Category: Civic life

Farmer’s Market, a birthday celebration, and a new kitten

Farmer’s Market, a birthday celebration, and a new kitten

June marks the beginning of our farmers’ market season at the Huss Project. For the second year in a row, we’re hosting a market on-site, where we sell our own produce as well as produce, sweets, and other goods from local producers. It’s a lovely way to connect with our neighbors and share healthy, local food.

Huss Project Farmer's Market
Huss Project Farmer’s Market.

This year, some of our folks have designed super cool activities for kids during the market, including a “mud kitchen,” where kids can make mud creations and “serve” them to each other. There’s also a giant sandbox, a fairy garden, a reading fort, and so much more.

Another addition to this year’s market is the Fresh Food Initiative, which is a partnership with a regional food bank. During market hours once each month, families in need can come pick up a box of groceries that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.  We really enjoy creating a fun, welcoming space where everyone has access to fresh food, no matter what their circumstances.

Fresh Food Initiative
Fresh Food Initiative at the Huss Project.

Between market days, we did manage to get away for a few days to celebrate Rob’s birthday. Lake Michigan has so many beautiful beaches and we try to enjoy the lakeshore at least a couple of times each summer. We spent three days in a row on the beach, despite some cooler temps and rain.

At the beach
Enjoying the sunset at Lake Michigan.

One unexpected surprise this month was a new kitten to join our menagerie! She showed up skinny, dirty, and hungry after a big storm with tornado warnings. She called for help and we answered. We haven’t quite settled on a name yet, but she tends to go by Stash (short for Ms. Mustache) and she charms the socks off everyone she meets!

New kitty friend!
Grief, vaccines, and new life

Grief, vaccines, and new life

April has been a hard month, with both new life and loss. Less than a year after Kirstin’s Grandma Beverly died, her Grandpa Duke passed away. A man of great kindness, generosity, patience, joy, and faith, Grandpa Duke was a huge influence in both our lives. He was one of those people who was always so happy to see you and made you feel unconditionally special and loved. So many of us will miss him dearly, and it’s now our job to keep bringing that remarkable love into the world.

Getting our second COVID vaccination shot!

On the day of the visitation and funeral, it was lovely to see our families, though we had to buzz right back home to receive our second vaccination shots. We both felt pretty crummy the day after and hunkered down on the couch for the day with movies, soup, and the cat, but we felt very glad to do our part to help our world emerge from the devastation of the pandemic. We’re especially thankful that being less susceptible to the virus ourselves helps protect the kiddos in our life who don’t yet have the option for a vaccine.

Daffodils in our back yard.

And even in the midst of grief and the pandemic, new life is emerging! Spring is always a reminder that there is hope and life all around us. The greenhouse at the Huss Project is full of seedlings, and we’ve got a few on our windowsill at home, too, sprouted from pepper seeds that Kirstin’s dad gave us.

Pepper seedlings
Pepper seedlings.
Standing for peace, building community in a new year

Standing for peace, building community in a new year

We kicked off the new year with our very important tradition: Belgian waffles! Usually we’d have a big crew around our kitchen table for brunch and even though all that is on hold because the pandemic, we still enjoyed a sweet breakfast with our friend Willard’s maple syrup.

Waffles on New Year’s Day!

While we were still off work, we turned two bushels of apples from our local orchard into apple sauce, dried apple rings, and apple butter. These join a wide variety of canned and frozen foods we put up when they were in season throughout the past year. Eating local, in-season foods is very important to us for many reasons, including nutrition, supporting local farmers, and of course: the pleasure of anticipation and indulgence! Among our winter favorites: Monday spaghetti night features sauce Rob made and froze from tomatoes he grew, and Kirstin makes an amazing butternut squash mac n’ cheese.

Our fun with food is about to get even closer to our kitchen. Since 2003, we’ve helped out with a volunteer-run fair trade store on the Main Street level right below our home. This winter, we’ve been working on adding local and organic groceries, which involved a major rearranging of our small store space. We can’t wait to be able to get most of our groceries right downstairs, and we’re looking forward to raising a child who knows the shop as part of our home, and all of our fellow volunteers as part of our family.

Coming soon: Local and organic groceries in World Fare!

Even while we continue to build community in our neighborhood, the news on a national level has been pretty chaotic, with disturbing violence at the U.S. Capitol. In response, a friend of ours organized a weekly “Stand for Peace” event a half block from our house. Even though it’s just a small thing, standing outdoors for an hour on a Sunday afternoon—even in sub-zero temps—has helped build relationships and encourage our neighbors that we each have a part to play in creating a society that works for all people.

