Letting Go…

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to let go of my Knitter’s Guide To Beer book concept. While I feel this book has good potential for success, and would be fun to write, my body’s ability to comfortably process more than a couple of pints of beer per week has declined noticeably in the past few years. Combine this with the fact that when people find out I’m writing a book about beer they want to have a beer with me – which is awesome! – and it becomes even more difficult to reduce my consumption for the sake of my health.

This problem would only escalate if I were to finish the book, and then attempt to promote and sell it. And so…I’m listening to my body and letting go.

Being a believer in cosmic forces, it’s clear to me that my writing efforts were meant for a different purpose. Something a bit deeper than matching knitting projects to beer styles.

Looking at all I’ve learned over the course of my life so far, I’ve found that my pursuit of passionate, hands-on inquiry and research into a variety of self-selected subjects has taught me far more than I ever learned sitting in a chair in a room answering questions posed by a teacher. Finding answers to one’s own questions, and sticking with a subject until one’s curiosity is satiated, is far more satisfying and productive.

While there are many subjects that have caught my attention and interest during my unschooled life, I’ve settled on four as the focus of my redesigned book project…Unschooled Path: Knitting, Medicine, Beer, and Bare Feet. What I’ve learned from each of these subjects goes far beyond what I expected to learn. In addition, I’ve found that when explored on a deeper level, the four subjects are connected and interdependent. The knowledge and skills I gained in one subject, helped to improve my understanding and abilities in all the others.

So what’s the most important thing I’ve learned from each of these four subjects? Well, I’ll tell ya…

  • Knitting The value of process. How we get there and what we learn along the way are far more important and valuable than achieving our preconceived goal. In other words, the books we read, the people we meet, the skills we struggle to improve, the choices we make, and the experiences we have that disrupt our progress…these are what life is all about.
  • MedicineThe health of the soil will determine the health of our bodies. When we deplete and impoverish our soil, we deplete and impoverish ourselves. Soil, terrain, terroir…these are what matter to our health, far more than bacteria, viruses, genetics, or even chemical exposure.
  • Beer Microbes should be respected as colleagues, as equals, rather than being feared. They are an essential part of our life and necessary for health. The more we understand and respect our microbe friends, the more we are able to assist in the maintenance of a balanced, stable, and healthy environment – for our own benefit, as well as for that of our microbe family.
  • Bare FeetHuman innovation cannot improve on nature. Certain tools and other human creations can make our lives easier, more predictable, and more satisfying, but we only create problems when we start to believe that we can improve nature. Or worse, that we are smarter than nature. When problems arise, we should always look first to a human action that needs to be undone, in order to make things better.

Through this book concept transition, writing, research and learning continue to happen. Sometimes an activity I take on or a book I choose to read seems like a distraction from my task at hand, and then I find that it’s absolutely related and helps in my understanding of the picture as a whole. As I learned from knitting, the process is where the value is.

With that in mind, yesterday I made cheese for the first time and then made these awesome No-Bake Cheese Tartlets. Way yum! And far easier than I thought it would be…even though my kitchen was a disaster when I was done.

Enjoy the journey!

-Jenne Hiigel


Freshening up…

As I go about my day-to-day life, I’m often asked “How’s the book coming?” Since my last post on this book blog was almost 18 months ago, it is a fair question. I continue to research and write most every morning (striving to get up by 5am, so I can write for a couple of hours before work) , and progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction that would make an estimated completion date predictable.

My knitting/beer book project hit a speed bump in the last couple of years when my body started complaining when I drank beer or wine too regularly…typically in the form of aggravated Rosacea symptoms, increased challenges with dry eyes, and excessive nighttime thirst. I do better when I limit my consumption to once or twice a week at the most. And yet, when I talk to people about my book project, it’s natural to want to do so while sharing a pint.

As I began looking at what would be needed to promote my book once it was finally finished, I determined it would be really hard to talk about and promote my book without a glass of beer in hand. And so, a quandary. Ignore my body for the sake of the book, or adjust the book for the sake of my body. Since my body and I are stuck with each other for a good while longer (hopefully!), I decided to opt for the latter course of action and have adjusted the focus of the book.

By keeping beer in the picture, but also adding the subjects of medicine and bare feet, it calms the beer-focus and hopefully will allow me to promote the book without feeling compelled to drink more than my body cares for. The medicine angle will be a discussion of things that aide and promote wellness and healing, which mostly rules out pharmaceuticals. The bare feet focus will introduce readers to the rebel act of kicking off one’s shoes, and the health benefits of doing so.

Another factor that slowed my progress was the health decline and eventual passing of our family dog, Booboo. He died in June 2013, just a couple months shy of his 15th birthday. That experience impacted my life far more than I had ever expected it to, in both good ways and challenging ones. It sparked an idea for a second book project…currently titled, “Lessons From Booboo About Life & Death.”

A third topic that has been bubbling up on my priority list is the need for schooling to be non-compulsory. Radical idea, I know, and yet quite important. I’m planning to dabble in that subject here and there, and hopefully get some writing done for that as well.

