Beginning Farmers: Learning, Networking, and Connecting to Place

February 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

Check out the article (title above) that I wrote for A Growing Culture! Here’s a link, with the first couple of paragraphs below:

It’s no secret that more and more young people in the U.S. are looking to establish careers in local, organic, and small-scale farming, despite the risk, instability, hard work, and moderate income. Even many well-established career adults are abandoning their corporate jobs to start farms – and writing books about it. Most of these folks are unapologetic about their choices, choosing instead to either shout to the rooftops about why they’ve chosen a lifestyle such as this one, or to quietly go on doing what’s important to them. Yet as much as farmers enjoy their independence, getting started and continuing successfully depends upon a network of support from other farmers, researchers, landowners, and the general public.

Khaiti and Andrew French, who run Living the Dream Farm in Clayton, Wisconsin, were drawn to farming because “of loving good, real food and caring about how animals are raised in agriculture.” They are famous for their duck eggs in Minneapolis circles, and also raise turkeys, rabbits, chickens, and goats. Farmers such as the Frenches, inspired by voices such as Wendell Berry and Fred Kirschenmann, seek meaningful connection to the land, family-centric lifestyles, and practices that are in line with their carefully considered ethics.

Read more.

And . . . home, again

February 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

I’ve remained on the quiet side the past couple of months, but guess why? Because changes galore have been happening. I like to take a little while to settle in before I start talking about it.

Remember when I went to North Carolina? Well. I’ve come again, with all my belongings and my dog in tow. We mean to stay.

I’ve faced transitions enough times that I feel something of an old pro at them (I no longer let all the uncertainty and newness pile up until I can do little more than burst into tears, for example). One of the best things about putting yourself into precarious and/or unfamiliar situations is that you learn to adapt, reach out, and trust. You fear risk less, because even while it sometimes makes things quite uncomfortable and even unpleasant, on the other side of risk you might find something wonderful. And you trust that the universe (or, for me, God) will catch you. In this overly-independent society you actually learn to accept help and to cultivate gratitude. People like to help people, did you know that?

I’ve been caught again and I have fallen into what seems to be a very good place. I’m so excited to be working in the farm and gardens at a year-round camp in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Here in Orange County we have many, many small sustainable farms, fantastic food co-ops, winding roads, and horses galore. Two and half hours east, we reach the ocean. Two and half hours west, the mountains. Everyone has been so kind and inviting; southern hospitality is not a myth. Tassie is thrilled to have new friends, and so am I.

We went walking with one of our new friends and her dog the other day, and since I am currently camera-less (two broken ones), here is a first shot of us in North Carolina, courtesy of Leah Maloney:

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Pardon the messy hair; some days, like those where the only things on the agenda are a long walk and a lot of reading, it just seems all right to let it stay a bit wild.

So. We are going to become southerners. Hold on tight, y’all. I can’t wait to find the stories that are here.

Among other species

February 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

Here’s a passage I came across in my reading yesterday that made me pause, re-read it, and ponder for a bit:

—-

Thoreau, and his many heirs among contemporary naturalists and radical environmentalists, assume that human culture is the problem, not the solution. So they urge us to shed our anthropocentrism and learn to live among other species as equals. This sounds like a fine, ecological idea, until you realize that the earth would be even worse off if we started behaving any more like animals than we already do. The survival strategy of most species is to extend their dominion as far and as brutally as they can, until they run up against some equally brutal natural limit that checks their progress. Isn’t this exactly what we’ve been doing?

What sets us apart from other species is culture, and what is culture but forbearance? Conscience, ethical choice, memory, discrimination: it is these very human and decidedly unecological faculties that offer the planet its last best hope. It is true that, historically, we’ve concentrated on exercising these faculties in the human rather than the natural estate, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be exercised there. Indeed, this is the work that now needs to be done: to bring more culture to our conduct in nature, not less.

- Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

—-

(thoughts?)

Bookstores

January 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dear readers,

At the risk of continuing shameless self-promotion, I’m wondering if any of you have favorite independent bookstores you’d like to tell me about?

