Highlights from the Canadian Blogger Home Tour

Well that last post was a bit of a downer. I didn’t want to make it seem like I was bashing the Canadian Blogger Home Tour.

I truly do think it was a great series. I know the work that goes into photographing, editing and writing posts like those, and it’s considerable. I admire all of the people who participated in the home tour and the beautiful spaces they created.

There were some really inspirational homes on the tour and today I wanted to highlight a few of my favourites.

Rambling Renovators – Jen’s home tour was the first I read, and it linked me to many of the others. I’ve been a long-time reader of Jen’s blog, so I’d seen most of the rooms on her home tour already, but this was a great showcase of her house all in one post. The trim work and built-ins–all done by her husband–are beautiful. I love the traditional feel of her house and the attention she and Handyman pay to every detail.

Trim work at Rambling Renovators

The Creek Line House – This is a new blog for me that I discovered through the home tour. A tour of a 114 year old farmhouse? I was hooked from the very first photo. And then I scrolled a bit and saw a barn. And there were fields too. This is my kind of place.

The Creek Line House

Adventures of the Uncommon Common Law – Obviously, Becki’s and Chris’ aesthetic is not something you’ve seen from me before. However, if I ever go modern, this is how I’d do it. Sleek and clean. Dark and dramatic. But still super warm and personal. Their lighting is really cool and creative.

The Uncommon Common Law

The DIY Mommy – Some of the Home Tour posts included a collage of images from the various bloggers who participated. One of the little pictures was of a bright kitchen with cheerful blue curtains. This picture is what drew me into the other blogs. I just had to find the house with those great curtains. Well, I did. And the house behind it is great too. The fact that Christina and her husband built it themselves is even more amazing.

DIY Mommy

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the whole roster of blogs in the Canadian Blogger Home Tour, I encourage you to. I’m sure you’ll find lots of inspiration too. Thanks to all of the bloggers for opening their homes to us.

Monday
AKA Design
The DIY Mommy
Northern Style Exposure
Echoes of Laughter

Tuesday
A Pop of Pretty
Rambling Renovators
Craftberry Bush
Elliven Studio

Wednesday
First Time Fancy
So Much Better With Age
The Creek Line House
The Sweetest Digs

Thursday
Clean and Scentsible
The Happy Housie
Just Beachy
Dans le Townhouse

Friday
The Uncommon Law
This Little Estate

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Comparison, blogging and progress

The Canadian Bloggers Home Tour was a couple of weeks ago. It was great to see Canadian bloggers come together and share their personal styles and beautiful spaces. I’ve been inspired by their designs, photography and styling (tune in Friday for a post showing some of my favourites). I’ve even found some new blogs to add to my feedly.

However, often when I see posts like these home tours, I’m a bit conflicted.

I know all of the houses have been cleaned and staged before any of the photos were taken, but I still can’t help feeling slightly inferior when I see house tours like these.

Holy bad paint job, Batman. There are maybe three rooms in my house that are even close to being photogenic enough to be part of a home tour. And they’d all need a good tidy before I took their picture.

Dining room

Much has been written about the unreality of the blogosphere. I think we all know that the images we see on Pinterest and many blogs are not always accurate representations of how people actually live. Lauren at A Lo and Behold Life did a behind the scenes post last week showing some of the real life at her house, which was nice to see.

The bloggers who participated in the home tour are to a certain extent the cream of the crop of Canadian shelter blogs. One of the organizers, Shannon of AKA Design, said “we selected Canadian bloggers who have gorgeous homes (big or small), great photography and mad decorating skills.” Fair enough. Home tours don’t have quite the same inspirational impact when you see the clutter clustered in the corners or the toss cushions tossed on the floor rather than arranged artfully on the couch.

I have to remind myself every so often that reading certain blogs is basically the same as reading a decorating magazine. It’s about appreciating design and finding inspiration for my own spaces. It’s not about other people’s homes or blogs being “better” than mine.

Nightstand

I like the saying that comparison is the thief of joy. In a lot of ways I don’t care what other people do or what they think of me.

Even though I obviously share a lot of my house and my life in public on the internet, I blog for myself (and those like-minded souls that loyally hang in there through slow-moving makeovers and interminable renos).

My house is for myself (and Matt).

I’ll be honest, though, I can’t help wondering what’s wrong with me that my house doesn’t look like these beautiful spaces I saw in the posts last week. We’ve been living here for two and a half years. Why is our house not “done” yet?

