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Achieving the Perfect Work-Life Balance

I began Freelancing in 2020 because it was my only choice at the time. I was a sales representative at a local agency but when COVID-19 pandemic struck, a number of us were laid off. As no businesses were hiring at the time, I decided to plunge into freelancing. It wasn’t’ easy at first, I was walking in strange lands but after a few attempts I got the gist of it. After a couple of months, I embraced freelancing as a career choice and got serious about it. I have always been passionate about writing and I had some experience as a graphic designer, so the choices were pretty easy for me. So, I set up different accounts for designing and writing and began hunting for work. Having been used to a work environment where everything was managed by an organization, freelancing meant taking control of my schedule. I failed miserably at first. I found myself spending a lot of hours on freelance work and neglecting everything else I used to enjoy in my life. I sidelined my friends and family as I obsessed when I was going to land my next gig. I ignored my hobbies and passions and got consumed by the insecurities of expenditure as I was always worried if I was handling my finances correctly and how I’d manage when work dried up. I decided to stop overworking, face my fear, and take ownership of my experience. Freelancing was supposed to give me the freedom to manage my time, but I was letting the process run me. If I didn’t get it under control, it was going to consume me. The first thing I decided to do was block out time dedicated to freelancing. I scheduled time for freelance work and didn’t give it a minute more when that time had run out. This dramatically improved my relationship with my clients and it allowed me to get started on a new passion project. I have always been interested in poultry farming and gardening since I was a child. It’s something I had fallen in love with while staying with my grandparents and I had gotten used to it. As an adult, I wanted to do it but working 8-5 six days a week left me with no time to work on those personal projects, it always felt like being held hostage without really being held hostage. Freelancing provided the right environment for me to make poultry farming a reality as there were no external forces pulling my attention and time. I decided where to be and what to focus on and that felt like freedom to some extent. The challenge is that sometimes I can forget about time and overspend it on one activity because nobody is watching me. This can set me back on other issues that demand my attention but learning to balance is work in progress. As I immerse myself into this world of freelancing and learning about time management and money, I am finding it easier to manage both activities. Once you learn to value your time and energy, things start getting aligned.
By: C.K. Nyakina , 2 years ago

