Why Welsh Autumns Are the Best

I have a love/hate relationship with North Wales. I have spent my whole life visiting here, and while I’ve always loved seeing my granny and going to the beach when I was a child, moving here straight out of high school was a whole different experience. Being that it’s pretty touristy, I would go from manic summers where I was working 60-100 hour weeks (divided (mostly) between jobs), to having so little work that I needed benefit assistance to get me through the winter. It’s kind of intense.

I did that for the first four years of my adult life, and when I did finally move back to the States, I said I’d never do it again.

Well, here I am. I’ve just survived the insanity of the summer (with an injury this time–60 hours work is not my game any more, it would seem), and entering into the autumn. And I realize now why it is that I stayed for so long. The autumns here are the best.

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  1. It’s Quiet
    This is something that you wouldn’t really think of to notice unless you went through the summers here. People come from all over the country, and sometimes the world, to visit North Wales during the summer. It’s a beautiful place and there’s plenty to do–from the coastal paths to sailing to surfing, to just spending too much money.
    The village I live in, at the time that I first lived here, had a permanent population of 800 people. I read one year that during Wakestock (a now extinct festival), the population rose to 20,000. That is insane! Then you have all the sailing races that the rich folk like to be there for, and all the other events that are now catering to the business of the season.
    So when it’s done, and school kicks in and everyone goes home, the villages are like ghost towns. It’s amazing.
    You can find parking. People aren’t getting in your way because–let’s face it–people in herds get dumb. People are there to relax opposed to spend money, so they’re more likely to be friendly and take the time to be polite. It’s just nice, relaxing, and quiet.
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  2. The Weather
    img_3623I have so many locals disagree with me on this one, but I swear it’s true–the weather is better when there’s no tourists. I’m not saying the tourists drive the weather to rain, because I’ve totally been here during the summer months, as a tourist, and had beautiful weather. No, what I’m saying is that the best weather months are May and September through October. All the rest of the months are just rain, kind of bleh, for the most part. There are the odd nice days, or partially cloudy days, but not nice nice. Or if they are, they’re too hot (for my liking at least).
    But the reason why the autumn nice weather is better than the May nice weather is because it’s relaxing weather. Coupled with the calm after the storm, the sun and the mild warmth is pleasant. It seems to seep into the bones more. You want to be in it, but you want to relax in it. In May, you’re so energized of breaking through the lethargy of the winter that there’s too much to do, to much want to do any of it. But after the summer, the warmth soaks into you with a slight breeze that carries my next point…
  3. The Leaves
    img_3558I know, I know, it’s everyone’s favorite part of autumn. But it truly is worth noting. After the trees have been lapping up the delicious summer rain, they’re drying up and ready to change and shed their leaves, and they just smell divine.
    I come from a place that looks like it’s been carved out of the trees. I’m not a stranger to masses of trees and their leaves changing. And I love it. There is a heavy dose of ecstasy when I watch the swirls of leaves across the road.
    But there’s something different when the leaves are coming from the Welsh Snowdonia mountains. I spend a lot of time in the slate-mine village of Blaenau-Ffestiniog, and so I drive and walk through the woods quite a bit. And I cannot tell you how much joy those leaves bring me.
    The tips of the leaves are singing to orange and yellow, and they are just so eager to act as a veil to my destination. Combine that with the rolling quilt of the farmlands that look like they’re lumpy with kittens–it is something breathtaking.
  4. Mushroom Hunting
    As a budding mushroom hunter, I cannot get over how many varieties of fungus there is around here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m spoiled rotten for the fungus amung us in the Pacific NorthWest, but here is just as lush with specimens. When I was growing up, in August, Granny and I would always pick field mushrooms just outside her house. I could see the fairy rings they grew in from the windows, and loved to just marvel at them. Now, as an adult, I’m on the hunt for culinary purposes, and just general curiosity. I have a fascination with them, and there are a plethora all over the Snowdonia National Park.

Until you experience it, you won’t know the difference between a Welsh autumn and that of one in Scotland, The Pacific Northwest, or Germany. And in all honesty, I’ve only experienced one of the three I just mentioned. But if you have the chance to spend a month and a half in Wales, make it the last half of August through to October. It’s worth it, I promise.

Happy Equinox, dear reader.

What is your favorite seasonal experience? Is there any location that you find to be unique with its seasons? I want to know! Let me know in the comments!

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What I’ve Learned From My First Freelance Gig

I’ve been scouring the online world for some freelance writing gigs, looking for something, anything, to put a little cash in my wallet. I joined every freelance writing website I could find. Finally, I got a bite. It was just a simple proofreading gig, but it was a job nonetheless.

