Monday, July 26, 2010
Thoughts on country living and sustainability
During July, we put in a good bit of drive time in rural Missouri, driving back and forth to camp. One thing that stood out to Jonathan and I is that there are many people who live in rural areas just for the scenery, for the space, or for the feel of country living. And to be honest, ten years ago, when we were longing to move out of our little Kansas town of 1,100 people to a place in the country (yes, that was right before God moved us to a town house in South County StL), those were the reasons for our longing. So I'm not judgemental about folks who live in the country just for the space, but these days when I see multitudes of homes in rural areas with no evidence of efforts at self-sufficiency, it concerns me.
When I was growing up, we spent every summer going from Bible camp to Bible camp. Papa spoke, Mama often cooked, and Eric and I had a ball. It was an absolutely wonderful way to grow up and I am more thankful than I can express for those summers of learning, growing, making friends, serving, and having a fabulous time. (Thanks, Papa and Mama!)
There were activities that would not fit into our travelling summers. One was gardening. We had friends with gardens, and I viewed them as nifty but rather unattainable accomplishments. When I realized that a dear friend of mine loved the process of gardening, even when we were in high school/college, I thought she was a bit nuts. Another thing that our travelling and suburban location precluded was the care of "producing" animals. So, while I've always loved the country and have wanted for years to live "out of town," I had no reference point for (and hence, no dreams of) sustainability/self-sufficiency.
Several years ago, we got to know a couple who had made some very deliberate choices toward a simple life. I think that their lifestyle is what began to open my mind to the benefits of living simply and becoming producers of some of the basics in life.
Likely as a result of our interactions with these friends, I began to read more about simple living and self-sufficiency, and one writer in particular made an impact on my thinking. Unfortunately, I don't recall his name or website, which was full of practical tips for sustainable living, but one principle he shared has stuck with me and impacted our pursuits. He encouraged folks to make small do-able steps toward becoming more self-sufficient, because the tendency is to jump in with both feet... and then burn out. Instead of burning out, he said to find something small that you know you can handle, then build on it. That bit of advice has served us well.
Over the last five years, we've made quite a few baby steps and learned a great deal, as you've "witnessed" if you've been reading my blog for a while. Moving to our current location allowed for several larger steps that would have been too overwhelming without the preceding baby steps - a large (to us) heirloom garden, a variety of fowl, etc.
We want to continue to learn through experience about self-sufficient practices for a variety of reasons. We desire to:
~ Be better stewards of what God has given
~ Work together as a family more (cost of living down, more time as a family)
~ Live a less hectic lifestyle
~ More directly see the fruits of our labour; teach our children to enjoy the fruits of their labour
~ Gain a greater understanding of God's creation and His plan in creation
~ Develop in ourselves and our children a clearer picture of personal responsibility
~ Have the ability to be a benefit to others instead of a drain, especially in time of crisis
~ Be prepared - The sky *is* falling
I'm not going to go into that last point much, but we do believe that things are going to get ugly here in the U.S. before long. If that thought is shocking to you, you need to do some reading (let me know if you want some suggestions). If it turns out that we're wrong, we will have only benefitted (see above) from the pursuit of simplicity, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. We pray that those around us will benefit as well.
I do not intend in any way to sound like we have sustainable living figured out! We have a long way to go and much to learn. Sometimes I feel like we are such "newbies" to this, and compared to some, we are. But when I look at where we were five years ago, I'm thankful we began to take baby steps.
Whether you live in the city or out in the country, we'd like to encourage you to find some do-able step that you can take toward providing for some of your needs "on site." Many cities allow backyard hens; square foot or container gardening is a workable option even in small spaces, etc. Consider what baby steps you can take!
So, what do you think?
P.S. - Mid September is the beginning of garlic-planting season. We're planning to try it for the first time. Want to join us?