Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Hay River Transition Initiative's Second Annual Traditional and Green Skills Day

I've harbored the desire to move to the country for well over a decade now. It's a fantasy shared by many, I know--that dream of getting back to the land, finding a simpler life in harmony with nature's rhythms, yada yada yada.... On a mild spring morning with the apple trees in bloom and abuzz with bees and hummingbirds, it seems like the most appealing of existences. How could you want to live anywhere else? How could you stand to? But then there are those other moments--a pick-up truck with a blown-out muffler comes barreling down the road, someone chucks a Bud Light can out the window, and the truck's radio is blaring some I-got-drunk-&-nasty-again song by Hank Williams Jr. (oh, why does he have to have that name?!?), but what you hear is the opening notes of "Dueling Banjos"....

Which is to say: There's the natural environment, which is easy enough to comprehend, whatever challenges it may present; and then there's the human one, which is, I dare say, considerably more murky and troubling. It was the latter that gave us qualms about moving full time to a rural area, but over the last four years of part-time country life our doubts have almost entirely been laid to rest. One event that really helped seal the deal was  the first Traditional and Green Skills Event, put on by the Hay River Transition Initiative last March.

"By harnessing the collective genius of our community members and through principals such as reskilling, open space meetings, and relocalization, we will be a more resilient, vibrant and sustainable community," reads the HRTI's website, and what that translates into, in practical terms, is a bunch of really cool, dedicated, talented people working together to keep their rural community vital and growing. I'll refrain from invidious comparisons, but I already feel more connected to my Wisconsin neighbors, as widely dispersed as they may be (we own 53 acres now, but we're still land-poor by Dunn County standards), than to the Saint Paul neighborhood where we've lived for over 15 years. Out there, neighbors really need and value each other; also, lots of the folks we know in Wisconsin are there on purpose, having relocated from the city for the same reasons we're heading east. They are living very intentional lives, and to me that makes them extremely interesting, enlivening.

Well, this is a typically long-winded way of saying that the second annual HRTI Traditional and Green Skills Event is taking place on Saturday, March 3, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Prairie Farm High School. Seminars include mushroom growing, solar ovens, chainsaw repair, cheese making, rain gardens, backyard chickens, beekeeping, wilderness skills, fruit tree grafting, and much, much more. I'm teaching a class on smoking basics in the first morning session--I'll demonstrate the cool way to open a pack of cigarettes, stylish ways of holding your cancer stick, how to choose a fine stogie, etc.... Yeah, uh, it'll be bacon and trout smoked on an ordinary home grill, smoke roasting chicken and pork--a very basic intro to demystify the smoking process. That's in the 10:00 to 11:20 slot.

The cost for the whole day is ten bucks! That includes coffee and baked goods in the 9:00 to 10:00 wake-up/meet & greet hour, AND a chili and bread lunch! Three stimulating instruction sessions, breakfast, and lunch, for TEN...MEASLY...DOLLARS! $25 for a family of up to five! Are you freakin' kidding me? Well, it's a great deal, and you will learn a lot, and meet wonderful people. You need not be a country bumpkin to attend--furthermore, you aren't even required to register in advance, though the coordinators and instructors would certainly appreciate advance sign-up, if you're able to commit. I will warn you, though--if you attend this event you just might find yourself shopping rural real estate on the way home....

The charming town of Prairie Farm is about an hour and a half's drive from the Twin Cities. I can give directions for the basic or various scenic drives if anyone's interested in coming out to the event.


s said...

Very tempting! I read your post on this last year. It's quite a drive for us, though I suspect very worth it. Is there still snow up there, could we combine it with some skiing? :)

Trout Caviar said...

Sara, the snow situation here is dismal--though they're talking a pretty big storm for early next week. I will send you a report. We were going to ski the korteloppet at the Birkie--it's this Saturday--but with no snow to train on, and then this move popping up, we're bailing. The race is going on though--Hayward area got the most of what little snow we've had.


Shelby said...

Hi there,
Thanks for posting this blog! would it be ok if we reposted it on the TUS site as a guest blog entry?

Let us know - you can email shelby (at)


el said...

Thought of you Saturday when we smoked *18 lbs* of pork belly (and another 2 of salmon) mmmmmm

used one of your recommendations re: bacon cure. thanks!

weekendfarmer said...

wow! Congrats on the new farm. Happy for you.

Sarah D said...

My name is Sarah D. and I work at Linden Hills Co-op. I'd like to organize a book signing with you this summer, if possible. Please email me so we can discuss.
Thank you.

Trout Caviar said...

Hey El: 18 pounds of bacon! w00t! The smoking demo went well. I tend to forget how nice the farmed rainbows from Star Prairie trout farm are--plump little beauties with buttery, salmon-colored flesh.

Thanks, WF. We love our Bide-A-Wee, but country life AND amenities...I think we're gonna like this!

Sarah, thanks, will be in touch.

Cheers~ Brett

Sylvie in Rappahannock said...

On the origin of rillette:

mmm... it's about the same time we were doing 18 pounds of pork belly too! (I don't think el and I get our pigs from the same place, though) . Spring rituals I guess