Self Sufficient Potager Garden

It was 8 years ago when my then fiancee and I decided to aim towards a more self sufficient lifestyle; one where we would earn money on our own terms, reduce household expenditures, and decrease our carbon footprint. Since graduating university, I had worked full time, 9-5 for over a decade and believed there must be a better way to switch from 'work to live' to 'live to work' without it costing a fortune. Growing our own food was always part of the plans. I followed a family legacy as my Grandfather kept an allotment and my mother successfully grows nurseries and cuttings. Additionally, I wanted to reduce reliance on store-bought produce which tends to be inferior in quality, have a shorter life, have a higher ecological impact on the planet due to the miles food travels, use of pesticides, and non-recyclable packaging. We decided to use the front garden as for 16 years it never served any real purpose; the property is set approx 2-3 feet lower than the road level therefore the front boundary has a wall to secure this height difference and the ground slopes towards the house. I was inspired by the French-style Potager Garden due to its beauty and functionality and the plan was to avoid using money and get creative with reclaimed materials. Within the journey so far, my husband and I have remained self employed continuing to reduce monthly outgoings to minimum spend. We now regularly reuse/recycle/mend & make do to reduce expenses. Creating the kitchen garden has now given us a working base to grow produce in all seasons. Developing the garden was tough at first as we had to clear the grass and rampant bindweed which took a couple of years as we did it organically using cardboard and weed control fabric. During this time we calculated sun positions during the changing seasons so the crops could get maximum exposure. We used reclaimed earth and transplanted mature hardy rosemary and lavender. While developing the ‘potager’ aspect of the garden we used reclaimed bricks, rocks, and stones from my husbands building projects as decoration. It was in March of 2020 (as lockdown brought spare time) that the garden expanded and we began planting our first crops, including growing from leftovers. We successfully harvested lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, celery, parsley, sage, broccoli, and strawberries. It felt incredibly satisfying eating those first lettuce leaves and tomatoes. They were fresh, nutritious, and tasted so much better. Also, no packaging! Garlic, celery, parsley, sage, broccoli, and strawberries survived the winter. I also decided I wanted to establish 4 rotational beds for brassica, beans/legumes, roots(carrots, shallots, radish) and potatoes and try new plant varieties including more edible flowers and complimentary crops which encourage pollinating insects. The new grows started at the beginning of spring 2021 were: lettuce (seed & water regrowth), rocket, edible cornflowers, runner/broad bean and leeks. I also picked up some wild flower scatter seeds which encourage bees into some unused pots. Because last year I was overzealous seed scattering, it produced more lettuce and cress than we could consume and unfortunately, it spoiled. So I’d only seeded smaller batches in pots rather than putting them directly into the Belfast sink like the previous year. However, the weather so far in 2021 has been awful. The seedlings had been moved from the indoors to the greenhouse as the weather warmed, then unexpectedly we had frost and snow over Easter into the second week of April and only half of them survived. Even now there has been so little sun and constant rain, any hopes of quality time in the garden are slim. So attention has turned to preventative maintenance as it was quickly apparent that we would need to reduce plant pests. We researched using organic methods. Initially the most straightforward option is to grow plants that keep bugs away. Companion planting uses catnip for mosquitoes, lavender for moths, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, mint/peppermint for spiders, mosquitoes, and ants, marigolds for aphids, rosemary for fleas and tics, and basil for houseflies. I still swear by egg shells for slugs and snails. I transplanted regrown lettuce into the outdoor Belfast sink last year and slugs decided to feast on it. By scattering a layer of crushed eggshells around the plants the slugs and snails cannot crawl across them. I’ve also been drying orange peels as they are proving effective at keeping the local cats away from using any exposed soil as a litter tray. It was recommended I try neem oil as it is very effective as a general pest repellent and doesn't have any effect on edible produce. I also like the idea of using ladybirds for control of aphids. The netting and support stakes we used last year weren't effective and our produce took damage in forms of broken stems during high winds and pieces that got stuck in the netting or from stakes breaking. As our crops are still infantile at the moment we’ve no need to support them, however we have been collecting up disused wooden pallets and branches to make new support posts and vertical planters which should prevent further wind damage. Chores for the maintenance of the kitchen garden are now regularly written on our to do list. This spring we are planning to connect and position the irrigation pipes. The system is currently working in parts but as it was second hand, it’s been difficult to change some of the drippers and spurs to give more accurate watering. Also on the To Do list is to mark out final pathways and growing areas. The two boxed bed areas are forming part of the rotational areas and now have the broccoli (Brassica) in one bed and were intended for the Beans growing in the next. Unfortunately, the beans were some of the plants that didn’t survive the sudden April frost so the intention is to get some established plants for this year as a replacement. I have remarked the ‘mound’ where my beloved cat has been buried. I’ve been inspired by images of false rivers using stones or floor creeping flowers and have edged a spiral on the mound from stones reclaimed from Portugal and Oman and laid slate pieces sweeping around one side to represent a river. The plan is to purchase a solar powered water feature to install at the top to make it look as if there is a real river. In between the swirl of stones I intend to plant smaller sections of succulents for drama and aesthetics This journey has been making me feel mindful because when I’m kneeling down and touching the soil it’s grounding. Nurturing the living plants brings such calm. I feel exemplary because having a young child growing up in a quickly-changing world, it’s important to teach her how to grow little miracles. The gardening process allowed us to test time honored methods, practice routine, and share responsibility. We are excited about the future because we have been discussing how to collect rain water to reduce water consumption, we are researching into solar panels and energy reduction/using renewable resources. All of which is reducing our waste/carbon footprint as a family and setting an example for future generations.
By: Leanne Nuttall , 2 years ago

My first seedlings .

