Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Living the Perfect Life

Finding peace and satisfaction in a stress-free quality of life. Sounds great doesn't it? Too good to be true? It's all in how you look at it.

This morning I was reading the latest blog post on Copyblogger by Johnny B Truant (here).
There was a paragraph about a guy who gave up his big city job, moved to the country, and actually made more money by working less.

It reminded me of one of the many detours I have taken off the traditional path.  I arrived in a small blue collar town full of hard working folk, still recovering from the last recession.  
I came from the big city.  I had a Liberal Arts degree with a background in art and photography, and a dream of opening an art gallery. 
While I did make an effort to fulfill that dream, after 18 months of struggling I realized I was just in the wrong place for this. 
I needed income and a friend suggested the cleaning business.  While not so glamorous, it was a job where I could stay self employed.  This friend became my mentor who taught me tricks and tips that wouldn't make house cleaning seem like housekeeping.  (Never underestimate the value of a mentor by the way!)

In 2 years I built my clientele up to a full time income and was able to move to a lovely rural area in lush natural surroundings.
I commuted to all my jobs but it was a different drive every day - through the countryside, or even to the next town.
I know my attention to detail, my integrity, and reliability were some of my keys to success.  I treated it like a business, and not just a job.
Even when the economy bombed I still had work, but more importantly I had the quality of life I had always dreamed of;  no stress, enough income, low overhead, because rural living is more affordable, not to mention more peaceful.  I have enough free time to continue with my art and photography as well as gardening and being outdoors in nature.

Now, 20 years later I am still supporting myself this way.  More commercial work has replaced the residential, but even the residential has evolved into cabin care-taking and landscape maintenance.  Not to say that I haven't tried replacing some income with other pursuits, I even ran a small art collective while still doing the cleaning business.

My point is that you can create your own life - whatever it is you need to feel fulfilled.
It's about being at peace, finding joy, because you live a slower lifestyle.  Enjoying better health, better relationships, more hobbies, whatever.

I own an older mobile home which I got for a steal.  My expenses are ridiculously cheap and my business overhead is low.  It really takes the pressure off my earning commitment.

I did have a plan, and I followed it.  I lived in rentals, took on extra side jobs, and even lived in a travel trailer for 9 months just so I could get into another part of the county.  It still took 2 more rentals after that before I could buy my first house on a lease option.

I'm not done yet.  I still want another house and a less physically laborious business, but I have the formula and the desire, which is all I need to get there.

You can have any lifestyle you want - but you may have to break free from traditional methods and societal expectations.
Only you know what you really want, and at the bottom of the list - or the bare-bones desire - is peace.  Isn't that the real goal?  To feel good about yourself, living the life you choose?

I look forward to your comments about this.  If you have a similar story I would love to do a guest interview about you!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Networking Via Guest Interviews

(imported from my former photo blog)
Recently I interviewed a dear friend and fellow blogger, Jennifer at Plushpussycat. about her adorable greeting cards and marketing tips.  
I really wanted to share another persons perspective on how to get started marketing their art on greeting cards.  It's such a rewarding process and perfect for those who are new to marketing.

What I didn't know when I wrote that post was how far reaching it would be and the reciprocal effects it would have on my own blog!  I have gained new followers and many page views - thank you!  

I guess it boils down to the power of networking.  If we are sincere about wanting to share our own strategies for success and also willing to invite our associates to share their strategies, then I believe we create a win-win situation.

The power of the guest interview is underestimated.  Two or more people putting their heads together and sharing twice as much information to an even greater audience.  Besides the new friends you make! 
Doesn't get much better than that.

My first post on marketing for beginners is here , and the interview is here .

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Documenting the Sightings

One more post about the bird tracking template.  Bear with me, this is one of my most favorite subjects - wildlife.

I noticed in the stats that no one has read either of the previous posts, so either you're not birders or I have failed to represent it correctly.  If you are interested in documenting your backyard sightings, here are some tips on how to use this PDF document I created.

This is available from and you can easily access it by clicking on the image of it in the left sidebar, or in my previous post.  The downloadable version is only $2.  I recommend this format so you can print out one document for each month you want to track your bird or other wildlife sightings.

Here is a sample page.

The left column going down is the day of the month.  Years across.  In this sample I have used a page from May that had some sightings documented over three years.  This document is for the period of 2008 through 2011.

When I created it I wanted something simple, easy to use and lots of options to change it.  So for the MagCloud copy, the years are 2012 through 2015.  You fill in the month.  There are enough pages for all the days of the longest month.

The fun thing here is that for instance if the Swallows arrived on May 22nd in 2008, and May 25 in 2009, they may arrive again on May 22nd in 2010.  So you have documented their arrival for every year for four years - at a glance!

