Things I’ve Learned from a Bigass Chalkboard

The very first thing this chalkboard taught me was that when given the option between being crushed under two hundred pounds of slate and wood or lifting said materials into an upright position… I can lift some heavy shit. It’s also taught me a few things since then, too, but none of them have to do with ways to turn myself in to the Hulk.

This is what my board looks like right now:


Time flies when you’re having fun and chasing chickens around, and I have a pretty legitimate fear that things will slip through the cracks if I don’t have them written down somewhere. So I built this behemoth specifically so I would have somewhere to write them down.

I’ve found that it doesn’t just help me remember, but it also helps me see patterns in my progress. I can see what type of things I’ve accomplished (crossed off), what things I’ve started that aren’t complete (check-marked), and what projects I didn’t get to when I thought I’d get to them.


When I wrote this list I tried to be as realistic as I’m capable of being with my lists, and I lightened the load in fall and winter expecting some things would push out. There are two huge projects on that list (the master suite and kitchen), three medium sized projects, plus the maintenance things I need to get done to keep the place from falling apart.

It occurred to me, when looking at my chalkboard list, that this is maybe the longest I’ve gone without starting or working on a major house project in the last decade. And, while I never intended for “living without a kitchen during a remodel” to be a permanent part of my life, I still  feel incredibly unproductive when I don’t see that constant progress on my living space that I used to back when I was building a house in all of my spare time. (This, in fact, is what motivated me to make some big, visible progress on my barn last weekend.)

It’s weird, but the experience of building that house set my internal barometer for progress at an unsustainably high level, and I’ve been measuring myself against it ever since.

Here’s what I see when I look at my chalkboard objectively: Even though I don’t feel like I’m getting enough done, I am taking care of the things that need to be done on the farm, and fitting little projects in between… but I don’t seem to be able to start or maintain the big projects like I used to.

I’m human, so, you know, when I read that sentence all I can see is I DON’T SEEM TO BE ABLE TO START OR MAINTAIN PROJECTS LIKE I USED TO. Big red letters, flashing on and off in my brain.

But when I can objectively see the whole of it–that I have actually done many of the things I set out to accomplish this year–I realize that I’m doing pretty good, even if I’m not tearing a wall out of my house every other weekend. When I think about how my life has changed since I built the last house, it makes total sense that I have a hard time gearing up for big projects.

I mean, first of all, I built the Memorial house five miles from where I work. Then I moved fifty miles away. Ten hours a week are spent driving. I love the location of the farm so I don’t regret one minute of that drive, but, you know, I could also get a lot of shit done with ten additional hours in the week. Then, of course, there are the donkeys. And the Nuggets. And the cat. Sooo may ear scratches and belly rubs to be handed out.

Okay, and I also spend a lot of time on the Kiterpillar, driving around with a glass of wine trying to find the best spot to watch the sunset.

Plus, you know, I like to spend a little time with all of the awesome people I know.

That’s a pretty good life.

It doesn’t mean I don’t want to get rid of that dammed pink tile in the mudroom already–and I will do that, along with the kitchen and bathroom renovations, and finishing the 437 outdoor projects that need to be done before winter– but having a bigass chalkboard gave me enough perspective that I could stop berating myself over my lack of progress until I figure out how to fit all those big projects in.

For that lesson alone, the chalkboard is priceless.

4 Responses

  1. Yes. Definitely spend time with the bearded guy. Make memories. Enjoy the animals. Rest. Take time to accomplish your goals.

  2. I’ve never ever commented on a blog post before, but you’ve just driven me to it! I’m a huge fan, and this comes from my heart: You “need a whack up the side of your head” to set it straight. =) The farm/livestock/infrastructure/garden stuff is just as important and intense as the house renovation. It’s “wrong thinking” at this point in your life/lifestyle to be categorizing stuff into major and minor projects, from the context of a house remodel. It’s completely different now. It all blends, and there’s rarely an end-point. Not to say that todo lists are not ESSENTIAL for those of us who think like we do.

    I have a ranch in Oregon, and am in the midst of a house renovation. You leave me in the dust, but I can relate to so much of what you write!

  3. I have a todo list about a mile long and separate lists for things that need to get done during each season, but those lists just keep getting put aside since they are on a notepad. A bigass chalkboard to keep them visible would be a great idea for me… and have the added benefit of showing when I make progress. Of course, the price is probably out of my range right now.

    However, I have a checklist that is stuck on my fridge for my daily chores… maybe I should expand that to include the seasonal stuff and the top stuff on my todo list, too. Of course, my whole fridge could easily get covered up, but at least it would all be right there every day for me to see.

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.