D.I.Why?

To the chagrin and occasional rage of my dear and darling wife, I’m not the do-it-yourself type.

Now, when I write that, you have to understand, I don’t just mean that I cannot be found fiddling weekends away in the garage, making cabinets or crocheting. I mean I don’t fix leaky faucets. I don’t clean gutters. I don’t install shelving. It is only in certain apocalyptic crises when my wrists can be seen twisting a screwdriver. I mow the lawn only under threat of divorce.

Andi is handy – or, at least, she’s becoming so. Indeed, it was part of what excited her so much about getting into this house in the first place.

So, what is my excuse for being such a sorry householder?

Sins of the father, of course.

My dad – the son of a lifelong tinkerer/electrician/master gardener hires out for everything (apart from yard work and snow shoveling – different story). Growing up, our house was paraded through by different characters, all with the same distinguishing suffix: “Guy.” There was the Gutter Guy and the Water Softener Guy and the Roof Guy and Tree Guys of various sorts – some to inspect them, some to cut them down. There were Rodent Guys and Carpet Guys and Garage Door Opener Guys. You name it, dad found a guy out there who could deal with it.

And when they were gone, he’d turn to me and say “Son, why make a perfectly good problem worse by trying to fix it?”

Odd logic, I suppose, but it stuck.

The thing is, at this stage in our life and journey, Andi and I can’t really afford a lot of “guys.” We have Bob, the moustached handyman, and he does a little bit of everything with enough skill to keep the house from falling apart, but even he’s going to prove too spendy if we are to keep up with the little day to day things that come up, or fall down. So, it makes sense for us to be using these years in a comfortably, mostly functioning home, to hone the skills we’ll need later on down the road.

But, as Andi and I had occasion to discuss this weekend, when we found ourselves overnight at Dream Acres – one of the original inspirations for The Story Farm – if I don’t take some kind of interest in the general upkeep of our house in the city, our future plans seem a bit far-fetched.

Those future plans, for those new to The Story Farm or whose memory has lapsed in these months of our relative web-silence, includes buying land, building or remodeling a house, a barn and outbuildings (or cabins), running a small-scale veggie farm to sustain ourselves and our visitors, and hosting events. This amounts to a perpetual and long list of to-dos that, as yet, I have little or no experience to-doing. So, there’s a problem, here, which Andi tearfully reminded me of this weekend.

Honestly, it broke my heart to see the disappointment on Andi’s face as she tried to explain through tears that she’s been “coming to terms” with what my un-handiness means for our future plans.

I tried explaining that I really want to be handy, that I have vivid fantasies filled with 2×4’s and joists (don’t know what that means) and clouds of sawdust following me everywhere; but it felt and sounded a little hollow. It’s a sorry state for an Integral Coach to be in, I know. And yet, and yet.

A few minutes after we got back to Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon – resolved to fight this battle against myself — I fought a comical battle with the long ladder that our neighbor, Steve, lent us for the weekend. I won, eventually, and was able to lean the ladder against the house at what seemed like a sensible angle, climb it, and earn myself that time-honored title of Gutter Guy.

Story farm, here we come!

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8 Successful People Doing Exactly What They Want

Got a good deal of late-Sunday inspiration out of this piece in Good magazine about “8 Successful People Doing Exactly What They Want.” I came across it, actually, while researching the field of ice pop entrepreneurs (more on that tangent later), and well, I just love that more and more people are finding ways to be authentic in what they do, sell, eat, and promote. Don’t you?

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The Very First Story Farm Production

As perhaps you’ve heard, tonight we’ll be debuting Hot Dish, a storytelling series that will focus this evening on tales of “Heartbreak, Heartache, and Happy Endings.” ¬†Oh yes, the very first production of the Story Farm is about to meet its public! If you can’t join us tonight at the Trylon Microcinema in Minneapolis, be sure to find your way through the interweb to theuptake.org at 7:30PM Central Time to watch a live broadcast of the event. Thanks and more soon!

