(Re)Introducing the Hummingbird Planner

Planning Strategies for Free Spirits and Creative Thinkers to Get Shit Done

For years, I’ve been working on this idea for a planner. Actually, I’ve been obsessed with planners for a couple of decades as I’ve tried to create strategies to help cope with ADHD, autism, and major depressive disorder. But it doesn’t work as a planner, because it’s really a method. A series of strategies for existing in a world that does ever think it can to make us conform.

I’m a non-conformist by nature, and over the years, I have developed strategies that work so I don’t have to give in and get a job, I can do what I do and live as I want to live. The strategies don’t keep me constantly productive – that’s not a goal in my life, and it’s not healthy, either. But they do allow me to make significant progress on projects and goals while I have the mental, emotional, and physical capacity to do so, regardless of how long the gap between those times.

For instance, I’m coming out of a months-long depression that followed a really rough year where I spent most of the year physically ill and made less than $6000 and dealt with a whole lot of chaos in my life.

And because of my strategies, I know exactly where I am on every project I was working on, and I can pick right up where I left off. I don’t have to make a lot of decisions about what to do because the strategies pre-decide what to do for me on any given day.

For instance, it’s Thursday, and because I pre-decided the themes for my days, I know that Thursday is the day to check in on my finances. Look at the bank account, go over expected expenses, go over expected income, and strategize ways to fill the gap.

This saves me from decision fatigue. Every decision you make during the days puts a bit of strain on your brain. And let’s face it, we make a whole lot of decisions every single day of our lives.

Habits are an attempt to ease the load. Habits are decisions we’ve made so many times that they’re now automatic. Our brain no longer needs to know if we want to do that or not, it just assumes that we do, and it does it.

Choosing themes for my days is another way that I ease that decision fatigue for myself. There’s an endless list of things to do in my life, and because my days are pretty freeform – no job to go to, I work for myself, and I’m starting an urban homestead – it’s really easy to get stuck trying to figure out when to do certain things. It’s not like I have a boss to report to. As long as I make enough money to cover what I need to cover, I can do whatever I want, and that much freedom frequently leads to decision paralysis, which comes after decision fatigue.

I chose my themes based on the astrological days of the week. Our days are associated with certain planets. For some of the days, the planet is right there in the name.

Each of these planets are associated with certain life areas. Assign tasks to the days accordingly, and when a task comes up on your list as you’re planning the week ahead, you no longer get stuck trying to decide when to do what. And because the week keeps starting over, you have a fresh chance to touch that life area again, even if you skipped the previous week. Or months. Or year. *Ahem.*

Now, you don’t have to be as esoteric about it as I am. Some of your days might already have themes to them if you pay enough attention. Is there something you do on a specific day every single week? Maybe it’s related to work or hobbies or kids or whatever. Maybe it’s a therapy appointment every week. Or a kid’s soccer game. Or payroll. Whatever.

Those are anchors. Sometimes, life selects our anchors for us. Other times, we can choose our anchors ourselves. Anchors occur regularly – Days of the week, months of the year, New and Full Moons, Mercury Retrogrades, seasons, etc. There’s a reason our calendars are based on lunar and solar cycles. They’re reliable ways to get our bearings as to when we are.

For me, following the seasonal and astrological cycles is fun. It feels right. It works for me. But if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. The point of the Hummingbird Planner is to do it in a way that works for you.

Anchors can also be habits. Artificially created cycles and rhythms. What’s something you do every single day? How can you build onto that? Or, if it’s something you want to stop doing, how can you interrupt it?

I’ll get more into this as I continue to post – posting is a link in a habit chain that I’m building.

I have this one habit that I do every day. I post my daily Inspired Action Sprints post in my Facebook group, Why The Fuck Not Today. I do this almost every day. There have been only a handful of days in the last three years since starting the practice that I haven’t done it, and when I don’t, one of the regular Sprinters posts and tags me to make sure I’m okay! They’ve come to depend on that as an anchor in their day as much as I have!

