Tiny House Enthusiast Kelsey Max

There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.                                                                                                            Henry David Thoreau

Twenty tired workshop warriors gathered around a roaring campfire sharing stories with their leader, “Deek” Diedricksen of Relaxshacks[1].  We had come to share construction skills, learn all about building tiny houses and meet community members. Sitting down next to me, a tall statuesque blonde, looking like she had stepped out of a 1960’s Amazon movie, offered me a drink from an antique pint bottle. It was a creamy, grainy vodka ginger infusion with a hint of lemon. 

The delicious concoction from this amateur mixologist fueled an evening long discovery of a myriad of similar interests and experiences. We became kindred spirits. We are tiny house enthusiast’s, artist’s, educator’s, fellow journaler’s and as sustainability advocates we strive to build a compassionate zero waste lifestyle every day.

Max and I

Surprisingly we shared an unusual type of event at a similar age, a near death experience. I drowned and was clinically dead for 6 minutes; she survived a horrific auto accident. Her life since this brush with mortality has been what she calls her “gratitude crusade”.

Max postcard

I prefer to describe my friend Max as a radical self-expressionist. Kelsey is an individual who has refused to become a muted voice from her generation, her gender or as a result of her near death experience. Instead, as you will glean from the interview below, she has chosen her own authentic voice.

She has crossed the bridge between self-inquiry to self-acceptance, placing value on herself as opposed to muting her voice to meet the needs of others.

We come from two different generations; I’m a hippie baby boomer and she is a millennial[2]. Is Kelsey Max different than most of her millennial counterparts described as entitled and narcissistic? Absolutely. I find her a refreshing example of radical self-expression (think Burning Woman instead of Burning Man).

Let’s meet this amazing woman, whose intellect, compassion and spirit expresses great wisdom and peace beyond her years. Her name is Kelsey Max.[3] You can find her art, her thoughts, her journals and ideas here.

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Here’s the interview we had with Kelsey Max Klibansky:

Q: Describe yourself for our readers:

I am accepting of others and myself. I strive to align my lifestyle with my beliefs and stay reflective so I can create my consciousness as my ultimate work of art!

I call myself a yogic artist because my most consistent creations are journals (better described as multimedia life chronicles) that I compile to enhance my meditative space, better understand myself, and build trust for the way the universe moves. I am currently working on my 37th journal since 2005.

Q: How sustainable is your lifestyle?  

(She laughs.) I can say that I am transitioning into a more sustainable lifestyle as I acknowledge myself as its creator. Most recently, I have travelled to thirteen countries while journaling, observing permaculture practices, living off the grid completing yoga teacher training and an art residency while having ridiculous amounts of fun building timeless connections with so many incredible people! I have been living my Cultural Anthropology degree by truly experiencing life in other cultures. All have contributed to my understanding of humankind in relation to the universe, which is knowledge I hope to incorporate in the near future.

Q: Tell us about how you define the millennial generation[4]?

My generation sees the world broadly and more inclusively. We see connections more readily than previous generations. The veils of illusion were never on us, so we instinctively know life is about love. Our entire political introduction as kids was 9/11, the Iraq War, and the Bush administrations, which were not about love. We’re adults now and the reality created by previous generations is killing itself in front of us – an exciting time! (She laughs.)

Q: Do you think we will reach the Tipping Point towards becoming a sustainable planet in your lifetime?

Yes, definitely! I foresee a big change in human culture toward a model that is synchronized with the Earth and everything it supports including each other.

Q: How will you engage people to help that wave along?

There is a whole aspect of emotional intelligence that has not gotten enough play in mainstream American society but it’s hugely important to our development. Through understanding yourself as an emotional and feeling being, you can actively maximize your happiness and ability to make a positive contribution to your environment. But, of course, the first step is knowledge of the self!

I do not see others as “strangers” or even separate from myself so by protecting my happiness and consciously upping my own vibration, I feel I’m contributing to others’ simultaneously. A good energy contagion, if you will! (She laughs.) Being creative on my own time and being with water makes me happy. Healing, meditating, swimming, dancing, guiding/teaching, yoga, journaling, drawing, painting with my hands, skiing, camping, jewelry making, and righteous words are things I share and aim to share more with my circle.

Q: What is your “lens” on the world?

That it is safe! I think that belief comes from faith but not in the dogmatic sense… faith like faith in everything. I feel an underlying truth that whatever is presenting itself in the now requires my full attention. My world is full of mystery, beauty and magic and I love it. Astrology, dreams, and the tarot are big parts of how I’ve always interpreted my life here.

Q: Do you have suggestions for how to see through your “lens”?

Firstly, observe and pay attention to cycles. For instance, we eat many times a day and that’s a cycle in itself. Say a clementine – observe its beauty and how perfectly it fits in your hand then how the earth supported the tree that nurtured it, the sun energized it and a person picked it. The use of light for growth and how its content is mainly water, much like ourselves, is amazing! Be thankful to the clementine for everything it is and every step of the process to get to you. Rule of thumb: If it goes inside of you, it becomes you! (She laughs.) I laugh but it’s true.

Secondly, notice your breathing and vibration. The space between your inhale or exhale; is it rapid or slow? This rate dictates the frequency of energy we exchange with the space surrounding us. Slower breathing is grounding and warrants a more pleasant response from everything.

The third is to notice the moments when you feel happy. Pay attention to what they are and make your choices accordingly.

Those are good daily tricks!

Q: Tell us where you have been since we met in November of 2012.

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Following my feet! After receiving a small settlement after my car accident, i.e. an alley-oop from the universe in an age where paper means something, I mindfully transitioned to a path of self-education immediately after I graduated from University. Personally, that meant I sought global experiences independently without a planned itinerary or any rigidly timed commitments.

Without a “plan,” the universe has gifted me much! I hiked in Iceland with a group of adventurous locals, paid homage to Jim Morrison’s grave after a day in the park with theater students celebrating a spontaneous day off, camped at a wonderful place called Camping Zeeburg in Amsterdam, questioned the meaning of freedom at the Burren College of Art in Ireland, analyzed the roots of the Western world, attended Punta Mona in Costa Rica for yoga teacher training, lived on a beach in Nicaragua surfing and meditating, made art in exchange for yoga/food/stay at Finca de Yoga Mistica in Guatemala amongst a hotbed of ancient Mayan sacred sites, and wrote hundreds of inspired pages. It’s been a good year or so. (She laughs.)

Q: Have your travels in 2013 given you insights into how to design a more sustainable lifestyle?

Yes, absolutely. I learn primarily from life experience and traveling alone was yet another crash course in experience. I spent a lot of time in conversation about the connections between the individual, the community, and society as well as the overarching laws (and motivations behind them) that govern different societies.

I found that healthcare is much better and largely universal including free travel clinics in Europe. Their taxes are more directly related to environmental considerations like bigger cars are taxed higher because they pollute more. University is commonly free, which is in stark contrast to the recent imaginary concept of crippling college debt in the States. I learned that most people say that “Europe is so expensive” in the States and yet, in reality, the cost of what is termed health food (real food) there is shockingly less expensive and far more accessible to everyone in Europe. I lived well in Amsterdam for a night at the cost of 3 organic apples in the States – that’s saying something. Lots of public transportation and hostels too, which were great.

In Central America systems like the police force are less linked to the conversation about social responsibility while engagement with your community and family are more important. Natural remedies, yoga, holistic and raw food choices were mainstream.  When I was in Nicaragua I met several natives that enriched my understanding of what “quality of life” really means as opposed to what the Western world views as valuable. They live a more natural, human paced, and artistically designed zen lifestyle in and around nature unlike our culture that feels so divorced from that.

Q: What is your vision for the coming year?

I’m maintaining my zen in a place that doesn’t feel very zen. (She laughs.) It’s a challenge but people do it every day and that internal strength is inspiring to me.

I am dedicating my energy to building Rebel University, which is an organization balanced on the premise of universal activism and, ultimately, furthering expanded collective consciousness. As a part of my involvement with Rebels, I chase the moving target that is happiness. My heart speaks to me about publishing and guiding. I can see a lot blossoming soon! (She smiles.)

 You can follow Kelsey Max’s adventures through her website kelseyk.com.

Max


[1] Derek “Deek” Diedricksen is one of the poster boys for the tiny house community. His latest tiny house workshop is coming up in April, check it out here.

[3] Klibansky, Kelsey Max, on a gratitude crusade, her website/blog.

[4] Ibid, 2.

Tiny House Windows and Doors

In December I made a trip up to the Habitat Restore near Portsmouth, NH, and picked up three doors for the tiny house.* Here are two of them. During the coldest and snowiest New England winter in decades (we still have 3 feet of snow in our yard) I was glad I had a few inside projects I could complete!

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My door openings, in order to maximize my loft room, were cut down a few inches and thus I was able to use the excess to fill door knob holes, hardware cavities and scars.

Door renno

The non toxic finish I like to use is from EcoPaints; they have a variety of air pure, exterior products, varnishes and stains.

It was a challenge to sand, repair, paint and varnish my doors and windows in the small 3′ x 6′ area in the basement with a floor that floods every time it snow or rains. But I stuck with it. As soon as warmer weather and the melting of 3 feet of snow is upon us, out they go…

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*My large bay window found by the roadside broke, so the last large window in the back had to be custom ordered to fit the rough opening all ready in the Silver Bullet. Otherwise, the rest are reclaimed.

Mindful Sustainable Tiny house Builders: 2 cycle 2 gether

Last month I was interviewing a fellow tiny house enthusiast, Kelsey Max, (interview coming soon) about her global travels since we met. I thought she would like to know about a couple I have followed on the web for two years whose global pilgrimage, 2 cycle 2 gether, embodies a radically sustainable lifestyle. 

Meet Sheila and Kai, two of the most committed mindful sustainable living practitioners I hope to meet. They are tiny house builders traveling the globe in the most sustainable non-impactful way – via bicycle. And they are fundraiser’s for global humanitarian projects as well as volunteers for several charitable and social justice organizations they passionately believe in.

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They are an inspiration to us all. 

Their message is elementary:  Simplify.  Connect.  Redefine. 

“We drastically minimized our belongings, paid off debt, built our 260 ft² off-grid home, and quit our environmentally & emotionally unsustainable jobs.  In an effort to reclaim our lost connection to humanity and the natural world we left our “old normal” behind and embarked upon a bicycling pilgrimage.”

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Their website is as colorful as this couple! It is a hub of information about their travels, their projects, their tiny house build and their sustainability practice discoveries!

Consider checking out their journey, becoming a sponsor or offering a campsite. I invited them for a vegan dinner and a weekend up here to see the Silver Bullet. I cannot wait to meet them! I’m hoping they’ll bicycle up from Mexico soon!

What is “Home”

“Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.”

- German poet, painter and novelist, Hermann Hesse

“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”

- German poet, Christian Morgenstern

The tiny house movement, its enthusiast’s, founders, builders and advocates may just be my “home”. They get me, they champion me, they help me, they celebrate the sustainable tiny life with me. And more than that, they get, and champion each other. It is an inclusive group, all ages, types, kinds, levels of ability. A sustainable group. They embody the soul of the two quotes above.

Let’s back-up a minute. Growing up in the Midwest in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s, my childhood was inculcated with the American Dream of owning one’s own “home” in the nation of “equality, democracy and material prosperity” where upward mobility and pursuing your “bliss” were a “given” that you had succeeded in life.[1] You know the words we were taught in grade school, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Today for millions of Americans, including myself, the American Dream is looking a lot different. The Great Recession affected all of us. Debt is so embedded into the fabric of our society that millions have lost their homes, jobs, retirement, and their financial and social stability.[2] I am sure Wall Street had quite a bit to do with the foreclosure of the American Dream for most of us.

Cliff DuRand, Truth-out columnist, posits that upward mobility is dead:

My favorite slogan from the Occupy movement was “Wake up from the American Dream. Create a livable American reality.” That is the challenge We the People face in the 21st century. And we have to face it with little help from our political elite and none from capital. We have to do it ourselves. It will take social movements and prolonged struggle. It will take courage and bold experimentation. And for starters, it will take speaking the truth: The American Dream is over. For good or ill, history will move on without it.”[3]

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A large number of us nearing retirement, have lost our savings in the recession and can no longer retire. Others of us lost everything paying health bills for chronic illness and cancer due to toxins in our consumer products and the polluted environment.

Yet how can we achieve financial or social stability in a society that thinks the labor force or the older American (over age 50) is “irrelevant”, “of no value”, “unproductive” or “health-cost prohibitive”?

“The flood of “micro-aggressions” towards older employees in the workplace is astounding.”[4] Corporations could engage and educate their workers by fostering an ethic of inclusion (think best sustainable practices) but few do. Are they aware that someday they will be our age too? (You can see more details about my personal experience with this in the 2008-2010 archives on terrabluteams.org).

Surviving ageism in the workplace and discrimination for being a disabled adult, I made the positive future-forward decision in 2008 to find my own solution. I started a customized 5-year plan to recreate and manifest a deeper sustainable tiny life.

Home, to me, is wherever I am. It is an authentic life of integrity, joy and peace. It’s a mindful life in balance with nature and living creatures.

My net zero Silver Bullet tiny house on wheels, when its finished this summer, will be the manifestation of my new “livable American reality”. I believe “The tiny house movement has been growing for a decade and it is the sustainability imperative at work”.[5]

I can hardly wait to take the Silver Bullet on tour across the country to inspire and help others learn about the joy and rewards of living the sustainable tiny life.[6]

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Poster from the tiny life.com


[1] As an environmental and social activist I was considered a “hippie” during the late 1960′s and 1970′s.

[2] Solman, Paul, “Brutal Job Search Reality for Older Americans Out of Work for Six Months or More”5/3/13

[3] In his article “The American Dream Is Dead; Long Live the New Dream” Cliff DuRand, Truthout columnist, posits that upward mobility is dead.

[4] Solman, Paul, “Brutal Job Search Reality for Older Americans Out of Work for Six Months or More”5/3/13

[5] Struck, Vera, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants8/28/13 blog article from tinyhouselistings.com. 38% of tiny house dwellers are over age 50.

[6] You can read all about the joys, rewards and challenges of our founder’s tiny house build and sustainable tiny life journey at silverbullettinyhouse.com.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

An excerpt from the 8/28/13 article, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”, I wrote for my friend, Steven, at tinyhouselistings.com:

“I thought the best way to change minds about global warming, climate change and ecological dysfunction was to get more education; this time, in sustainable management. If I could influence the corporate world to change their design principles and their social/financial responsibility to the communities from which they remove resources and in which they manufacture their goods, I would be doing right by doing good.

I realized the greater challenge is in educating the public about choices and practices so they can influence and raise the sustainable consciousness of their own families, corporations, communities, schools and workplaces with their own voices and pocketbooks. I know, an ambitious idea of mine to think I can help humanity save its resources by changing human behavior.

That’s when I met Deek, Steven, and other tiny house community members last November at a tiny house workshop. That weekend cemented my resolve to build the travelling sustainable “Silver Bullet Tiny House Classroom” I had been dreaming about for the last two years.

EarlyTHdesign

Constructing an affordable off-grid, net zero, eco-friendly “tiny house” that becomes a mobile classroom seemed like a natural part of the evolution of the non-profit organization I started in 2011 after graduating from Presidio.

After all, the tiny house community that has been growing for a decade is the sustainability imperative at work.

I envisioned the Silver Bullet serving as a base where I could work with individuals, families and communities to make smarter consumptive choices to live and learn how to design and build a more sustainable and affordable lifestyle.

I will stand on the shoulders of my sustainable giants Deek DiedricksenJay ShaferRay AndersonBob Willard, and Bill McKibben to bring sustainable lifestyle practices and design to those who need it.”

You can check out our progress at the silverbulettinyhouse.com.

SBFloor1

Founder and tiny house builder/enthusiast, Vera Struck, celebrates the beginning of the Silver Bullet build in summer 2013 and the completion of her R34 sub-floor on her 8′ x 18′ trailer.

Tiny House Stools

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 10.01.52 AMI arrived in Massachusetts four years ago with 3 large storage units of furniture, belongings and painting/art studio items from my Asheville home and gallery. My goal was to begin living an even more sustainable tiny life.

It has taken those four years to down size and smart size in preparation for moving into my tiny house when its finished. Believe me, it is a challenge to make sure that every item is sold, repaired, repurposed, given away, composted and recycled without any of it ending up in a landfill.

But what is really great about this process are the emotional and creative experiences gained with the benefits of all kinds of community engagement.

Last year I inspired my local U-haul storage facility to set aside an area near all the interior storage units where folks could leave stuff they didn’t want instead of filling a dumpster destined for a landfill. I am specifically looking for items that are beautiful in design, functionality, easily repaired, and easily eco-refurbished. Here’s my latest find:

These stackable stools after I cleaned off all the mildew and grease would probably be great for most folks as is. They have a few small repairable scars I’ll deal with and then I hope to transform them into more playful and very light furniture for the Silver Bullet.

Stools.2

Stools.1

As I am finishing my interior with a whitish pickled surface, I will strip them, pickle them and rub a low VOC varnish into them. Maybe I’ll paint the other two the color of my double doors, one of my favorite greens.

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So that the stools don’t chafe each other or the new tiny house floor while traveling , I’m attaching felt sections on the legs.

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Here’s how they turned out, pretty good for my first project, eh?

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Transition Town

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The Transition Network is an organization that offers resources, training, education and initiative support for individuals and communities that want to be resilient, reduce their CO2 emissions and self-organize around the Transition model.

I have been practicing the Six R’s continuum (Reduce, Reuse/Repair/Repurpose, Rot (organics), Recycle)for decades and have achieved Zero Waste for four years. Last summer I began building an off-grid zero-waste tiny house on wheels. The challenge is worth every minute of it and the rewards from compassion, kindness and respect for all living things, resources and the planet are plentiful.

This is the local one near where I live, Transition Newburyport, and there are thousands around the world you can hook up with, check out their initiatives map here.

Mariah and The Comet Camper

I met Mariah at a tiny house workshop and I loved her retro Comet Camper. She also has a vintage clothing business, Planet Queen. Mariah is a lovely, creative, young tiny house enthusiast!

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Being a sustainability tiny life advocate, I have belonged to several CSA’s and worked tirelessly over the years with all levels of governing bodies for cleaner/renewable energy, amending zoning ordinances, eco-education and public service. So I found her blog entry (below) particularly inspiring and I wish her luck with City Hall:

After reading Van Jones’ book The Green Collar Economy, I was inspired to come up with a “green collar” plan for the city I live in, Worcester Massachusetts. Jones frequently mentions Chicago in his book as an example of a city that is embracing the shift to an ecological economy. Worcester, like Chicago, has a manufacturing background, and could learn from the examples of successful green-collar programs in other cities. Based on the “Green Collar” ideas, I came up with a list of goals for Worcester, and suitable jobs that Worcester could support.

The idea here is that by embracing these ideas and creating the right conditions here in Worcester, young innovators will be attracted to locate their green businesses here in this dying city. We need to keep our dollars in the local economy as long as possible, and in order to do that people need local places to spend their money.

I hope to give a presentation at a City Council meeting about this topic, and see what the city thinks are feasible projects.

A CSA farm is a great idea for building local economies. More and more CSAs are popping up in urban areas.

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Goals:

To build resilience in my city

To eliminate reliance on foreign fossil fuels

To include all groups in the regeneration of my city

To support communities and individuals with innovative ideas

To empower citizens

To eliminate waste

To provide meaningful jobs and fair work

To bring new people, businesses, and eco-industry to my city

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Eco-Building Bargains is a store in MA that sells salvaged materials, recycled building materials, and used appliances/furniture/just about everything.

Changes in Government:

Zoning and building codes must be changed to allow:

- Tiny Houses and homes under 400 square feet.

- Composting toilets

- Greywater systems

- Front Lawn Freedom (no restrictions on front-lawn gardening)

- Rainwater collection

- Livestock, animal husbandry, chickens, etc.

- Rooftop farms

- Food carts and mobile businesses

- Land Use Reform: Allocating abandoned land to non-profits to begin urban farm operations,      compost operations, and other programs.

We can provide empowerment via:

- Workshops

- Education

- Sharing of Resources (Libraries for tools, equipment, and information, Skillshares)

- Freedom of Choice (in relation to living simply)

- Organized “Consumers Anonymous” meetings  - a place where people can find support in simple living and participate in a “No New Things” challenge with the support of a committed community.

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Waste Veggie Oil Fueling stations are the gas stations of the future – I would love to see one of these in my city.

Essential Projects for Regenerative Urban Economy:

1. Education and Learning Center for Sustainable Sciences, Practices, Building, Farming, and more

2. Simple Living and Tiny House showcase in unused lot

3. Eliminate Lawns Campaign (“Food not Lawns”)

4. Public Permaculture Park + Edible Forest

5. Green fueling station and garage (WVO and electric charging station)

6. Bike paths and lanes for increased pedestrian and pedal transport, including connections to surrounding areas (Providence, Boston, and rural towns).

7. Allocate land for ecological and Transition projects (Brownfields, unused lots, abandoned warehouses, etc).

Green Collar Jobs:

Organic Food Production/ CSA management

Waste recycling and compost

Fertilizer and soil production from compost

Energy audits and consulting

Deep energy retrofits/renovation/insulation

Photovoltaic installation

Permaculture design and installation services

Maintenance of public parks with Edible Elements

Public permaculture

Urban Garden design/installation services for residential buildings

Hydroponics operations in abandoned warehouses (fish, produce, fertilizer)

Green design/build/architecture firms

Salvage Mining

Eco-Demo – Ecological Demolition and Deconstruction Services

Salvage yards and recycled building materials sales

Water systems installation and maintenance

Rainwater installation

Wind power installation/maintenance

Compost toilet installation

Education/Teaching

Fiber production (sheep, alpaca, angora, etc) and Value-added items (yarn, clothing)

Sustainable clothing production and maintenance (emphasis on mending/repair services)

Radical Menstruation supplies production, marketing, and distribution

Milk and Dairy production

Egg production and distribution

Honey production and distribution

Herb production and distribution

Chicken breeding for sale and slaughter

Rabbit breeding for fur, food, and sale

Hybrid Mechanics

Grease-car conversion technicians and mechanics

Waste Veggie oil filtration and fueling station/ grease car garage

Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair coordinators

Organic, Healthy food trucks – low cost start-up

Local hops growing and brewing

Locally sourced restaurants

Kombucha brewing and distribution

Bicycle mechanics

Technology and digital design

Internet and information based jobs (blogs, news resources, how-to resources)

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A commercial kombucha operation is a great idea for building a resilient, sustainable economy. Photo from kombuchamama.com.

Barter for Abundance

I met Libby and Tristan at a tiny house workshop in 2011 and loved their creatively built gypsy wagon, Whittled Down. I was especially fond of their “observation deck” solution for their feline.

