Loran Joseph sat down across a backyard fire pit with Baker neighbor Ethan Wolston for a long chat about life in Baker. Here are some highlights of their conversation.
Part 1: Crafting a Life in Baker
I graduated high school here in ’98 and came back in 2007 with my wife and we’ve had both of our boys here. I came back for a number of reasons. I was living in Eugene, finishing up my degree at the U of O and playing a lot of basketball, which is where I met my wife. When we got married and then very quickly pregnant, the question was, where do we want to raise our kid? Do we want to do it here? In Portland? And we both wanted a small, rural town. Because she’s from Powers, which is near Coos Bay, we looked at that, but we didn’t really see opportunities down there and she had great memories of Baker when she won a state tournament here during high school. And, my dad really wanted me back here to help him in the wood shop, and to get a wind turbine project going. It just seemed like a great change to make.
I came back to work in the wood shop to take over the family business and then everything crashed in 2008. Building stopped and there was no market for what we were doing. That’s when we had to rethink everything. I began to pursue the wind energy project full time and Jenny, who had been getting bored being a housewife, needed an outlet. That’s when she started cooking and that turned into baking, which she just fell in love with. I was working full time to get the wind farm going but we didn’t have any money upfront to pay myself so that’s when we started baking commercially in order to pay the bills. Jenny’s baking pays the bills.
I’ve been searching for my own passion. I’m not excellent at anything and that’s the problem. I am okay at a lot of things in a society where specialists do very well. If you want to get ahead you have to go to school and you have to dedicate yourself to a craft. And, for whatever reason, I never found that until recently.
I found it in music. I wish I was good at playing an instrument. I started with trumpet in high school, then switched to guitar in college, then switched to drums and played with a couple of successful bands, and when I moved back to Baker I switched to bass because there was more demand for bass. Through my attempts to to be in bands and write music and perform, I found the engineering side of it, the technical side, and that’s my passion. That’s what I’m chasing now. I helped Brian and Corinne Vegter build the venue at Churchill and I have been working there. Since live music wasn’t permitted during the pandemic, we shifted to live streaming shows and recording, so I’m doing a lot of recording, a lot of mixing. It’s great. Rob Shep, a world famous saxophonist, came here to record an entire album of his original compositions and we’ve released that. We’ll see if I’m able to do build on that, but I would absolutely love to get this recording studio up and running, and have a space for people to share their music.
I am still getting the woodworking done. That’s been a struggle, partly because in my mind everything has to be done to my father’s perfectionist standards. He was an interesting guy, self taught in everything. Much like myself, he was a generalist, but when it came to doors and windows he was a specialist and he was head and shoulders above the rest. My dad has been my greatest influence so it’s been difficult for me to go into his wood shop and try to continue the work that he was doing. It’s also been difficult because he was disorganized as hell and didn’t leave any notes or anything – it was all in his head. I’ve been spending a lot of time putting myself in his mindset and trying to figure out what he would do.
Lately, we have been putting a lot of effort into the old Stockman’s bar building on Main Street. We are finishing up and hope to re-open Sweet Wife Baking this month.