In the Beginning

Thinning the Grapes

Anyone who has a homestead knows how before you can begin the project you want to do, there are a gazillion projects you need to finish first. Want to plant the bush you just bought? First you have to fix the handle on the shovel–that requires that you clean the shop, which requires that you empty the vacuum bag, etc. This can all be frustrating.

But, my father-in-law instead of running from these complications, embraces them.

With each step of his life, he asks, not how he can get to the final task but instead how he can start at the beginning and make each step his own.

When he wants wine, he grows grapes. When he wants clean clothes,

he washes them in a hand cranked machine.

When he wants tomatoes in winter, he builds a glorious greenhouse. The other day, he wanted sausage and invited us to help. He butchered the day before we got there and had the hide already stretched to

make a guitar case for the handmade guitar he created last winter.

He and my husband took apart the goat.

We chopped the meat, ground it,

and added salt, pepper, and fresh sage grown in the greenhouse.

Then, we added a little rendered pig fat for flavoring (note the wood fire cookstove.)

We packed the sausage in jars and have several months worth of breakfast meat. All for an afternoon, or two, or–if you count the time to chop the

wood for the fire, build the greenhouse to grow the sage, and the knowledge on how to butcher the little goat–a lifetime.

Oddly, instead of the frustrating endless work of a homestead, somehow the day passed like a meditation.

  • Laytonville Rock


  • Awesome! I have little green tomatoes in the greenhouse already, and carrots ready to harvest.

  • What a neat story and you captured so much of it with that first picture. And I love the buckhorn knife in the final picture, I bet it could really tell some stories.

  • Carol, those sound delicious. I’m gardening with my mom this year and looking forward to the tomatoes and the corn and the cucumbers.

    Sandi, That actually is a hand made spatula at a weird angle. But it is wonderful and has been there forever.

  • Kym, what a great portrait of your father-in-law, and a lovely snapshot of his life. Brings back lots of fond memories.

  • Thanks Barb. It was a wonderful day. I had a heck of time with the formattiing on this post though. It is messy but the day was lovely.

  • I so admire his talents. I don’t think there is anything he can’t do while I struggle to make a decision on what color to paint the living room.

  • Thanks for showing the world what some of our neighbors are like, Kym. I think this kind of direct connection with our food, work, material goods is what a lot of people are missing in their lives. There really is a meditative quality to doing things yourself and a satisfaction that’s worth the effort. It may be the very essence we’re continually looking for in our shopping culture, but you can’t buy it!

  • Hi Kym Found my way here from Damyanti’s page and I really loved the down to earth, do what needs to be done step by step approach to life.
    It’s a lesson I badly need in my life too, so thank you very much!
    (mjean, at least you struggle on the colour for your living room. my struggle starts at the ‘is it right to paint it myself & deprive artisans of income’ vs ‘where can i find eco-friendly paintbrushes, is it right to want a pretty room now while people are starving in myanmar’ so you’re already light years ahead of me!)

  • I agree with Kato, we can’t buy what you have Kym, and you are so lucky:)

  • Wow-wow-wow. Absolutely inspiring.

  • My father-in-law has found a measure of peace in creating the homestead around him. I admire that tremendously.

  • great lesson – he is very inspiring.

  • The more I learn about him, the more I admire all his talents. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to even begin doing any of those things. Beautiful guitar, and I am looking forward to seeing a picture of the goathide case for it. How does goat sausage taste, anyway?

  • It is delicious. When Clay first saw it on his plate, he sniffed that goat makes him nauseous. Ten minutes later, he was licking the last crumbs off his fork.

  • Wonderful writing. I hope to someday meet your father in law and as I read the story I realized that their are things about him that remind me of my son.

  • He is very interesting. Maybe someday we can get your son and him together.

  • THAT is how I would LOVE to live. However, taking a realistic tack, I know I’ve been too “citified” to ever get into the swing of a nearly completely self-sufficient lifestyle.

    However, to my credit, I have, since marrying a wonderful cook, acquired an acute distaste for “Prepared Food” – canned soups, store-bought mayo, even milk chocolate & my favorite cold cereals leave a coating on my tongue that makes me feel like I just licked the shortening can, or just plain taste “funny” to me.

  • I think our bodies crave some movement towards “real” But we have a hard time giving up the fast or “easy” way of life.

  • …but can he wrap a head? 😉

  • I admire and respect him but it is hard to imagine him doing something unless it had “usefulness” 8)

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