Mar 16, 2010

The Root of all Evil, and Good

First in a series of responses to Globe&Mail comments
"As usual, the Globe and Mail highlights the high-end version of the idea. Raising all of one's own food must provide a wonderful sense of security, but it's not a realistic prospect for most of us."
- Independently Poor

Money isn't evil or good, it's just a tool as necessary for us "Radical Homemakers" as our hoes and maple tapping spiles. Many comments after today's Globe and Mail article were, like the one above, centred around the economics of our lifestyle choice, and not around the underlying philosophy.

For the record, we are still very tied-in to the money economy. We do not aspire to 100% self-sufficiency. It cost a lot of money to buy these 5 acres. 2/3 of our $3,500 monthly budget goes to the mortgage, Waldorf school tuition and property costs - to cover it, Sarah runs her business full-time and I consult part-time (oh, and we bring in a whopping $50/month from egg and garlic sales). We are planning for a retirement that involves more than just cashing in our relationships - investing in this land and hopefully another piece of rental-income land in the future, instead of the stock market. We pay taxes and enjoy nationalized health care. "Radical Homemaking" (not the term I would have chosen) does not have to mean rejection of money.

It's true that this leg of our family's journey started with enough money to buy this land - due in part to selling a Vancouver home at the height of the boom, and in much larger part due to a lifetime of living frugally, investing wisely (and ethically), and being darn lucky. But we didn't wait to have enough equity to start this life.

The start of our journey, our awakening, came years ago and didn't cost a dime. It started (as I wrote last week) with a simple decision to not use the interstate highway going through town. Then to stop spending money in fast-food chains. Then on to buying locally. So many ways we found to hone our energies in our chosen direction that didn't have to end up here on a farm - that in fact was quite a surprise.

I wish the Globe and Mail had interviewed my friend Steve who walks 40 minutes to work and grows veggies by the sidewalk alongside the well-manicured lawns of his urban neighbours. Or Keira who turned her Vancouver yard into a delicious urban jungle, and helped launch the Sustainable Living Arts School to empower others to cultivate their natural prowess. Or City Farm Boy whose "farm" is a patchwork of unused urban backyards where he tends the land, sharing the bounty with the homeowner. Three examples of friends at three different socio-economic levels, all finding creative ways to live their values in an urban setting.

And for those who think they may find the same Joy we do in tending to the chickens twice a day and chasing cows at 10pm, it is possible to go rural without a lot of equity. There are families out here who rent land, share land in community, intensively farm a half-acre plot, volunteer at a CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture) or as Woofers. The equity-less renters of our cabin were our full farm partners. There's enough work in the farming community for all who want to make a serious commitment.

But this isn't about homesteading. It's about living a life true to our core values - defined in this "radical homemakers" book as "environmental sustainability, social justice, family and community." It's about being willing to step outside of the parts of mainstream society that don't support those values. Each family has different values, different resources, and different creative solutions. Money is always a factor but doesn't have to be a barrier - it's just one of several ingredients that has to be measured (sometimes creatively) in a successful transition.

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