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!)

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.

One Month Down, Many to Go

February one. It is the first day of the second month of 2021 and so also the start of my second month of daily blogging here on castironguy.ca.

I thought about writing of the challenge of finding time, space, and focus to write here every day for a whole month, and while those words may describe the experience, they don’t explain it all.

Sunday afternoon I went for a neighbourhood walk with my wife. Along the way we chatted, and one of the topics was mental health. And I know; if you’ve been anywhere online or reading the news lately, all anyone talks about is mental health.

It’s important, yes.

We should talk about it, of course.

It has been relevant for myself and my family for generations, more than I can elaborate on here without going into long personal anecdotes that I’m not ready to share.

See, talking about it is not the problem I personally face.

On the other hand, while everyone talks about it, few people give others the tools and skills to deal with fixing declining mental health and decreasing mental fitness.

For example, we talk about mental health frequently in meetings at work. These meetings are long, exhausting video conferences that often go overtime and blur into the next time slot. I have made it my 2021 mental health mission to add into every one of these conversations that if we actually want to improve mental health we can start by ending this meeting five minutes early so that everyone can have a short break to get a coffee… or stretch… or pee.

My own personal mental fitness program is a multi-part effort.

I spend time outdoors, walking, running, and adventuring, enjoying nature and the beautiful world in which I live to improve my physical well-being.

I spend time with my family, friends (when I can), and my dog, sharing love, food, time, and energy with those around me to improve my emotional well-being.

I spend time writing, drawing, and creating interesting things (such as this blog) that I can nuture, refine and share to improve my mental well-being.

Simple actions. Real balance.

So, as I post the first post of the second month of a daily blog, looking ahead to more months … a year … or even many years of writing, this is simply me acknowledging that is much more complex than just work. Sometimes the very point a thing is actually all about the challenge of finding time, space, and focus because that’s what gives it value in the first place.