Happy Friday, Lifers!  One of the best parts of my job is getting out of the office and hitting the road.  Chasing the rails means that I get into some odd nooks and crannies that folks never see.  As I explore the backroads, I see the backyards, the historic sections of towns, and waterways and woods.  Where the rails go, I follow. 

Of course, exploring backroads takes me to some unattractive areas as well.  I see the rotting remains of America’s once robust manufacturing sector.  I see the trash piles, the forgotten equipment from bygone eras and the ruins of homesteads and businesses.  I also go into some not so savory neighborhoods and locations.  Where the rails go, I follow (carefully and cautiously).

I imagine I get this adventure streak from my dad.  He was notorious for exploring backroads after church on Sundays.  The sun would be shining, and we were crammed in the station wagon.  He would trundle down backroads looking at property or berry patches.  Come to think of it, my grandparents did this as well.  My grandpa (my mom’s dad) was a great forager. He could spot berry patches and mushrooms as he flew down the country roads.  By exploring backroads, he knew where the best spots were (hunting, fishing, and foraging), and he also found and purchased different pieces of land through his adventures.

exploring backroads; foraging for mushrooms; Wisconsin

My brother and I found this mushroom in NW Wisconsin – September 2019

When my brother and I were up at my mom’s in early September, we took some time and went exploring.  We were foraging for mushrooms, and we drove some roads that I had never been down in my 46 years.  Our family has been going up to that part of Wisconsin since 1982 or so!  You just never know what you will find when you are exploring backroads, and we did find some great mushrooms and had time to talk and have some laughs.

We miss a lot of the world as we fly by these places on the “I System” at 80 mph.  We are missing the rich culture, the architecture and those nooks and crannies that make these communities unique.  Granted, a lot of times, we are hustling to “get there,” and exploring backroads will soak up our limited time.  I get it.  I absolutely do. 

If you have some time, try exploring backroads.  You might find something that captures your imagination: an old barn, a forgotten homestead, a beautiful hill or canyon, a bubbling brook or creek or a great berry or grape patch. You just never know what you’ll find.  Slow down, take the time, and enjoy the adventure!

Our theme this week on News from Around the Bend is exploring the backroads, so I will get right to it!  As usual, we have some of our recent posts and podcast episodes on Small Scale Life, then Julie’s picks and my picks.  Let’s go! 

Small Scale Life Content

It has been a productive few weeks at Small Scale Life.  We have some podcast episodes that we would love for you to hear!

kombucha class; importance of mentoring

Kombucha and the Importance of Mentoring

Small Scale Life

Earlier this week, I posted my thoughts after a GREAT kombucha brewing class taught by Bryan Deane Bertsch.  You can click here to listen to that podcast episode.  Bryan started brewing kombucha at home in a 2.5 gallon crock in 2006, and now he has 30-30 gallon barrels (900 gallons potentially) that are busy brewing Deanne’s Kombucha, which is a brand available in the Twin Cities market.

Learning from Bryan, asking questions and talking after the class last weekend made me think about something Greg Burns had said in our Homesteading for Beginners Podcast: start with the why and get a mentor.  Click here to listen to that podcast episode. It was great talking with someone who was just like me once up on a time:  sitting in a chair, trying to start something, and making more mistakes than successes at times.

Find a mentor, learn from them and practice/execute.  Your learning curve will be steep!

 Kitchen Thrifty Thursday Tips; Financial Freedom; Budget

10 Kitchen Thrifty Thursday Tips

Small Scale Life

For the past 9 months, the Small Scale Life Facebook Community has been providing money-saving advice, tips and hacks on Thursdays.  These tips were part of an overall effort to help people save a few dollars by being wise stewards of their limited resources: money, energy and time. 

As I went through the old posts, I found that most of the posts were focused on our grocery shopping and activities in the kitchen.  I compiled the list from real posts from the Lifers and added some personal stories to each one.  Take a listen and read the article by clicking here.  

Julie’s Pick

Little Chute Windmill in Little Chute, WI

You can only see this by exploring backroads. This is the Little Chute Windmill in Little Chute, WI

Julie continues to listen to new and interesting podcasts in her Kia College every day on her commute.  She had a good one for her Pick of the Week:

20: #mindright – Todd McCullough

Do The Thing Podcast

Melissa Hartwig Urban

Melissa Hartwig Urban, Whole30 co-founder and #1 New York Times best-selling author, has a new podcast called “Do The Thing.”  She interviews Todd McCullough who created the TMAC20 Program.  This is a 20 minute no-equipment workout regimen, and it was not the main focus of podcast episode.  Melissa and Todd discuss meditation and developing a meditation habit.  Click here to listen to the podcast.

If you are struggling with meditation (ahem – Tommy Cakes do the meditation thing?  Fugetaboutit), you might want to listen to this podcast episode.  They talk about the 4 parts of the “mindright” meditation practice and how to develop the meditation habit.

After all, perhaps the greatest exploring backroads adventure is mastering your own mind.

