The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Fleeing the conference

Hyatt ColumbusWe try to report our failures here as well as our successes.  So I feel obliged to admit that we only managed to attend a quarter of the Acres USA conference.

We drove up to Ohio Monday so Mark could attend the first part of his pre-conference course Tuesday.  The pre-conference classes were amazing, but by the time they ended on Wednesday night, Mark and I knew we couldn't survive another day getting up before dark, coming home after dark, and staying inside a huge conference center for the time in between.

Yes, there were a dozen Amish people at the pre-conference.  No, they didn't seem to be as badly affected by the concrete jungle as we were.

I was dying to see Harvey Ussery (oh, and Joel Salatin), both of whom spoke Friday.  I was itching to listen to in-depth lectures on plant secondary metabolites, cover crops, and more.  I wanted to peruse the bookstore and trade show, and to hear more about Fertrell's Nutri-Balancer (which pastured poultry keepers seem to swear by.)

But we couldn't do it.

ACRES USA conferenceI like to pretend that the reason we stay home so much is because the farm needs us, but the truth is we need the farm much more.  I don't think we relaxed until we stepped out of the car on the edge of the hay field, waded through the flood waters, and fired up the wood stove.

Note to self: Two days of conference is about our max.  No way can we combine a conference with a family visit --- preferably, we'd plan it so that half of each conference day was silent contemplation time.  Live and learn....

Note to readers: All is not lost!  Once I digest the experience a bit more, I'll have a really awesome lunchtime series on Mob Grazing for you.  And I think I can get a partial refund and use it to get MP3s of most of the conference.  Stay tuned.

Our automatic chicken waterer kept the flock happy while we were away.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm glad that you two enjoyed the pre-conference, but I don't think there's anything wrong with recognizing that having to deal with large groups of people and being shut in a building throughout the daylight hours just isn't your thing. I wouldn't call it a failure; I would call it a learning experience. :) After all, there are lots of other ways to get that information that don't involve putting yourself through a lot of discomfort or worse.

Personally, I have to put on my "big city persona" to get through anything that involves large groups (that or be a performer/presenter/etc. - basically I can't take being part of the crowd), and it's useable duration is 48 hours at best, heh. :)

Comment by Ikwig Mon Dec 12 08:22:18 2011
Thanks for saying that --- you're right that it's a learning experience just to figure out what works for us and what doesn't. I do tend to get my best information out of books, but thought I should branch out and at least try another method. Now I can say I've tried it and know what we can and can't do.
Comment by anna Mon Dec 12 12:12:26 2011
Many people feel the way you did about going to a conference. I am a social person, live in suburbia, hang out with ~6 people all day in lab but I discovered years ago that conferences are exausting and although I do go to 1 week conferences for work, I never plan on going to each event at the conference. I pick and choose the most interesting lectures then relax in my room or walk through the city and find neat hidden places to relax in between lectures. When I went to SDB meeting in chicago, I only went to about half the lectures although I was there for most of the time. When I went to the SFN meeting in san diego (32,000 people went) you could find people sitting out on balconies relaxing, or planning a visit to beaches/mexico/zoos during less interesting parts (the definition for this depended on specialty).
Comment by Rebecca Mon Dec 12 16:20:07 2011

That's how we planned our Organic Growers School experience, and it was much nicer. I think the problem here was twofold. First, we tried to combine the conference with a family visit, and that meant absolutely no down time. Second, the conference was too far away --- when it takes most of a day to get there and most of a day to get back, that only leaves two possible days at the conference before my "ack, I want to go home!" feelings start.

In contrast, the Organic Growers School was just a couple of hours drive away, so travel didn't eat up all of our time. And we only went to about half the classes, even leaving partway through ones that were poorly led. The result was a lot of great learning without feeling overwhelmed.

Comment by anna Mon Dec 12 17:27:15 2011
Teeeheee! I'm not laughing AT you guys, but WITH you. I am seeking my agricultural education, and sometimes, I find myself asking "is that really worth my time away from the farm?" It's a very cool time we live in that so many educational opportunities exist. Just watch out for those windowless conference rooms! :)
Comment by Paula B. Wed Dec 14 19:05:21 2011

Boy, I read your second sentence as "I'm not laughing WITH you guys, but AT you." Clearly it's time to turn the computer off. :-)

I guess that's the sign of a true homesteader, someone who asks if it's worth the time away from the farm to learn more about farming....

Comment by anna Wed Dec 14 19:55:35 2011

I somehow missed this post the first time but saw it linked in your recent post. I felt the urge to say BRAVO! I am so impressed that you not only knew yourselves well enough, but also Listened to yourselves. I am not sure I would have been so brave.

You definitely made the right choice. I am impressed.

Comment by Emily Tue Apr 10 23:01:24 2012
Emily --- Thanks for saying that! I felt a bit silly at the time, but in retrospect, it was the right decision. And I'm actually enjoying the lectures more spaced out too, despite missing the visuals.
Comment by anna Wed Apr 11 12:54:58 2012

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