Pennsif’s Progress #580 – A trip to a big city – Swansea

Happily ensconced in my little bit of Welsh mountainside, and with online ordering at my fingertips, I rarely have need to venture into a big city.

Yesterday we made a journey to Wales’ second biggest city – Swansea.

Our middle daughter starts at university there in September so we went on a daytrip to check out her accommodation.

I am not a keen driver, particularly when heading towards busy places, but despite the malevolent efforts of our wonky sat-nav, we got there well on time and found an easy car-parking spot close to our destination.

As soon as I got out of the car city began to hit me. Constant noise, never ending cars, so many people, so much diversity… and the heat.

I knew of the urban heat island effect but I hadn’t been in a bit city for a long, long time and summer exacerbates the effect. All that hot air, all those warm gases have got to go somewhere.

We checked out the accommodation – much better than I envisaged.

We found a place to eat – more choice than needed, reasonably priced, quality pretty good, portions way too big for my liking. I had a mushroom and leek filled pitta, with salad and a bucket load of chips. It could have feed me for three days.

Then the coin had to be tossed – art gallery or shopping. [Primark]( won.

I’ve never been in a Primark store before. Maybe I won’t ever have to again. Hoping.

A red leather sofa was provided for dads. It was crowded.

Plastic done. Latte to finish. Even with soya milk.

More city trips await. Our eldest daughter starts at Bristol University in September too. Crossing the border soon.


Pennsif’s Progress #582 – Let’s talk about sleep

I was going to write this blog post about ‘How Steem has changed my life’. I have a bucket load of positives for steem – but one great big fat negative.

Sleep. The lack thereof.

I have always been a bit of a late bird. From pulling ‘all-nighters’ as a student to get the assignments in before the 9am deadline, to working through the night in the office when I first started my business, to getting over-absorbed in online gaming when I was an Entropia addict.

But they all tended to be occasional. Steem has become habitual. 

Getting to bed by 3am is an early night for me in my world run on Universal Steem Time. Many nights I am still awake to see the sunrise. And then I start work again by 9.30am.

We all know the story. Discord figures heavily in it. With DMs coming in from people all round the world, and all around the clock, it is hard to stop. I always try to answer every message.

I set myself extra steem challenges by having a continual rollcall of time critical fixed points in the week – A Dollar A Day donations every day, My Life In 8 Songs every Thursday, The Alternative Lifestyle Show every Friday, MSP Sustainability Curation post every Sunday…

They all have associated actions that have to be done at certain times. “It can wait til tomorrow” is not usually an option.

And I have a full-time day job as well, so most of my steem activity has to start after 5.30pm when my second work day begins.

I enjoy it, so I keep doing it.

But I know it is not for the best. Working late into the early morning is not good for my health, it is not good for my productivity, it is not good for my creativity and not good for my inspiration.

It has to stop. But how?

I am going to try to flick the switch – go to bed early, and get up early.

Maybe real early, like 5am early. Then I can still just catch some of the American east coasters that I work with and the west coasters should be fine. It should also be okay for the people in south east Asian that I interact with.

So that is the plan. I am going to try to get to bed by 11pm at the very latest.

If you see me on Discord after that time – feel free to remind me it is my past my bed time. Shout at me and publicly humilate me on air if I am still lurking around listening to a radio show.

Except my radio shows on Thursdays and Fridays – they will have to be the exceptions.

I know when I do so occasionally have a long night’s sleep I am all of a buzz the next day with super productivity and new ideas aplenty.

So if I do manage to turn back time and get my sleep patterns repaired look out for some weird and wonderful stuff come flowing from my brain.

But for now sleep tight and I’ll catch you with the sunrise…


Pennsif’s Progress #584 – What is freedom?


For someone living a relatively comfortable middle class life in the beautiful Welsh countryside in the UK it is very easy to assume one is free.

I can do what I want, when I want, where I want, how I want and with whom I want.

I think. When I have the money. And when the rules don’t stop me.

It is easier to assume the positive than to question the negative.

Being on steem has made me think more about what freedom is.

One of the bedrocks of the steem platform is the decentralisation and the (apparent) lack of censorship.

But that is not the point.

Freedom is more pointed in the offline world.

I talk to people around the world. Every day. I learn from them.

I learn that their life is different to mine. My norms are different to theirs. And their version of freedom is often very different to mine.

When I was involved in local elections I walked a lot and got very tired. When they get involved in elections they talk a lot and get beaten up. Or worse.

When I want to buy in bulk to save some cash I go to the cash and carry. When they want to buy a few dozen shoes to give to street kids they are investigated and suspected of illicit trading.

