Author: Eric Olson

A Thank You and a Statement on the future of The Olson & Son Hopyard

I Originally posted this at the new Olsonandsonhopyard.com but the information is just as pertinent here. Karin and I also want to take this transition as an opportunity to recharge pressure support.com. New posts and possibly even new writers (hint hint) coming soon!

Olson and Son Hopyard

Over the past two days the photos have been coming in from people wearing their brand new Olson & Son Hopyard T-shirts. It makes me incredibly happy and proud to see. I’ll be sharing some of the photos in another post soon, but I, of course, need to begin this one by thanking each and every one of you who have supported us in so many different ways. Yes – thank you to every one of you who has bought a shirt online or a beer glass at our Father’s Day event, but also thank you to all of you who have shared our story, and even everyone who follows, comments, and likes us on Instagram and Twitter. Thank You. Your support of us is noticed and appreciated more than you know.

Thank You.

Let me also start by saying that I am very happy with how well the website

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The Spring ’16 Olson & Son Hopyard T-Shirts are here!

Last year, thanks in very large part to the readers of this blog, The Olson & Son Hopyard sold more t-shirts than any backyard garden ever should. Overwhelmed by the generosity of both the special needs community, and the hop farming and beer community, The Olson & Son Hopyard has blossomed into a weird but beautiful project of gardening, photography, storytelling and advocacy.

As Liam has gotten older sharing the details of his medical life has grown difficult as I struggle with the idea of his privacy and consent. Through the lense of Liam just being my child and the co-owner of the Olson & Son Hopyard, it becomes less about Liam Olson Special Needs Kid and more akin to Liam Olson that kid who grows hops with his dad. Not everyone will see the distinction, but I do.

So to make a long story short (and one that doesn’t even need explaining to any of you who follow my instagram or Twitter feeds), working in, taking photographs of, and writing about The Olson & Son Hopyard has made me very very happy over the course of the last year. It is why I am so excitied about unveiling this year’s spring T-shirt.

 

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Yes, we picked the shirt colors based on the new hopyard work truck’s colors. Yes we went through all of the trouble of getting Liam’s wheelchair into the back of the truck just for this photo of us in the hopyard.

 

Tomorrow, just as our Liam Love event is kicking off where a limited number of shirts will be available for purchase, our Booster sale for this year’s t-shirt will go live and be up for online sales for the next two weeks. I’ll post the link tomorrow, both here and on the brand new Olsonandsonhopyard.com.

Moving forward, the plan is to do a new limited edition t-shirt every spring, and something different every fall. Maybe hoodies, maybe hats, we’ll see. This will be in addition to our annual wreath sale of holiday wreaths made with the dried hop bines and rope or twine they grew on. And someday, hopefully  fairly soon, when harvests and expansions grow large enough, that product list of the Olson & Son Hopyard will include hops for your brewing needs. We all have to start somewhere, this is where Liam, and Karin, and I have the means to start.

Thank you all for reading. For your support and thank you in advance to anyone of you that could share our story and tomorrow’s link. either from here or through Olsonandsonhopyard.com. I may have gone silent here the last 6 months or so, but only because Liam and I have been so busy,

 

Out in the hopyard. We have uniforms.

And you can get one for your very own.

Liam Love — Sunday June 19th 2016


Every day during the month of May, my father, Liam’s Grampa, made bowls in his pottery.  Like children, these bowls are one of a kind, made with love and in the moment. Rough around the edges these handmade stoneware bowls will be smooth and food safe inside. On June 19th, Father’s Day, My father and I hope that you can join us in the ISB Gallery of Rhode Island School of Design (55 Canal Walk, Providence RI) for Liam Love, a pottery sale to benefit the Liam the Lion Fund.

In addition to dozens of handmade unique stoneware bowls, the event will feature the unveiling of this year’s limited edition Olson & Son Hopyard t-shirt available for purchase in some sizes and orders for others, and also our brand new branded 12oz belgian beer glasses will be for sale.

Attendees will be treated to a retrospective exhibition of the wonderful paintings of Tom Sgouros! There will be light food, non-alcoholic beverages and even a few guitars around if you are so inclined to share a song! It promises to be a fun afternoon.