Tom’s Picks

red barn; Sheridan, WI; exploring backroads

This red barn stood out in the fresh snow. It stands off a backroad near Sheridan, WI – November 2019

I am writing this post from my hotel room in Appleton, WI, tonight.  I will be heading across Wisconsin tomorrow morning, and the weather looks partly cloudy and a little warmer.  It could be an interesting drive, especially with snow dusting the landscape.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.  Let’s explore backroads online, shall we?

 InstaGram @racer787

Brian Holzhausen

 As I scroll over my Instagram feed, I always seem to stop on the Brian’s account.  As I look over Brian’s body of work, I see a lot of places I have been, and I see a lot of subjects that has also caught my eye.  I love the barns, the old churches, the docks and the bodies of water.  If you have an Instagram account, check out Brian’s @racer787 feed.  You’ll feel like you are there with him!

By the way, he responds to messages, and I will have an opportunity to take a photo of a barn he shot near my hotel in Appleton, WI, tomorrow.  I had a 50/50 chance to guess which railroad line where he took the photo, and I just needed to confirm it.  He filled in all the details for the location, so let’s see how my little iPhone does tomorrow morning.  Thanks, Brian!


Regenerative Roadtrip

Jason Gray and Family

 Jason and his family are on an adventure and definitely exploring backroads.  They sold their organic farm in Colorado as his wife Tara got a job with the National Park Service.  They travel from assignments in one National Park to another assignment in another National Park.  They have truly downsized and are living a unique life of their own making.

Jason started a series of videos on the Great Pacific Coast Highway, and they have two videos posted.  As I am linking to these today, I am hoping that he will have some time to create the rest of the series.  This was quite the adventure as they traveled up the Great Pacific Coast Highway during the Government Shutdown earlier this year.


Living Simple Tour


Jim and Mary Competti

If you have been around the gardening and living simply sphere on the internet, you have probably found Old World Garden Farms website.  Jim and Mary Competti decided to start developing a 3 acre homestead in Ohio.  They built a garden, a chicken coop, a barn out of reclaimed wood from 2 barns, an orchard, a small vineyard and eventually a house on their property.  Over the past couple years, they have written two books: Growing Simple and Raised Row Gardening.  I have Growing Simple on my desk in the basement back home.

They realized that they needed to make more changes to their life.  They decided to leave their jobs and travel to all 50 states!  They have a truck and a teardrop trailer and hit the road.  Right now, they are in Washington on Day 59 of their great adventure.  You can watch and read about their adventure by clicking on this link.

Here are some stats from their travels to date:


Day 59 of 365

States Visited 9 / 50

National Parks / Monuments Visited: 10

Stayed In: Long Beach, Washington

Miles Driven: 137

Total Trip Miles To Date: 7297.8

Total Gallons Used: 544.61

Biking Miles: 0

Biking Miles To Date: 133.0

Hiking Miles: 3.6

Hiking Miles To Date: 143.8

Fascinating.  This kind of data collection always peaks my interest, and of course I would drop it into a spreadsheet (matrix)!  We will be watching this tour with GREAT interest, especially as Julie and I hunker down in the cold Minnesota winter and plan to rehab a pop-up trailer next spring.  We have plans….not this bold, but we do have plans!

You can follow the tour on their Facebook and Instagram pages as well.

Download Our Free Budget Bundle

Quickie Monthly Budget Free Download

How do you live this kind of life?  Aren’t you curious how?  Would you like to try? 

It really comes back to taking control of your life, your stuff and especially your finances.  Do you think people just sell everything and hit the road?  No, they do not.  They have a plan, and they have a budget.  I guarantee it.  They need to be ready for disasters on the road: cars break down, equipment needs repair, and of course they need to eat.

 It is time to take control of your life and your spending.  Set up your budget using our free budget bundle tools available on Small Scale Life.  We will show you how to set up and track your budget and track your expenses.  You can do this; we are here to help!  Use this link to go to Small Scale Life and start budgeting today.  Click here.

Simply Canning School with Sharon Peterson

When I was visiting Doneil Freeman and others at the Freeman Family Farm, Michael Jordan’s dad “Pops” told us about the cowboys that used to go hunting for elk.  As they had successfully harvested an elk, the hunters would butcher the elk in the field and bring the meat back to camp.  Then it would begin: the cowboys would pull out their pressure canners and Mason jars and start canning at camp.  The canned meat would be split with the cowboys at the end of the hunt, and everyone would go home with food.

Could you do that?  Do you know how to can meat safely?  Do you want to learn how?

Sharon Peterson from Simply Canning School has a Canning Meat Workshop and Class available for a limited time.  You can get register for both here:

FREE Canning Meat Workshop Registration Page – TAKE THIS CLASS!!!! IT’S FREE! Click here for the FREE class.

Canning Meat Sales Page – Purchase the Workshop in the Simply Canning School by clicking here

Sign up for the FREE class today.  If you like it, you can purchase the classes from the Simply Canning School.  Sign up and take the class now; it is only offered for a limited time.

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