There are a few things I can say that I learned, or need to learn, from this experience, as simple as it may be.

Be Prepared

I was not prepared.

To be fair, I don’t think my employer was either. We found each other via Freelancer. I bid way higher than some people, and maybe $5 higher than the average and said I could get it done within two days. He messaged me, asked me if I could get it done in two hours, max.

I had nothing on and was still in my pj’s, so I said (like any eager beaver with a quality work ethic), “Of course!”

However, from the point of his first message (we’ll say it was at 10 am) to getting to the agreement, it took about an hour. then it took another fifteen minutes or so for him to send the “you’re hired” request, and for me to accept it.

In theory, the two hours should have started from that point (about 11:15 or so). Except, I think he meant from the 10 am point. About ten minutes to noon, he messaged me asking how it was going. I didn’t want to disappoint my first client, so I said it’d be done in ten minutes. It was doable, but I would have preferred one last go-over.

After sending it to him, I realized I didn’t know how the payment system worked. Did he just send money my way? Was I supposed to invoice him? I searched around, found an invoice button and began creating my invoice.

Except then I realized that I had to think about tax. Did I want to charge him VAT on top of the fee I already quoted him without mentioning VAT, or would I just pay it out of what I earned from the job? Could I actually say I was charging VAT if I didn’t have a VAT number? Oh crap, and do I need to be registered as a business before invoicing him??

Once I sent off the edited copy, I sat, watching the screen, obsessively checking my phone, my email, and the website, looking for a response. For hours. What if he didn’t like what I’d changed? What if I missed a whole mess of stuff and he didn’t think me worth paying? What if I didn’t get it to him quick enough? What if he was looking in to ways of getting around paying me and my work was for nothing???

I was not prepared.

Be Sure You…

  1. Research Tax Law
    This can be different depending on the country you’re in, so make sure you’re well versed. Do you need to declare yourself an LLC company? A solo trader? Are you going to be making enough money to employ other people? Ok, the last one is something to think about later, but be sure you know what your options are and where you fit into them.
  2. Research Your Freelance Site
    Every site has a FAQ section, which should answer your basic questions on how to get a job, how to interact with someone offering the job, how to invoice them, and so on. But go further than that. Look at forums on other websites that might address more detailed questions, such as “How long should I wait before I send an invoice?” Be in the know before you start getting job offers (and don’t worry, you’ll have a couple of days at least before your first bite to do your research) so you’re scrambling to figure out what the professional move might be.
  3. Research Your Potential Employers
    When you do find a job you want to apply for, look into them a little bit. Most freelance sites allow you to look at their profile, look at what jobs they’ve offered in the past, how much money they’ve dished out in the past, as well as reviews from other freelancers. If there are a lot of negative reviews, then you might want to skip that job, or look into contacting the employer and asking them about their experience hiring freelancers. Give them the chance to explain their situation.
    Some companies looking for freelancers have their own website, and list what company they’re hiring from. So it’s a good idea to delve into them that way as well. That way, when you do apply to them, you can show them that personal touch.
  4. Know Your Rights and Expectations
    Any good freelancing website should have information on the rights of the employer and the rights of the freelancer. When signing up for these sites, we all have to agree to the terms and services. Make sure you’re with a site that has your back if you need it.

Be Professional

When I went into this, I had no idea how I was going to be contacted by a potential employer. Would I get an email notification via the website stating that an employer had hired me? Or requested and interview? Would I get a direct email from my potential employer?

What I did end up getting was a little chat bubble that just said, “Hello.” So I said “Good morning.” There was nothing for a while, so I then went on to say how I was very interested in the job and would like to know more about it. He sent me a document and said it needed editing. I didn’t know if it was a tester to see if I wa qualified to edit the real deal, or if I was hired. So I asked. He said, “This is the job itself?”

I then threw a smiley face.

No seriously, how on earth do I talk to professionals in a chatbox?  In school I learned about writing letters, emails, and memos, but nothing about instant messenger. Thankfully, as I said before, he didn’t seem to be quite knowing what he was doing either.

I actually didn’t learn anything with this point. If you have tips on this, send them my way!

Be Patient

The person hiring you for their project probably has more on their plate than what your job is. While your focus is on the task being paid for, they probably have another few projects on the go, their own deadlines to see to, as well as emails, phone calls, whatever. That’s not to say that you don’t, but at the end of the day, you were hired for this one job as far as they’re concerned.

Once your project is done, or if you have a question along the way, be patient with them. Give them a reasonable amount of time to get to your request or your project.

That being said, it’s been two and a half hours since I sent my piece in, and I haven’t heard anything back yet. My fingernails no longer exist and I might only have bloody stumps in their place.

