It’s time to share some exciting news! I’ve been patiently waiting to fill you in on a new adventure that my family is about to take. It’s finally here.
My husband and I have carried around the identity of “athlete” most of our lives. Even though we aren’t competitive athletes anymore, sports helped shape who we are and what we stand for.
While we’ve added pieces to our identity that we are equally proud of — nutritionist, wife/husband, mother/father, coach, and teacher — we are ready for something new. We are about to become new-age holistic FARMERS!!!
That’s right. Athletes turned farmers.
If you know us at all, you know it’s not far-fetched. But, regardless, we hope it becomes the most impactful decision we’ve made so far.
As we enter this new chapter of our lives, we want to bring YOU (our readers) along on the journey. We believe that our story, and our reasons for making this decision are just as valuable as the decision itself.
Something had to change
2020 has been anything but “normal.” One could argue that it’s been filled with uncertainty, worry, and unrest. Or, one could argue that it’s been a year of opportunity — a wake up call, a slap in the face, a disruption from complacency!
Personally, I’m one who can allow fear to send me into a spiral of anxiety, and there have been plenty of moments this year when I’ve found myself in that position. But, I’m also one who looks for the message of positivity and the window of possibility.
In fact, as our family sat together in quarantine this spring (grateful to have each other to sit with), we embraced the pause. We took a deep look at how we were living, how our society was living, and where our world has been heading.
We saw an open door for change, and WE HAVEN’T LOOKED BACK!
Growing up, I was known in the local papers as “Lee’s Bowles” — a pixie-haired gymnast from Lee, New Hampshire (with the last name of Bowles), chasing a dream to be the best I could be — focused more on the journey than the destination.
I grew up on ten acres, in a little house that my parents designed and built — using passive solar and wood stoves to heat, a clothesline to dry washed linens, and elbow grease to clean dishes. A beautiful vegetable garden, and a perennial herb garden were just outside the backdoor. I had an early introduction to where real food comes from.
Although I realize that nothing’s perfect, it was perfect.
The discipline, dedication, and endless hours of training that I thrived on in my youth earned me a spot on the US National Team and a full scholarship to the University of Utah. This little girl from NH eagerly made the trek across the country. Utah is where I humbly became a 9-time All-American, developed a passion for helping others make healthier lifestyle choices, and met my future husband.
That’s how I first knew him. His friends called him “Doe-lie” — short for Doleac — the 6’11” center on the basketball team. I still remember watching him play in the 1998 NCAA Championship game, but truth be told, it wasn’t love at first sight — it was love at first “study.”
We took Organic Chemistry together, and he was my tutor of sorts.
Mike grew up as an “Army Brat,” moving with his parents and three siblings every few years. He experienced new communities, new states, and even new countries, with the consistency of structure and family.
Camping, fishing, and traveling together is what made the biggest impact on Mike’s childhood, and during his high school years, he found a love for basketball. Cut from the team as a freshman, he was determined to improve his game and became a regular at the local sports club playing pick-up ball with the men’s league.
In his senior year, Mike led his team to a State Championship, and was offered a scholarship at the University of Utah after Coach Rick Majerus recognized his uncanny work ethic and coachability. Unsure of what a scholarship even was, he gladly accepted the opportunity to keep playing ball.
After ten years of playing professionally (including winning an NBA Championship with the Miami Heat), Mike was ready to settle down and settle into a new career. We moved back to Utah and he found comfort back in the classroom.
With a Masters degree in Physics and Education, Mike landed in our local high school, teaching physics and coaching basketball for a handful of years. While he believes those are undervalued and critical roles, he felt pulled away from spending enough time with our own kids.
What drove us to a lifestyle change
Despite recognizing that the “rat race” wasn’t healthy, we found ourselves stuck right in the middle of it, with not enough time for the things we valued most. We were also watching health, happiness, and nature crumble around us … and for what?
We have lived the life of excess, of consumption, of convenience. We have witnessed fame, fortune, and power.
It comes at a cost! It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
A handful of years ago, Mike had the word “Simplify” tattooed on his side. Many found it ironic because our life was anything but simple.
The number of hobbies, activities, and commitments we were attempting is too long to list. Our oversized home, the garage full of toys, and the expectations of perfection were too much to take care of. That tattoo reminded us of what we actually wanted and marked the beginning of a new way.
Our close friends and family would probably tell you that we’ve never really fit the mold of our place in time — athletic anomalies (based on where we came from), an anti-typical NBA couple (can you picture me as an NBA wife?), and often seeking the road less traveled. So why should we try to fit the mold now?
