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

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Homebrewers Conference…San Diego

I just got back from the annual conference of the American Homebrewers Association.  The last time I attended with my hubby was in 1983-BK (before kids). It was time to go again, especially since it was taking place in San Diego, CA (a mere 6 hour drive from SLO) and since the year is now 2011-AK (after kids).

What a fun trip! Three full days of immersion in beer and brewing, alongside other people who have the same passion. Informative and inspiring workshops, great beer, good conversation, and ideas sparking all over the place for both my book and my next batch of beer. There was one other knitting/brewer that I noticed, which was darn cool.

But I have to tell you the absolute best part of this conference. It was the gender ratio as it relates to the bathrooms. As a woman, I’m used to having to wait in line for the bathroom while the men just waltz in and out of theirs. That didn’t happen this time. The men were lining up out the door at their bathroom while I waltzed in and out of the women’s room with no wait at all. The few women that were in the bathroom were enjoying the lack of a line as much as I was.

So…if you want to attend an awesome event, and are a woman who would like to experience no waiting at the bathroom while the line at the men’s room grows, with increased grumbling from them along with it, be sure to attend the next AHA conference in Seattle!

-Jenne Hiigel

Satisfaction From Making It Yourself…

“We have somehow built a culture that assumes making or fixing almost anything is somebody else’s business. There may be relief in having someone else make, do, and fix most items in our households, but there is little long-term satisfaction in such an approach to life”

-Philip Ackerman-Leist, Up Tunket Road

Re-reading this passage today, the words rang true in my soul. As a knitter and homebrewer, I couldn’t agree more with this statement. After a recent homebrewing session with our neighbors Tim & Brandi, who also provided an amazing dinner, it was clear that making and fixing things yourself brings deep, long-term satisfaction.

Even the projects that don’t turn out provide lasting and important lessons. While Tim was teaching his friend Brandon how to brew, he was explaining how sometimes a batch can go bad. Since I had a batch do just that and still had bottles left, I brought one over and we watched the beer gush and foam immediately upon removal of the cap. A great lesson that would not have been possible if I hadn’t brewed a bad batch of beer.

To top off a great afternoon and evening, Brandi had made creme brulee. Maintaining the spirit of “do it yourself,” torching the sugar was quite fun.

-Jenne Hiigel

“Women of the world, greedy men have stolen your beer and it’s time to take it back!”

Chris O’Brien is getting me riled up again. I’m re-reading his book Fermenting Revolution, particularly his chapter on putting the ale back in female.

“Growing numbers of people are brewing at home again and using beer to build community. Beer has its soul back. But one this is still missing, something that was integral to brewing and drinking for the thousands of years of human civilization prior to the machine age. Women remain remarkably absent in the modern world of beer.”

“Seeking the reward that comes from creative work, a growing number of men are discovering homebrewing and other do-it-yourself crafts. Many women, too, are seeking satisfaction in hobbies like gardening and knitting, pursuits once associated with familial nurturing that are now considered leisure activities. But women have been slow to return to the  brew kettle.”

“For millennia women have proudly taught their daughters to brew. It was a celebrated tradition, a creative outlet, and even an honor. Today it is a social faux pas at best, criminal at worst. My solution? Organize a “Take your Daughter to the Brewery” day. Teach your kids how to brew by involving them in the process. Gather your girlfriends for an educational beer tasting. Have a group brew. Femaleists of the world, whatever you do, get more beer into your life.”

I think it’s time for a homebrew day. Rather than just drinking beer together, I think we should brew a batch of beer together. Greedy men have stolen our beer, and it’s time for us to take it back!

-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

Prepping for Sock Summit…

On Friday I’ll be getting on the train and heading for Portland. Sock Summit starts next Wednesday. I’ll have five-ish days to visit with my daughter and extended family in Portland, and do some typical tourist stuff (breweries & pubs, yarn shops, book stores… all the must-see kinds of places) before my daughter and I leave the real world for four days and immerse ourselves in knitting heaven.

As I start packing for this trip, I’m having to go through my yarn, needles and UFOs (to find even more needles) to make sure I bring what I’ll need for my four workshops. In addition, I have to decide what I’m going to knit on the train. It’s a 24 hour trip. That’s a good batch of focused knitting time. My options are pretty much  limited by how much luggage I want to carry. A variety of small projects seems to be where I’m leaning.

My book proposal is progressing bit by bit. I’m finding I’m treating this project the same way I would a knitting project. Each knitting project has it’s own timeframe. Some get focused attention from start to finish, while others get a good start, periodic bursts of attention here and there, and eventually a boost of enthusiasm to get it done and the ends woven in. Kind of like the mitered square afghan I’ve currently got wrapped around me while I type. It took me several years to get this afghan done and I am thoroughly pleased with the finished result. I love this blanket!

In spite of the slow-down on my book proposal progress, research for the book continues. Beer & Knitting Classes will continue monthly through the end of the year. I’ve even gotten a request for Beer & Spinning Classes, so I plan to add those to the line up in 2010. Beer & Knitting Nights continue semi-regularly, with our next one taking place tonight at Koberl at Blue (check out their beer list!).

In the tradition of knitters everywhere, I’ve gotten an idea for my second book even though I haven’t finished my first one yet. Fortunately, having a second book concept already underway when I approach a publisher could give me the potential for a two-book contract. So my knitter tendencies may not be such a bad thing in this case. (Or am I just demonstrating my extensive rationalization skills here?) As long as my book projects don’t turn into UFOs, I should be okay!

The working title for my second book is A Knitter’s Guide to Non-Alcoholic Beverages. Beverage choices in restaurants and bars for non-alcohol drinkers are generally limited to coffee, tea, corn-syrup-laden sodas and water. In this book I plan to explore other alcohol-free beverage options, with a focus on businesses that are taking this area more seriously and creatively. Alcohol drinkers shouldn’t have all the fun! And, yes… contrary to what many 20-somethings believe, it is possible to have fun without drinking alcohol.

On the Rosacea front, I’ve made significant progress. As I mentioned in a previous post, Vitamin C has been a big help. Then I read Mark Hyman’s book The UltraMind Solution and put into action his recommendations to fix my digestion and improve my overall health. With each passing day my digestion improves and my Rosacea becomes less of a issue for me. I even had a glass of red wine a week ago, with no major flare up. Now that’s progress!

-Jenne Hiigel