Whittling down to the essentials

This is the entire accumulation of papers and notes saved from my favorite classes in college and grad school:


I’ve never consulted them, but I have stored and moved ’em around for nearly two decades. Is this this the sum of all the knowledge gained from tens of thousands of dollars in higher education? Can it be contained to a tote? Could it possibly be an accumulation of wisdom? I don’t think so.

At one time, back in the ’80s, I thought baseball cards would make me rich some day. This week I traded 20,000 of the cardboard rectangles for eight carefully folded $20 bills. Back in the day I paid more than that for a single card. Eventually you just have to cut bait, and man does it feel good to finally be free of the albatross. True treasure cannot be contained in totes.

It’s ironic, given the spell those cards had on me, but I have no photographs of the formerly impressive collection. What could I have done with the time and energy that went into them?

Oddly enough, I did take a picture of the recycle bin that was completely chock full of papers. While rolling it into position I strained my back. It must have weighed 250 pounds or more!


The original rough draft of my book, which had been shelved for a few years before I rewrote it entirely, is in the lower right of the photo. I obtained the red folder during a tour of a college in Colorado, done solely for the free lift ticket provided afterward for Crested Butte Mountain Resort. And then there are the surplus postcards for the opening of my wife’s art exhibition at Lakeside Gallery this summer, where you’ll continue to find many of her fresh, new works going forward.


Papers are my nemesis. Thus, they all must go. As Marie Kondo would say, “Papers do not give me joy, so I don’t keep them.” It’s pretty much that simple.

I am 40 years old, and do not wish to spend the rest of my life with the goal of clearing out the clutter. I just need to do it. Though I should probably focus more on income generation, I am completely obsessed and focused on this lifelong quest instead. I hope to get to about 90% complete, and call it good enough. There are emotional, and even spiritual dimensions to this. It’s essential to my wellbeing at this point.

I touch on this in the column I wrote for the paper this week, which comes out tomorrow. I have no idea if it will spark anything of interest in others, but writing it certainly made connections in me.


During all this purging we took a break for a family trip to the Wirtanen Pioneer Farm, located about 40 miles north of Duluth. A Finnish pioneer by the name of Eli Wirtanen started it in 1904. There are a dozen original structures scattered about the farm, and they’re all unlocked an open to the public. Nobody else was there. We were free to wander around, explore, and play. It was a blast.

I was struck by the fact that Eli died just 19 years before I was born. My obsession with hoarding both baseball cards and animals began just 28 years after his death. These strange collections would have absolutely mystified him. Thousands of dollars were poured into 20,000 baseball cards and well over 100 living creatures that I shared my bedroom with. It’s disgusting, and least of all due to the bird droppings that soiled my bedsheets. It took Eli years to save enough money to buy his land, and he worked his tail off to do it.


We spent a good hour there, threw the football around, and soaked up the serenity and peaceful ambiance of the place.


It got me thinking about how I wish to spend the remaining years allotted to me. This morning I was awake hours before dawn, fretting about the unwelcome moles that have appeared on my forehead of ever-increasing size. Next week a dermatologist will look at, and I suspect, remove them.

I’m also beset by a profound fatigue, which has decreased with the diminished workload. A  two-mile hike the other day wore me out to the point that I required a nap, and still felt exhausted the next day. 20 or more miles in a day use to barely phase me. My wife points out that I recently recovered from a cold, and thinks I’m a hypochondriac. She’s probably right.


Mortality afflicts us all, though. We know not when the curtain will fall. Be it five years or fifty, we need to live fully right now. I fall short in loving God, family, and neighbor, in so many ways. I’m tempted to say, as always, that I’ll devote more of myself toward these ends later, after completing this particular goal. The problem is that there is always the next distracting, shiny object. This might very well be the root of my crisis. We cannot control the past or future, but we do have now. Right now. Live fully in it.