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A Little Inspiration from Charlie

No need to go into details, but yesterday I found out that I didn’t get an opportunity about which I was very, very excited. And so I was bummed. And I whimpered a little, and pondered the possibility that maybe the universe is telling me that I’m not so special after all, but ultimately that line of thinking didn’t go anywhere productive and so I came to a conclusion to which I’ve come several times before. And that is: To get what I want out of this world, I’m going to have to make it. Possibly from scratch. With a little help from friends.

Meanwhile, last night, Eric and I had a lovely little date at Trylon “microcinema”: we saw Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, and laughed out loud, for the many-eth time, as Charlie stuck forks into his dinner rolls and made them do the most elegant dance. Love! Now, what exactly is a microcinema, you ask? Well, this microcinema, at least, is a neighborhood theater that features “50 deluxe rocker seats and a 20 foot screen” and screens classic movies a few times a week. It’s the most enchanting space– intimate, cozy, and yet so much more romantic than your living room. You enter the space through XYandZ gallery (which at them moment is painted with an enchanting jungle theme, complete with 7-foot babboon wearing bunny ears), and are then treated to a concession stands that carries, among other things, B.T. McElrath chocolates (their salty dog chocolate bar is the tastiest 5 bucks you’ll ever spend). Oh, and popcorn with real butter! Real! Butter! There’s a great article about our lovely little local microcinema in the publication The Line.

So why exactly am I pontificating about something so simple as an itty-bitty theater that shows re-runs? Well, because I LOVE THIS SPACE. And it turns, out, Barry, the guy behind Trylon, rents it out. And remember that whole Hot Dish Storytelling Series we announced here back in oh, October of 2009? Well, it’s about time we brought it to life. We’re settled here in Minnesota now, complete with couch and dog and monthly Soup and Bread, and so… it’s time to stir things up.

So here’s the deal. The date is… February sometime (pending theater availability)…and rather than doing an entirely “open mic” approach on the first go-round, we’re going to invite 6 separate storytellers to tell true stories on a theme (Please note: There is no question that this idea is inspired by The Moth. But there ain’t no Moth in MSP yet, so…whatevs). Theme as yet undetermined, but it will probably be inspired by Valentine’s Day. So, if you have a funny/poignant/disturbing/surprising story about something related to heartbreak, heartache, or unrequited or requited love, LET US KNOW. You can email us at storyfarmers@gmail.com. And that’s all for now.

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Virtual Housewarming

Okay, so you can hardly “warm” our house without actually being here (you’re always welcome), but I figured it was about time to share a few pics of this little nest we’ve been fussing over for the last 6 months. So here it is: “Bluey” aka The Story House.

Our tour begins at the front of the house. Fall has begun, thus things are looking a little droopy. But you can see our newly planted (and only slightly crooked) service berry tree to the left of the walk. Closer to the house, to the right of the walk, is a river birch we also planted this summer. Both were gifts from the McDaniel family.

Before we enter the house, let’s hang out on the porch a bit. So, so lovely on a breezy day. Just not too breezy.

This is what you see if you go in the front door. A little bench, big ole honking wooden stairs, and if he’s around, Eric. I like Eric.

If you look to the left as you walk in, you’ll see our “living room,” which is also sort of the entry. I have a love/hate relationship with that couch.

As you continue walking past the stairs, you’ll run into this little nook, our reading area. Thanks to Mojo Mullen for the suggestion to move our awesome bookcase to this wall– it made all the difference.

Now you’ve wandered into the dining room. Please note adorable cushion on window seat, made by our talented and generous friend Dorothy. The man behind that awesome farm table is “Jeff Builds Furniture” (check him out on Facebook).

Another shot of the dining room. Grey chair is beloved for its “Masterpiece Theater” flair. We have reason to believe that when we’re gone, Wendell takes naps there. We wonder if he smokes cigars.

Turn right from the dining room into the kitchen, which features white paint and “sea foam green” trim. Brilliant!

More kitchen.