I have every confidence that our house will get to a stage where our rooms are beautiful and tidy and perfect reflections of our personal style. Someday, we will be home tour ready. I’m just feeling a little impatient to get there.

(And in case you missed it at the top, I don’t want this post to be interpreted as a rant against the Canadian Bloggers Home Tour. There’s too much negativity and criticism out there. I think the tour was a great way to showcase creative designs and some talented Canadian bloggers. I was inspired by many of the designs I saw. This post is simply my personal reflection and an expression of where I’m at today in my own renovation/decoration saga. I have another post coming up later this week with some of my favourite designs from the home tour. Stay tuned.)

Featured

Over the past month or so, I’ve been really excited to have some of my posts picked up by other bloggers and other sites.

Site logo collage

Pattern Review published my tutorial on how to match horizontal seams across an invisible zipper in their Tip Tuesday feature. The post got some really kind comments, and a few people even said they tried my technique.

Homedit included my DIY umbrella stand as one of 10 Budget-Friendly Entryway Makeovers For A Great First Impression.

My DIY wood island countertop made Shelterness’ list of 12 DIY Wooden Kitchen Countertops To Make.

You all saw the Mad Men dress that I posted a few weeks ago. Julia Bobbin included that dress as well as my yellow bridesmaid dress in her round up of outfits inspired by Joan Holloway’s wardrobe.

One Lovely Blog Award iconAnd finally, The Optimistic Househusband, AKA Nick, nominated me for One Lovely Blog Award. I’m not going to do a full post like I did last time, but I did want to share a link to Nick’s blog and thank him for the nomination.

Thanks to everyone who featured my posts. It’s neat to see the interconnectedness of the blogosphere. Thanks as well to all of you for following this little blog.

Green sleeves

The benefit of cleaning up my office is that I actually have space to work in there now. I may not be completely finished organizing the office, but I did accomplish something else.

I finally sewed something!

Green wool long sleeved collared dress Vogue 8630

This dress is my entry Julia Bobbin’s third annual Mad Men Dress Challenge.

Julia Bobbin - Mad Men Challenge III

The point of the challenge is to sew a dress inspired by Mad Men. I have to admit, I don’t watch the show, but I love the clothes that I’ve seen. I’ve had this dress cut out since November, so it was nice to finally make it up. Between cleaning up my office and Julia issuing her challenge, it was the perfect motivation.

This dress shares some style points with Joan’s chartreuse dress from season 3, episode 6, most notably the collar and the colour.

Joan's green dress

These photos (and lots of others of this outfit) from here.

Ms. Bobbin herself has sewed this dress, although she did a very true knock-off complete with a column of fabulous buttons down the back.

My dress does not have buttons, but I still feel pretty fabulous in it. My starting point was Vogue 8630. I made a few modifications, which I talk about in more detail in my review on Pattern Review.

The best feature of this dress is its wide collar. I dialed up the Mad Men style factor by adding one of my vintage brooches for these photos. I can see so many different accessories working here–I think a giant black button would be really cool.

Vogue 8630 modified collar

In the Mad Men episode, Joan’s dress ends up covered in blood. However, I will be keeping this dress far away from any farming and renovating activities that may lead to bloodshed. I think my alter ego and her day job will make good use of it and keep it nice and neat.

Check out Julia’s blog next week for all of the other fabulous entries in the Mad Men challenge.

Are there any Mad Men fans out there? How about Mad Men fashion fans?

Blog-iversary 2

At the start of this week, I celebrated our second farm-iversary. Today it’s all about the blog-iversary. (In case you want to compare, last year’s blog-iversary included a stats post and a goals post).

Two was the theme for my second year of blogging, as the number of people visiting the blog more than doubled–a 132% increase, to be precise.

Total, monthly and daily blog views

Last year, I said my goal was to attract more readers, and I was hoping that I might get to 100 views per day. I did it, averaging 107 views per day. For the past few months, I’ve had a gradual increase as you can see below, and now the blog has around 100 visitors per day. Thank you all for visiting.Monthly blog viewsLike last year, visitors came from all over the world. However, there was one change. In year one most of my visitors were my fellow Canadians. This year the majority of you are American.

Blog views by country

Here are the top 10 countries and the number of visitors from each. Interestingly, the same countries are in the top 9 from year one to year two, and they’re in roughly the same order. The only change is at number 10 where South Africa replaced the Philippines.

