So you want to live a more sustainable life. You have some knowledge of what it is you want to do, but no idea how to get there. Well, welcome to the club.
My husband and I started deciding we wanted to live this way almost five years ago. We were still only dating, and he showed me a picture of this crazy looking house that (who I thought of then as) a weird hippy guy created, called an Earthship. I’ll admit, I was very skeptical.
There was still a very naive view of the world in my mind. I was, at that point, still technically a single mother with a young son and a bar-tending job. It was finally making me enough money that moving out of my parents’ house would be an option. I’d been through some drama in the past and was ready for the simple cookie-cutter life that most of us settle for. All under the impression it would give my son stability and a good chance to make it “somewhere” in the world.
It was my husband who made me realize that there wouldn’t be much of a world for him to grow up to if we didn’t start doing something about it. The “weird hippy guy”, Michael Reynolds, was actually on to something. Looking at what he was doing and why he was doing it, changed my entire outlook. This proved to be only the beginning of a long journey that we are still only, maybe, a quarter of the way through.
When you set out to do something, it rarely goes as planned. It takes initiative, knowledge, patience…the list goes on and on. But when you find something you are passionate about, those things tend to just fall into place. We are years into what we want to accomplish. Yet, we are still years away. We’ve been reading, watching, experimenting, and learning all of this time, and we’ve changed our plans dozens of times.
What we have accomplished though, is a clear vision. My husband has been working extremely hard on drafting our house plans. Which have changed so much from our original Earthship idea. We’ve gone from that, to thinking about cob structures, to finally deciding that strawbale is the right design for our needs, material availability, budget, and climate. I have been working on figuring out how we are going to grow enough food to feed our family without having to take the awful bi-weekly trip to the grocery store to get less than premium quality food. This involves livestock, vegetable and caloric crop growing, and harvesting and preservation methods.
Our goal is to become 100% sustainable, and even go as far as to become “regenerative.” Meaning we give back more than we take out. The term came to us from another great in the vision of a better world, Mark Shepard, who has done some wonderful explorations in creating a permanent agricultural system using tree crops as main caloric crops. Replacing the destructive annual mono-cultures we have come to rely upon. You can check out his website here. And I strongly recommend his book, Restoration Agriculture to anyone interested in this topic.
Anyway, I’m being a bad writer and got slightly off-topic, but the message I would like to convey, is that what works for us may not work for you. Every situation is different, and sometimes just getting started is the hardest part. Some of us tend to spend too much time listening to other people and their opinion of what needs to be done. We’ve experienced many unexpected setbacks along the way, but we choose to let them make us stronger.
When times get hard and I get too deep in doubt, my husband reminds me of how it will be one day. When the kids are grown and we’ve contributed all we can to this life, we’ll be sitting on our porch looking at a lovely view laughing about it all. And I’m sure a certain sadness will creep over us that longs for the days of the hectic schedules and hard work. Don’t give up! Don’t let doubt be a factor. Learn as much as you can, then take action! If you fail, try again. If there’s a block in your path, either move it, or get some off-road tires to go around it. And most of all, always listen to yourself.