Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

November 17, 2016
What a great place for hands-on living!

It’s right there, in the fine print at the end of this article. I’m a strong proponent of “hands-on” living. It something that I aspire to do in every facet of life that I can. The longer I live, the more gratifying I have found this approach to be. I’m not alone. From the comments Maggie and I enjoy from viewers of our YouTube channel, there are a lot of us, like you, who want to know how to be the first resource we ourselves call upon when we need to solve, fix or create something.

I enjoyed a long and personally significant career with one company. Like most people, I had many things that I tried my hand at, some entry level, others with higher responsibility. I remember interviewing for a position with the company I would ultimately be associated with for 27 years. I said to my interviewer, “I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking for a long-term, mutually beneficial career.” Wow, I know I wasn’t that smart, but those words turned out to be pretty prophetic!

During that time, I enjoyed multiple careers within the same company. I learned firsthand that being able to learn new things, learning quickly from mistakes, getting along with a wide range of personality types and taking responsibility for decisions, either good or bad, is a healthy way to approach both life and business. The friendships that endure to this day are one of the ongoing “paydays” that we enjoy — as both my wife and I had the pleasure of working in the same company, along with our oldest son.

Even so, there was always a bit of dissonance going on with me. You see, I’m much more comfortable turning a spade in the soil, making sawdust and projects in the shop, fixing up things around the house, or preparing a new dish in the kitchen than I ever was in the boardroom. Maggie and I used to joke that our coworkers and the business partners we served would never recognize us on the weekends. During the week, we dressed the part business deserves, and enthusiastically worked to assure the mutual success of our team and business centers. On the weekends, we could be spotted in a pickup truck in grungy clothes, perhaps hauling a load of lumber for the latest project or an aromatic load of manure to amend our garden’s soil.

During our professional life, there was a disconcerting habit that crept in to my approach to tackling projects and things I wanted. It was this: throw money at it. We were making a great income, and having monetary resources actually dumbed me down. Instead of having to think how to get something done with the minimal amount of expense, or using materials that I already had on hand, I’d just buy stuff. I’m ashamed to say a lot of those purchases were impulsive and didn’t really give that much gratification or sense of accomplishment.

It’s not all bad, though. There are many things I bought for the shop and yard many years ago that still serve us well today. These generally are items used to build things, or service other items. Well-made tools, outdoor gear and fixtures are enduring and continue to contribute, even now. There’s not a lot still around bought for pure entertainment or impulse. Know what I’m saying?

Good for us, we are in the right place, with the right people (that would be you), and right resources to live the “hands-on” life we aspire to. Here’s why.

For those that want to raise more of their own food, there is a robust community of gardeners and animal husbandry people in our area. If you have an interest in growing anything to put on your plate, chances are there is someone growing the item quite successfully right here in our area. Whatever you want to produce, there are plenty of resources here locally to help you succeed.

If you want to raise your own livestock for milk, eggs or meat, there is plenty to assure your success as well. Utah State University (USU) — the State agricultural college (hence, the name “Aggies”) is a robust resource, both with Extension Offices and Agents, but also with plenty online to give you what you need. A quick visit to www.usu.edu will verify what I’m saying.

And, there are plenty of resources in these areas as well on Facebook with various groups such as “Tooele County Greenthumbs,” “Tooele County Master Gardeners” and “Tooele County Healthy Homesteader’s Group.”

Plus, you can find a wealth of specialty books and magazines (such as “Small and Hobby Farms” or “Mother Earth News”) at rural/self-reliant themed businesses in the area. If you want to know how to raise goats, you can find it. If your interest is backyard poultry, there’s plenty for you. If you want to raise your own beef, have a milk cow, make your own soap or cheese, it’s all waiting for you.

Self-reliance means being a life-long learner. There is no getting around that. The “hands-on life” person looks first to themselves to do the thinking, draw on a skill, or get the work done. But, that’s not possible if you haven’t been making the investment to learn new things and add proficiencies along the way.

Even if you have learned to be proficient at a wide range of areas, it’s not going to do you much good if that things you need to buy to do the job are not readily available or highly inconvenient to get to. Fortunately, the Tooele Valley is also rich in some great supply outlets for most things you’ll need to do a lot of your own stuff.

There are plenty of places throughout Tooele County that offer everything from farm equipment, gardening and animal husbandry supplies, home maintenance and construction tools, electrical and plumbing supplies, specialty hardware and name-brand painting supplies. They range in size from small mom-and-pop operations to nationally known big-box stores. All offer great customer service and can help with just about any project you can think of.

So, my fellow hands-on life aficionados, I think you will agree with me that we live in a great place to enjoy some strong gratification of doing things yourself. In fact, I think I’ll go upstairs and enjoy a slice of toast from Maggie’s baking spree yesterday, and while I’m at it, drizzle some honey on my snack from local beekeepers Mike and Lisa Lund. It’s hard not to smile.

Jay Cooper can be contacted at jay@dirtfarmerjay.com, or you can visit his channel at youtube.com/dirtfarmerjay for videos on the hands-on life of gardening, shop and home skills, culinary arts and landscaping.

Jay Cooper

Garden Spot Columnist at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Jay Cooper is a new contributing writer for the Garden Spot column. He replaced Diane Sagers, who retired in November 2013 after writing the column for 27 years. Also known as Dirt Farmer Jay, Cooper and his wife have been residents of Erda since 2001 after moving to Utah from Tucson, AZ. A passionate gardener and avid reader of horticultural topics, for several years he has been a member of Utah State University’s Master Gardeners Program, and served as chapter president in 2013. Cooper says Tooele County has an active and vibrant gardening community, and the Garden Spot column will continue to share a wide range of gardening, landscaping, home skills and rural living themes.

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