In the 1970s, during a time of political and economical turmoil, many people began researching ways to manage the challenges of the time by applying small scale solutions to local problems.
While firms, governments and large entities were trying to enact sweeping, top down changes to address the issues of high oil prices, concerns about ecological damage and such, it was small groups such as the Farallones Institute and the New Alchemy Institute that put theory into practice in truly remarkable ways.
I have always been more driven to find small, incremental methods to solve problems and when I started finding this research from the 70s, it was a welcome kick in the pants to take on these projects.
Ironically it was modern tech, such as the recommendations function through Amazon that connected me with this research.
I’ve always enjoyed and collected books about farming and country life that focus on rural homestead skills but all of my adult life has been spent in a city. Fortunately it is a city with lots of green space, hiking nearby and lenient ordinances that allow me to take on most any homesteading type project with the exception of large livestock. But when I found out that folks had been doing research on self reliant living within the restrictions of a city and small urban lots, I went all in.
The first book that really captured my attention is The Integral Urban House: Self Reliant Living in the City published in 1979. It’s a 494 page tome of solid DIY ethics and instructions for food production, waste management, energy savings and energy production. While some of the energy related numbers would need an update, most of the book is still relevant today. It’s full of personal stories along with charts, tables and illustrations needed to keep the book engaging. I pick it up several times a year for new inspiration or to check as a reference for a project already in progress.
In 1983 (that was a good year!) The New Alchemy Institute published Gardening for All Seasons: The Complete Guide to Producing Food at Home, 12 Months a Year. This book does not disappoint and is a year round reference for me when it comes to planning spring and fall gardens as well as extending seasons and finding ways to grow indoors.
I especially love these books because the kick started a strong sense of ability and action that I could put to use. We can put these texts to work along with the technology available today with great effectiveness.
The underlying reason for this business isn’t just to teach people the practical aspects of gardening or composting but helping them see how much power they have in their own hands and hearts to affect their future. In a society that often wants to oppress or box people in based on appearances or belief systems, I feel that if I can share the sense of self reliance, we’ll all be better for it and our society can be more stable and sane. The best solutions start small, within the home and branch out into communities as appropriate.
No individual is at fault for the course our society is on but every individual has the opportunity to bring change within their means and then teach the next interested person how to do the same.