Reaffirmed Resolutions for Simple, Self-Sufficient Living

Concluding another year is a time for reflecting on the past, re-organizing priorities in the present, and preparing pledges for improvement in the future.

Reader Contribution by Jo deVries
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by Jo deVries
Cottons, linens, wools, silks, and all-natural fibres dye well.

The concluding of another year is a time for reflecting on the past, re-organizing priorities in the present, and preparing pledges for improvement in the future; in hope for a better tomorrow.

But looking too far into the future and focusing on the end result only isn’t always great for morale, or even realistic. It’s important to enjoy the ride and feel gratitude in every moment. Acknowledging any and all of our efforts will help re-enforce our commitments and increase the possibility of reaching our goals.

I’m learning that living every moment to it’s fullest during my journey on this earth is the key to true happiness. If we know that we did the best we could with what we had, counted our blessings and remembered that we are never truly alone, prayed for direction, and persevered through trials — well, that’s all that could be asked of us. And with that, a good night’s sleep is earned knowing a solid foundation has been laid for whatever may come tomorrow.

The Japanese call it Kaizen, change for the better, or continuous improvement. If we are authentic about our wanting to see things improve, we must confront the many truths that have been ignored, which resulted in our imperfect condition. Honesty is a pre-requisite for those looking for genuine improvement.

Reflections on Home-Scale Risk Management

The world, on the other hand, is full of deception and lies, confusing our wants with our needs.

Living close to nature — away from the things of man, has been the best change I ever could have made towards improving my life. Viewing the world from a distance has given me a more honest perspective of where I’ve been and where I want to go. Living in a small space for 20 years and using a 2-foot solar panel and a car battery for electricity has shown me just how little I need to be comfortable and truly happy.

At present, I am sitting in my cabin in the woods, where normally, I would crack the window open for a bit of fresh air and take in the sounds of nature. Today, I am listening to the distant rumble of my neighbours’ generators.

The electricity has been out for two days and two nights due to damaging high winds; the tail end of the storm that came up from the States. My closest neighbour has three enormous solar panels on his property and sells the power back to Ontario Hydro. Despite having a huge power source beside his and his mother’s neighbouring house, they have no electricity, save for the fact that they can still get gasoline to run their generators.

We need to live smarter. Installing a huge solar panel on your property that you don’t have access to, establishing a homestead or a business on a floodplain, building an aboveground house in a tornado zone, or anything upon a fault line or near a volcano, just isn’t wise. The foolish man built his house upon the sand and no one should have been surprised when it all came crashing down. Rebuilding isn’t the solution, it’s insanity.

Maintaining a high-risk family homestead for the sake of tradition is foolishness, repeated. Just face it: Your grandfather shouldn’t have built there. Move on. Even if you have to start from scratch. The most admired people started with nothing. Let’s be more honest about why we are in the predicaments we find ourselves in. And in that frame of mind, of humility and eagerness to learn, let’s follow worthier leadership so that we can offer something better to our grandchildren.

We need to admit that we are all guilty of bad decisions that have contributed to the poor health of this planet, our dear Mother Earth. Polluting, misusing resources, selfishness, greed, gluttony, and a general lack of respect for others has world-wide consequences, global warming being one of them. There is a long list of troubles that could have been avoided had we honestly considered the possible outcomes of our decisions.

As I continue to learn, I find myself renouncing many of my past thoughts, habits, and practices. We are creatures of habit. We tend to do what we were taught. Change takes honesty and effort.

Moving Toward a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

I have recently come to the conclusion that I have no right to create any garbage. I don’t want to contribute to the mountains of waste that humans have created, and are attempting to hide. I want my trips to the dump to be shopping excursions; extricating the good stuff that’s scheduled to be landfilled.

Although I have drastically reduced my consumption of goods, and am continuing to hone my shopping habits, some packaging just can’t be avoided. I’ve decided that if the wrapping in question, is something that shouldn’t be burned in the woodstove or in a campfire, then I’m going to use it, somehow. I might simply bury it somewhere on my 6.5 acres. I’ve seen many impressive videos where benches and walls were filled with garbage, under the cover of cob or concrete. You can’t beat that for ingenuity and resourcefulness! I plan to integrate that simple and creative idea, in my up-coming building projects.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the process of downsizing and simplifying my life. I’m happy to say that my entire wardrobe now fits into two suitcases and a reasonably sized closet. This means all of my clothes are ones I really love. My clothing purchases are 90% second-hand articles; all being cotton or a mix of natural fibres. If the colour isn’t right, it’s easy to dye the garment to my liking.

This opens up a whole lot of new possibilities when shopping for anything made of natural fibres, like clothing, blankets, tablecloths, towels, and fabric. I’ve saved money by buying well made, but ugly items on sale and then made them beautiful by soaking them in dye in a washing machine for a couple of hours. Easy-peasy.

Sharing the Joy of Simple Living

Simple living has won my heart, and I want to share what I’ve learned through hosting a variety of green-living workshops, starting in April. I want to empower people to consider the idea of constructing their own environmentally conscious homes and shelters.

J. F. K. said; “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” If we all just became responsible for ourselves, there wouldn’t be a problem. When people of like minds, work together for a common goal, they can accomplish a tremendous amount.

Take the high road, and regardless of what everyone else is doing, do what’s right.

God said he will bring to ruin those ruining the earth, so my efforts should be focused on what I’m doing. Despite what those in power choose, or my neighbours choose, I will continue on my path to self-sustainability and simple living. I will forge ahead, facing the daily struggle of living out my convictions, looking for ways to improve things, and being grateful for today, regardless of the date on the calendar.

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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