May was a busy month.  Our farmers markets were in full swing.  Our new summer intern, Abby Doyle, joined us and got started on a few projects she’ll be writing about on this blog soon.  My mom and sister came for a visit.

Also, Marjory Wildcraft, founder of the Grow Network – along with her incredible camera man Anthony Tamayo – came to spend a few days working on some projects with me. Marjory and Anthony gave me a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make short and informative videos about homesteading and food growing.  And Marjory loaned me her old video camera so I could have some fun on the homestead and help her out with a project she’s working on for the fall.

Now… I am a complete video camera novice. The one and only time I’ve used a video camera was about sixteen years ago.  I was a scuba dive master in Maui and just before I moved off the island, the owner of the shop where I got my training, loaned me his underwater video camera so I could make a video of my last dive.  He said I could film what I wanted and he would download it and make a nice professional quality DVD film for me.

Well, Apparently, I was so selective about what I thought was film worthy that I only ended up with about 2 minutes of video from a 60 minute dive and most of it was a failed close-up of an octopus eating a lobster.

Anyhow, this time Marjory suggested I just use the camera – A LOT – to get comfortable with it. She said to keep it charged and ready on the tripod and take video whenever anything interesting was going on. She also suggested I make a YouTube channel and post things about our homesteading adventures.

So, I set up my YouTube channel, then set off on a walking tour around our farm, camera in hand I filmed and narrated as I walked.  I described our process for raising ducks, our shared pasture system for the pigs, ducks, and goats, and elements of our edible landscape areas. I spent over two hours filming on my first attempt.

Excited to see how it turned out, I raced back to my computer and…realized I had no way to get the film from the camera to the computer.  Probably most of the computer literate population have an SD card reader sitting around. But I didn’t. The camera also had a wi-fi feature to transfer data. However, since we are on DSL, that didn’t work out so well. I had to buy an SD reader and have it shipped to us.  (It was that or a proprietary cable from Panasonic which I refused to buy on principle.)

When the card reader arrived a couple of days later, I plugged that sucker in and tried to copy my movie files to my computer. But there were all sorts of files on that card with all sorts of file extensions that I had never heard of before. I couldn’t tell which files were the movies and which were operating/formatting files.  I started randomly clicking on a files and kept getting messages about needing to locate apps to open the file.

Then I reasoned that the video files would be the largest files on the card.  I sorted the disk contents by file size and found my videos.  All 36 of them!  The file extension for all the files was “.mst” .  And apparently, every time I started and then stopped recording, it makes a separate video file.

Luckily, I managed to find the “Movie Maker” software that was already loaded on my old Windows computer, downloaded the files into a single project, and connected them as one file.  Then I played the recording to see how it turned out.

It was terrible!  Even though I was sure I was holding the camera steady it was clearly moving all over the place. And for some reason I was explaining everything in my kindergarten teacher voice (replete with awful lilting affectations and cooing). I have no idea why I thought my first video would be good when I had seen first hand how much effort, planning, set-up, and re-takes were required for Marjory and Anthony, two professionals, to make good videos.  But I was still astonished at how bad it was.

I will not subject you to my entire first attempt. But because this blog is also kind of my personal memory album, I am including a short segment, showcasing my initial lack of skill as well as the incredible abundance of our outdoor dining area.  My video doesn’t do justice to Matt’s beatiful table and pizza oven or the edible abundance made possible through the use of permaculture principles.  But it’s still incredible to see something that looked like this.

Beginning 1

Now look like this.

YouTube Pic.PNG

You can check out the actual video on my new you tube channel.

Now that I have some idea of what not to do, I am going to try to make some short segments featuring different areas of our property and focusing on the key benefits of certain techniques or particular plants. For any of you out there, like me, taking up video for the first time, take my advice and start small. Don’t try to make a two-hour documentary your first time turning on the camera!

I am sure there will be some more bumbling videos after this one, but hopefully with more experience, the quality will improve.  I’ll definitely use that tripod more often and work on my editing skills as well.

Like learning any new skill, becoming good at making video will have a learning curve.  But, if I practice often and take some tutorials, etc. to improve my knowledge, I am sure I’ll get the hang of it.  If you are interested in reading more about my process for developing new skills, you can check out my Mother Earth News blog The ABCs of Homesteading: J is for ‘Jack-of-All-Trades Journeyman’.

Also, if you aren’t already signed up for the Homegrown Food Summit, hosted by Marjory Wildcraft and the Grow Network, it’s totally free and starts on June 12th.  You can still register for your free spot here.  I co-wrote an eBook about making Vinegar at Home with Marjory that you’ll get free as well with your registration.

Just for reference, though the event is free during the designated live air times,  if you want unlimited access to all the presentations even after the free period, then you can also buy a copy.  Marjory and her team have to earn a living like the rest of us, so even though they give the information away, they certainly appreciate if you want to buy a copy to keep as well.  Since I just spent a bunch of time with Marjory, and talked to her about her business and her reasons for doing what she does, I can tell you her motivations are coming from the right place.  She’s not trying to get rich, just to keep her doors open, and follow through on her mission of puting homegrown food on every table.