When our children reached school age we chose to homeschool. But in some countries that is plain illegal, and if you persist you might need to flee the country, else face the prospect of having your children taken away from you.

Freedom comes in many flavours, some more bitter tasting than others.

I’ve explored many of these issues with guests on my Alternative Lifestyle Show. From that I’ve begun to compile my own little checklist of freedom points of reference.

As well as the big ticket items like free elections, freedom of worship and free press, these are some of the freedom markers that I have identified so far :

  1. Homeschooling / Unschooling – allowed with little or no restrictions / allowed with heavy intervention and regulation  / not allowed at
  2. Drugs – cannabis in particular – medical and recreational use allowed / medical use only / not allowed at all
  3. Vaccinations – parents have total rights to chose / restrictions placed on those parents and children who do not vaccinate / absolute legal compulsion
  4. Guns – all types of guns permitted / only certain types of guns permitted in certain circumstances / no guns permitted except for very restricted licensed use
  5. Cryptocurrency – no restrictions on use of cryptocurrency / allowed but with restrictions / not allowed all

What else should go on this list?

Looking at this list again I am not sure I am so free and easy in the UK.

Lock and load, how does your country fare…?




Pennsif’s Progress #587 – Who should I tell about steem?

Back at the turn of the year when steem was riding high I started a SignUp100 personal quest to recruit a hundred people on to steem during 2018.

With steem shooting to the clouds, and my wallet looking fat and healthy, it was quite easy. A quick glance at the dollar signs, a mumbled “you too could have this” and they were signing up on the dotted line.

In the first few weeks I scored a dozen. 

But it all went wrong. The steem price went south, my new recruits scattered in panic and confusion, and only two hung on.

I learnt my lesson. Never utter those fateful words “blog and earn” – blog and yearn might be better.

In those weird old days I would tell just about anyone that moved all about steem.

Now I am more choosy. I look for a reason why steem might actually be useful for them before telling them about it.

Can steem improve or enhance some element of their life that they are already doing? Will it add value?

Ideally it shouldn’t be that way. If steem aches for mass adoption it really should offer something for everyone.

For the moment steem is an acquired taste. It requires something of a moral commitment and a pledge of allegiance to the ways of steem.

It still needs a big glowing neon sign above the door that says “Handle With Care – Enter at your own risk”.

For new recruits you really need to lead them gently by the hand, whisper sweet upvotes in their ears and stay by their side until they are brave enough to venture out alone.

Putting it into practice

I am now having another go.

This time I am targeting better. Through my new @communityaction project I am particularly looking at bringing on board charities and community organisations.

First up I am working with a Welsh conservation charity.

They are interested in promoting their work, hopefully raising funds and exploring ways they might be able to reward volunteers. They should be up and running by next week.

Second up, I have recruited someone who makes children’s video games. They are already on Steam but they are interested in exploring what Steem has to offer now.

For both of them I am setting up their accounts through  That will at least knock down one of steem’s naughty and nasty technical barriers.

I am hoping with this more measured approach I can up the retention rate beyond the miserable 10 – 15% that seems to be the norm for steem.

Slow and steady, keep them close and vote them often…


Pennsif’s Progress #589 – Hothouse Earth – how can I prep?

Last night I read a headline on the BBC :

>> Climate change : ‘Hothouse Earth’ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed

It made me wonder, and it made me worried.

Some people dispute the science of climate change, many people don’t.

Either way, the hard reality is that weather patterns are wobbly, and the climate seems to be taking on a life of its own.

This summer for example has seen heat records broken with abundance across Europe. Even in my usually wet and windy Wales it has been super hot and super dry these past couple of months.

My neighbour came round last night and told me his well has run dry and he is totally out of water. Up on the hills his sheep are braking through fences trying to find water as all the springs that usually provide for them have stopped flowing.

On our homestead we are just hanging on, but our garden and our trees have been hit hard.

Whichever the climate science blows, as a prepper I need to be prepared.

I have a duty to my family, our animals and our homestead to ensure we are not put at any living disadvantage from our ongoing journey to an offgrid state of being.

First stop, water

As we have learnt this summer water is a key point of inflection as the climate makes its twists and turns.

We are not connected to the mains. We have a mountain spring that fills two 5000 litre tanks.

Alongside those we have an old well and a lake. While these give us some resilience it is not foolproof by any means.

I have long had plans to install two more similar tanks just below the first two. If we get another very dry summer next year these new additional tanks will have to move to the top of the investment list.

