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?

Whew!

Well, we’ve been super busy the last couple of weeks… busy getting over a nasty virus that we acquired somewhere and unwittingly passed on to an unfortunately large number of people while we were at Ozark Family Camp. Ellie got pneumonia, and we had mulitple ear infections as a side benefit of this beauty. All 10 of us got it to one degree or another, and a couple are still pretty puny. So, that’s taken a bulk of my energy recently, and I haven’t gotten to the many update posts that I’d like to write sometime. But we’re on our way out of it!

A few bits of other recent news:

Today is my fourth day in my Shampoo Free experience. I’m having a bit of a “transition” issue, but not bad. I’ll be posting more about it; this is just a teaser. Follow the link above if you’re curious, and if you have thoughts on going “shampoo free,” I’d love to read them.

We did our first bit of canning today! I was amazed at how much the tomatoes cooked down in the method we used, but it was relatively easy and I hear it gets great results. Jonathan and I blanched the tomatoes, the big boys peeled and diced, Jonathan and I did the actually canning.Red, purple, and orange tomatoes. The partially filled jar will just go in the fridge when it cools. Our purples aren’t doing great this year for some reason, so we didn’t have many. On the counter behind the jars are some not-quite-ripe goodies.

I’ve been working on updating my photo blog… I was almost two months behind, but have made some catch-up progress in the last week – up to July 8th right now. And speaking of blogging, I’m getting ready to move to WordPress. Not quite ready, but getting closer. That also has taken up some of my available computer time. I’ll let you know the new place is all ready for visitors.

Home Again

We arrived home yesterday afternoon after a wonderful (almost)week at Ozark Family Camp at Turkey Hill Ranch Bible Camp. We needed to come home a day early due to some health concerns (including a miserable case of pink eye for sweet Ellie), but we enjoyed our time at camp. Pictures and updates to come.