What was your first freelance experience? Was it a success? Was it a mess? Feel free to share your experience, or a link to a blog post detailing your experience!

Yet Another Blog

I know, I know, I’m going a little bit crazy here. But I’m discovering more and more that I have my mother’s want for being organized. Who knew I would take on some of her traits, right?

Instead of having one blog that covers my traveling, my studies and whatever else, I’m seperating it all. As you might know, I do, actually have a travel blog called Hopscotch and Woolgathering. It’s pretty entertaining, if I do say so myself.

However, as of today, I also have another blog about my partner/copilot/pilot (code-named Guy in this blog), about sustainable, low-cost living and living off the land. I’ll write about being on the farm in here, but I’ll also write about it in the other one, mostly from an environmetnal persoective. This new blog will also talk about foraging (which I wrote a little about in a past entry here) in the UK, gardening, some hunting, fishing, and hopefully will have some bits and pieces on what to do with the crap we forage/catch.

Without further adue, my new blog:

Hodgepodge and Food Gathering

Foraging Pokemon

pokemongo.jpgA little over a year ago, I wrote about my discovery of PokemonGo. it, for the most part, revolutionized the way I spent my free time. I found myself addicted to going out into the world, into the woods, along the bay–whatever–to catch these damn little computerised  critters. And it did do me good in the sense that I got a ton of walking done.

I was quite excited to be checking out the different Pokemon in the UK, and using it to explore my new hometown in Durham (which I still have yet to move to). Given that I moved to Wales instead, I found there were so few Pokemon that the game wasn’t even worth playing, and thus, I deleted the app.

It’s not fair to say that I had little inspiration to get me outdoors, but it was just less motivation. There are tons of walks around where I live, but the PokemonGo app alotted me a direction, somewhere to go so that I could gain my new little digital regards.

Until now.

I’ve been trying to get outside more since my injury. I’m not doing much else, and soon it’s going to be cold again, so I should get out while I can. And it’s something my partner loves to do. I used to as well, I just don’t remember that I used to. We went one day for a nice walk along a river I used to walk with my grandmother, which was nice. The next day, we went out along the beach, only to find that the fishing was good. Like mackerel were being caught off shore sort of good. So my partner grabbed his pole from the car and caught dinner for the next two months.

It got me thinking. If we were to forage, and make it a goal to have x percent of our food come from fishing/hunting/foraging, then it would force me out into the wilds. It would keep me sane!

I was talking to one of my besties at home, trying to convince him why foraging was a good idea. It hit me, as I spoke to the guy who got me into PokemonGo, that foraging is–wait for it–

JUST LIKE POKEMONGO BUT IN REAL LIFE!

I know, I know, it’s ridiculous–but bear with me for this.

The game revolves around the idea that there is some scientist that has lost all his experiment pokemon thingos, right (I might be dumbing this down quite a bit, but it’s my understanding of the game)? So your job, as a player is to catch all the pokemon, and you can send them back to scientist man. However, you can also collect however many of them, and you “evolve” them into other, more powerful pokemon. Then you fight them against other teams. There are different pokemon depending on the area you live in. So, for example, in Western Washington, I’ll find more water-based pokemon than I would in Palm Springs, where I would find more desert-based pokemon.

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Blackberries, acorns and hazelnuts 

Ok, now, let’s look at foraging.  You go around to different places, collecting different things. You’ll find different foods in different climates, and during different types of the year. You take them home (send them to the scientist), and can make things with those things you’ve collected (evolve them), into flour, pies, coffee, salads, whatever. Then you can either eat them, or, you can trade them (battle them perhaps?).

Both activities have the bonus of giving you rewards for walking distances, both give you rewards for catching/finding/collecting things, and they’re both addictive as crap! But most importantly, most get you outside.

So currently, I’m replacing my long-lost PokemonGo addiction (which I haven’t fed in nearly a year) with foraging–arguably a much healthier hobby. But at the end of the day, it gets me outside, and I learn stuff, and I get to eat goodies. Win all around!

More updates

I actually saw my first doctor yesterday. I had only seen nurses of various degrees at this point. She was excellent. I really enjoyed talking to her, and I didn’t feel like she was doubting every word I said like most (not all) of the nurses I’ve dealt with as of yet.

The good news is that she didn’t need convincing, that she took me seriously.

The bad news is that she said I do need to see a specialist, which she went on to refer me to. At this point, I have to wait until they decide who I need to see and send, in the mail, an appointment date.

The worse news–I’m supposed to move north in two weeks. I’m supposed to start university in a little over a month. What if I need to have surgery, but I have to have it here in Wales, and so I have to go back and forth?

