How to build a successful side business while working a full-time job

Several months ago, I outlined for myself the topics I wanted my blog posts to cover this year. I am not claiming or pretending to be an expert on the subject. I simply want to share some of the things we have learned along the way, with the recognition that we have so much more to learn.

We moved to Brawley in 2016 for a job opportunity in the Imperial valley geothermal industry. Within a few months, we moved to a small acre lot in the country and immediately started planting seeds. While that initial planting was extremely unsuccessful, we learned a few things. We learned planting peas in full sun in August in the Imperial Valley without enough water is a doomed enterprise.

While continuing to work full time, we have since started the farm, a dog-sitting business, and we are in the process of starting two more businesses (more to come on those later)! At times it has been a struggle. We have gone to bed entirely exhausted, and there have been times we talk about scaling back.

Starting a successful business is difficult. There are so many things to learn, and it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.

There are three tips I want to share. These three tips have been extremely valuable for me, and I am sure they will add value to you as well.

Be flexible with your time

This can be a hard one to learn. I like to plan my week out ahead of time, and list all the tasks I hope to accomplish during each day of the week. Of course, I inevitably miss something that I had already committed to doing, and I often need to reschedule my own list in favor of prior commitments.

I continue to plan my weeks ahead of time. It helps me stay focused on the most important things. I have been using an app for several months now to help me keep track of all my different schedules. The app is called Todoist, available for free. I can use it to make to-do lists for the day, prioritize the most important things, and set up recurring tasks. My monthly blog posts are in there, and I know I would let them slide without the app.

Almost daily, I don’t complete my entire list. However, I can move the uncompleted tasks to another day and sleep well.

Recognize there is always another day to get everything done. It’s not really a race, although sometimes it can feel like it.

Expect to fail

I can’t stress this enough! Expect to fail.

However, don’t simply fail and be done with it. Look at your failure, decide what went wrong, and try it again.

Earlier I mentioned the spectacular failure of my August peas. For a few years after that episode we didn’t plant anything at all in the summer. We learned and adapted. Of course, we didn’t give up. We recently made a few adaptations and we have a reasonably healthy crop of pumpkins and watermelon growing!

Fail. Learn. Adapt. Keep going.

But the first step is failure. Embrace it.

Done is better than perfect

It’s natural to want to do the very best things. It’s good to look at options before making a decision. However, sometimes we get so involved in looking and evaluating options, we never actually make a decision!

Done is better than perfect. Settle on an action that will have positive results, and just do it. Kinks can always be fixed along the way.

It can be easy to fool ourselves. We convince ourselves we are being productive when looking at several options. But have we actually done anything? I catch myself in this trap often; I think I’m doing great work by planning and making estimates, but until I actually do the work, I’m really just procrastinating. Done is better than perfect. Every time.

Remember, building a business on the side of your regular full-time job can be tough. You’ll put in long hours, make mistakes, and get frustrated. You’ll also get to see your ideas taking shape and progressing while you build something from the ground up. There are few things more rewarding than that.

Foraging for food in your own backyard

Aubrey and the kids usually spend a few weeks every summer in Idaho visiting family, while I stay here and work at my full-time job during the day and spend as much of the remaining time as possible on the farm.

This summer I decided to see how many full meals I could create using only ingredients from the farm. I can’t claim 100% of the food I eat comes from the farm, or even 50%. However, I have made quite a few meals with surprising ingredients and I want to share some of those with you.

Australian spinach

Nettle-leaved goosefoot (also called Australian spinach) is not purposely cultivated anywhere in the world as far as I know (it’s usually treated like a weed). It grows everywhere on our farm without ever having to be watered or fertilized. It seems to like poor soil. Full Brawley sun won’t kill it.

And it’s delicious. I looked it up when I wanted to see what this resilient weed was all about. Turns out many people use it just like spinach! I have used it raw in salads, I have mixed it with my scrambled eggs. It delicious and good for you. And perhaps best of all, it grows with no effort on my part.

Purslane

I first saw this unusual looking plant growing in my basil bed. It has since popped up in a few other places as well.