With values rooted in integrity, Mike celebrates his own success by giving back, building community, and doing the work. For myself, there’s an undying drive to improve where we (as a species and a planet) are headed for current and future generations.
We’ve been taking baby steps in this direction for years. Instilling in our kids the importance of gaining from the process over seeking an outcome, the importance of rolling up your sleeves and doing the work, and the importance of quality relationships and experiences over having “stuff.”
We’ve minimized our belongings, made more environmentally-friendly choices, and lived the 7 Pillars of Peak Performance in an attempt to foster a back-to-basics approach.
It all felt good, but we were still left with an unrelenting itch.
Stillness sparked direction
As we sat in stillness throughout the pandemic, we simultaneously felt the need to be a bigger part of the solution. We must be a bigger part of the solution to the turmoil, unrest, and uncertainty we feel across humanity.
It became crystal clear, and once we saw it, the itch went away.
We decided that it’s time to stop complaining, get a little uncomfortable, and start doing more.
It’s a big decision. It’s a big change. I’m known for deliberating over everything — but not this time!
The choice to bring back the simplicity we felt in our youth, coupled with the work ethic that left us satisfied at the end of the day, and the choice to take a more active role in cultivating a healthier world for our kids and their kids, is a choice we have yet to question.
Our homesteading vision
Doing… taking action… making a positive impact — there are many ways to go about this. For us, we’ve decided to start with homesteading and living a life of greater self-sufficiency.
So, we’re moving to a farm in Montana!
If you know us, you know we don’t do anything halfway. Once the Doleacs get a bee in their bonnet it’s all in! 230 acres in!
The Bitterroot Valley in Western Montana is where we’re headed to make this dream come true.
Our prospective property has been used for alfalfa and grazing cattle in the past — a makeover is due. At about 3600 feet, we’ll be working a flat valley floor, rolling hills and gullies, a plateau, and an irrigation ditch that runs through the center.
There is a small ranch-hand’s home built in the 1940’s that we were planning to move into as we settle into the land, observing what it has to offer and what it’s asking us to do. But, it’s been deemed a teardown, so we’ll be headed to the “hill house” until we build our humble abode.
The property has pole barns, horse stalls, a mechanic shop and more — we are excited to work with what’s there to create a temperate oasis and inviting homestead.
Building a family homestead
We’ve dabbled with a small backyard garden for years — although growing food in Park City, Utah at a hobby level is no easy task. Greens, squashes, root veggies, raspberries, and herbs have supplemented our meals and kept the kids intrigued.
Now, we are hoping to turn our hobby garden on it’s head — truly reconnecting ourselves to where food comes from.
Planting, nourishing, cultivating, preparing, preserving, and cherishing homegrown food. Using what we need, giving the rest back to the earth, and being conscious of reducing waste.
Connecting to nature, connecting to food, connecting to each other.
Cultivating a small eco-community or eco-village
Our homesteading vision begins with our immediate family — we have a lot to figure out. But, our long-term plan extends beyond. It’s not just about us, nor can we do it all on our own.
The trend in current culture to do it all, and do it all yourself, has left people fried — and divided.
By exploring the idea of an eco-community onto our farm — a place for people with similar values, each playing a role in our bigger vision — we hope instead to unite.
An eco-village is an intentional community based on societal, cultural, ecological, and economic sustainability in order to regenerate natural and social environments. We are social beings, designed to support each other and support the planet we live on.
Developing an experience-based farm
We want our homesteading farm to be a place of learning for us and others. Where we are being taught and where we are teaching; where we are healing and helping others heal.
Humans have been on a path of disconnection — from nature, from real food, from each other, from what it means to be alive. Our project aims to RECONNECT on all levels.
Time will tell what that reconnection looks like (classes, courses, internships, retreats, etc), but whatever form it takes, we can’t wait to make it happen.
A model for others
Can our farm become a model for others to replicate in their own communities? We certainly hope so. Other’s stories, like The Biggest Little Farm, have helped inspire us.
Individually we can’t save the world, but collectively, we can! It’s going to take all of us doing our part to reverse the damage we’ve done. It’s going to take a shift in thinking within communities far and wide to see the change we hope to see.
How do we do this? By learning from nature’s resilience and using modern technology intentionally to create a homestead mimicking a mini ecosystem.
Biodynamic, regenerative farming and permaculture
There’s a lot of jargon out there when it comes to homesteading, farming, agriculture, and living in an eco-friendly manner.
We are learning the terms ourselves, noting the cross-overs, pulling out the concepts that make sense to us, and using them to help direct the steps we will take to cultivate healthy food, healthy people, and a sustainable future.
