Community-sufficient living

This giant volume is one of the few that made the cut when choosing which books would fit here in the yurt with us:

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I bought it a few years ago, thinking this was just the kind of resource we should have as we tried to take more things into our own control.  It came highly recommended and was full of beautiful images, inspiration and ideas.

Then midway through my first permaculture weekend, the instructor mentioned that she went to England to tour this author’s farm, to see firsthand the ways he’d successfully created his own self-sufficient reality.  John Seymour was in his 80s at the time and paused at one point during the tour to say:

All that self-sufficiency stuff, I was wrong.  It was really lonely.  We have to figure out how to do this all together.

My how this struck me in the classroom and has continued to sit with me.  Yikes!  The idea of our family becoming as “self-sufficient” as possible had deeply appealed to my hermit-tendencies.  That inner hermit cringed as the instructor went on to talk about how important it was for neighborhoods, communities to work together, not in isolation.  That this is one of the first times in history where we do not NEED to know our neighbors to meet our needs, but how vital this is to creating connection, finding mentors, passing on generational knowledge, creating local resilience.

Over the past couple of weeks since the course it finally sank in that while we’ve been working toward a more “self-sufficient” way of life, it is actually just such community that has been sustaining us…

…Like when I walked back to my car after bringing Caden to school and found 3 dozen eggs from farmer friends who have more than they know what to do with, and two summer dresses from another parent who knew they’d fit Aria soon.

…How every few weeks we trade a half-gallon of our chaga mushroom brew for a half-gallon of kombucha brew (pardon the missing glass of kombucha – I couldn’t wait).

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…How we’ve been recruited to bring meals when friends are sick, injured, have a new baby.

…Like when I went a couple miles down the street on Sunday to a friend’s giant annual clothing swap, where she opens her entire house to the community to come bring clothes they’re done with to trade for next sizes, different styles.

…How we’ve traded some of the tops of the cedar trees that have been cleared for friends to use as garden posts, getting a much needed timberframe mallet repair in exchange.

….Like offers of perennial herbs and bushes, elderberries, nettles, raspberries, as soon as we have spots for them.

…Like a chance to learn pottery by simply helping out during a teacher’s lessons.

…And all of the help we’ve had so far, from burn pile days, to tree clearing.  Like how my brother-in-law, the chainsaw whisperer, helped with tree work and milling during a recent visit (might be a good idea to not try these kind of acrobatics unless you grew up running a wood mill…).

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…And how my handy dad helped put on a soon-to-be-much-needed screen door during another recent visit.

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…Like the interest we’ve had to take part in our wooden tapered yurt building workshop next year.

…And even that we were able to buy the mill because Josh and a friend split the cost and ownership.

…How we’ve taken people up on offers to borrow tractors, winches, garden space, sap buckets, come-alongs, clothes wringers…

This has hardly been self-sufficiency, and most definitely not hermit living.  As much as I cringed before, I now realize that I hope we are never truly self-sufficient.  These layers of community-sufficient are far more interesting, rewarding, and not one bit lonely.  And much easier than trying to figure everything out from a book!

7 thoughts on “Community-sufficient living

  1. This speaks to me. I heard a lecture once about native people who would hunt and kill a large animal and even though they knew how to preserve the meat so that they would have enough to eat for a year, they would have a party instead and share the meat with all of their neighbors. When the anthropologist asked why, the chief said that his security is in the full belly of his brother. That people make each other secure – not hoarding resources. I think about people who are stockpiling food and I wonder instead if they could be out building community relationships. Thanks for your post as always 🙂

  2. I love that you say “I hope we are never truly self-sufficient”. I remember early on you mentioned that this lifestyle being for hermits. I guess we just never know until we jump in! This blog really inspires me 🙂

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