  1. United States — 19,694
  2. Canada — 14,817
  3. United Kingdom — 1,247
  4. Australia — 599
  5. Germany — 349
  6. Switzerland — 155
  7. France — 155
  8. India — 142
  9. New Zealand — 133
  10. South Africa — 99

In year two, I was able to stick to my three posts per week schedule and published a total of 154 posts.

Last year’s most read post about the bridesmaid dress I sewed for my sister’s wedding reigned at the top for a year. At the end of July, it was overtaken by my post about how to make a wood countertop. The countertop post continues to get the most views every day. The bridesmaid dress has slid back to number four. Rounding out the top three most viewed posts are How to stain and waterproof a wood countertop and Not so fab freebie, the post about our uncomfortable wing chair.

The wing chair post has surprised me. This post is the first time I professed my love for Ikea’s Strandmon wing chair. It’s not the post where we actually buy the chair or where I actually talk about Strandmon in any detail. Apparently, a lot of people are interested in Strandmon. I published this post at the start of September, so it rocketed to the top very quickly.

Here are the top 10 posts of the past year and of all time and the number of views for each:

Posted 2013-14:

  1. How to make a wood countertop — 6,056
  2. How to stain and waterproof a wood countertop — 1,728
  3. Not so fab freebie — 1,723
  4. Birthday wish come true — 530
  5. Celebration — 517
  6. How to match seams across an invisible zipper — 324
  7. Lakeside Living Home Tour — 129
  8. How to build simple closet shelves — 127
  9. What once was lost now is found — 124
  10. DIY fail… sorta — 109

All-time:

  1. How to make a wood countertop — 6,056
  2. How to stain and waterproof a wood countertop — 1,728
  3. Not so fab freebie — 1,723
  4. Change of pace — 1,120
  5. The reveal… aka how to strip wallpaper — 845
  6. How to install a pot light — 619
  7. Birthday wish come true — 530
  8. Celebration — 517
  9. How to use preglued veneer edging — 346
  10. How to match seams across an invisible zipper — 324

Searches for wood countertops and and wing chairs are by far the top search terms and bring a lot of people to the site every day. But there are also lots of you who are regular visitors every week. Your loyalty means so much to me. Thank you for reading.

I have to give a special shout out to Jan Elizabeth, Sarah In Illinois, Margaret, Lindsay of ThatMutt.com and Dave & Sharynne Wilder of Dockwood Furniture for their frequent comments.

Top commenters' gravatarsJan Elizabeth stumbled across my blog in the fall, and she proceeded to read the entire archives and comment on pretty much every post in the span of about a week. Sarah has been reading since nearly the beginning. Margaret and I got to meet at BlogPodium in September. It was really neat to talk with someone whom I had previously known only from online. Lindsay’s dog blog is one of my daily reads. Dave and Sharynne always have great suggestions, and their blog is full of their own really inspiring handmade furniture.

I have to give another shout out to Danica of Country Chic Renovator and Diane of West Lake Musings. Back in August, they both guest posted while I took a week’s vacation. This was my first time having guest posters, and I really appreciated Danica’s and Diane’s willingness to share their stories. In case you missed them, here are the links for Danica’s post and Diane’s.

Blogging is such a network. I am frequently amazed by the connections I’ve made online. I’d like to do a better job at connecting with other bloggers. I read a post recently about content curation versus content creation–meaning featuring content from other sources versus writing my own original content. Original content has always been really, really important to me. However, I think that I could add some more variety to my blog and encourage other writers by collaborating more with other bloggers.

I did broaden my blogging network this year through a few events. A year ago, I speculated that I was considering attending a blogging conference to learn some new skills and make some new connections. Well, I made this speculation a reality. In fact, in keeping with my second year theme of two, I participated in two conferences: Word Camp and BlogPodium.

I am attending Blog Podium

These events were very inspiring and motivating. I don’t think I necessarily took full advantage of the networking aspect of the conferences, but I did make a lot of connections that are still with me today. I definitely learned a lot, and I’m so glad that I decided to go to the conferences.

One of the really simple lessons that I learned was to write headlines as though I am writing tweets. Writing post titles is something that I struggle with and probably my least favourite part of blogging. Thinking of titles as tweets has been pretty helpful, although I still turn to Matt every so often and say, “Any ideas for a title for a post about…?” He’s totally my secret writing weapon.

