Jana Says

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Tag Archive: pioneer traits

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. 

Humpday Confessions: Makes me smile

It’s confessions time again!

Last time, I confessed some things that make me angry. I might have ranted a bit. Fine, I ranted a whole lot. Then I promised that I would talk about what made me happy because you know, balance and all that. So while I was sitting in line waiting to get my daughter from school (an activity that makes me decidedly unhappy), I wrote a list of things that turn my frown upside down.

They’re mostly small things because if I can find joy in the minutiae then I can find joy in the big stuff. Also, it’s easier to identify the big things that make me happy; the small stuff isn’t always so easy to find. But I managed,

Without further ado, I confess that all of these make me incredibly happier than maybe they should:

  • Finding money or gift card with money left on it. Because free shopping.
  • Hearing a song I love on the radio. Especially if it’s a song that I almost never hear. Like this one.

  • Meeting someone who loves (or hates) the same things as me. You hate coffee? I hate coffee. We’re BFFs now.
  • Getting something on sale unexpectedly. Now I can buy more things. Score!
  • Parking in a really good spot. It’s even better if the lot is crowded. I win. You lose. Good day.


  • Sleeping through the night without having to get up to pee at all during the night. Bladder control FTW!
  • Frosting shots. Because cake is just something to hold up frosting.
  • Getting a text from someone you’d been thinking about and hadn’t talked to in awhile. It’s nice to be thought of.
  • Taking a BuzzFeed quiz and getting a response that makes sense. Or is the response I want. Like that I would belong to the Freaks and Geeks clique.
  • Reruns of my favorite shows when I am not expecting them to be on TV. Particularly if it’s Roseanne or Freaks and Geeks (two of my favorite shows of all time). Don’t expect me to move until they’re over.
  • Buying a nail polish color and it looks more amazing than anticipated. Like this one (Essie I’m Using My Maiden Name).




  • Repins. I love having my good taste validated.
  • The fact that my most repinned pin is this picture of Wentworth Miller:


Blog comments also make me happy so go ahead a leave a comment with a few small things that make you happy.


Linking up with Kathy from Vodka and Soda for Humpday Confessions


Vodka and Soda

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.


42 things to do while watching TV

tv things

The other day, while looking through Pinterest, I saw yet another post spouting off about how TV is awful and a waste of time and the only way to be productive and engaged is if you just turn it off (the superior attitude she gave in the post is a whole separate topic and rant. Honestly, if you don’t want to watch TV, good for you. But please don’t condescend to those of us who do). While there might be some merit to what the post author was saying, I respectfully disagree with her. In fact, I believe there are plenty of things you can do while watching TV so you’re not just idly sitting on the couch (and if all you want to do is sit on the couch, go ahead. It’s your time, your life and you can do whatever you choose with it).

For instance:

Bloggy things

  1. Comment on other blogs or respond to comments on yours
  2. Write a post or two
  3. Optimize posts for Pinterest or SEO
  4. Check for dead or broken links
  5. Create an editorial calendar
  6. Schedule tweets and/or Facebook updates
  7. Create a new header or blog button
  8. Participate in a Twitter chat
  9. Help a new blogger (not sure how? I know a great program you can get involved in)
  10. Revise or update old posts to make them fresh
  11. Give your blog a facelift
  12. Do invoices for sponsorships, freelance work, ads, or services
  13. Finally start that eBook

Pioneer things

  1. Crochet, knit, sew, or mend something
  2. Map your garden
  3. Make soap or candles
  4. Prepare food (ex., pickles, bread, applesauce in the crockpot)
  5. Wash dishes
  6. Research essential oils or some alternative medicines that pioneers used
  7. Make homemade cleaners


Personal things

  1. Exercise (there are tons of workouts you can do during commercials or while watching a show. Or invent your own)
  2. Pay bills
  3. Fold laundry
  4. Batch cook or menu plan
  5. Read a magazine, a book, or create a reading list on GoodReads (while you’re at it, put some books on hold at the library or borrow some from the Kindle store)
  6. Do some online shopping
  7. Look for coupons (I do this with the Target Cartwheel app)
  8. Make a vision board
  9. Organize your Pinterest boards or actually make a project you’ve pinned
  10. Write out goals or a bucket list
  11. Plan/organize a party or family get-together
  12. Write thank you cards or cards in general
  13. Play a game
  14. Do a puzzle
  15. Create a workout, commuting, or road trip playlist or four
  16. Organize pictures
  17. Groom yourself–mani/pedi, dye your hair, face mask, remove your mustache (no judging here. You need to do what you need to do)
  18. Play with your pet
  19. Text a friend during a particularly interesting show and share the experience
  20. Clean the room you’re in
  21. Purge your closet or drawers
  22. Watch something helpful/educational like a TED talk or documentary 

The pioneers, from what I can tell, valued being productive over being busy. But they also enjoyed some downtime, particularly after a hard day of work. They relaxed with music, storytelling, and games; many of us relax with a TV show or two. But if you’re finding you’re hard pressed to get everything done in a day you need or want to, why not get some of it done while you’re in front of the TV?

What would you add to the list?