A chronicle of Mike and Julia's adventures creating a home on the Missouri range...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thoughts about personal economy

"What is this? A timber-frame for ants? It has to be... at least... 3 times as big!" -Zoolander
     Since my last post, Mike and I have taken a pause from building to replenish our project funds. I am visiting my parents on Washington Island, Wisconsin for the month, and it has given me a chance to finally work on a model for our timberframe house. With any luck, we will be able to turn it from a timber-frame for ants into a timber-frame for humans when we get back in September. In the meantime, I have been working odd jobs up here, including being a baker's assistant at the new bakery on the island. It has been nice getting away from the 100+ heat of Missouri (which made being productive very difficult), but it has also been nice getting encouragement from Heidi's bakery for our We-the-Trees pond fundraiser. It turns out that Heidi recently raised $15,000 through Kickstarter to build a real brick oven for her new bakery, through the generous support of the island community and many others. Daily I see people come by to introduce themselves as contributors to her project, and Heidi in turn gives out fresh loaves of bread as thank-you gifts. While Mike and my pond-fundraising project is quite different (we considered giving out jars of fresh pond water as thank you gifts, but decided to go with hand-made art instead), the concept is the same: reliance on community support to forward each other's dreams.

     There is a question that comes to mind with what we are trying to do and more generally, with the phenomena of Kickstarter and other crowd-source fundraisers... Shouldn't we be earning this ourselves? Through good-old-fashioned sweat and toil? Isn't that what our parents did, and our parent's parents? Mike's grandparents bought their land and built their own house on weekends when they weren't working at their 9-5 jobs during the week, saving bit by bit. I have to admire them and wonder if Kickstarter is a product of a generation that has grown up more coddled, indulged and used to getting what they want without having to work as hard for it. I have had long talks with friends about all of this, what "right livlihood" means to us and what kind of economy we want to create and participate in. Also about how we want to earn our daily bread, plus all that other stuff necessary for life to flourish. My friends who live in a small community called the Possibility Alliance don't generate income at all, but live half off of what they grow and produce off of the land and half off of free-will donations given to the project by visitors and other supporters. Granted, they also donate their time in service to the community through free educational classes and free hospitality to hundreds of guests a year. They also live on much much less than most folks in the US, so they don't require much in terms of outside income. Another friend of ours feels strongly that she never wants to ask for donations, she wants to earn every penny she needs. So where do all these considerations leave us?

     All I can say for now is that Mike and I are planning on living on less, and off the land as much as possible, but also on having supplemental incomes and not relying on donations. I'd like to think that what we are creating could be replicated by anyone through their own hard work, and to that end... well, we have worked hard to get this far! But I also love the idea of giving a gift that inspires another to give their gift and so on, until it comes back around the circle. This has already happened to me a little bit though our pond fundraiser: a few years ago I helped organize a project to create a commemorative mural/mosaic that honors a young member of my Philadelphia church who passed away. It was something I knew I could create and give to the church community and to his family, and I didn't think about compensation, I just felt inspired to give. Last week, out of the blue, his mother wrote to say that she wanted to donate to our homestead, and asked me how. Well, hallelujah! It feels quite wonderful to have a gift unexpectedly come back around, especially when I am most in need of it!

     So we have 20 days and half of our goal still to raise. We have had a wonderful start, and I feel a lot of gratitude for everyone who has contributed so far... I am hopeful we can do it, so please help us spread the word and if you feel inspired, give! The website is www.wethetrees.com, linked on the below entry. Also, below, a few shots of Mike from before we left... debarking trees, and pondering our neighbor's newly dug pond (pun intended!)