Never mind the fact that I’m moving to a farm where I’m meant to pull my weight to earn my keep. How am I supposed to do that?

I’m freaking out. My mom keeps telling me to look into Workman’s Comp, but the only thing I’m finding is a weekly pay out of less than a quarter of what I was making when I was working. At least in Washington, when you claimed L&I you got 60% of your pay check.

I’m pretty nervous about everything. The timing could be worse, but it absolutely could be better.

Hunting Medication

So, for the last few days to a week, I’ve been singing the praises of the NHS. I’ve been able to go to the Minor Injury unit in Pwllheli, the Out of Hours in Tremedog, and A and E in Bangor Hospital, all the while procuring three wrist braces and a box of medication–without charge. Hurrah for the NHS!

When I was in Bangor, the nurse practitioner had me double my dose of anti-inflamatories that I’d been given, and told to see my GP about refilling for another week. Fair enough.

By Thursday, I only had a couple of days worth of medication left, so I called Botwnog to get an appointment, telling the exactly what the nurse practitioner told me to tell them–that I needed to make an appointment with a GP to get a refilled perscription, and that my informtion sould be in the system.

I tried to make an appointment, but the person I spoke to said that they had nothing for the day–because it’s a call in the morning to make an appointment if you want to get seen any time before three weeks sort of deal. Ridiculous.

So, since we were going to Bangor any way, we stopped off at the hospital to find out what we could about how to go about this if I couldn’t get in to see a doctor. I went in to the Out of Hours clinic, which apparently you have to go to another section of A and E for, got shouted at by the woman behind the desk for asking the emergency services these questions (despite it clearly saying it was the Out of Hours clinic, mind–how was I to know??), and turned away. Though, she did give me a number to call, though no one answered.

Yesterday morning I tried my luck again with Botwnnog, calling at 8 in the morning for an appointment. I was on hold for half an hour before I got through, and the nurse wouldn’t let me make an appointment with a doctor because she didn’t have a file on me. I tried to tell her it was in the overall system, that I watched the nurse practitioner at the hospital put it in there, but she wouldn’t listen. I tried to reason with her, asking for an appointment so that I could show the doctor my wrist and then he would prescribe it to me any way. She said unless she had my notes then I couldn’t see anyone. When I tried again, she told me she’s very busy and there’s nothing she can do.

I was able to get ahold of the Out of Hours nurse in Tremadog who faxed my notes along to Botwnnog, though it wasn’t the complete set of notes since they didn’t have them from Bangor (some system). However, she told me to call Botwnnog later to make sure they were there.

A few hours later I did so, and didn’t have to wait very long on hold. I spoke to a very kind, and helpful person who apologised that there weren’t the full notes. In Bangor they doubled the dose I was given in Tremadog, which was information written that the lady on the phone didn’t have. However, she listened, said she would pass it along to a doctor and that it should be in the pharmacy today–and it was.

So that crisis is averted.

But I understand now why so many people complain about the NHS. This, I think, was the result of it. Botwnnog is bursting and busy because the surgery in the village I live in shut down, and who knows how many others. The system that is suppose to work all over doesn’t.

It doesn’t excuse the excessive rudeness I experienced (aside from the last person I spoke to), but I think the rudeness is a symptom.

However, all healthcare systems have their flaws. This is by far infinitely better than what’s provided in the States. And, bonus: When I picked up my prescription today, not only did they give me twice the amount needed, but I didn’t have to pay anything for it.

An injury like this at home would have drained my savings by now and put me in debt. The NHS is flawed, but man, I sure am grateful for it.

Wrist update

The good news is that I have at least ten days off work, which means I’ve managed to escape working August Bank Holiday (if you live in a seaside town in the UK, that’s a big deal). The bad news is that it’s because my diagnosis is Tendonitis.

I went to A and E in Bangor hospital yesterday morning, and for the first time was asked what the extremity of my pain was. I was eventually sent to the Nurse Practitioner, who told me it was tendonitis. She had experienced it to, and thus had really good understanding of it, as well as was very sympathetic to my state.

She said complete and total rest for my right hand, and if it’s not getting better within ten days, then I need to go in and see about a hand surgeon.

Of course, while I can’t use a pen in my hand, I’m still being cheeky and typing. I have my keyboard angled down so it’s not a strain on my wrist, and I have a brace on which basically means I’m using my limp fingers to press buttons.

I’m worried about how this will affect everything–the move to the farm, starting university–all of it. I think it’ll be ok, there are worse times it could have started. I’m choosing to be optomistic about everything. What choice do I have?