End of the winter round up 2014 – ALP, career and scythe teaching designs

Well, this round up is starting to be a rather jolly annual thing, isn’t it?  What it usually means is that there are loads of things that I should have posted about, but didn’t, and now I’m posting about them all together in one giant fruit salad of designs…  Oh well.

This round up was prompted by having new members at our guild meeting (and one old member who hasn’t made it for a while).  There’s nothing like explaining your designs to people who don’t know about them to make you think, “hang on, I haven’t done anything about that in a while…”

Actually, I have been working really hard on my designs, I just haven’t been keeping an eye on the overview, the diploma as a whole.  Patterns to details, Beth, patterns to details…  So this round up is just to keep… mostly me really,  abreast of what’s happening to the diploma as a whole and how close I feel to accrediting.

ACTION LEARNING PATHWAY

Ah, Action Learning Pathway, how I have wrestled with you over the past year.  My ALP needs a redesign as the one I wrote at the beginning is no longer current and doesn’t really speak to me.  What I want is an ALP that will inspire me every time I look at it.  The reason I have been wrestling with it over the past year is that I want it to look pretty and I have only just come to terms with the fact that I am not a graphic designer…  Bad observation you might say.  Lying to myself about the level of my skills say I.  So, I have decided to put the paper-based ALP aside and make a video.  You might be thinking, ‘uh oh, same problem,’ but I’m actually quite good at video (for reasons I will explain later).  I guess what I am saying is that despite spending time on it, I have made bugger all progress with this design for a year but that I can now see the path ahead.  Once the video is made, I shall consider this design done.

ACTION: Draft storyboard 

 

CAREER DESIGN

Last year, in this post, I reframed my time and money design into a career design because I realised that thinking about ‘income streams’ put too much emphasis on one output – money – and didn’t have the sense of building something, or ‘wholeness’ that I realised that I needed.  So, a career design it was and that design took the form of a set of rules which went from the broad to the narrow.  From patterns to details.  A set of rules sounds quite vague but I found that once I had defined my destination (my purpose), the rules were just a broad way of getting there.  They are guiding principles.  This design is done (and it has been so useful).

 

SCYTHE TEACHING (CUTTING EDGE)

Those of you who read my blog regularly will remember how difficult I was finding this design a couple of years ago.  I made some bad decisions (you live and learn) and pretty much wasted a scything season.  Last year though, I made better decisions and did really well.  Based on the enquiries that I have already been having this year, it’s shaping up to be a good one too.

This year I feel really relaxed about the whole thing.  I feel like I am getting as much work as I can cope with, so I am not going to do much marketing this year.  I’m going to let the work I have already done carry me through (the 80/20 principle in action).  I’ve also really relaxed with the courses.  They don’t make me nervous at all any more.  It’s very nice!

This design has taught me so much about running a business!  One of the main things I have learned is that if you want to make any money then don’t start a business that you need to establish as a ‘thing’ and which can only be done for half the year.  But anyway…  It’s also taught me some of the real basics like invoicing and accounts and how to do my tax return.  It made me go out and learn about marketing and it has made me think carefully about things like scaling and how to build a resilient business.

Essentially, for the purposes of the diploma, this design is done.  I intend to write a more detailed ‘what my scything courses taught me about business’ post soon.

ACTION: Write ‘what my scything courses taught me about business’ post

Clearly I’m going to carry on teaching scything, so I think I am ready to embark on the next iteration of this design.  That is The Growth/Resilience Plan.  All of the signs are there that scything is on the up and up, that it’s going to go mainstream very soon and I want to be there to catch and store (you know, in my bank account 😉 ) that energy.  I would also like to make sure that my little enterprise is resilient to the chops and changes of my own life.  I’m anticipating at least one change in my circumstances (kids) but there could be more (e.g. moving abroad for a few years).  All of this means that I need to get other people to teach for me.  It makes me feel good that I called my website learnscything.com and not by my own name.  Getting other people to teach for me is an issue as there aren’t really that many people in my area who are good enough at scything to be able to teach it.  So, I need an apprentice – which will require another design.  It’s exciting to be at this stage though – the stage being able to pass my skills on and build a future for my mini-business.