Entering the story, painting the dump gray, and the last chicken

This week I found myself, somewhat reluctantly, attending a theatre production that included an Eddy Gilmore character. I expected to gain nothing from the experience. Blessed beyond belief by an atmosphere of utter richness, I left with more wealth than could be carried by pockets, wheelbarrows, or even an armored truck could be expected to carry. Being there on this particular night could not have been timed more exquisitely.

Honestly, for me, it is on a par with the beauty I encountered in the recent death of our family’s dog, Tillie. That particular day remains lodged in my memory as remarkably meaningful. In fact, if the whole of my experience with the animal was distilled down to the moment of her passing, it would have been worth the time and treasure that were devoted to her.

That day I was working away from home, unavailable for most of the day. Tillie smelled like death. My wife couldn’t deal with the stench, and put her outside. Thousands of flies were drawn to the smell. Countermeasures were employed, but it was a desperate situation. This was real suffering. I received texts throughout the day imploring me to facilitate a final trip to the vet. Necessary work at the farm prevented as timely an arrival as she would have preferred.

Late in the afternoon I stepped across the threshold to our back porch to greet the dog, who had been unconscious all day, and she immediately greeted me by standing up on all fours. Briefly I held her in my arms, she lost consciousness, and gradually her breathing just stopped. All this happened within the span of two minutes, at a time when I was going to drop her off at the clinic like some sort of burden for somebody else to deal with, after which I’d immediately hustle off to another job. Instead, time stood still. I dug a deep hole. The evening spent with family was deeply touching and healing for everyone. Since I’ve already written about that, I’ll spare you further details.

Once again, experiencing the theatrical production of One River at the moment I did, was just as meaningful, and seemingly divinely timed.

Many things have just now come to an end. That very same day, due to the seasonal nature of farm work, my part-time job at Talmadge Farm ceased to exist. My friend and I had also butchered the 11 chickens that remained of the 100 that I had so carefully shepherded through an epic storm and loss of power on the very night of their arrival, only to lose nearly all of them in a single evening to a gang of predators. Here is the very last chicken. This photo was taken after the heads of the others had rolled. Observe how content and at peace she is, though the savage act of butchering was occurring a mere 15 feet from her. She really appeared to be having a pretty good day right up to the very end.


The only real thing keeping us afloat financially, painting, also came to a temporary stop, as I completed my last big project on the books. I am a reluctant painter, applying brush and paint solely for the cash, and yet find myself continually surprised by encountering beauty in and through such menial work. Even at the dump. That’s right, I pretty much spent two solid weeks at the dump, painting three large garages at the Materials Recovery Center. Hungry for cash before winter, I profitably completed this job for several thousand dollars less than the next lowest bidder.


Being such a busy place, I often labored after hours, working until dark. At such times I found the place to be both beautiful and peaceful. The sky was a source of consistent wonder. I toiled alone for hours under fantastic cloud formations and a great big sky. Some feel pretty puffed up about being granted a key to the city. I, on the other hand, feel pretty special to have been entrusted with a key to the dump. Unfortunately I’ll have to hand it over one of these days.


Captured some vitamin D at times:


I brought home a new friend on the day I painted the previously neglected wall in the background:


And finished the job after the sun set, feeling sicker than a dog, as cloudy dampness seemed to envelop everything.


Two days later I had recovered from an awful cold, just enough, to attend this play. Afraid to pass along this illness, it was with some guilt and trepidation that I shook the hand of my doppelganger. I am the shiny, handsome one in the photo.


Being at such a crossroads, with few prospects looming on the horizon, it was incredibly touching to experience this play. Luke Harger, who played Eddy and several other roles, captured me at my best, though we had never met. Amazing….

We made eye contact at one point during the production. I could tell he recognized me, and I was super uncomfortable. Luke never missed a beat. This is what most impressed me about the entire cast, in fact.