So come and celebrate Father’s Day with Liam, his father, and his father’s father. We hope to see you there, and if you know anyone who may be interested, feel free to share the link.

Special thanks to Susan Doyle, chair of Illustration at RISD and Michael Kolendowicz of the ISB Gallery for making this event possible.

 

 

Thoughts on our Halloween

It was actually Easter I think, a bunch of years ago, when Liam’s cousin Max saw us coming up the front walkway at Gramama’s house and bounded towards us with toy in hand. Racing toward us so quickly and at only three or four years old at the time, I could barely understand him as Max pushed the Darth Vader action figure into my hands. 

” the same, the same bleeding machine, he has bleeding machine!” His excitement proving that he had been waiting for us to get there just to show us.

” a bleeding machine?” I asked for clarification, as max let me have the toy and gently grabbed Liam’s hand to say hi to him. 

“No.” Max said and grabbed onto the circuit tubes connecting Liam’s trach to his ventilator. “BREATHING MACHINE.” He said. 

The same. The same. 

Better than even some adults who had met Liam in the early days, it isn’t as complicated as some would make it, his cousins got it. Like it was no big deal.

Darth Vader and his cousin Liam. They both need a breathing machine.

The same.

I’ve always loved that story and that moment, because in Max’s childlike enthusiasm he showed not only that he understood  what Liam needed but also that it was pretty cool.

I’m thinking Liam’s cousin Max would get a kick out of Liam’s Halloween costume this year. 

 

Darth Liam finds your lack of faith disturbing

 
Halloween can be tough one for us. Liam doesn’t eat by mouth so candy is out, most sidewalks and front walkways ( in our neighborhood anyway) aren’t wheelchair accessible, and even school has made costumes on Halloween against the rules, opting instead for a “spirit day” where all students are encouraged to wear black and orange, but NO COSTUMES! Either intimidated by the wheelchair ramp or because there just aren’t that many kids in the neighborhood we only got four trick-or-treaters so even making an event of that part of the night doesn’t work much for us. 

Basically, it’s hard not to feel isolated when nearly all aspects of the day do little but highlight how different our life as a family can be from so many of the people around us. Even dressing Liam in costume, an act that is essentially only for Facebook and Instagram, can be fraught with difficulty. 

Long time readers know how important Liam’s dignity and agency are to us. He is a little boy, he isn’t a doll, and so are we dressing him in costume for our entertainment or because society tells us that we must on Halloween. I don’t know. When he was a toddler it was easier. Choosing the right costume for a baby is always more for the parents whether going for adorability or irony (mad men characters? Game of Thrones? Donald Trump?) but at what age do we take into account what a non-verbal Liam wants or does not want to wear? We make it a point to ask Liam to choose his costume, and he does. We ask him if he feels comfortable when he’s wearing it which he generally does, and if he doesn’t it immediately comes off. Thankfully, target has come out with these hooded sweatshirts with a partial mask attached to the hood. Last year Liam was Captain America, this year he was everyone’s favorite Sith apprentice, while wearing nothing more than a hoodie. Awesome. (This is a blog that doesn’t do ‘brand engagement’ for a number of reasons. But thanks for these Target) they’re so awesome in fact that against the rules or not we send Liam to school in his costume anyway. I can’t wait until they try and tell us we shouldn’t have done it. Showing off his hoodie at school is just about the only Halloween thing he can do. 

This year we made the best of it. Unfortunately we spent a portion of Halloween at Liam’s pediatrician’s office (long story, he’s fine) but after that we celebrated on our own. Our way. After his grandparents visited with some little toys and crafts for his goodie bag (in lieu of candy), if I could have added large hinges to the wheelchair ramp and raised it like a drawbridge for the rest of the night I would have. We carved our pumpkins, we baked our seeds, we watched our Bruins (big win!) and soaked in being together as a family. 

Halloween can be a tough one for us. So we just stopped doing it. You guys do your thing with your candy and haunted houses and trick-or-treating, and crazy far out costumes. 

