Meta Monday & the Attack of the Creative Heart

I have a luxury that, I would guess, many people who post stuff online don’t have.

I don’t need to generate an income from this.

I’m lucky. I can blog without ads. I can post without sponsored content. Dabble in new media without penalty for failure. I can pay my hosting bills with my real job. This is a hobby. A pasttime. An indulgence.

That means that after a year and a half of writing, five hundred and seven days of effort and three hundred and eighteen posts in — and though there about thirty or so readers who I get to hear from now and then — the fact that I don’t have a million subscribers (and probably never will) nor viral content on this site doesn’t really concern me too much. It’s like we’re doing a small, initimate theatre show here: just a few of us in a cozy room with me up on stage doing my thing, and that’s kinda how I like it.

On the flip side, I have a kid who cruelly laughs at the small number beside by social stats because so-and-so teenage youtuber has eight million subscribers or such-and-such streamer in his early twenties on twitch has thirty million subs and a gazillion bucks and ”geeze, dad, you’re barely even…”

On another flip side, I’m what some of you might call a “Creative Soul” or “Artistic” or (as I like to fashion it) “Inspired to Make Stuff” and, as I mentioned, blessed with the luxury of time and resources to do so.

I’ve often written on the sidelines of this project that I have a lot of reasons to write and to continue writing. It’s cheaper than therapy, for one. But also it drives this cycle of writing about the stuff I do and so doing stuff to have something to write about about, and so on and so on and so on.

I’ve also mentioned previously on this blog times and efforts when I’ve dabbled in other projects adjacent (and not so much adjacent) to this project. (Did you know I play classical violin in a local orchestra, for example??) I like the whole Cast Iron Guy project because I get to write about things I enjoy doing, foods I like cooking, and places I like exploring, and thus I do, cook, and explore more so that I have things to write about. The aforementioned cycle works out great for me.

That said, I have other stuff I work on, and other channels I like to work in.

I used to do a lot of photography.

I used to draw a web comic.

I used to dabble in video editing.

I used to write novels (though I never did publish one!)

Last summer, I took a break from writing here. A year ago the push to press the publish button on the daily (which I don’t attempt anymore) seemed to conflict with taking some vacation and enjoying the outdoor weather. This summer I don’t think I’m going to take that break. I think, instead, I’m going to branch out and add depth and complexity to this Cast Iron Guy project. More stuff. More side projects. More experimentation in other media.

(On a side note, I’ve been backburnering a change of ”brand” and updating the name and general theme on this site to something that is less focused on cooking, but until I go at least two days in a row thinking that’s a good idea it’s not getting much traction even in my own head!)

Some of the things I’m working on include:

I added some galleries last year and I’m going to try and get my camera out more to enhance those over the summer. Hopefully you’ll see more photos.

I already posted about my new Youtube channel where I have a couple ideas to post videos if not regularly, then at least sporadically with some frequency, with films and clips that I think might be interesting and fun to record.

I’m toying with the idea and preliminary work of recording a simple podcast, but I haven’t completely got my head around the format and formula yet. I figure it will take a few episodes before that gels into something I really like and want to write more about.

And of course, on top of all of this, I want to get out and explore, travel, do a lot more drawing, writing, and generally enhancing of my content on this blog as it already is, including longer format articles with more focused topics, more photos and videos to accompany the posts, and overall stuff that I think could entertain those folks who already read my posts while attracting others and building a bigger community around the adventure seekers lifestyle.

It’s a creative-heart attack. I think those are healthy.

And this is hobby, pasttime and an indulgence, and I can try new things without worrying that I’m going to bankrupt myself. A year and a half on, a little more than five hundred days of Cast Iron Guy blog, it’s time to see what I can do with this whole thing.

The summer looks to be full of adventure, filming, sketching, recording, and building a collection of interesting stories to share here… and not because I have to, but because I get to.

