Linda K Murdock, author of the spice book A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices and the e-book All Things Colorado, blogs about things to do in Colorado. She also networks with and writes about crafty Coloradans, gives spice advice, displays her current craft projects and writes gentle rants. She is a crocheter, gardener, hiker, history and blues aficionado and avid reader. So many interests, so little time. Don’t worry, to avoid confusion, she focuses on crafty Coloradans, her latest crochet projects, and things to do and see in Colorado. See Categories or use search to find what interests you most.

Is Blogging Worth the Trouble?

Is Blogging Worth the Trouble?After spending three years blogging about three main topics: Colorado things to do, Colorado crafters and my spice cookbook, I’m not sure how I feel about SEO and ranking my blog on the first page of a Google search. More than that I’m wondering: Is blogging worth the trouble?

My best rankings are due to the SEO of other companies that sell my books and have little to do with my blog. As for the SEO ranking of the “Colorado crafters” topic all I can say is that in spite of the time and effort to follow WordPress (blog platform) rules, I figure there is only one reason that my blog ranks relatively high on Google. That reason is because of the uniqueness of the word “crafter” and the specificity of “Colorado.” Using both words frequently in my blog writing brings it to the top. I’m chagrined that my content and the time it takes to put an article together have little to do with overall ranking.

My blood pressure rises every time I try to follow SEO suggestions. It becomes a game to see how I can use the title, which is often the keyword, in intelligent sentences. If you are a writer, it can be more than your integrity permits. Because I’m blogging about things to do in Colorado, after I’ve actually done them, I find myself using the past tense. This is a no-no because it is considered passive voice. My sentences are too long (more than 20 words). I don’t use subheadings on each new paragraph. The list goes on.

I recently listened to a blog video about things that don’t affect Google ranking. Among those was the longevity of your blog. If your content is 2 years old and focuses on a few key items, it is likely to rank as high as a blog that is 15 years old and babbles aimlessly about many topics once or twice a year. The time a viewer spends on your site, aka bounce rate, also has little to do with ranking. Subheadings within a blog post are meaningless to Google, according to Moz. There are many reasons to focus more on what you want to say and less about what anyone else says about SEO ranking.

Recent messages from WordPress warn me about updating my PHP. I’ve had to call my hosting company twice to explain all that that entails. The second time it made better sense to me. The bottom line is it will cost money. When wanting help from WordPress, the response is a lot of nonsensical verbiage. Do they really think small business owners/bloggers are also programmers and designers? It would be nice to find an answer to a WordPress problem that did not involve so many undefined terms that do little more than make the average person feel below average in intelligence.

So is it worth blogging? For me blogging is writing, which is what I do. I’ve spent too much time trying to follow the rules, and I recommend that you just write good content. The frustration comes because you are constantly battling two personas. One is the creative you, the one who is excited about your product, information, etc. The other is the person who has to worry about money and how to best market yourself. Will the effort pay off?

For me, I don’t think blogging will pay. Having grown up selling everything from advertising to printing, I have had much more success with a simple qualifying phone call to a potential client. The direct contact allows me to see if the person has any interest in my product. I like the straightforward approach and I can handle “no” for an answer.

Blogging like telemarketing is a numbers game. However, too much credence is given to hits and likes. Who cares if thousands “like” me, if no one will buy my product? I am reminded of a starving photographer, who got thousands of hits on his blog. He admits that he got tired of always saying positive upbeat things, while he spent his life sleeping in his car. He began to be more honest in his not-so-perfect life experiences and to convey that in his blog. The results: lots more followers and a bit more success.

Google alerts make me aware of qualified prospects. With a little online research, a phone call can be a more pointed approach. You can pre-qualify the customer to see if there is interest in what you are trying to sell. If I really want to make money from my “products,” I have to remember that a simple phone call or email to a potential client is much more productive than blogging. I also have to remember that there is a reason they refer to writers, painters, crafters and creative types as starving artists.

Colorado’s Rambler Ranch, A Private Car Collection

Colorado's Rambler Ranch

One shed full of AMC cars

A trip to Elizabeth to see Colorado’s Rambler Ranch, a private car collection, is a must for those who think they have seen it all. Terry Gale, the owner, waves us down as we pass his personal museum of American Motors and Nash Rambler vehicles. Terry plays the role of host, guide and ice cream dispenser all in one.

Like most ranches, the Rambler Ranch has animals; they just aren’t in a corral. Terry has two shih tzus and an indoor cat. Like any proud parent if you ask about his pets, he pulls out his phone and shows you a photo of his dogs. He also takes care of ten feral cats. One of his helpers at the ranch has a young, playful white German shepherd, who likes you to throw his Frisbee.

Of course, the 165-acre ranch actually refers to a private car collection of Nash Rambler vehicles. Rambler was a brand name used by Thomas B. Jeffery, builder of the Rambler bicycle. He built his first prototype for the Rambler in 1897. Between 1900 and 1914 he built the cars in an old bicycle factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His son, Charles replaced the Rambler name with the Jeffery, in honor of his father. Two years later Charles W. Nash bought the company.