In last year’s blog-iversary post, I wrote “The biggest thing I’d like to do over the next year is decide where I want to go with this blog over the longer haul.” Today, two years in, I’m less worried about this.

Sure, I like the idea of spending my days at home, hanging out with Baxter, receiving tools and building supplies from sponsors, writing and DIYing as much as I want. However, blogging professionally is not the same as the blogging I’m doing now.

I love that my stats increased this year and that there are lots of you out there who like what I write. However, more than that, I like blogging for myself.

Since realizing that, I’ve been worrying less that I’m not active on every single social media channel out there and  that I’m not aggressively courting more readers so that I can attract sponsors. Jen at Rambling Renovators and Kit at DIY Diva posted about some of their feelings on this topic earlier this year, and a lot of what they said really resonated with me.

So while this year I’m all about goals for getting work done around the house, I’m not going to make any blogging goals as I head into year three of this online adventure.

I hope that you will tag along as the adventure continues. I’ve said it a couple of times already, but I’ll say it again: thank you. Thank you for reading and for being part of our projects, part of our farm, part of our lives.

I do appreciate your feedback, so if you have any suggestions of what you’d like to see more of (or less of) on the blog, please feel free to share.

BlogPodium lessons learned

Going to BlogPodium was a bit of a surreal experience. I still feel like a newbie to this whole blogging thing, but a professional conference made me feel almost… professional.

I will admit I was a little star struck, starting right at the beginning when Handyman from Rambling Renovators checked me in at the registration table. Thankfully, I restrained myself and didn’t blurt out, “Hey, you’re Handyman!” right to his face.

BlogPodium

HandyMan and Jennifer, the Rambling Renovators and BlogPodium organizing team
BlogPodium official photos by Annawithlove Photography

I felt like my head kept whipping around doing double takes of, “Hey that’s Jen from Rambling Renovators/Sarah Richardson from TV/Karen Bertelson from The Art of Doing Stuff/Margot Austin from House & Home!” or “I’m sure I recognize her. How do I know her?” It turns out my brain has a hard time translating people I’ve seen on screen, in print or on TV into real life.

I did manage to overcome my geeky excitement and introvert tendencies to actually remember why I came to BlogPodium in the first place: to learn about blogging, connect with other bloggers and figure out how I can develop my blog.

I’m going to start with two simple lessons before going into more detail about what I learned from each session (warning, it’s long).

What worked:

It may seem silly, but wearing a distinctive outfit and posting it on my blog beforehand actually helped me to connect with people. Lots of people came up and introduced themselves to me just because they recognized my bring pink plaid shirt. (By the way, I went with the blue purse, the yellow wrap (which I ended up not using) and my pearl studs, for those that are wondering).

What didn’t work:

I wish I had done a better job of connecting with people before the conference either over Twitter or through the BlogPodium site. I think that would have helped with some of the initial awkwardness of walking into the room and not knowing anyone. As well, for the next conference, I will prepare an “elevator pitch” in advance to explain who I am and what my blog is about.

And now on to the sessions:

The day started off with the keynote presentation from Sarah Richardson. Sarah’s confidence, positive attitude and openness really impressed me. She talked about the need to evolve to stay relevant in the design and media careers. Or as she termed it, “I’m the last woman standing surrounded by contractors.” Thinking about HGTV’s current line-up, I can definitely see where she’s coming from.

As important as evolution is, she talked about how she focuses on designs that last and creating a signature style. This lesson applies to blogging (writing style) as well as how you treat a room. The most unique moment of the presentation was when Sarah described her design sense. Rather than using standard labels like modern or traditional, she uses four words: shore, lane, boulevard and sidewalk. Each of these represents a different element of her style from her signature blues and greens, to her love of the country, to the polish of “the finer things,” to youthful family friendly fun. Isn’t this a unique way of thinking about your work?

Sarah’s presentation was very powerful for me and was an amazing kick-off for the conference.

The first session I went to was on what bloggers can learn from magazines with Corinna vanGerwen.

The way Corinna described it, magazines are the original blog. They’re all about content, bringing images and words together, sharing ideas and inspiring people.

