Prior to my graduation from college, I was completely oblivious to the condition of industrial agriculture. Thinking about the source of my food extended as far as which store I preferred to shop at and farmer’s markets were luxuries for those who had the means to be picky. Further, processed food was categorized in degrees; some processed food was less harmful than others (only true if you neglect corn’s invasion of everything).
My penchant for researching new ideas brought me to a series of fascinating documentaries that served to pull the veil back from the marketing facade of our food production models. I found myself at the table of micro-farmers, urban farmers, and advocates of sustainable agriculture.
I would like to invite you to the same table and pass along introductory documentaries that started my own venture. You may not walk away considering how you can contribute to sustainable agricultural production, but if you alter your ideas of food and consumption, then a goal has been achieved by those of us who produce (or aspire to produce). Continue reading
*Disclaimer: The account you are about to read should in no way reflect upon my former fellow teachers. The fact that they remain where they are despite knowing the truth of what I will describe should not be taken to mean that they tolerate or approve of the issues. Compassion should be extended to them as they endure factors that require them to remain, when they wish they could join me in departing. Finally, I attempted to reconcile with the parties at fault, but to no avail. I only record here a general account of the issues and will not name names or specifics.*
I have struggled a great deal as to what, if anything, should be said about the chief reason I departed my teaching career. A great battle has been waged in my mind because I fear that in revealing the nature of the most pressing facet, I will in turn cause injury to innocent parties. My most ardent wish is that the issues I faced be seen for what they are and that those who are co-laborers under such realities will be given compassion, understanding, and grace. The challenges of the system do not always lie with teachers, but most often with those who rule over the system. Continue reading
I had an obstinate craving for fresh air, unimpeded movement, outdoor life. I wanted the earth, and I wanted to live in the close embrace of the earth. Some ancestor of mine must have been a hermit on a mountain, a gipsy, or a peasant: I know not which, but something of the temperament of all three had been bequeathed to me. The smell of fresh-turned earth was a smell that revived in me a portion of my nature that had seemed dead; a flower set me dreaming of solitary woods; and I found myself watching clouds and weather signs as though my bread depended on their lenience.” – The Quest of the Simple Life by William J. Dawson
My parents can heartily testify that outdoor work was not my cup of tea growing up. Yard work was detestable to me and the last on the list of ways to spend a Saturday. As I think back on my youth, I am not entirely sure what it was about the work that I found so worthless and undesirable. Perhaps it was nothing more than a child balking at the assignments of parents.
The first memorable positive exposure to “blue-collar” work was while I was in middle school. I had the opportunity to work a summer with a family friend who was a HVAC technician and plumber. I spent the summer learning to install ventilation, furnaces, copper line, and troubleshoot systems. Many days were spent in houses with no AC, since that is the very thing we were installing, and sometimes without power to supply a fan. Continue reading
I recently finished reading W. J. Dawson’s “The Quest of the Simple Life.” Dawson recounts his escape from suburban life and pursuing a life fueled by “earth hunger.” Following the examples of such men as Thoreau and Wordsworth, he sought a deeper life than what he found in the metropolis of London.
Although published around 1907, it is striking how much of the issues of suburban life Dawson complained of still ring true today. Take for instance, this excerpt from Chapter 3, entitled: Getting a Living, and Living. Continue reading
In the fall of 2007, my freshman year of college, I took on a project for a Christmas production that promised a lucrative paycheck and entry into a field I was very interested in pursuing: technical theatre production. My task was to program and synchronize a 30 ft tall “tree” equipped with 500,000+ lights in which stood a choir, to the music of the program. (You can view an example of what it would have looked like here.) The process was complex and required much more than what I had been told.
During that process, while trying to complete school, I developed a stress induced ulcer. In the span of one month, I lost over 50 lbs as there were many days I was bed-ridden with acute nausea. For days at a time, I could not sleep or eat. One particular Saturday, I worked from 0800 to 0500 the next morning, caught one hour of sleep in an empty classroom and arose at 0600 to begin prepare the day’s services. Continue reading
The change occurred in the span of one week.
Though I had been mulling over the information for some time, once the trigger was pulled, one week was all it took. While visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Illinois, I brought up some changes I had been considering. In the safety and comfort of their home, we spent the week discussing different ideas, posing and answering various questions, and considering the long-term plan at stake.
For about a year I had been considering a change of career. Though I loved being a teacher, it just wasn’t paying toward my goals and aspirations. Further, the last year of teaching had proven quite difficult; challenges to my integrity, mounting stress under exceeding demands, and unresolved conflicts with the powers that be. (I was also quite worn on the windowless office I inhabited…”Don’t Fence Me In” comes to mind.)
After a week of deliberation, conversations, and phone calls, I was thrust into a new world. By weeks end, I had three prospective jobs with different companies and was enrolled in CDL school. After four years of teaching, I was about to embark on a career as an Over-the-Road Trucker (OTR). (I will pause as you recover from choking on your drink or cleaning up now spattered food.)
Quite simply put, it is one more step in my pursuit of a simple life.
You can blame Joel Salatin. After graduating college and struggling to find work, I stumbled upon a lecture he gave at Google. From there, it was a landslide of books, documentaries, and discussions with other farmers that an acute desire for a simpler, agrarian based life began to well up. Ever since that initial encounter, I have been on a quest to simplify and work towards a future homestead/farm.
I must seem like a lunatic to many. Indeed, I have received several reactions to verify that notion. A college educated, gifted and successful teacher upending his comfortable, white-collar life in the pursuit of the earthy and agrarian. Why?
It will take several posts to explain all of the facets that culminated in the sudden change of careers, but I hope that through my writings, you will understand my convictions and the reasons this change was necessary. Further, I hope that my life and writings will serve as an impetus for soul-searching, stock taking, and perhaps even a similar change in your own life.
From time to time, I will post from my collection of writings I have amassed while on the road, as well as quotes from readings I am undertaking. When the next change comes, I will chronicle my journey into homesteading.
Though the type of desk may have changed, I am still writing.
From the desk currently in Williams, Iowa,
Mr. Bluebaugh, aka TruckingProf