My life is generally best characterized as small, slow and steady, I suspect a sharp contrast to most. If you're someone primarily interested in a tech oriented accounting you should skip to the last section. What comes before that is fairly comprehensive and even a bit philosophical in nature. I'm mostly writing this for myself so it's chock-full of details most people likely won't be interested in.
Home and Landscape
I live in a 200 sq ft tiny house that doesn't need much in the way of maintenance or improvements. I often make small adjustments to the arrangement of the space.
The more significant work is spent outside managing various aspects of the landscape. My garden has been small to nonexistent the past couple of years but I still end up spending a lot of time with various projects. This year it was transplanting blackberries and then, later, keeping them alive during a bit of early summer drought. Then daily harvesting in July.
In late August after a third extreme rainfall event and increasing run-off damage to our gravel roads I decided to take care of some long over-due maintenance. As I don't have a tractor this was my daily exercise, 1-2 hours a day. When I started I was unsure of the scope of the work. My intent was to start with the most problematic 40 feet of road and if it went well to continue on to another section. That first section went very well and I had it completed in 4 days. I ended up working on the remaining damaged sections through early December. I'd estimate 90 days averaging About 1.5 hours a day. It went very well. Various sections of road and driveway are much improved and the exercise generally felt very good. There's more to do but I'm taking a break now that it's gotten colder and the road is somewhat frozen.
Another fall project was clearing out several years worth of growth around our well house. I live in the woods and love it. I'm not in the habit of aggressively cutting back trees, shrubs, vines unless there's a reason to do so. This fall some new forest critters decided to make their homes in our shed and well house. Wood rats! These are about the size of squirrels but without the fuzzy tails.
I started noticing nests and food caches of acorns and wild grapes appearing in both my shed and the well house. I removed them and started taking steps to remove any sense of comfort my little friends had in these spaces. I decluttered the shed and made a point of just being out there a bit for a week. It's an old shed, somewhat open to the environment. Not sealed off tightly. My strategy worked.
The well house was another situation. Autumn olive bushes, wild grapes and honeysuckle had crept in all around the well house. The thick growth right up to the building was perfect for my friends. Food, cover, and nesting material. I don't spend much time in the well house but check it in the fall to prepare for winter. That's when I discovered my friends had started moving in.
It prompted me to take a closer look at the building and the surroundings. Where previously I'd seen the approaching mini-forest as a welcome wind break and habitat for birds (hummingbirds like to nest in the thick growth) I now had to reckon with the fact that it was also habitat for these new neighbors that were very determined to get inside the building and build nests. I sorted out their various access points and started patching old wood they had chewed through. And during the same couple of weeks I began, reluctantly, cutting back all of the growth of the mini forest. It took about three weeks in total. I cleared the area, patched the walls, sealed the outside of the building around the crawlspace.
A final part of this project was tearing down the original, still attached mini-well house structure that had been built by others many years ago. It still served as cover for our well head and the piping into the well house. I removed that and built a much smaller structure using some salvaged wood and windows. It looks a bit like a tiny A-frame greenhouse. It will serve for this winter and will likely be replaced next year as I suspect that the larger well house is going to need some significant work.
I'm still dealing with some sort of inner ear issue that began with a severe, daylong episode of vertigo in September 2022. Without a doctor I've self diagnosed as some sort of Labyrinthitis. The general cause of that condition is bacterial or viral infection. Treatment seems to be centered on steroid shots and vestibular therapy. Generally the advice is to get on living life and allow the brain to adapt. Over the past 15 months it's gotten better allowing me to do normal day-to-day.
Another symptom is tinnitus which I counter with background audio from the DarkNoise app playing 24/7. I've found a pleasant mix of crickets, creek and frogs helps a lot. The crickets are the key frequency/pattern, the frogs/creek are just there to create a pleasant background.
Other health, once I got past the first three months of intense vertigo I was able to get back to my normal routines of daily dog walks and even short 20-30 trail rides on the bike. Strangely I notice the vertigo less when riding the bike.
A last health note, I've had to be much more attentive to drinking enough water and salt intake. I've probably always taken in too much sodium and not enough water. Noticed high blood pressure a year ago. Careful now to drink a minimum of 70 ounces of fluid a day and generally have sodium intake down to 2,200 mg per day. BP has returned to normal as a result.
I'm very happy to have gotten into the habit of daily diet tracking via iPhone app as well as exercise tracking with the Apple Watch. Both devices/apps have been very helpful in making sure that I'm being honest with myself about keeping a balance.
I've been on this one for a long time but have gotten even more restrictive with myself the past 3-4 years. I'm well aware that my singular efforts are irrelevant but I do it because I believe that if we humans had solidarity with one another and the planet we could fix this problem by common, collective action. Government or no, we could fix it by helping one another live differently. So, I'll keep talking about it, encouraging others and at the end of each day I know I've acted as though we were all working together.
The top 5 cuts to make (according to data) are ones I've got covered pretty well.
- I do own a car but miles driven over the past year are very low at 150. 300 miles over past two years. Only driving necessary trips for groceries/supplies from town. Around 10 trips per year.
- Continue to conserve electricity as much as possible. Example data, it's 55° in cabin this morning. Winter is easier as it's no problem to just add layers as needed. Even at 55-60° I'm cozy and comfortable. Summer is more difficult. Lots of humidity in Missouri but summer temps have been lower than what most have had to contend with the past few years. In any case, as with heating, cooling a smaller space is less energy. I try to keep it between 76-80. Probably averaging 77-78 most days.