Corinna gave us a top 10 to use in our own blogs:

  1. Find your niche — What makes you different from all the other design and lifestyle blogs out there?
  2. Think like an editor — Look at the topic you want to write about but also how it fits into your overall blog, the best way to tell the story, how will it attract readers.
  3. Use an editorial calendar – Balance topics, formats of posts, length, frequency, themes, and most importantly your own workload.
  4. Write eye catching headlines – Sell the benefits not the features and be clear (puns and plays on words don’t always work). Interesting tip: look to magazine covers and men’s magazines for the best headline examples.
  5. Write for your audience — To grow your blog it has to be more than a vanity project. Get to know your audience by monitoring your analytics, reading comments, following your followers on twitter or pinterest, analyzing your most popular posts.
  6. Practice the art of packaging – Think of different ways to present information, whether it’s a how-to, recipe, list, trend piece, review, profile, interview, charts.
  7. Edit your content to give it professionalism and finesse — Look at the big picture of your editorial calendar and blog theme. Look for length, flow and clarity. Favourite quote (as someone who tends to write long posts): “Just because there’s all the room in the world on the internet doesn’t mean you have to take it all up.”
  8. Have a style guide – Establish standards for grammar, spelling, numbers, prices, names, measurements, etc. Be consistent.
  9. Fact check your work — Credibility and trust are vital.
  10. Identify advertising — Transparency and disclosure are essential in blogging

Session two was from blog to business with Stephanie Sterjovski.

Stephanie impressed me with her confidence. She had a very positive, no BS attitude, as you can probably tell from her tips:

  1. Keep it positive. Don’t spread negativity.
  2. You don’t have to know everything. Build your skills. If you want to perfect something you have to work at it yourself.
  3. Readers want content that is fresh. Get off Pinterest and start creating things people will pin. Take your own photos. Invest in a camera. Learn.
  4. Post only about what you truly love and what reflects your brand.

Over a delicious lunch, it was time for a panel discussion about traditional media, new media, and social media moderated by Leigh-Ann Allaire Perreault of Hue La La. Panelists Margot Austin from House & Home, Jacquelyn Clark of Style Me Pretty Living and Lark & Linen, Emma Reddington from Chatelaine and The Marion House Book and Rhonda Riche co-founder of Covet Garden all had really interesting insights to share about the intersection between blogs and traditional media (mostly magazines. One of the most encouraging statements was that blogs are feeding the print product and making it stronger.

The session after lunch, grow your business using social media, was another panel featuring Brittany Stager, Neil Gazmen and Meredith Heron. This session was a mix of the philosophical (“It’s not about number of followers. It’s about their engagement”) and the practical (how Meredith uses social media: photograph what I’m working on and post it to Instagram first. Share the Instagram through Facebook and Twitter. Later, use the Instagram photos for blog content. Pin everything from my blog posts. Name every project and use a hash tag. And then repost photos on Facebook).

Whew! It’s paying off for her. Meredith could trace beaucoup de bucks in design work that’s come directly through leads on social media.

The final session of the day was the art of monetization with Karen Bertelsen. Karen was as funny in person as she is on her blog. She was also super open about numbers and dollars, answering all of people’s questions.

Step one in monetizing your blog is growing your readership. Karen advised building readership by sharing your work through other sites and blogs. If one of your posts is featured on Apartment Therapy, your audience will spike (and recede), but over time it will build. Karen also gave a good overview of different advertising options from Google Ad Sense to vertical ad networks to private ads to sponsorship, how they all work and what some of the different considerations are. She gave us a preview of the big announcement that she shared on Monday, which led to tips on working with magazines and other brands.

Some of her other tips:

  1. If someone wants to use your content, don’t give it away for free.
  2. If you want something and see a partnership opportunity, pitch the company.
  3. If you have a question, reach out and ask people or other bloggers who might be able to help you.
  4. Look at your blog as a business and it will become a business .

Rounding out all of the presentations were the amazing sponsors. Look at all of this swag that was in our packages!

BlogPodium swag

This one is my photo

The biggest takeaway from all of the speakers, all of the sessions and my overall experience of BlogPodium was collaborate. Build relationships and work together. Connecting with 250 other enthusiastic passionate bloggers was a good first step. I’m so glad that I decided to attend. Thanks to Jen Flores and the rest of the BlogPodium organizing team for an amazing day.

If you’ve made it to the bottom of this incredibly long post, congratulations and thank you. If you somehow haven’t had enough, read other BlogPodium recaps here.

Big question for a big blogging weekend

You nearly didn’t get to read this post. Baxter and my walk yesterday morning came to a crashing halt (or more accurately a dashing sprint) when he pulled the leash out of my hand and went running into the woods in pursuit of something.

