Living The Sustainable Life: Interns, Building With Trash, and So Much More

Reader Contribution by Annie Warmke
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This has been the most fantastic summer ? the weather has been picture perfect, with rainy days that have forced me to rest more often, and cool afternoons (when it should have been 90F) for accomplishing projects that have been on the list for far too long.

I’ve had grand fun working with one of the students in our fellowship program on the Dragin Lair.  While I’ve been the laborer, I’ve discovered a new passion for using up more of the barn material I’ve accumulated from dismantling those buildings years ago.  Plus it’s been grand fun creating mosaics and bottle walls that are truly works of art – who would think that could be discovered after so many years of thinking that there was no “art” in me?

The result of the Dragin Lair project will be a beautiful new tiny office and guest house that will be a joy to share with others, but more importantly the birth of a business for another young person.  The designer and builder for the finish of the Dragin Lair is Mandy Hardbarger, who is incubating a small business here and at the same time learning what she can about re-use and re-purposing so she can move into a new career…one based on the future of retrofitting small buildings.

Even though there have been as many visitors as usual, the days have been mixed with leisure as well, which is a rare commodity in the summer.  In our planning for this year we decided we would take off a couple of days each month to visit folks we would like to know better, and that little move has proven to be a great way to recharge our batteries through making new friends, and time off from thinking about our work.

As part of our sustainable business model, our goal each year is to bring people together for a sort of annual meeting.  The past few years we’ve had themes like our “30th anniversary” of being together, or our granddaughter’s high school graduation.  This year our theme was “the next 10 year plan”.  Former interns, family and friends joined us for a weekend of brainstorming, riding in a boat on the Muskingum River and sampling the food of the region.  That 48-hour period inspired us to make major changes rather quickly in how we are going to do business this year…more to come on this one.

But probably the best part of the summer has been lots of time with our granddaughter, Cat, who is off to college this fall.  She’s been cooking with me, and for our crew.  These days she’s also our official photographer, which means she has to get out of bed and traipse out to the work sites to get involved with what’s going on.  All of this connection has produced a young person who has begun to share her ideas that sometimes “make” the project.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

When all of this summer is added up it demonstrates a new natural commitment to savoring life each moment.  The life I led before this one was so connected to the corporate world I could never have understood how savoring anything but a vacation might happen.  Today it comes naturally – truly feeling the gift of each day by milking goats, picking vegetables, visiting with folks, weeding the blueberries, feeding the cats and sharing the resources we have with young and old a like.  I’m a rich woman by any standard.

Annie Warmke lives and works at Blue Rock Station, a sustainable living experiment that includes the first Earthship east of the Mississippi.  She’s a goat herder, a writer, builder and a skilled lover of nature.  For more information on her work and books

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