We’ll be at home, in our hoodies, being a family. It doesn’t always look like everyone else’s, and it can be vary isolating. 

But At least we have each other. 

Hoppy Halloween from the Olson & Son Hopyard

9 Years of Being Called Dad.

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Nine years ago today. 9:06am. After 13 hours of labor Karin gave birth to Ben Olson.

He had already passed away hours beforehand. We lost him before we ever really got to meet him.

Through our grief on that day, Karin and I appreciated the care, and support provided by doctors, nurses, and the hospital minister as they gave us the gifts of 8 hours with our son. a day to spend in the labor room, holding him, telling him how much we loved him, introducing him to both sets of his  grandparents.

They gave us the time we needed to say goodbye.

But the greater gift given that day wasn’t the grand gestures, the pictures, the clothes Ben was dressed in while we stayed in that room, the footprints in a decorated memory box to take home with us. Those nurses, doctors and other hospital staff gave us what we needed to hear,

They called us Mom and Dad. They gave us the title that we needed to hear.

“You’re doing a great job Mom!”

“Do you want to cut the cord Dad?” and they never stopped calling us that.

Because Karin and I became parents on this day, September 22, 2006. 9 years ago today. We didn’t know at the time that we wouldn’t be able to bring a child home with us for another 2 years and 8 months when Liam was 153 days old, but we knew that we had had a son. His name was Ben and to show him the respect he deserved we needed to believe, as hard as it may have been when walking out of that hospital only with each other, that we were parents.

*****

About a month ago this article popped into my Twitter feed. “Don’t Call me Mom if You’re Not My Child”  written by a mom who took offense to the nurses in a hospital calling her “Mom” while her son was in for an outpatient procedure. It’s been bugging me ever since I read it, but today looking back on Ben’s birthday crystallized why. It’s snarky and angry which I usually like, but is directed at people just trying to do their jobs and help to make people feel comfortable. I know plenty of parents who agree 100% in the sentiment. Parents of neurotypical children and parents of children with disabilities alike. Parents who mean a great deal to me, who I respect a great deal, and who have helped me through some of the toughest of times. Parents though, who all have at least one child who has the ability to call them Mom, or Dad.

Not everyone has that.

*****

Being Mom and Dad to Ben has never been easy. It has been heart breaking, but it has also made us better parents to Liam. After the birth of Ben, along with 4 miscarriages and also an unsuccessful IVF/PGD attempt by the time Liam was born Karin and I were ready. Ready to take those titles of Mom and Dad and grow into owning them no matter the circumstance of our child’s health. During the time while Liam was in the NICU we reveled in being called Mom and Dad by the dozens of staff and personnel calling us by the titles we earned. (If I went through the years of schooling it took to get a Phd I’d be that jerk who wants to be called “Dr.” too.)

As Liam got older and we spent more and more of his life in and out of hospitals it became clear that the ONLY time that Karin and I would ever be called “mom” or “dad” was going to be by the nurses and staff in the intensive care unit. Liam communicates with us in ways that only we can understand, but he’s probably never going to be able to say those words. Programming an iPad to say it when he hits a switch is nice but it isn’t the same. I’m Ok with that. As I said, Liam and I “talk” in other ways. But hearing it from a human voice when they tell us that they were finally able to get the central line in place and Liam had access for the meds he would need to keep him from dying? Or the recovery nurse after any one of his many life saving surgeries? Or the PICU nurse who sat in the room for every minute of her shift because there was real concern that he had a heart attack due to the septic shock?  Yeah, I’ll take those “Mom & Dad”‘s. Any Day. Unlike the author of the article, for some of us, it does take a village. The hands and help of people who have saved my son’s life can be a part of my village anytime< along with the people who brought him his lunch and the people who kept his room clean. There’s room for lots of people in my village.

Nine years ago today Karin and I became a Mom & Dad. I don’t care if you’re my kid or not, every person on this planet could call me Dad. It’s the only title that really matters to me.