It’s such a well-established habit that I’ve decided to use it as an anchor in and of itself. It doesn’t occur at the same exact time every day – my mornings are wobbly and no matter how much I’ve tried to dewobble them, it doesn’t work, so I’m shifting my focus on creating an anchor outside of the wobbly bits.

How does that work?

I have a habit that I so consistently do that I’ve only missed it a few times in three years. THREE YEARS.

Since it’s SO reliable, I’m going to add one link. One thing that I’m going to do immediately after I do the sprint post.

Write and publish a blog post.

I’m only doing one link right now because habits aren’t easy to establish. I can plan the other links, but I’m only focusing on one right now.

I haven’t been writing consistently for a long time. Well, I have. I write every day. In my journal. On Facebook. But nothing substantial. Nothing that’s actually going to build something. And I want to change that. So every day, after I do my Sprint post – which I do consistently already – I’ll write and publish a blog post. This is day one.

I’m building a chain for my anchor in what will hopefully turn out to be a very fruitful spot.

Because that’s where we want our anchors to be. We want them to hold us in calm waters that are teeming with fish for us to catch. Whatever the kind of fish we’re trying to catch. We want to anchor in Success Pond, whatever that looks like for us.

Sometimes, we’ll drop an anchor and discover the spot isn’t so great after all. That’s okay. That’s the beauty of anchors: we can pull them up. We can cut the chain and lose them completely. We can adjust as needed.

Because “start the Sprint post” is so well-established, I know that it’s in secure ground. I know that it’s secure enough to hold whatever links I need to chain to it, but only if I don’t try to create that chain too fast.

This is just one part of Hummingbird Planning. It’s a whole host of strategies I’ve developed for making progress on goals and life improvement while dealing with neurodiversity in a world that doesn’t like diversity.

And I’m using it to create the link on my anchor chain by spending the next 30 days blogging about my Hummingbird Planner system that allows me to keep track of dozens of varied projects, plans, and goals, and keep my life moving forward, even when my mental health slows things down.

I’ll share my unconventional strategies for working with goals, overcoming obstacles, and setting course for the life you really want to live, while working your way out of the life that was handed to you.

My life’s not perfect. I’m not at my final destination. But I’ve finally found a calm enough pond and a strong enough anchor to build on, after years of weathering storms that blew me all over the place. And I’ve made it this far because of the strategies I’ll be sharing here.

This, of course, isn’t the only thing I’ll blog about. That would be boring and my brain hates boring.

But blogging is the first link in a chain to build something. What that something will be remains to be seen. <3 <3 <3

Welcome to Hummingbird Homestead

Creating an Urban Microfarm on no budget.

In December 2017, I moved into the house where I’m living. For most of 2018, I was sick. I also wasn’t sure I’d be staying here. I was debating between two dreams:

  • Get a motorhome or minibus and retrofit it as a tiny house on wheels, then travel through North America.
  • Stay here, in this house, and homestead.

Option two is the winner.

Well, if I can manage to pay the property taxes by March 31st, but I’m working on that. And even if I can’t, there are alternatives.

Because I’ve decided that right now, I really don’t want to travel.

First off, I have five cats, two of whom are pregnant and due in less than a week/two weeks respectively.

I also really, really like this house. It needs a lot of work, but I don’t have to pay rent or a house payment, just pay the property taxes and the bills. It’s also on a lot and a half, has a pond, and the woman who owns it and gave it to me was a prolific garderner. She was just going to let it go to back taxes because it’s in the City of Flint – hello, ongoing water crisis – and in a neighborhood and condition where it’s livable but unsellable. She moved out of the city – as she’d wanted to for years – and left me the house to do as I please as long as I can pay the property taxes, and no hard feelings if I can’t because she was going to let it go anyway.

So here I am, figuring out how I’m going to pay those property taxes, and having faith that I’ll manage it, planning out the next few years of building up the homestead I’ve dreamed about for over a decade.

Those plans have a primary focus of sustainability, emphasizing food, water, and energy sustainability within the limits/confines of being in the inner city and living in poverty.

