The dream is to create a school where people can learn online and in-person. Teaching all kinds of crafts and trades. Keeping many of the DIY and traditional skills alive.
Anne has been working to get the school built both online and on the farm. and unfortunately, the structure of the building is up but there is no roofing on it to protect it from the coming winter rains. We want to raise enough to get the roof on and protect the structure so work can continue inside and possibly even start some classes to get the revenue going.
If you're here, it's likely you've seen my recent YouTube video updating where we are at with my craft school build here at the farm. 2020 has been an impossible year for most of us, and in the midst of that, I’ve made it a point to share as many smiles and as much levity as possible, but I also thought it was important to be honest about where things are at. I didn’t want this video to have a “woe is me” feel to it, because I know that even with the storms we’ve faced this year, so many folks have had it SO much worse. Rather, I wanted to share a real moment, a real update, and some real encouragement for those watching to keep moving forward. I wanted to encourage folks to take whatever small steps today that will make their tomorrow better. To lean on their communities. To ask for help when they need it. The best way to get through times like this is by inviting others on the journey. We’ll get through this year, this pandemic, this economic crisis together. 2020 is the year of the pivot.
If you haven't seen the video, here's a brief synopsis: when moving to TN in January, I had planned to order a building package through a company called Barn Pros and hire a crew to build it alongside me. I hired two full time and two part time employees to help me manage my small business during the build, knowing the build was going to take a huge amount of my physical and emotional capacity as we got it established. The original plan was to open the doors of the School of All Trades in May of 2020 and invite teachers from all over the world to come teach their "trade" from metal machining to tractor repair to permaculture garden techniques. We were working with platform design expert to build an online education platform to accompany the in person classes so folks who weren't able to attend the physical school would still have access to the information shared. I had corporate sponsors lined up to partner with me on the building project, and had allocated a significant amount of money I've been putting away to allocate towards this dream for the past eight years. A series of winter storms prevented us from starting construction in January as planned, February brought more of the same, and the first week of March a tornado ran through Nashville. A week later, as you all know, the whole world shut down due to the Covid-19 outbreak. All the classes and speaking engagements I'd been scheduled to do in 2020 got cancelled one by one. Building materials tripled in cost, and work crews suddenly became out of the question. One by one, my corporate sponsors started breaking their contracts- materials shortages due to supply chain and labor issues paired with a sudden building boom made partnering with a small YouTube channel no longer carry the same value it previously had.
In mid-April, my friend Daniel Amick came to me and said he thought we'd be able to set posts and at least raise the roof on the building to protect the materials using a small crew and limited equipment if we employed some old fashioned farm thinking. So we got to work. Daniel, Parker, Tim and I spent a sweaty summer working together whenever we could all find the time between working long hours to keep our own small businesses and all our own farms afloat in the midst of a pandemic. I poured all my savings into getting us as far as we could with the building project, and did my best to keep my employees working and getting paid as a huge portion of our revenue for the year disappeared. And then, the money just ran out. We'd gotten close to finishing the basic construction of the school building done, but it still had some crucial steps that needed to happen to get the roof on, but there just wasn't any money left. The only thing making this a really time-sensitive issue is that we had just gotten all the plywood up on the roof and didn't have anything to cover it with, but going into winter and TN's rainy season, uncovered plywood and rain don't mix. So we paused, and worked to find a way to pivot to generate some short term revenue to cover the cost of getting us to a less critical stage.
The web developer we'd been working with to develop our online platform disappeared on us a few weeks into the pandemic, so we'd just let that idea go until we could find someone else to help with that, since neither my business partner Josh nor I know enough about coding to develop something like that on our own. But, forced into a corner, we figured out how we could offer some online classes in a very different format than we'd originally planned. Between Josh and I, there is a wealth of knowledge we think would be incredibly helpful to folks during this season of uncertainty and loneliness. Offering online classes, even in a different way than we'd seen done before, was a way we could bridge the gap between having a physical platform from which to teach (the school) and still having a way to share some helpful information. Josh did a deep dive and found ways to make the equipment we had on hand-deliver a quality and caliber of online presentation I was pretty floored by. He and I both pulled multiple all-nighters coming up with the courses we thought would be most helpful and easiest to pull off while we worked out the kinks of teaching online. We offered our first class, "Growing a Small Business Using Social Media" for $5 and we had 95 people sign up. That class certainly had it's technical hiccups, but we received some really incredible feedback about the information the students took away from the class.