****

Ben, your Mom and I love you and we miss you every single day. Thank you for sending us the messages you send and in the way that you send them. Someday I’ll share our secret with all of these people reading this. They’ll have to buy my book about it first. (although a few of you out there already know what that is. very few) Thank you for being such great big brother and gaurdian angel to your little bro Liam and always watching over him. I know that you know that we tell him about you all the time and he is always with us when we go and visit you resting next to your Great-Grampa.

Happy Birthday little viking. I love you.

Dad

 

He just keeps proving them wrong. 

“I think you should focus on the time you have him with you now because we can’t really say for certain Liam will ever leave the hospital.” 

“Liam will mentally always be an infant, and won’t ever be able to communicate” 

“We might be at the point where we should discuss extubating from the ventilator and letting nature run its course.” ***

There are days that I wish we could track down some of the doctors that have crossed paths with Liam in the NICU and PICU just so that we could tell them “We told you so” 

Dropping this big boy off for his first day of the FIRST GRADE(!!!) this morning is definitely one of them. 

   

Happy first day of school to all of you students, parents, and teachers out there. 
****Yes, we once had a PICU Attending tell us this after only 48 hours of intubation when Liam was only 6 months old. He said this BEFORE WE EVEN DISCUSSED GETTING A TRACH! I’ve never come closer to punching someone in the face, and I’m thrilled to tell you he no longer works anywhere near here. I’d love to have a chat with him again now. 

Final day for orders. 

 

photo by Olson & Son Hopyard media director and CFO Karin.

 
Hard at work brewing beer this weekend here is the Olson & Son Hopyard and Brewing crew, with assistant brewer holding on to the 30 minute hop addition of .75oz of Chinooks. 
Just a quick not to remind everyone that today is the final day for orders of your very own Olson & Son Hopyard t-shirt, until next year. Click this link to order. 
Thank you all so very much for your interest and enthusiasm for our little project. Every t shirt sale helps us not only keep this fun hobby going but more importantly helps us maintain Liam’s medical equipment and needs. 

Your generosity has floored us all and I am so happy that so many of you have joined in the fun. I can’t tell you how much it cracks me up that in about three weeks people all over the country will be rocking their O&SH gear. 
Cheers! And thank you. 

5 days left 

   This morning I posted this picture of my Willamette hops to Instagram. Aside from maybe a shot here or there during brewing this fall it will be the last picture of the hopyard’s season. 
Which for me is kind of sad. 

Four years ago when I planted four rhizomes (one variety didn’t make it) the last thing I expected was for dozens of people all over the country to eventually start interacting with me in so many different ways. But in taking so many pictures of the Hopyard year after year a strange overlap occurred between parents of children with complex medical needs and disabilities and hop farmers, homebrewers and even some professional Brewers. What’s funny is that now I get questions from homebrewers and other beer folk about Liam, and questions from special needs parents and other medical folk about beer.

 It’s a special little community you’ve all created, and I couldn’t be more proud or humbled by it all. 

So when I decided to sell Hopyard t-shirts and set a goal for printing 50 of them I wasn’t exactly sure we’d make it, despite Karin’s assurances. As usual though, she was right, and I was wrong. Within 36 hours 50 shirts had been ordered fairy teeing a printing of as many as we can sell. What amazed me more than the amount though was who was buying. People we have never met before. Some were from people that didn’t even follow me on social media but had heard about the sale on Facebook or from some big hop farms who had seen the sale because of a hashtag and passed it along. 

The Olson & Son Hopyard shirts aren’t only going to friends and family. These shirts are going all over the country, to be worn by homebrewers, hop farmers, and special needs families all over the place and it absolutely has blown my mind. Thank you to all of you out there who have ordered, and Thank you to all of you who have shared. 

There are 5 days left to get one these beauties. They make awesome gifts, look pretty sweet and once this sale ends they won’t be sold again.

  
If you are able, and you enjoy the content I share here on the blog or on Twitter, and Instagram, Please help support the Hopyard and help us support the medical equipment costs associated with Liam’s medical needs by sharing this link far and wide before September 1st. 

The Olson & Son Hopyard staff aren’t just here in Riverside Rhode Island. They’re everywhere that have heard of Liam, and everywhere that like to see my photos of growing a backyard hopyard. 

