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.

Spiritual Sustainability: Save the Earth Without Killing Yourself

I found this thought-provoking article posted to a sustainable communities forum under the title Something to Think About: A Death-Blow to My Sustainable Living Ideal.  Having my own sustainable living ideals, it grabbed my attention; I wondered what a death-blow might represent.

It turns out that in this case the death-blow is a loss of two-thirds the author’s income.  As Amanda Rooker contemplates the discrepancy between her good intentions and the reality she’s faced with, a powerful transformation unfolds – her belief of being too poor and too busy to live sustainably is replaced by the realization that it was, in actuality, her “product-based, practice-based ideal of sustainable living that was not sustainable.”  This leads her to some intriguing revelations about what sustainability truly implies.  In the end, Amanda comes to see sustainability as a spiritual practice and process in parallel to the natural world –

Even if the body is deficient in many areas, it will only take in what will address the primary deficiency.  Pouring supplements into your body (or in this case adding sustainable practices) to address visible symptoms, is a waste of time, money  and energy.  Only when the core deficiency is met will the body be capable of absorbing what it needs to address the next core need.”

Very refreshing!

The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook

My son is a Page at the local library, and brought The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook home for me the day it was put into circulation.  He almost skipped it due to its lack of interior gloss, but I’m so glad he didn’t!

If you are a vegetarian living in the Pacific Northwest this is a must have book, for all its insight into local products, traditions and seasons of harvest.  The only thing that could make the book better is if its pictures were in color and included some shots of finished products.

If you are a vegetarian living elsewhere and simply want to indulge in some of the 200 recipes from Oregon and Washington, than this is also your book!  The Pacific Northwest produces a wondrous bounty of unique ingredients!

Last night my family enjoyed the Wild Mushroom Soup with Sherry, using the Garlic-Mushroom Stock recipe also found in the book, and it was superb just like everything else we’ve tried!  And after this, I’m sending the Bake Bean with Hazelnut Bread recipe to my Step-Dad!

An Off-Grid Future

Once upon a time I had the pleasure of living  in the beautiful nowhere of Arizona beneath an old, creaking windmill that rhythmically drew water up from the Earth for our pleasure. I have also lived without power and with a percentage of my power generated by the Wind and Sun.  These are all conditions I would return to.  In fact, I am planning on an off-grid future.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been researching innovations in the off-grid arena and thought I’d share just a smidge:

WIND

According to the Global Wind Energy Council the wind power industry grew 31% last year despite the economy, making wind power a 63 billion dollar a year industry.  Investors are not hesitating to throw their money into the wind.  Grin.

One of the most promising products for home wind energy production is Honeywell’s new gearless turbine, engineered to serve the mainstream.  It was named one of Popular Mechanics 10 Most Brilliant Products of 2009 and solves many of the issues commonly associated with personal wind turbines.  The gearless turbine requires only a quarter of the wind speed to generate power, compared to geared turbines of the same diameter!

SUN

Another promising product from Popular Mechanics 10 Most Brilliant Products list that I’d already taken notice of in the Blogosphere is the Andalay AC Solar PV Panel.  Because it’s an AC system, there’s no need for an inverter and a tricky wiring job.  All the mounts, racking and wiring are built right in.  Essentially the closest thing there is to plug-and-play power for the home user!

WATER

Unlike Sun and Wind, which can be more or less accessed by everyone to some degree, using hydro-power relies on being lucky enough to have access to a source of running water from the property.  Yet when there is a spring, creek, or river (or if you happen to live on a boat), a micro-hydro power system is the most constant and reliable source of renewable energy available.   The most recent advances in micro-hydro turbines seem to reflect a similar trends in the wind power industry toward permanent magnet motors with fewer parts.  This improves performance in every way – creating turbines with more responsivity and less parts to wear out.

BIO-DIESEL

As I don’t drive and don’t feel particularly inclined toward fuel-burning engines, bio-diesel is admittedly not my forte.   However, I am savvy enough of off-grid circles to have second-hand knowledge of the glory of the Listeroid, a heavy-duty diesel generator that can be run off of filtered waste vegetable oils.  The Lister diesel generator isn’t anything new.  In fact, it originally came onto the market in 1929 and is today a standard of the Amish.  It is also known for bringing a reliable power source to scores of remote locales around the globe.    It can specifically,  directly power older tools & equipment having belt drives, or newer devices like water pumps, as it works to generate power for your battery bank.  Good for an off-grid homestead!  Put one in your workshop and use it to power the tools, pump some water, and back-up the batteries of your primary system on calm, cloudy days!

FUEL CELL

Is this the future? The Bloom Box has been called technologies’ newest darling, perhaps in part to early high-profile customers like Google and e-bayThis fuel cell device is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and it takes only two of these small boxes to power the traditional American household.  The suggestion is that for an initial investment of roughly $6k the standard American home will be able to become their own power center; just order on-line and set it up without having to worry about wiring.   Also, because the boxes can generate both energy and hydrogen the company describes a future where Bloom Boxes are paired with solar and wind systems to enable 24-hour power AND are used distribute hydrogen to “hydrogen fueling infrastructures”, potentially providing fuel for your hydrogen-powered car.  While you still have to feed the Bloom Box fuel after your initial investment, they are capable of using renewable bio-fuels, converting the fuel into electricity and hydrogen at over twice the standard rates.  It is this factor – that fossil fuels aren’t requisite – that is the Boxes’ saving grace and sets this technology apart from other similar (and failed) attempts at the same idea.

