Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: living the life

10 steps to your own pioneer project: part 1

pioneer project
I’ve been planning this series for awhile but wasn’t really sure what to say or how to say it or when would be the appropriate time to put it up. After last week’s post, Reshaping My Pioneer Project, I thought now would be as good a time as any. So here we go with part 1.

Have you ever been enamored with the concept of pioneer living? If you have, this is the right place for you. 

For the last few months, I’ve been working on my version of a pioneer project. I’ve been practicing and learning all the classic pioneer skills: making my own butter, growing my own food, learning (and failing miserably) to crochet. But, as I talked about, my project is shifting focus to also include internalizing pioneer values, slowing down, and practicing contentment yet also working hard and setting goals to improve certain areas of my life.

In other words, I’m pioneering my own life. And my project is so much better because of it. Because being a pioneer is really about doing something new, that hasn’t been done before, and charting new territory. It doesn’t have to be on a global scale. It can just be for you.

That said.

Maybe you’ve been following along with my little project and have thought that you’d like to start your own. But maybe you don’t know how. You’re in luck because in this three part series, I’ll be sharing just how you can start your own pioneer project. There’s just one concept that you need to remember: whatever you decide to do, it’s your project. You’re pioneering your own life and, as a result, your project can look however you want it to. It can be similar to mine or maybe you have no interest in developing self-sufficiency skills and instead, you want to take the pioneer work ethic and apply it to marathon training or writing a novel. The what isn’t really as important as the how. 

And the how is what we’re talking about. So let’s do that now. 

10 Steps to Your Own Pioneer Project, part 1

1. Decide what your project looks like. This is the first, and probably the most important, step because it’s setting the focus of your project. In this step, you’ll figure out what part of your life you’re going to pioneer. It’s your end goal and everything you do going forward will be to achieve it. And, so you don’t forget, write it down somewhere. Put it where you can see it. Make your intention known.

2. Do some research. This is most likely the nerd in me talking but I think it’s important to have some background information on your goal. Knowing what exactly you’re diving into, what’s worked for others (and what didn’t), and having a resource bank for tutorials, data, and general knowledge will keep you focused and, at times of frustration, give you a place to go to figure out how get through that moment.

3. Figure out your methodology. You need to decide exactly how you’re going to do your project. To do that, you need to ask yourself some questions including: when will I work on this? What materials do I need? What do I need to learn? How often will I need to practice? Will I need to involve anyone else? Basically any logistical question (except budget. We’ll talk about that next week, in part 2) that will get you going, and keep you going, throughout your project.

These three steps will provide the map, the foundation if you will, for the rest of your project. It’s important to put in the time and energy to get them as clear as possible. Make sure you write them down, too. 

Do you think you’ll start your own project? What will you be pioneering in your own life?



Reshaping my pioneer project

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of my pioneer project. When I dreamed up the idea, it was to develop self-sufficiency skills that are in short supply in my arsenal and to prove that, if need be, I could survive a prairie winter (or summer for that matter). I still refuse to ride a horse or shoot a gun, but I’m slowly working on the rest (except for crocheting. I’m done with that shit. I can get by with my sewing skills and the knitting loom and I have a date later this week) and I think that, at this point, I could survive a prairie winter. While my project is far from over, it’s nice to know that in just a few short months, I’ve come so far.

Fleetwood Mac, speaking the truth.

Fleetwood Mac, speaking the truth.

I think I can attribute that not only to working on my skills but also, an attitude shift. Because the more I work on my project, the more I realize that being a pioneer isn’t just about what you can do or having self-sufficiency skills like sewing a dress or baking bread or raising chickens or building a fire. Being a pioneer, at its core, is about your feelings and attitude towards work, family, rest, survival, faith (not necessarily organized religion), productivity, and a willingness to keep trying and fighting even when your whole body, heart, and soul tells you to quit.  It’s also about committing to things that matter, forgetting those that don’t, connecting with your family, friends, and environment, and doing something that’s never been done before. It’s about doing what you think is right for you.