ACTION: Do apprentice design

 

Secret project number 1: The Seed Blog

So, secret project number one The Seed Blog finally entered the public arena today.  I’ve been working on this project (secretly obviously) for about two years.  I wrote the design in November 2013 and have been implementing it since then.  Here’s a post I wrote about the backstory of The Seed and why I decided to create it.  And here’s a reflection about how the process of designing and implementing this has gone.

You know what, even though this has gone more or less 100% according to the design, I still feel quite unprepared for today.  Despite having thought and thought and thought about how to make it work, I’m still wondering if it will!  But the good thing about a blog is that it embodies the principle slow and small solutions.  If I don’t feel like I quite got this post right, I can make it better in the next one.  I can build up an audience slowly over time (at least that’s the idea).

Now to get on with secret projects numbers two and three…

My ten designs: some changes

I’ve made a few changes to my designs recently and realised I hadn’t documented that.  Here are my ten (and where I am up to with them):

1)  Action Learning Pathway:  My ALP needs a redesign, but it has done for a long time.  I seem to be stuck in a cycle of wanting to ‘graphically design’ it, but not knowing how to do that.  It’s all in my head, but I need to get it down on paper.

2)  Career Design:  I redesigned my ‘time and money’ design to be a list of goals about my career – which is what I realised this design was about.  I did this because I realised a few things…  I had no idea of how to predict how much money I would make nor how much time I would spend on various aspects of my income streams.  I also realised that I am really not motivated by financial goals – though I want to be more financially independent – so setting them for myself didn’t really work out.  I also suddenly realised that the design wasn’t about cobbling together a bunch of different jobs, it was about creating a career, brick on brick…

3)  Pen to Paper:  This has changed into the secret project that I will launch at the end of February.  It’s something I have been working on for a long time and fulfils the same goals that I had when I wrote my original design (you won’t be able to get in without a password – email me if you want it)

4)  Cutting Edge:  This was the design for my scythe courses which I wrote, painfully implemented, and am now waiting for it to write itself up.  It’s not happening!

5)   Teaching Permaculture:  Started.  Finished.  No change here.

6)  The Larder Project:  This is progressing happily forward as you will have seen from my last post.

7)  The Garden Design:  Is in the works.  I am in the observation stages right now.

8)  The Coppicing Design: I have just recently had a rethink about this one.  I was talking with a coppicer friend of mine who listened to what I wanted to do and then said that he thought that making this a ‘coppicing’ design was over-egging the pudding a bit.  He though that I just needed to learn woodland management, which I agree with.  The other thing that happened was that we got a tree.  A big, free tree to burn next year and I realised that our firewood needs could be met with only one moderately sized tree and I didn’t need to make this a priority of this design.  So what is the priority of this design?  Learning to work woodlands, I think, so when I actually come to write it, I will bear that in mind.

9)  Scrumping and cider group:  Originally, I wanted to do a design about wild food.  Now, I would still like to do a design about wild food, but this takes priority.  I want to start a scrumping and cider group to pick the good burghers of Lindfield’s unwanted fruit and process it into something great, like jam or cider.  The secondary aim of this is to boost my larder, but to be honest the main aim is to find cool people in Lindfield.  I know that there must be some!  It’s my one and only design which is overtly about working with other people.  I find it very scary!

10)  The Baby Design:  I had originally meant to do a design for the book I am writing as my tenth project (formally Localise), but I figured that I wanted to do this one more.  I’ll still do the localise one but won’t submit it.  The focus of this one is designing how to build a life with a baby should I be lucky enough to bring one (or two!) into this world.  Like the scrumping and cider group, I haven’t properly started thinking about this one yet, but it will happen soon.

 

An update on the larder project

Well, it seems like it was last May that I properly updated you on what was happening with the larder project.  There was a smidgen of an update when I told you we had moved and the outbuilding was going to be used as a larder, but nothing since then.

Just as a reminder, my main aim with the larder project was to have at least a three month supply of food around, with as much produced and preserved by me as possible.  Here’s my plan of action for the design:

Can do now

1)  Observe what I eat  I did this in early 2012 while I was still living with Ben and when I moved in with Will at the end of October 2012, I did this again.

2)  Identify where I get those things from and what I could do to ensure I have a store of them.  I identified that I could get most of my storeable items from Infinity Foods.  Since I have moved, I have realised that there some things that I buy that I could grow and preserve at home – raisins and tomatoes for example.  For now, I am happy getting this sort of stuff from Infinity Foods, but I have made sure to put these things in my garden design for the future.

