Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sustainable House on the Prairies

Homesteading, pioneering, off-the-grid living, sustainable living, 'back-to-the-land' living,, I mean frugal living, whatever you want to call it, there are a growing number of people moving to a simpler way of life.

Personally, I've always romanticized a simpler life (not to be confused with The Simple Life). I've loved reading Janet Oak books, watching Little House on the Prairie, Swiss Family Robinson, Blue Lagoon, etc., and day dreaming of the day I might get to harvest and can my own garden, the day I'd get to have a little farm of animals of every kind, eating the freshest foods, spending the day making yummy foods from scratch, sewing my own clothes and quilts (quilts are just too quintessential to leave out), making personalized soaps and candles from scratch, and maybe even getting to build my own homestead.

It wasn't just the fanciful fiction that made me yearn for that though, I really savored my grandmother's fresh garden treats, her canned pickles and beets, the homemade borschts, all the breads and dainties freshly baked from scratch. When we moved to Steinbach I loved the access we had to a virtual farmer's market of food all year round; corn on the cob, farmer sausage, crabapple jelly, rhubarb pie, and of course, all the mennonite favorites. Food is just so much better that way, taste-wise and health-wise. I also relished the handmade blankets passed down in our family, and was in awe of the fact that my other grandmother actually sewed all my dad's and his siblings clothes when they were younger. She could look at anything in the Sears catalogue and sew it for them. To this day, those are cherished memories, and not only did it tap into my creative side but I hoped that I could one day give children of my own those kinds of memories.

Granted, that was a teenagers fantasy, from a girl who had never lived one day out on a farm, or even camped under the stars in a tent without civilized amenities within mear minutes, who had only made cookies from scratch, and only sewn what was taught in Home Ec. class. I now know how much hard work would be required to live like grandmothers, never mind living like their parents, and grandparents. Yet, I find myself even more drawn to it as the years have gone on. There have been many moments over the years that have just made a simpler way of life (SWOL) more and more attractive.

I think the first time my fantasy started actually taking root was when we were involved in a really small Church that met in our Pastor's home, and we would often have a meal as a group and we'd all contribute. Our Pastor often talked about multi-family homes, sharing our resources, responsibilities, and life in general. I could really imagine that would be an awesome experience with our small Church family, and the more I looked into it, the more it pointed towards SWOL days of old. Towns would rally around each other to build homes and barns, they would have sewing bees, they would trade and barter among themselves, distributing resources as needed. Not to mention the whole, 'it takes a village to raise a child' concept, which I love.

Then, when I started working at Golder, the environmental consulting company, where we are trying to live out the principles we hire out globally. I work with some really eco-friendly and sustainable experts, who genuinely care about the kind of dominion we have over the earth. To them 'going green' is more than a fad, it's the choice to not depend so heavily on the irreplaceable consummables, the ones that are usually harmful to the earth anyway. God made this planet so amazingly sustainable; from water being recycled from oceans to clouds to rain, or from oxygen and carbon dioxide recycling between plants, the atmosphere and ourselves. Back in the SWOL era, sustainability of our earth, our home, was not an issue. There wasn't a concern about too many harmful chemicals, unnecessary processing of our food, fumes from driving the rat race, power sucking possessions that are discarded by the season, etc. But now there are even ways to maitain a lot of the conveniences we've become accustomed to, with; solar power, wind power, geothermal heat, the increase in products available that are more sustainable, etc. Our awareness has forced us to use the things God had placed in front of us all along.

Then combine those influential experiences with the series we had at Church in February on the end times. Yikes! For any Christian who ends up living in those times, the days of individualism and consumerism are over. Goverened by someone who will hate who we serve, we will be denied any normal monetary and economical exchanges; no money, no credit, no government utilities (gas, electricity, water, waste), no insurance (including autopac), etc. What is typically thought of as a "post-apocalyptic" existence (an agrarian, non-technological future world) will happen to us long before the apocalypse, but hiding in a bunker with as much horded food as possible isn't my idea of a great way to survive. As scary as it sounds, I also know it will force me to finally choose the SWOL I've been dreaming of. And finally, some of us will return to finding our security in God, community and family. And solar panels or wind turbines can't hurt!
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