All in Life in the Midwest
I was hired as the bookkeeper with a “Girl Friday” position attached to it that I greatly enjoyed. My office was in a large room with a worn carpet that had a big hole in the middle. The large windows had those old rubber-backed drapes that were shredded with age; and the exteriors were occupied by a community of wasps who eyed me menacingly. “Worn out” did not describe this room adequately! My work space included an antiquated walnut accounting desk that was charming in an old-fashioned way, and an old wooden kitchen chair. The tools for starting my job consisted of a yellow ruled pad, pencil and ancient black telephone. I would literally be creating this office and leapt to the challenge with my usual fervor, learning all about how an organic cooperative does business.
Winter can put a strain on finances and relationships. By the third winter on the farm, I made some discoveries that would alter the way I was living. First, the money I had put aside for home improvements and living expenses was running out a lot faster than I had anticipated; second, my carpenter friend was stealing money from my purse, and also making a little extra cash by pilfering and re-selling some of the equipment I bought. He needed to leave, and since he couldn’t present a good argument against it, he packed all his woodworking equipment into his truck and off he went.
I moved in September 1980, and brought along a friend who was a carpenter – good idea! We got busy building counters and cabinets in the kitchen, making the upstairs into a studio space, and doing some painting before the first blast of winter hit us. I had never before experienced winter that was this intense. The township I lived in was in line with the arctic winds coming straight out of Minnesota and we were on top of a hill. The worst part of this was that there were no storm windows to buffer the wind. We had two LP space heaters, one in the kitchen and one in the living room, that struggled to keep some warmth in the house. I got used to wearing thermal underwear all the time, did a lot of cooking and baking to keep my energy up; and spent the winter reading Carla Emery’s book, while the wind howled outside and the snow piled up to the window sills.
Back in 1967, the hippie movement was gathering steam as thousands of young college students abandoned the life their parents had planned for them, and advanced on the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco for a summer of love, drugs and fabulous rock music. Back here in Wisconsin, while sitting on the front porch of the duplex I shared with my mother, sister and brother, I eagerly read about this subculture of refreshing idealism and longed to be a part of it. So, that’s when that little voice in my head shouted “Well, what are you waiting for?!”