One Hundred Daily Posts

It’s Saturday, and while there are a dozen other things I could write about this morning I wanted to pause for a moment and reflect on a milestone.

One hundred posts.

I started this blog on the first of January and keeping apace of a single post each and every day since New Years Day means that this and the previous ninety-nine daily blogs account for exactly one hundred collections of words, images, links, and other miscellaneous thoughts published and shared here.

I don’t want to get particularly introspective or navel-gazing on the process of blogging.

Rather, I simply want to make a note of where we’re at: just getting started.

Inspired By Others

I also thought it was a reasonable-enough excuse to share some links to some of the YouTube channels that I‘ve been watching. Part recommendation, part inspiration, part this is what I’ve been spending my time thinking about and where my mind is at these days, here are some other folks putting out great video content and who seem passionate about their subjects.

Watching the energy that these folks put into their chosen niche topics makes me want to participate in the creative side of the internet. With folks like these as role models, writing a hundred daily blog posts has been a snap.

Beau Miles
An Australian filmmaker, outdoorsman, runner, father, and all-round interesting guy, Beau publishes quirky documentaries about his relationship to his world by posing questions no one else thought to ask, like what if I ate nothing but beans for a while, or what if I walked eighty kilometers to work and survived on what I found along the way. If we could all live by the Beau Miles philosophy the world would be a happier place.

TA Outdoors
Mike lives in the UK and seems to spend an enviable amount of time with his dad in the woods camping, building cabins, drinking good beers, testing out various survival techniques and generally being adventurous. He comes across as genuine and inquisitive and amplifies my own interest in these same things to the point that I ask myself why I’m not making more time to be like Mike.

Glen & Friends
Just down the road a few thousand kilometers here in Canada, Glen is a skilled cook and professional food photographer who produces a high quality cooking channel with his wife that spans the breadth of the culinary landscape while staying practical and interesting. It is very “Canadian” in style and tone and my wife and I often joke that now we don’t need a YouTube channel because Glen’s got us all covered.

Simone Giertz
Inquisitive soul Simone makes my list because she inspires both my daughter and I to try to be more inqusitive ourselves. While her niche doesn’t exactly overlap with any of the topics on my own blog, I am curious about many of the things she does in designing, fabricating, engineering, repurposing, refunctioning, and generally being creative from inspired places. You may have seen her work turning her Tesla into a truck or building quirky robots, but there is so much more to discover from someone like Simone who seems genuinely curious about the universe.

Claire Saffitz
My daughter and I were fans of Claire at her last YouTube gig and still are with her own channel. With my daughter owning a copy of Claire’s cookbook, the kid is determined to be like her hero and bake all the desserts. We watch Claire’s posts multiple times then invariably out comes the stand mixer and bag of flour and the the house smells like lemon or cinammon for a while.

Primitive Technology
Even though my wife recently bought me John’s book and despite watching hours and hours of his channel, I don’t know much about him or where he’s from. His elaborate, wordless videos show him working as he spends time in a jungle of some sort building with his hands primitive tools which he uses to forge primitive kilns which he uses to bake primitive bricks which he uses to construct primitive huts and so on and on. Watching John work is a special kind of peaceful and meditative experience.

To At Least One Hundred More

I hope if you’ve been reading along with this jumble of things I’ve been posting you’re enjoying it. Cooking, travel, outdoors, and cast iron are things that swirl around my days and fill my mind and it has been a pleasure to write and share about these things here.

That said, I have no plan. No end game. No ulterior motive.

Posting one hundred blogs over the last one hundred days has been a mind-clearing experience, has given me more direction for the summer and some reprive from the groundhog-day existence of living through this pandemic with all of you.

What else can I say? Thanks for reading this far… and stay tuned the year is just getting started.

(Now I’m off to bake some bread!)

What counts as a “visit” when traveling?

I have a rule about traveling.

Specifically, I have a rule about how I talk about traveling.

When someone asks have you ever visited a place then my response is often… well… technically, that depends… sorta… kinda… here let me explain…

So, here. Let me explain.

I’ve been poking through a lot of travel blogs lately. Thanks to the Twitter algorithm and the types of things I post I get recommended so many accounts that are hashtag-travel, and (I assume) vice versa, because that’s a good fraction of the folks who follow me first. Those blogs tend to fall into two categories:

a) bloggers for money, who are (or who are trying to be) social media influencers, posting lots of gorgeous photos and extensive articles on very specific vacations, and

b) bloggers for passion, who are (often) folks or couples in their 20s living their best life and writing about it while having this goal of “visiting 10 new countries every year” or “visiting 100 countries before I turn 30!”

This second group tends to make me think about my own definition of what constitutes a visit.

To clarify, an example: about five years ago the family and I spent 10 days travelling through Iceland, stopping at numerous small towns and moving on the next morning, eating, drinking, spending, taking lots of photos. Two years ago we had a layover at the airport in Iceland, ate some breakfast at the restaurant there, bought some snacks, and left a few hours later. In my mind, we’ve only visited Iceland once. I don’t count an airport layover as a visit.

Another example: In 2006 or so we did a bus tour of Eastern Europe, one of those Contiki party trips where they shuttle you from city to city, hotel to hotel, bar to bar, and you take lots of pictures, drink yourself silly, and remember the blur twenty years later. Between a hotel in Budapest and a hotel in Krakow, the bus stopped for lunch in a small city in Slovakia. Can I tell people I’ve visited Slovakia? I had a delicious pizza lunch in an old town patio that I still don’t know how we successfully ordered from the waitress who spoke almost no English, but I honestly don’t claim that I’ve “visited” Slovakia. I don’t tend to count it on my list of visited countries.