Matt and I spent an hour thrashing around in the dark with flashlights calling his name. When we had to go to work, his parents took over and spent four hours at the farm searching/waiting for him to come home (yes, I have the best in-laws). After an anxiety-filled day that included climbing electric and barbed wire fences and calls to animal control, I arrived home to the welcome sight of Matt walking over the back field, Baxter at his side.

The Dude had spent the day getting up close and personal with a tree in the back woods. Thanks to his trailing leash, he hadn’t made it very far in his mad dash through the forest. Despite Matt, his parents and me all walking within 100 metres of him, he hadn’t made a sound and our woods are thick enough that we hadn’t seen him. Fortunately, Matt has a sixth sense… or something… and he managed to find him. Baxter had been on our property the whole time.

Holy hell, people. This dog may do me in.

Anyways, I’m not looking back at what might have been. Let’s look ahead.

This is a big weekend for me. Tomorrow I will be spending the day with more than a hundred other bloggers at BlogPodium.

I am attending Blog Podium

BlogPodium is Canada’s top conference for design and lifestyle bloggers.  There are sessions on everything from social media to monetization, a panel of high-profile editors from Chatelaine and House & Home, an opening keynote from superstar designer Sarah Richardson, exhibits from sponsors including Home Depot, Delta Faucet, Para Paints and Loblaws, and lots, lots more. I am very excited.

But one question is plaguing me. What do I wear? Bloggers are one of the best dressed groups out there. They’re stylish and chic with a definite creative edge. Stylish, chic and creative, yup, I can do that. However, my blog is Home on 129 Acres. I think I need a little bit of country in there. (Look at me branding myself through my clothing).

Here’s my idea for an outfit. (Apologies for the bad photo. I had plans to reshoot it, but my time was hijacked by a four-legged runaway).

BlogPodium outfit

White trousers, fresh from the dry cleaner in the nick of time. Pink plaid shirt, desperately in need of a close encounter with a hot iron before Saturday. Strappy nude/pink patent heels. I’m still debating which bag and which wrap work best. What do you think? Nude seatbelt bag or blue leather purse? Bright yellow pashmina or soft blue? I probably won’t wear the shawl the whole time, but I want to have it in case the rooms are cold.

Aaaah! I forgot about jewelry #cannotleavethehousewithoutearrings. Hmmm…

Cowgirl earrings

Those might be a little more cowgirl than country. I tend to be a pearl studs or big chandeliers type of woman.

Help me, people. My future as a blogger is hanging in the balance.

(For those with no interest in fashion, my apologies for the break in our usual programming. I promise to refrain from too many forays into my closet in the future.)

In turn, Baxter I would appreciate if you would please refrain from running away.

What’s on tap for your weekend? Any new experiences on the agenda? Any outfit dilemmas I can assist with?

Guest post: Flying high

This week Matt and I are taking a little holiday. While we’re relaxing, I have some great guest posts lined up for the blog.

Often it’s the little things that make a home. You all know how happy Matt and I are to finally have a flag pole at the farm. There was the satisfaction when we finally installed the pole. Then there was the history lesson on Flag Day. And of course the maple leaf on Canada Day.

Well, Diane at West Lake Musings shares our appreciation for flags. In fact, she and her husband Warren recently made a new addition to their country property, and she generously agreed to share it here today with all of you.

____________________

Happiness is infectious. When you love someone and you see them grinning and having fun, you catch the feeling too. Those good vibes just fly across the room and seep into your heart.   That’s what has been happening around here this month.  My husband feels good and consequently I do too.  The reason for all of this good cheer was Warren’s current project.   He has been on a quest and totally absorbed in getting a flag made up for the property.

Our new flag is not just any old flag.  Oh, you don’t know Warren well do you?  No, Warren’s new flag is a custom designed unique-only-to us flag.  It will fly high and mark his territory.

It is exactly one year since Warren had a personal design created and 30 custom baseball caps manufactured with that logo on the brow.

Ordering a personal flag using that same design was just the natural progression.

I personally find Warren really endearing when he is caught up in the excitement of a project.  God love him.  He is cute. He has been running around all month. First he had to go back to the hat manufacturer and ask them to email the flag people a copy of his design. Then there were colour swatches to select and proofs to approve. There was a choice of fabrics to select. Did we want the flag in satin, nylon, polyester, duraknit or duramax?  Do we want the grommets on the right or the left side? We decided on a 3′ x 5′ size flag and an 18 foot tall aluminum flagpole. For Warren it was all very important stuff.

