Hillside Homestead

Two years ago, Susan Odom began living out her dream of homesteading — a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, practicing sustainable agriculture and homemaking. A Michigan native with roots in South Carolina, she spent seven years as a lead presenter and special events supervisor for a famous historical hotspot, Greenfield Village. Susan spent those years dressed in traditional garb, reenacting the ways of our forefathers for curious visitors. These practices still play an important role in every day life at Hillside Homestead, her picturesque home and bed & breakfast located in the quaint town of Suttons Bay, MI. Recently, Matt and I had the pleasure of visiting Hillside Homestead and getting to know Susan.

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Hillside Homestead sits on two acres of open fields and is home a pair of mud-bathing pigs, about two-dozen gorgeous free-roaming chickens, and an especially social rescue cat named Beena. The farm house was originally built around 1900 by a Bohemian immigrant named Joe Reicha and is maintained by Susan and one dedicated part-time employee — the daughter of a neighboring farmer. Staying in this cozy bed & breakfast evoked a strong sense of place for me, conjuring my upbringing on my family's farm near MI's Mackinaw Bridge.

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Susan initially stumbled upon the property while visiting a friend in the area. Though she loved the location and house, she was hesitant to commit due to the lack of acreage, originally hoping for ten acres or more. Working with a realtor, she couldn't seem to find anything that matched up, so she ultimately decided to alter the scale of her plan. When the land went back on the market a year later, she wasted no time and purchased it.

During our short stay with Susan,I had planned to read and nap, but from the moment I arrived I was so captivated by my surroundings that I spent my time engaged in conversation, taking hundreds of photographs and mental notes of her incredible stories. I learned how to make Cherry Bounce, that eggs can be stored all winter-long without refrigeration, and how to prepare currant jam. Nearly everything Susan does on her farm is consistent with nineteenth-century ways of life — from morning coffee preparation (this near 45 minute task includes cracking an entire farm-fresh egg, including the shell, into boiling coffee grounds) to cooking traditional meals on a wood-burning stove. Her aprons and dresses are specially made for her using pre-Civil War era patterns, and every piece of furniture, artwork, book, plate, and baking tool was expertly curated through estate sales and vigilant Craigslist scouring.

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I got a sneak peek into her "modern kitchen" — something she doesn't usually share with guests — where she washes all the dishes (by hand, of course!) and has plenty of counter space to prepare large-scale meals. I also had the pleasure of cooking breakfast with her — biscuits, cream potatoes, and pepper and cheese omelets. Susan even taught me the proper way of rolling out biscuits (I've been putting too much pressure on the pin all this time!).

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Matt and I enjoyed our delicious breakfast with Susan in her sunny breakfast nook while sharing stories and viewpoints on everything from vegetarianism to politics, somehow managing to drink an entire kettle of coffee. After our conversations, I gathered that Susan's motivation when starting Hillside Homestead was not only to carry on these precious traditions, but also to educate future generations about patience, the grave importance of proper farming practices, and living off the land. In the age of iPhones, Wal-Mart, and microwaves, my generation doesn't give much consideration to Susan's historical values and self-sustaining traditions. Most every ingredient used in her daily cooking is local – if not from her farm, from nearby farmers. Like in the olden days, she and her neighbors encompass a close-knit community that often trade goods and services in order to support one another. Speaking of neighbors, Susan took us to a recently opened local cidery, Tandem Ciders — just a mile-and-a-half down the road. The cidery offers almost a dozen handmade hard ciders ranging from ultra-dry to super-sweet. Each one is expertly crafted using a mix of apples farmed on their own land and sourced from other local fruit farmers. I sampled about half of them, and I hope we'll be seeing these bottles carried at Whole Foods nationwide within the next few years.

Susan is active in several educational programs in the area. Every seventh grader in the county visits the Homestead for a day and gets to experience a home-cooked traditional lunch. College-level visits with Northern Michigan University students and hands-on workshops like "Apple Butter Making" are other highlighted educational offerings.

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Part preservationist, part food historian, Susan's chosen path is a difficult but important one. I hope the future generations she is helping to educate will be as impacted by her work as I was. I hope that one day soon farmers and homesteaders like Susan will receive more tax breaks, incentives, and grant opportunities. And I hope when this happens, it will more easily enable similar projects to pop up throughout the U.S. and beyond.

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All photographs by Matt Morris, shot on a 1970s Polaroid land camera.

Impromptu Michigan Trip

I'm lucky enough to have been raised in Mid-Michigan, and whenever I get home I sometimes revel in its understated beauty – especially this time of year when everything is so lushly green. This trip was dedicated to visiting with my incredibly lovely 93-year-old grandmother, Genevieve. The eldest of eight, my dad grew up on our family farm, where grandma still resides today.

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Sifting through dozens of old photos albums is one of my favorite things to do at The Farm. My grandfather recently passed away, so uncovering many shots of he and grandma looking happy and healthy brought a smile to my face.

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When my sister and I visit The Farm together, we spend some time down at the pond throwing back a Black Label or two. My Uncle Joe actually has a "hiding spot" located under a rock in the spring, where the beers keep cold year-round (sorry for the reveal, Joe!). This trip, the pond had been drained for a cleaning so Jen and I got to walk through it and uncovered some gorgeous agates and fossils.

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On the drive back, we stopped by one of our most-loved childhood ice cream spots, King Kone. Chocolate and vanilla twist dipped in chocolate? Yes, please!

