The Dream Of A Farm

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

We’ve all met that person that talks about how they want to run away from our industrial world and live on the farm.  They might even be us.  Us or not, such dreams usually are a little, well, bullshit.

Living on a farm is hard.  You gotta work with the weather, you have to time things, you have to get really dirty and bloody.  Even if you avoid all the legal and other crap with Big Farm companies like Monsanto and John Deere, it’s work.  Also your local small town is boring.

I think there’s this idea in people’s heads about farming as a simpler, uncomplicated life.  It’s not of course, but thanks to a lot of bad television, films, and propaganda, there’s this idea it’s some simple, noble life.

OK, the propaganda isn’t bad as it obviously convinced people, but still.

As much as I recognize this weird delusional retro-faux-Americana for what it is, I actually think there is something there in this desire to be on the farm.  It’s just not stuff that a lot of farming and ideas of farming really brings.  Within the delusion is a desire for something deeper, and possibly less butcheirng-a-pig intensive.

Farming promises clarity.  Put something in the ground and it’s food.  Raise an animal and it’s food (and other materials).  It’s bounded and obvious.  You know – sort of – what you get.

Farming promises cycles.  Seasons come and go.  Rain comes and goes.  Things grow and are harvested.  There’s a regularity to it, even if our changing climate is currently messing with that.

Farming promises connection.  You eat what you raise in many cases.  You live in the seasons.  You know the land and the sky.

Farming promises reliability – even if we know it doesn’t always deliver.  All that clarity and cycles and connection is predictable and gives you a sense of power.  You do this, you get food, you eat, you go on.

I think, down deep, sincerely a lot of people who fantasize about farming and similar ways to run away just want that clear, predictable, connected, reliable life away from what feels like a lot of bullshit.  They’re just tired of things that mean nothing to them, are shallow, and are annoyingly unpredictable.

When you watch the stock market crash because a cryptobro is found inebriated dressed as Naruto  in front of Grand Central Station so people sell stock in his company?  You can kind of get behind “maybe too much of life is stupid.”

I’ve been thinking about this because of tales and legends of heroes, sages, and so on that had phases of living on a farm or retiring to one.  There’s that desire for simplicity and reliable cycles, and maybe I’m not up for a farm but know what?  Maybe I can bring those things into my life.

I can reduce the bullshit in my life.  I can avoid overcomplication.  I do work (medical IT) that keeps me in touch with reality.  I can focus on and cultivate predictable, reliable things.  I can make my own “farm” by cultivating things that grow and sustain in life.  Friendships, connections, a career that is connected, hobbies that bring me closer to others, and so on.

Plus, seriously, just avoid things like skeevy crypto stocks and the like.  We all know that leads to Grand Central Station Incidents.

Steven Savage

Efficient Misery

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

Note: You’re going to see a switch in how I do my blog posts.  I’m trying a more personal voice, and writing on broader subjects, ala my past hero Dave Barry.  It can’t all be about writing!

I really like organizing things.  I get paid for it.  I’m honestly pretty good about it, which can be a really bad thing sometimes.

So, ‘tis the season for medical stuff.  I’ve got vaccines (at least two). I’ve got the regular tests and checkups a man of fifty five has to ensure my body and I work in tandem.  Some of those tests involve fasting and/or various forms of personal violation.  Gotta pace that stuff to keep the rate of indignity to a tolerable level.

I also have some in-office things coming up at work.  My workplace is pretty remote in the work-at-home not emotional-distance way, but once or twice a year we get together so we can remark how we all look different on Zoom.  Gotta work around that too!

So my brilliant idea was to pace myself.  A vaccination one week, then one the week after, since the last time I did flu and covid shots together I felt like I’d slammed a bottle of rum but without the convenience of being too blacked out to know how bad I felt.  Do my exams after the last exam because hey a little fasting won’t hurt after that.  Then right into the all-hands! Nice and convenient and nothing piles up!

Know what, my highly organized plan had one flaw – it meant four weeks where life was intermittently punctuated with low-grade misery.