3)  Do an Infinity order and carefully monitor how long things last We’ve done a couple of these now and we both love ’em.  The delivery driver did comment on how many cornflakes we had ordered though…  Now that we have all the food on ground level in the outhouse, it was much easier to get the order under cover and away.  The outhouse is working really well as a larder.  It’s a little damp, but I have made sure that nothing is open in there.  We don’t seem to have had a problem with mice – hopefully now we have two cats, that will continue!

4)  Continue making pickles with the surplus from the veg box (find a receipe book I like, develop an easy labeling system, build a store of pickle flavourings and vinegar)  Yep, I still do this.

5)  For next year – identify a cheap bulk source of berries for jam  Once I have implemented my garden design, I will have all of the berries that I can handle.  However, for this year, I will have to find another source – pick your own perhaps.  Or maybe just deal with not so much jam.  We seem to have done ok so far, and I haven’t made any for ages…  We are getting a bit low though…  

6)  Investigate bulk buying cheese and do so if appropriate I have not done anything about this…

7)  Start making yoghurt again  This was something that I did for a long time before we moved house, and didn’t quite seem to pick up again.  Will’s sister gave us a yoghurt maker (really just an insulated flask, but useful!), so I should try using that.  My issue is that we have our milk order balanced just about right at the moment.  If I order another pint a week and then don’t make yoghurt, then it might get uncontrollable…  On the other hand, it might not.  I should try it and see.

8)  Go to Fish and Archers more often  I was briefly part of a ‘fishbox scheme’ supporting Brighton’s fishermen by guaranteeing to buy fish from them, but picking the fish up didn’t work for me (and the scheme took a break anyway).  Now we have moved house, we don’t often eat fish, which some might say is a good thing.  Meat-wise, we buy our meat from the butcher in the village who buys from local sustainable farms.  He’s brilliant!

9)  Experiment with lactofermentation  These days I always have a pot of sauerkraut on the go.  Whether I eat it fast enough is another question.

Soon

10)  Investigate getting a freezer for the loft and get one if appropriate  We bought a freezer.  We mostly have apple in it at the moment.  Since we bought it, it has defrosted twice.  Once when Will accidentally turned it off and once when we had a four day power cut.  I’m a little wary of putting meat in there…  I think I need a back up plan!  

11)  Build cutting garden and develop conceptual plans for real garden (this is part of the garden project)  The garden design is well under way.  I am six months into my year of observation and am learning lots.  

Later

12) Investigate sources of apples and berries for fruit snacks  I have decided that I would like to start a ‘Scrumping and Cider’ group in the village to pick and process people’s excess fruit.  This has actually become one of my designs (I’ve changed them around a little bit).  I need to start thinking about this soon…

13) Build solar dehydrator  I am going to build one of these for this summer.  It will be the size of the flat space in my front (south-facing) garden.  

14) Buy electric dehydrator  For now, I am not going to worry about getting an electric dehydrator.  I will see how solar dehydrating goes this summer and consider my options after that.  

15) Get a pressure canner and learn to can On March 8th, this will be my joint Christmas and Birthday present.  I have been reading USDA guidelines in preparation and panicking…

Some more stuff that has occured to me since I wrote this list.  I have pretty much identified that I will need an allotment as well as my garden to grow what I want to grow, so once I have that under way I will need to start thinking about root cellaring – growing varieties of vegetables that can be stored.  I will also have to think very carefully about season extension.  For the sake of longevity, I’m wondering whether it might be an idea to buy wholegrains and grind them.  I think this might need to be something that I work up to though.

Our beer brewing is coming on leaps and bounds.  We’re really quite good at it!  All in all, the implementation of this design is ticking away nicely!

Four questions about The Seed

So, now that I have built The Seed website and am just about to launch it, I thought I would do the four questions about how it went.  Here goes:

What went well?

Virtually everything!  Or, virtually everything eventually…  I have a website that is basically what I said I would produce and it seems to have just clicked into place because of all of the planning and preparation that I did.  I am forgetting about the six months that I struggled to get the website up and running though.  One aspect of slow and small solutions is that you do get there eventually, meaning that ‘problems’ appear smaller at a distance…  I have basically done everything according to plan – the layout, the fonts, the illustrations, what’s in the sidebars etc.  I’ve built everything that I said I would.