The cast of 11 positioned in front of their real life counterparts:

14446155_10207360839527450_6272070306553679522_nThe small theatre holds an audience of just 100, so the production occurs just feet away from the audience. I would find this distracting, and succumb to self-consciousness, but these folks continued to emote powerfully. You can’t get away with shoddy, insincere acting in such a place. As a writer, I often write about some pretty vulnerable things, but I have never allowed myself to be as laid bare as these young actors. It was as if their very souls were exposed to the light. This is a level of exposure that I have always shied away from in such situations, but these theatre people absolutely live for it.

Frankly, I have never really experienced theatre until this performance. It is as if the veil has finally been removed from my eyes. I actually get it! Inured to the special effects of Hollywood, few of us are exposed to the incredible performances engendered by theatre. In some ways, the effect was life changing for me, and that’s not just because I was cast into it.

This has to have been the most passionate, dialed in group of college students I have ever encountered. It seems to stem from the fact that they are doing what they love. Not at some distant point in time to be prepared for, but right now. The concept is so simple as to be extraordinary. Something to emulate. This collective passion, and absolute thrill in doing what they love, also has produced a tremendous chemistry between the cast members that is evident both on stage and off. This is absolutely what I am after in life, and in community. To be reminded of this on stage, at a time when I am sort of standing in the middle of the road wondering where I am supposed to go next, was beyond marvelous.

They concluded the production, which included numerous stories from people far more interesting than myself, with the paragraph below. It is from my blog post about journeying to Whiteside Island , dramatized in One River:

I poured a lot of myself into understanding, and into actually entering this one little portion of the Story. Without a sense of place, there is no story. Without a story, there is no sense of place. Wherever you live, I urge you to enter into that story. Delight in sharing it with others. Become part of it. Help to shape it as even now the story is being passed along to the next generation. It’s always in motion. Rather than fight the current, perhaps use it to help shape the contours of a narrative continually in the process of being written, even at this very moment…

Actually seeing the process of entering into the story, dramatized on stage, mere feet away from me, could have absolutely brought me to tears. This is the direction I must take.

Thank you so much, cast of One River, and to Tom Isbell for writing it. Tom, the playwright, took an incredible risk in taking on such a project. Frankly, I think he was crazy. The whole idea was ridiculous. The One River, Many Stories project lacked any structure, form, or rules. It was complete anarchy, as storytellers and journalists went around and did their thing. What a mess to have to sift through, and make cohesive!

Wherever you live, go see a play. It just might change your life. Become immersed in local stories and storytelling. Far too many of us are Amusing Ourselves to Death through an engorgement of corporate entertainment and media that lacks any root or attachment to place.

One River has five showings remaining at UMD, running each evening from October 4th – 8th. Secure your tickets here.



Death and mayhem

getaway route

That path through the oats, the getaway route, was the only evidence. No feathers, blood, or other carnage were left as evidence.

12 hours after burying our family dog, we discovered that 80 chickens had been carried away. If it weren’t for this obvious path, I might have thought the boogeyman did it. Gobs of time and energy wasted. What a bummer. I wrote a column about this for the paper, Death came a-knockin’, which you can read here.

Animal husbandry has always been an interest. For years I had over 100 animals in my childhood bedroom, after all. It seems natural to direct this passion into vocational channels. Next year we might try again after tweaking the fortifications. The stakes are just really high, so it’s difficult to comprehend getting back onto the horse. For now, 11 survivors are in a small chicken tractor back at home.


We made room for them by finding a great home for the ducklings. If we hadn’t separated the ducks from the chickens when things got crazy, these offspring could have wound up being a chicken-duck cross. While shuttling birds around, I got a chuckle while hearing potential names: Chucks and Dickens. Of course Chuck is a nickname for Charles, as in Mr. Dickens. That guy wrote a lot about hard times, even penning a book called Hard Times.

These are hard times. It feels like all this recent adversity is here by design, however, and not a result of injustice. For a purpose. To learn, develop perseverance, etc…

I’m grateful to not be alone. Please pray for our family and the difficult path ahead. Perhaps for courage to fail….again. Along the way, however, we have to figure out a sustainable income, and I’m feeling weary.