Sure, the effects of one vaccine wore off in two days, just in time for me to get going to have another vaccination.  Then fasting, which is somehow less fun after two weeks of dealing with vaccine side effects!  Then regular exams that I scheduled in What-Was-I-Thinking-O’Clock in the morning.  Then getting up at the same time days later to drive through Bay Area traffic for days.

I achieved that experience many a Project Manager knows all too well, succeeding in a way that also makes you entirely unhappy.

Well, at least it’s almost over.  So now time to gear up for the last stage of waking up early and whatever.  But next time, maybe I’ll take my discomfort and misery in a  more condensed form.

Steven Savage

My Agile Life: The Line Isn’t So Dead

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

(My continuing “Agile Life” column, where I use Scrum for a more balanced and productive life continues).

Right now I’m doing Agile methods in my own life, specifically Scrum.  This has been very successful, both in terms of becoming productive, but also in truly understanding good process and productivity.  However, I often felt (and feel) odd bits of discomfort, concerns over things being late, and so on even though I had a great grasp of how things were going.

Why am I worrying despite having such visibility into my own work?  I literally know my plans for a month, I can adjust on the fly, I have a backlog/roadmap fusion?  Why am I worrying?

This article on Kanban made it clear –  I was still focused on deadlines.  Wait, deadlines as bad?  Sometimes.

Think of it this way.  Agile methods are about adaptability and doing things right – a lot of good productivity methods are the same way.  The thing is if you focus on the deadline, you often forget about doing things right – and you stress yourself out.

For example, my fiction book.  I have a “deadline” for this that’s set purely in my head for very little good reason.  This deadline has smaller deadlines.  When I stepped back I realized that these deadlines were arbitrary and affected my productivity and work breakdown.  Getting back into the swing of fiction was a bit of a challenge, and arbitrary constraints kept me from focusing on my craftsmanship.

Instead I had to ask not just when things had to be done, but what’s the most productive way to approach my work – all work.  Not just a book, or cleaning the bathroom, or anything else.  What’s the most important things to do and how do I do them effectively was more important than a given deadline in most cases.

Sure the deadline mattered, but unless the deadline was truly more important than doing it right, it wasn’t a worry.  By the way, the book may also be about a month later than I predicted.  You can guess why.

This is a subtle part of Agile methods, and one I missed.  Scrum may have it’s timeboxed sprints, but is always re-prioritizing.  Kanban focuses on Work In progress with priority in the background. Most agile methods are not compatible with our old ways of thinking where the deadline has to rule everything.

Sounds weird.  Ask yourself this – what if you had a choice to do a good job but it’d be late or done in parts, or delivering something bad on time?

As an example, let’s say something has to get done at the end of the month.  You of course rush this and do it early – but is it the best thing to do earlier that month?  Could it delay other work that backs up on you?  Could it be you need to do it in stages to get feedback to get it right?  What if making it a week late made it far better?  What if you did part of it and got feedback and did the second half the first week of the next month?

Also the focus on the deadline may make you miss doing things right.  Consider this – if you focus on doing something well, won’t you get it done quicker, especially over time?  Won’t it last longer?  Won’t focusing on quality and work first, ironically, mean you’ve got a better chance of hitting the deadline (or at least being more on time later)?

Now back to my writing.  I had gotten so focused on my deadline I hadn’t thought about the best way to do things – and as I improve/polish my fiction writing, I need a bit of “space.”  So I set aside a block of time a month to work on the novel, each task takes some of that allocated time.  I can adapt to tasks and needs of this highly chaotic effort. Now when I decide what task to do then I focus on quality and careful sizing, but I’m not overplanning around a deadline.

(Eventually, as I improve/polish/shake the rust off I probably can be more scheduled).

In all Agile methods, to one extent or another (less in Scrum, more in Kanban), you focus on the best ways to be productive first.  Letting old ways of thinking about when things are due or deadlines can, ironically, interfere with results.

I’m not going to knock deadlines.  They have their place.  But when they interfere with doing good work, you have to ask just how much value they have . . .

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve