Saturday, March 8, 2014

Innisfree Sustainable Living

Innisfree Sustainable Living

Innisfree is located in the Empty Quarter of the Kawarthas in central Ontario. It is a ninety-acre farm with a pair of log cabins dating back to the 1870s. Solar power, woodstoves, sauna and a root cellar provide the necessities of life. Horse manure is vermicomposted and the resulting worm castings grow veggies in raised beds. A greenhouse and the walled garden of a former barn foundation extend the growing season. The project began one chilly day in January 2010. At first, it was all about adapting to a lifestyle that mirrored the age of the cabins, the surprise came at the end of the first summer.

Here is a little secret, sustainable living makes poor people rich – well sort off. When you make your own electricity, hot water, heat with wood and grow food you save a chunk of cash. Libraries, free wifi and thrift stores increase one’s resilience from the uncertainties of climate change and an economy swinging on its hinges.

On the personal level, holistic living means firing on all cylinders or having boundless energy – and energy is the currency of life. Globally, it is like being a worm cast in a meadow, insignificant until you take into account the millions of other people who are also saving the planet one wiggle at a time. It also chimes the simplicity and charm of village life in The Hobbit with the wizardry of open source technology. It is a handcrafted world of gardeners, recyclers, improvisers and innovators, where rough readiness and resilience rule. Dreams and ideas blossom in the garden of the mind and ripen into reality. It is also a vision of a better world and a daily practical protest against the forces that lay waste the planet. Sustainable living is the first step in making these destructive systems obsolete and turning potential chaos into niches of change.

Books can tell you how, nature shows you how. Every morning with the rising sun, she unfurls her blueprint. We just need to slow down to read it. For me, it is a never-ending lesson and not without its ‘oops moments’ - when I reach for a hammer my inner Mr. Bean screams to get out. Nature, meanwhile, has had four billion years to iron out the kinks; she has also almost gone over the edge a few times. Bacteria played a lead role in her early successes and disasters.

Although, I love my red wriggler worms, deep down, I am a bacteria kind of guy, not just because I’m ninety percent bacteria, fungi, yeasts and microbes, but rather, because they learn from their calamities. The early history of the planet reads like a disaster movie.  

Bacteria were one of earliest life forms. Three times, they almost caused their own extinction through uncontrolled growth and pollution. Then they became smart, instead of endless growth, resource depletion and toxic waste, they settled for niches. They gave us the gift of ecology. The little darlings learnt to downsize and live by a set of rules.

Here is another secret – sustainable living makes you optimistic and happy. Gardens flourish, hobbit houses sprout and Bilbo Baggins steps off the page and strides down the path to another adventure.

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