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Joylynn Hardesty
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I'm dumber than a sheep farmer!
Hi Travis!

Travis Johnson wrote:
(7) Learn to prioritize. me...I am too dumb, so I set up a spreadsheet that kind of does it for me. By answering parameters, it generates which fields are priority, then what tasks are prioritized over others. I have the same thing with my equipment that needs repair, that way I know what i should be fixing and when.

From here: https://permies.com/t/68731/Enjoy-Permiculture-Farming#578072


Like Travis says, elsewhere, everyone has 24 hours in a day. I need to increase my efficiency, to reclaim a couple hours each day. Garden tasks stack up, I get behind, I have trouble deciding which task that needed to be done yesterday to do first. Disorganization abounds.

Perhaps this can help me do better. I now have a spreadsheet program (Microsoft Excel), AND NO IDEA HOW TO USE IT!

Can anyone point me to a tutorial? Give advise?
 
Scott Foster
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  I carry around a small book/ journal with a band around it. (Wallymart)

As I'm working or walking around the garden; I  make to-do lists, draw little pictures, write down ideas and observations.   

This might be a good way to keep track of what you want to input into excel.  

Here is a farm-specific excel vid. to get you started.

 
Jarret Hynd
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I'd like to see how the layout of Travis' excel program is aswell, but maybe it's a guarded secret

---

I always prefer to look at technicals when possible. Do you have a list created already of daily activities/future projects you need to do? For now I'll just explain philosophy/theoretical.

There are lots of places to start, but it seems the most logical to start from the moment you wake up - I consider this the "get ready" stage. Some people need a little more time than others in the morning, but it's also a good time to just reassess the plan for the day. I used to be able to get out the door in 10 minutes when I had a normal job, but now with my own projects I need at least a good hour to think them through.

You are starting the day off from your home presumably, so this already effects the order of decisions depending on where you plan to start and where you have to go. Lately I have 3 places I am going to in a day, and if I messed up the order I can sometimes add on an extra 30-60 minutes in travel time alone. This works on a micro-scale aswell if all your jobs are just around the yard.

A broken piece of machinery is generally the highest priority in most cases, as expensive tools should be used as much as possible to get a good ROI. I used my chainsaw to get 2 cords of wood five years ago, and now I progressed to about 20 cords this year. If my chainsaw broke 5 years ago, it would not be a high priority, but now I need it functioning or many of my other projects would be halted. To build on this example, I carry about 5 chains with me and if one of them gets dinged, I just take it off and replace it. I can't use my chainsaw at night, but I can fiddle around with fixing chains.

So make a list of your tasks/projects and add in queries such as:
Where is the location of each project?
What are the time-frames for them? 1 week? 2 months?
What is the optimal time to do the project? I mentioned above about chainsawin' in the day, but recently I had to do some fencing when we were getting really cold temps in the late morning and early evening. I work so poorly when my hands are cold, that I had to rework my entire schedule around so I could do fencing at 2:00pm.
How much time will completing the project save you in the future? For example, I scraped my idea for cover crops this year in exchange for adding a few hugels in, mostly based on this factor. (aswell as sporadic weather)
What is the immediate and future value of completing each of them? An immediate project would be like finishing up a grant application that's close to expiring and sending it off to get $1000 back, while a freshly made hugelkultur won't pay-off until after winter.
Is the project a need or a want?

Studying probability and risk management are good ways to help build up ways to rationalize priorities.

---

I like the idea of keeping an organized excel doc, just not the idea of it making decisions for me. Some of the worst and best decisions I have made are ones made in the moment - it's a skill in itself. As I get older, I'm sure the ratio will begin to mostly favour good decisions which will help me save more time or gain more resources overall. And +1 to Scott. I keep a piece of paper and pencil with me at all times for almost a decade now. I look at the paper at the end of the day when I get home and then things move to a kind of "year/month/week/fun" list and get categorized. The best benefit of the pen and paper that's happened to me is that it builds overall awareness - I can't even begin to explain how valuable that is.




 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Scott Foster wrote:

Here is a farm-specific excel vid. to get you started.


