I grew up just outside of Lansing Michigan on a ten-acre “hobby farm” with a huge garden, orchard, cows, goats, pigs, horses, chickens, rabbits and turkeys, all to feed our family and be as sustainable as possible before it was trendy. I helped Mom can as much as 800 quarts per year. We made butter, wine, jam, pies, sourdough and more. I also helped Dad with hay, milking the cow and even the goat when the cow didn’t freshen. We harvested trailer loads of apples to make hundreds of gallons of cider that we sold at a roadside stand with Mom’s homemade doughnuts and spent summers working on my grandparent’s dairy farm in Mt. Pleasant.
Most of my career in Michigan was in the IT field. Phone tech support at EDS, network administrator for Family Christian Stores and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. I feel for my fellow computer nerds out there, so many people think you can wave your magic wand and make their computer work the way they want it. It was dreadful and I didn’t fit in. I was the guy captaining the softball league and organizing the ski trips when everybody else was happy with going to the mall.
When I was laid off from Pfizer in 2003 my uncle invited me to crash at his place in Sunriver until I got my feet under me. I worked in construction for a few summers clearing the parking lot at Mt. Bachelor in the winters living the typical ski bum movie life. In 2010 two of my uncles decided they did not want to pursue their part time horse-drawn businesses so I took the best from them both and started Cowboy Carriage. Around the same time I started driving school bus for Bend-La Pine School District. The two were a perfect match. A steady job driving bus with benefits and summers off to play with the horses downtown!
During my time in Central Oregon I wanted to have a garden again and struggled getting vegetables to grow. Back in Michigan my mother made it seem so easy, I thought she could sprinkle seeds on the front lawn and they would grow like crazy. In Central Oregon we have a much shorter growing season and poor soil. Learning how successful growers worked was what I started looking for. The OSU Extension office holds the Living on a Few Acres Conference where I have attended classes on everything from raising chickens to pest management and soil information. I was also able to attend most of the OSU Master Food Preserver Class before I was excused. Seems that my non-conformist views and constant questioning were not viewed as appropriate to be a representative of OSU. Just because things have been a certain way, doesn’t mean it is the best way. Wanting to be able to cook my home grown food, I enrolled in the Food Storage Feast class at HarvestEating.com where I learned to cook seasonally with my home grown and preserved food. I’ve read some books and listened to podcasts constantly on topics from homesteading, permaculture and entrepreneurship.
Learning was important, but doing is where the progress is made. I can soups along with fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, dehydrate fruits and vegetables and fill the freezers every fall. I have built a seed starting system, a semi-mobile chicken coop for egg chickens and have grown and processed my own meat chickens and turkeys. Our turkey for Thanksgiving had never been frozen and weighed over 40 lbs! Gardening has been difficult due to renting and having to move over the past few years, but an herb garden provides teas and excellent flavor additions to our meals. I am hoping to get the garden in full swing again this fall to be ready for next year.
Our local producers will be writing articles teaching our readers and I how they do what they do. HomeSpun Magazine will be a resource for us to get actionable steps and resources. I will be learning right along with everyone else reading the magazine. We can lose our health, we can lose our wealth, but we can never lose our knowledge… HomeSpun’s focus is sharing that knowledge and encouraging you to do something with it.