Sometimes you’ve got to dig a big hole


Digging a hole like this is a ton of work. Nothing about death is easy. It shouldn’t be.

Our family dog died only four hours ago. I rushed home from my job at the farm, and was actually going to drop the dog off at the vet clinic to have them take care of putting her down. Then, just 5 -10 minutes later, I planned to be high atop a ladder to finish a house-painting job and collect the cash. A dog dying in your arms has a way of knocking some sense into you. Death is never convenient.

Rather than rushing off to a job, I picked up a shovel and commenced digging. Resisting tears, I drenched this soil with sweat instead. It was really cathartic.

Then, each of us wrote our favorite memories of Tillie on this note, and placed it atop the cardboard casket we fashioned.


Our kids filled the hole back up. Tears were shed and feelings shared. It blows my mind to think that I nearly deprived my children of this.

We’ve been saying goodbye for about the past week. Here’s a note my daughter taped to the wall at Tillie’s height a couple days ago:

note 1

There has been lots of loss lately. Friendships, broken appliances, financial distress in multiple areas, and now this. Leading up to the dog’s death I was starting to feel sorry for us, and how life has seemed like a sad old-time country song of late. Now, not so much. Death, and any kind of loss, really, isn’t something to handle clinically, or somehow, sealed off and wholly other.

Perspective. Gratitude. Fortitude.

Well, now we’re having a little family night,  so I must go and be present. Until next time, take a look at our dog who was in this ancient blog post that has me cooling off in my underpants at the beginning of a typical workday for a telecommuter:


Multiple Sclerosis as a catalyst from being a burnt out cubicle jockey to self-taught artist and entrepreneur.

I continue to be amazed by the sheer quantity of great stories that are all around us. It seems that everybody has an incredible story to tell. You just need to ask the right questions. Unable to conceal a mid-life crisis, my queries tend to revolve around vocation and identity. This story originally appeared right here, and is hugely inspirational. It demonstrates, among other things, how major obstacles can actually be beneficial over the long term. As long as we don’t quit, these handicaps force us to think outside-the-box. This brings to mind my conversation with Gaelynn Lea. Her comments that people with disabilities are twice as likely to start their own businesses seem particularly relevant. These stories give me hope that maybe, just maybe, the problems I continue to face just might contain the very solutions I seek.


Perhaps you’ve wondered what it takes to open your own retail space. Here is the formula that worked for one of my neighbors: intense physical pain + $7,200 in startup costs + burnout and restlessness + a debilitating medical diagnosis + a whole lot of elbow grease = one art gallery.

The story behind Lakeside Gallery, located at 4431 East Superior Street, is surprisingly fascinating. Aaron Kloss, the business owner, says, “I wouldn’t recommend people buy a house, sell a house, move, and start a business, all within a month.” He not only accomplished all this in entering my neighborhood as both a neighbor and business owner, but he did it with his three kids (14, 11, and 10 years old) in tow on a daily basis! One of the driving forces behind launching this venture, in fact, was a desire to involve his kids. His daughter, Autumn, in an effort to pay off library fines, occasionally sets up a highly profitable lemonade stand out front. On one particularly slow sales day for Aaron, Autumn made bested him by selling $60 in liquid refreshment to passersby.


Circumstances, be it family, career burnout, or a crippling disease, have long forced him to think outside-the-box. His experiences have the potential to provide inspiration to anyone wanting to reinvent themselves. Aaron’s simple advice to anyone seeking a career change is, “Change is good. If you don’t like what you’re doing, do something else…Find creative ways to overcome obstacles to follow what you’re passionate about.”

Kloss’s very first job out of college, in 1999, just happened to be with the Duluth Budgeteer (The paper I write for!) as a graphic designer. Some of his tasks included updating the Piggly Wiggly ad and classifieds each week. Five years of this led to serious boredom and restlessness.

