Sustainability


Last night CG called me on the phone and was telling me about the series of snow and rain storms about to attack California. (I don’t have a TV in my rental and don’t know much about what’s going on) My heart goes out to those people, as I know there will be extreme flooding, freezing temps. 10 feet of snow, etc. People are going to get stranded. Some will freeze to death in snow drifts or cold houses, some will get washed away by the flooding.

There isn’t much a person can do about flooding except get out of the way. But some of the things nature throws at us could be much better handled if we were better prepared. How many of us really are? How many of us are self-sufficient enough to be able to last a couple weeks stranded in our houses? How many of us could save our children?

As the two of us have gone through the ups and downs of buying a house in dis-repair and of living in the country in general, we’ve really started thinking more about sustainability. Having lived for days on end in the middle of winter with no power and no heat source, I appreciate the fact that we now have an indoor wood stove that does not require a fan, ductwork, or an auger to run. We have heat and a cooking source. It’s a really good feeling, this small step of ours toward sustainability for ourselves.

I appreciate the homesteading-types that have gone before us, keeping some of the traditions of our ancestors alive, and improving them along the way.

The focus of our farm life for the coming year will center around creating more sustainability in more areas of our lives.

Employment is one of those areas where it seems hard or even impossible to be self-sufficient. I read an article last night by Steve Pavlina .

His article was about how dumb it is to have a job. Well, we all need to earn money to buy the things we need to live, but as many of us know, myself included, employers can terminate that life source with two little words. “You’re fired.”

That “self-sufficiency” idea that I had built up in my mind suddenly came tumbling down one day when my employer said those two words to me. My crime? I was 5 minutes late once too often, never mind that I was often forced to work enormous amounts of overtime when other employees, who had “approved” illnesses, decided to call off at the last moment, or clocked in, but waddled out to the work floor in their own sweet time, making me late for countless after-work appointments. Never mind a good work ethic, treating my team members with respect, missing only a couple of days in the TWELVE YEARS of my continuous employment by the company! None of that mattered. What mattered was what the time clock had to say. The time clock had the final say, the final authority, it ruled my life and the lives of those closest to me.

My self-sufficient lifestyle had been a false one, tumbling ungracefully with the death toll of a very unforgiving time-recording piece of plastic and metal hanging on a wall in a hallway.

Luckily for me, I had my own part time business trimming horses, and more recently, making use of my small farm and our goats to generate income from goats milk soaps and lotions. The learning curve for all of my endeavors has been steep. I don’t learn easily. I have to make mistakes again and again.

But, the benefit is large. If one client or customer fires me, I still have many more. If I get hurt on one job, I can fall back on one of the other means of producing income. I set my own hours and since I want to be successful, I stick to them. I am motivated every day to keep doing what I’m doing. Each day is a new day, quite unlike the day before it.

True sustainability is freeing. It’s not just about growing your own food, and generating your own electricity in preparation for the storms of life….although that’s a couple of really smart things to do, but being truly sustainable, whether it’s rotating the pastures to keep worm burdens down, using our own manure for fertilizer and compost, growing our own food, etc. is knowing that if a storm hits tomorrow, most likely I will be warm, well fed, relaxed, and still employed. I may lose a contract if I can’t deliver, but with my sustainability in place, I’ll not lose my entire livelihood. No one can “throw me out to the wolves.”

And that makes me feel FREE!

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