Purslane grows as a ground cover, helping the soil retain moisture. It also has deep roots which pull micro-nutrients from deeper depths where other shallower-rooted plants can use them.

Purslane has the highest Omega-3 content of any leafy green. It has a slightly sour taste (like lemon, or something similar) that makes a nice punch is salads. It’s really quite delicious, and I hope to encourage more of it to grow.

Grape leaves

Depending on where you’re from in the world, this may not be all that shocking. Grape leaves are commonly used in eastern Europe and Russia as a substitute for cabbage in cabbage rolls. I absolutely love a giant grape leaf on my homegrown burger in place of lettuce. It has more flavor, has a nice chewy texture, and has way more nutrients than standard iceberg lettuce.

I have given three examples of food I have foraged around my own house, but I am sure there are so many others I have not yet discovered! Nutritious food grows all around us. As we have started to reduce our dependence on the grocery store, we have been pleasantly surprised by the abundance that seems to be there for those who are willing to try it.

Of course, it would be irresponsible of me to write this without explicitly stating that you shouldn’t eat plants if you don’t know what they are. Do a little research before filling your belly with things that may be harmful.

Homemade burgers…Walking P Ranch style

It’s spring! The bees are buzzing, the garden is growing (some of it, anyway), and the days are getting longer.

As spring comes into full swing and with summer just on the horizon, many people in other parts of the country are starting to cook outside. One of my favorite things to grill (back in the days when I had one) was a good homemade hamburger patty. These days I pan fry them and they are still delicious!

The following recipe is something I have developed after trying several different flavor combinations and binding agents. They are delicious, juicy, and best when using farm-fresh ingredients!

Homemade burger
Walking P Ranch hamburger patty served with cheese and freshly-picked baby radishes, roots and all.

Ingredients

2 lbs ground beef

2 eggs*

*Or one goose egg, if you’ve got it. If you don’t, we just may!*

½ cup almond flour

4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup dried onion flakes*

*I’ve made it with fresh onion too. It adds a really nice flavor, but it’s a little more difficult to get a burger that holds itself together.*

½ grated parmesan cheese

Garlic powder to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. First and foremost, please wash your hands!
  2. Once that is done, in a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients by hand until meat mixture is well mixed but the meat still has texture.
  3. Form patties. I usually do three patties per pound of ground beef, but you can make them as big or as small as you want. I find that patties ¾” thick seem to cook just right, forming a nice char on the outside without overcooking the inside of the burger.
  4. Determine your cooking method. Like I said previously, I pan fry my burgers and they turn out great. I fry them over medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side in plenty of butter. I’m sure they would be equally great (and maybe better) on the grill.
  5. I like to eat them with fresh greens. Last time I cooked them, I served them with baby radish greens and they provided a nice punch!

Feel free to modify to your own tastes! I think that’s really the fun with a homemade burger patty. Every time I make them they are slightly different from the last, but each time they are excellent. Have fun with it. Enjoy your family. Cook delicious, healthy food for them.

 

 

Grapefruit, peppermint tea, and COVID-19

This has been a strange month. COVID-19 has been unleashing her fury upon the USA and upon the entire world. The kids are home from school; my off-farm job is considered “essential,” but it is largely being done out of a converted garage in the backyard. I want to wish all of you much health, happiness, and peace.

It is grapefruit season here on the farm! We have plenty of ripe grapefruit, and plenty of blossoms starting to come on for the next season. The bees are buzzing, and the aroma is both strong and pleasant. I will occasionally catch a whiff even when I am nowhere near the tree, and it’s always a happy surprise.

We entered March having just come home from the Small Farm Conference in Paso Robles, California. We were fired up and had plenty of ideas ready for implementation on our small farm. The biggest take-away for me from the conference was summed up by three words:

“Fail, fail, fail”.

The intent behind my new-found motto is to keep trying new things. Experiment. In order to learn from mistakes, mistakes need to be made in the first place.

In that vein, I want to share something I have discovered. When the idea first entered my head, I was skeptical, but went ahead with it fully expecting a failure.