Backyard: Blogging (a How-to Guide)

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

As spring approaches, and the snow melts into a nurturing moisture that slowly starts to restore the greens to the grass and the leaves to the trees in my little suburban backyard, I find myself looking for excuses to sit in the weak spring sunshine and do those activities I would have just weeks before found a quiet corner of the house to get done.

Daily blogging is not incompatible with an outdoor lifestyle, but it does take some special preparation to help ensure its success.

I don’t know about you, but I write best when I’m comfortable. A cushioned seat or a soft-bottomed chair of some kind. A flat level surface with enough space for my tools (see the first item) and a cup of coffee. It’s got to be out of the wind and sun, and the last thing I want is to have bugs swarming around my head or an angry wasp buzzing at my screen. I like a view of the yard, particularly when the birds are swooping in and out of the feeders I have set up. And so long as she behaves herself, the dog is happiest when she can sniff around or find a place nearby to curl up and enjoy the tippity-tap of the keyboard.

Some tips to successfully blogging outdoors:

Setting the Tools

Writing is a personal act and one that often involves a favourite keyboard, a certain pen & paper combination, or just the right screen font. I myself am fussy about how I write. I admittedly spend too much money on certain styles of keyboards that feel just the right way under my fingers. When I’m in the flow of writing, the last thing I want is to be distracted by an unfamiliar tool. Personally, I’ve taken particular care to set up my writing tools around these comforts and have multiple sets: one that is portable as well as a set that is more grounded at my desk. I have the same chiclet-style keyboard in the wired (desktop) and wireless (tablet) model for the precise reason that I sometimes like to write outdoors (or in the olden, pre-pandemic days, at a café in …gasp …public.) In short, backyard blogging starts with some investment in having a device or method that is capable of not just working, but working for you, in said backyard.

Connecting Disconnected

And now that you have a computer, tablet, or some other writing device set up in a comfortable position outside, you probably need to link it up to the internet. Of course there is always the option of writing your post offline in a text editor and uploading later when you are back in the house or can push it to your blog platform in one effort. A good wireless internet setup that reaches out into a moderate sized backyard in not an expensive investment these days. Nor is tethering your device to a wifi hotspot supplied by your phone a thing that is going to drain most moderately-sized cell phone data packages. Provided you’re not uploading dozens of photos or expecting to share a full video, bringing the internet to your backyard should be a practical and straightforward way to extend your writing space into your green space.


Wind. Bugs. Varying sunlight. The birds fluttering to and fro. The honks of a car horn on the street. A siren passing by on the main road a few blocks away. A neighbour calling his dog. I sit in virtual silence, or listening to music, when I work inside. In my suburban backyard, as much as I revel in the life of the neighbourhood, distraction becomes a real thing when I’m trying to put my fingers onto that keyboard and focus on the words. On sunny mornings the sun comes up past the neighbours house in just the right way that a glare blots out any hope of visibility on my tablet screen. If I sit my chair in just the right angle it blocks most of that light, but it is distracting nonetheless. A pair of headphones and some music is a way to block it out if I need to, but mostly blogging outside means tweaking the way you work to work well with the distractions in the outside space, air, noise, and life.

Feeding the Inspiration

Finally, when the space is just right, the tools are working great, the bugs are shooed away, and the glare of the sun is not obscuring the screen, I find it never feels quite right to sit outside in the yard without a beverage and maybe a snack of some kind. In the mornings I write with a hot cup of coffee and a bit of sourdough toast. In the evenings, after a day of work fuels my after-hours wordiness, a cold beer or a finger of whiskey can often pry loose that tangled inspiration. Maybe you like a glass of wine or a glass of icy cold soda. Maybe you nibble at a snack of some kind, pop yourself some popcorn or crinkle open a bag of potato chips. Backyard blogging, if nothing else, feels like permission to enjoy the act a little more, and to feed your inspiration with the space, the fresh air, and something more literal to sip on. Or maybe it’s just me.

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

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.