With 2020 being the way it is, everything is more difficult and more expensive than it should be, so no part of this pivot is going to be easy, but it will be worth it. I've never cared much about money, I didn't have any growing up, and I doubt I'll have much when I die, but Josh and I's friendship was predicated on a shared desire to spend our lives learning everything we could that might help those around us live a better life. Both Josh and I are spoon carvers and fine woodworkers. We've both spent quite a bit of time living abroad helping other communities, working on farms and doing photography/videography. Josh is incredibly knowledgeable and talented in design and has an artistic eye more finely tuned than anyone else I've met. If you've seen our website or any of our merchandise designs, they've got his fingerprints all over them. My hope for this school, both the physical building and the online platform is that it will do just that. The money that this school generates will be used to get more information to more people. We hope that we can bootstrap this project and really get it running smoothly so it can finance an inner-city school for kids to learn to work with their hands. Both Josh's and my school experiences left quite a bit to be desired, and we are both super passionate about creating opportunities we wish we'd had for kids that have had a tough break in life.
Since posting that video, the outpouring of support we've seen for this project is nothing short of incredible. I honestly hadn’t prepared for how to handle this much ... kindness. I want to steward it well, and to do so I need to read through a few thousand messages and several hundred emails and figure out what we are gonna do. It looks like the roof is totally possible at this point, maybe more. I genuinely can’t believe how people in this community have rallied around this. All I really hoped to come out of that video was folks who were in the same boat would see it and be encouraged. For people who have had a hard year, I hoped it would help to hear someone say “me too.” I value positivity but I think a dose of reality every once in a while is important. I don’t want my positivity to come across as me being unphased by life- unflappable Anne can’t be as helpful to the people I truly want to help. I didn’t think much more of it in posting, but now, well, I’m floored by the human kindness all around me.
I'll end this with a really heartwarming story from the farm: What started as a very sad story this week has the happiest ending. I raise Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats here on the farm and we are at the front end of kidding season (the time of the year mama goats have babies). I breed my goats once a year, both to maintain their health (goats are like many other animals and it’s best for their health to keep them in a regular breeding program that mimics what would happen in the wild) and to keep the goat milk flowing. I've been raising dairy goats for milk for five years now, but this will be the first time I've ever had more than one goat have babies/be in milk at once, and this year I'll have SIX. It’s quite convenient that, this year, goat milking season is riding on the tail end of cow milking season, so those two tasks will have little overlap this year. Anyway, back to the story. My first goat, Aretha Franklin, went into labor Sunday night. After she’d been laboring for a while, it became very clear that something was wrong. I went in and checked the baby position and realized, to my dismay, that the baby was not only ENORMOUS, he was being born breech, or tushie first, rather than hoof first. I tried to reposition him, but couldn’t, so instead, I wiggled his two little back legs out so we had a little leverage. Aretha and I worked so hard together to get him out. It became very clear her life was in danger if he didn’t get out soon, so I had to choose in that moment, his life or hers. As it turns out, he was severely deformed and wouldn’t have made it anyway, so as impossible as that decision was, I made the right one. Aretha was so good, so patient with me though she was suffering, and we worked together to get him out. My heart absolutely broke when she tried to care for her baby but realized he was gone. It’s hard not to impart human emotions on animals, but watching her stand, stoically staring into space, for the rest of the night, and into the next day just broke my heart more. I milked out her colostrum and put it in the fridge in case we needed it for babies later that week. But then, a miracle happened. Dolly Parton, my herd Queen, went into labor and had a totally textbook delivery of four, beautiful, healthy goat kids with no assistance needed. I had the idea to offer one of the babies, right out of the womb, still sopping wet, to Aretha to see if she’d adopt it. And did she ever. She immediately got to work licking the baby and cleaning it and obsessing over it. We helped her dry it off and get it standing. A few minutes later, it started nursing. After such a difficult labor, and spending her first night alone without her baby, I like to think Aretha understood how precious this second chance was. She’s been absolutely obsessed with her little brown girl, and we are all SO happy about how this worked out. So world, meet Tanya Tucker, Aretha Franklin’s new bebe. Over the past two weeks and some very harrowing nights spent in the barn, we've delivered 9 healthy goat babies to six goat mamas and are now practically drowning in goat snuggles and nutrient-dense milk.
If you've read this far, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for being here, for supporting my dream of preserving antiquated craft and tradition, and teaching folks the life skills they need to be a positive resource to their community. From dovetails to tractor repair to canning and preserving, we want to be a part of helping these "lost" skills make a comeback! We hope to see you in class on the farm someday!
- Terre Morrison
- Peggy Tinnin
- Terry Tinnin
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