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Corona Life

When the corona virus started spreading in Finland, I saw many of my massage customers cancelling their times due to social distancing measures. I understand that and respect their choices. It felt like a welcome moment of peace for myself; suddenly I had more time to be at home, more freedom to work with my own practical, creative or programming projects. I enjoyed that pretty much, catching my breath and enjoying the slow-paced tranquillity of those days. I knew that this period can't last for long, for rather soon I will need some additional income to sustain myself. My indie coding projects aren't yet quite generating any income - one tempting possibility would be to apply for government aid and use that money as a 'coding grant', to stay at home working on a small indie game project hoping that once the game is published it will produce some money in the future. But then, none of the available government aids seemed to fully fit my situation, and after so many years of rather independent life I have developed an emotional distance towards filling blankets to apply for funding. I don't know; somehow it feels so much simpler just to do some work and get paid for that.

Well, then they called from the nearby milling company, saying that they need a few software updates there. Good, that will make enough money for a few weeks so that I can buy myself more time to think of the next steps. It is some 5 km to the milling company, and this year I have walked there whenever possible. I feel that walking there and back is good for my mental and physical health. One day, when I was walking back home after a day of coding I happened to meet a neighbouring farmer. He asked about my work situation, if I happen to have some free time at my hands. I said that soon this coding project at the mill will be completed and then I will again have some free time, as at point most of my massage customers had cancelled or postponed their times. The farmer said that he had some simple work which he could pay for me to do. I promised to think about it.

So, should I continue enjoying the luxury of free days at home, either applying for State aid money, or being adventurous and setting up a fundraising campaign to make a small game? After some consideration, and carefully listening to my intuition I decided to accept the job offer from the neighbouring farmer. For I liked the simplicity of this solution; do some simple manual work and get some money. As much as I'd like to pursue a small indie game project, I'm still slightly unsure of my emotional ability to handle the stress of deadlines and all that. So, instead of crowd funding campaign I'd rather work slowly next to my other jobs, and announce a soon-to-be-ready project when it will soon be ready, not before. (Yes, Patreon would be one possibility, too. But in this global Corona situation it seems that a lot of performing artist are turning to Patreon to sustain themselves when all of their gigs are cancelled. I have a feeling that for the Enormous Elk patreon support money isn't necessary in the same way as it is necessary for those creators who have suddenly lost most of their income. So, maybe we will launch our own Patreon profile later on, when we see what kind of new world will emerge after the pandemic.)

Physical work, then. The idea of the work is this: there is an area which was a clear-cut, then spruce saplings were planted on that area. Now the saplings are about as tall as I am, and the area is also growing a natural thicket, a lot of birches, rowans and alders so that the planted spruce saplings are struggling to find enough space and light to grow up. So all the other young trees need to be manually removed, helping the spruces to grow strong and tall. (This is something I would not do, if I had forest of my own. For personally I favour the model of continuous growth, where a forest is not clear-cut, but only some trees removed every now and then. That way the forest stays a forest, and always has trees of different ages. No need to manually plant saplings, no need to spend time making sure the saplings get to grow up. If allowed to do so, nature will take care of all that, although the natural process is slower than this industrial 'a field of trees'-approach. But, this is my philosophy in practice; I have absolutely no intention to push my views and values to the forest owner. He has made his decisions based on his situation and his ideas, and since I don't know all the details of his personal situation I can't judge his decisions. So, the situation at hand is that the forest owner has some work to be done which he has no time to do himself, so he'd rather pay me to do it. Okay, I'll do it, despite my personal views might be somewhat different. But I want to get along with my neighbours, instead of arguing with them if and when my own opinions are different.)

There is a specific kind of a saw designed for this kind of work. I have never before used such a saw, but I felt that I can learn by doing the work. I was planning to use the earmuff built-in speakers to listen to radio, music or podcasts while working. But on the first day I had to concentrate on learning the technique of using the saw, and I didn't want to have any distractions. After the first day of working alone I realized how meditative that kind of simple physical work is. "Now here. Next there. Notice that stone there, be careful. That rowan can stay, no need to remove it. That is a raven flying there." - a stream of this kind of thoughts in my mind, nothing else. And then cooking coffee on a portable stove. Or heating up canned pea-soup, enjoying lunch in the fresh air.

Also, I get paid by the surface area covered - nobody is looking after my working hours, it doesn't matter when I start or when I leave or if I skip a day. What counts is the area done, and I get paid according to that. I think it is a fair deal, and I greatly enjoy the freedom and independence of this kind of arrangement. The price per hectare is good enough, so the work feels worth doing. Actually, now it seems that if I have enough time to clear enough of hectares, I could earn a bit of a buffer money, so that once this forestry work is done I could have that independent period working with my own projects, living on the buffer money and hoping to complete a coding project or two which could provide additional income in the future.