One of the things that has gone particularly well about this project has been skill swapping.  I swapped half a days basic wordpress tuition with my friend Vicky for an illustration of an apple.  I asked my website designer friend Irene if she wanted to swap scything lessons with a few website pointers, and she said no, she wanted to swap my writing skills…  She reminded me that they were a swap-worthy thing!  When we did our skill swap day, neither of us could quite believe that we had done enough to justify what we were getting because what we had done for the other one seemed so easy compared to what they were doing for us, which seemed so impossible hard…  And so I learned a lesson here that can be summed up in the principle ‘use and value diversity.’  Partnering with people who have different but complimentary skills to you can SAVE YOUR LIFE.  I am doing it at work with Mike, and now Irene and I are doing it too.

I’ve changed a few things along the way.  At first I wanted to present myself as more of an expert than I am, but then I realised that it’s in the journey that you gather your audience (also, I wasn’t an expert in everything I wanted to write about…)  I wanted almost a magazine format like ABM, but I have realised that my strength lies in funny personal anecdotes, so I need it to be more personal than that (but not too personal).

Which leads me to…

What was challenging?

By far the most challenging things is that I have worked really hard to bring my photography together and I have done really really well in most areas, but my blog doesn’t really have a cohesive photographic style – and part of that is because I am taking pictures of so many different things.  I am trying to do still lives, landscapes, portraits, everything – and that’s hard!  I struggled to find my writing style, but I think that I am there now.  I will find my voice and I will find my photographic style.  I know that it’s just a matter of doing it, that you can’t expect something like this to appear fully formed from nothing, but it’s still frustrating to me…  But I know that I should value frustration, that it points the way.

Another present challenge is editing pictures.  I have in no way got the right software on my computer…  It’s really annoying.  I need to get Cameron, or someone at work to put Creative Suite and Lightroom on my desktop.  Then I will be completely sorted.

Realising that I should probably only consider myself able to post one post a month was another challenge.  I want to do more than that, but I will probably not be able to…

What’s my vision?

My vision is still the same as it was in my design – to turn the blog into a platform for selling my stuff – ecourses, books,  writing etc.  It’s a way of being financially independent when I have sproglets…  I plan to use twitter, instagram and pinterest to promote it, as well as doing guest posts of various types on other people’s blogs…  A clothing remake on A New Dress A Day and my house on A Beautiful Mess (and Country Living Magazine)

Next steps

Launch the damn thing!

The backstory of The Seed

I’m writing the post now, which I won’t publish, because I want to keep a reminder, for myself, of the backstory of The Seed.

When I started my diploma, I knew that I wanted to make writing one of my income streams in some way.  I chose to do this through ‘green journalism,’ because it seemed like the most obvious way to make a regular income from words.  I tried it for a year and it never seemed like the right fit for me.  Sometimes I felt like all I was doing was marketing, sometimes I felt like a complete fraud.  It just never felt right.  About a year ago I did a short journalism course which made it clear to me that what makes a good journalist is someone who has a passion for finding and telling the truth, whether it’s about Watergate or fruit juice.  I knew that that was not my purpose.  Now I am not saying that I don’t care about telling the truth, but when asked what my purpose in life was, I had recently joked, “being a propagandist for the Good Life.”  I knew in my head that if I was certain that this was what I was driven to do, then that would make me a bad journalist.  The course also made clear that journalism is not about you.  You don’t have to be the expert on a subject because you will do the research and write a balanced article afterwards.  I realised that I did want to be the expert.  I did want to write about my own personal experience.

Back at the beginning of my diploma, when I was having about seven business ideas a day, I came up with the idea of a blog.  I knew it would be hard work, so my idea was to get other people to do it with me.  I talked to a couple of people, but they had their own projects and it became clear that this was my project,  not a collaborative one.  It was around the start of my diploma when I got back into reading blogs in a big way.  I have been a blog reader and writer for most of my life – starting off in 2002 with a travel blog while I was abroad teaching English, then getting heavily into video blogging, then writing a blog about my experience of being on the hundred mile diet, and now this one.  I understood how the blogging community worked, how it really was a community, how you could make new friends, have extraordinary experiences because of blogging, but now I realised how blogs could contribute to making an income.  This felt like the ‘big project’.  It felt like everything I had done before was gearing up for this.  Everything felt like it was slipping into place.

