Springtime in the West

By Jenny Monfore
Foundations student (Winter 2017)

Just when you think your mom has nothing left to teach you, she shows you how to use a ratchet strap.  Ok... mom was right.  It's humbling, to learn things from your parent as an adult.  Knowing how to finagle ratchet straps is an incredibly valuable yet often neglected life skill, up there with changing a flat tire, using a compass and sharpening knives.  Once you figure out the secret, it makes the whole process gel.    

My life is a constant stream of little skills, strung together in sequences and patterns.  Like the many techniques I learned in wood school, I mix and match them to suit my needs for the project at hand.  I finished the Foundations course just a few weeks ago and already I'm putting my skills to good use in small ways in everyday life.  I used my tool tote to carry tools and built my mom a raised garden bed (no fancy joinery, just screws, but I drilled the correct size pilot holes!) 
I knew how to take a door off a frame with removable hinges (since I used them on my tool chest) in order to fit a couch through a doorway.  And on a more personal note, I've been telling myself to move forward whenever I encounter difficult things and start dragging my feet, just like I did in school projects.  All the little skills add up.  

What does this summer have in store for me?  I didn't step right into a cool woodworking job where I could continue developing my hand tool skills, but I did follow my intuition and found a great farming opportunity where I can practice many skills in a very unsuspecting place: Joseph, Oregon!  This little town of 1,000 people is nestled at the base of a beautiful, rugged mountain range jutting up out of expansive prairie in northeastern Oregon.  It's ranch country, complete with irrigation ditches and cowboys walking down Main Street.  Yet there's a surprisingly dynamic mix of new age yoga instructors, quaint B & B's, and more massage therapists than you can shake a stick at.  Think Boulder, Colorado or Bozeman, Montana before they were discovered and developed.  

Sweet things are happening in this tiny town and I feel as if I'm at the forefront of the cool young folk movement here.  A virtual blank canvas with abundant opportunities for hard working people who suss them out.  There's a small but thriving farmers market offering lots of support and enthusiasm for young people keen on filling niche roles and setting down roots as a successful business in the community.   There's the brand new Prairie Creek Folk School that just opened its doors a month ago.  A new natural medicine and affordable acupuncture clinic, Terminal Gravity Brew Pub, Wild Carrot Body Care headquarters, a health food store, a local chocolate shop...And the gorgeous Eagle Cap Wilderness with endless outdoor pursuits right out the backdoor.  

I will be working at a small urban--as urban as urban can be in a town this size--market garden part-time, starting my massage practice up, teaching old time music lessons to private students, and picking up odd jobs for the summer.  I plan on building a nice, efficient compost bin system for the farm, and raising chickens with my co-worker (which will involve building chicken tractors--thanks tool skills and past farm apprenticeship experience!)  In my free time, I'll be exploring this beautiful area and hopefully experimenting with my own little woodworking and craft projects.  

Next winter I have a possible job-internship lined up (thanks again wood school!) in Missoula, Montana working for the forest service historic preservation crew, repairing and building traditional household carpentry projects like window sashes and board and batten doors in their shop.  I just visited the facility--it would be a dreamy job!  
Or I might work in Antarctica and save up for Scotland next year.  Or possibly end up falling in love with Joseph, decide to start building my homestead here and never leave...

It's springtime and the meadowlarks are calling loud from pine tree tops, yellow buttercups dot the roadsides.  Two weeks ago I left stormy Port Townsend wondering what I would do with myself after wood school and how I would put my education to use.  Now I'm excited to be embarking on the next seasonal chapter of my life in a new state, using my woodworking and related life skills in true homesteader fashion--repairing farm structures, sharpening garden tools, and turning into the capable handywoman I've always wanted to be.  
It's going to be a good summer.  Come visit!