Ooooh, thank you so much! Off to look at it.

Yup notebooks are good. Notes in the notebooks are good. Where did that notebook run off to? I know it made it back to the house. Those gremlins must have snuck up behind me and snatched it away. Repeatedly. Maybe the computer would be harder for them to hide from me?
 
Travis Johnson
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I prepared some screen shots of my computer program. I have several versions, one for equipment repair, one for fields, and for sheep farming overall, but I chose to use the field version because it is what many people on Permies would probably use. I am going to do my best to explain everything, but please ask questions if you have them.
....

This is a screen shot showing how one of my fields is prioritized. This is one of 7 fields, so the point here is to prioritize EACH FIELD, then later prioritize EACH JOB for that field. Keep in mind, the questions can be any questions a Permie wants to use. The answers given are in percentages, for instance "Tillage". For me, it is a field that can grow hay, corn, row crops or be pasture so it rates high 100%. If it was only pasture, it would rate low, 10%.



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Travis Johnson
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Now that I have asked questions so the computer prioritizes each field, I have to prioritize each job for every field. I call these job orders. It might be as simple as spreading compost to get the organic matter up, but it gets a job order. This is what a Job order looks like. It just has basic information on it. The brown boxes are the boxes that must be answered, and there are many of them. In my case, 7 fields have about 35 tasks that need to be done so that every field would be 100%. Obviously I do not have the time or money to make every field perfect, so this is what my computer program does, it prioritizes what should be done first to get the most out of my time and money.

The questions again are answered in percentages. Some questions though mean more to me then others, so that is why some are worth less than others.

This is the most laborious part of the task. It means listing everything that needs to be done, but once done some amazing things can be done with all that information.
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Travis Johnson
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So what does all this work produce: This!

This is a list of all 30 or so jobs I must do for my fields to get my farm up to 100%. But it is listed in (4) categories. Money, Priority, Date and Time

Money: Listed from least to expensive, this lets me look at what everything is going to cost
Priority: This is what I should be doing first based on all the questions I have answered on every job I determined needs to be done on my fields
Date: Some things are time sensitive. Things MUST be done before Spring sowing, and this list shows that order so I can stay on track
Time: This list just lets me see how long a job should take me. Let's say I have a 4 hour block of time, I can look at this list and see what I can get done with my sudden "free time".

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Travis Johnson
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Oh but some other neat stuff can be generated from the created work orders. This shows how all 7 fields on my farm end up being prioritized.

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Travis Johnson
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This is a compilation of all the deficiencies my fields have. Some I can improve, and some I cannot (like exposure, I live on a North facing hill so i cannot change that).

An example of the value of this is to look at the highest number. My organic matter is pretty good on most of my fields, but i need a lot more nitrogen! That is good information to know!
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Travis Johnson
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Finally, the computer program takes everything and adds up all the jobs and tells me how much I need to spend to get my fields to 100% condition.

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Joylynn Hardesty
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Thank you for sharing your hard work, Travis. How are you feeling? We've been praying for you.
 
Travis Johnson
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Okay, so this is set up for my farm, but even under USDA definitions it is considered a Large Farm. How could a Permie change what I have made into something workable for them?

Well they would prioritize the areas of the farm they want to work on first. Earthworks, Residence, Food, Transportation, Energy, Etc. What that looks like is up to the farm owners. Then for each page (Earthworks for example), they would list all the earth work projects that needs to get done, and prioritize each job. From that, the Open Work Order page is automatically generated. By looking at the priority column, they would get a very good idea of what they should be working on first. Or they could look at what they have for money. Or what they have for time. Or what date is is and what should have been done, or needs to be done soon.

All this is, is a computer generated to do list based on priorities. When a job is completed, delete it and move on to the next item. It really does keep people plodding a long in the right direction.
 
John C Daley
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So what program did you start with please?
 
Travis Johnson
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John C Daley wrote:So what program did you start with please?


Microsoft Excel
 
Travis Johnson
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Thank you for sharing your hard work, Travis. How are you feeling? We've been praying for you.