And there’s Gunther, our fave little shabby chic white cabinet. If you’re disoriented– that open doorway to the left, goes back into the dining room. The sea foam green pocket door goes into the world’s most cramped (but charming) bathroom, and the open doorway to the right goes into Eric’s office which he would like you to refer to as “the cabin.” I say you can call it the man cave if you like.

There it is, the man cave.

Okay, time to go upstairs. First thing you’ll see is part of the bathroom. Where that dresser currently stands, we hope to eventually move the sink and vanity.

Our bedroom is to the left. Sorry– I only partly made the bed. That skylight is wondrous in a rainstorm, though you’ll never sleep through lightning.

And now we’re over in the guest bedroom, which is also my office. Wendell isn’t really supposed to be on the futon, but sometimes the 3 of us take naps there, and well, you can’t explain “special circumstances” to a dog. Especially this dog.

And finally, just for kicks, a shot of Wendell enjoying the summer’s harvest. Anybody need any cucumbers?


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How I Know It’s Fall

Every season begins with a sense of suspicion. In Spring, it’s: Is it really getting warmer? Or is this just a fluke? and: Do you think it’ll snow again? Or is this the final melt? In autumn, it’s a matter of squinting at the thick belt of trees that line the Mississippi–which have been green for so long that it has seemed permanent–and noticing a hint of yellow. Is it the light? Or are they turning? I told myself it was the light. But now it’s truly fall.

Fall, in our new home, in this old town, means taking the air conditioners out of the windows, and leaving the windows cracked at night instead, so the cool, damp, breeze can spirit its way through the house and blow the debris of summer under the bed and into corners. It means wearing my down vest, so crucial a piece of clothing in San Francisco, on walks with the dog, and still noticing a little nip in the air. Maybe next time a hat?

The other day I went digging for a pair of socks and found some hats and gloves in a forgotten drawer–figured I ought to relocate those to a more accessible place now, near the front door. And while I’m at it, those tank tops probably don’t need to be taking up precious real estate. It’s also probably time to figure out how to work that quirky little sauna in our basement (it’s a Scandinavian thing).

It’s strange to recall that I went through several falls in the Bay Area, and never did it feel like this. I remember being surprised, and delighted, that despite the Bay Area’s reputation for having only two seasons, the leaves do indeed turn in Berkeley, and the air shifts, and memories of falls from childhood come with all of it just like anywhere else. Always though, it was a matter of the leaves, and the air and the smells, reminding me of a much more distinct season in another place. I noticed other people saying it too– like the East Coasters, who would grin and say, it feels like back-to-school time in New York.

I don’t think it’s so much about the place as it is about the choice. We’ve chosen to be here now, and in return, we’ve been given a little bit of ownership over everything beautiful that happens here, like the seasons turning. It could very well be homeownership that’s changed my perspective. Or just growing older. I’m not sure.

Our house is finally coming together here, thanks to a couple great Craigslist finds, a paint job or two, lots of little fix-it projects, and a dog, whose energy makes it all flow together just right. In honor of the cooling weather, perhaps it’s time for a little virtual housewarming– I’ll take some pics of the homestead and post them soon.

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Give, Take, Etc.

We’ve mentioned our friends Colin and Shanai before– they are some of the most inspiring and yet easygoing movers and shakers in young Minneapolis, so it’s no surprise they were early Story Farm fans. But their work continues to morph and I thought I’d share one of their most recent brainchildren, Give & Take, a monthly event that (in their words) “is built around your answers to two simple questions: What do you know? What do you want to know? Their events are as various as the people who attend them, so you can expect to learn skills as practical as how to start a garden, how to use WordPress, how to find the best pizza joints in town, title insurance, and dating successfully, and as ethereal as “opportunity” and “creativity.” I haven’t been to one of these yet, and sadly, I’m going to miss tonight’s (It’s 7-9 pm at Intermedia Arts). But happily, next month it shall rise again! In the meantime, check out their spunky website and ask yourself “What do I know?”

Personally, I would teach either farming with oxen, capturing good audio, or selecting a ripe melon. You?

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