Having sufficient water is half the story. Getting it to the crops and the fruit trees is the more difficult part.

Hosepipes and watering cans are not an efficient way of distributing water over a large area. Installing some form of drip irrigation system, particularly in the polytunnel is a must.

Then comes winter…

While summers are likely to be hotter and drier, weird weather times will likely bring colder and stormier winter times.

Our house is a 200 year old stone farmhouse. It is not thermally efficient.

We need to continue work on the insulation for one part of our winter prepping.

More importantly we need to resolve our heating dilemma.

Currently we are using oil for our heating. But this is a costly, increasingly unreliable and environmentally inappropriate option.

With 15 acres of woodland some form of wood burning system will be our way to go for heating.

We have one woodstove and one open fire in our house, but we really want to move over to a full-on wood/biomass boiler solution.

We have had the quote for the biomass boiler installation but it is a big one, so we are not sure yet how and when that will come to pass. But it is on the shopping list and when steem moons to $10 I’ll be all over it.

And then there is everything else to do !

Prepping for climatic change is a big challenge. Will it come gradually or suddenly and catastropically?

I guess gradual, but if you watch the right movies you might think differentyl.

If it is sudden and catastrophic who knows what will go down. Mass migrations could become the order of the day. Crop failures and food shortages will become commonplace. Electricity brown-outs and power grid failures will be a regular occurrence.

There could be some rough times ahead…











Pennsif’s Progress #591 – Reducing my footprint, increasing my impact

As I get older and the days tick by I find I am increasingly refining my goals in life.

At a certain point in life one realises that the phrase “you have all the time in the world” no longer has any bearing. Time becomes your most precious resource. And every day counts.

So dreams of opening a restaurant, or building a house with a balcony, or learning six languages, or writing a science fiction novel, or travelling to every continent, while still valid and potentially possible, have to be filtered.

The realisation, and acceptance, that you are unlikely to achieve everything in life you had hoped to is harsh but necessary.

I have now signed that pledge of acceptance and am narrowing my life plan to those things I do so want to achieve.

In fact that want is more than just a want, it is a desire I am fiercely whipping up into a compulsion.

Compulsion can be read with a negative inflection but as I mentioned in a previous blog I only have two modes of operation – full-on or not at all. I don’t do half-ar$ed.

So what I am going to do, I am going to do to the biggest, the best and the boldest of my abilities.

I have now settled on my two remaining goals – to minimise my footprint, and to maximise my impact.

Minimising My Footprint

I live on a homestead. We have our own water supply and we deal with our own sewage, we produce much of our own food and the percentage increases year on year, and we have planted 10,000 trees on our property.

We have traveled some fair distance on our journey to reduce our footprint on the planet.

But we still have a long way to go.

Our electricity usage is one area we are really keen to cut down on. In fact as I wrote about yesterday our goal is to move towards going offgrid – but frustratingly steem’s low price is holding us back on that at present.

The second big area I want to deal with is our use of petrol for car transport.

Living in a very rural area, reliance on public transport is not viable, so getting an electric car would be the next best option.

And if we could charge that car from our own solar electricity even better still.

There are a thousand other ways in which we can, should and will reduce our ecological and carbon footprint. But we are on the right path and I relish the challenge of day by day getting better and better.

Maximising My Impact

I have always been an activist, campaigning in one form or another for a better world.

I think I got it from my mother. She wouldn’t take any crap, and she was always getting involved in local community activities.

Much of my early adult life was spent working, at various levels, for one of Britain’s major environmental campaign organisations.

Then I took a few years out to set up a business and raise a family. But these past few years I have been retracing my steps and rejoining the battle.

And in the past year steem, particularly through A Dollar A Day, has opened a new channel to bring about some worthwhile change.

Now I am ready for action and I want to do more.

And more.

And more.

I have just today launched a new @communityaction project where I will be focusing most of my activity bridging the on and the off steemchain worlds.

Hopefully this will give me one more route to make a positive impact on the world.

I don’t want to have my name in lights or on a plaque on the wall, but I do want to do my bit.

And one day when my grandchild asks that fateful question “What did you do Granddad to save the planet?” I will be able to answer “Everything I could”.




Pennsif’s Progress #592 – Come on Steem, I want to save the planet

Today I have been invited to guest on the new Meadows & Makers radio show hosted by @makinstuff and @jackdub.

Greg @makinstuff mentioned he would like me to talk about my plans for installing a solar PV system on our homestead.

I have written several times before about my solar plans and how they were the initial driver for me to join steem.