Nash Motors dropped the Jeffery name and the “Rambler” name disappeared for a while. In 1937, Nash merged with Kelvinator, an appliance manufacturer. Terry has two sections in his museum where he displays those appliances. The side-by-side refrigerator/freezer has everything labeled with an egg cabinet in the door. He also has a Westinghouse roaster oven on a stand very much like the one used every Thanksgiving by my mother. There is a stove with a recessed heating element and a lid that lies atop the stove. Terry calls this an early form of the crockpot.

Considered to be the first American made compact car, the Nash Rambler was only in production for a short time in the early 1950s. Nash-Kelvinator merged with Hudson Motor Car Company in 1954 to become American Motors Corporation (AMC). AMC continued to make the Rambler from 1954 to 1969 in the US. This is all helpful information to understand the scope of Terry’s collection. Although he hopes to get a Nash from each year it and the Rambler were made, the focus is on the 1950s and 1960s.

For those who cannot be without a video, the layout includes a production video/commercial. It shows the difference between the fuel-efficiency of the “compact” car engine and other cars. There are also televisions showing Leave It to Beaver in the 1960s house and a Bullwinkle cartoon. Nothing up my sleeve.

Colorado's Rambler Ranch

Terry on “scooter” with green Rambler

Terry is a gracious host and loves to talk about his collection as he scoots around on his 2-wheeled electric mini-scooter. During our visit he plays a couple of songs on his antique juke boxes. In the 1960s house, he picked the songs Crazy by Patsy Cline and the duet version of Unforgettable with Nat King Cole and his daughter. Quite fun and a bit nostalgic,

Even though Terry appeals to the Boomer generation, he has an unlimited number of potential patrons. He does rent out his complex, which is nicely landscaped with flowers and tall pines. He has a caterer he uses in town for some events. Their is a cabin that is often used in wedding ceremonies. The ice cream that we bought at the Sinclair gas station on the property was also hand-made by a local. I like that he supports the community of Elizabeth.

Rambler Ranch reminds me of my uncle Paul, who had a Rambler back in the 1960s. I recall my first driving experience in an old AMC Gremlin. Thus, I have several reasons to visit Colorado’s Rambler Ranch, A Private Car Collection. My biggest surprise was to discover how much fun it was!

Yarn Choices-Can You Avoid Acrylic Without Spending a Fortune?

Yarn Choices

Unbreathable acrylic Tunisian wrap

Am I the only one frustrated when making yarn choices? As I pick up pattern books from local libraries, I learn more and more from the yarn experts. For example, they suggest choosing a blended yarn with at least twenty-five percent of each thread, whether wool, acrylic or cotton.–at ten percent content you won’t get the benefits and/or attributes of the yarn. Often when you try a new project, you cannot find the yarn mentioned in the pattern, let alone the color combination that you want. Why is it so difficult to make yarn choices?

Acrylic is cheap, but it is also hot and doesn’t breathe. It pills and often doesn’t come in anything but worsted weight (#4). If you want your clothes to have better drape and just plane look better on you, than you need to go to a thinner yarn. Even when a yarn is blended, I refuse to pay a premium price when 50% or more of it is acrylic.

Most people go to the big three U.S. chain craft/hobby companies for their yarn. Have you noticed they are introducing more blends, even though acrylic still prevails? Independent yarn shops, that cater more to knitters than crocheters, must be making some in roads if the Big Three are making changes. I’m at the point even as a crocheter to pay a little more to get better choices. To make something and have people admire it is the ultimate compliment. That is difficult to do with heavy, worsted weight yarns.

Baby weight yarns (#3) would work, except that they are also 100% acrylic. In addition, they come in a lot of pastels that are great on babies, but not necessarily the first choice for adults. Sock weight yarns usually contain 25% nylon, which is very durable and warm and a perfect choice for socks, but not for breathable vests or sweaters.

The lighter the yarn weight the more yarn you will need­the more yarn, the more cost, the more cost, the more frustration. At what point are you being foolish for buying $80 worth of yarn and investing countless hours to make something that you might find in a store for less? If you can find yarn that costs you less than $80 for whatever you are making, are you willing to spend that much or more to make yourself something special? That’s assuming the yarn shop has enough of what you want in stock.

How about a 50-50 blend of a synthetic and a man made? Something with the lightness and elasticity of wool, but the strength of nylon? Something that doesn’t itch, doesn’t wrinkle and you aren’t afraid to eat with it on? How about something I can throw in the wash, like all my other clothes? I’m willing to spend a little more on better quality yarn, if it comes in a variety of colors, it doesn’t shrink and it will hold up over time.

Alas, that is why acrylic is still popular and why many yarn crafters make quick turnaround items with it. Nicer yarns require a greater investment that is difficult to justify to buyers, who are used to inexpensive, mass-produced clothes made of polyester and acrylic or cheap handmade items at craft shows. It’s a tough problem without an affordable solution, as yet. The closest company to answer all these concerns is a place called Yarnia. It used to have a storefront in Portland, but is now only online. The shipping costs (and an over abundance of stash yarn) are preventing me from purchasing just now, but I will keep an eye on them for future large projects and encourange you to take a look. The frustration in yarn choices continues.