It all started when I bought Chad a goat book one Christmas. The author, Deborah Niemann, raises goats on her farm Antiquity Oaks in Illinois. She wrote something that caused us to pause. She said, "Huge chain stores advertise "cheap food." There is nothing cheap about life. I have learned by watching pregnant does waddle around, scream in labor, carry a baby, deliver and love that baby, and put their energy into making milk. To associate "cheap" or "disposable" with this milk is to say that my little goat's life, love for her baby, an effort to make milk is not worthy of the dignity we generally assign to living beings." We found this sense of genuine appreciation for food and the animal it comes from as something all people ought to know and value.
The second book that inspired our school was the Laura Ingall's Little House series. I read a few books with our youngest daughter, and in reading, we learned how to make butter, cheese, smoked meat, preserve fruit, bale hay, and tan leather. Our reluctant reader loved the series and learned a lot about pioneer life. One phrase our daughter remembered when planting corn was, "Four seeds in a row, one for the rook, one for the crow, one will wither, and one will grow." My husband and I thought these books would make a valuable thematic series to teach the lost art of self-reliance.
The next summer, we attended our first Mother Earth News Fair in Albany, Oregon. We spent two days sitting in lectures instructing how to make cheese, ferment cabbage, plant heirloom seeds, and use permaculture to make the most efficient use of our land.
Reflecting on our new knowledge and realizing there was still much to learn, we discovered that these skills were lost somehow in generations of the past. This stirred within us a sense of necessity that even though we were still students, we needed to teach these skills to younger generations.