Living the Vision

Darrington, WashingtonLast June my world was transformed by a seemingly simple event.  I woke-up to an e-mail from Dear Friend Amy passing along a Craigslist ad advertising eight traditional Mongolian Yurts at the insane price of $500 a piece.  I was certain they’d be gone or there’d be some crazy catch, but I immediately grabbed for the phone.  A day later I was sitting beside my husband in the front of a large U-Haul truck, making the eight-hour round trip to Darrington to pick-up our new yurts.  It felt like winning our own private lottery.  We thought we’d be lucky to find one traditional yurt for under $10,000 – but we’d just bought three for under $3000, the entire cost of the trip to retrieve them, included. 

A few months before this moment we’d arrived at the conclusion that a traditional Mongolian Yurt – the type with horsehair ties and no proliferation of metal parts – was the answer to an equation that would get us onto land and closer to our sustainable, intentional community dreams more quickly.  From that conversation we’d both agreed to add a traditional yurt to our individual vision boards.  We didn’t realize until a few days after we’d actually brought the yurts home that both of us had drawn a semi-circle of 3 yurts on our board – not because either of us had anticipated being able to purchase three of them, but to depict the community spirit underlying the vision!  To us this seemed to be a strong confirmation from the Universe to dive into our dream.  Strengthened by a new faith, we sped-up the timeline of our plan and made some bold decisions.

Yurt DoorWe left the great job, the house we loved, the region we loved, the son in college, the dear friends;and dove in.  It took six-weeks to pull off what we’d been dreaming of for eight years.  Without any significant savings.  Without any clear idea of how it was all going to congeal.  We only knew the general location of where we were heading (we’d narrowed it down to a county, 3 1/2 hours to the east); and that we had three yurts to make it happen.

We started out looking for raw, off-grid land on owner contract, with the side agreement that we would explore any option that presented itself.  We ran ads in the region’s papers, posted to Craigslist and perused land auctions.  We made day trips on days off to explore our findings, the clock now ticking toward a deadline.  Though there was a ton of great off-grid, raw land for homesteading selling on contract, the responses we kept receiving were mostly from other homesteaders heading back to the city and eager to sell.  All of our best options were turning out to be developed properties with amenities we hadn’t anticipated starting out with.  So we changed gears.  A simple shift of focus and we were no longer in the position of just needing to find a place and trust that it would be right; we were now searching for the right place for us.IMG_1656 (1024x768)

We finally decided on a rustic A-frame cabin, on 20 wooded acres with a year-around creek.  The payments were really low and the cute factor was high.  Yet our excitement seemed overshadowed by a sense of reluctance we couldn’t put a finger on.  It wasn’t perfect, but two weeks before we’d been eager to live on land with only the most primitive amenities so “issues” seemed more like “resources to work with” to our eyes.  That wasn’t the problem.  For my part of it, I didn’t want to admit that either of us were feeling a “bad vibe” when we’d been riding so high on following our Hearts and feelings of faith and gratitude; I just wanted to stay thankful and receptive for what was coming our way.  But of course the listening was a necessary part of the following (our Hearts)!

We made one last trip.  We looked at the A-frame, several other properties and then the A-frame again.  It still looked like the best option and we still couldn’t put our finger on the source of our reluctance.  As we drove out of town it seemed clear we’d be signing the final papers for the A-frame in the morning.

Although we were running late, it was still light enough out that we decided to try a new, supposedly more scenic route back home.  It was because of this that we stopped to get gas at a new place; a small junction about 15 miles further into the mountains than where we’d previously ventured.  And it was at this gas station that my husband found the ad.  When he read it to me, the proposition seemed insane.  I protested vigorously.  It appeared to be off in some other county.  We were already further out and the wrong direction from where we wanted to be.  We were already running behind schedule.  The property was still another 17 miles away.  For the price it had to have some horrible quality about it.  I guess I wasn’t being as receptive to exploring options as I thought!  Thankfully he persisted and this is how we found our dream property.

The place had sat empty in the mountain woods for several years, but 30 years ago it had been the flourishing homestead of a bona fide Master Gardener.  Better still, it had been shaped by back-to-the-land intentions and born from community dreams.  It came with producing fruits, nuts, grapes and herbs and amenities like a greenhouse with a seed starting room.  This is where our three yurts have ultimately led us:

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We pulled out of Wenatchee in the early morning hours of August 1st, 2011 – and the adventure has yet to stop.  In fact it’s only just beginning.  We’re enjoying the love affair with the ever-changing beauty that surrounds us.  We’ve seen animals we never imagined seeing (think – a sky full of eagles, an elk taller than our truck, a jet black wolf slinking across the snow).  Filled up pantry shelves with the products of our own land that were simply here, ready for harvest in the weeks following our arrival.  Learned what it’s like to “take a trip”  just to get to the store.  I wouldn’t change any of it.