Which is challenging because as much as homesteading is about living simply, going back to basics, and all that good stuff, it’s generally a middle class privilege to be able to do so.

I’m blessed that a friend was walking away from her house that’s already paid off. Sure, it’s three years behind on property taxes for various reasons beyond her control, but catching up those property taxes is essentially my house payment, and I’m cool with that. This year, it’s less than $2000 total that I have to come up with to keep it from being foreclosed on, which is a stretch, but also within the realm of doable. Where else am I going to get a house and property for $2000/year? And once I have the property taxes caught up, they’ll actually be less than $1000/year.

I wouldn’t be able to homestead otherwise. Hell, I can’t afford to live anywhere else right now – I made less than $6000 last year, and most of that went to feeding myself, getting the water turned back on after six months without running water, and just keeping life going.

So, back to those plans of sustainability.

Food sustainability is my first focus, with water sustainability a close second. Living in Michigan and in poverty means energy sustainability is going to be more difficult – even if I could afford solar panels, I have a whole bunch of trees that need to be cut back for those solar panels to get enough sun to supply the energy I use, especially since I grow cannabis and vegetables year-round indoors, which requires a lot of energy for lights. Even with that energy, though, my monthly bills are less than $1000/month now, and I only just took over the electric bill in December 2018 after my Fairy Godmother who gifted me the house moved the last of HER plants out and let me take over the grow rooms. Seriously, electric/heat, water, internet, and groceries are less than $1000/month for me. My bills would easily be double if I had to pay rent or a mortgage.

Long-term, yes, I’ll work on energy sustainability with less grid dependence, but for now, food and water are the focus.

As I mentioned, I’m already growing veggies indoors, under the same lights that my cannabis plants are growing under. Right now, I’m in an experimental and learning stage as I’ve never actually grown ANY plants before, but I have done LOTS of research and I’m putting my theoretical learning into hands-on experience now.

So far, so good. Tomatoes have sprouted and now are hardy seedlings. I’ve already grown two cannabis plants to harvest, and while they were small harvests, I was very happy with them, and I have even bigger plants now after deciding to add a can of sardines to the soil of each transplant, whether it’s cannabis or veggies. It worked WONDERS for giving huge, lush green growth! Seriously! I get cans of sardines at Aldi’s for less than a buck each. One can per five-gallon pot, right under the roots of the transplant. As the roots grow, they dig into those fish and suck up all those yummy nutrients.

It’s not a trick I came up with myself. A friend mentioned it as an old Native American practice, and it made total sense, so I tried it. Then after I got that great growth, another friend asked how I did it, and I told him about the can of sardines. He’s grown for decades and mentioned that he knew people who would go fishing, come back with a bucket of small fish, and gut them right above the hole where they’d be planting their cannabis outdoors, toss the whole fish in, then put the plant in and fill around the roots with dirt.

Ultimately, I want to spend as little as possible on food and therefore I need to be able to grow as much of my own as possible. I’m doing indoor veggies because I want year-round veggies, and since I’m already paying for the lights to grow cannabis indoors, I might as well use that light to grow some other stuff, too. Right now, I’ve got tomatoes that are seedlings, spinach that has sprouted, and I’m waiting for carrots, onions, and white sage to sprout as well. I need to add some more lighting and I’ll be adding more veggies and herbs once I do.

I’ll also be gardening outdoors – lots of tomatoes for canning, cucumbers, melons, peas, beans. You now, the standards.

I’m using a combination of methods that I’m learning through my research on permaculture and indigenous growing methods, and I’ve settled on building raised beds using a modified hugelcultur method and landrace gardening for developing strains that are prolific producers specifically adapted to my microclimate/yard/growing techniques. I’ll be blogging about all of that as I go.

Homesteading is not just about sustainability for me though.

It’s also a spiritual practice. I’m an animist. I believe that everything has a soul, and while rock souls are different from animal souls are different from human souls, they’re all souls and we can connect with them if we open ourselves up to them. Homesteading is an extension of my existing spiritual practices. I didn’t figure out how to keep the cannabis alive until I learned how to connect with its soul, and the same for the other plants.

