Jim Fousek is a volunteer trades interpreter at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago. He has been blacksmithing for a little over 20 years, first with the Lisle Heritage Society and then in the barn/blacksmith shop at Lisle Station Park Museum in Lisle. He and his wife, Donna, live in Lisle.
When he retired about 6 years ago from working in the research department at Amoco/BP Chemicals, the opportunity presented itself to start volunteering at Kline Creek Farm in the blacksmith shop. His volunteer duties on the farm have included the wood shop as well as many other tasks such as tree trimming, fence mending, weeding, brush cutting, and general interpreter.
Here's his story.
Catching the Nature Bug
My parents made it a point that weekends were rarely spent at home. We were always at a park, museum, or some other place of interest.
I guess that is where I developed my desire to travel and visit as many unusual and interesting places as possible. My wife, Donna, and I have spent a lot of time traveling, visiting national, state and local parks and attractions. I still cherish the opportunities to learn about the world we live in as we visit and revisit places.
Discovering DuPage Forest Preserves
Awareness of the DuPage Forest Preserve system has been with me since some of my earliest memories. Some of my favorite memories are going on ranger-led nature hikes at places like DuPage forest preserves.
Favorite Preserve and Time to Visit
Kline Creek Farm is my favorite place to visit of the DuPage forest preserves. Visits anytime are special as the changing seasons alter the work and chores that need to be done and the way the farm looks and feels.
What Brings Him Back Time and Time Again
I enjoy volunteering/working on the farm as a way to keep the old ways of doing things alive. I imagine that if many of the tools we have today were available to folks back then, they would have quickly adopted them and taken advantage of the time and energy they could save. That said, there are techniques and ways things were done that are being lost and forgotten.
How different was life just a little more than 100 years ago? No indoor plumbing or electricity, but life was not necessarily more difficult — just different. It was much simpler.
There was a much more direct connection to the work you did and how it impacted your life. For example, to stay warm you collected and cut firewood. No wood and you and the family would be cold and unable to cook meals.
Today the path between our work and our survival depends on many others and is part of a complex system. It is harder to understand and see the connection between how the work we do helps provide us with what’s needed to survive.
Nature has taught me that things never stay the same and we must be adaptable to the constantly changing environment and world around us.
Favorite Thing to Do in the Preserves
My favorite time at the farm and when out in nature is to just be there. Whether it is going for a walk, exploring the woods, or doing repairs to farm equipment in the blacksmith shop, it is all just an escape from everyday stress.
How Nature Inspires
I believe we all need to expose ourselves to new and different things so we can continue to grow and learn.
Advice to Others
Learning should never end and our chance to share what we have learned helps others and is a small way we can help create a better world for all of us. Collective learning is what leads to the betterment of society.
Favorite Nature Quote
“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” It’s a quote that has many parallels in life. From the way our lives touch and impact those around us to the creation of the land that has become Kline Creek Farm today. It just started as a simple idea and has grown into what it is today. I imagine it will continue to grow and change in the future as well.