2016 Year in Review

What a year.  It seemed so long, and at the same time it was over just as it was getting started.  I suppose that is the nature of making big moves, physically, as we moved to Michigan full-time, and in business, as we started up the Primal Woods trio of businesses.  We also undertook some much needed home renovation and improvement projects.  And I’m only scratching the surface.  Some things went better than others; most failed to meet my decidedly optimistic hopes.  Still, we are standing going into 2017, and I would say better in every regard for the experiences of 2016.

Geri and I undertook a “reflection” on 2016 just before we rang in the New Year.  This was something that I learned to do, and valued, late in my stint at Caterpillar.  It is good, both personally and professionally, to periodically reflect, and to make course and speed corrections, big or small, based on that reflection.  No doubt we do not take the time to do it often enough.

In looking more deeply into our reflection, I will start by listing significant accomplishments, followed by those key things that did not go as well as expected, or needed, and I will list what we have decided to put front and center in 2017.  It is important too, all-important, to stay true to “The Purpose” we have set for ourselves.  If you are interested in our detailed thoughts, continue into the post.

Accomplishments (homestead):

  • Made the permanent move to Michigan
  • Upgraded home utility systems, specifically the water supply plumbing, hot water heating, and forced air heating systems
  • Completed the meat bird (chickens) experiment; four chickens in the freezer
  • Successfully filled two deer tags, and significantly improved understanding of deer movement on the property
  • Upgraded our diet, and reduced the cost of our diet
  • Found a way to give, consistent with “The Purpose;” Team Rubicon
  • Major investments
    • Central Boiler Classic Edge 750 outdoor wood boiler
    • Takagi on-demand propane-fired water heater
    • Goodman high-efficiency propane-fired furnace
    • Electrolux high-efficiency front-loading washer and and propane-fired dryer
    • PEX water supply lines and fittings

Accomplishments (Primal Woods):

  • Set-up of business legal entities, banking, website, Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube channel
  • Development and production of marketing materials: logo, letterhead and envelope, postcard, business cards
  • Began marketing efforts: website contact form, Facebook ads, Craig’s List, Yelp
  • Published 23 YouTube videos and 10 blog posts, “a lot” of Facebook posts with original content, and started “Instagramming”
  • Developed and experimented successfully in the production of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) lye water from hardwood ashes
  • Installed three bee colonies, two in newly constructed hives; took four healthy bee hives into winter
  • Major investments
    • Leader Half-Pint maple syrup evaporator
    • Polaris Ranger with plow and winch (used)
    • Wood-Mizer LT40HDG35
    • Granberg Alaskan MkIII Chainsaw Milling Attachment
    • Husqvarna 3120XP chainsaw with 44″ bar
    • Log splitter

As I reviewed what I just wrote regarding accomplishments, something else occurred to me; I find the various parts of my life to have been much more tightly integrated in 2016 than ever before; a big step into that integration is that being engaged in my “life’s work,” means that the whole notion of “work-life balance” has practically ceased to exist.  I am also pretty happy with our alignment to “The Purpose,” though of course we could do better in all things.

Now on to what did not go so well.

What did not go well? (homestead)

  • Gardening; we expanded it significantly, and fenced it in, neither of which translated to an increase in production (it appeared that the areas we had designated for squashes were perhaps too wet)
  • We had no organic means of fighting the “cabbage worm” (a common pest for cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and other members of the cabbage vegetable family, and we had all of those in the ground)
  • Food preservation; we did less well than in earlier years
  • Home renovation; skilled tradesmen are in short supply, and scheduling between the demands of their “day jobs” extends timelines

What did not go well? (Primal Woods)

  • Cash flow; way below dreamy expectations, and totally unbalanced, which is to say totally reliant on the “sawyers” leg of the “Sawyers-Sugarers-Soapers” stool
  • Bookkeeping set-up
  • Soap product development, and hence sales
  • Maple syrup bottle labeling, and hence sales
  • Kiln drying, no capability
  • Lumber storage, virtually no capacity
  • Space for tools, equipment and machinery storage and maintenance; basically non-existent

Based on the above analysis, we intend to focus our efforts in 2017 as follows:

Homestead BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) 2017

  • Do the daily work in the garden (weeding, pest identification, etc.)
  • Raise the garden beds for gourds/squash
  • Experiment with cold frame(s) on one or more raised beds
  • Preserve (can/ferment/dehydrate) a minimum of 100 quarts of garden produce
  • Butcher, process and preserve at least one deer, on the homestead; improve utilization from 35% of hanging weight to >=60%
  • Mill 1,000 board feet of flooring for main house
  • Complete guest and master bathroom renovations, install milled sugar maple flooring and move in to master bedroom

Primal Woods BHAGs 2017

  • Build and commission one totally solar powered kiln
  • Build and set four bee hives, install a 3 lb bee package in each
  • Mill the lumber for the “workshop”
  • Develop the “site plan” for the workshop, future sugar house, barns and roadways
  • Develop, make and sell 500 “units” of a soap (could be a liquid or bar soap, bottle or bar)
  • Make and sell 1,000 1 C. bottles of maple syrup
  • Mill 60,000 board feet of lumber
  • Get control of a off-homestead space for milling and lumber storage
  • Post to the blog weekly
  • Post a YouTube video bi-weekly

Some of the goals are not a BHAG individually, but taken together, getting all of this done will require near-Herculean effort from my point of view.  The bigger goals also incorporate a long list of smaller tasks that must be completed.

If you have any questions or comments, please address those by commenting on the post.  My humblest apologies for not having posted to this blog since September.  I will make a point of not again being so delinquent.

All the best to you and yours in 2017, and thank you so much for engaging with us on the blog and elsewhere.

Kind regards,


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