So…with renewed focus on my original book and two more book ideas that are demanding some attention, I decided it was time to refresh my web presence. I’ve established a website…jennehiigel.com…that has links to my book project blogs. As I get some writing done on one of the three topics, I will post some or all of it on the relevant blog. I would thoroughly appreciate any and all feedback…what you like, what you don’t like, what interests you, what doesn’t, and so on.

I have my website mostly up and running, although there are a few pages that just have the comment “Coming Soon…” My first priority will be to get those webpages completed, and then I’ll get back to the book projects themselves. Progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction originally envisioned. And yet, isn’t that the way life tends to work?

-Jenne Hiigel

Concept Statement #6…

My last attempt at a concept statement for my book was two years ago (Concept Statement #5). Amazing how fast time can go by! Well, quite a bit of progress has been made in my research and learning since then. It’s time to take another crack at it. Here is Concept Statement #6…

A Knitter’s Guide to Beer is a look at the craft of beer from a knitter’s perspective. Both beer and knitting are fundamental in their usefulness, their essential simplicity, and their ability to improve our understanding of the natural world. In our efforts to solve the many challenges our world is facing, it will be our attitude, our self-control, the crafts we embrace, and the skills we acquire that end up making the most difference.

Beer and brewing run deep in human history. Beer connects the genders, builds community, improves health, enhances respect for nature, and wakes up the senses. Author Jenne Hiigel will show how beer can help us see the world differently.

This concept statement is quite a change from #5. “Yikes, Jenne, ” I can hear you thinking, “maybe you’re taking this all a bit too seriously! Time to take a research break and have a beer. Are you saying that beer and knitting can save the world?” Well…yes, I am. And my goal with the book is to make you believe it, too.

Progress on the book is happening. I’m actually getting up at 5am-ish every morning to write for an hour or two before I begin my day’s activities. Who would have ever thought I would actually enjoy getting up while it’s still dark outside. Not me! But I’ve learned that it’s the absolute best time for me to write.

I taught a Beer & Knitting class a couple of weeks ago and told everyone it was the last class I would teach until my book is done. Everyone was very supportive and told me to hurry up and finish it.

So… back to work!

-Jenne Hiigel

The Evolution of a Book…

The book I am currently writing is not the same book I started out writing. A Knitter’s Guide to Beer has become much deeper, more meaningful, more spiritual and, in many ways, far more important than my original concept.

Originally it was to be an introduction to beer and beer styles, combined with knitting projects and yarn/beer pairings. The book has instead become a rebel call-to-action. An attempt to inspire the reader to become more self-sufficient; to find joy in the process of creating, rather than just consuming;  to connect to the life energy in the plants that provide us the grain and spices for brewing; and to feel gratitude to the yeast for converting those grains into something wonderful and nutritious to drink (yes, I said nutritious!).

You may be wondering if we can truly connect to all these amazing energies without actually doing the brewing ourselves. The answer is no. We might be able to see the energy by learning to appreciate well-brewed craft beers (this is an important step and this information will still be a part of my book), but we won’t feel the energy unless we pick up the brew kettle ourselves.

I will be doing my best to inspire the reader to start homebrewing… especially my female readers. Brewing is in our blood, in our history, and in our spirit. It’s time to bring our female qualities back into beer. Women were the brewers for tens of thousands of years. It was just a few hundred years ago that brewing made the transition from female to male.

Twenty thousand years ago, it was a goddess who gave life and abundance and it was the goddess who, out of a mother’s love and pity for her fallen children, gave the gift of brew to the women of mankind.

In all ancient societies, in the religious mythologies of all ancient cultures, beer was a gift to women from a goddess, never a male god, and women remained bonded in complex religious relationships with feminine deities who blessed the brew vessels.

– Alan Eames, 1995

With all of the challenges facing our society today, I see solutions in the empowerment of individual Americans. Once we start realizing that we don’t need to be certified, licensed or to have a degree in order to be skilled, we can start doing things for ourselves. Things that we were always told we couldn’t do… like learn without a teacher, heal without a doctor, resolve conflicts without a lawyer or fix our toilet without a licensed plumber.

The more we learn to do for ourselves, the less control big business will have over us, because they will get less of our money and their power will decline with each dollar they don’t get.

The way to get there is to start with the little things, like learning to knit or brew. Start with something that sparks an interest, creates inspiration, and ignites a passion .  Once a skill is acquired a sense of empowerment often follows, as well as a hunger to gain even more skills.

The book has become something that I really want to write, which makes doing so quite a bit easier. Progress is starting to happen. I’m on a slightly different path, but it’s clearly the right one.

I’ll definitely be needing to revise my book’s Concept Statement at least one more time.

-Jenne Hiigel

The Concept Evolves…

My research over the past several months has been wandering into seemingly unrelated areas, but has brought me full circle back to this book project with increased determination to make it the book I really want to write.