I believe that we are each an extension of our environment, and the environment I have the most control over is my home and my yard.

I’m also an anti-Capitalist, and a big fan of the local food movement, but have always felt a bit left out of it because it’s very much a middle class movement and I am very much not middle class. I grew up in poverty and have struggled with poverty my whole life. I’m still struggling with it, though it’s less of a struggle now, and more of an acceptance of what is and learning to work with it. What can get more local than growing my own food?

So there’s a whole ton of reasons why I’m doing this, and I’ll be blogging about it as I go. Sharing what I learn, tips, tricks, and rants as well. Exploring the ways that poor people, like myself, are frequently locked out of conversations about sustainability, and how we can find our ways into that conversation. Exploring how to grow as much food I can in the space that I have. Exploring how deepening spiritual connections with the land that I live on changes my life. Exploring how to decolonize myself, extract myself from the influences of Capitalism and consumerism. Exploring how to heal myself and those around me.

Stay tuned for more!

Homesteading on a Dime: Starting Where I Am

I’m a broke witch living in Flint, Michigan. I own no property of my own, though I live rent/mortgage free in a house on a large lot that I can do whatever I want with as long as I pay the bills and property taxes.

And I’m starting my homestead.

Right where I am, with what I have.

Why?

Because I want to.

Because it’s a spiritual practice.

Because we’re watching the collapse of the American Empire.

Because climate change is coming.

For all sorts of reasons.

It’s been a dream of mine for years, and after a few false starts elsewhere, I’m finally at a place where I can.

It helps that this property is already partway there. The friend I moved in with in late 2017, and who has basically given me the house now that she’s been able to move out of Flint, was an avid gardener, both indoors and outdoors.

She grew medical marijuana indoors, and after she harvested the last of her plants here and had her rooms set up where she is now, we transferred the utilities to my name and I’m growing my own indoor crop. She also had a large garden in the backyard, a pond, and chickens.

So it’s not like I’m starting from scratch here.

But I am starting from having made less than $6k last year.

“Broke witch” was not a joke.

But isn’t that part of homesteading? Figuring out how to survive on as little money as possible. Going back to basics. Stepping outside of the capitalist systems that have beaten us all down until we’re nothing but zombies going to work and coming home to watch Netflix everyday?

Fuck that shit.

Well, I mean, I still watch Netflix, but fuck the whole drone at a job bullshit.

Not my cup of tea. And I hate tea to begin with.

Honestly, I’m unemployable. I have a raging case of ADHD and I’m on the Autism spectrum. I can’t take meds for the ADHD – I have weird reactions to medications, and while I’ve developed lots of coping mechanisms for the ADHD, jobs just don’t work for me.

Mostly though, the monotony of jobs drives me bonkers.

I get so bored, and when I’m bored, my brain goes on strike.

So I gave up on employment years ago, and got my hustle on.

Most years, I do okay.

2018 sucked because I was sick, but things are already better.

Not perfect, but when are things ever perfect?

So here I am, with a house on some property, ready to homestead, and I have to figure out what the fuck I’m doing.

Luckily, I’ve wanted to homestead for so long that I spent many years learning as much as I could, and now I get to put all that learning into practice, and babble on and on about it here, on this poorly neglected blog that I’ve had for a year but rarely posted on.

Working on that…

I’m blogging it because I know I’m not the only one concerned with personal sustainability. With the changes that our world is undergoing.

I know I’m not the only one with a deep longing to reconnect to ancestral ways that were forgotten and destroyed under the march of imperialism and colonialism and modernism.

Homesteading is both a practical and spiritual desire for me.

I want to grow enough food that I can spend as little as possible at grocery stores. So I’m expanding the garden plot, putting in a chicken coop (there actually used to be one, but my friend moved it up to her new place), and converting the flower beds in the front yard to food beds.

I’m using organic growing techniques, pulling from permaculture principles and learning from indigenous practices for food and land management.