We spent the first 114 days without internet (yes, I counted each one) and only started watching a spot of TV again last week.  Cell phones don’t even work out here.  But I guarantee you that my from-scratch baking and crafting adventures have gone through the roof (a slice of fresh bread or a soy candle, anyone?).  And every single day since August I’ve had something new or interesting to report to my journal.  (Example:  “Day 15 – A clear sky full of the brightest stars I’ve seen since Arizona lured me out the front door.  Found myself in the midst of a yard-full of skunks digging for ground hornets.  Can’t get over their size!  They all immediately raised their tails but thankfully fled the scene without a smell.”)

In the next few months we will have the yurts set up on their floors and others will join us here.  I’ve turned the page from living and envisioning to living the vision.  And because these changes accord with the original intents and purposes underlying this blog, I now hope to turn the same page here as well; documenting and sharing this new lifestyle with you.  Follow your dreams!  Namaste.

Vegetable Island

As you may know, a primary interest of mine is sustainable living.  That is, living in such a way so as to provide for as many of your necessities as possible.  This might include building your own home out of local materials, letting the sun and wind provide for your energy needs, growing your own food, etc.

In a way, growing your own food seems much easier for the Vegetarian.  I mean, there’s no raising of livestock, hunting or fishing, right?  On the other hand, however, there are some extra considerations to take into account.

When I tell people I’m a Vegetarian the most common reaction is that I must be protein deficient.  “How on Earth do you get enough protein?”, they ask.  Since I’m not Vegan I do eat some dairy and eggs, and if you add to that soy and other beans and nuts, protein isn’t a problem.

The real challenge for a Vegetarian is assuring there’s enough intake of the Vitamin B-12.  This Vitamin is uncommon in plants, although it is often found on plants in the form of manure and healthy bacterium.  If you eat a good deal of eggs and milk, this isn’t such an issue.  However, I don’t drink milk, don’t eat a lot of eggs, and would prefer not to stuff myself with cheese.

Take a supplement you say?  Many of my Veggie friends do just that, or make sure to drink up a daily dose of one of the bazillion organic, B-12 fortified juices out there.  We’re talking sustainable living, though, right?

So a discussion recently arose on a Sustainable Living group I frequent on this very topic.  More specifically someone asked this question: “If you were being sent to a Vegetarian Island and could take with you ten food-producers, what would you take in order to assure your diet could provide sufficient B-12?”

I learned a lot.

For starters, there were several objections to the question, or maybe better said, requests for clarification.  Everyone agreed that the local bio-region of the “Vegetarian Island” should be the largest determining factor behind such a list.  Once we got past that sticking-point the B-12 winners were as follows….

  • Soybeans
  • Barley
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Mushrooms

Far from 10.  Why?  No one could come up with anything more than these five that were verifiable.  However, as I stated, I learned a lot.

Shitake Mushrooms have more B-12 than any other mushroom variety.  They are also an excellent choice because they average 18% protein, in a perfectly complete balance.  Yet if you’re concerned with alkaline eating, mushrooms aren’t for you.

Also, root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and Jerusalem artichoke have all been shown to contain B-12 WHEN the soil is organically fertilized with a B-12 analogue.  Good B-12 analogue fertilizers include cow dung and seaweed emulsions.  Humanure is one of the best B-12 analogue fertilizers but you don’t want that on your root veggies.

Everyone concluded that short of eating some dirt, the best method to obtain B-12 in a sustainable living situation would be to look beyond the world of veggies and fruits.

Seaweeds are the best solution.  One version, known as Dulse (Palmaria Palmata) just about triples every other variety.  Kelp is the next in line, but with 1/3 the B-12 analogue that Dulse offers.  This worked as a solution in our scenario but not everyone is heading out to live on an island or has a salt-water pond hanging around their backyard.  Also, it’s important to note that seaweed should never be consumed in large quantities due to exceptionally high iodine levels.

And this brings me to another important factor.  Some foods touted as “B-12 rich” can actually LOWER your B-12 levels due to a B-12 consuming enzyme they produce.  One of these foods is Nori, especially raw.

We came across many rumors that have long been taken as true.  The first was that any soybean product is rich in B-12.  Nope.  Fresh soybeans (Edamame) are the only soybeans which test positive for B-12 analogues.  Tofu and fermented soybean products do not contain any measurable B-12.  Miso is not rich in B-12.  And there isn’t a trace of B-12 in the dried beans, the bean paste, or in soy sauce.  So much for all the Veggies who claim to get sufficient B-12 from Tempeh.  If they are not B-12 deficient due to their false belief, they are getting the nutrient elsewhere.

Something similar should be said for Barley.  While the grain can provide a low-dose of B-12, malted Barley Syrup does not, as several sites suggest.

And a final note.  Yeasts and bacterium.  Have you ever seen fresh, organicaly grown grapes that seem to have a dry, white powder on their exterior?  If you don’t wash the grapes (which is only recommended if you KNOW exactly how the grapes have been cared for) they can provide a moderate-source of B-12.  The same with a carrot left at room temperature for a few hours, but this last one is a gamble, as it must be a specific form of bacteria which makes its home on the carrot in order for that carrot to provide you with B-12.