Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Welcome my Guest Blogger - Crystal Marie

Welcome my Guest Blogger - Crystal Marie

I am delighted to introduce Crystal Marie today as she is a wilderness-dwelling granny, quilter/crafter, and freelance writer/proofreader. After spending nearly 20 years in public health, she 'retired' in 2002 and moved to the mountains where she works from home, primarily creating custom memorial quilts from clothing.

Crystal learned to sew as a small child and even won a ribbon in the adult division at the County Fair for baby doll pajamas she made when just eight years of age. Although she's been sewing for over 50 years, Crystal didn't get serious about quilt making until about a decade ago. She now specializes in custom memorial quilts but has made over 100 others, both professionally and for family and friends.

Crystal is married to Joel Horn, author of Impossible Beyond This Point, the inspiring and entertaining true-life adventure of his family's struggle and triumph creating a self-sufficient life in their wilderness paradise. This remote location presents numerous challenges to the home-based entrepreneur but off-site employment is not practical, so family members have capitalized on their strengths and circumstance to create their own opportunities.

Crystal was blessed with four children and now has 11 grandchildren, as well. In addition to enjoying the grandkids and creating custom memorial quilts, Crystal proofreads patterns, writes for a few sites online and shares on her blog, The Best 50 Years.
Please join me in welcoming Crystal Marie!

Thanks for the opportunity to guest blog, Nan! Being I know many folks would like to generate income from home but may face seemingly-insurmountable logistical obstacles, I’d like to talk about working from home despite your location and share a little of my experience.
Working from Home in the Wilderness
I live in the middle of nowhere – truly. And I’m not just saying that because I’m in a small town or out on a farm and it feels like the middle of nowhere. I really do live in an isolated location where the nearest neighbor is about four miles away as the crow flies, our vehicles are parked nearly two miles and 1,200 feet in elevation above our place, and we usually get snowed in for several weeks each winter. Not the best logistics for a home-based business but we all work from home, nevertheless. How? Well, let me explain…

The Birth of a Home-Based Business in the Boonies
It all started back in the 1960s when my husband’s parents bought a remote mining claim and moved with their three young boys from the Los Angeles area to far northern California. Both were jewelry artists and their plan was to mine gold, make jewelry and have a mail-order business. In the early years, they did mine gold and make jewelry but due to the logistics of their location, the mail order business never materialized and most orders came in person in the form of custom commissions.
After the boys grew up and took over the business, they expanded to include sterling silver, started providing small-scale casting services for other jewelry designers, and also created a line of rock climbing jewelry. Dependent on consignment arrangements with various gift shops and in-person appearances at local events, sales were understandably slow…very slow. And then came the Internet and the opportunity to fulfill their parents’ dream of a mail order business in the boonies.
Initially, they built and operated their website on a dial-up connection over a radio link phone, which they were able to upgrade to a satellite connection after a few years. Sales grew steadily over the years as more and more people began shopping online and now we ship jewelry to customers worldwide. My husband recently published Impossible Beyond This Point, the true story of their move to the wilderness and the beginning of the life we all live now.

My Business in the Wilderness
I’ve been sewing since before I can remember so creating a sewing-based business was a natural fit. But it didn’t happen overnight and didn’t even happen on purpose! After moving to the wilderness in 2002, I took up quilting thanks to Alex Anderson and Simply Quilts. Remember that satellite Internet connection I mentioned earlier? Well, we had satellite television at that time, too. Anyway, I’d been collecting fabric for decades so had plenty of material on hand and regularly acquired more, along with all the basic tools and then some. I even bought a short-arm quilter and frame. I would have preferred a long-arm machine, of course, but remember that everything has to come down almost two miles of trail.
I initially thought I’d like to quilt for others, which I actually did for a short time. But getting quilt tops from customers and then getting them back to the customers was impractical, to say the least. Then in 2006, my DIL asked me to make a memorial quilt for her mom and I discovered my passion. Now I devote much of my creative energy to creating custom memorial quilts from clothing for folks who find me through my website, CustomMemorialQuilts.com. I still have to deal with the logistics of getting the clothing here and getting the finished quilts back out, but creating these keepsakes is worth the extra effort.
In addition to quilting, I do some writing and proofreading. My long-term goal is to publish memorial-quilt-specific patterns and maybe a book to allow anyone with beginner-level sewing skills and equipment to create their own memorial quilt. And I freely share my expertise every chance I get – there’s no way I can create all the memorial quilts that need to be made and I’m happy to help others be successful in this labor of love.

More Businesses in the Middle of Nowhere?
But let’s not stop there! My SIL happened upon a business opportunity that is proving a win-win on several fronts. Last summer while removing random-length sections of ancient barbed wire from trees, she was trying to figure out what to do with it all – it’s sharp…and rusty…and of absolutely no use to us. Coincidentally, she discovered around the same time that people were listing rusty barbed wire on Etsy and other folks were actually buying it! Who knew? So she opened Rough and Rustic, where she sells barbed wire and all sorts of other things gleaned from around the homestead and elsewhere. Not only are we cleaning up stuff we no longer want or need, we’re sending it to folks who do want these items.
While this mail-order type business may seem like a logistical nightmare from our remote location, being we already had a packaging/mailing system in place for the jewelry business and already travel the 50 mile round trip to the PO once or twice a week anyway, adding to the outgoing packages was no problem. And during heavy-snow winters when everything has to be taken out 5+ miles on snowshoes, we’ll just put the Etsy shop on vacation and only mail out the lightweight jewelry orders.

So if you’re looking to create a home-based business but face obstacles, don’t despair! Evaluate your options starting with some basic questions. What do you enjoy? What talents and skills do you already possess? What materials and tools do you already have on hand? What systems or infrastructure is already in place that you can use or build on? Brainstorm possible options until you find something that fits and then go for it!

Crystal - thank you so much for sharing your story. You have truly learned to make the most of your situation. It sounds fascinating except for tromping in snow.That is not something this Florida girl wants to do! 

I hope you all have enjoyed Crystal's blog. We have two more bloggers this month and I know you will enjoy meeting them as well.  

I will be introducing May's Guest Bloggers in my newsletter so sign up. There will also be specials offered with every newsletter, so add your name to the list.
Until next time...



  1. Heartwarming and Inspirational!!!

    1. Barbara, she has quite a story! Thanks for sharing.