Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Quiet Sunday Afternoon in the Country

Well, it's a nice quiet, peaceful and pleasant Sunday here in the northern Shenandoah Valley. It's currently partly cloudy and the temperature is about 50 degrees, about 8 degrees below the normal temperature for this date. The six horses that board out in the pasture are doing what horses do - grazing. They are still feeding on large rolled bales of hay since the grass has not started to turn green and begin growing, yet. But, it's always pleasant to look out the window and see them there. Sometimes I'll feed them some apples or carrots and just hang out with them. They seem to enjoy the attention and it kind of keeps things in perspective as I stand in the midst of these large, yet gentle animals.

The spring and fall are my two favorite seasons. I really like the moderate temperatures and, of course, in the spring everything is coming to life again. The trees are all in red buds, the forsythia are brilliant yellow and some of the other early spring flowers are blossoming. It's like seeing life start all over again. The fall is just the opposite. The heat of summer begins to temper, the leaves on the trees slowly, at first, begin to change color. Then all of a sudden, almost overnight, they are brilliant and within a few days, they turn brown, a strong wind from some kind of early wintery front comes through and blows most of them off the trees and then all is dormant until the return of spring. This has been a fairly unusual winter this year. January was the warmest January on record in this area - we had quite a few spring like days. Actually, we had very little really cold weather this year and there was only one snowfall that required me to call in my "plow" guy to open up the nearly 2/10 of a mile gravel roadway from the main road to my garage. We may have had one other very light snowfall, but it was gone virtually overnight. We've actually had almost no precipitation during the month of March and this is creating a pretty serious draught condition as well as a somewhat critical forest and brush fire condition. We've had about .04 inches of rain so far this month - and the record for the lowest amount of rain in this region dates back to 1910 when only .57" fell for the month. Unless we have some serious rain, this month may set the new record.

Some of you who follow this blog may be familiar with Elaine St. James. Elaine wrote at least three books I'm familiar with about simplifying one's life. The book that has had the most impact on me is her Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter. As I went through the book and looked at her 100 ideas, I noticed that some of them I had already adopted and implemented. Others were things that made sense to me and I marked them as ideas I wanted to implement in my life. Still other ideas just didn't seem to move me one way or another and I put them off until some later time when I could revisit them and see if they made sense then. And there were several that didn't really apply to me since they were really gender specific.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is just looking to make a complicated life a bit simpler, slower and more relaxed. There are several considerations a person can make when they decide to simplify their life. Some are simple, easy and don't require drastic and, perhaps, traumatic changes. The other extreme could extend to pulling up stakes from your inner city, traffic filled life and moving to a suburban, rural or even, in extreme situations - a wilderness location complete with log cabin, dirt floors and outdoor "facilities." Elaine's books don't really go in the extreme direction. Basically, you can make changes that will make life better and simpler and slower and more relaxed wherever you are.

For example. some of the immediate things that I had already done or decided to implement for my life were to discontinue receiving a daily newspaper. I get most of my current affairs from National Public Radio, I'm not all that interested in local politics, social functions or who stole what from whom or what redneck shot his wife - or vice-versa. I can always get the local "poop" from my friends in the area who still subscribe to the local "fish wrapper." Another two ideas I buy into regard shopping. I have cut my shopping time in half and I buy in bulk on some items. I created a shopping list (saved on my hard drive) that lists everything that I like to eat or need for basic sanitary, grooming and utlitiy requirements. When something is available in bulk that I can use in a reasonable amount of time (months, not years) at the local Costco, I buy those items and store them. When there is a sale on some kind of food item at Costco, like boneless pork loins, at a substantial savings, I purchase the bulk amount and simply wrap and freeze them in individual servings. I've, both, saved money and saved time since I don't have to shop for these items again for a while. By taking my list and shopping in only three places for these items, I go in, know where the items are, get them and get out. And, I don't have to actually do any serious shopping but once a month in most cases. This is a big time saver and also eliminates dealing with crowds.

One very big thing I want to do is downsize my living quarters. Since I work at home, I do need a certain amount of space to do what I do to earn a living. (If you're interested, I'm writing another blog called "Making Money at Home - Living the American Dream) But, where I am now has become a burden, so it's time to condense, compress, whatever. In early May I'll be spending a week in central Florida at an over 55 active adult community there. Yes, I am over 55, actually, I'll celebrate my 61st birthday later this week. I don't feel 61 or even think 61, but I am and that does give me pause to think about my lifestyle for the next 15 or 20 years, God willing. I've never been interested in being a resident of Florida and I don't know that after this trip I'll change my mind. But, as the old cliche says, "The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it's open. So, we'll see what we see.

As I keep posting here, I'm going to indicate what I've done to make my life much simpler then it once was. I don't necessarily advocate that you need to do what I've done, but if it makes sense, then why not try it. Now, I should also say, that I am not an extremist. I have absolutely no plans to move to a log cabin with a dirt floor. That's fine for those who choose to do so and it was necessary for our pioneering ancesters to do it. But, I do enjoy creature comforts. I am simply looking to eliminate clutter and "stuff" in my life. I'm looking to have to spend the least amount of time doing domestic and maintenance chores. I'm looking to have as much free time to do things I want to do, be that travel, reading, writing this and some other blogs, creating podcasts (and I will be creating one for The Simple Life and Making Money at Home in the near future). As a single guy with a number of dreams I'm hoping to achieve before I kick off, I want the least number of obstacles hindering or blocking me from doing the things I really want to do. So, as I go along with this topic, I'm going to be posting ideas, both, that I've implemented for myself and that aren't right for me, but may be great for you. Use them if they work for you. And, if you have some things that you are doing that you'd like to suggest to me, please send them along as comments or even e-mail me at That's all for this posting. Thanks for reading and do comment if you have anything to contribute.

The Virginia Sound Guy

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sheesh! Finally Back Again - after nearly a year!

Keeping up with a blog is simple, right? Yeah, right! I started this a a project to help myself make progress in the simplification process for my own life and thought, perhaps, it might help a few others who are wrestling with similar issues. Well, I guess it's quite obvious - I haven't done very well at this up to this point. I'm hoping to redeem myself, though.

Lots of things have happened since last April. Far too many to go into here. But, some are significant enough to touch on over the next few postings. I guess the most immediately significant simplification process I've undertaken has just happened. My small publishing business had a staff of five of us - myself and four others who worked for me. Basically, I've let three of the four others go. Only one remains. I've also cut back my operating hours (for the public) from 9 AM - 5 PM Mon-Fri to 9 AM - 2 PM Mon - Thurs. I've determined to outsource as much as I can so we'll basically be a consulting/sales and marketing operation. So, far I've been able to decommission three computers of the seven on my network and a fourth will be following in quick succession. Getting rid of four computers and elimination all from being wireless to the three remaining computers being on the wired network is making things a lot simpler. Boy, what a load this is taking off me. The extra hours that I'm not committed to being in the office (which co-incidentally-is also where I live) is allowing me more time to pursue other professional interests as well as some personal things. So, this is making life better, too.

More about my down sizing and other things I'm doing along this line in my next posting. Thanks for stopping by.