To the last point, I fully believe that everyone can pioneer their own life. You don’t have to do something groundbreaking that changes the world. You don’t have to be the next Elon Musk or Steve Jobs or Amy Poehler or Sheryl Sandberg. Being a pioneer is about doing something new, adventurous, and groundbreaking in YOUR world. Whatever that entails. No matter how big or small it may seem to someone else.

To the point about working hard on the things that matter and the things that don’t, that, to me, is the crux of being pioneer. After you’ve decided what you’re pioneering, of course. Because once you’ve decided to focus on that, that’s where your time and energy needs to go. Goals you set should be tied directly to your pioneer efforts. Your free time? Same thing. And if you don’t think you have the time or you can’t make the time, then whatever you’re attempting to pioneer is really not that important to you.

That’s been the biggest shift for me. Realizing that there are just some things that aren’t worth the effort (cough-crocheting-cough) but other things that are (hello, essential oils. Nice to meet you). I’ve been placing more emphasis on putting down the social media, giving up a business or a project that didn’t produce results enough to justify the effort, using some of my time in way that makes me happy instead of obligated, and trying to construct my life in a way that is new for me. The intangible things that, when we think of the simple life of the pioneers, we want to have. Because, if you think about it, the pioneer life really wasn’t that simple (I keep meaning to write a post about this. I think I should get on that). 

For me, though, obtaining that romanticized simple life means not only developing those all important self-sufficiency skills. It involves putting myself outside of my comfort zone and connecting with people, friends and strangers. It that involves slowing down. It involves having one full day per week where no one in my house does any errands or chores and we just have family time. It involves letting go of the things that won’t get me closer to a goal and embracing more of the things that will. It involves digging deep and developing a work ethic and spirit that I’ve never possessed. 

It involves taking the attitudes and core beliefs the pioneers had, internalizing them, and making that the focus of the project rather than just whether or not I can make something from scratch. Believing in my own efforts and realizing that just because 39480 people have done it before me doesn’t make what I’m trying to do any less awesome or special and it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve the same success. The pioneers didn’t let other people’s raging successes (or perceived successes) deter them. 

Because now, I’m pioneering my own life. And I don’t give a shit who does or doesn’t like it. In the words of the wise Billy Joel “I don’t care what you say any more, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life. Leave me alone”.


Click the picture and read the whole post this image came from. It's really good.

Click the picture and read the whole post this image came from. It’s really good.

I used to believe that this experiment was about how anyone can be more self-sufficient. Now it’s about how anyone can be a pioneer. 

They’re not the same thing. 

They don’t need to be.

P.S. This is the unintended beginning of a three part series coming your way starting next week and lasting for 3 consecutive Mondays. 

My summer reading list

My daughter and I are just finishing up my favorite Little House book, The Long Winter. For those who haven’t read it, or have but don’t remember, part of that story is the Ingalls family basically skips Christmas. They do what they can, but they basically skip it because the trains have stopped running and there’s no hunting and they’re having to start rationing their food. However, a few weeks prior, Pa had gotten the mail and in the mail, Ma and the girls received magazines and newsletters. Stuff to read. And, knowing that having a substantial Christmas was not going to happen that year, Ma decided that she and the girls would save their new-to-them readings for Christmas day. As a present to themselves.

A) that is some major self-control and B) some of my favorite gifts are books. So, good thinking, Ma.


Books are so important to me, and I literally cannot remember a point in my life when I couldn’t read or had 2-5 books on my nightstand and another 234908 in my library queue, and now on my Amazon wishlist, too. My bookshelf is filled with books I’ll get to eventually. When I travel, packing books is as essential as packing toothpaste and underwear (maybe at one point I’ve forgotten toothpaste and/or underwear but never a book so maybe books are more essential). Some of my favorite summer memories are the rainy days at sleepaway camp when I would lay on my bed and read (and talk to my friends and nap and play jacks, too. But mostly read). Because summers are great for reading. I mean, all seasons are great for reading, but there’s just something about summer that makes reading that much better. Maybe because there are so many more places for reading–the beach, the pool, inside, a deck chair…so many more options.