Not very good, I have been very sick, but on Monday I am having surgery to have my Thyroid completely taken out. I will be in the hospital recovering for a few days and probably no farming/logging for the rest of the week. I hope the surgery helps get my energy levels back as I have been so lethargic. I cannot have that being a full time farmer and having a wife and 4 daughters to care for and no outside income. BUT I knew that when I went into full-time farming. I should have started clearing land at age 23 and not 43 that is for sure. It is a bear getting old.

Thanks for the prayers!

I loved this cartoon. Considering the chainsaw I took to the face that started all this, it seems appropriate.

Chainsaw-Surgery-(final).jpg
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Anne Miller
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote: Perhaps this can help me do better. I now have a spreadsheet program (Microsoft Excel), AND NO IDEA HOW TO USE IT!

Can anyone point me to a tutorial? Give advise?


Hi, Joylynn  Travis has given you some great screenshots and everyone has given some great suggestions.

Several years ago I set up a Excel Spreadsheet to help prioritize a work project.  I used an Excel tutorial to learn how to do this.  I may be wrong but I don't think someone can just tell you how to do it.

I did a search to give you a link so I found that you might need which version you have.  Here is my search:

https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=microsoft+excell+tutorial&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001

The first result looked promising.  excelcentral.com

In that search I found some Youtube videos.

I hope this helps.

I use a 12" x 12" calendar from Dollar General, it costs about a $1.00 and is very light weight  I like it because it is big and just can't get lost.  I keep it on my computer desk on the keyboard slide out.

BTW, I liked this one:

Travis Johnson wrote:
(1) Enjoy the moment of whatever you are doing. DO NOT think that as soon as you get X,Y and Z done you can pause and be content. It will never happen, by the time they get done, AA, BB, and CC will need to get done too. Instead just realize you have a few acres of land, a dream a lot of people wish they could live out. Enjoy just working. Working is a good thing and learn to be content in doing, not in the planning and finished stages.


 
Tobias Ber
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Travis, you are awesome. You rock! Best wishes and blessings for your health!

Excel: if you don t have it, you can try the free open office. It has most of the functions and should work for this kind of planning.


Did you check the ABC-Analysis as planning tool? This links is kinda scientific: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_analysis

I think, rating tasks/projects in "important" and "urgent" can help to plan:



EDIT: source of pic: https://image.slidesharecdn.com/timemanagement-120321082026-phpapp02/95/time-management-14-728.jpg?cb=1332318535

And in general some reading into time management might give some tools and ideas.

but... considering gardening/farming/homesteading it might look a bit different than in business... but YOU put the value and importance to it... YOU give the priority ... YOU decide what really matter in your life and situation
 
Travis Johnson
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I know that priority type of thing as "4 Square", but that is just another name. I hold it in super high regard, although I do not use it myself. My good friend Pete does and was a regular machinist at his job, but took it upon himself to start using  square to reduce machining downtime. They saw his work and has been a lead programmer/quality assurance guy for years now because of 4 square, and increased pay because of it.

I am horrible at teaching Excel because I am 100% self-taught. I am not convinced that I know a lot as I think it can do more than I know how. Over the years I did start simply and now it has taken on a life of its own.

I use Excel extensively, from tracking how much wood is currently growing in my woodlot, to how many pounds of lamb I have on the hoof, to how many eggs have been laid over the course of the year, volume within my gravel pit, to net worth. I found it is so hard to separate one from another! One thing I do though is track what I call "Value Streams" which is:

Forestry
Sheep
Poultry
Agritourism

It helps me figure out what costs what, and what is produced individually. It is vital because no one else tracks this stuff. When a farm evaluation is done, half the stuff is not calculated in like Paul Wheaton described in his Girt story. That was interesting for me because having the data, constantly tracking it, it confirmed 100% what he was saying; proper agriculture has inherent value...a lot of value!

But that is seperate from my to do lists shown in post above. Those are separate just so that I am motivated to move in the right direction.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Oh gosh, Travis - wishing you a smooth, easy surgery and speedy healing!! Thanks for sharing so much of how you prioritize and organize all of your data (and *all* the things you share on permies.com!).