I’m trying to get my act together in terms of marketing my book, since I’ve been fairly lackadaisical about it up till now – admittedly, because it makes me feel silly to promote myself. But you know? It’s not about me. It’s about the story, which in many ways isn’t even solely mine. Because the story is the product of so many life experiences that the world generously offered me, so many people I came into contact with, the space to daydream throughout my childhood, and the inspiration and creative nudges of so many other writers and their books.

There are lots more readers our there that I’d like to have access to this story. So I need to get over myself and figure out how to get this book in their hands. Girls who love horses have just gotta read this story.

So. As I explore more venues, what bookstores would you like me to know about? Could you provide me with the name and either the web address or street address so I can send them a reader’s copy? I’d be grateful!

I’m working on an author website right now – another thing I’ve shyly hung back from. I’ve got quite a bit of fine-tuning to do, and I need some fancy pictures of myself (and maybe some horses?), but keep checking back to get the link in a few weeks.

Other than that – what have you been reading lately? I’ve been alternating between Michael Pollan’s Second Nature and Holley Bishop’s Robbing the Bees and Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. It is fun to sit on the couch with three open books and to keep picking them up in intervals.

Travel on

January 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

ElenaJohnCanoe

Friends! Many things have been happening. One of them I am so excited to tell you about:

For the past year or so, my sister (Elena), Mom (Barb), and I have been talking about starting a travel club. We’re finally in a place where we’re ready to make it happen! What this means is that we’ll be organizing group trips and going to fantastic places all around the globe.

Our first destination? Greece, September 2013! We’re looking at a route that will be taking us through the isles as well as onto the mainland, with emphasis on the travels of the Apostle Paul.

So, I’d like to personally invite all of you to join our club! There’s no cost to become a member – it simply means that you’ll be added to our member list to get the most up-to-date and thorough information about the trips. There’s not any kind of obligation, and you can ask to leave the member list at any time. If you love to travel and want to make new friends this might just be for you!

Here’s a link to our website (which yours truly has been slaving over, so please admire its prettiness!): Seven Seas Society Travel Club.

Wouldn’t it be great to meet one another en route to a European extravaganza?

Happy adventures to all of us – at home, on the road, and over the ocean.

the pinkadink

January 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

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One of the fun things about growing up is watching everyone else you knew as a kid do it, too. (Or at least we all try.) I met Andrea Hydeen of the pinkadink via church and high school, when I moved to Orange City, Iowa at the age of sixteen. She was Andrea Smits back then, and has since married, had three darling children, and started her own business! Since I’ve been spotting her lovely creations in town and online, I wanted to find out more about what she’s doing, and share it with you. Read on. (All photos courtesy of Andrea Hydeen.)

KoH: When did you start the pinkadink, and why?
AH: I started the pinkadink in Feb of ’09 because I had ordered a headband from another company that I wasn’t completely happy with. I realized that I had fallen in love with the photo of the product more than the actual product. So I ripped it apart, found something I liked better, and made my very first headband. So, the pinkadink started as an interchangable hair accessory business, and over the course of 4 years has turned into something completely different!

KoH: Where did the name come from?
AH: I wish I had a better answer for this one, since it’s a common question for me. The truth is that I like polka dots. I love the look and also the word. So, even before I had a name I knew I wanted polka dots in the logo, and I knew since it was a little girls’ business, I wanted ‘pink’ in it. So it went something like this: polka dot….pinka dot…pinkadink! And it stuck.

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KoH: Where do you draw inspiration from?
AH: I feel like this could be two different questions so I’ll answer both. As far as getting ideas and that type of inspiration, I just really love browsing other children’s boutiques and Etsy and such, finding either patterns, or fabrics, or styles that I like, and figuring out how to make them fit into the pinkadink. I tend to like my things to be more on the classic side than the super duper trendy side. I want them to be in style, of course, but not so over the top that in 3 years you’ll wonder why you ever bought such a thing. But I do like looking at all that weird stuff too. and sometimes it gives me ideas. And for fabrics and stuff, I am really drawn to browns and grays and greens and yellows, and nature based prints (not CUTESY flowers, but natural flowers, etc.). I have to make a very conscious effort to purchase anything in the pink and purple color schemes because it’s not naturally my first choice. It often prompts the question, “Why is your name the pinkadink if you don’t have any pink stuff?” Good question. See #1.