For a brief moment, I thought that it might be possible to make money directly from blogging – i.e. from advertising – but what I soon realised was that what a blog was for was to build a community of people who are really very dedicated to you (and you to them) and who are interested in the other things that you are doing – like books and e-courses and micro-brew-shop operations.  And it fits so well.   It fits wholly with my purpose in life, it allows me to become part of a greater conversation that I am definitely interested in, it fits with the rest of my life, it allows me to write and be creative, it allows me to promote people I like.

I could have started a blog there and then and learned by trial and error.  But, I didn’t.  I know that trial and error will come into any project, but I want my blog to be a big hitter right from the start, so I spent over a year observing.  I observed business models, photography styles, how people used social media.  I spent a long time defining my blog reader and what I was going to blog about, as well as working out what my income streams would be.  I also spent that time taking photography classes because one thing that I was sure about was that fabulous pictures were the key to any blog’s success.

So, I wrote my design and have started to implement it.  Right now, this means building the website.  I knew that I wanted the site to be able to grow with the blog, so I didn’t want to put it on WordPress.com, where I wouldn’t be able to change it around when I want to.  I also wanted to use particular fonts to create a particular look and I knew this would also not be possible with WordPress.com, so I started to learn WordPress.org.  I hit some major issues and asked a website designer acquaintance (now a friend) whether she would help me in return for scything tuition.  She said, yes, she would help me, but she wanted me to write some copy for her website – another skill I always forget I have.  I helped another friend set up a website for her illustration and in return she drew me a logo.  It just seemed easy to get all of the things which had at first seemed so hard.  I was even lucky with the fonts I bought.  There was a particular font I liked, one which had made me stop dead in my tracks in a typography book, and I had discovered that someone was working on distributing it again.  I spent a year emailing to see whether they had finished it, and when they finally had, the guy gave the web version to me for free because I had been waiting for so long.  I now feel very much like publicising it for him (it’s a lovely font, with a lovely story).

So that’s where we are now.  The website is getting there.  It needs tweaking certainly, and I have set up a date in January to do that.  I am now getting some content (meaning blog posts) up there.  This is quite frightening to me, even though I am in no doubt that I can do it.  I have realised that what I thought at the beginning, that blogging is a lot of hard work, is really true.  I am unlikely to get out more than a post a month, I don’t think.  But that’s fine for now, I have other priorities.  One post equals at least one and probably two days work per month – it’s all I can manage right now with two books to write and a house to do up.  I don’t want to just throw posts out there.  They have to be really good.  I have written one post which is about 6/10.  That’s fine for the first post, so just get something out there, but from now on posts need to be 9/10 before they get posted.  I think I need to block out a weekend every month to get this done…

My career design

I have decided to write this design as a list of goals, starting from the broadest patterns and moving towards the smallest details.  The broad patterns will be about my whole life, my raison d’etre, and the details will be about the specifics of what I am doing now.  There won’t be many SMART goals amongst the broad patterns.  I can’t set myself measurable targets for the biggest things, only aims.  But these aims will be a compass for me when opportunities come up that I am not sure whether I should pursue, so in many ways they are more valuable than the more detailed measurable goals.

Ok, here goes:

Goal 1:  Become known for my purpose, not for the ways that my purpose is expressed.   

Almost exactly this time last year, I wrote this post about my purpose in life which is,

“to enable people to create meaning and security in their lives by helping them to produce rather than consume life’s essentials – food, clothing, warmth etc – and to help people understand that the land is where all of these essentials come from.  I intend to do this in a beautiful, innovative, creative and captivating way.”

This is the basis of my career design.  This is still absolutely at the core of what I want to do with my life.  If I can focus on becoming known for this, rather than for one of the ways in which I put this purpose into practice, then I can easily take my career in all sorts of different directions.  But how do I do that?

Goal 2:  Build an community

From observation over a number of years it seems that if you can gather a community around you who believe in what you believe in (or are intruiged by it at least), then you will always have people who are interested in what you are doing.  There are hundreds of ways to do that, and I have chosen a few (yep, those secret projects again).

Goal 3:  Play to my strengths (and get other people to help me surmount my weaknesses)

There are things that I am good at (having ideas, expressing myself creatively in words, being friendly) and there are things that I am not good at (attention to detail, being a perfectionist, focusing on finance).  To achieve goal number 2, I need to play to my strengths.  And I need to get other people – hire other people if need be – to help me work around my weaknesses.