Scott, that Excel video you posted by Jay Groom is a most excellent beginner orientation to Excel - very cool. I work with Excel a lot, and find a lot of people not very familiar with it. I liked that guy's introduction.

A couple notes on other tools, since I've learned that, believe it or not, spreadsheets are not a fit for everyone. I think Excel is a good fit for financial data, though IMHO, it might not be everyone's best prioritizing tool.

As an aside, I do think Excel is the way to roll for simple accounting or bookkeeping for a LOT of small businesses. As a long-time QuickBooks ProAdvisor, I usually recommend leveling up to bookkeeping software (FreshBooks, QuickBooks, whatever), when you need to invoice or track invoices sent to customers. That's where accounting software is far simpler than a spreadsheet system IMHO.

For prioritizing tasks, there's a free app I use that Sharla turned me on to:  Trello. It has a LOT of functionality for a free app. If you do sign up for it using this trello link I'd get a month of the extras you usually have to pay for (which are some richer backgrounds and more "bot" or automation features). Here's an intro video:



And...to further the farm or homestead task theme, I was imagining each Trello card as the "task ticket" that Diego describes here:



All of which has me inspired to redo our Trello boards (some of which have been dormant) to better manage a bunch of repeat and one time tasks around wheaton labs. The cards are really easy to make as detailed or brief as you'd like and then you can drag them around in whatever order or in to whichever list that makes sense. Plus, you can assign a card to a person.

For other prioritizing, I've heard https://en.todoist.com/ is a great app (also free), though I've never tried it myself.

I am a heavy user of Evernote (I also use the free version), which has reminders and lots of features (even in the free version) that I don't fully utilize yet. I hear some folks use Evernote as their digital garden (farm) journal or notebook since it works so well with photos (and screenshots and URLs). The reason I like Evernote is that it syncs between my laptop and phone, and is more reliably (and quickly) available offline than some apps. This is where I keep my shopping and errand lists, notes for just about anything (including client notes, healthcare notes, gift ideas, blog or podcast ideas, etc.).

(Edited to explain some of the free aspects of these apps.)



 
Pearl Sutton
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After reading this thread the other day, XKCD posted this, it amused me and I have to share :) 
XKCD progress
Hm. If someone cleverer than me can make it display the cartoon, I'd appreciate it.
 
Burra Maluca
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Pearl Sutton
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Thank you Burra :)
I curtsy nicely at you :)
 
Travis Johnson
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Jocelyn, you bring up some very valid points I do encourage others to try different things, and here is why.

First I got a free trial of Quicken, but it was AFTER I had built the Excel Spreadsheet from my farm. After 9 years of developing it, Quicken was a let down. BUT for those just starting out, it would be ready made; a huge plus.

Another thing is, I don't have a cell phone. Not a smartphone, not a flip phone, nothing, so if people have them (93% of American's) then there may be better program alternatives.

The final thing is, I am a huge numbers guy, so as you point out, Microsoft Excel works well for that.

....

The backstory behind my computerized priority listing started out two fold. I had created my Microsoft Excel program I call Fiscal Flock for my farm. That was really detailed with rotation grazing plans, CNNP's, Forest Management Plans, etc.

So I had told a friend about this who runs a non-profit Christian Camp. He then asked if I would develop a plan for the camp. It took me all summer, but I had to find a way to prioritize all 70 buildings it had, along with what jobs needed to be done and when. The short story is, it worked out so well for them, that I ended up using what I had made for them on my own farm to manage my fields and repair work. In the very near future I am going to include it so that I can manage my sheep much better.
 
Travis Johnson
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Pearl Sutton wrote:After reading this thread the other day, XKCD posted this, it amused me and I have to share :) 
XKCD progress
Hm. If someone cleverer than me can make it display the cartoon, I'd appreciate it.


I am laughing with you, but seriously it is not as bad as it seems. Once it is all up and running, the program takes care of itself. I m not a bound to doing daily data entry that is for sure. Like with my forestry information, I cut a lot of wood, almost daily, but update it only every 6 months or so.

