Old Time, Celtic, Maritime Music, Gardening and Small Scale Farming

I didn't know I was a musician gardener.
All my life I've loved getting my hands dirty gardening, keeping small livestock, and playing traditional music, but I always thought that was just a peculiar combination that occurs in a completely random fashion. But one day my wife Sara and I were talking with a neighbor who ran a one acre educational garden down the street from us. He mentioned that as soon as the growing season was over he was going to hit the road with a bluegrass band he played with. He smiled and said that he felt really blessed to live the life he had- getting to play in the dirt and play on the stage. I had no idea he played in a bluegrass band so we talked shop about music, gardening, and travelling for a bit. After we said goodbye and started walking away Sara turned to me and said "oh I know what you guys are, you're Musician Gardeners."
Suddenly it clicked, all my life I've known and met people who combine their lives like that. friends, neighbors and other folks who combine their love of the land with a love of music, often the very music that grew and still grows out of that land.
This blog hopes to explore that relationship and to let other Musician Gardeners out there know that we're actually a demographic!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Well, the end of an era has come.  My dear friends Xander and Melissa just closed today on the purchase of my strawbale house and 18 acres just outside of ashland wisconsin.  I'm so happy to see it go to such caring community minded people, who are also musician gardeners to boot.  Xander used to be the mandolin wrangler for the band "Strawbale Stomp," if any of you northskys remember that.
So here's to Xander and Melissa, and all my old and dear friends in northern wisconsin, seems like only yesterday I was playing square dances with the "Red Pine Resonators" or hanging out pressing apples at the cider pressing parties.  Hopefully Sara, June and I will be able to get out and visit soon, I  can't wait to see what my friends accomplish on that old place.
Here's a few pictures of the land and the house, it was quite a journey, and I definitely learned a lot.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It is almost January and as I look forward to the new year I can't help but reflect on the many changes in my life that have occurred since I last posted any kind of update online.  In the space of four years I've moved from my previous home on the Lake Superior shore of Northern Wisconsin where I was homesteading on eighteen acres and finishing my strawbale house, to Petaluma California where I worked as a garden naturalist at the Walker Creek Ranch.  Mostly I left to help expand my farming horizons and to pay off my land, but I think I needed the change as well.  While I was there, on a complete whim I decided to go down to Berkely for a jam session I had heard about at the Jupiter Bar, there I met a young couple also from wisconsin.  While we reminisced about the northwoods they happened to mention the Portland Old Time Winter Gathering at the Norse Hall, in Portland.  I thought it sounded like fun and since I was on vacation at the time anyway I figured why not make a trip of it and visit my friend from college in Eugene on the way back.
Well, the Old Time Gathering was a ball for sure, I played music all night every night and I seemed to be showered with chance meetings with old friends at every turn.  The trip back down to visit my friend Gwen from college was also the first time I saw the woman who is now my wife and mother of my two year old daughter.  Sara and I hit it off right away, and before long I had moved to Eugene, we got married and then we had June Rose.  Being close to grandparents was a top priority so we decided to move to Moscow, ID near where her parents lived.
What a whirlwind four years it has been.  Looking back it seems almost sudden that I now find myself in Moscow, settled in between pine covered hillsides and rolling wheatfields.  It is beautiful country, and the rich soil here makes the old red clay on my place back in Wisconsin look like ..... well old red clay. The people here call this region the "Palouse," from the old french word for lawn and in spring it does look like one giant rolling lawn stretching out to the horizon.  This place has been very good to us as a family and to me as a musician.  I've been playing great gigs, meeting talented friendly open fellow musicians, and even a few Musician Gardeners like the Watkins who head the awesome honky tonk band "Beargrass."  I've even had some radio time on Dan Maher's program "Inland Folk."
So If you're a folky, bluegrass, or old country player here are some great gigs to check out:
The Sage Cafe- lewiston, ID
Riverport Brewery- clarkston, ID
Hogan's Pub- clarkston, ID
Bucer's Coffehouse and Pub- moscow, ID
These are just what I've found so far, I hear there are a lot of other great places to play.
As for Gardening  well I've managed so far to somehow become the owner of a 1954 Simplicity walk behind tractor (no one's fault but my own), and use it to till up well over two thirds of the back yard.  The mouldboard plow attachment is a thing to see in action! We planted all the regular garden crops but the thing that really wowed me this year were the onions.  I've never grown onions so big in my life, I'm guessing it was the combination of a wet spring, cool summer and extended fall.  We also had a good crop of potatoes I guess we're in Idaho now so that kind of makes sense.  The tomatoes and squash took their time setting and ripening fruit so I think next year some extra cold hardy varieties are in order.
In the meantime I'll watch the late december winds push the bands of grey clouds across the palouse, go through the seed catalogue and ..... hmmmm maybe practice the "otter's holt" on the concertina a bit more.