This year’s projects:

  • Trim the berry bushes by the pond
  • Raised beds for the garden based on Hugelkultur principles (Google it, totally worth it)
  • New roof (fingers crossed I can fund it, cuz it’s needed. Luckily, my on-again/off-again husband has roofing experience, so I’ll just need to buy materials and beer for a couple of his friends to get together and do that).
  • Tree removal (another fingers crossed one, there’s a large tree in the yard that’s seriously impacting the sun on the gardens and is also starting to have roots affect the foundation, so it has to go. The wood will be seasoned for a year, and then used for burning in my woodstove, as well as foundations for Hugelkulture mound/beds.)
  • Compost bins
  • Chicken coop
  • A catio (I’m a Crazy Cat Lady, and want to build a catio that connects to my bedroom window so the cats can go outside safely in nice weather.)
  • Start cultivating a strain of tomatoes that grows well indoors
  • Practice companion planting with the indoor marijuana grows (Chamomile is known to increase essential oil production in the plants that it grows around, so I’m going to get chamomile seeds and scatter them right in the soil of one of the marijuana plants. Talk about some sleep time tea…)
  • Practice landrace gardening with the outdoor beds (In landrace gardening, the idea is to use a variety of seeds from different vegetable strains, and give them almost no maintenance. Don’t weed them, don’t water them (unless you live in a really dry area), thin the weaklings out, and save seeds from the strongest producers to use the next year. Over the years, you’ll develop strains of plants that are adapted to your unique microclimate and your particular gardening style.)

That’s the practical side of homesteading this year. I want to grow as many veggies as I can, have enough chickens to produce more eggs than I need, have a few chickens for meat, etc. Staples like flour and sugar I’ll still need to buy at the store, but the goal is to minimize what I have to buy at the store.

As far as the spiritual side of things, I want to build relationships with the spirits of place where I live, both here in my home and on my property, as well as in my neighborhood and the city. The Flint River told me a few years ago that She wasn’t going to let me leave Flint, that I was hers, and so I’m going to start a River Shrine project this year as well that will take me off homestead for daily bike rides along the river trail and clearing up spaces as I go, planting wild flowers and vegetables in those spaces, and restoring what I can. I’ll also be considering the ways everything is interconnected and creating harmony on my property so that the spirits that inhabit this space are happy and helpful.

I want to create spaces for meditation and ritual on my property. A meditation corner in my veg room. A spot near the pond to listen to the water flowing. Ways to find tranquility.

And of course, I will continue to do my work of helping others figure out how to quit fucking up their lives and start creating what they really want, rather than settling for what their conditioning tells them they should accept.

On Coming Back From The Brink

To say this year has been rough would be an understatement.

I had such high hopes for 2018 when – in December of 2017 – I’d moved out of a toxic living situation into a peaceful and idyllic living situation.  I went from living in a house of narcissists and drama queens with a continually rotating cast of roommates – a nightmare for my hermit self – to moving in with a friend who mostly stayed with her boyfriend until she moved in with him a few months later, leaving me to take care of the house and yard, which is a delightfully perfect-for-me witchy house with gardens, pond, and other goodness.

Things looked like they were finally coming together in my life as 2018 dawned, after several years living in that toxic environment where I did a lot of growing, but only because I went through a lot of pain and trauma.

And then I got sick.

It was a mysterious illness, in that I didn’t have any highly visible symptoms, I just had no energy.  None.  Moving became difficult.  Thinking became difficult.

This wasn’t depression.  I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in my early 20s, so I was very familiar with that, and while there was some depression going on, this was something different.

Doctors were mostly useless.  In February, two doctors told me to lose weight.  That if I ate better and exercised more, I’d lose weight, and I’d feel better.  Except I eat healthy, and even in the winter, I’d regularly ride my bike, averaging at least five miles a day, with some days topping over twenty.  And I have PCOS, one of the symptoms of which is persistent weight gain with difficulty losing weight.

In March, a doctor referred me to a therapist, who sent me to a psychiatrist who gave me medications which perked my mood up for about a week or two, but then started causing physical side effects which were unbearable, and didn’t help with my energy levels at all, which was why I was going to the doctor.

