A ‘Builders Bootcamp’ Draws on Wisdom of the Freedom Movement

If you want to be the master of your own keep, you’ll have to step away from the crowd.

Reader Contribution by Jo deVries
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by Gerry Thomasen
A cob home at Hollyhock displays artful details.

There are many hurdles to overcome if you’re wanting to escape to the country to live out the rest of your years — but most of them aren’t real. There are no benefits to worrying, only stress, and stress can be avoided.

If you moved only five rocks each day, imagine what a month’s worth of work would look like. If five people moved five rocks a day, a small stone cottage could be built in a summer.  I’ve seen barns and churches go up in a weekend. When people work together operating effectively as ants, monumental tasks can be accomplished. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Aristotle (misquote, but a good one).

Draw on Old Wisdom to Inform Your Modern Self-Sufficiency Journey

In 1845, Henry David Thoreau received permission from his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson to use a piece of land, where he then built a small cabin from recycled wood and moved in on the Fourth of July. That was an independent, truth-seeking soul, working with a kindred spirit to enrich his life and nurture his relationship with dear Mother Earth.

The two years Thoreau spent at Walden Pond were possibly the best years of his young life. He died at age 44. Some speculate it was working in his father’s pencil factory that weakened his lungs. Our lives are short and priceless, yet the best years are often sold to the highest bidder. Or stolen by an overbearing bully.

Most people feel that the government is the biggest hurdle, when undertaking anything. The biggest hurdle is your own doubt and fear. Some people have the ability to dampen your spirit. Some would stomp you out, if they could.

Nelson Mandela said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then, he becomes your partner.”

Be empowered with truth, and you will be set free from your limitations and restrictions, whether real or imaginary. What’s the worst that could happen? Being cast into jail for standing up for humanitarian rights is a noble thing to do. Landing in jail because you caused disruption for travelers, commuters, local residents, and businesses that were already struggling is stupid. Pick your battles and understand that wise words can bend weapons and change hearts. Our fight is not a physical one.

Elizabeth Fry, Mahatma Gandhi, Oskar Schindler, and Mother Teresa left their comfort zone to help others. Did they change the world? They changed themselves. And as a result, many were helped and many more were inspired to follow their lead. Virtuous leaders realize: In improving the lives of others, we improve our own. But doing the right thing is never the easy thing.

There are plenty of those along the way who will say, “You can’t do that!” but I will counter with “Why not?” If you can give me evidence that my suggestion is faulty, then I want to hear it. If there’s a better way of doing it, then I’d appreciate knowing what it is. Are we not brothers?

It’s time to get real. If you want to be the master of your own keep, you’ll have to step away from the crowd.

Nelson Mandela said, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

The really worst thing that could happen to any of us is that we face our dying day, filled with regret. Let’s live the lives we were meant to live or die trying.

Education is Fundamental to Freedom

When undertaking the mountain you’ve chosen to climb, unbiased research will save you immeasurable time and energy. Ask questions of seasoned people, and really listen. Pray for leading. Watch YouTube. Document everything.

Should you find yourself in front of a judge, you want to find yourself considering this a great opportunity. You have plenty of evidence to back your statements and prove the benefits of your endeavours. You are confident that justice will be done.

If you are living your best life — with minimum impact on the planet, working in harmony with your global brothers and sisters, building your own shelters, gathering your own fuel, growing your own food, collecting your own water, and processing all of your own waste, so in-fact, there is no waste, and are sharing your ideas to help educate others — then the face of Universal Justice will smile upon you, and the enemy will be defeated.

All sorts of things happen when you think, talk and behave in this manner. There is no shortage of bullies on this planet who are waiting to tell you that you can’t just go around doing whatever you want. And of course, that’s not what I’m suggesting.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” –Nelson Mandela

Community Connections Are Foundational for Simpler Living

Living a simpler, more sustainable existence could take many forms. You might get together with friends and purchase a piece of land, to create a sustainable community or gather your present community together to enhance a public area. Maybe for you, getting real means chilling under a trellis buried in runner-beans, in a rejuvenated backyard paradise.

Living and working close to nature revitalises the weary soul, and I highly recommend those longing for it to take the leap.

If you’re struggling to make your dreams come true, join others already on the path. In the old days, farmers regularly took on boarders to help with the workload. The farmhands became extended family and often life-long friendships were formed. Trading food, shelter and an education in sustainable living for labour is practical farm management.

‘Get Real’ Builders Bootcamp

On a bit bigger scale, I am organizing a bootcamp for people interested in working hard to create sustainable homesteads. The program will run May through August, Monday to Thursday, which will enable college and university students to attend. I bring to the table 6.5 acres of land, a mountain of stone, 25 years experience of transitioning a piece of land, 21 years of living without electricity, a chicken coop, a half-finished cabin, and a large array of plans.

With the help of knowledgeable seasoned builders, architects and engineers, I am hoping to design rock-solid, earth-integrated structures using various building materials, including: reinforced concrete, stone, timber-frame, cordwood, cob, and used tires. We will be building an outdoor kitchen, small outbuildings, a humanure composting system, as well as retrofitting my cabin with an earth-integrated addition.

If you want to support my quest of building tiny castles for common peasants, I am selling hand-painted, second-hand t-shirts for $20. Half of that goes towards my bootcamp.

Never give up on your dreams. Let the superhero within you bloom. Don’t be hindered by the naysayers. If I can do it, anyone can. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Let’s continue breaking ground, breaking bread, and breaking free. Let’s jump in and get our hands dirty. Let’s get real.

Jo deVries (Jo of the Woods) designed and helped build her off-grid Ontario home, where she and her son have enjoyed a pioneer-type life-style without electricity. She is the author of Does Your House Know Where South Is? and generously shares what she has learned during her on-going journey of turning a piece of bush land into a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Jo of the Woods.

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