What I have found is, this life (farming) is so demanding, that it is nice to write things down, then go back and see how much has been accomplished that there comes a sense of gratification from it. Because there is always so much yet to do, seeing what has been done is very motivational.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Travis: Oh, I totally agree about spreadsheeting the tasks. I am good with Excel, and was reading this thread to see how you were laying out your system so I could do a similar thing. I have mostly used Excel for documentation, never used it as a task list. Awesome idea, and I'll be doing it soon.

The cartoon amused me, especially with it's timeliness, this thread was started on a Friday, the next Monday that was the cartoon for the day. Makes me wonder if Randall Monroe reads Permies :)
 
Travis Johnson
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Travis: Oh, I totally agree about spreadsheeting the tasks. I am good with Excel, and was reading this thread to see how you were laying out your system so I could do a similar thing. I have mostly used Excel for documentation, never used it as a task list. Awesome idea, and I'll be doing it soon.

The cartoon amused me, especially with it's timeliness, this thread was started on a Friday, the next Monday that was the cartoon for the day. Makes me wonder if Randall Monroe reads Permies :)


I was just so shocked that someone in 2017 actually still knew how to curtsy! Youtube Video please! (Joking of course)

I liked the cartoons of the 1920's that showed complex machines doing routine tasks just because electric motors could be employed. I have always thought we do that today with digital technology. But this is from the idiot that does not have an electronic leash (I mean cell phone).
 
Pearl Sutton
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Haha! Actually I curtsy in real life too. These days I tend to be in grubby jeans, which makes for undignified curtsying, but I do it anyways :) And I'm derailing this thread :)
 
Travis Johnson
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Haha! Actually I curtsy in real life too. These days I tend to be in grubby jeans, which makes for undignified curtsying, but I do it anyways :) And I'm derailing this thread :)


Alright, I am officially rescinding my statement about the Youtube Video; a curtsy in grubby jeans is something to behold. Myself, I have 4 daughters and I am not even sure they know what the word curtsy is, much less perform one. maybe in a Disney princess movie they have seen one, but properly execute one...I doubt it.
 
Travis Johnson
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I was thinking about this some more and think one of the reasons I like Excel is that i can change the questions, or put more weight to one question or another. That is important in farming because as almost all of us have said in a reply to someone on here..."well it depends". With Excel you can get that because a yes or no answer can be answered at 0% of 100% or anything in between.

Here is a real case in point.

A Permie has 4 hours in the day they can work on their farm, and yet the sheep need some fencing put up, apples need to be picked, and the tractor needs the brakes worked on. All three jobs would take about 4 hours, but which to do first?

On my farm, where my tractor is involved in almost every aspect of life; farming, forestry, family (gathering food, pushing snow in the winter, etc), my tractor gets used a lot. So unlike apples or sheep that just get kudos for providing food, the tractor rates so much higher. In this case at 80% instead of 20%. It is not just a guy thing. The apples can wait just a bit longer to be picked, but with the tractor I can get higher into the tree, move more apples faster, and thus preserve more pounds of apples when I do get to picking them, so that choice makes sense.. However picking apples would quickly beat out putting up sheep fence, because it only involves food, yet is not as time sensitive as picking apples, nor impacts so many other aspects of permies life like the tractor does.

But what if a Permie had spent $5000 on food last year and now wants to only spend $2000? Well their priorities have changed, so they put more weight on food production, so the computer spreadsheed priorities food production higher than anything else.

What just happened is, "well it depends" just came into play. Since the Permie question is; should I fix my sheep fence, pick apples or fix the tractor, the answer is "the permie farmer should fix the tractor first, but it depends because if they want to save the most on food this year, they will pick apples first."

Using a Microsoft Spreadsheet is non-typical as a to-do list, BUT by using its ability to crunch percentages on numbers, it can vary a Permies to do list too.
 
