How we got here…

So many things brought me to this point in my life.  I”ll spare you all of the details.  I am originally from southwest Michigan — Battle Creek to be fair.   I am the oldest by five years of two girls.  It seems like life in the seventies and eighties was so much more free than it is now.  Growing up we spent a lot more time outdoors and a lot less time with our parents monitoring us than kids now days do. I loved being outdoors!

As I look back on my childhood, just about the only memories I remember are those times outside, being free, and those times I spent with my grandparents. Well, mostly my grandmother, my grandpa spent most of my memories tuning up his collection of  Volkswagons, taking photos, or yelling at the baseball players on the TV, but my grandma was, in my world, the coolest, most influential person in my young years.  She was the kind of woman that wore an apron all the time, made all her own clothes, always had fresh monkey cookies on the counter, always hid a tiny chocolate bar at the bottom of my dish of popcorn, and filled  her apron every autumn with black walnuts each night on their evening walk around the neighborhood.  She fished, she tooled leather, she always had the most fascinating flowers in her yard, she let me drink (fake) coffee in the mornings with them (not until I was of  age, of course!) and she helped me plant my first ever vegetable, bok choi!  I had never even heard of it before but, I loved her indoor and outdoor plants and I begged her to let me grow something!

I remember watching it grow at the very back edge of the yard/flower beds each weekend when I came to visit I would watch it with the same fascination that I watched the ants on the peonies, convinced that they were chewing away the outer leaves so that the petals could be released from the the bud.  I must have been somewhere between three and five when I planted that first bok choi and I tried really hard to like it when it finally came time to cook it up.  I remember each year seeing my grandma’s hands stained purple after walnut season and will never forget the taste of those walnuts that she used so freely in her baked goods.  My grandma grew up on a farm, as most of her generation did, learning these skills that Walmart, Old Navy, and McDonald’s have made nearly obsolete. My grandmother passed away when I was twelve and I’m the only one in the family who could ever make her pie crust almost as good as she did.

By the time I was sixteen I realized what a gold mine of useful knowledge my grandmother had left me and I thought about how sad it was that there were others of my grandparents generation and before, out there with other amazing and useful skills, just like my grandma’s disappearing everyday and with them the secret  knowledge  once necessary for their survival.  I knew that I wanted to gather up all that was disappearing and pass it on to keep it alive.  I decided that I wanted  to study what I then called “the home arts,”  and later found that out most people call it “homesteading.”   I didn’t really know where to start with all that so in college, so I studied mostly music, art history, photography, the religions and pottery.  I bought  a bunch of field guides and tried to learn which wild things were good to eat, and rejoiced in spending  every minute possible outdoors trying to decipher the secrets of the natural world.  I don’t think I read a non-fiction book of  my own volition until I was in my twenties. I worked with plants in so many different capacities (trail building in the redwoods, perennial nursery, tropical greenhouse, interiorscape, and just as a bleeding heart trying to rescue every distressed plant I came across) for years and years. It feels like we speak the same language, the plants and I.

My three most sweet children joined me at different points throughout this story and became my favorite part of life.  In their pre-teen years I finally got an indoor job and realized what it was that could put all of my loves together into one life…FARMER!  I’ve spent the last half plus decade working with a couple of great and very different Organic farmers (Dennis Wilcox @ Blue Dog Greens and Laurie and Lee Arboreal @ Eaters’ Guild Farm) who I learned so much (not just about farming vegetables) from.  My passion for growing, cooking, and eating the best organic local foods brought me to the People’s Food Co-op (now in their lovely new location on Harrison St. next to MacKenzie’s Bakery) where I spent many years shopping and many others behind the scenes adding business management skills to my bank of farm tools.

In April 2010 it was time to make the change. My partner, Lee, my three children and I moved to Eaters’ Guild Farm in Bangor, MI for a seven month internship that ended up lasting for an entire year and  will probably never end–there is just so much to learn!  And from there have landed here (for now) at our rustic fantasy in Three Rivers.

A recent chanterelle wild harvest from the woods of our land here...and evidence of our teacup problem (remember, 1 per person, and drink from your own!)


One Response to “How we got here…”

  1. Hi, Heather. Saw your request for farm land on the SW Michigan Eat Local group. Sure wish I knew of the perfect spot here in Three Rivers that would keep y’all around. So much of what you, Lee and the kids are exploring resonates with what my husband and I and others are working on for the old Huss School in town–an arts and agriculture-based community center bursting at the seams with creativity, good food and mutual care. And we hope it will be an off-campus program for college students, too, introducing them to the possibilities of urban homesteading, rural development, etc. This event currently focuses a lot of the stuff we hope will happen there eventually:

    Anyway, best wishes to you all as you search for an abundant new home!

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