This is what has been going on in my life for the past few weeks. The forestry work is somewhat slow-paced. There is an additional meditative aspect to focusing on the exact spot one can reach - square meter by square meter, working as if that was the only square meter in the world, right now right here, cut those rowans keep this spruce. And then after a few days of work you pause to enjoy the view over the area and realize that you have already cleared some 20 000 square meters. In a way, time loses its meaning, when there is only this square meter here, only this swing of the saw, this step, that drop of sweat, and this enjoyable coffee break. I have found this being a good therapy for me - without work I couldn't imagine doing physical exercise for 8 hours a day. And many days of proper physical exercise seem to boost some natural mood-regulating hormones, making me feel more solid and happy. Also, doing simple physical work is like a welcome rest for my brain. No project plans, not that much deadlines, not that many alternatives to ponder, but just do-this-one-step-a-time. After so many years of slowly struggling to balance my freedom and my income, I feel this as a little break from all those thoughts and questions.

I remember that some years ago I constantly felt myself exhausted and tired. At those times I was doing a lot more of massage work, which was good for my financial balance and made it possible to invest some money in my house renovation projects. But I didn't like the state of feeling chronically exhausted, so I had to cut down my working hours. Now, with the forestry work I have been working long days in a row and I feel more energetic than before. I realize that it is not the work itself which wears my energies, but the social interaction which is part of massage work. No problem, I like my customers but it just seems that my brain can only handle a limited amount of social interaction each day. Also, when I do massage I don't have a clinic of my own, but I go to people's homes, where I'm more affected by their emotional and social energies than it would be if I had a clinic room of my own. So, this working alone outdoors is a good solution for me - I get a lot of fresh air, some good physical exercise, freedom to decide my working hours, and I can enjoy the meditative peace of solitude. Sure, I know I wouldn't want to have this as my main profession; this is good for this moment, as a some kind of transition period. There is still at least a few weeks of forestry work to be done. At some point I need to make solid plans of what I will do next. But not quite yet. Now it is still time for the easy-going rest for brains. Do simple physical work and get paid for that. Blessed be the simple life!

The equipment
The equipment
A view over the area
A view over the area
Before (on the left) and after (on the right)
Before (on the left) and after (on the right)
Having a coffee break
Having a coffee break
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Comments

Thanks for the post. Really enjoyed reading, as always. :)

After a moment to think about your post, and how the physical work is a rest for the brain. I work in IT, coding projects on the side, and imagine how good it would be to spend a few weeks outside doing some physical labour every-so-often. Unfortunately it’s hard to find a single job that allows this balance, or allows you to split the working week up between multiple jobs. It might also be more productive, to work in the forest at the start of the week, before returning to the office for the remainder. Anyway, seems a good idea when the weather is as pleasant as it is now.

So, let's hereby send a development idea for all the IT companies and other firms out there; consider adding some simple farm and forestry work to your company business model, so that your office workers could flexibly combine simple physical work with their main work at the office. I could easily imagine different combinations; 1) work 10 months in the office, 3 weeks on harvesting strawberries, and then have 5 weeks of holiday. 2) Most of the weeks work 1 day at manual labor, 3 days remotely from home and 1 day at the office, 2 days weekend. Hehe, I don't know but I could imagine this kind of flexibility and break in the routines would actually be good for the productivity.

(at the moment I'm writing this on a coffee break at the office of the nearby milling company. When I'll be finished with today's office work - hopefully after an hour or so - I'll go to work a few hours at the forestry work. I'm planning to work a short day today, so that I'll have time to visit a garden shop while it is open, hoping to buy fruit tree saplings for my own yard.)

I think it would, for those who are able.

Nice. Sounds like a good day planned :) I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by woodland here, when I can get away from my desk to appreciate it!

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Edit by Erkka: hey how are the site settings? Are you, as a registered user, allowed to delete your own comments? If no, should we enable that feature? or should I just delete this comment and keep the settings as they are?

Hey. Yeah I couldn't delete the comment, so replaced it with a dot. I deleted the comment because I accidentally added it as a separate comment instead of a direct nested reply to your comment (see above). :)

Deleting might be useful, but perhaps only if doesn't have any replies itself, otherwise it could be tricky/confusing? I would find it more useful if I was notified of a reply to a thread I had commented on, or was watching, or just every thread. i.e. I only saw your recent comment as I happened to check just in case you had replied. I would have entirely missed it otherwise.

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