Ever since we returned from Africa (to the U.S.) as community development missionaries, our family has been looking for a way to live many of the values we came to appreciate in Africa—strong community, no split between body and spirit, man and nature, and an enjoyment of the goodness and bounty of life and people.
Our family is determined to live a life that reflects our growing understanding that there are enough resources for us all when we cooperate with nature, not try to control it. We need not accumulate to survive or be successful. In true community with others and the land, our needs will be met with sustainable bounty and beauty.
We’ve learned a lot together in the process of trying to express a lifestyle that is neither excessive nor a crude retreat from nature. One of the key objectives of our design is to allow us to retrofit many different technologies since this property must function as a research system as well as our homes.
Our house and accompanying system have been designed with a living systems approach, loosely based on Permaculture, an integration of the words permanent agriculture, developed by Bill Mollison.
In Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, Mollison says:
Great changes are taking place these days…it is now possible to consciously design and maintain economically productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural systems. It is now our duty to harmoniously integrate man and landscape where local people meet their needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture it is impossible to have stable social order.
Ian McHarg, the landscape designer, expresses our new worldview so well in Design with Nature:
The world is a glorious bounty. There is more food than can be eaten if we would limit our numbers to those who can be cherished, there are more beautiful girls than can be dreamed of, more children that we can love, more laughter than can be absorbed. Canvas and pigments lie in wait, stone and wood and metal are ready for sculpture, random noise is latent for symphonies, sites are gravid for cities, institutions lie in the wings ready to solve our most intractable problems, parables of moving power remain unformulated and yet, the world is finally unknowable.
Our eyes need no longer divide us from the world, but unite us with it. We can now abandon the simplicity of separation and give unity its due. Let us abandon the self-mutilation that has been our American way and give expression to the potential harmony of man and nature.
We desire to live this truth even though we are extremely conscious of how much we have been conditioned to think in terms of scarcity and competition—survival of the fittest. The violence of our culture is a tribute to the power of the organizing myth of scarcity. It’s time, however, to give cooperation a chance.
We can, I believe, heal the earth and ourselves. But we can only heal what we love, and we can love only what we know. And we know only what we touch! It feels wonderful to be in touch with the earth on this farm every day.