As far as “inner inspiration” goes, the main thing that inspires me to work this business is the ability to be home with my kids. I have Spanish and Elementary Education degrees, but after a year of teaching I just really really wanted to be home with my kids. My sweet mom (who died much too young) always told us kids to make sure that if we were working, that we LOVED what we were doing. Well in our family’s situation, I have to be working, and this is a way I can work AND do what I love (both the sewing AND being home with my kids).

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KoH: What surprises have you had along the way?
AH: Oh golly. I’d have to say the whole sewing part of the business was a huge surprise. My mom was a master seamstress and even worked in a bridal shop for a while doing alterations, etc. She could do ANYTHING, which is why none of us kids ever really had to learn to sew! I did LOVE watching her, though, and would sit for hours, facing backwards on the couch just watching her. I loved watching the fabrics feed through, and the way she sort of sucked her lips in while she worked, and of course the end result. So after my first semester of college, she “taught” me to sew, and we made a pair of pink cheetah print pajama pants. Really, she did all the work, and I just sewed the straight lines. But that week, she swore up and down that I was “a natural.” So many many years later, after one year of doing only hair accessories, I decided to bust out my mom’s old machine, and try making a dress to add to the line up. And it was a huge hit. I had a few other sewing items I added, and it just took off from there. As it turns out, this is a HUGE love of mine that I never knew existed! My only regret is that I never got to share that passion with my mom.

Of course there have been other surprises too, good ones and bad ones, but discovering that passion is by far the biggest surprise.

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KoH: Do you have a favorite pinkadink product?
AH: Hmm…good question. I might have to say the personalized towels. I just love personalized things, but the problem with them is that you can’t pass them down to younger siblings or cousins or friends! But the towels I make are perfect for boys OR girls, from babies to teens, and can be used year after year after year, so there is no “passing down” problem! They are made with a full size bath towel, so they never get too small! I love giving them as baby gifts, birthday gifts for the bazillion parties my kids go to, and I’ve even given them as graduation gifts! and a bonus for me as the creator is that I get to find out all the very unique and beautiful names people are giving their children these days! I love it!

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KoH: What advice would you give to others who might want to start their own home-based business?
AH: Well, I have to be honest here, and say that it’s really a LOT of hard work. You have to put a certain amount of money into it (more or less depending on the business) before you’ll get anything back out of it, and it becomes a little bit hard to balance your “other” life with your “work” life, because it’s such a big part of you. And if it’s hobby-based, I’d say some of the magic you experience with it as a hobby is taken away when it becomes a business. BUT…when you’re able to do what you love to do, and earn money for your family in the process, and experience the thrill of building something from the ground up, it’s totally worth all the work. It becomes your dream that keeps on changing and growing. And it comes true. And that is a beautiful feeling when you’ve worked that hard for it. So my advice? Stay positive, set boundaries, work hard, and reap the rewards!

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KoH: Anything else you’d like to share?
AH: I’ll go ahead and use this question to plug my business! If you have any little people in your life (or big people, but mostly just little people), please check out my website. It’s www.thepinkadink.com. I also have a facebook page, which is the best place to see the new fabrics, new products, and custom orders I’ve been working on. Thanks so much for taking the time to get to know me and my business a little bit more, and of course for being regular readers of Erica’s wonderful work at Kinds of Honey.

I’m loving the fabrics and the joyful expressions of these kids! Thank you so much, Andrea!

Not resolutions, so much as habits to cultivate

January 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

These things have been impressing themselves on me in the last few weeks, as I look towards yet another new beginning along with this new year. We are ever in the process of shaping the lives we have been given, and who we might be within them, aren’t we? All of us look for signposts towards what is right, so I wanted to write down some of mine to keep them in front of me. Saying them is not the same as doing them, of course, and I can only try when I remember. Forgive me, friends, while I stumble on through humanity!

be quiet(er).
speak less impulsively; watch your words; listen more closely.

be gracious.
assume the best; forgive readily; be slow to anger. be gentle with self.

be generous.
with time even more than money. with food. with helping hands.

be kind.
to everyone, as often as possible, beyond what is expected.

be frugal.
handmade things are good! avoid senseless expense. save.

be sincere.
act with intention; follow through; hold true to your convictions.

love bravely.
quell bitterness; embrace others; accept the reality of loss, yet open your heart.

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