Maureen Atsali
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Good stuff.  Know why I haven't been around permies lately?  I have had BIG problems with time management.  Last month I started a hatchery with a small incubator, and just as I was getting that set up, my employee quit.  So I have been basically trying to do 3 fulltime jobs all by myself.  The gardens have suffered tremendously, since tasks like weeding got lowest priority.  I am so late getting my beans out of the three sisters plot, that some are starting to sprout in the pods!

My laptop got smashed, so now all I have is my fake Chinese knockoff "smart phone", which probably does not have the capacity to run any of the afore mentioned programs.  I have to go with an old fashioned journal and pen... Which is probably best since I think I could waste a tremendous amount of time tinkering on the computer to perfect a system, instead of actually getting off my butt and doing the work.

I am right now super overwhelmed.  I am so far behind, everything needed to be finished weeks ago, and I have no idea where to focus my energy, my resources, and my time.  Money?  Hahaha, there isn't any!  I am getting some time to get on permies only because its raining!
 
Travis Johnson
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Maureen Atsali wrote:Good stuff.  Know why I haven't been around permies lately?  I have had BIG problems with time management.  Last month I started a hatchery with a small incubator, and just as I was getting that set up, my employee quit.  So I have been basically trying to do 3 fulltime jobs all by myself.  The gardens have suffered tremendously, since tasks like weeding got lowest priority.  I am so late getting my beans out of the three sisters plot, that some are starting to sprout in the pods!

My laptop got smashed, so now all I have is my fake Chinese knockoff "smart phone", which probably does not have the capacity to run any of the afore mentioned programs.  I have to go with an old fashioned journal and pen... Which is probably best since I think I could waste a tremendous amount of time tinkering on the computer to perfect a system, instead of actually getting off my butt and doing the work.

I am right now super overwhelmed.  I am so far behind, everything needed to be finished weeks ago, and I have no idea where to focus my energy, my resources, and my time.  Money?  Hahaha, there isn't any!  I am getting some time to get on permies only because its raining!


Maureen,I know my words bring little comfort, but as a former New Englander now half way across the world, I am sorry you are having so many troubles.

For what it is worth, it has been pouring rain for 3 days here now, but it does not matter, I had major surgery on Monday and am recovering. I have MRSA and don't heal well, told the surgeon, but they blew me off, never administered antibiotics because "the neck is not prone to infection" and now my surgical site is all infected. Jeesh Doc...the neck is a tender spot you know...

So I do understand your frustration, and again I am sorry things have been tough for you lately.My heart goes out to you and Pearl right now and I'll pray for peace in your lives.
 
Larry Bock
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Hi just read through all of the posts on this topic , man enough to admit.  I have been know to prioritize " poorly"  the first two years I spent in uppe ME are testimony to the beatings I took. Mostly just me being " stupid".  The third year, and from then on? Went smoothly. 
  It was accompanied by many " glad I did this or glad I didn't do that" learning curve?? 
  Good Lord, I could tell tales of stupidity, fueled buy, ignorance,    I think everyone's situation is different but, the word " learning curve" is the same.
  I did stuff I was warned not to do, still have the teeth marks in my Butt from when it came back to bite me.  Lol. I think most folk here would like to have neighbors a distance off.  When I headed into town, and spoke with them? I learned to listen hard. Especially when they were living there for 75years and I'd been there for a few.  Want an " education?" Drive the logging roads with the good old boys, with a 30 pack of Bud Light. And listen
       Larry. ( I know more about potatoe farming than any man should know, or even should). 😄
 
Travis Johnson
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I hear you Larry. I have lived here all my life (I actually moved, from my parents house to mine which is a whopping 517 feet so technically I am moving south, just at glacier-pace). I try to hep people out and give sound advice, especially in a state with only two seasons:

Winter
Getting ready for winter:

It was interesting to hear you went back-roading with rednecks. I told my neighbor from MA who has a camp near me to always leave his gate open or pay the consequences. He always has and the windows in his cabin have never been busted out.
 
There's a way to do it better - find it. -Edison. A better tiny ad:
Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/digital-market/digital-market/Permaculture-Playing-Cards-Paul-Wheaton
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