When I was about 12 I asked my father what job or career he wanted me to have when I grew up. In that moment he was touched. “Steve,” he said,” I don’t care if you’re a doctor or an automobile mechanic. What I do want for you is that when you wake up each morning you look forward to what you have to do that day.” For him working had mostly been an unpleasant duty done to support his family. Experiencing what my father’s ongoing anger and resentment over this did to him and to our family, I resolved to do better myself. I suppose that’s why most of my income has been created from home.
I could try to explain “who” I am but the attempt seems futile. There’s little apparent consistency in most of the personas I’ve worn. However, I’ve observed certain qualities in myself that do seem consistent: like intensity. I tend to be totally absorbed in whatever I am interested in. When going through phases lacking this high level of interest I am bored and feel discontent. There seems to be a natural teacher at the core of me; I choose the difficult path up the mountain rather than the flat road through the valley. I have irradicable propensities toward independence, the expression of personal sovereignty and the exercise of liberty. In other words, I’m a free soul who hates paying attention to things I am not interested in. Consequently, I have rarely been comfortable in the role of employee.
If you ‘ll click on the word “written” you’ll see some short pieces I’ve written that have never been published anywhere else. These bits of fiction and fancy and meditation might tell you more honest truth about me than I could tell you if I tried.
I write how-to-vegie-garden books. My best three are in print at this time: Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades published by Sasquatch Press, Seattle, The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient Dense Food and Gardening When It Counts, both titles published by New Society, Gabriola Is., B.C. Two older gardening-related books of mine are available in this library.
In my late twenties I became a secondary school teacher, this done out of a foolish notion that I could inspire a love of knowledge in the young by getting them to “do” history, which was something I had a passion for at that time. I tried to teach history in much the same way I present this website, by giving my students the original documents to read and upon which to exercise their imagination. The method didn’t work very well then because the students were too young to really appreciate history (a study that rarely should be undertaken by someone under thirty years of age). I also failed because secondary school students rarely study because of their own enthusiasm and passion for knowledge. So I found teaching secondary school history a very disappointing experience.
I gave up teaching after struggling with it for a couple of years and stumbled into self-employment—and learned how to do business by doing business. I discovered that self-employment was much more satisfying than teaching school. For, when Johnny the high school student did not want to study, the teacher was supposed to fault themselves for being unable to motivate Johnny. But when Johnny the employee did not work responsibly or lacked the intelligence to learn the job, the boss took a simple expedient, fired him and hired Freddy.
After seven years in the book trade I no longer found the process of doing business interesting. I had created much more income than I knew what to do with. I owned a house on a half acre block with very good soil in the San Fernando Valley. I had a big backyard holding a veggie garden, chickens and two semi-feral cats. I had come to prefer the garden to most of what Los Angeles had to offer. I had cash in the bank and no debts whatsoever. So I sold the typesetting business and homesteaded in Oregon where I wrote a garden book and started a successful mail order vegetable seed business. After seven years in the seed trade I sold Territorial Seed Company in 1985 and retired, age 44, financially independent in a modest way. However, I still wanted to make a difference, make this planet a better place to live. Thus has come about one of my better quips: “Considering the alternatives, I prefer self-employment to employment. After all, you usually make a lot more when you work for yourself and always have much more independence. But my real choice is comfortable and creative unemployment.”
I’ve been writing a collection of sayings and observations since the mid 1970s; it is called, naturally, The Wisdom Of Solomon. Most of these thoughts and sayings are my own creation; the minority have been ruthlessly stolen. Despite all I’ve been through this lifetime, my wisdom book is still only about four pages long. I suspect The Wisdom of Solomon might lengthen to five pages before this lifetime is over. Maybe six, if I live long enough. But probably not six because as I age there seems to be less and less really wise wisdom. Who knows, as I age the book might start to shrink.
In 2013-14 I wrote the 7th edition (by far the best edition ever) of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. It will be issued about Christmas, 2015. That will almost certainly be my last book about food growing in the Cascadia Bioregion because the 7th edition won’t need revising/updating for at least another ten years but I turned 72 years old in 2014. Also, I am fast losing touch with the current scene in the United States.
I now live in Tasmania, the smallest state in Australia. Tasmania is so different from Mainland Australia that it seems to me and many Taswegians that we live in our own nation. In 2002 I wrote and self-published Growing Vegetables South of Australia. It is like West of the Cascades turned upside down and inside out. South of Australia has been quite successful when measured on a Tasmanian scale; so far I have sold over 6,000 copies to a population slightly less than half a million people.
I devote an hour almost every day of the year to growing a quarter-acre year-round food garden that provides more than half the total food intake of two adult as well as a substantial weekly food box for a few local families. This garden work, plus almost daily yoga practice, keeps me fit.
Lately I have become more hermitish. I prefer my garden to most people; I prefer the company of writers (through reading their books) and of Annie to that of most other social interactions. We are very active patrons of the State Library of Tasmania. I wish I did not know what is going on in the world—I mean the sort of stuff that is usually called “news”—but as remote as Tasmania is, to my sadness it is still part of the American empire.
Finally, if you wish to communicate with me via email go to my contact page.
All the best to you,