The Walden Effect: Homesteading Year 5. Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

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Aug 2016
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Honda mower in action.

We let the mowing getting a little behind schedule this Summer.

Thankfully the Honda double blades can handle the extra high lawn by going slow.

Posted Wed Aug 16 15:07:20 2017 Tags:

OptimismIn Learned Optimism, Martin E. P. Seligman sets out to understand why some people, when faced with adversity, dust themselves off and jump back into the game while others cave in and give up. He concludes that optimists possess a world view that makes them more resilient in the face of life's inevitable problems while pessimists lack that internal resiliency.

The results of a pessimistic world view are startling. Pessimism dramatically increases your risk of clinical depression and it also tends to make you age faster and less gracefully. Pessimistic people --- even if they began with the same or greater talent --- also succeed less often in life (graduating from college, getting raises at work, winning at sports, etc.). Basically, being pessimistic is bad for your health.

So what's the little difference that creates these big results? In some ways, it's a simple mind game. Pessimists believe that bad things "will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault." Optimists, in contrast, tend to use the struck-by-lightning hypothesis --- everything bad was caused by external forces, isn't likely to be repeated, and is only temporary. "The optimists," Seligman writes, "believe defeat is not their fault."

If you're a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist, does that mean you're sunk? Luckily, no. It's quite possible to change your thinking and change your life trajectory. In tomorrow's post, I'll start showing you Seligman's method how.

Posted Wed Aug 16 07:18:34 2017 Tags:
Path of solar eclipse.

It's less than a week before the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

We'll be driving 3 hours that morning to arrive at the path of Totality.

We've been looking forward to this all Summer.

Posted Tue Aug 15 14:39:42 2017 Tags:

Learned optimismLearned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman isn't really homesteading-related. But I've found that mindset is very important in everything ranging from creating a microbusiness to keeping your garden weeded, So I'm going to regale you with highlights from this classic for the rest of the week.

First, though, I wanted to write a little about the book itself. Seligman is considered by many to be the father of positive psychology, and given some of the tripe that fills that field, I wasn't sure what to expect. Imagine my surprise to find that his book reads like a Lorenz- or Tinbergen-style popularization of years of intense scientific research. No woo-woo here!

In fact, the most common negative review of the book can be summed up as follows: too much data. So if you don't enjoy looking behind the curtain and seeing how science is done, you might want to skip the middle half of the book. On the other hand, the beginning and end should still be up most people's alleys. And, personally, I found the middle eminently readable...but I do have a background in science.

I should warn the potential reader about a couple of other problematic aspects as well. First of all, the book is nearly thirty years old at this point, so you might be left feeling like you need to delve into the recent literature for updates. (Not necessarily a problem, although a potential time sink.) More troubling, there are some animal experiments that will make the squeamish cringe (although I didn't find them nearly as bad as I'd thought they would be). So read at your own risk!

Okay, enough about the book itself. Tomorrow, I'll present the highlight of Seligman's research --- the finding that thought patterns developed as children will determine your future success, health, and more. And those patterns aren't set in stone --- you can change them if you're willing.

Posted Tue Aug 15 07:15:34 2017 Tags:
Walden cabin site stone marker.

A design team of 8 video game creators have been working on a Walden game for the past 5 years and released it this Summer.

The game uses detailed notes that Thoreau took about his daily routine.

It takes place in a real-time 3D environment which creates the geography of Walden pond and the woods around it.

Posted Mon Aug 14 15:05:21 2017 Tags:
Out the window

With a lot of our packing done, this week will be committed to cleaning, mowing, and helping our homestead put its best foot forward as we get in touch with a realtor and prepare to sell. In the process, I'm also taking copious notes on aspects of the homestead I want to replicate in our new stomping grounds.

Front porch

Porches are a biggy, and after having three of them built I finally know exactly what I want. Our front porch --- 12 feet wide by 24 feet long --- is a perfect size, luxuriant and open with lots of space for curing vegetables, drying seeds, and dining.

Unfortunately, we don't use it as much as I'd like in the summer --- prime porch season --- because the structure faces south. So the perfect porch on my opinion would be just like this one...but on the north side of the house for summer shade. As a bonus, the north face of our new place will face into the woods and away from the road, making it a perfect fit for private summer living.

Posted Mon Aug 14 06:54:07 2017 Tags:
Mark and Anna sitting in the Kubota.
Sitting in the Kubota on a Sunday afternoon.
Posted Sun Aug 13 15:20:08 2017 Tags:
Joe Pye Weed

Did you ever wonder how Joe Pye Weed got its name? After a bit of googling, I discovered that Joe Pye was a Massachusetts Native American who used the plant to treat fever in the early nineteenth century. (Or so the only page that cited sources suggests.)

I'm not sure that butterflies care what this late-summer flower is called. They seem grateful for copious nectar sources now that their wings are beginning to succumb to wear. Perhaps that's a lesson in mindfulness right outside our back door?

Posted Sun Aug 13 07:16:16 2017 Tags:
Load of gravel in the kubota.

I switched from the largest rip rap gravel to the 3-4 inch gravel and it seems to be a better fit for our troubled spots.

Posted Sat Aug 12 15:47:41 2017 Tags:
Brussels sprout seedling

Usually, I like to get baby plants into the ground as soon as possible. But I've been holding over fall crops, trying to decide whether to give them away or save them for our new homestead. And, in the process, I collected some data on how long crucifers can hang out in flats without starting to complain.

Of course, the answer to this question depends not just on the type of plant you're growing, but also on the type of soil and the number of cells in the flat. More cells = smaller root zone = shorter happy time for baby plants.

With that caveat aside, here's some data for you. I started the Brussels sprouts pictured at the top of this post on May 15, nearly three solid months ago. And (using the slow-release fertilizer in the store-bought potting soil), they're still thriving in their 54-cell flats.

Nutrient-deficient broccoli

Broccoli, on the other hand, went into a 72-cell flat with the same soil on June 16...and they were already starting to complain six weeks later. Looks like it would have been much cleverer to use  larger cell sizes for seedlings intended to be held over, especially if they're as hungry as greedy broccoli plants. Live and learn!

Posted Sat Aug 12 07:16:59 2017 Tags:

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