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And of course you know I had to document some Michigan flowers. The clematis are in bloom in my folks' backyard.

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For more proof of Michigan's beauty, check out this short video that Matt made a few years ago. About 3:26 minutes in you can see footage of The Farm and my grandmother.

Amanda Jane Jones

It never ceases to amaze me how eerie the internet can be – sometimes I stumble upon the most perfect thing at any given time. In this case, I was exploring Pinterest and came across a vibrant image that resonated with me (being a Michigander and all!).

Unfortunately, the artist wasn't credited in the caption but with some research I found her website. First off, I noticed that she was based in one of my favorite Michigan cities (Ann Arbor) and after skimming through her portfolio realized that she had done some work for an old colleague/friend of mine, Detroit-based artist Scott Hocking (check it out here). Small world!

The artist's name is Amanda Jane Jones and she is the primary designer forKinfolk Magazine, a niche publication which focuses primarily on the beauty of entertaining and small gatherings. Amanda's crisp, clean design aesthetic is apparent throughout the magazine's lovely pages.

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Kinfolk's website offers a host of lovely videos encompassing everything from cooking to beekeeping.

I’m always interested in how an artist settles into their particular field, so that was the focus for this short Q&A with Amanda.

Q: How did you get your start in graphic design and letterpress?

A: We were lucky enough to find an old letterpress for sale in a creepy shop in Downtown Detroit. It was full of old machines and when we saw the Vandercook we knew it needed to come home with us. The owners didn’t even know how to use it, so it was a pretty lucky find.

Q: What’s the single most valuable lesson you’ve learned during your time in the field

A: Oh man, I’m still learning. But I suppose I’d say at this point in my life, make sure you leave time for personal design projects. Sometimes I get so busy with client work that I forget to take a day or two to just design for fun and see where it takes me.

Q: What’s your favorite campaign to date that you’ve created and/or been a part of?

A: I love ‘em all.

Q: How did you get involved with Kinfolk?

A: Nathan, the editor, sent me an email before the magazine began to see if I’d be up for being the designer. I’m forever grateful he did! Kinfolk is a wonderful project to be a part of.

Q: What is your greatest source of inspiration?

A: Books, books, books. Old and new, big and small. I’ve got more than I can count!

 

Amanda's online portfolio showcases her diverse body of work. I'm particularly smitten with her thoughtful end-of-year and birthday card designs.

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All photos via Amanda Jane Jones.

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1.1.11

Oh hello, friends! Happy New Year. Last night Matt and I had our traditional New Years Eve festivities which included eating loads of yummy food, drinking vintage Bollinger champagne, playing board games and watching movies, all in our pajamas while sitting beside the Christmas tree! I hope you all had stellar a good time as well. So I want to ramble about New Years Resolutions for a hot second. Last year I vowed to do yoga at least once a week and make a considerable effort to rid my body of the stress I tend to plague it with. I am happy to report that I did a solid job and will continue my yoga practice for...well, probably forever! This year, my resolution is to spend more quality time with my family - this will mean traveling back to MI more than usual, and to Napa to see my sis and bro in law, and of course, conning them into coming back to Florida to visit us as well. I am so lucky to have such an amazingly strong and supportive family, unfortunately we're scattered on opposite coasts, so I don't get to enjoy their company as much as I'd like to. I love traveling but it's expensive and hard to get away from work, and frankly, the thought of airports lately gives me hives, but seriously I'm going to push that aside and do my best to spend as many vacation days and three-day weekends as possible with them because to me, my family is as dear to my heart as it gets.

I've always had a deep appreciation for the roots on both sides of my family. My mom's heritage stems all the way back to the small Italian village of Pofi (about an hour Southeast of Rome) and I'd like to get back to visit with my extended family there again someday soon (a few photos from my last trip are posted here).

On my dad's side, his parents have owned our picturesque family farm (see it here) since 1946 in almost-upper Michigan, and a good majority of my favorite childhood memories took place there. Over the time I've lived in Florida, I only get back to the farm twice a year and that's just not enough. My Grandpa's health and memory are both steadily fading and my Grandma's spirit seems to be dwindling a bit as the the aches of old age set in...and I want more time with them.

On that note, my mom has commissioned Matt to make a short documentary about them and The Farm - here's a short bit of footage from a few days ago, while walking (and doing some kind of weird dance) on the beautifully snow-drenched property.

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Walking in the snow at Kruch Farm from Matt Morris on Vimeo.

Bottom line: time is precious and I want to spend as much of mine as I can with the people I love. I was reminded of this today when my dear friend Allister posted a very wise quote that hit me hard: "Follow your passion, life is shorter and less serious than you think..."

Thanks for reading my first blog/babble of 2011. May this year be a classy one!

Say Yes to Michigan!

Aside from winning the coolest shaped state award (a mitten! COME ON!), Michigan also happens to be where I was born and raised, and therefore holds a very special place in my heart. I've been on a "find Michigan memorabilia" kick lately and have been quite successful in my totally pointless yet still somehow necessary search!

While on the search, I stumbled upon a quite Michigan-centric blog that goes by the mild mannered name of Fuck Yeah Michigan. I found this on there, which is pretty epic...

Next up, I need to find an original vintage "Say Yes to Michigan!" t-shirt like the one I am rocking as a bebeh in the photo below, with my mama circa 1983, at North Bar Lake in Empire, MI.

Dang, I'm getting so antsy to take my honey to all of my favorite spots in Michigan for vacation time this July! Woooooo!