I’m so excited to share my progress with you all!As Ash pointed out, I had quite a challenge in front of me. I was working with sandy soil and little space. I started with two raised beds and thanks to the community support, I added three more which you see here. I used compost and mulch to make sure that top soil is as nutritious as possible. I also followed Jules’s advice and got charcoal. I added it now while the weather just started warming up to prepare the soil for when the sun gets really strong.So, what am I growing?Three types of tomatoes, Armenian cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, kale, peas (thanks Kathy for the directing me towards vertical gardening)Herbs: Rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. How is it going?The cuttings of the peas that I got are growing up and the seedlings are starting to come up. I brought the herbs outside and they’ve been doing really well. I’ve already cooked with them!I’m looking forward to seeing seedlings develop and grow. I’m just keeping the soil moist at this point and watching out for weeds. It would be great to have that first salad entirely from the garden! 
By: Lily , 2 years ago

The food forest is growing

Thank you everyone for supporting our food forest project. In the past month, we've planted over 50 trees, including banana, mango, papaya, and avocados. We're excited to see which varieties grow the best and to create our own recipes using the fruits and vegetables from our forest. Right now, we have three people working on the project full time, and we receive help from volunteers and the locals for larger projects like tree planting. When we all get together, the work day goes by quickly.We are starting to build a lower garden using pineapple bushes and various flowering plants. We are looking to include varieties of aloe as well.The first goal of the food forest is to regenerate a degraded pasture. Next, we will focus on providing food to the local community and nourishing the local economy. We are looking to provide food throughout the year and continue to increase diversity within the forest.
By: Abdi Njeri , 1 year ago

Little plump beauties

I did not get these right away.Even thought I waited until the tail end of the harvest, all I got were a few mostly green tomatoes. Many seedlings did not develop into full-grown plants as the wind got them, and the plants that did grow flowered late and produced small fruit. While my first harvest was a small batch as I knew tomatoes were ambitious and I just did a trial run. I at least wanted a handful of red, juicy tomatoes, but nope, all green.Instead of giving up I decided to expand, diversify, and do some reading and experimenting.I added heirloom, cherry, and plum tomatoes to the alicante and romas that I grew. I  tripled the area that I was using.This year was it got warmer sooner so I think it helped the tomatoes flower faster and ripen more. I  paid attention to the conditions that my tomatoes grew in. I knew that they needed a good amount of sun and moisture. Living in a hot and dry climate, I got the sun covered, but moisture I had to pay careful attention to. I watered regularly and checked the moisture in the soil and topically watered more when needed. I planted the seedlings deeper and allowed their root systems to really develop so the plants could be stronger against the winds. I added stakes when more started to fruit. For next year I will probably set up cages so I don’t have to keep readjusting and adding stakes. I plucked and pruned the leaves as the plants grew taller. This allowed them to stay disease free and flower faster. I also read that this helps prevent disease, specially in more moist conditions. Tomatoes are one of my favorites to eat because they are so versatile and I’ve been throwing them in salads all summer. The big ones are going into sauces. I’m looking forward to learning more as there are so many varieties of tomatoes! 
By: Kathy Lyn , 1 year ago

Reclaimed ornamental garden

I’ve been working on the front yard garden for a few years now. I started with peace lilies as I had them growing inside and I knew they were among some of the most resilient plants. They quickly grew and I separated and transplanted them. I started to incorporate other indoor plants and taking them outside in pots to see how they do. I added ZZ plant and now it towers above others. Fiddle leaf saw some great growth as well. Lilac spiderwort is my absolute favorite. It goes so well with the lush greenery all around. There are a few pops of pink and I hope to add more flowering plants next year.The heavy rains this year made me hesitant. I most likely will go for less delicate blooms like anthurium, crown-of-Thorns, guppy, begonias… The strength of the leaves makes a difference in withstanding strong winds that accompany thunderstorms.I will definitely keep the flowering plants in pots so they can return back inside when the weather cools. 
By: Ash Walsh , 1 year ago