Screen Time. 

Timing. It’s about timing.

When games aren’t really games.

Wait for the ring to surround the space invader.

Hit the headswitch when it does.

*BOOM*

Explosions. Fireworks. Applause.

Change to the communication app.

It’s about timing.

Wait for the green box to surround the words you want to say.

Hit the headswitch when it does.

*BOOM*

“Yes”

*BOOM*

“Hi Mom”

*BOOM*

“I love you”

 

You guys can control the screen time of your kids all you want. I get it. It just doesn’t work for our family. An ipad with a headswitch acts as Liam’s voicebox, in the same way that his vent acts as his lungs. And not so long ago neither would be possible. Especially at home and not in an institution. Not so long ago, the technology wasn’t there.

It’s about timing.

*********************************************************************

 

The Limited Edition Olson & Son Hopyard T-shirts are still on sale at this link until September 1st. If you’d like the hottest Pressuresupport and hopyard gear do not miss out on this sale. We have achieved our goal number needed to guaranteeing a print run, so there’s no doubt that shirts will be shipping out about 10 days after the sale ends.

I want to thank everyone who has ordered, or shared the link for all of your help and support. So many people shared the sale page link that I was near tears at work trying to thank everyone as it was happening. It happened so quickly that I was overwhelmed by how many of you out there wanted to get the same shirt Liam and I wear. The Olson family appreciates all of you.

 

 

Join The Olson & Son Hopyard team: A FAQ

It is adorable (and amazing, and humbling, and I am grateful for it) how you all humor me sometimes. The conceit being that the Olson & Son Hopyard is anything more than three plants spread across what is barely 24 square feet wedged between a 6 foot fence and my garage.  Barely bigger than anyone’s personal garden, the hopyard has taken on a bit of a life of its own on Instagram and Twitter. And so it was, this weekend when I posted this picture of the “& Son” part of Olson & Son, hard at work during our Newport and Chinook harvest, that the question came.

“Do you sell the T-Shirts?” someone asked in a comment.

“If you think people would buy them I do.” I put it back out there to see if anyone else would answer. And answer you did; with comment after comment letting me know that there is some interest in owning a shirt just like Liam’s. So now is your chance.

In honor of the 2015 Olson & Son Hopyard Harvest I am launching a t-shirt sale of a one time only limited edition printing session of Liam and my hopyard work uniform. These things  have been so exclusive to this point, that although she was the one to design and purchase these first two as a father’s day gift two years ago, Karin doesn’t even have one (I guess I’ll have to fix that now).

She might not have one yet, but as long as you act before September 1st, this is your chance to get one of your very own Olson & Son Hopyard Tee Shirts.

What follows is me interviewing myself about the decision to put something silly out there into the world and asking you to give us your money for it.

 So, uh, First of all, how was the harvest? 

It was great thank you for asking! Still far from over, we only harvested the Newports and the Chinook yesterday. The Willamettes are still a few weeks away from being ready to pick. Easily got over a pound of each variety but won’t know total weights until the drying is done and I vacuum pack them all. Willamettes were the hot plant this year though so I’m expecting even more weight on that plant than these two so we should have a great overall season yield.

 

Is that a lot of Hops?

Not really. It’s more than enough for my needs as I haven’t brewed with any commercially bought hops in over two years but I don’t really brew as much as I’d like to. As far as yeild per plant it’s not bad at all. I take very good care of these plants and they’re strong producers of flowers every year since I planted them in 2011.

Was the work and money spent all year worth it?

Without a doubt.  Even if I didn’t use any of the hops it would be worth it as aside from being between my wife and son wherever they are, my favorite pace to be in the summer is between my garage and that fence watering, pruning, taking pictures of, smelling, feeding, and staring at my hop plants. The pictures I send out online always seem to get positive reactions and I’ve made friends with people because of those plants. Add on top of it that I get to use them to make beer and it’s a win, win. But I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t use a few extra bucks in my pocket to keep it going every year.

So now you’re selling shirts for what is in essence a home garden? 