Our vision is a biodynamic, regenerative farm based on permaculture principles — but what does all this mean?
What is permaculture, and why does it matter?
Modern day humans have been living life in pieces, forgetting what primitive wisdom reminds us — we need to consider the whole entity. Isolated pieces don’t work as well on their own.
Permaculture is a set of design principles that considers whole systems, emphasizing the patterns and resiliency found in natural ecosystems.
Permaculture principles provide a way of thinking that enables people to establish highly productive environments that provide for food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs. These principles are rooted in careful observations of natural patterns and can be applied to all climates and a wide variety of cultures from indigenous to technological.Penny Livingston
We hope that by utilizing permaculture design concepts on our homestead, we will be harmoniously living with and maybe even contributing to nature, rather than working against and taking from it.
What is regenerative agriculture, and why does it matter?
We are losing viable topsoil at an alarming rate! In fact, soil scientists claim that we may only have 60 years of food producing soil left using conventional agricultural practices due to erosion, chemical pollution, and nutrient loss.
Regenerative agriculture works to rebuild the biodiversity of the soil through farming and grazing practices without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, tilling, and monocropping.
Proper use of cover crops, compost, crop rotation, holistic grazing management, perennial plants, agroforestry, and so much more, are some of the regenerative ag methods that result in nutrient-rich soil, greater yields, drought-resistance, biodiversity, climate change reversal, and flourishing local economies.
What is biodynamic farming, and why does it matter?
Biodynamic farming is a type of organic farming with a holistic and ethical approach. Food starts with healthy microbial-rich soil, and every species plays an important role in the production of healthy food.
Each biodynamic farm or garden is an integrated, whole, living organism. This organism is made up of many interdependent elements: fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, people, and the spirit of the place.Biodynamic Association
We want to work in rhythm with nature, celebrate the diversity in plants, animals, and people, and invest in practices that ensure health for future generations — we can’t wait to get started!
Combining the ideas of permaculture, regenerative farming, and biodiversity seems like the best way for us to make a contribution toward change.
Can we really do this?
We are starting from ZERO when it comes to experience! Can we really build this vision without a background in farming, agriculture, or ranching?
As a young gymnast, I would always tell myself, “If those other girls (those I was inspired to be) can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t figure out how to do it, too!” Well, I’m tapping back into my growth mindset and we are running with the faith that we can figure this out.
Resources we are tapping into
My husband’s cousin lives on and runs a thriving organic farm that sits just a mile down the road from where we will be. She and her husband have always been an inspiration to us, and we feel very fortunate to have their wealth of knowledge so near (hopefully we don’t burn them out with all our questions too quickly!).
Currently, we are in the midst of a six-month online permaculture design course that includes over 150 students representing 26 countries. With two amazing teachers, we are learning invaluable information to put to use immediately, and down the road.
Through the class, we have a team of seven other students who will be helping us design a conceptual plan specifically for our property! Talk about perfect timing, the benefit of like-minded people, and the power of bringing diversity together to build something beautiful.
Luckily, we aren’t afraid to ask for help and we won’t be tackling this project all on our own.
We also have “good ole” PASSION on our side to help us get started. It’s a resource you can’t buy and you can’t teach — it’s innate and it’s powerful.
What are we most nervous about?
Will it be a lot of work? Most definitely! But, we aren’t afraid.
Will we make mistakes? Without a doubt! LOTS! But, we are up for the challenge.
Will it be an adjustment for our kids? Heck ya! But, we know they’ll adapt.
Will it be a slow process? You bet! But, remember, we thrive on the process.
It’s a big change with many unknowns, but embracing this alleviates the nerves.
What are we most excited for?
Maybe it sounds corny, but we are most excited for the process. The journey. The day to day adventure. That’s the part we each enjoyed most in our athletic careers. Finding solutions to the challenges that presented themselves.
While it’s no longer about being the best gymnast or basketball player we can be, it’s about being the best stewards of the land, part of the natural system, and modern day pioneers to leave the earth a little better than we found it.
The fast-paced, “high life” is less rewarding, less wholesome, and it is destroying our planet, our health, and a big piece of our integrity with it.
Instead, we are excited to take the time to observe natural systems, celebrate our place in those systems, and share our journey from University of Utah Hall of Famers to down and dirty farmers.
Do you want to follow along on this adventure? We would love for you to engage with our story, learn alongside us, and share in the process. If you are ready for more, come join us.
Primal Peak will include our musings, teachings, and act as a piece of inspiration for your own homesteading adventures, no matter how big or small.
Remember to follow us on Instagram @primalpeak for more day to day updates as we embark on this exciting next step!