Back at the start of 2017 I was looking at ways to save up the capital needed to invest in a solar PV and battery system to start our homestead on the journey to becoming offgrid for electricity.

A friend introduced me to Bitcoin that was just beginning to take off at that time, and along with the discovery of Bimble Solar who were taking Bitcoin payments, crypto looked like the way to go to raise the funds for our solar adventure.

But after only my second Bitcoin purchase, my bank blocked any further crypto purchases.

Then as I was looking for new ways to build my crypto-stash I came across Steem on YouTube. Earning crypto currency just through blogging seemed a whole lot better than buying.

I signed up. I was hooked.

Many, many, many, many hours of steeming away, and the super lucky timing of the conversion of my original Bitcoin investment into steem, allowed me to reach Dolphin status at the very end of 2017.

At the start of 2018 steem was topping out at over US$7 and my wallet value was looking rather handsome at around US$40,000.

That would have paid for the solar PV system – and for the biomass boiler I’m looking at now.

Should I have hit the sell button then?

It was tempting but I am ethically opposed to killing dolphins. So I hung on. With the upbeat mood, the moon talk in every corner of the steemiverse, $7 looked like it was the bottom not the top. $100 steem was definitely on the cards.

Little did I realise that the steem price would begin a slippy slidey path all the way back down to where it is now – just thrashing about in the shallow sub $1.50 waters.

So I have kept at it blogging, vlogging (a little bit) and pumping out radio shows to double my stake to over 11,000 SP – currently worth around $13,000.

I have just gone back to the quote I was given early last year by the renewables company. Totally by chance it was just under $13,000.

  • 9 PV panels (2.3Kw) = $2500
  • Lead acid batteries (600Ah capacity) =  $2000
  • Outback inverter/charger & solar charge controller = $4500
  • Cabling from barn to house = $500
  • Labour = $2500
  • Tax @ 5%

So if I squashed my account flat and powered down completely, assuming steem didn’t fall further during the 13 week power-down period, I could get my PV system paid for by crypto and steem.

But then like Snakes and Ladders I would be all the way back down to the beginning again.

I have faith, and science. I learnt at school that steem always rises. So I will sit tight, and keep grinding, til the highs return and the steemrays shine on my solar plans again.



Pennsif’s Progress #594 – My first day at the Food Bank

Today I started volunteering at the local Food Bank, or Banc Bwyd as it is known in Welsh.

From what I have seen of food banks in the big cities my local one is rather a low key affair.

The population of the town and surrounding catchment area is only about 3,000. There is certainly some unemployment and poverty in the area but it is quite well ‘contained’ so the ‘clients’ for the food bank are measured only in handfuls each week at most.

The foodbank is only open for business 3 days a week, staffed by a rota of volunteers mainly drawn from local churches.

I have just become one of the volunteers and today was my induction day. I will mainly be ‘on call’ for the food bank on Wednesdays.

When I am on call I will get a phone call when I client want to come to collect a supply of food. Then I have an hour to go to the supermarket to pick up sufficient bread, milk, spread, fresh fruit and vegetables according to the size of the client’s family and whether they have children or not.

Then I take the fresh goods back to the food bank HQ to make up the rest of the ‘food parcel’. The aim is to supply enough food for 3 meals for 3 days.

The food parcel is made up mainly of tinned and dried food, pasta, tinned meat meals, cereals, tea, coffee etc according to a prescribed menu structure. Parcels also include toilet rolls, toothpaste, soap, sanitary towels.

[This is not a photo of the current food bank supplies – it is about ten times more than this now.]

Clients (people needing food) are not allowed to contact the Food Bank directly – they have to be referred by one of the ‘agencies’ both third sector and local authority. Each agency is initially given 10 vouchers to use for people in need.

A client is only allowed a maximum of three food parcels in succession to cover any difficult, emergency situations. This is commonly when their benefit payments have been delayed. Then the agencies are supposed to have sorted out their situations.

The Food Bank has plenty of food. It is also has plenty of money from donations.

One of its biggest problems is ensuring the food stock gets rotated so the oldest is always used first. That is real prepper territory!

Alas no clients came today but it was fascinating to see how this food bank operates.

I see all things nowadays through steem-tinted spectacles – but I am so far struggling to see any steem angle on a food bank.

I suspect there is but I just need to think this through a bit harder.

Just for interest I saw this recent article in a leading British newspaper about food banks…

On the way home from the food bank I visited another local charity who are going to make use of a dozen leverarch files I no longer need.

Steem did slip into the conversation and they are keen to sign up.

That has given me a whole new idea.

But it is 3am now so that will have to wait for my next post…




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