Goal 4:  Just do it

I have noticed that I keep returning again and again to the design process trying to work out why I am not enormously successful yet.  I need to remember that constant self-reflection is another form of procrastination.  Regular self-reflection is good, but constant self-reflection means that I am not doing whatever I should be doing.   Planning is extremely important, but then I need to focus on putting the plan into practice.

Goal 5:  Then just keep doing it. 

Don’t give up.  Adapt and change, but don’t give up.

Goal 6:  Maintain a balance of thinking and doing

By nature, I am a thinker rather than a doer.  I came to ‘doing’ in later life but I find that I need it as a counter-balance to the thinking (and to give me something to think about!).  At the moment, I am doing this through a combination of scythe teaching and writing which seems to work well.  I also need to make sure that I value the ‘doing’ that happens in non-career areas on my life – in the kitchen, in the garden, in the woods.

Goal 7:  Focus on creating easily distributable ‘things’ at home

Because of the plans for the rest of my life (endlessly discussed here over the past few days), it won’t be particularly easy to go to places and talk to or teach people.  For now, my focus needs to be on creating ‘things’ that people can engage with all over the world (I’m being very vague here, aren’t I…).  This may well change in the future.

So, that’s it.  My career design, guiding principles etc.  I now propose to take my own advice and shut up about the strategy and just get on with implementing.

Tagged ,

Just do it!

mind mapMy time and money redesign seems to have got a bit of a hold of me at the moment.  What struck me fairly heavily the other day was that this was not a design about my income streams.  That’s far too basic a design and only focuses on one yield – money.  This is a design about my career.  Ta da!  It’s a career design.  I only just realised.  Well done me.

I spent some time the other day doing a mind map of what I thought a future family would need from me, and also what I wanted out of a career.  The results were really interesting.  Money was only a small part of what I wanted (but a really important one).  Given that, at a push, we could manage without me earning much, I had to concede that for me, earning money was important for different reasons.

Firstly, if I wasn’t earning money (or if I had no plans to earn money in the future) I would feel like I was not contributing enough to the household.  Obviously, money is only one kind of contribution to the household (and Will made a point of saying this), but really, it’s an important one.  Secondly, removing yourself completely from the world of earning a living is dangerous, especially for women.  There may come a time in the future when you need to do it for yourself, for whatever reason.  This is what the feminism of our mother’s generation was all about.  Thirdly, earning money from a self-employed income is satisfying in ways that working in a job isn’t (but it has its downsides too).  The money you make has been made entirely through your own endeavours.  That’s an amazing feeling.  There wasn’t any money there before.  Then you did something, developed a product or a service, sold it to people, and now there is money there.  It’s AMAZING!

So if my career design isn’t really about the money (and it is a bit), then what is it about?  One of the things that came up repeatedly was about having agency, being able to act on ideas.  I have *a lot* of ideas (too many, a plague almost) and I recently realised that many of them are quite good.  These days I am feeling much more capable of actually making ideas happen, and I have realised that all the ideas I had in the past – the ones that fell flat on their face, the ones that I didn’t put into action – weren’t bad they were just at the wrong time.  So, one thing that I want as I build my career (eek, still feels weird to say that, careers are for people in banks…) is that I am able to act on the ideas that I have.  I feel like I am getting closer to a place where I know how to get the help I need to make a project work, and I know how to make a project work in order for it to be financially beneficial.  I am not there yet though…

The other thing that came up a lot is that reputation matters to me quite a bit.  Being known for something.  Being known for being good at something.  I want my voice to be heard – from a selfish point of view, but also because I have ideals and ideas that I want to share with other people.

And, you know what? I know how to build this.  I have the skills to build this already.  I just need to do it.  Recently, I have been repeatedly having the feeling that everything I need is right under my nose, and I had it again when thinking about this design.  I know how to achieve the things I want.  I have always known how to achieve them.  I just need to knuckle down, get on with it and not get attached to outcome.  I think this is a point where I need to let go of the design process and keep stepping forward.  I know where I am going.  Some designs, like my larder design are easy to implement because they aren’t affected by outside forces, but this one is different.  This one is much much harder.  That’s why it’s hard!

