“…taking what nature gives us and doing as little as possible to it to make it the best it can be.” (Salumi)
This blog is to show my work in progress on making a handmade life. My interests are multifaceted but overlap to a large degree by revolving around food in some way…the harvesting, and processing tools and techniques; cooking, including styles, techniques, and different implements used; food fermentation, preservation techniques, and vessels; plant identification and use; hunting, fishing, and trapping; woodworking of bowls, spoons, wooden buckets for fermentation, wok steamers from local wood, utensils, serving dishes; and blacksmithing knives and tools. These aspects combine for a low-tech but rich life, with a deep connection to and knowledge of the local environment, as well as a specific taste from localized cuisine (i.e. wooden buckets as vessels for fermenting local foods with local bacteria).
I grew up at the edge of a town of 600 people, a little redneck riding around in three-wheelers, going squirrel hunting, and fishing for catfish. Industrial corn and soybean fields surrounded the town. Until the 70′s, the town didn’t have all the roads paved and people still had their own well water and outhouses. My family had large gardens and lots of different fruit trees, bushes, and brambles. We’d collect chestnuts and pecans every year as well. It wasn’t a place of my dreams (due to serious drug issues in the area, and not much intact nature besides the river region), but it was a great place to grow up. My family didn’t have a lot of money, which I appreciate, as it afforded a greater degree of manual intelligence. I am also grateful for my parents trusting me to help at a young age, which allowed for learning and for gaining dexterous abilities.
My family relocated when I turned 16 and we moved to the biggest town in the county, which still only contained 4,900 people. This town was fully surrounded by fields. For most of high school, I skated and went to punk shows. There wasn’t a lot to do in that area, and a lot of other people turned to drugs, which I decidedly stayed clear of. While in high school, I was somewhat unsure of specifically what I wanted my future to look like. I thought that I’d like to live in the city for a spell to meet like-minded people and to work on activist projects. I wanted to travel and work to help others, with dreams of a life in a rural area.
I moved to Indianapolis, IN upon graduating high school. I was involved in a number of activist projects there as well as with some international solidarity campaigns. With each passing year, I grew increasingly wearier of city life. In the beginning of my boredom with the city, I found three 60-acre patches of woods and roamed them regularly while carrying my newborn child in a sling. I set out to learn as many plants there as I could, as well as their edible and medicinal uses. I began to develop a plan for getting land much sooner than previously anticipated. I wrote out the things that I wanted to learn and the tools that I thought that I would need. The list has changed some over time, with items being added or excised. It’s a diverse list of skills that will combine into one interlinked system. I neither want a hippy place to just sit and bliss out nor do I want to fumble my way through and be like Christopher McCandless (Into The Wild), consisting of all drive and little skill or wisdom.
Punk’s DIY (Do It Yourself) ethics sadly don’t seem to move beyond silk-screening your band’s shirts, setting up your own tour, and assembling your own records and artwork. Usually when DIY in punk goes beyond that, it leaves a lot to be desired. There are so many useful dying crafts in this world, though fortunately many of them are currently being saved and revived with societal trends. When I began trying to learn various crafts was when some of those crafts were beginning to bud again. Information on various subjects is more readily available now. It seemed when I started, there were only really technical manuals written long ago or modern pieces with barely any information to go off of, due to the author knowing little about the subject they were writing. Now, there are a lot more intermediate level books and papers, which has increased my levels of understanding.
In trying to continue in this direction, my son, Eli, and I moved to Northern Minnesota early last year. In 2010 and 2011, Eli and I had spent time in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. We’ve been to the Ashland, WI area for the Traditional Ways gathering, as well as to visit friends. In Michigan, we would visit the Martha Wagbo Nature and Education Center and explore all the local natural areas. All were beautiful, but ultimately Minnesota had the most of what I wanted. The water is very clean with less fish advisories than other places. It’s the southern limit for a number of boreal and sub-boreal fish that have spawning runs, and there are four salmon species in Lake Superior. There is the one million-acre Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area. North House Folk School is in Grand Marais, MN. There are abundant amounts of deer and other wildlife. There are a lot of people in the area with extensive knowledge on traditional crafts. Northern Minnesota feels like the place where my interests can bloom and coalesce into a fun and fruitful lifestyle.
I currently have an apprenticeship with Jarrod Stonedahl (woodspiritgallery.com). He lives near Odanah, WI with his family. He is an amazing and very knowledgeable green woodworker (“green” meaning fresh cut wood). He makes his living off of his wares and teaching. Since 2009 when I began attending and leading a few workshops at the Traditional Ways gathering, of which he is an organizer, I have been longing for an apprenticeship with him, so I am very excited to learn from him directly.
I was recently accepted as an instructor at the North House Folk School (northhouse.org). This fall 2013, I will be teaching a class on food fermentation, and a class on the breakdown and dry curing of a pig. Beginning in 2007, I’ve led plant identification walk focused on edibles and medicinals, and taught classes on creative uses of wild edibles and food fermentation. I’ve taught many other food related classes as well. I look forward to continuing with sharing information and skills both formally and informally.
While trying to live locally, I want to do it in a way that expands what is available to me, in a way that closes the fewest doors. If done with creativity and openness, increasing local aspects of my life can help create a more diverse and delectable diet, sense of place, and mental stimulation. With research of international techniques, the utility of locally available mammal, bird, fish, and plant species becomes infinite. Some foods are culturally avoided or were never explored by immigrants due to the food being outside their food prep context. I envision my approach to life as if (immigrant) families from various places in the world moved to the Northwoods and searched for the flavors, techniques, and cooking implements of home with the foods and resources available locally and began sharing those tastes and techniques. The resulting mish-mash is my goal. Influenced by and respectful of tradition, while weaving all into a coherent system for my particular location.
I envision my approach to life as if families from various places in the world moved to the Northwoods and searched for the flavors, techniques, and cooking implements of home with the foods and resources available locally and began sharing those tastes and techniques. The resulting mish-mash is my goal. Influenced by and respectful of tradition, while weaving all into a coherent system for my particular location.
In the end, the open-source sharing of my skills and knowledge with others who share these interests is of utmost importance………