Pursuing sustainable, creative living

Billie Weston trims a large-format print at the Biomedical Communications Unit at the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine on March 6 in Pullman.

Billie Weston didn't plan to end up working in a print shop, but she loves it.

"I love the printing," said Weston, who is a designer and large format print operator at the Biomedical Communications Unit within the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. "I really didn't set out to have this as a job, necessarily, but I definitely enjoy it. I'm glad to be doing it. I guess I'm lucky that way, I get to do something that I do enjoy. It is awesome watching people's art and research posters come to life on large format printers. I am always impressed with the work our researchers do here, and I feel lucky to get to see all of it."

Weston has worked with printing in some way for most of her career - dating back to high school, where she worked for the school newspaper in Ashland, Ore.

"I was like 'oh, that's what I want to do, I want to be this warrior for justice, tell people's story, make sure the injustices of the world don't prevail.' That was sixth grade," she added with a laugh.

Weston said she is usually shy, so when she started at her school paper, she found herself leaning toward the production side. She also enjoyed the challenge of bringing all the pieces together and working behind the scenes. She looked at the pagination as a big jigsaw puzzle.

After a series of jobs, Weston eventually found herself on the Palouse. The area, she said, had better job opportunities for her husband, and it also had a lower cost and a higher quality of life, which appealed to Weston and her desire to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Weston, since she was a little girl, has loved gardens, and living in central Oregon made it difficult to have a successful garden. That's not the case on the Palouse.

"One thing that really made an impression from my childhood was that we always had a garden," she said. "My mom was always into having a big, organic garden. We moved a lot the first 10 years of my life before settling in southern Oregon. Sometimes we lived unconventionally. Like living in a geodesic dome for a while, then moving to a teepee in the forest that had no power or plumbing. But we had a garden and chickens. Later on, even when we lived in town, we had goats and my mother kept bees. Later on, we lived in a school bus for a while. It was set up pretty well. At that time, I'm sure it was considered a strange way to live, but it was set up a lot like the tiny houses of today. We were just ahead of our time, I guess. My mom denies being a hippie, but I think that's what we were."

Weston and her husband live on about 40 acres near Moscow. Their home was built 1890, and it has become quite a project for the couple. Making it a functional homestead is what they plan to focus on for the next few years.

Her current project for the year is to finish installing a greenhouse. She has a 25-by-100-foot garden in which she grows tomatoes, cabbage, cucumber and other vegetables. She also has three beehives from which she harvests honey and wax. She makes her own salves with the wax, and she plans to take a permaculture course in April to help broaden her knowledge of gardening.

She hopes to have her own livestock at some point, maybe a cow or a pig, and with the help of her garden and some chickens, she'd like to be able to support her family's food needs as much as she can.

With 24 hens at this point, Weston said she's getting about 16 eggs a day, which is far too many for two people to eat. She's been taking the extra eggs to the Potlatch Food Bank. Once fall comes around, she hopes to offer potatoes to the food bank, since two people couldn't possibly eat 100 pounds of potatoes.

Weston and her husband's priority is to make their house and property what they want and need it to be. And although it will take years, Weston said she doesn't mind.

"I was looking at (the property) and I thought, 'this is going to take the rest of my life - which is good, because that's what you got,' " she said. "It's a work in progress, but I like it."

Jennifer Ladwig can be reached at (208) 883-4639, or by email to kshort@dnews.com.

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