Subjects I’ve been reading intensely about include:

  • Health and Medical Issues… Mainstream medicine causes more problems than it solves. Alternative medicine needs to play a stronger role. Each person needs to take responsibility for his/her own health and stop making the medical profession responsible. Since what we put in our mouths determines our level of wellness, diet and lifestyle changes have the potential to make the most difference.
  • Corporate Personhood… Corporations are not people. That seems obvious to me, but apparently not to the Supreme Court and the various corporate Boards of Directors. Corporations need to have LESS influence in our lives, not more. Fortunately corporations need money to survive, so if we want to limit their ability to manipulate us, all we have to do is stop giving them our money.
  • Compulsory Schooling… Forced government schooling needs to end. We don’t have to dismantle the public education system, but each person (I’m including children here as persons) should have the right to choose not to go. Every person should have the right to pursue their education in the manner that best meets their own needs.

Our country is facing significant challenges which have their roots in these three issues. So what do these things have to do with beer and knitting? Well, corporate influence combined with compulsory schooling has turned us into a society of consumers.

Most people no longer know how to make things. They just know how to buy things. Any knitter who has had someone oooh and aaah at their simple garter stitch scarf will understand what I’m talking about. Even the simplest skill seems out of reach for most Americans. Without the ability to produce things for ourselves, we become dependent on corporations to do it for us.

If we want to be rebels, the best way to do so is to become skilled. Learn how to do things. Learn how to make things. Learn so many skills that when you go into a store you start passing by more and more items for sale and think… “I can make that myself .” The more we as a society do this, the less control the corporations will have over us.

In John Taylor Gatto’s newest book “Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling” he pulled everything together beautifully for me:

“What nineteenth century American experience demonstrated unmistakably is that an independent, resourceful, too-well educated common population has the irresistible urge to produce – and the ability to do so. … [In] Federal times and Colonial days … the common ideal was to produce your own food, your own clothing, your own shelter, your own education, your own medical care, your own entertainment, etc.”

As people become more capable of producing, they become more independent, resourceful and  self-sufficient. These are the qualities that used to be abundant in our citizens. It’s time to bring those qualities back.

Knitting and brewing are fundamental household skills. Both genders have history in both crafts, and it’s time to embrace those skills again. In order to build the desire to learn a craft, it helps to have a good understanding of the process and appreciate the end results.

That’s what “A Knitter’s Guide to Beer” will do for the craft of brewing. It will give the reader an understanding of the brewing process and an appreciation for the variety of beer styles that are possible. If we can start our rebel adventure with beer and knitting, then we’ve got to be on the right path!

-Jenne Hiigel

Concept Statement #5…

I’ve learned a lot about how I want to approach my book from the six Beer & Knitting classes I recently taught. It’s not a huge change from my last outline, but I think I’m now able to write the book in a more useful and readable format.

As I update my book plans, my Concept Statement has to follow suit. So here it is. My current crack at my Concept Statement. This one is #5:

Not so long ago choosing a beer was a relatively easy task. That’s no longer the case. The explosion of craft breweries, along with an ever-increasing number of beer styles, has left many people standing dazed and confused in front of the beer section of the liquor store.

Relax. Help is here. In her book A Knitter’s Guide to Beer, Jenne Hiigel will explain the flavor characteristics of the main beer styles, show you how to make sense of the information on a beer label, and inspire you to explore beer in new directions. Pull up a chair, grab your yarn and needles, pour yourself a beer and let’s get started. And remember… when in doubt, drink Pale Ale when knitting socks.

I think I’m getting closer!

-Jenne Hiigel

Refreshing My Book Concept…

Ever since I started teaching Beer & Knitting classes last October, it seems as if I’ve shelved progress on my book project and my homebrewing. In addition to the classes, my time has been filled with holiday activities, family issues, and trying to find a solution to my Rosacea… which is aggravated by alcohol consumption.  In hindsight, though, it turns that everything is related (isn’t it always!) and that the experience I’ve gained through the Beer & Knitting classes has helped me to see a better way to approach my book project.

Even my Rosacea has a connection to beer… and not just because it can aggravate my condition. I found an amazing line of skin care products by Googling “rosacea hops”. I did this after noticing that IPAs with a high hop content don’t aggravate my Rosacea nearly as much as some other beers. My proving beer for this is Firestone’s Union Jack. Darn awesome stuff. The product that turned up in my Google search was evanhealy’s Blue Lavender Cleansing Milk, designed specifically for Rosacea and includes hop extract in the ingredients. Pretty cool! And the stuff works amazingly well.

As I was planning my Beer & Knitting class offering through the end of the year, and thinking about what I’ve learned from my previous five classes, I realized that the way I’m approaching my Beer & Knitting classes is how I want to approach my book. I’ve revised my Table of Contents and am motivated to start writing again. I’ve also decided to include several of my own knitting patterns in the book.

I’m making progress on my Rosacea, and have found that I can have a half-bottle of beer now and then without much problem. I now have hope that these two things in my life (beer & Rosacea) will be able to find a way to work together.

-Jenne Hiigel