In 2004, Aaron was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 10 attacks over the next two years caused him to nearly lose the ability to walk. Physically, he wasn’t capable of holding down a job.

While working through this challenge, he pursued graphic design as a freelancer, and even flipped nine houses with the help of a family member.

Incredibly, he hasn’t had an attack in ten years. He has gone from nearly needing a wheelchair to now having zero disability, an apparent healing that he attributes to God.

Aaron values the lessons he learned while enduring the disease, saying, “Going through something like that has made me willing to do things that maybe other people wouldn’t. When you live through a traumatic experience, it does change you.”

Eventually he found himself looking at paintings in art galleries saying to himself, “I wish I could do that. I want to be an artist.” He goes on to say, “Finally I just decided, ‘I’m gonna do it.’ And I did it.”

That was in 2011. The first posts in his blog are from that year, and they show the work of a beginning painter. They aren’t particularly good, to be honest. Here is a splendid example of, well…., early unremarkable work. Keep in mind that when he first painted it, Kloss felt good enough about it to post it on his blog. I suppose he was figuring out perspective, light, etc.


By the end of that first year, however, you  can see that he uncovered his trademark style. Then, in 2012, he made the commitment to being a full-time artist. To go from beginner to making a living as an artist in the span of one year seems impossible. This should give hope to all of us, regardless of our chosen vocation, that practice and perseverance pays off.


He has since achieved significant local and regional renown for his artwork, and has 220 original works featured in 10 galleries. Kloss continues to supply pieces to them, often painting behind the counter of his own gallery during slow times, but was becoming burned out by all the sitting and tediousness of his work. Thus, Lakeside Gallery came into fruition.

His own gallery actually features very little of his work. Conveniently, Amity Coffee occupies the space adjacent to him, and is filled with his paintings! Lakeside Gallery displays the work of dozens of artists across a variety of mediums. From the outside, the space appears small and diminutive, but step inside and the square footage is truly impressive. Artists like Adam Swanson, Ryan Tischer, Betsy Bowen, John Peyton, and Shawna Gilmore, grace the walls.

Yes, that Shawna Gilmore. As in, my wife. A large body of her work, a sort of cabinet of curiosities, comprises the gallery’s main summer exhibition, “A Curious World,” for the summer season.

Here I am—dressed as a guy in mid-life crisis, who, though he boasts a master’s degree, must sometimes appear out in public in grungy painter clothes or begrimed in soil from head to toe—beside the artist. This is no costume party. I share this, because I felt completely at ease in the gallery looking like a working schmuck. If this place lacks one thing, it is an inflated sense of self-importance.

me and Shawna

Aaron is committed to advancing the careers of area artists, and not only himself. It’s really quite refreshing. The unique atmosphere and neighborhood feel of Lakeside Gallery is something you should experience for yourself.

Take in the art, enjoy the finest cup of coffee in town next door, and mail a letter. These are three of my favorite places, and with Marshall Hardware immediately adjacent, you have just about everything you need WITHOUT driving to the Mall area, which my hippie friend, Dan Proctor, refers to as Mordor.

lemonade 2



A mob of poultry in the city, and swimming with ducklings.

I met Joel Salatin at an agricultural conference recently. Afterward, I was stunned to realize that there was nobody else on Earth I would’ve rather met. Not the President. Not Bob Dylan. No sports figure.


Though he was due to speak to a large crowd in mere moments, he was fully engaged and animated in our conversation about raising chickens. What an experience! He’s the main farmer featured in the documentary Food Inc, which you can see on Netflix right here. Michael Pollan also wrote about his farming philosophy in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He is a huge influence in the local agriculture movement, and also on me. What a thrill, and not just because he’s some sort of celebrity.