So this brings me back to my rule about how I talk about traveling.

What counts as a visit for me?

Personally, it’s a basic rule: an overnight, a meal, and time on feet in the street.

If I count a place visited it means I’ve slept there, eaten, and wandered about. None of this “I drove through and stopped for coffee” or “I had a layover at the airport there once” stuff.

What do you count as a visit?

Two Months of Blogging Lessons

The thing about writing a daily blog is that you’ve got to, well… write daily. I’m not looking for pity or sympathy. In fact, I signed up for this and I’m loving it as a way to start my weekdays or settle into a weekend.

It does often take effort to figure out my topic, though.

Today is the start of month three of daily blogging, and this post is number sixty.

Yes, sixty!

I’m not looking to ramp up my traffic. Obviously I’m not making money from more traffic. (No ads!) But I am interested in why people are visiting. Two months of data and fifty-nine previous posts are not much data to go on for a tried and true analysis of what people are interested in reading about, but it might be enough to give me an insight or two into coming up with some new topic ideas.

According to my internal stats, my top five posts of the last two months are:

1. Comics: Backpacking with Kids, a post where I shared some of my old comic strips recalling the deep woods inspiration and the struggles of parenting in the wilderness.

2. Snowshoes on a Frozen Suburban Creek, a fairly long “adventure journal” post about an afternoon spent snowshoeing on a local frozen creek, and had some pretty photos to go along with it.

3. Honey Brown Sourdough (Part Two), a post detailing the results of my honey brown been sourdough experiment, and a post I dropped into the daily thread of a local morning radio show conversation about bread giving me lots of new visitors.

4. Backpacking: Foggy Mountain Bridges, a post talking about a multi-day backpacking adventure, the experience of hiking with kids, and with a pretty nice photo to accompany it.

5. Guinness Sourdough (Part Two), another post detailing beer bread and the results of my Guinness beer sourdough experiment, and not unintentionally dropping the name of a famous stout into the title.

Yet none of this makes much sense when it comes to what people are actually searching for and clicking on. Based on my Google Search Console results, the searches that castironguy.ca appeared in most were:

chasing waterfalls iceland
backyardultra
cookout cast
rome waffle iron
campfire waffle iron

The only reasonable conclusion I can make from these bits of data is to mash this all together and generate some random blog posts I should probably write.

Right?

For example:

Backyard Ultra Race Comics could be a series of dramatic cartoons detailing the epic story of an underdog runner training for an ultra-marathon but then ultimately settling for the disappointment of an online-only virtual event hosted on Zoom during a pandemic where instead of traversing the wilds of Canada on foot, he does laps around his suburban neighbourhood. I could probably re-use a lot of my background scenery art.

Backpacking Beer Bread for Kids could be a deeply researched article on the effects of the family spending a week in the woods with a bag of flour, a sourdough starter, a case of beer, and two teenagers who are still too young to consume alcohol (at least in Canada!) The premise of this writing would be that since kids complain about nearly everything they eat (unless it’s chicken fingers and french fries) eventually, far from civilization, they would come to love and cherish the nutty flavour of campfire baking.

Icelandic Sourdough Campfire Waffles could be an article (or a series of articles) about a weeklong trek to a remote Icelandic waterfall under which I will set up a campsite, make some batter from a blend of fresh glacial water and my sourdough starter, and then cook waffles in a hot cast iron. The photos will be spectacular. I’m currently open to a sponsor to pay for this trip after the pandemic ends.

…or, maybe I’ll just stick to my regular, simpler topics.

Writing Up a Reason

Something funny happened nearly three years ago in the months following a sad decision to shutter my sixteen-year-old blog.

I did less.

No, really.

I took fewer photos. I went on fewer adventures. I engaged less and less with new projects. I virtually stopped attempting to tackle new skills.

Admittedly, I was busier day-to-day with being a responsible human, busier outside of the fun, hobby-type things I generally wrote about. There was just less free time.

I had taken on a new job with significantly more responsibility (which brought with it more risk of personal-meets-professional exposure from some of the things I was posting) and the job overall just gobbled up more of my life.

Yet somehow, looking back on it, there was a clearly corresponding relationship between the things I wrote about and the volume of interesting things in which I participated.

Writing gave me a reason to do stuff.

I needed content for my blog, yes.

Yet, in writing I also inspired myself to think about things I had never tried, and motivated myself to try those things… then write more about having tried them.

Having spent nearly forty days on this new blog, a blog that is still very young and particularly hamstrung by a pandemic and brutally cold winter weather, I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about why I’ve decided to start blogging again with this renewed daily vigor.

There are people who write for money and fame.

There are some who write to find peace and clarity.

And there are still others who write for passion and inspiration.

There is overlap between any and all these purposes, of course, but after nearly two decades and multiple blogs, I’ve realized much of my purpose is simply to find a reason to do more. I want to write up those reasons here.

I want to cook better food.

I want to seek deeper adventure.

I want to frequent the outdoors.

I want to explore lesser traveled trails.

Writing a blog inspires me to step out the front door and make choices that lead me out into the world to do these things more often and more deliberately. It’s an aspirational space, and a source of inspiration for myself and others.