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Meet Jane

Greetings! Nichole has invited me to participate in her blog, beginning with an introduction of myself and a few brief words ( hah!) about why I do what I do and how I got here.

I am a child of the 60s and 70's and was strongly influenced by the Back to Nature movement that was beginning to bloom then. If you are old enough, you know what I am referring to: Gunny Sack dresses and granola, singing John Denver songs. For some, it was a movement, for some a bunch of fads. Even though I grew up in the 'burbs', I had a yearning to 'get back to' some earth, somewhere.

I earned an agricultural degree, and upon graduating, discovered that there were not good prospects for supporting myself, so I earned a teaching credential and proceeded to mold little minds for a while. I did some learning myself during that time: that I really wanted to be outdoors with dirt under my fingernails, and I had a desperate need to create something.

I continued in the suburb situation but eventually quit public teaching. I have been involved with horses most of my life, so I taught riding for income and explored creating art. I found great joy in art and some financial success, too. And I was getting a satisfying amount of dirt under my nails.

In the late 90s, I migrated out of the burbs and into the Sierra Nevada foothills, and onto land. Lots of land. And lots of dirt. Not dirt: Soil. I learned about wide-open spaces and the potential they hold. I also learned, via the end of my marriage, that I was capable of creating anything I set my mind to, by careful thought, lots of planning and sheer force of will (and a measure of sweat and blood).

I embarked on building a farm, beginning with undeveloped ground and ending with a viable horse breeding and training business. I was in heaven. I had a purpose. I was surrounded by beings that inspired my art and kept me outside among the trees and hills and sky.

One of my other passions, most likely sparked by a lamb pit BBQ in college, was that I liked food. Not the stuff I grew up on; the cuisine of the 70s was convenient, processed, packaged, and all tasted the same, High fructose corn syrup wasn't a thing yet, but it was on the way. I had attempted to grow some vegetables in one suburban back yard, but the sterile, compacted soil and massive ant population (the only life there) thwarted any possibility of success. When I built my horse farm, I planted a few fruit trees and a large vegetable garden. I was a green gardener rather than a green thumb, but if you plant enough stuff, you can't help but get at least a little bit to eat out of it. I had lots of manure available, and I gradually learned how to make things come out of the soil and feed me. I added a few chickens and paid someone to butcher them for me. I bought a side of beef from a neighbor. I raised a few sheep and had the lambs butchered. I tried other kinds of poultry, then a few pigs, and began to learn to butcher and process myself. I got goats and learned how to milk and make cheese. And being presented with real food substances, of quality I never knew could exist, I began to teach my self to cook in a way that honored the food and what went into creating it.

Then 2008 happend. Everybody was forced to shed their expensive hobbies, and I was left with some hard decisions. I hung on for a while, hoping it was just an economic blip like every time before. Ultimately the clients and most of the horses went down the road, and I was left with empty barns.

About this same time, I came across an article, I forget in which magazine, by a guy named Micahel Pollan. He talked about the difference between 'Food' and Food-like Substances' and their effects on the human diet. I read all of Michael's books and many others on the subject and proceeded to upend everything I thought about food. I was already raising most of what I ate by this time, so it wasn't difficult to further improve my eating habits, but I wanted to be a bigger part of the revolution. So I turned the horse barns and pastures in poultry housing and ordered 600 pullets. I developed a great relationship with a nearby natural food market and began supplying them with eggs. THings hummed along.

Eventually, I came to realize I needed to make a significant change. The plot of land I was on was too big to maintain, both physically and financially, and I had been working 365-day-a-year split shift for three and a half years. I was tired and also in fear of the drought that was slowly choking California. So I sold the farm, loaded up my animals and life, and headed north. I landed in Salem, Oregon, on 9 acres of neglected dirt and rundown buildings and proceeded to start all over again.

Rather than go back into the restraints of another egg business, or similar endeavor, I decided to look for something I could be part of as a volunteer. I became a certified Master Gardner and, most recently, a Certified Master Food Preserver. I am enjoying teaching workshops about sustainability and food security.

My lifestyle is what I call 'Homestead Lite'; I don't thresh my own wheat and weave my own cloth and make my own clothes, but I grow as much of my own food as is practical, with a day off now and then. I continually learn new skills; in the last few years, I been exploring fermentation and large animal butchering and processing, including curing meats.

Life is a journey. My horses, my art, and my garden have all taught me this, and that you never stop learning and growing. As I learn something new, I find a way to share the knowledge with someone else and then look for something new to learn.

I look forward to sharing with all of you.

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