Veg box

As part of my garden observations, I have decided to start monitoring my veg box to see what veg we eat.  I am writing down what we get each week (kittens aren’t usually included in veg box deliveries – this one just wants to be everywhere she shouldn’t be…) and when I have enough data I will start the analysis.  What I really want to know is, what can I grow myself in the space that I have?  I’d really like to be in a position by this time next year where I am just buying root veg through the box scheme, and eventually I’d like to not get a veg box at all.

Knowing what veg we eat will also be useful so that I can work out how to replace them with perennial or self-seeding varieties of things.  Realistically, I am not going to spend a long time nurturing fragile plants (crash and burn, tomato dreams), so I’ll need to think carefully about what annuals I will grow on a regular basis, and work out my systems early.

We also get eggs and fruit juice through the veg box scheme, so it would be nice to be able to supply ourselves with those things too.  There are plans in the works, but you know, you gotta observe before you interact…

Time and money design update

It has been pretty quiet on this blog lately, but that isn’t because I haven’t been doing anything.  Mostly it’s because I have a whole bunch of ‘secret projects’ going on which I want to post about but am not quite able to yet.  Some of the projects are secret because they aren’t ready to launch.  Some of them are secret because they’re a business idea that I don’t want to broadcast.  Some of them are secret because I haven’t got everyone on board that I need to before announcing them to the world.  Rest assured that I am working hard back here…

What I wanted to post about today was my time and money design.  I haven’t written about it for a long time, but I have been thinking about it constantly.  At it’s most basic, it’s a design about how I support myself financially, but it’s also about what I spend my time doing and how resilient my income streams are to future change.

Since I posted my time and money design nearly two years ago some things have stayed the same, and a lot of things have changed.  What’s stayed the same is that I am still making 2/3 of my income from working part time at Brighton University and I am still teaching scythe courses.  What is different, basically are my knowledge and ideas.  I have learned so much about business in the past two years and about building things for the future.  Two years ago I thought about my income streams as a collection of small scale ‘momentary’ ventures.  I did them, and then they went away.  I wasn’t thinking about how to build them into something that would last.  Now, I still think of my various ventures as small-scale, but now they are connected and part of a plan to build something bigger and more sustainable.  That ‘something’ might well be a career!

The direction that I want to take now is to design my income streams (ok, let’s call it a career, even if it’s a crazy one) to work with starting a family – and, dare I say it – home schooling them.  This design has turned from ‘how do I make money,’ into ‘how do I make money over the next 20 years…’  Welcome to adulthood, Beth!

I can see the parents I know sitting there with a wry smile on their face…  Balancing kids and careers, especially for women, is in the news so much because it’s a massively hard problem to solve, and honestly, I don’t know how I will solve it.  What I do know is that my self-employed income is going to count and the more of that that I can do from home, the better.  At the moment, my biggest self-employed income stream is scythe courses, which are another thing that it might be tricky to do a lot of whilst encumbered with a child.  I am looking at ways of working with other people (actually, employing other people) so that my business can continue even though I might not be able to teach the actual courses.  This means letting go, which is a terrifying prospect…

I am also working hard at developing some products (some of the ‘secret projects’) which will mean that I can have an income stream from home.  I’ve got enough of these ‘secret projects’ in the pipeline to keep me busy for a good few years.  It feels really nice to know what I am doing for the foreseeable future, to have stuff to get my teeth into.  I realised a few days ago, that I didn’t have to be innovative for a while…  Now I just had to knuckle down and get on with all of these opportunities I had created for myself.

Despite my excitement about these projects, I realised with a bit of a bump yesterday that there is no magic bullet that is going to give me financial security and a flexible working life.  I can’t sort it out by spending a lunchtime drawing charts in my notebook.  I can only do what I am doing right now – keep trying.  I also realised a couple of other things:

–  I can’t grow my scythe courses right now because I have other priorities (the secret projects).  I’ll have to let them develop at their own pace and employ people help me with them so that they can continue when I can’t teach them myself.

–  None of my secret projects are going to bring me meaningful income for 2-3 years

All of which means that I am not going to be able to earn much more than I am earning now for the next 2-3 years, and possibly much less!  And, all of these things are a punt.  None of them might work.  That’s the scary part… I might be a poor church mouse forever.  But I really don’t feel like I have a choice.  Firstly, I’ve committed to this road and feel like it is the one that I should be on.  Secondly, present circumstances and decisions I have made in the past mean that doing something else would be difficult.  So, I have to do my work and hope that some of it sticks!  Here’s hoping!