In April, the water got turned off – I live in Flint, and with the water crisis, billing fuckery, and my income nosediving due to that ongoing mysterious illness, I couldn’t afford the bill.

I dealt with it.  I found ways to make it work, and while having no running water was inconvenient, it wasn’t the first time it’d happened in my life, so I knew how to tackle it.

But those energy levels still hadn’t come back.

Then towards the end of April, I started getting physically ill.  I couldn’t keep food down.  I’d eat, and I’d throw up.  Didn’t matter what I was eat.  I lost 20 pounds in a matter of three weeks.  The doctor I went to see was happy to see I’d lost weight, and blamed the throwing up on my gallbladder issues that I’d been dealing with for years, but because they couldn’t see stones on imaging, they didn’t do anything.

Finally, in June, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the emergency room, where they discovered that I had pancreatitis and my enzyme levels were so high, they admitted me.

Still no stones on imaging – though my heart did pause for three seconds while I was in the abdominal MRI which meant more doctors came to see me.

But because my enzyme levels were so astronomically high, they did MORE tests, including an endoscope where they shoved a tube and camera down my throat, through my stomach, and found that yes, there WAS a stone blocking my bile duct which was causing the pancreatitis.

Surgery was scheduled, the gallbladder was removed, and hundreds of stones were discovered in it.  Apparently invisible on the ultrasounds and MRIs that I’d had done over the years.

Then began the process of recovery from surgery, and healing my body from the months of being unable to properly digest any food – the cause of my lack of energy.

Healing, though, and rebuilding a life and business after months of being unable to do life and business takes time.

So through the summer, my life was consumed by healing, obtaining water, and trying to rebuild.

Many times, I was on the brink of giving up.  MANY times.  I’d finally gotten to where I was in a safe place, and I had hope for my life, and then my body turned on me, and it took months to get doctors to listen to me and actually do what was necessary to allow my body to heal.

Many times, I thought, “Maybe this is it for me.  Maybe it’s never going to get any better.  Maybe this life is only ever going to be a struggle,” and that thought was hopeless and painful and pushed me even closer to the edge many times.

I never planned or attempted to hurt myself in anyway, but many times, I just wished for it to end.  All of it.  Not just the struggle in my life, but the bullshit and pain in the world. 

The trash fire that is American politics added to that sense of hopelessness and the sometimes desperation for it all to end.

The thing about being on the brink, though, is that you always have the choice to come back.

It might not be easy.

You might not even be able to do it on your own – I didn’t.

Every time I felt like I was going to go over the edge, a friend was there to help me see that maybe I could keep going after all.

Through fundraising and hard work, booking sessions and other work, I managed to get together the money to get the water turned on.  I never starved, and neither did my cats.  The power stayed on, and I managed to keep the internet on so I could keep working.

It was not the first time that I’ve been so close to hopeless that I considered giving up.  And since life is constantly changing, I can’t promise myself or anyone else that it will be the last time.  

But each time we come to that edge, each time we’re standing on the brink, we have the chance to get a bit stronger.  To get better at balance, and to pull more quickly away from that edge.

2018 has been a really rough year, and there’s only three months left in it.  That doesn’t sound like a lot of time. 

Three months.  Twelve weeks.  Ninety days.

But it’s enough time to come back from the brink.

It’s enough time to make some changes.

And even small changes, accumulated over time, can take you so far from the edge that you barely remember being there.

Who are you?

The central question of Contemplative Sorcery is, “Who are you?”  Extensions of that question are, “Who were you?” and, “Who are you becoming?” as well as, “Who do you really want to be?”

These are not easy questions to answer, but they’re important.  If you don’t know who you are, you’ll have sloppy boundaries both practically and magically and that leaves you open for exploitation on both the physical and metaphysical layers of existence.

This is why I encourage people to explore personality frameworks such as the MBTI and the Enneagram.  Not because they are 100% accurate (nothing really is) or fixed (though pop psychology would tell you they are), but because they give you a framework for defining yourself, and that’s very, very useful in magic.

So who are you?