I never really had a rhyme or reason for how I picked books. I would browse bookstores or stick with authors I already knew. But a couple of years ago, I started paying attention to the lists from Huffington Post books, my friends’ Goodreads lists, Amazon recommended books and I discovered books I ordinarily would not have. It’s how I found Gone Girl, The Sisters Brothers, Reconstructing Amelia, and The Fault in Our Stars. All 4 of those are books I highly recommend if you haven’t read them already.


This summer, I decided to do something I’ve never done before. I have put together my own summer reading list. I never had this from school and in the past, I would just read whatever would come up from my library queue. But this year, I decided I would create a targeted reading list and that list would be a combination of nonfiction books (memoir and self-help/informational type books) and fiction books. I like having a balance, and I usually read one fiction and nonfiction book simultaneously. Doing so feeds both parts of my brain.

Does that sound weird? Probably. That’s okay.

photo (19)
Here’s my list. I already have several on hand while I’m waiting for the rest:


  • Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed (pictured)
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (pictured)
  • All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (not pictured)
  • The Vacationers by Emma Straub (not pictured)
  • Golden State by Michelle Richmond (not pictured)
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (pictured)


  • On Writing by Stephen King (pictured)
  • Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott (pictured)
  • The Economy of You by Kimberly Palmer (not pictured)
  • The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey (pictured. Also, my daughter’s school teaches these habits so I figured it would be good to read what she’s learning)
  • Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim (not pictured, and from my pioneer reading list)
  • Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link (not pictured, and also on my pioneer reading list)
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (not pictured)

The only wrinkle in my very carefully planned reading list is the library not cooperating. I do have a few backup books in the event that happens. 

My list has 13 books on it. Not too unreasonable, I think. I usually average about 1-2 books per week, depending on the books. We’ll see what happens. At least there won’t be a test at the end.

So that’s good.


Found this on Pinterest, pinned from a Tumblr blog. Click the image for the blog.

Found this on Pinterest, pinned from a Tumblr blog. Click the image for the blog.

Do you have a summer reading list? What books are you planning on reading? 


Goals, goals, and more goals

Month three of publicly declaring my goals. In April, I kicked the living shit out of my goals and accomplished 4 of 5. I think I got prematurely arrogant, set 5 more goals for May, and accomplished exactly zero of them. That’s right. Zero. None. I did nothing.

Actually, that’s a lie. I kept up with one goal, my 5k training. I am finishing week 5 (today, in fact) and I am thrilled with how it’s progressing. Now I just need to incorporate more strength training because my fat ass needs to lose some weight. So for this month, goal #1 is to lose a few pounds. Let’s say 5. That’s probably the most realistic number I can come up with. And, along with that, goal #2 is to continue the couch 2 5k program I started and be able to run the full 30ish minutes without stopping by the end of the month.

So that takes care of the health stuff. Now onto pioneer things.

You know how I’ve been trying to crochet? I’m giving it one more month. Then crocheting can go fuck itself. I just cannot do it. It try so hard, practice pretty often, and mess up after 3 rows. I mean, it’s better than the one I could do when I started but still. I am getting ridiculously frustrated. In fact, I’m pretty sure I sound like this:

And I am confident that not all pioneers crocheted well so if I can’t get it done, at least I know I tried my best. So goal #3 is to crochet that damn potholder. And then we’ll see.

Goal #4 is sewing a pillowcase. I talked about the million pillowcase challenge last month and I love the idea and I will get this one done. I have less than no reason why I didn’t do this in May except for utter laziness. With my daughter ending school this week, I’m thinking of ways to incorporate her into this challenge. Maybe have her help pick the fabric and patterns. That could work. Let’s do that.

