A Preserving Workshopper’s-Eye View


Tom and Diane attended a preserving and breadbaking workshop at Sassafras Farm the weekend of September 10-11. Tom, known as “Old Geezer” in the comments section, wrote this beautiful piece about their trip for me to share. Tom is the one who brought me the fun neon “Open” sign for the studio and also, upon surveying the pitiful state of my knife collection, later sent me a couple of fantastic knives. (A good knife! I never knew ye!) They’re a lovely couple, and I think you’ll enjoy reading his report and visiting Sassafras Farm vicariously through his eyes.

From the desk of Old Geezer:

It was a weekend fraught with high anticipation and no small amount of anxiety. Would our homemade RV trailer make it all the way to West Virginia from Connecticut?

Homemade RV trailer:

Would Suzanne be as warm and hospitable as her blog hinted? Would we actually enjoy canning? Would Coco be friendly? What are goats REALLY like? And what about CHICKENS?

I first encountered CITR when Googling for cat pictures several years ago. I have two cats upon which I dote. I like cats. I like cat pictures. But when I first came surfing to CITR that day, I not only read the cat blogs, but also all of the other animal blogs as well, right then and there. I was hooked. Since then I have checked on the various segments of CITR several times a day, every day. Suzanne’s struggle became my struggle (although I have, Lord knows, no desire to farm, even though I do watch RFDTV!).

My wife, Diane, reads actual books, not internet blogs. But I knew she would enjoy hearing of Suzanne’s exploits, so I began filling my wife in regularly on all the CITR goings on. When the Kickstarter project came up, she had no problem endorsing our contribution and then looking forward to the resulting trip to West Virginia, pulling our homemade RV for its longest road adventure yet.

So there we were, having made the trip from Cedar Springs Campground down to Clio (pronounced, as you might expect, KLEYE-oh) and up the road to Sassafras Farm. Between Suzanne’s directions and our GPS, it was easy to find. Our official greeter was Casper, who greeted us like an old friend, although he had never seen us in his life. I think he knew we had treats in the car.

Soon after that, we met Suzanne and the canning expert, Dede. Within minutes we were at ease all around–until, when we went into the studio, I saw the mound of vegetables laid out in neat rows. Oh, no, I thought. She means it! We’ll actually be doing all the work!

Yes, folks. This workshop is not one where the experts demonstrate while the visitors look on approvingly and eat snacks! You, the students, will do it all–from prep to can to cool to enjoy. So be ready. You will enjoy the effort as well as the result.

The farm dinner was hale and hearty, and we got an explanation of the syllabus as we ate. We also got to sample earlier examples (canned by Suzanne) of what we would be making the next day. Then we got a tour of the farm. As if on cue, BP and Glory Bee vigorously pooped at our arrival. The animals in the near pasture were accustomed to visitors and therefore assumed we would be bearing treats.

Well, not today. So, like Mr. and Mrs. Pied Piper, we led a parade of vainly hoping animals around the yard and into the barn. Obligingly, Chloe and The Hamburger Goat showed us their trick on the hay elevator (but the access to the hay loft had been blocked). We then got to fling the normal feed ration to the crowd. Their response was, “Is that all?”

The next day started early. We had thought to bring a bunch of treats for the various animals. Our greeter, Casper, got a prime rib bone right away. We then took care of Coco and Chloe the same way, after which Coco told Chloe in no uncertain terms that both the bone treats were hers. (No fear, Chloe sneaked hers back shortly afterwards.)

The two visitors then spent the day prepping (i.e slicing veggies and so on), measuring, watching, trying, boiling, lifting, measuring, kneading (for the bread lesson) and in general working their buns off learning the secrets of water-bath canning (for high acid foods) and grandma bread-making.

And, taking a break in the middle, we visited all the animals and fed them their vegetable treats. Of all of them, only Zip heeded her mother’s advice and refused to take a carrot from a strange fat man.

Jack and Poky had no such reservations. Is there a more soothing, farmy sound than a jack crunching on a carrot?

The goats, of course, had not only no reservations, but also no manners!

I will not bore you with the tire troubles on the way home. The workshop experience was sheer delight, and having had years of lead-in to The Trials and Tribulations of Suzanne (And this is the stove that was stolen from me…) made it all the more special.

I don’t know if we will ever actually can anything, but we will certainly know how when we want to. And making the grandma bread is a sure future thing for us. You and you and you need to take one of these workshops also. You really do. Sign up soon. And bring treats.

Back to Suzanne: Thank you, Tom!

*Find out more about workshops at Sassafras Farm here.


  1. liz2 says:

    I enjoyed Old Geezer’s review of the weekend at the farm. So nice to put a face on the name. Clever take-off on the “American Gothic” pose plus the goats.

  2. Diane says:

    Love this!! The home made RV is great. Old Geezer told a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us. 🙂

  3. StuckinMiami says:


  4. StuckinMiami says:

    Excellent job had me smiling. Let me add you look exactly like my older brother, Tim.

