I began my blog because I complained to a friend that there weren’t enough hours in the day to develop my subsistence lifestyle and to document this for a book as well. She suggested starting my blog, because I could note things down as they happened, accumulating material and in point form to jog my memory for later creativity, and if there was ever a dull moment I could expatiate at length without worrying about whether the material would fit into my next book. In essence, my blog would be my field notebook (I’m an anthropologist by training, after all). It didn’t really occur to me that strangers could peer over my shoulder, let alone ingratiate themselves into my world and my life through this medium.
But those strangers have turned into sources of inspiration and information, a support group in times of need, advisers, my community (because I don’t actually talk over my fence to my neighbour here about my livelihood, nor does anyone in today’s world, it seems)–and now you, once strangers, are my friends. Our global separation evaporates in virtual space and we come together with our common interests, concerns and passions. I am more than 450 kilometers from the nearest stop light (let alone the nearest Tim Horton’s do-nuts, Dairy Queen, or veterinarian), so this blog has filled the vacuum of expertise around my geographical situation. Early on in all this, I wrote a post called “Conscious, conscientious decision-making” and suddenly I discovered that a fellow traveller ‘Stonehead’, somewhere in Scotland, had “pinged” me, i.e. referenced the post on his own blog.
When I needed goat advice, I got it from one of the top goat veterinarians in the United Kingdom thanks to the efforts and links of Little Ffarm Dairy; when I needed reassurance about my pregnant goats, I got it from a couple of different folks ‘somewhere’ in the United States. Moreover, nobody was patronizing or dismissive. Every response to my blog validated my experience.
As a result, I feel confident to try things; my network of virtual friends and advisers is there to support me. If something goes wrong or I need a question answered, I now have a community of people I can turn to and rely upon. For example, when I read Stonehead’s post “How to Skin a Rabbit” I was validated and informed about the messy business of slaughtering one’s own stock; I also learned about the sometimes virulent response to such declarations from the world at large. When I emulated Stonehead with my own post on how to slaughter turkeys, I was apprehensive about negative responses (death threats, even!); but I forged ahead, because I knew that this information was at that time non-existent in the virtual world, and would be useful as well. In fact, when I came to butcher my own turkeys rather than those of my mentor whom I had described in that post, I found myself resorting to my own post to refresh my memory about the procedure! I’m happy to say that my post was received with gratitude, and today it remains my most popular (my host site gives me that information, too!).
Soon afterwards, I was invited to be a regular writer for another blog Not Dabbling in Normal, one which I had admired from afar. And so it goes…
Then there’s my audience, those of you who check in to see what’s going down at Howling Duck Ranch, perhaps wanting (as a Vancouver friend put it) to live the ‘good life’ vicariously. This audience has gained in numbers steadily over the past ten months of my evolving blog. I know this because my host, WordPress, gives me detailed data. I remember being excited the first time I had a hundred ‘hits’ in a day. I would analyse their origins, and be excited as the circle of interest expanded from North America to the world: for example, I named one of my goats after a favourite wine, the ‘Shiraz’, then learned from an Iranian that it’s the name of his home town there (I got an invitation to visit!). Now, when I hear news about strife in Iran, I’m concerned for that friend!
This may sound rather adventitious, and I suppose to a degree it is. But maybe it’s because I’m concerned with husbanding the Earth and extracting a subsistence from it that I do feel a genuine kinship with others around our small planet who are attempting to do the same. And I know that your shared interest is what has brought you to my blog.
Why am I waxing so philosophical? Well, July 2009 has yielded 5,000 hits; my biggest month to date. My host site generates all this kind of data, and it becomes quite absorbing reading! Anyway, that’s a milestone, I reckon. I don’t have a name for it–the Demi-Mille, the Blogger’s First Step, the half-Marathon Month–but I feel elated, and grateful. I look forward to expanding my virtual circle. My background is working in community development, and here I am, realizing that I am participating in developing and sustain the community of subsistence lifestylers into which I have been so warmly welcomed. As I hit “Publish” I wonder with excitement what will happen next.