And that brings us to the beer. Brewing beer is a pretty expensive endeavor, y’all. I think this one might have to wait until the end of the summer so we can buy the proper ingredients and do it correctly. Plus, we need to research a little more and all that good nerdy, overachiever stuff. But I like lists like this in groups of 5 which means I need to add another goal. I think, for this month, that goal #5 is to do some stuff with essential oils. From what I’ve been reading, the pioneers did a lot with herbal remedies and essential oils, to me, seem to encompass that. I’ll probably start with a homemade cleaner (I already do the vinegar/water thing, but maybe something that smells less like salad dressing) and maybe an air freshener or lotion or lip balm.

I also plan to finish the start your own pioneer project series of posts I have outlined, along with my version of a pioneer manifesto (I’ve always wanted a manifesto), and finally get those published on here.

I figure as long as I don’t slack and actually act like a productive member of society (allowing proper time for Orange Is the New Black, of course), I should be able to achieve all my goals. Including the weight loss, which always, ALWAYS proves harder than the rest.

How about you? Do you have any monthly goals?


Pioneer Project progress update #1

It's been awhile since I reported my pioneer project progress. So let's do that today.

Three or so months into the project and pretty much I can say this: I haven't done much. I do notice a difference in my determination and some internal traits but as far as accomplishing things, there's not much tangible proof, save for making butter, a mending basket, and using my crockpot (which is like my version of a pioneer stove).

Let's break it down.


This is my husband's area. He busts his ass weekly, maintaining the garden. He's constantly thinking about how to improve it and maximize the results by weeding and rotating the plants and getting rid of the ones that aren't growing so the good ones have more space (we even have some volunteers from the previous owners but that just makes me think of The Hunger Games so I call those our Katniss plants). He even used grass clippings for mulch, which is both frugal and environmentally friendly. So pioneer win on that one. The plants we started indoors are kicking ass and now it's just a matter of watering and pruning and waiting for things to grow. Then I can start working on some pioneer food things like canning.

This our insane cat hanging out in the garden. Because why not.


One word–nothing. I have done nothing to improve my sewing. I even set a goal this month to sew a pillowcase and thankfully the month isn't over yet so I can get working on this. If I can get some pillowcases, napkins, and curtains done by summer's end, we'll call that a victory. And as far as crocheting, I am trying so, so hard on this one. I practice, watch YouTube tutorials, and it's just not getting better. I think I might just need to accept the fact that maybe I am not meant to do it. But not yet. I'm not giving up yet.

Homemaking stuff

In the early days if this project, I set a weekly schedule a la Ma Ingalls. I haven't been perfect with it but I'm definitely keeping to a stricter schedule than I had prior to the project, and I am getting more done. There have even been a couple of times I washed, dried, folded, and put away laundry all in the same day. Baby steps, friends. Baby steps. I have been getting better about having a weekly food prep and baking day, running errands on one day, and staying home more. That last part isn't a problem because home > public.

I still have a few home decorating projects I need to start/work on/finish but some of those involve going to a craft store and those places intimidate the shit out of me. I also don't have a tablecloth which is really more a reflection of my laziness than an inability to do things because how hard is it to order from Amazon? I want a tablecloth for various reasons but the pioneer reason is I love that Ma used hers to differentiate between an all purpose table and the dinner table. That's a fun, practical idea.


This past weekend we went to a strawberry festival. That's pioneer like, right? We're also trying to do a better job of heating/cooling the house with windows, fans, blankets, layers, curtains, and other non-electric sources. (Except the ceiling fans. Wow, do those make a big difference.) Composting is still in full effect yet I have still not bought supplies to make candles, soap, or beer.

If I had to grade our efforts thus far, I'd give us somewhere between needs improvement and satisfactory. I suppose it's better than we haven't done shit but as far as proving to myself that I could survive life as a pioneer, I'm not making good progress at all. On the bright side, at least I know how to fix it.

I should probably do that.