But does sustainability necessarily entail destitution and hardship? Is it possible to live a gratifying, sustainable lifestyle that allows for comforts and indulgences that don´t necessarily cause harm to the world?
For most of the past decade, that pursuit has been my bliss.
The Mission: Hardship as Possibility
The writer, poet, and farmer Wendell Berry once said that of any vision, “its hardship is its possibility.”
I believe that one of the most unfortunate aspects of our modern-day civilization is that we tend to flee from any endeavor that requires effort, sacrifice, and long-term vision. We like instant gratification that doesn’t entail too much sweat and exertion. Hardships of any type are undesirable and limitations – even necessary ones – are depressing.
Because of this mindset, we miss out on the incredible possibilities that might come from those very difficult endeavors. What might we experience if we willingly and enthusiastically embrace more challenges?
Our Home: Built by Hand and Hard Work
Taking on a 30-year mortgage to pay for a luxurious home is anything but undemanding. However, the vast majority of people would still never consider taking on the challenge of building their own home because of the work, effort, and exertion it entails. For my family and I, though, building our home from the mud beneath our feet and from the straw we grew ourselves, was a challenge whose possibilities were more than fulfilling.
Every square inch of the two-foot-wide walls of our cob house was mixed by our own bare feet and lifted with our own two hands. The earthen plasters inside were polished by our own fingers and the beams that hold up our second floor and roof were pulled down to our farm by our own muscles.
Our natural home is a far cry from the deprived, indigent images we might hold of mud huts. The hot water that pours from our shower is heated by the compost that enriches the raised beds of our gardens. The plentiful supply of water we also have comes from gravity-fed springs that don´t rely on fossil fuel power. And our home is heated by the sun that pours through our windows and heats the thermal mass of our earthen walls.
So, while building our home did require effort and hard work, the possibilities of living sustainably were well worth the hardship.
Our Farm: Filling Our Plates and Souls
When my family and I made the decision to try and live a sustainable lifestyle, we also knew that part of the undertaking would require turning an abandoned, overgrown farm into a thriving source of abundance.
Some people might frown upon the idea of waking up at 5 AM to weed the vegetable garden or set the geese loose among the peach orchard. I don’t blame them. However, the process of slowly discovering what we can create from the land has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our lives.
Living sustainably, as we´ve found, isn´t necessarily about “protecting,” “preserving,” or “saving” the natural world. It’s about learning to adapt our lives, our mentalities, our plans and our projections to the possibilities that are inherent within the membership of the community which embraces us.
This is our bliss and also our daily dose of hardship: perpetually discovering how to live a sustainable, gratifying life. And I can’t wait to see where it takes us from here.
Have questions about sustainability for Tobias and his family? Leave a comment below and I’ll make sure he responds!
All photos were provided by Scott and Tobias.