There are so many other amazing ideas  in development out there aimed at an off-grid future, from city-powering wave generators to kite-sails designed to harvest electricity for villages of clustered homes…the list goes on.  What I included here I kept on the home-powered, reasonably affordable scale.

Sustainability means Forethought

I originally composed this in response to Questions and Reflections in March of 2008.  I think it’s worth sharing here…

For me sustainability means Forethought… Fulfillment of needs (first) and desires (second) with consciousness of that fulfillment’s true impact and cost. In a sustainable system every player and every part must be considered in context of the Whole of which it is part.

It is my belief that the present civilization has everything it needs for ALL to live in sustainable abundance. The appearance of scarcity and lack are not Actuality but a reality based in horrific mismanagement and parasitic mentalities. It is accepted practice for an individual to seek out the greatest material gain regardless of larger imbalances; regardless of the risk, expense, and short fall to any other organism. Yet the economy of any organism/organized system is very much the corner stone to the sort of energetic dignity the organism maintains. (Think – root law of Cause and Effect necessitating Awareness of action and energy exchanged; economy is energy exchange; the quality of the harvest reflects the quality of the cultivation.) An economy of hording and greed propagates a reality of shortage, depletion, and extinction. An economy of Awareness and sustainability, based on Wholes instead of parts, creates sufficiency, refinement, and renewal.

Thus I feel that in our quest for sustainability, personal and collective economy will require refinement and redirection. Sustainability is greatly facilitated by eradicating the consumer mentality which values production and consumption above responsibility and true quality of Life. As our consciousness of Resources increases, so will our sustainable state.

(Note: I define Resources as the goods and services of both Nature and Humanity.)

Move a Little…

Recently I came across a book being promoted as a new release at the local library called “Move a Little, Lose a Lot:  New N.E.A.T. Science Reveals How to be Thinner, Happier, and Smarter” by James A Levine.  A few days later, I was pacing as I read, per his suggestion.

Levine is the doctor who developed and heads the NEAT Lab at the Mayo Clinic, where the most detailed and data-rich study of obesity and the metabolism was ever undertaken.  The results of the study, published in 2005, did not reinforce traditional ideas about obesity and weight-loss but rather suggested that it is well more effective to put more daily motion into your life than it is to seek out bursts of organized exercise.  This daily motion is specifically called NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  And in essence the importance of NEAT boils down to the idea that we have removed many of the simply daily tasks our bodies, like sophisticated machines, are designed to do; tasks that are slowly being removed from our daily repertoire with the mere push of a button.  Those little motions, actually add up to a lot, and serve to rev-up the metabolism.

I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but it coincides with a new theme going on at my house, where we’re consciously taking time each day after the little one’s nap to remake something in our environment closer to our ideal, as a family effort!  It’s been…well, transformative…

As I was typing good friend Amy shared another video I have to pass along, especially as it fits so nicely with our theme.  It is Jaime Oliver’s acceptance speech for the TED Prize.  Oliver’s goal is “to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again, and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”  How Awesome is he??

The video is long… but this is such a perfect speech, it’s worth watching…

Conscious Consumerism

Conscious consumerism first requires local action, which is largely facilitated through the concept of bioregionalism.  That is, we are called on to think about the impact of our choices on the local region and consider purchases from the standpoint of sustaining the local biodiversity.  For many that means changing the way we acquire things.  It means shopping local vendors, supporting local agriculture through the regional Farmer’s Market and CSA projects, and discovering your area’s talents and intelligences.  It means stewarding the local community and its unique culture.  Imagine what people united in this effort can accomplish!

Where to Find Organic Products and Services in your area.

Where to Find CSA Farms in your area.

Where to Find a Farmer’s Market in your area.

Where to Buy Fair Trade Certified Products in your area.

How to support Local Farmers.

How to implement your own Sustainable Action Plan.

How to start your own Buy Local Campaign. (PDF Document)

I am from a rather radical school of thought that thinks in a Golden Civilization – a Civilization truly illuminated by the Light of Consciousness – a community that wasn’t sustainable wouldn’t exist.  This is the “solution” for providing sustainable abundance to All (if that is what you desire for the Future).  In keeping with this radical idea I also think that things are best priced based on their true resource and energy consumption (that includes Human energy), and should become more expensive the further they have to travel to arrive at your door…but that’s just my freaky dream of a good future economy!

Back in today’s world, however, if you can’t find what you’re looking for where you live, here are a few good places to turn:

The Conscious Consumer Marketplace

EarthLover

Global Girlfriend

Frontier Natural Products Co-op

The Back to the Land Store