Stand for Peace in downtown Three Rivers.
Campfires and altered traditions

Campfires and altered traditions

The first week of November was our second week on retreat. It was nice to be in a quiet place away from the Internet during a contentious election week, but also a bit hard to be disconnected from the news. We enjoyed many early evening campfires and sunsets out by the pond. The weather ended up being so warm the last weekend of our retreat that Rob’s parents drove two hours to visit with us outdoors.

GilChrist campfire
Campfire by the pond

“Campfires” definitely seems to be a theme for the year: the last Poetry Open Mic of the year took place at the Huss Project, with multiple fires to keep people warm while social distancing. The featured storyteller was amazing, and even showed us how he can eat fire! Definitely an unexpected, crowd-pleasing ending to his performance, and to the series for the year.

Open Mic at Huss
Open Mic at the Huss Project

Though this year has been different in so many ways, we still helped get World Fare ready for the holidays, hoping for good sales to support our mission. The pandemic has impacted everyone in the world, including the artisans and farmers we partner with through the store, making it even more meaningful and important to encourage folks to shop locally for holiday gifts.

Christmas at World Fare
Christmas at World Fare

In this midst of readying the store, we celebrated Thanksgiving, but it looked very different this year. Instead of driving to the Chicago area to visit our families, we “gathered” with everyone on Zoom. It was actually a nice way to celebrate with Kirstin’s sister and her family, who live in Idaho and tend not to travel for Thanksgiving. Everyone adapted with smaller, but still special meals, including our household. With careful safety considerations, our good friend Emily came to visit us for a week and we enjoyed a simple Thanksgiving meal of locally-harvested foods by candlelight. Among the many lessons we’re learning (again) in this year: the value of family and friends, the abundance we can find in simplicity, and the beauty of the outdoors in all seasons!

Connecting through art and water

Connecting through art and water

We can’t believe summer is starting to wind down already! In the midst of the pandemic, time has been very strange—moving so slowly at times, and moving so fast at others. Our fuzzy little chicks that arrived in June have gotten so big! They’re scratching around for insects and gobbling up any veggies we toss in, though it will still be a couple of months before they start laying eggs.


One of the few social events we’ve been able to host at the Huss Project this summer has been Open Mic Night, which would usually take place the first Thursday of every month downtown at Lowry’s Books. There’s always a variety of genres and ages represented at the mic. This month, Jordan Hamilton returned for his second feature performance—such an amazingly talented musician. Between Open Mic Night and the downtown theatre and art center, we’re grateful for all of the great art we get to experience right here in our small town.

Open Mic Night, socially distanced

Kirstin has spent a lot of time in August and September in the bittersweet task of packing up the family cottage on the lake to prepare it for sale. As many wonderful memories as the family has had at the lake, the time has come to move on. Thankfully, we have many other connections on nearby shorelines as well as our own kayaks to continue enjoying the abundant waterways in our area. We’ll never be short on places to boat and swim with our kiddo, including a great wading river right outside our back door!

Saying goodbye to the cottage

In addition to the river being so close, we’re also grateful that even though we live right downtown, we have a sweet back yard with lots of room to explore and play. As we continue to stay safe during the pandemic, it’s been a great spot to relax with friends around the fire pit…or you know, take a nice nap in the hammock.    

Doing the work

Doing the work

Throughout the summer, folks throughout the country and the world have been demonstrating and continuing to work for racial justice, particularly following the murder of George Floyd in May. At the beginning of this month, we came together with a group of neighbors to help repaint a Black Live Matter street mural that had been vandalized. The small rural city where we live has a lot of work to do to be truly equitable for all our neighbors, but we’re grateful for many amazing people in our community who are doing the work and standing together for justice.

Repainting Black Lives Matter mural

August has been another month of transition as we said goodbye to our summer AmeriCorps folks who helped out at the Huss Project. We had an amazing crew this summer, and we’re very sad to be saying goodbye. We all really appreciated one another’s support and silliness through this strange time.

Corn, anyone?

This month has also been bringing on the vegetables in earnest, and ramped up food preservation season. Each year, we work to fill our freezer and our basement shelves with lots of good food from the farm that we can enjoy through the colder months. 

Because of the busyness of the farm season and now the pandemic, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to go anywhere this summer, but we did manage a short weekend camping trip to the small farm where our friend Emily (who’s really more like family) has been living and working. It was a true delight to see the place where she’s landed and meet some other folks doing an interesting farming project on a small scale. We’re really looking forward to raising our child close to the land with knowledge of where our food comes from and love for all of the incredible gifts of the wild, wooly natural world.

Camping visit