The flag manufacturer has been great and very patient. Flags Unlimited are located several hundred miles away yet they were able to manufacture and deliver our new flag within a day and a half from placing our final order. Oh, and the flag pole was delivered too. It came in five sections, each four feet long, neatly packed in a cardboard box.  How cool is that?

Armed with a neon spray can and measuring tape we then went looking for the perfect location for our new flag pole. It couldn’t be too close to the trees and we had some over head wires to contend with. Some areas of our property are rather sheltered and don’t get much wind. The last deciding factor was that we wanted to see the flag from the house and whenever we walked out the back door.

The final stage in the project was the installation of the flag pole. It was a real team effort. Out came the wheelbarrow, the shovels, a tarp, gravel and concrete. The instructions called for a 16 inches x 48 inches hole. Two inches of gravel was placed into the bottom of the hole and then the whole thing was filled with concrete. “Quick get the level!” We don’t want a crooked pole.

Setting a flag pole in concrete

Today the project was completed. Not since the marines raised the flag during the battle for Iwo Jima has there been this much anticipation. The pole is firmly in place and the beautiful new flag is snapping in the wind. Magnificent. We love it. For the man who has everything it makes a truly unique stand-out symbol of his territory.

Custom made West Lake Musings Flag

____________________

Isn’t that a great commemoration of their new life in the country? I love the idea of a custom made flag for the farm. Diane’s and Warren’s love of their new home is obvious. Thanks, Diane for sharing your story today.

One of my favourite parts of blogging is finding kindred spirits. In the case of Diane–who was actually the one that found me–our transformation into country living has followed a very similar path (almost to the month)!

Breeze over to West Lake Musings to check out more of her and Warren’s adventures.

Going to camp

I don’t like to leave the farm, especially on the weekends when I have a big list of things I want to do and time to just enjoy the property. However, when I heard that WordCamp was coming to my hometown for the first time, I decided that was too much of an opportunity to pass up. After all, I said that one of my blog goals for year two was to maybe participate in a conference or professional development event.

Word Camp name badge

According to the official web site, “WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress.” The first WordCamp was organized in 2006 in San Francisco by Matt Mullenweg. Since then, there have been more than 200 WordCamps held in more than 100 cities around the world.

My first WordCamp lived up to the official description of “informal, community-organized events” for everyone from casual users, bloggers, programmers to core developers.

I learned something in every single session–even the more technical ones. Here are just some of my takeaways.

On overall blog philosophy:

  • Don’t be afraid to be human.
  • Write first, code second. Blogging is not about the platform or coding. It’s about conversation and thought.
  • It doesn’t have to be pretty. It needs to function

On blog content:

  • Consistency–of tone, topics, visuals
  • Frequency–you don’t have to post everyday, but have a regular schedule that works for you
  • Categories–make it clear who you are, what you write about and help people to navigate your blog. One presenter phrased it as “Categories are great for external search.  Tags are great for your internal site search.”
  • Personality–be yourself

Attendees at WordCamp

On mobile (a session that was a little bit over my head):

  • “Developers and designers broke the web” (I love this quote). Simple text sites became pixel perfect print-esque designs, and these pages don’t work on the small screens of mobile devices.
  • On mobile, the screen is smaller, and the pointer (finger) is bigger
  • Responsive design adjusts how your web site displays based on what devices users are on (ReSS is the next generation to responsive design)

On customized–or semi-custom–designs (something that I’ve been considering ever since I started blogging):

  • You can build a child theme that’s based on an established WordPress theme (the parent theme). You’ll still get all of the updates and features of the parent theme, but the design and some of the functions will be tweaked to your preferences. I didn’t know this was even possible. I thought a custom design was built completely from scratch. I’m quite excited by the possibilities of child themes.
  • When selecting a parent theme, choose one that has the functionality that you like. Look for ones with lots of widgets and flexibility. You can change the design easily through CSS.

On hosting:

  • From any hosting service, expect 99% uptime, 24/7 support, system health dashboard, off peak hours maintenance windows
  • Do backups as frequently as you post new content. Back up source code, plugins and themes as well as content.

Here’s a picture of the final panel featuring most of the speakers: (from left to right) Al Davis, Richard Rudy, Laurie Rauch, Joey Coleman, Kristin Archer, Todd Dow and Kevin Browne (missing Seema Narula). They were all great. If you want more details about what anyone said, Todd Dow posted a good summary.