The recent article (below) that Libby penned is full of tips on how to engage your community and reap a natural abundance.  Here are some of Libby’s resourceful ideas.

ABUNDANCE: FOOD SWAPS AND POTLUCKS

This is the time of year that conscious consumers dust off their soapboxes to proclaim the virtues of “Buying Local” for the holidays. And indeed, if you are buying things, buying them from local artisans is they way to go. But the soapbox I’m standing on this December wasn’t hand crafted out of local sustainably harvested lumber by a master carpenter, it was pulled from the dumpster behind the Goodwill. That’s right, I’m talking about the Church of Stop Shopping right here.
Let’s face it–sometimes, Buying Local can be expensive, unsustainably so. We are focused on building a life that we can maintain without having to work a combined 80 hours a week. Truth be told, we’d like to work as little as possible. That means we need to spend as little money as possible as well. We like living this way–it inspires us to be creative, and to find abundance in all the little cracks and crevices of modern life.
Lately, we’ve been revelling in the particular kind of abundance that stems from cooperation, generosity, and community. The “stuff” that you get out of this kind of abundance is extra special–you know who made it, and you know that it was made to be shared. It just feels good.
So, without further ado, I present to you two ways to enjoy this most special form of abundance while spending zero dollars and making new friends:

The Food Swap

We participated in our first formal food swap this weekend, and it knocked our socks off. Our local incarnation is called Valley Food Swap; it uses the Food Swap Network format. Basically, you bring a bunch of food items (canned, frozen, fresh produce, baked goods, you name it) to swap with everyone else who attends. It runs a bit like a silent auction–every item has its own sheet of paper where you can make a swap offer. At the end, you review your swap sheets, decide which offers look most appealing, and make your trades. Here’s a before-and-after of what we brought to the swap, and what we brought home:

Check that out! We brought five items: spiced carrot jam, cranberry-ginger chutney, low bush blueberry jam, kimchi, and frozen pie crusts. We brought back…all this loot! The pile includes homemade caramels, an aloe plant, applesauce, hot sauce, three pints of tomatillos (who still has fresh tomatillos this time of year? wizards?), fresh eggs, and frozen pumpkin puree. We also brought back some of the stuff we brought to swap, which is great, because I wanted some of those pie crusts for my own freezer! In fact, we’ve got a chicken pot pie in the oven right now…

Some of this loot will stock our own pantry, and some of it I got to give as presents to friends and family. In addition to bringing home all this amazing food, we got to see some old friends, meet one of our new city councilors, and chat with some amazing gardeners and home preservers.The Potluck

potluck pies

Recently, we were invited to a potluck that has been held every Monday night, without exception, for over 400 consecutive Mondays. If no one will be home on a particular Monday, the hosts go so far as to leave food on the stove and a note on the door, welcoming anyone who drops by to let themselves in and feast. We had a great time at the potluck, and felt so welcome even though we only knew one or two of the over a dozen people in attendance. There was a birthday cake for a toddler. We played music by the wood stove. We discovered one is never more than one or two degrees of separation away from a common friend in this tight-knit community.

Inspired by this potluck, we decided to try holding a similar weekly event at our home a few towns over. We live in a community that can feel a little isolated from the more happening towns nearby, which makes those of us who live here form a very unique sense of camaraderie. But, it can be kind of sleepy round here. We need more places and excuses to get together.

We have had a few weekly potlucks now, and it’s been a wonderful experience. And talk about abundance! Guests have brought oysters, fancy chocolate, amazing wine, and homemade tiramisu to share. When each person brings one lovely dish, you have a first class feast on your hands.

At last week’s potluck, some guests who are a generation older than us were reminiscing about the potlucks they used to have in their neighborhood when their children were small; a rotating affair several nights a week that took the burden of cooking a big meal off of the entire neighborhood, freeing them all up to do other things.

We all decided that it’s high time for a revival of potluck culture.