"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."
-Patrick Overton

Music, ye have done it again. Inspired me, that is. While searching for a fitting quote from a rocker for my previous music post, it occurred to me that reading/writing has been equally important to me (it was my major) as I follow my path to not only financial, but spiritual & emotional security. As a result, I will lead each post with a meaningful quote.

As you can see if you follow the link to Patrick's website, he is an ordained minister. I prefer not to use labels regarding religion, politics, and other philosophical movements to describe my journey. Rather, I search for the wisdom of someone's experiences, conveyed through their words, as well as actions. In everyone lies a kernel of history, a unique perspective, for no one experiences exactly what someone else has. (Atticus Finch, anyone?)

While I may never read Patrick's writing extensively, I can assure you that these words of his will go forward with me. If I were able to remember one quote from everyone who has lived, (or even just those who have written), not only could they fill a library, but they could provide a path through history. If the particular circumstances could be stripped from around those words, if they could be whittled to their root essence, the idea could be molded to inform the reader, regardless of time and place. It is this that draws me to the words in song and prose. There is a mystery in there, and to me it is a personal one. The writer took the thoughts and found the best way to present them. Next, the reader must find the best way to interpret and apply them.

The Music Never Stopped

"I just do what I do. I like to make music."
-Neil Young

A few notes on the role of music in our lives. We'll start with the obvious.

I love music so much that I decided to name every one of my posts here after a song. Most of them are by bands I love. Some (like the upcoming one regarding our CSA) were too obvious to ignore. Some may be unknown to you. Some of these may be by your next favorite band. Perhaps a Google search is in order. The name of our farm also comes from a song title. The lyrics or context may not be fitting for the post (or the farm), but the title is meaningful in what it implies.

Further evidence of my love for music lies in my insistence to include the rather cheesy music player in the sidebar. One of those things that could certainly be improved, I just haven't taken the time.

In addition to searching our favorite record store, Plaza-Wuxtry Records, & the internet for new music on a regular basis, Sarah and I both have the honor of hosting a weekly radio show on WDBX, our community radio station. She hosts "The Jazz Buffet" on Fridays from 12 to 2 pm, and I host "Music & Activists" on Thursdays from 2 to 4 pm. You can stream for free 24 hrs. a day using the link in the sidebar.

We have 100+ volunteer DJ's & thousands of members that provide 30-40% of the financial support for the station, in addition to local underwriters & fundraisers.

Our annual Valentine's Ball takes place on Feb. 13th at the Carbondale Civic Center. Longtime local favorite blues musician Tawl Paul and his band Slappin' Henry Blues will headline, with the SIU Studio Jazz Orchestra opening. Fellow DJ and painter Eileen Doman painted 10 amazing portraits of famous blues musicians that will be available for sale, in addition to lots of local art available in the silent auction. We have a meal catered by C-Infinity in Cobden & cash bar by Tres Hombres. You can get ticket info on the main WDBX site.

And the Bottle Rockets are coming to PK's on the strip this Sunday.
It's gonna be one of those legendary Carbondale nights.


Way back when I first started the blog (last October), I promised, among other things, a proper intro to who "we" are.

The best place to start is who "I" am, aside from the info on my profile page. My name is Jason, and I will be responsible (and to blame) for all of the posts here, though I must immediately credit my wife, Sarah, and our daughters, D & T, for most if not all of the photos.

Sarah & I grew up in central Illinois about 45 minutes apart, but we didn't meet until coming to school at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale in the mid 90's. Her father has been a farmer since college, and mine was a factory worker until they shut down his plant earlier this decade. Both of our mothers are/were (until retirement) educators at the schools we attended.

After graduating with an English degree, I started a landscaping company that is still my main source of income, working mostly in Carbondale, about 15 miles from home.

Sarah graduated with a degree in Fiber Arts, and has been growing her art business since. Her work is currently featured in a dozen or so galleries in the Midwest, and we try to attend 5-8 weekend art festivals a year.

Until recently, however, this was more of a side job for her. She home-schooled our daughters through grades 4 & 1, respectively, until they enrolled in school near our home this past fall. It was a wonderful, if not exhausting, experience for us (especially her, as I was able to "escape" to work.)

For those of you who have considered home-schooling, let me say that it is possible to raise normal, bright, well-adjusted,& inspired (and inspiring) children in this way. We never mastered the challenge of meeting the complete "standard" curriculum, but there were things gained by each of us learning together in this way. The girls are now in 5th and 2nd grades, finding their place in their own worlds.

We love to travel together, and were lucky enough to do so often when our schedules allowed more freedom. The girls favorites have been camping in Door Co., WI, & Land Between The Lakes, KY, as well as a beach trip to Cape San Blas, FL, all with some of our best friends from upstate. (And T would be upset if I didn't mention our annual trip to Holiday World water & amusement park in Indiana.)

I hope this glimpse into our lives gives you a small idea of who we are.
We welcome you to follow us here, as you will certainly learn as much about us through the experiences and anecdotes posted as you have in these few paragraphs.

Lessons Learned

I will forgo the excuses for my prolonged absence and get to some of the growing mountain of info I want to post here. The most exciting part of the past week was attending the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, & Organic Conference in Springfield on Jan. 6-8. First of all, a big thanks to Jerry Bradley & Dayna Conner of Food Works for encouraging me to attend, and to Dayna and her family for providing a place to lay our heads and cook some real food, a true pleasure when on the road.

The conference was broken up into two main parts, with pre-conference workshops taking place on Wed. and the conference track sessions on Thur. & Fri. On Wed., I chose to attend a workshop focused on some of the basics of market farming, from insect and pest management techniques to marketing and liability issues.

I spend most of Thur. in one of the organic tracks offered, dealing mainly with integrated vegetable production systems. This was where I met the two most inspiring farmers at the conference.

Pete Johnson of Pete's Greens in Craftsbury,VT gave an amazing presentation, detailing some of the methods that have allowed them to grow from a 1/4 acre greens farm to a 50 acre, $1.4 million enterprise in just 10 years, selling to 375 CSA members & gourmet restaurants as far away as NYC. Even more impressive is the truly local micro-economy that has been created by folks just like Pete in his area, allowing residents to spend more of their money supporting small local businesses, on items as diverse as cheese and furniture.

Next on the agenda was Steve Pincus, of Tipi Produce in Evanston, WI. His experiences selling with a cooperative CSA, as well as through his current personal CSA, provided many insights into the changing marketplace. With a progressive mecca like Madison nearby, it would seem that such business would grow without any problems, but each endeavor presents unique challenges. Most interesting was his discussion of tractor implements and farming methods that reduce the use of organic pesticides and fertilizers while increasing soil fertility.

Friday I spent much of the day learning about organic fruit production and new varieties of vegetables that seem more suited for larger scale production, and talking with some of the folks I met throughout the conference.

There seems to be a promising future for specialty growers in the area, with an increased focus on direct marketing to consumers. It truly is a non-stop effort, from education and outreach, to the actual growing, marketing, and consumption of good food. There is a role for us all.