Panelists at WordCamp

I have to give kudos to all of the organizers and volunteers too. They put a lot of effort into making the day as useful as it was.

Since I started blogging more than a year ago, I’ve been very impressed by how supportive other bloggers are to each other. WordCamp was another illustration of that community. The first presenter of the day said, “If you know something teach it,” and that’s exactly how everyone–presenters, organizers, attendees–approached the day.

The enthusiasm and generous advice from other people at WordCamp may have inspired me to try and learn CSS. My programming knowledge is limited to rudimentary HTML that is more than a dozen years old. I’m hoping that knowledge might give me a bit of an advantage, but I’m also still a bit daunted by how much technology has changed since I did any programming.

I’m also going to try and inject a little more personality into my posts. Sometimes I feel like my posts are a bit shallow. Renovations and gardening and farming are still going to be the bulk of my posts, but I’m going to try to share a bit more about who I am.

For anyone considering attending a WordCamp or another networking or blogging event, I say go for it. I was a little uncertain about whether I’d fit in with the other attendees.

I mean, I’m not a professional blogger. I don’t have any advertisers or sponsors. I have less than 100 readers a day.

I was surprised to find out that I actually had more experience than a lot of the attendees. There were absolutely some professional programmers in the room, but there were lots of new or wannabe bloggers there too.

One of the messages that a few of the presenters had for the audience was if you’re thinking about blogging, just do it. Give it a try and see if you like it. Start. The lesson also applies to conferences. If you have an opportunity to attend WordCamp or another event, don’t be intimidated. Do it.

How about you? What advice do you have for bloggers? Have you ever been to WordCamp or another conference?

Who’s driving this blog?

When I first boarded the blogging bandwagon last March, I told myself I’d give it a year and see where I ended up. Well, it’s been a year. Earlier this week I posted some of the highlights from the journey.

Now the question is where to next?

Driving our Kioti CS 2410 tractor across a grassy field

Some of the goals on my year two road map are fairly simple:

  • Add some new sections to my homepage to set the tone for the blog and feature some favourite posts.
  • Make sure my About page gives a clear picture of who I am and what the blog is all about.
  • Add some additional pages, such as a house tour, a before and after gallery or a project catalogue.
  • Make more connections with other bloggers and readers.

Some of my other ideas are more hypothetical possibilities at this point rather than defined destinations. I may detour from these over the year:

  • Add some extra functionality to my template–maybe even find a new template or hire someone to make a custom design.
  • Set up the blog at my own url.
  • Buy a better camera and improve my photography skills.
  • Consider participating in a conference or blogging event, such as BlogPodium or Alt, to learn some new skills and also make some connections.
  • Attract more readers–I think 100 views per day over the next year is an achievable goal.
Frog on a gravel driveway

Excuse me, do you have any friends?

The biggest thing I’d like to do over the next year is decide where I want to go with this blog over the longer haul. I blog for myself and for all of you reading out there. However, I am also trying to approach this professionally, with a regular posting schedule and thoughtful posts that will be helpful and interesting to readers. So I feel like I need to figure out what’s my destination with the blog?

  • Do I want to sell advertising and make money? Extra income sounds good to me, and right now I think I’d be open to it. However, I’m cautious about how this might change my tone and my overall approach to blogging.
  • Do I want to take on some side work as a freelance writer? Exploring possible new career paths and considering some independent work is intriguing to me.
  • Do I want to want to work with sponsors? Seeing bloggers whose renovations are sponsored is obviously appealing. If there’s a company out there that is interested in building an attached garage, converting an indoor pool into a useable room, adding on a front porch, doing some major landscaping, or helping with any of the other projects on my wish list, I’m up for partnering… I think.

Who knows where this blog will end up? Right now, all I can say is I’m open to the bends in the road ahead, and I hope over the next year I can define some directions for myself.

I’d also really like to hear from you. I’m not going to do a reader survey… yet… but I’d love to hear your thoughts. What’s working and what’s not working for you on the blog? What would you like to see in terms of the design and functionality? What are your favourite topics to read about? Are there any topics you wish I wouldn’t write about anymore? From other bloggers out there, how have you attracted more readers? What are some of your goals? Please leave a comment or feel free to email me with your feedback at homeon129acres@hotmail.com.

Thanks everyone for coming along for the ride so far.