His style of farming is what I would do in a heartbeat, but I live in the city on a 50 X 140 foot lot, so I can only do bits and pieces wherever I can find land to borrow. Recently, I expanded to protein, and will raise meat chickens on grass in a manner similar to Joel. Doing this with my available resources and network is a real challenge.

I picked up these day-old chicks at the post office sorting facility at 6 am. 100 birds were confined to these shipping boxes, and they all arrived alive and active just 24 hours after hatching. What a miracle! Chicks are made to be shipped in the mail. They eat the yolk just before hatching, and this has enough nutrition to sustain them for three days without food or water. The USPS has been delivering baby chicks in the mail for nearly a century. Here they are in their shipping boxes at the post office. It sounded like all the birds of the forest were confined within these two boxes. It was that loud!

post officeEverything started out swell. Here’s a short video I filmed after getting them home into the brooder:

That very first night, Duluth was hit with its worst storm in decades. The power was out for days, and 80 – 90 mph winds blasted into the open garage window. WHAT A DISASTER!!!! I went out into the tempest and closed the window, but it wasn’t until three hours later that I boxed up all the birds and placed them beside the woodstove. It was kind of surreal to build a roaring fire on a July day that would later reach 95 degrees. But, you do what you’ve got to do…

Unfortunately, I waited three hours before doing this. I had no idea the power would be out as long as it was. The temperature in the brooder was down to 70 degrees, and they were all huddled up. Chilled. Not good. 90 – 95 is what they need in their early days. This is especially critical since these are being raised without medications, vaccinations, or antibiotics of any kind. The poultry industry pumps these into their birds in an effort to mask poor management.

chicks woodstoveEverybody survived this initial disaster, but we have seen some mortality since then that I think is related. We’re down to 91 birds. This is still within normal mortality rates, but not what I’d like to see at this stage. You live and learn. I’ve had a lot of experience with small batches of chicks, but management at this scale changes things entirely.

Within a few days or so, I’ll move these birds out to the pasture you see here. I’m building a movable hoop house portable pen for the chickens, and they’ll be moved to fresh grass daily. This does wonders for the health of the meat. For example, studies show 100% more omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed chicken.


These cattle panels, arched, will form the underlying structure. A tarp atop this arrangement for the drive back would have given this setup a perfect covered wagon appearance!

wagon lighter

We also have five newly hatched ducklings in our home, which is complicating matters considerably! I filmed this short video to provide a tour of our ridiculous animal menagerie confined to our city lot.

Thankfully, most of this is a short-term arrangement, but I’d like to figure out how to move these ducklings to new homes. They are the cutest things ever, however, and they love to interact with people. Thus, my daughter is completely attached to them. The other day she and my son were in the bathtub with all five ducklings. They make the best bath toys ever! The ducks learned to dive underwater, and were swimming like seals!

ducklings in bath

Farming should be kid-friendly, not that five ducklings in a bathtub has anything to do with agriculture, but I’m affirming Joel Salatin’s thoughts on this. 100,000 chickens breathing fecal dust in a confined facility is definitely not child-friendly, nor healthy. Just saying…

My pasture-raised chickens will be available on or around September 19th, and can be reserved with a small deposit here.

Wrestling with a $90 turkey

Ninety dollars for a turkey. Are you kidding me??? When I agreed to take the extra bird off the farmer’s hands, I assumed it might cost about half that. At the time I was working for minimum wage as a part-time farmhand at the Food Farm, an organic farm located in Wrenshall.  I traded nearly two days of work for this bird, and probably half that in bike time just to get to and from the farm. Was the tremendous cost in blood, sweat, and tears, worth it? The story that follows was originally printed right here.

This just might be the very bird that grew into dozens of satisfying meals, along with farmer and son…


Lunch has been extra-special lately. Sacred even. I look forward to that short break on the farm owner’s porch for hours. When the moment arrives, I nestle into a chair on the cool, shaded porch, remove my confining work boots, and savor every bite of the meal that follows.

