in the snow, Nate and I were finishing our taxes. We ended up having a much bigger refund coming than I would like. A big refund means we gave the government an interest free loan for the year and I hate that. If I owe them money I have to pay a fine, if they owe me money I’m just supposed to be happy about it. Ideally I’d like to get a refund of around $100; that amount wouldn’t have earned much interest anyway and it feels like a happy little surprise too much more than that annoys me. Regardless, getting money back in any amount is still better than the two years we owed a bunch and had to pay the aforementioned fines.

Having our taxes done takes one big thing off our to-do list but there are still so many more things on that list. My goal for this week is to try to get back to my previous levels of productivity. I have been really struggling with doing pretty much anything that is even in the neighborhood of adulting or being productive for the last few weeks. Or rather – I have a far more limited window of willingness than in the past, but my to-do list hasn’t gotten shorter, and I need to fix one of those things. Nate’s vote is less to-do list.

Now on to said list. Maybe today I’ll get an extra 30 minutes of productivity in – that would be a start at least.

Inch by Inch

wear that mountain down

A mentor of mine once said that sometimes you have to be a glacier. Progress may be slow and may seem undetectable, but year by year, inch by inch, glaciers can wear mountains down.

I have to remind myself of that a lot during this current journey. I very often look back and wonder where my week (or weekend) went and how did I not get anything done?! But I am making progress, inch by inch, but progress all the same and that is how you wear a mountain down.

Progress is being made little by little on lots of fronts.

Books being read: Building Community Food Webs by Ken Meter, Edible Forest Gardens Volumes I  by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, and No Dig Organic Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty. Of this set I am enjoying the Edible Forest Gardens book the most, but I have had No Dig Organic Home and Garden book longer and need to get it back to the library soon so I’m trying to get that finished first. The Community Food Webs is for the book club starting next week so I also have to get my chapters done for that. 

Making progress on getting the hay-box lids finally finished. You may be confused since I posted about having finally gotten the hay-box lid figured out back in December and how are they not done yet?! Well funny thing, I am a hardcore procrastinator and of course something went wrong with the measurements and every lid frame is off by 2.75” in one dimension so I’ve been working on fixing that. Also I managed to mess up cutting the hay-net part and need to fix that. Goal is to have them done and installed by Tuesday.

I am currently waiting on quotes for building the barn from four builders. Hopefully I’ll have those in soon and we’ll know if we are building this year or not.

We are all still figuring out our new morning chore routine now that we finally have the “barn” shelter cleaned out and have been using that to feed them every morning. But even that is getting streamlined and morning chores are down to about an hour when I do them on my own.


It doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to be better.

Procrastination and Taxes

two things we can always count on

The weekend was mostly dedicated to taxes, or more accurately various distractions while we procrastinated doing taxes, followed by finally doing most of our taxes, followed by some video gam time as a reward for doing taxes. I should note we still haven’t actually finished our taxes; but we have a good start!

However there isn’t much exciting to say about doing taxes so instead of a blog post enjoy this photo of a blossoming fruit tree to remind you that spring is right around the corner, even though the four inches of snow we got makes it feel like it is still months away


Plans to Plant

plants to plan for

As I mentioned in this post, I finished Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway last weekend and it was a very good book, highly recommend. There were many great things in the book but the two big ideas that have really been rattling around in my head sparking ideas are polycultures or plant guilds and alternative garden layout arrangements.

Polycultures, aka plant communities, aka plant guilds are all about planting things in mixed together groups that benefit one another instead of in individual monoculture groups. Nature abhors monocultures and nature is the best gardener of all so it would behoove us to follow her lead. The right polycultures can help everything grow better if the correct plants are chosen that work with one another to create healthy communities both above and below ground for plants, insects, and animals. Hemenway’s book goes into great detail about these ideas so I will not; but if you garden at all I think it would be worth your time to read.

The alternative garden layout ideas extend in some ways from the polyculture ideas. If we aren’t planting single rows or groups of one type of plant that opens the door to a wide range of alternative layouts such as this one from his book:

Image from Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

While trying to find that image I stumbled upon another article that discussed taking his ideas even farther to really maximize not only the amount of space used for growing things but to combine that with as much space that is within easy reach.

image is from

I have much more to learn on this topic, but I am super excited and super inspired by what I have learned so far.

These two things combined with my ideas for what I’d like to do for the Lawns to Legumes grant we received and a rough draft of an idea is starting to take shape in my head.

I’m thinking of putting together a small fruit tree guild based on all edible native Minnesota plants. The basic idea is you have a fruit tree in the center surrounded by beneficial and edible plants all around it. The tree is possibly planted with a “nurse” plant of some sort to help offer shade and act as wind break for the young tree as it is growing. Ideally the nurse plant would also be a fruit producing shrub or a nitrogen fixing shrub so that it not only offers physical protection for the baby tree but either nutrition to the tree or nutrition to the human who planted it. Then surrounding them both with various other shrubs and plants, which are either edible foods like wild strawberries, ramps, wild ginger, etc, or offer benefits like breaking up heavy soil, fixing nitrogen in the soil, drawing up other nutrients, attracting pollinators, etc. I still have much research to do about exactly what plants will work in our soil and with our intense winds and of course consideration for the fact that in the beginning there will be full sun but as the tree matures there will be less sun. But many people have been planting fruit tree guilds and there are tons of examples online, such as the one below, so I know this is doable it is just a matter of figuring out which plants will work for our location.

image from 

One of the sticking points for me is that most of the fruit trees native to MN are also toxic to horses. I am still searching to see if I can find one that isn’t, but regardless I am not planting any of these things inside their current paddock or any future paddock so if I can’t find a fruit tree that isn’t toxic I think we’ll still be okay. Though it will mean being vigilant after any storm to pick up anything that may blow into the pasture and making sure they always have hay available so they are not tempted into poisoning themselves out of hunger or boredom.

One of the resources Hemenway recommended to learn more about polycultures/plant guilds are the Edible Forest Gardens Volumes I and II by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. I just got them from the library this week and started reading them but then anther book I had on hold came in that I need to read for a book club. The learning cirlce is hosted by the Land Stewardship Project and we are reading Building Community Food Webs by Ken Meter. Our first session is in two weeks so that book has moved to the top of my reading pile.

So many ideas and so much more to learn and so much excitement! I’m going to make this regenerative farm thing happen!