Tony and I have been visiting his family and friends in Wisconsin for the last month, and we will soon be heading to San Diego to spend time with my family. We have had time to reevaluate our goals, and set new ones. We left Wheaton Labs, after almost a year living in the Tipi, and spent a couple of months traveling in the Canadian Rockies and central Idaho where we felt inspired to get serious about our plans to start a farm. We are still unsure of where we’d like to live, but in the meantime realize that we can cooperate with existing farmers and start our own small farming enterprises. We plan to spend this coming winter on a farm to develop these ideas.
One of our thoughts has been to go on a long bicycle tour to visit any potential place to set roots, and to visit other small farmers. So this last spring we decided to buy nice bikes: Surly Ogres:
They are solid bikes, designed for off-roading. They proved very useful as a means of transportation on the nasty dirt roads on the farm this summer. As much as we want to start a farm, we also still love traveling and spending time in the mountains so we visited the Canadian Rockies and central Idaho this fall, and took our new bikes on some adventures. We have found that spending time in beautiful places is not only good for our souls, but provides inspiration for our next steps.
We visited the Canadian Rockies for the first time for a few weeks in August. Saw lots of glaciers, went on some magnificent hikes, and rode our bikes on their maiden voyage for a few days along the incredible Icefield Parkway.
After our trip to Canada we took our new bikes on a 500 mile tour of central Idaho’s river valleys, forest service roads, and hot springs. The route took us past nearly 50 soakable hot springs. It was a challenging route, up and down many passes, but the reward was more than worth it: fantastic views and beautiful hot springs:
It was a fantastic trip. The time we spend in the mountains proves to be the most inspirational and motivating. We gained clarity about our future goals while in Idaho and decided that for us, any future business meetings will be the most productive if held out in the Wilderness.
We were able to visit friends in the Pacific Northwest as well before heading to Wisconsin. We said good-bye to Tony’s 1989 Toyota Tercel and left Portland with a 2001 Subaru Forester. We are traveling with style now, with our new bikes and car.
We made it to Wisconsin at the tail end of the Fall Colors and made a stop in Viroqua where we visited Mark Shepard’s farm, author of Restoration Agriculture, a fantastic book. Check out his website here. We also spent a few days with Peter and Mo, of Mastadon Valley Farm: mastadonvalleyfarm. They have a beautiful 100 acre plot of land in the Driftless region of Wisconsin where they raise cattle, pigs, chickens, and lamb for a meat CSA. We met a number of young farmers in the Viroqua area and would consider returning to that area.
The picture above is a great example of how effective pigs are at rooting and “tilling” a piece of land. The right-hand side shows the recent work of the pigs and the left-hand side shows what happens with a few weeks of rest.
In others news, I will be visiting Polyface Farm in December. This is the famous farm run by Joel Salatin, who is featured in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and almost any recent food documentary. Visit here for more information. They run a rigorous summer internship program. There are about 250-300 applicants each year and around 45 are chosen to visit the farm in December for an in-person interview. From there, 7-9 are chosen to spend the summer at the farm. I made it through the first round and am very excited to visit the farm next month. If I am accepted into the program, I will take it and Tony will spend the summer starting up a couple of small enterprises either on a working farm or in conjunction with another season of trail work.
Either way, we realize we need to narrow down our choices for a place to find land. We are hoping to be in a place with a reasonable growing season, topography, water, and a good nearby community of farmers of all ages. We realize that leasing land or cooperating with another farmer may be the best way to begin, but we’d like to be living in an area where we see ourselves staying long-term so that we can be looking for our own acres. For now we will work on making some realistic business plans so that we can begin working for ourselves sooner than later.