In the sun, among the rocks

I recently purchased a beautiful plot of land in a dry area so the soil is hard and rocky. I’m quite far away from a water source and rely on irrigation. Based on my observations, trees hardly grow in my area, it is a mixture of ground cover, tall grasses, and shrubs. My neighbors mostly grow annual vegetables for personal consumption and grow fruit and nuts for sale. There are also life-stock farmers: goats and cows are popular. I wanted to bring the soil to life and got really fascinated by permaculture in general and the concept of a food forest. I knew that if I could get dense ground cover it would protect the soil from the scorching sun and the trees would protect all other plants under them. I tested the soil and saw that it had a slightly acidic Ph and low organic matter content. I also saw that the soil had good phosphorus and potassium levels. I knew that if I got a good dense ground cower down, I could cut it and use it for mulch for the rest of my plants, improving the organic matter content, fixing the Ph, and increasing the level of nutrients in the soil.I was looking for drought resistant perennials. I took inspiration from exploring the areas around me; rosemary and thyme grew in the wild so I took a few sections of bushes back home with me. Lantana is fast growing and dense and has lovely blossoms. Wall germander is a dense evergreen. I also made space for daisies and poppies which grow here all by themselves.  Thanks to your support I have been able to buy enough lantana and wall germander to cover the property. The shrubs of rosemary and thyme will go in a few spots on the edges and daisies and poppies will be scattered throughout. It took me a long time to prepare the soil for planting- so many rocks to remove but I got it done in time before the hot midday sun would of made it impossible to do the work. I hope to post the first sprouts soon!
By: Abdi Njeri , 2 years ago

Where did AltWork come from?

I stated on UpWork in 2016 when the future of freelancing was bright. The competition was growing, but the fees remained stable and there were no reports of profiles being removed arbitrarily. Having read writing blogs, I took their advice. I started applying to any jobs which I might be qualified for, undervaluing my interests and prioritizing experience. I then underpromised and overdelivered and got that first 5 star review. I was glowing. I knew this was it. I got more clients, expanded my work to other sites, quit my full time job, and moved out of the big city that was slowly killing my soul. This was a promising beginning.The excitement did not last. I noticed I was not alone undercutting prices. Everyone was doing it as well, causing rates to drop lower and lower. I found myself hunting for $10 a page writing rate and started supplementing with editing work which I absolutely hated. The urge inside me screamed, 'write!', but my bank account was screaming-'deposit!'.When I wrote a 10-page research essay in one day, having written 30 pages of research already that week, I knew this was not sustainable. I fell back on teaching.I would come back to freelancing sites and browse the job postings, checking if I really missed anything. All I saw was shocking low rates, as little a $5, for a research paper. My heart sunk every time.I wish I could tell you that I picked myself up by my bootstraps and now I have high profile clients and make 100k a year. This is simply not the case. What I found through my journey is that while a few people might figure out how to get better rates and achieve incredible results, the majority of us will not. So instead of trying to game the system, it is better to create a new one. This is why I created AltWork. The goal of the platform is to be a collaborative marketplace where creators own their content and the rewards are shared among the community. I want the future to be bright for everyone. I hope you do too. 
By: Tanya Medukha , 3 years ago

Living simply in a yurt

It's been two years since my husband, daughter, I and took the plunge into yurt life. And what a precious one it's been. British Columbia is one of the most stunning places in the world. In the summer the majestic rocky mountain peaks are visible for miles and the crystal clear lakes make you feel like you are floating between the heavens and the depths of the earth.In the winter, the snow is light and fluffy and it is so much fun to play in with my daughter Rose. On dark winter days it can get quite cold when the sun rays don’t touch the snow. It is when the clouds come that we all go in the spacious yurt and snuggle by the fire. I grew up in the countryside and after a glimpse of city life I longed to go back. My husband shared a similar belief and we wanted our daughter to live a beautiful life, full of love and wonder. We were able to make the move with very little. Yurts are not hard to build and they do really well when the frost comes.And what a way to live. From listening to the soft snow falling outside to taking walks under the full moon. From long dark nights with a cup of tea to active sunny days hiking among the pines.Such a gift to live with my loved ones by my side in a place of untouched beauty. 
By: Taila Dikinson , 2 years ago