Yes that is exactly what I’m doing. But to be fair, I was asked about  doing it online, and the positive response when the idea was put out there was definitive. I am selling a one time printing of the same shirt that Karin had made for me and Liam as a father’s day gift two years ago. I am using Booster.com because it is the “fundraising arm” of Customink.com and I really like the quality of the shirt and did not want to take a chance of quickly switching to another printer like cafe press to set up my own online store front. That will come soon. A bit of fun with the people who follow the hopyard on Instagram, this is all a bit of an experiment.

So this is a fundraiser then? Is it for The Liam the Lion Fund(which we as family have supported all these years)?

Well yes and no. To both questions actually.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are multiple purposes for this fundraiser. Yes, most of the proceeds will go to the upkeep, maintenance, and remaining payments on Liam’s wheelchair access van, (The additional ramp motor  and power supply needing their own specialized maintenance every 6 months) but some will also be set aside for hop ropes, fertilizer and  if possible a bit for some grain and yeast to keep this wacky homebrewing, and hopyard project that garners so much interest on Twitter and Instagram chugging along year after year. but let’s be honest with ourselves. It gets pretty cold in New England and heating oil isn’t cheap.

And Winter is Coming.

So this isn’t a sanctioned Liam The Lion Fund fundraiser per se, but it is a bit of a run through for them though. The plan being to gear up for some online fundraising efforts for the Liam the Lion Fund in 2016. Bathroom renovations for Liam’s safety while getting in and out of the tub as he grows bigger and bigger, will need a wider net for fundraising as you can only hit up family with church dinners so much in 7 years.

And you think people will buy these?

No actually, but Karin does, and she’s super smart, and also enough people said they would on instagram that I just had to strike while the iron was hot. I set a goal of 50 shirts and if we don’t sell 50 then it won’t be printed and no one will be charged but if we sell more then 50 then a printing will go and the sky is the limit! If we sell a bunch more than 50 we might be able to pay off Liam’s van completely, freeing up needed cash each month for his other supplies. Even if people are buying them solely to help Liam, because I know he has so many fans out there, they can do so for just that reason and they get a great looking shirt out of the deal for their trouble. It just makes me feel better than say, putting ads all over the blog.

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Well if it’s a hopyard then why don’t you just sell some of those hops to make money off of all this?

Well because just paying for the shipping would be too much to make it worth while and there isn’t so much that I’d make more than ten bucks. Much of the hops will probably be given away to friends who brew beer too. Besides, I think that the story of the Olson & Son Hopyard is worth more than the hops are. I think that instead of selling hops or tee shirts, we are selling being a part of Liam’s story. We are selling our family. We are selling this blog. I have other ideas for upcoming projects, such as the decorative holiday wreaths we are already making with this year’s bines, and possibly even a book of photos and essays of the hopyard. They’ll be more business than fundraiser. But they’ll be selling the same idea.

Ok, ok, I’m sold, take it down a notch, geeze, you don’t have to pour it on so thick (“selling our family”??? ….ew) what do I need to do now.

If you want to be a part of the Olson & Son Hopyard team and look like you work here at the coolest non-money making, non-crop selling, hopyard in all the land.  Follow this link to the Olson and Son Hopyard Limited Tee Booster page and order. They only come in one color because that’s the color of Liam and my shirt. This is a one time deal and all orders must be in before September 1st. Depending on the success of this project we may do a new limited edition every harvest where we can experiment with other options. Have to come up with a tattoo logo for that.

If you already have a closet full of novelty tee shirts would you be so kind as to tell your friends on facebook and twitter about us and our cool t shirt, send them here for the link. Even though they won’t understand buying a shirt for what is a fake hop farm unless they already follow us, it would be pretty awesome, since I’m not entirely sure we’ll be able to sell 50 of these things.

 Ok, Anything else to share then before we go?

Only to say thank you to everyone who keeps visting us here on the blog despite my sporadic posting, and to those who follow us on instagram and twitter for updates on both, the boy and the hops. Both are doing very well this year!

And also to share this photo I took today for no other reason than because, this is what the monday afternoon of a three day weekend which included the annual hop harvest looks like. Sleepy family time.