I don’t think it was a failure at all. It was actually quite delicious.

Introducing….

Peppermint Grapefruit Tea!

Peppermint Tea with Grapefruit
Fresh cut grapefruit with Twinings peppermint tea.

I juice a grapefruit and add the juice to a hot mug of peppermint tea. The grapefruit adds a nice tanginess, while the peppermint brings the delicious cooling flavor we all know and love. I serve it warm, but I’m sure it would be just as great chilled. You need to try it! I can supply plenty of grapefruit, you will have to supply your own peppermint tea.

Grapefruit is also quite healthy. It provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, all while being one of the lowest calorie fruits. I suggest checking out the link below for a more in-depth summary of the health benefits of grapefruit:

Health benefits of grapefruit

Happy eating, drinking, and may you weather the current times well. May we all come out better on the other side.

 

 

Try new things and expect to fail

What a weekend it has been!

Aubrey and I spent the last few days in Paso Robles at the Small Farm Conference. We have learned so much about regenerative agriculture and had the opportunity to meet with small farmers from all over California. We came away feeling inspired and motivated to change a few things about our little farm.

We sat in on a panel about integrating livestock with crops, and a member of the audience asked what piece of advice the panelists could give to a new farmer. The response was simple and profound:

“Fail. Fail again, and keep on failing.” –Nathan Stuart, Tablas Creek Vineyard

We will keep learning and growing. We will keep trying new things, and some of those things will inevitably fail. We are looking forward to this learning process.

One new thing we had a chance to try (that was most decidedly NOT a failure) has become my new favorite dessert!

vanilla.ice_.cream_.with_.olive_.oil_.and_.salt_.5
Photo courtesy of honestlyyum.com. I ate mine way too fast to get my own photo.

I want to introduce you to vanilla ice cream drizzled with basil infused olive oil!

Aubrey warns me not to oversell it, so the following is likely un understatement:

This stuff is life-changing!

Seriously, the oils adds a wonderful flavor and texture to the creaminess of the ice cream, and both really shine!

I am surprised by how much I like it. I never would have thought to do it. THAT is the power of networking with people with diverse experiences and trying new things. Ice cream with olive oil is the result of looking failure in the face and going for it anyway.

We are excited for the upcoming year. We plan to fail, because we know that the result of experimentation is ultimately something as awesome as my new favorite dessert.

And if you want to try it with us, I will be getting the oil. Bring some ice cream and we’ll put it all together to make something amazing.

That’s really what it’s all about.

When your life is insane, and you need to make dinner…

At the risk of sounding grandiose, I want to talk a little about inspiration.

I am not talking about inspiration from On High, or that feeling you get after watching a good underdog movie.

I am talking about inspired dinner ideas.

It seems almost every night of the week there is something going on: school board meetings, gymnastics coaching, baseball practice, church activities, etc.

Sometimes it’s easy to grab a frozen pizza and just throw it in the oven. But other times, we crave real food. Sometimes, we want something easy, nutritious, and delicious.

In order to fill this need, we have a freezer full of beef! Assuming we thought ahead in the morning and remembered to thaw the meat, it is so simple to prepare a quick, easy, delicious meal.

We recently pulled out a few New York strip steaks.

New York Strip -- Raw
I need to point out the marbling! This is from an older, grass-fed cow. That is a beautiful steak.

I’m a simple man, and I enjoy a simple steak seasoned with salt and pepper, so that’s what I did here. We do not have a grill, so our steaks are pan-fried in a cast iron skillet, about 3-4 minutes per side over medium high heat.

After removing the steaks from the heat and letting them rest for several minutes, we cut them open to reveal a beautiful medium rare steak.

New York Strip -- Cooked

And BOOM! Simple, delicious, quick, and easy. Truly inspired.

I assume many of your family is similar to our family. You are always busy, but you also want to feed your family something healthy and delicious.

I highly recommend getting a freezer full of beef. And I also happen to know a source for excellent grass-fed beef. If you are interested in purchasing a quarter, half, or full beef, let me know! We would love to help inspire and enliven your family meal.