Surviving the heat

My husband and I live in southwestern part of the United States where it is hot and dry and keeping the plants alive has definitely been a challenge. It has taken proper soil care, irrigation infrastructure, shade and cooling to have successful harvests.We started the garden three years ago. We had a bit saved up and dove into this project with enthusiasm. We brought in soil, set up origination, and constructed a green house. Help from friends has allowed us to set everything up much faster than we could do on our own. We wanted to make sure that the plants we grew represented a diverse diet so we can make a switch from supermarket produce as fast as possible. Thus, we planted beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins melons and squashes, lettuces and darker greens, potatoes and carrots, and garlic and onions. We planted multiple varieties of one vegetable. For instance my husband was fine with roma tomatoes while I absolutely had to have heirlooms. We knew it was going to be a challenge growing in hot, dry, and windy conditions so we started preparing accordingly. We went with a water efficient drip system which delivered water straight to the roots and budgeted for a higher water expenditure than we had as just a residential property. We constructed a spacious greenhouse with adequate ventilation. We started planting in pots to be able to move the plants between inside of the greenhouse and outside when needed. The two challenges were ran into were heat waves and strong winds. While cooling is expensive, we managed to get several fans in the greenhouse to facilitate air flow. We increased water flow and made sure all the fertilizing work was done before the bulk of the summer started so the soil retained nutrients. The greenhouse also protected our more fragile plants against the wind. We did loose several tomato wines in the process and some cantaloupe blossoms. All in all, it was a lot of work, but now that we have a system down it’s easier to manage crisis. I would say we definitely picked a more difficult place to start our journey towards self-sufficiency but we have no regrets. The produce tastes better than even the organic fruits and vegetables we used to buy and being able to step our into the garden, pick what we need, and eat it right away is amazing. The freshness is unbeatable. We are looking to utilize all this sun and set up solar panels on our house to decrease our reliance on the grid which is vulnerable to heat wave disruptions, and that’s a project we already started on. 
By: Iryna Domokova , 2 years ago

The little patch of dirt that could

Hi there gardeners, homesteaders, off-grid dwellers, and everyone in between. This is me with my first plants. Man, those things are resilient.I cannot tell you how excited I was to start gardening. I'm one of those people who had way too many houseplants and having a little patch of soil to grow anything I could on it-the dream!I started growing plants I knew would be hard to kill, like pumpkins. I also did peas, peppers, onions, and even tried my luck with tomatoes. I didn't get very far. They got to a respectable size but only a few fully ripened.Starting with seeds and seeing them grow into mighty little seedlings in plastic cups, I brought them out into the sun and into the real world. The success was mixed but I got things to grow and that makes me happy. This growing season I already expanded my herb garden by adding oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I'm giving tomatoes a second try and I'm adding broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, string beans, and cabbage. Fingers crossed!
By: Kathy Lyn , 2 years ago

Altwork and the competitive element

When markets opened to global competition: platforms have taken two approaches: embraced the trend trying to attract as many clients as possible, driving down rates or restricting access and charging premium. Let’s examine two platforms- Freelancer AND Topcoder and see where AltWork fits into the competitive dynamic. As Odesk (now Upwork) was growing into a successful company, copies of it emerged. Freelancer.com has been able to distinguish itself from the rest through contests. For a price of a contract, the client could receive multiple work submissions. Any freelancer had the opportunity to get their work out there. The idea was enticing, competitive, and fresh. The execution, however, suffered. When freelancers were submitting their work, many factored in a chance of them not winning the contest. Since contests are a one-time shot and not an investment, quality of work suffered, and clients would receive several products, many unexceptional. Majority of freelancers were left unpaid, searching. Contests, however, in themselves are not destructive. A higher rate is what makes them successful. Topcoder is just one example. The process goes as follows: a company submits a problem they have been facing. Topcoder taps into its database and deploys developers which are most suited for solving the problem. Both parties agree on a timeframe. The client deposits money into escrow. The minimum to solve the problem? $5,000, enough to compensate deployed developers at $120+/hr rate. The takeaways? Competition can be the company’s sole business model. Competition produces high quality work when the incentive is higher than what each participant would have received if they worked individually. AltWork has a competitive element build based on how articles are ranked. Articles which have been chosen as the most ‘Useful’ will move to the top. Only the number of upvotes overrides this. It’s possible to upvote or downvote content multiple times, depending on how many carrots you decide to put behind your ranking. It's not possible to upvote or downvote own content. If you want to see how much your articles have been earning, you can find this info in the drop down menu under your picture, in ‘Contributions’. Happy earning!
By: Tanya Medukha , 4 years ago