My nourishment is the fruit of last year’s labor, cost me dearly, and is worth every ounce of sweat equity that went into it. Who knew a simple sandwich could be so satisfying?

It’s all in the turkey. The price tag on this bird was $90. My cost was even higher, though. Twelve hours of hard labor at the Food Farm comprised my part of the deal. This time was passed—joyfully, mostly—while toiling under blistering sun, persevering relentless wind, and while enduring rain and cold. Lets just say that it wasn’t like trading a dozen hours of Netflix binge-watching. I earned it.

Was 12 hours a fair exchange for a pasture-raised bird that now resides, mostly, in my freezer? This turkey lived a full 22 weeks on pasture, foraging on healthy grass, upon which I have walked. Farmers manually moved their portable pens to fresh grass every day. There are no automatic feeders out there on pasture, so these must be monitored twice each day.

turkey snap

And, holy cow, is their feed ever expensive. Janaki Fisher-Merrit, owner of the Food Farm, pays more than twice the rate per pound for his organically grown grain than what you’ll pay for a 50-pound sack of conventional feed at the local feed store, even though he hauls in a thousand pounds at a time! Kelp and minerals are also added to it. Janaki says, “Stuff like that gives the meat more of the “good fats” and less of the bad, and also makes for a healthier bird that can handle being out in the elements and staying alive for a longer period of time.”

Raising turkeys outside on pasture for 154 days requires a significant investment of time, money, and energy, on the part of the farmer. It simply costs more to raise a bird traditionally on a family farm than to employ the “efficiencies” of a factory farm, where the animals are de-beaked and pumped full of antibiotics simply so they may survive, never see the light of day, and as seen in numerous undercover videos, routinely endure shocking abuse.

If $90 still seems outrageous, consider the life of the turkey. What’s that worth? I think of Laura, one of the farm’s interns from last year, who felt grateful to be with the turkeys in their pen during their final moments. One by one they were selected for processing, and as their numbers dwindled, she wept.

(Here are the birds in their final portable pen as the end draweth nigh. Young Truman, the farmer’s son, keeps watch.)


I might talk big about my 12 hours of hard labor, but does this even compare to the turkey’s level of sacrifice? That animal, quite literally, laid down it’s life so that I might live. We should never be glib about such a thing. Frankly, it is only right that such sacrifice would cost us dearly. And we should be thankful. Every day, on that cool porch on the farm, I feel tremendous gratitude for the life of my turkey. A life that was spent living as a turkey should, expressing its innate turkeyness, until its dying breath.

These animals are raised to be the centerpiece of a family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Would anything less befit an annual celebration that purports to be a celebration of all that the Maker has provided? On this of all days, it behooves us to source food grown in a manner in which it was designed to be grown.


I’m glad it took me over six months to finally cook up this enormous 26-pound bird. Having spent more time farming since then, I find myself appreciating both the farmer’s labor in producing such high-quality food AND the life that was sacrificed for me.

Every day is an opportunity to express thanksgiving for the blessings showered down upon us from above. Begrimed in sweat and dirt from working down in the earth each day, I am filled with gratitude for every mouthful. This is worth $3.50/pound.

Here you can take a gander at what is considered more normal and conventional. To loosely quote Joel Salatin, this is the intersection of pure capitalism, amoral science, and a complete lack of foresight. Is this a more fitting centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table this year? Conditions like these create the need for overdosing our food supply with antibiotics, and also the rise of superbugs that may soon result in the end of the antibiotic era.

I realize that most of us cannot regularly afford a pastured turkey like this. Amazingly, the going rate in many other markets is about double the cost. With a little planning, however, and perhaps through sharing the cost with others, you might be able to have a more meaningful Thanksgiving this November. Go visit the farm that is raising your turkey. Meet your farmers. Then, when you gather with loved ones later this year to celebrate this season’s bounty, give thanks for both.

FYI, I’ll soon be raising chickens on pasture in a similar manner. These will be available to you in September. Stay tuned!