OK, maybe birds aren't your thing.  Do you have deer?  Bear?  Raccoons and babies?  Maybe you want to track the plant growth;  when you planted the seeds for the spinach, what did well when.
Anyway, you get the idea.

OK, so there is the how-to on the bird tracking form.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bird Tracker Available Now!

OK, here it is, the Bird Tracking Template, ready from MagCloud.  You will be able to document every bird or other wildlife sighting, daily, by the month, for four years at a glance. 

You can purchase the booklet for $2.50 and get the digital download for free or purchase just the download for $2.00.  I highly suggest the download so you can print it out for each month.  
(It had to be 8 pages to publish so two are blank, you can use them for notes.)

Click on the image below and it takes you to MagCloud, once there you can see a preview of the pages.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!!

Backyard Bird Sighting

Backyard Bird Sighting

Bird Tracking Template. Four years at a glance for noting wildlife activity, even the weather. Simple graph template that you can download, print out and fill in.

Find out more on MagCloud

Tracking Your Birds

Just a quick post here to let you all know that I have created a PDF format of my bird tracking template, soon to be available for download here!!  Yay!

I created the form for myself a few years ago when I could not find anything online that I liked, or could figure out how to use!  It seemed like a such a simple thing, some boxes or a graph on paper with a way to line up the years so I could see who came and went, and when.
It's great for all the things you want to track by the day and year.  Besides birds, you could track other wildlife, new plant growth, weather events, etc.  It goes across by year so you can see exactly what day the migrating birds arrived, left or whatever, for a four year span.

So I figured out how to convert it to a PDF and am hopefully going to go through MagCloud so you can easily purchase it and download it.  How does a couple bucks sound?  It's not a major publication and you'll have to print it out and fill it in, so I'm going mega affordable on this one.

Just a teaser for now to let you know it's coming!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Detour to Adventure

Living remotely often has its set-backs;  flooding rivers, snow storms, and mudslides to name a few.

After several weeks of record rainfall, one big snow storm, several freezes and fast thaws, the earth could take no more.  A mudslide with large trees gave in to gravity and covered both lanes of the main highway this week.

I was on my way home with groceries when I came upon the road block.  The state patrolman said it would be two to three hours before they could open the highway.

Having lived out here for nearly twenty years I knew of a forest road that could get me home - albeit 45 minutes out of my way, but might as well be driving than sitting at a road block.

Like an old pioneer, I'm prone to stories about the old days, in this case, the slides of 98 - 1998 that is.
I was living smack-dab between two of the biggest slides they'd had in this area.  So big in fact that the whole area was closed for over two months.  They were unable to clear them for fear the hills would continue collapsing.
People don't sit around and wait for anything for long out here.  Soon the locals began traveling the forest roads.  These gravel, often one lane roads are mainly used by forest personnel, hunters and hiking enthusiasts.  Needless to say the only road to and from civilization became a grid lock at commute time.  Well, not like in the city, but you get four cars each way and a herd of elk and you've got grid lock!

Back to the present.  I called a friend from my cell phone before I set out on my detour adventure into the hills, just to have a human to check in with on the other side - because there is no cell service up there.
She reminded me there could still be snow, so I was grateful for the tip.  
It's about 45 minutes total time, but about a third of that is a nice stretch of highway that winds around a big lake with fabulous views of the mountains.

Now I'm at the forest road turn off.

No problems, looks good to me.  Off I go in to the wild green yonder. 
The road is two lanes for a while, then becomes gravel, narrows, but there are places you can squeeze past oncoming cars.  I always try to be the one who pulls over and lets them pass.

This is where it turns into one lane.  This is also the last photo I shot of the road.  I dared not take my hands off the wheel or pull over to shoot more pictures after it got rough.
There was snow and ice and only the worn tire tracks of previous vehicles to follow along in, but it wasn't deep enough to get high centered on.  I at least had the smarts to put the car in AWD mode.
Lots of mud and slushy areas, but nothing really serious - I don't think, by now I was operating on survival mode.

After some white knuckle driving I passed some cars coming from the other direction, so at least I knew it was open all the way.  I had to remember to breath, but this was inspired by some breath taking views of the forest, streams, and non-snow covered areas where the gravel road meandered through the wilderness.

At one point I saw a huge red tail hawk (I think) fly up off the road in front of me.  I fumbled for my camera and only got this shot of him flying out of the left side of the photo - while the car was still moving.

I made it out and back on to the highway, just north of my house about 45 minutes later.  I pulled over to call and check in with my friend now that I had cell service again.

I have to include a photo of my car once I arrived home.

Of course our four-wheelin' buddies would laugh at that sight, but for this middle aged woman it was a big adventure!  Needless to say a trip to the car wash the next day was in order.
All in a day in the life of a New Pioneer I guess.

