Sufficient, Simple, Sensible, Successful living. (That’s a mouthful.)
What did I see this month when I visited an Amish community (a church district) which I had left over 30 years ago? Since America seems to be a broken system, I expected the Amish would be having tough times, after all most Americans are in debt, w/ stock investments & retirement monies gone; one could expect the economy’s manure would flow downhill to give the simple old fashioned Amish hardships. This post was inspired by what I saw.
First, in contrast to our hectic modern world, all the Amish families I visited made time for me to have great visits. And from those visits I discovered the shocking fact that my single district had grown to 18 thriving districts! How inspiring to see how sufficient their time-tested simple methods were succeeding. As to needs, the Amish work at reducing & producing them. They can’t make light bulbs & cars, but the buggies & kerosene lamps they use are easily obtained. I visited an old friend who makes buggies. Johnny Schwartz showed me how his buggies have sold all over the U.S. simply by word of mouth. They are adept at repairing things, and most of what they have is repairable. (In contrast w/ so many modern things designed to be unrepairable.) The community has added an Amish Farmer’s market. In the homes, they continue to grow most of their own organic food, and cook (on wood stoves) & sew from scratch. They make pastas, breads, yogurts, cheeses, beer & wine. Hard cheese lasts a long time. Dirty topped & tailed carrots last longer than whole carrots when stored. Uneaten food is given to the animals. I don’t recall them having garbage to throw away, as packaged food is rare. As you might expect, they do home canning, drying, & use cellars for storage. They live life better than the rest of us, yet they keep things simple and avoid society’s flaws.
Are there lessons here for us? Yes & no. Most of us won’t give up our computers. For most of us, clothes at thrift store prices are cheaper than making them at home. Many of us live in urban settings—yet before you give up the idea of growing food, in Germany it is becoming popular to have “green roofs” (gardens on rooftops) which are complex layers which absorb water well & protect the roofs and keep summer cooling costs down. There are other ways to have an intensive urban garden. Also there are plants that don’t need soil; alfalfa seeds will sprout w/out soil in a jar of clean water. So the city “slicker” still has positive options. Many Americans are trying to get into communities, there is a list of around 1000 communities for the Fellowship for Intentional Communities and not all are rural. On this trip in Arkansas, Sandra Synar, showed me her rural wooded property with its garden, & reminded me of the old homesteaders. Many Americans have this spirit. We can’t change the world, but we can each change our corner of it. In reaction to the world wanting bigger & bigger houses that are way bigger than they need, many people are seeking out small houses. The Amish community comes together & builds their own houses.
There are ideas that are being worked on that may end up being usable. There are bacteria engineered to extrude glue & calcium so that if they live in concrete they will fill in & repair cracks before they die. Someday we may see self-healing concrete & self-healing ships. Other bacteria glow in the dark or purify water. Synthetic biological material may change our world. Solar power tech. (which has gone beyond solar panels) now has powerful solar devices that provide power for entire neighborhoods. Vertical towers may be employed to grow urban crops. Remember, Victory gardens in WW 2 provided a large share of America’s food. There are so many ways that we can simplify our lives, and so many old & new ideas to be applied.