After 27 years of full time motherhood, my nest was emptying. My youngest daughter was applying to college. Years of going to sports practices and games, barrel racing events, Girl Scouts, prom gown shopping, and everything else that goes with motherhood with kids at home was ending.
I could work in the one-acre market garden uninterrupted. Production would increase with the extra love and attention I’d give to the garden, and with increased production I’d have additional income.
I spent hours reviewing production records and sales so I could make decisions based on accurate information. The business of market farming was interesting. It was easy to make plans. Carrying out those plans was painful physically and lately, emotionally. The politics and cliques at farmers market were so intense I dreaded going to market each week. Changing weather patterns made the garden a constant guessing game, one I often lost. I was tired.
It was time for a career change. My heart has always been in one place – the outdoors. I grew up fishing, and picking wild berries and mushroom. My family spent weekends at our cabin on a lake. When I wasn’t at camp I daydreamed about the wail of lonesome loons and waves lapping the shore. The chick-a-dee-dee-dee of a chickadee outside the window of my office in the city snatched me from my desk and dropped me in the woods; at least it did in my mind. I wanted to write about the things I’ve always loved, and share stories as I went on new adventures.
“I think I want to give up market farming and write full time,” I told Steve, my husband.
“Whatever you want to do is fine with me,” he replied. I’m a fortunate woman. It was thrilling! I made lists of things I’d write. I dropped my market farming blog and its 10,000 page hits each month and bought my current domain, my name.
I started blogging about the outdoors. Nothing happened. Gardening had a built-in following and new market farmers were searching for information on how to be successful. I didn’t have that following as an outdoors writer. I cheered when daily stats showed 100 hits and 60 pageviews after several months of writing.
Important questions nagged in the back of my mind: If few were reading was it worth my time to write? Would I be happy if I didn’t have more than 40 readers? Was there any sense in continuing if I had so much doubt?
Did anyone care about the outdoors lifestyle of a woman who hunts?
I lacked knowledge in the business of writing, and the learning curve was steep. Did I want to write without being paid? Yes and no, depending on the situation. Pay comes in many forms and doesn’t always have to involve a check you take to the bank. Network? I had to create that from scratch. When I need help identifying a bird or explaining an animal behavior I’m able to turn to my network.
Social media? It matters to bloggers. Social media made a difference between 40 and 1,040 readers a day. I joined Facebook with a writer’s page, and Twitter. I follow only people and businesses that interest me, no numbers-collecting for me. It has taken me two years to build enough content to keep a strong following and attract new readers daily. My hits have grown to 60,000 and there are 36,000 pageviews a month. I don’t write every day but I do put in the daily time involved in the business of writing.
The number of women who hunt, fish and paddle grows each year. Being able to share the stories of my adventures and misadventures has been helpful to some of those women, and it makes me happy. I can tell the story of white water rafting for the first time once and have it be read thousands of times. The story of my pounding of my heart and heavy breathing while watching a bear as I sat on the side of a tree gives men and women an idea of what it’s like to hunt bears.Sharing what it’s like to paddle a kayak across a flat calm lake on a chilly October morning might inspire someone else to give it a try. I’m a middle aged, plump woman. If I can hunt, fish and paddle anyone can.
Blogging about my outdoors lifestyle has opened opportunities I hoped for but didn’t plan on. I’m invited to teach outdoors skills classes, to guest blog, to write columns, and to be a guest on radio shows. Being honest about my failures shows others not to be too hard on themselves when their adventures don’t go as planned. I’ve made friends face-to-face and on the internet.
In this day and age, when children are growing up indoors playing video game, texting and spending their days on the internet, it’s important to remind adults that the outdoors is still there. For as long as I’m able to be outdoors, I will write about my lifestyle. If there comes a time I can no longer go outdoors, I’ll still be sharing my stories.
Robin quit her office job in the city 23 years ago in order to make a major change in her boring life. She now lives in a tiny town, population 60, with her husband Steve in the woods of rural Maine. She photographs and writes about hunting, fishing, wild harvesting, paddling, and growing much of the food her family eats. Stepping out of her comfort zone to try new, sometimes frightening new things that women don’t usually do, gives her plenty of stories to write. She’s currently writing Bear With Me, a serious yet sometimes funny book about her black bear hunting experiences in Maine.