Thoughts on 2017

The beginning of a new year naturally triggers introspection and reevaluation. I’ve approached this in many different ways over the years. Formal resolutions, S.M.A.R.T. goals, informal resolutions, sorta-kinda wishes. I like the path I’m walking on currently. There’s not an existential desire to step off the path and blaze one in a new direction. What there is in my mind today is a desire to reflect on the path and balance out a few things.

Balance will be one of my mantras in 2017. I like where I’m at individually with Maria, the kids as a father, the kids as a teacher, the homestead, but I feel like these are too often disparate arenas of my life, not a cohesive hole. Priorities juggle, time spent on each comes and goes in fits and starts. I want to blend my life better.

While on the path I also need to open my spiritual senses better, understand my faith as it stands, as I wish it to be. I’m comfortable saying that I believe in a god, that I pray, that it is a personal relationship. There is a spiritual presence that has walked with me for many, many years. A presence, a voice much like conscience but which does not feel wholly internal. I’ve long struggled to interpret it and think all of my interpretations have so far been mistaken. It is what it is. I am who I am. God is, whatever it is. I’ve talked in other posts about forms of magic, about ways the divine clearly (to me) emanates in the physical world.

There is no need to have answers on this by the end of 2017. Indeed, one of the best things about spirituality is the need to accept mystery. The restraint to keep it at that rather than formalize and sterilize into ritual and doctrine.

Simply, I want to be a better person. We should all wish this, each and every year we journey on the earth. For me, part of becoming better is cultivating this spirituality. Make it a part of my every day life instead of something I’ve partitioned off and only occasionally remembered to re-examine. I’ll likely write more about this through the year but I think that is enough for today.

A few of my favorite pictures from 2016 (in no particular order):

First baby rabbits born!

First baby rabbits born!

First homegrown egg

First homegrown egg

Posing one of our first rabbits.

Posing one of our first rabbits.

A look at our crazy urban homestead early in the summer.

A look at our crazy urban homestead early in the summer.

dsc_1771

The day I finished the chicken run, though it's seen a lot of changes since.

The day I finished the chicken run, though it’s seen a lot of changes since.

Last day at the rural garden before everything froze and snowed. Excited to see what this will yield in 2017

Last day at the rural garden before everything froze and snowed. Excited to see what this will yield in 2017

Spreading compost with the kids in March.

Spreading compost with the kids in March.


2016 Goals

Health/Fitness

  • Body fat to ~15%. 
  • Continue weightlifting 3 day/week.
  • Vigorous cardio at least 5 day/week for minimum 30 minutes.
  • Hike 50 miles of the IAT.
  • Go to dentist once.

Personal development/lifestyle

  • Work on my fiction every day, but forgive myself if I miss a day here or there.
  • Play video games at least once a week.
  • Sketch once a week.

Homesteading/Stewardship/Parenting

  • Stick to my “1 room every day” cleaning schedule.
  • Keep the garden maintained and productive without neglecting other household and parenting duties.
  • Add chickens into the food production mix
  • Continue to buy local/sustainable food where possible without compromising our financial goals
  • Throw a “harvest fest”
  • Make dry-ice root beer “witches brew” for Halloween and/or for the harvest fest.

2015 goals: Q3 check in

Just a brief check in on my goals and seeing how they’re going. I neglected to update this at the end of Q2 but they’ve been on my mind lately, so I figure this is a sub-conscious sign I should check-in with the end of Q3 approaching. The original post is here.

  • Quit my job. –>accomplished!
  • Eat healthier AND more seasonally. –>Doing well so far. Sometimes my “carb loading” goes a bit crazy and I get in a funk, but between the garden, CSA, and the excellent farmer’s markets here it’s pretty damn hard not to eat well. The locavorism challenge I’ve started should help keep up the momentum even into the lean months.
  • Do more science and history in homeschooling. –> We’ve made some progress here.
  • Increase home food production. Stretch goal: acquire chickens. –>I plan on doing a garden post-mortem once the first killing frost hits, as I’m still harvest pounds of tomatoes, some zucchini and broccoli, and have a fair number of live winter squash vines yet. As of this writing we’ve offset more than $600 of our food costs, and much of the food has been of a quality that you literally can’t buy – at any price.
  • Increase muscle mass. –> Touching my own body feels strange. I’ve never had this much muscle mass before. My body-fat could still drop appreciably but I’ve really enjoyed the progress so far.
  • Bike an unsupported solo century (100 miles) –> Over our summer vacation to Baltimore, I took a day trip and biked 80 miles RT, nearly all of it on gravel. I’m told this is as hard as 100+ on pavement. So, I (sort of) accomplished it. To be honest? It was miserable after about mile 50. I think I have a bike fit issue, as my arms/back fatigue and get sore long before my “motor” conks.
  • Reduce waste and overall footprint. –>going pretty well, though I’ve definitely relaxed my efforts.
  • Take at least one ‘fun’ vacation (e.g. not to visit family or friends). –> Did this and wrote about it here.
  • Learn how to car camp. Stretch goal: do an overnight backpacking or bike touring trip. –>See above. Backpacking and bike touring will have to wait.
  • Keep writing fiction regularly. Add one more character serial. Stretch goal: get to a point with Einar’s story (or character #2) that I can revise it and package it as a polished e-book. –>Oh dear, this goal has failed miserably.
  • Buy no new clothes in 2015. –>On target. My only purchase has been (badly needed) shoes.
  • Learn the basics of homebrewing beer and/or hard cider/fruit based fizzy adult beverages. –>Nope. Maybe a winter project but I’ll probably be using my personal/hobby $ for other things. I’ve toyed with picking up cider from the orchard to brew, but to be honest? The hard ciders I’ve tried at parties have not been particularly enjoyable (too sweet).

