I have often thought that we choose to marry someone who has something we don’t have, but we wish we had. So it makes sense that now that I feel secure in my relationship with the farmer, I am going to tell you what he has that I want: Photos for my blog.

I’m so bad at taking photos of the farm, and he is great at it, so I stole one of the photos he took to document the mud. He says March is the mud month.

I have tried a few times to take pictures of the farm. I am in love with the farmer, but also, I am in love with the farm. And the farmer will never let me put a picture of him on my blog, so I decided to show you how beautiful the farm is. But I am realizing that photos are like writing: You can only show a fresh perspective of something you know very well.

I remember when I taught creative writing to freshmen at Boston University. The first month almost every student wrote about sex. I went to my advisor and asked him why I am getting twenty stories about having sex.

He said, “Are all the stories terrible?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “That happens every semester. When you love something, you want to write about it. But you never know enough about it to write it in an interesting way until you know it closely enough to hate it as well.”

The farm is too new to me. I take cliched pictures of cows like my students wrote cliched stories of passion. Fortunately, the farmer takes really good photos.

I like this one because it shows how quiet and desolate the winter is. When I tell people I’m moving to the farm, they say, “What will you do in the winter?”

In fact, I love winter on the farm. I love that it’s dead quiet. I love that we get snowed in from time to time. I love that the fields are freezing but the house is warm and cozy. Mostly, though, I love the farm because there’s so little going on. If you look closely, there’s a lot, of course. The farmer once told me there are millions of different minerals in every handful of dirt; he can see infinite action on the farm.

Compared to other places I have lived, the farm gives me space to think. My head is always swimming with ideas, I’m always writing or reading. Even when I’m sitting still, I’m writing sentences in my head and battling with myself if they are good enough to get up and get a pencil before I forget what I wrote.

Jason Fried is always talking about how get a clear head so you get more done. In a video I can’t find, Jason explained that his business partner used to live in Holland. And Jason lived in Chicago. And his partner moved from Holland to Chicago so they’d get more done together. But they got less done. Because you need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get things done.

Jason recent book, Rework, is about counter-intuitive ways to be more productive (here is a hilarious ad for the book). Rework full of stuff he learned as he grew his company, 37 Signals. I love the book because the advice is short and true — like have a short to do list so that you can actually get it done. And make tiny decisions so that you can keep moving instead of doing nothing while you make a huge decision.

The book is timely for me because Jason forces us to see that productivity is really about slowing down to focus on doing something real, instead of moving really fast but doing a lot of nothing. But Jason doesn’t let you off the hook by telling you to do nothing; he gives you tips for continuing to move forward, but in a very smart way.

I am doing that on the farm. Slowing down. Making space. Not letting myself do things that should never have been on my to do list anyway. But the tradeoff, when you slow down to get focus, is that slow is scary because you have to face what you're really doing.

Making space to do something that matters is scary because something has to give, and I am figuring out what that means for me. In the process figuring out how to slow down enough to see but still move forward to reach my goals, it’s taken me so long to finish this post that the farm has changed, and it looks like this:

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  1. Julia
    Julia says:

    You are so blessed living on a farm, I just moved back to the city a few months back. It revives your soul.

    The book by Jason sounds great, it is now on my must read list. Anyhow I agree with him on taking a slower pace but getting things done way better. Organization is a must in your life as well as writing down all the things you need to do. In my fast paced life this really keeps me grounded.

    Cute pics!

  2. Jennifer Nycz-Conner
    Jennifer Nycz-Conner says:

    Hey, Penelope,

    This was a really, really good one. And not just because it has cute cow pictures (well, that helps… :)).

    But seriously, good thoughts, good advice, good writing. And helpful to me with some of the same thoughts I’m fighting with right now.

    Glad all is well on the farm, and full of hope, given that last picture.

    Take care,

  3. Margaret G.
    Margaret G. says:

    Aw, I’m so happy for you, Penelope. You do sound genuinely blissed out.
    I am also happy that you are posting some Vintage P. Trunk again, because I was going through withdrawal symptoms a few days ago and actually went onto one of those Best of Blogs sites to try to find someone who writes like you do to fill the void. I was not successful.
    Welcome back. At least, I hope you’re back.

  4. Joe Perez
    Joe Perez says:

    As I wrote on my blog today, I fully agree. If the advice seems counter-intuitive, then remember that “slow down” is about doing the things you do with your full attention, not necessarily moving S … L … O … W … L … Y!

  5. justamouse
    justamouse says:

    Wow, look at all of that gorgeousness.

    It’s nice to hear you sound so happy. I’ve never lived on a farm, but there are tons around me, and I know the farmers, so get it. There’s a deep peace that comes from being there. I think it has something to do with being tied to the cycles of nature. It’s like finding home.

    Congrats to the both of you.

  6. Michele
    Michele says:

    You may find that learning a new way of expressing yourself creatively and having new surroundings will compliment each other. Congratulations to you, the Farmer and your boys on starting a new family together. Best of luck to you all.

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I also believe in the “less is more” philosophy for the to-do list which is aligned with your values and goals. I used to use the Franklin Day Planner (before Covey and in paper format) – and this is something I picked up from one of their books. The problem arises when your planned to-do list grows during the day due to the unforeseen urgencies and other tasks bestowed upon you. It is no longer your to-do list but rather your to-do list and other daily tasks. It helps to keep the two lists(your original and your revised) separate from each other and not re-prioritize them together during the day. Otherwise your original list will suffer more as a result.

  8. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Thanks for the photos – tearing up for the first time on your blog. Makes this native South Dakotan living in the Deep South homesick.

  9. Jack
    Jack says:

    On of your best posts yet and great photographs Penelope.

    I think I am guilty of over thinking and lack of doing I was recently talking to two Internet marketers both went on the same course one went away and made $10,000 in the following week the other made nothing but was still planning on making $1000,000 in the next year. I bet the one who got on with it is nearer the $1m than the other.

  10. fred
    fred says:

    I used to use the Franklin Day Planner (before Covey and in paper format) – €“ and this is something I picked up from one of their books.

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