I grew up in southern California. My sister and I were the odd kids in our neighborhood because our mom was different than other moms. From as far back as I can remember, my mom grew the food we ate, we were not allowed to eat sugar or processed foods, she had a compost pile the size of a family-sized RV in our yard and she made us mow our sprawling lawn with a rusty (I’m not kidding) push mower. Child abuse, right?

She recycled Saran Wrap, she made her own yogurt, bread and anything else you can think of and we grocery shopped on foot because she didn’t like driving because “you will thank me for your beautiful legs when you’re older” In the 60’s and 70’s there we no manufacturer’s coupons, only store coupons, which meant we had to walk to each store that we had coupons for to buy the things we needed. We travelled on foot to at least three grocery stores within a four mile radius and carry the bags for hours. My mom also liked to shop at Sears, which was eleven miles from our house – one way.

My mom would not allow us to have store-bought traditional toys. She was a talented seamstress and my dad was an incredibly talented woodworker, and together they made most of our toys and gifts. My dad made intricate doll houses and all of the furnishings and my mom made the curtains, carpets, bedding and other accoutrements. My dad made a huge wooden Chinese checker board with a routed regular checker board on the other side complete with huge wooden checkers, and painted everything bright pink and orange. At the time my sister and I thought it was really lame, and it wasn’t until much later in life that I realized how much love, time, tears (and swearing) went into every strike of the hammer, turn of the drill, thread of the needle and stroke of the paintbrush. We would wake up on Christmas morning and rush to the living room to see what Santa brought, only to find signs on most things telling us not to touch them until the next day because Santa had been up late at the North Pole finishing our gifts.

What I resented most growing up was that I was always denied an Easy Bake Oven. Everyone had one but me because my mom insisted we cook on a real stove with real ingredients and real kitchen utensils. She taught us how to cook at a very young age and she indulged us by letting us make up recipes for things we wanted to cook and she would provide whatever was on our list and walk us through making our masterpieces with real pots, pans and yes, sharp knives. We thought she was hateful then, but what she did turned out to be invaluable, and became something I made a career out of many years later.

In our house we ate only whole foods from our garden. My mom was always ahead of her time because even back then she was substituting Spaghetti squash for pasta and putting more than 50% vegetables or other produce on the plate. She used only oil and vinegar on salads and dessert was always fruit. We wore clothes that my mom made or that were bought from thrift stores and she hand-made all of our special dresses, including my prom dress. I earned my keep by mowing the never-ending lawn, composting the garden and doing chores. We had odd pets including rabbits, ducks and a few cats. We ate dinner as a family every night, our clothes were line dried.

All this, and we were not poor. We lived in an upper middle class neighborhood in a large beautiful home but my mom was someone who lived the way she wanted to, didn’t apologize to anyone for it and raised her kids in line with her own belief system.

I always dreamed about getting out on my own and eating nothing but ice cream and Oreos and I swore that would be all that was in my kitchen. The truth is that I didn’t think much about food again until late 2012. Like everyone else I was finding my way in the world, building a career and not paying attention to what I ate, where my food came from, what was being put into it or what I was doing to myself and the environment by consuming it.

My DIYOrganiclife journey began around Christmas in 2012. A good friend was house and pet sitting while my husband and I were out of town and she did my laundry. She didn’t use my Tide and Downey; rather, she used some homemade concoction and dryer balls. When I noticed that my laundry didn’t smell like anything we talked about it for hours. I began to investigate every product I used and all of the foods I was eating and learned some horrifying facts.

After years of personal trial and error, I can proudly say that my life is 95% organic and my habits have changed dramatically in almost every way I can think of. My husband and I left Southern California in late 2016 and bought a home in Salem, Oregon. We wanted to be among more like-minded people in an environment that could support our values and the way we wanted to live, and we found that here.

I still have a lot to learn, and I want to share what I know with you, and also learn from you. Please join this amazing community of people supporting each other in a journey back to a time when life made more sense, people were more rational and thoughtful and neighborhoods were safe havens full of people who cared about and took care of each other.