2015 Goals

Historically I have been ambivalent about the motivational impact of goals, but I derived a decent amount of wisdom by re-reading my MMM forum journal and all the comments it’d built up since June 2014, so having a post like this where I can revisit at the END of 2015 will be potentially valuable.

  • Quit my job. The benefit of extra family time will far exceed the additional income. At this point, over ten years, my earned income will only mean 1 additional pre-FIRE year for the Alchemist. I think that’s a worthwhile trade. Having weekends with two parents home will also make DIY projects much easier to manage.
  • Eat healthier AND more seasonally. We made big progress on this in 2014 but there’s improvement to still be made here. Having additional preservation options (large dehydrator purchase and possibly an extra freezer) will make this even easier.
  • Do more science and history in homeschooling.
  • Increase home food production. Stretch goal: acquire chickens.
  • Increase muscle mass. My core and legs are quite strong, but I need to increase my upper body strength and overall anaerobic capacity. The health benefits of lifting increase with age, so getting a handle on this in my 30s will pay dividends long into the future. The Alchemist is considering joining a gym, but we’ll wait until the New Year’s craze dies down before doing it.
  • Reduce waste and overall footprint. The main goal here is to be more mindful of packaging, particularly with food. For example, while I like Trader Joe’s coffee beans, the mostly non-recyclable packaging increasingly bothers me. I want to get in the habit of bringing my own reusable produce bags. A variety of very small decisions, but the combined impact is still rather large.
  • Take at least one ‘fun’ vacation (e.g. not to visit family or friends). As much as we love visiting family and our few dear friends (and the free lodging we get by travelling this way), we also enjoy exploring the world on our own terms and seeing things at our own pace.
  • Learn how to car camp. Stretch goal: do an overnight backpacking or bike touring trip. This is related to the goal above and probably will go hand in hand with the previous goal, since hotel or AirBnB accommodations with a family of 5 eat up such a huge chunk of the cost of travelling. Non-remote camping still costs some money, but it’s a lot less and I think we’ll enjoy it. To be on the safe side, we’ll be borrowing gear initially, in case we discover we totally hate it. (Note: I realize the gear requirements for car camping versus bike camping or backpacking don’t map 1:1.)
  • Keep writing fiction regularly. Add one more character serial. Stretch goal: get to a point with Einar’s story (or character #2) that I can revise it and package it as a polished e-book. I love writing my fiction. It’s easy to let it fall by the wayside but it’s potent mood medicine for me and at least a few of you seem to be rather enjoying my stories as well. I have a number of partially written characters and settings to draw from for character #2’s serial. I know who I’m leaning towards right now but we’ll see who ends up winning.

I think that’s enough for now but perhaps I’ll think of more to add later. What are some of your 2015 goals? Do you share any of mine?

If you’re someone who’s anti-goal, I’d be interested in hearing your reasoning too! I definitely used to be that way myself 🙂

Edit 1-8-14 It’s barely into the New Year and I’ve been inspired to add two more new goals thanks to this awesome post by Mrs. Frugalwoods about her clothes (shopping) free 2014.

  • Buy no new clothes in 2015. The lone exception I’ll allow myself is a pair of athletic trainers. My current pair is already on their last legs. Otherwise, I can’t perceive any needs in my wardrobe and if something unforeseen were to happen, it gives me the incentive to learn better sewing skills.
  • Learn the basics of homebrewing beer and/or hard cider/fruit based fizzy adult beverages. After a clothes ban in 2015, I think a store bought alcohol ban in 2016 would be a great challenge. I’m going to be spending a lot of time and money, both joint and personal, on the garden in the first half of 2015, but in the second half I’ll have a little breathing room to think about another sustainable hobby. If I enjoy it enough, maybe some hop rhizomes can go into the 2016 garden plans as well 🙂