By the way - it took them four hours to clean up that mudslide.  I made it home in less than an hour and have fresh milk to prove it!

Art Marketing Guest Interview

(imported from my former photo blog)
As a follow up to my post Art Marketing for Beginners , I was graciously allowed to interview my dear friend and blogger, Jennifer Rydell at Plushpussycat .  I asked Jennifer to tell us a little about herself, her product and how she is marketing them.  I think you will find this quite inspiring!

1)  Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do at Plushpussycat

Hi! I create whimsical photo stories, and greeting cards from them, using my own handmade plush characters, recycled and repurposed materials, and dollhouse miniatures. I also make miniatures and am working on several dollhouse projects.

2)  Why did you decide to create greeting cards from your photo stories?

I was making these little scenes, taking photos of them, and putting the stories on my blog. I printed some favorite photos on business cards, and within a few days time I'd had two people tell me that specific photos would make wonderful greeting cards. I took it as a sign and just went for it! I had my first greeting cards printed not long after that.

3)  How do you create the scenes for your cards?

First there's an idea that gets in my head and just won't go away! I start imagining characters, gathering supplies, and refining my ideas. Finally, a certain mood will strike me and I set up the scene and start taking photos. Sometimes I get just what I want the first time, and sometimes it takes days of photo shoots to get what I want. It may be months from initial idea to final product.

4)  How did you go about marketing your cards?

I started out blogging about what I was doing and gained a precious, dedicated following. I added an Etsy shop, a Facebook Page, and Twitter and Google+ accounts. I post regularly to all of the above, plus I frequently hold blog giveaways. I also give out my business cards, which have my images on them. The last business card I gave out helped me land my first brick and mortar location (a lovely bookstore called Green Bean Books) for selling my cards. I was also asked to do a diorama at Green Bean, which should hopefully introduce more people to my work. 

5)  What advice would you give someone who is just starting to market their cards?

Believe in yourself! Do what you love to do, and share about it with others. Start a blog--you can make wonderful friends, and it can open your world in so many ways!   

I found Jennifer's words and advice very inspiring, didn't you?  Please visit Jennifer's blog at Plushpussycat and see the wonderful images and stories she has been creating - as well as links to her sales venues.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Information Overload

(imported from my former photo blog)
Ever arrive at a moment in your business as an artist when you hit a wall?  When you ask yourself career altering questions like "Why am I here?".  Reality staring you in the face with hard data like lack of sales, little return on the investment in social media exposure, leading you to seriously contemplate dropping the art all together?

I'm an information junkie, a compulsive researcher, so I'm always reading and listening to experts on marketing.
Yesterday I hit a wall.  My head was swimming in self doubt.  Is it my marketing?  Is it the economy?  Or worse, is it my art?

This morning it hit me - the aha moment - I have been here before.  This is what I call the saturation point.  I can assimilate no more information, nor can I effectively move forward.  I need to stop, take a deep breath and take a break.

Ultimately the best thing we can do at this juncture is to distract ourselves with a totally unrelated activity.  This is when I am most grateful for my day job, which is quite unlike my art business.
Go for a walk, a bike ride, a drive or shopping trip.  Just step back and let the dust settle.

Look at the depressing life of Van Gogh, or the many changes that Picasso went through.  All artists struggle in some way or another.  It may be the nature of creativity.

After these comparisons my optimism will return, theorizing that perhaps I am ahead of my time, or maybe I'm just not marketing to the right audience.
More importantly, just recognizing information overload when I see it, and halting all other fatalistic thinking, will set me aright.

I am grateful for the sign, and give in to the invitation to slow down, regroup, detach and take a new perspective. 

I welcome your thoughts or tips on this subject.

Seasonal Order Unaffected

I have become such a child of the earth, ignoring the "designated" dates for seasons, as well as the stereotypical assumptions of the calendar months.
Just last week we had snow, typical for "winter" as it is called.  But today I spotted shoots in the chives patch!

New growth!  Life in the garden!  OK, I do get a little more than excited with the first signs of what's labeled "spring".

Personally I follow the Solstices.  The waxing and waning of the planet.  I believe it is the breath of the earth.
In our northern hemisphere, mother nature is now busy with the tasks of bringing on new growth, as she has been since the winter solstice, when she began to wake up again.

Anyone who is in tune with their garden is beginning to feel these magical effects, reading the seed catalogs, planning this years crop, buying new tools.
My sister has a tradition of reading seed catalogs at Christmas, making her choices for the upcoming season.  I just begin to feel giddy about the longer days and looking forward to digging in the dirt.  

I am always fascinated with the ease and grace with which the plants add new growth.  How such a seemingly dormant looking plant could be so alive!

So if you're like me, don't live by the calendar, live by the example of nature.

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