- I've not traveled by air in 20 years.
- I have no kids and at 54, single and having had a vasectomy several years ago it's assured I'l continue to not have any.
- My diet is nearly vegan. I do ice cream, occasional cheese, occasional eggs, occasional fish. A note about meat: I don't buy it but if my family are offering fish caught locally I'll eat some of that. Also, if left-over meat of almost any kind is going to get thrown away I'll eat it so it's not wasted.
- I do most outdoor work by hand. As mentioned above, most road work this past fall was with no fossil fuels. My uncle has a tractor and I did help him with his section of road. I worked by hand and helped direct him on the tractor. Surprisingly some things are actually better done with hand tools. I try to minimize grass lawn but I do have some to cut. Also, areas where invasive lespedeza has moved in has to be mowed. I use a battery/electric mower that's charged with solar panels.
- Re-use and recycling. I continue my trend of few to no clothing purchases. Between clothing given to me by folks that are cleaning storage/closets I usually have far more than I need. I've nearly eliminated hard plastic packaging from store bought items. With just one or two exceptions everything I buy comes recyclable steel or in paper or paperboard that I compost. Some food comes in pastic bags (lentils, beans, tortillas) but that's about it. I've recently discovered the joys of waffles made from flour and a waffle iron. I'm not a big bread eater but I'm going to try to use waffes as a bread substitute.
Working for income
I continue to have a love-hate relationship with money. I love to hate it. But as a human living in a capitalist system I also need it. I continue to generally live far outside what is normal in terms of work and income. I was thinking about climate, biodiversity and other environmental problems in 1990 when I was 21 years old which was around the time I rejected any idea of going after the American Dream. With no kids and a very tiny dwelling I have fewer expenses. Add to this my general frugality in pursuit of limiting carbon and waste and it means I can get by with far less than most.
My freelance work continues per the usual though in recent years I've had far fewer requests for new websites. Most of my client-work is maintenance of a websites as well as a mix of document layout/design and data/spreadsheet entry. In general, slower but steady.
My tech purchasing this year was minimal. My AirPods Pro died after 3 years of use so I replaced those. I also added a small 15" portable display. My intent was to use that as a second display for the iPad when I'm working from the futon. It proved useful not only as a work-related display but I've also been using it with the AppleTV. I also added a new keyboard and mouse, both are working out very well.
I have an older LED TV for movies but I've not been using it much. As I've gotten older and my eyesight worsens I'm finding I prefer a closer screen for entertainment purposes. The reason being I also browse the web with my iPad while watching some things. The TV 10 feet away requires my glasses but reading on the iPad requires that I take off the glasses. A second display within a couple feet allows me to watch and browse without glasses. I suspect I'll be trying to find a new home to donate the tv to later this year.
In recent days it also occurred to me that I could reposition my 4K computer monitor. It was positioned at my desk but the truth is I don't sit at the desk that often so it generally goes unused. On a bit of a whim I repositioned the arm and lowered it to one of the shelves closer to my futon. It's a bit odd having such a big screen (27") so close to the futon but in a week of use I think this is where it's going to stay. I've got it hooked up to the AppleTV for movies/TV. Or, if I want to use it as a second display for the iPad I just plug in a USB C port that goes through a hub to the monitor. When not in use it is swiveled out further away from the futon.
With these changes my small desk has more plants around it and is Rosie's dog-proof feeding area. The Mac Mini that is my file server/iPad back-up is in the same place and can be used with the monitor in its new location. The Mac Mini sits on the shelf/mini-wall between my desk and futon. My whole set-up is a bit weird but I attribute that to the fact that it's a one-room tiny house. It's nice though to walk into the cabin and see plants rather than a computer monitor.
Some amazing iPad hardware is coming from Apple soon but I intend to stick with the M1 iPad as it works very well for what I need. It's only 3 years old this spring. It will likely need a new battery later this year.
Over the past year I’ve enjoyed my various and ongoing configuration experiments. Just yesterday I modified my lap stand so that I can easily center my trackpad below the keyboard. By adding two small sideboards it’s now a recessed trackpad. Works perfectly and there’s plenty of room for the mouse to the side. In use I keep a pillow case on top for comfort.
Between this stand arrangement and having the adjustable shelf-clamped stand I have a variety of choices. A side benefit of this regular experimentation is that my set-up is fun and never feels stagnant.
My iPad Mini 5 and iPhone 13 both continue to work well and I expect to get at least another 3 to 5 years from both. The responsible thing is to use all of this hardware as long as I'm able and that's the plan. I want to appreciate not just the resources each device embodies but also to appreciate a kind of connection that comes with using a tool for a while. I expect I'll be able to get another year from my Appe Watch 4.
Among tech enthusiasts it seems fairly common these days to trade up to the latest, greatest fairly often. And so these valuable, powerful computers are being treated like disposable goods. Really, it's something that only a minority of the wealthiest and most privileged of humans can do and it's irresponsible. But also, it doesn't allow much room for the nostalgia that comes with long-term use. My 9+ years old iPad Air 2 still works and is put to use to run the DarkNoise app and occasionally for photo slide shows.
All that to say that I've been very happy with the over-abundance of computer/tech hardware that I have.
Image of one corner of the interior of my tiny house, 2024-01-03.