  5. SarahGrace says:

    Great piece! It looks like all had a great time! I would like to see inside that homemade rv! Very, very unique—in a good way!

  6. Old Geezer says:

    To StuckInMiami: “Poor Tim!”. (And, yes, it was August. Suzanne operates in a spacetime field way ahead of the rest of us.)

    To SaraGrace: You’d see bunkbeds, a sort of etegere with a tiny TV and DVR and our duffle bags, a tiny sink, an RV toilet, a microwave, a wall fan, and mounds of camp things just seemingly piled everywhere at random (not much room, you see).

    To liz2: that was Suzanne’s idea and it did turn out well!

    My Diane wants everyone to know that she is much more smiley in real life than these pictures suggest. And I confirm.

  7. wvhomecanner says:

    Great read, Tom! It was a fun time and I am so glad I got to meet you both! And you’d BETTER do some canning now! LOL


  8. Mim says:

    I am wanting to take a workshop also….your journal of events should make everyone want to do a workshop…. :pawprint:

  9. Barbee says:

    Old Geezer, what a fun read! I love it! Had me chuckling before even one cup of coffee was finished. Sending the link to my husband for him to read and enjoy. I’m so glad you made it all that way to our WV sweetheart’s farm. Tires? Going home? Oh, dear! I hope the good memories are the ones that linger for you both. Suzanne, love the photos! Great post all around!

  10. KarenAnne says:

    I’m as impressed as heck that you built that RV.

  11. rurification says:

    Great piece! Thanks for the report and the pics. Great way to start my day!

  12. MissPat says:

    Love the article, love the pictures too! Old Geezer, the American Gothic picture would make a great Christmas card!! :yes:

  13. Leck Kill Farm says:

    I wish Tom and Diane were my neighbors!

  14. princessvanessa says:

    Nice to “meet and see” you Tom and Diane. Much like I am not really a “princess” I am willing to bet that you are not really an “old geezer”. Thank you for an interesting guest blog about your visit to Sassafras Farm. And I really like your home-styled RV trailer, too.

  15. Jane L says:

    Great guest post! I thoroughly enjoyed this:)

  16. wanda1950 says:

    Love the camper! Love the story!

  17. bonita says:

    Cool review of workshop weekend. Luv being able to names and faces.

    My first thought on seeing the hand-crafted RV was: Geeze, imagine what Tom & Diane and Ross would accomplish if they put their building skills together! An RV fitted with sausage maker, cheese press, smoker. . .

  18. bonita says:

    …err: Luv being able to match names and faces.

  19. mds9 says:

    Great,well done.
    I want to see and hear more about Their Trailer.
    Sign him on as a guest speaker.

  20. cacieleanne says:

    :moo: I LOVED your story! (and your camper!!!) I was laughing the whole time. You’re a great story teller and writer. I really enjoyed it. It definately made me want to take the trip to Sassafras Farm! (Only I’m alot closer… I live in WV!) Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. beforethedawn says:

    Great post Old Geezer! Truly loved it and all the photos!

  22. shirley T says:

    What a sweet looking couple~~and a fun loving couple as well. I loved your story.He really should be a guest speaker~ that is if he would be willing. The RV is a masterpiece. Loved it. :sun2:

  23. Pete says:

    Well done, Old Geezer! :snoopy:

    Almost got to meet you on your trip here. Maybe next time.

  24. yvonnem says:

    I loved this! Thanks for sharing.

  25. Cheryl LeMay says:

    I loved seeing Sassafras Farm from someone else’e eyes. It was like I was there. Loved the way you wrote it. And like everyone else, I am impressed and intrigued by your homemade RV. I think everyone would like to know how you did it. i would love to meet in person but can’t make the trip. But it was nice “meeting” you and now I can picture you when I read your posts. What fun!

  26. Claudia W says:

    I’m in love with Tom and Diane! Fun people!!!!! Love that homemade RV too!

  27. Rainn says:

    Love your post geezer!! And the RV-great adventure-thanks for sharing!! Perfect posed picture!! And I don’t usually like posed pic!!! N
    Rain 🙂

  28. joykenn says:

    Very nice post Tom. Love the homemade RV. Troubles getting home? Tell us more. I echo the other posters that it is nice to put faces to other posters. Do you and Diane have your own blog? You might consider starting one since you’re a good writer.

  29. CarrieJ says:

    Great story Old Geezer! I stumbled accross the blog when I googled “how to can ham” and found the forums. I too spent a lot of time and read every single one of her blogs and come here daily. It’s a true joy. Suzanne and Co has taught me how to can, make bread, make soap, roast coffee beans…all of which I do on a regular basis. I flew accross the country and attended the 2011 retreat which was amazing! I am now preparing for chickens! Exciting times…:)

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