For the season of giving, this is a special note to all of you. This can serve as a model for a possible solution for your region.
Independently Building a Community
For the season of giving, this is a special note to all of you. This can serve as a model for a possible solution for your region.
When I was growing up nearly every school taught girls how to cook and sew and men how to build and repair items. It was sexist, but it wasn’t bad. Eventually, girls had “powderpuff shot,” where they could learn basic carpentry skills, or perhaps how to change the oil in their car. The boys had “Bachelor Kitchen,” where they learned basic cooking skills, but these attempts to “even the playing field,” were quickly abandoned for another approach – nothing at all.
If a person wanted to learn to cook they took the “culinary track,” at the local vocational school. If someone wanted to build, they took the “contractors track,” or the electrician, or the mason. This separation of trades and skills from basic education built a different economy; one where the trades were ignored in favor of college preparation. It also meant college bound students were left to fend for themselves in learning how to shop, cook, repair or even purchase. Quality gave way to quantity, and care gave way to “shopping therapy.” As a result we are now left without a public that doesn’t know how to judge good investments from bad, healthy food from not so healthy food, or even how to take care of themselves in case of emergency.
Schools used to go to on field trips to learn how their food was cared for prior to purchasing it. Now they go so they can get free samples, a tour for career education, or perhaps, in the case of “life skills classes,” they are taught how to judge ripe from unripe fruit, moldy from non-moldy and other basic choices. Those developmentally challenged students are taught how to make change, how to write a check, or how to balance their diet. Are “normal kids,” taught those things?
When my son was in school I asked his principal when they taught basic food education in his charter school. This school had a great deal of wonderful opportunities for my son, but the principal’s answer was “That’s your job. We cant’ do everything.” I was a bit shocked but then I asked him “My son has a mother at home who has that knowledge. But what about the kids who has one parent at home, or both parents work, and they only know how to read a microwaveable food box? What do they do?” He didn’t have an answer for that, but we have to find one.
This is a fundamental part of sustainability. If people don’t know what goes into their food, they can’t protect it, or make informed choices about which foods to use. If they rely on prepared food they are putting unnecessary chemicals into their bodies, and not knowing it.
Whole food is completely biodegradable. It comes without wrappers, boxes or directions that need to be discarded. Eating food that comes from within your own foodshed minimizes the amount of gasoline spent, carbon added to the atmosphere, and allows different types of foods to be available because they don’t need to be shipped and retain their “pizzazz” appeal.
Learning how to sew promotes creativity, critical thinking and reinforces reading, interpretation and following directions. It also can lead to careers in fashion, tailoring, education or just a well stocked closet. Basic carpentry, plumbing, and an understanding of electricity can save money whether doing the work yourself, or supervising the contractor to make sure their work makes sense.
More than basic “home economics,” locking our children into classrooms with their computers and their learning tools has taken away some of the early lessons that we once learned at home. The cause and effect of kindness or cruelty, a safe trip across a pasture or a kick that sent a child airborn. The wisdom of dressing appropriately because dressing for a heated classroom doesn’t take into account a bus breakdown, a furnace failure, or a delay in
the opening of a door.
While we have tried to do best by our children to make their lives easier, we have inadvertently made those lives more difficult. Putting fashion over function, price over quality, and convience over wisdom, has a chilling effect on their future. We need to address these issues now, while we still have teachers around, like grandparents and rural folk, who can address these deficiencies, and make the world more secure in the future.
Join the movement to “Revive” these lost skills, community, oral tradition and more by building sustainability at home and through The Hearth at NCSC. Please give what you can, share this blog with others and help us put our young people back on a more self-reliant track.
The media seems to portray sustainability as an option, but it’s not. It’s mandatory, kind of by definition. But how do we attain it? Is it the car companies’ responsibility? The government? Our neighbors? Or is it ours? I think it’s the responsibility of breathing, but that’s just me. Each of us has to decide what “sustainability” means to us. Each of us will define it differently. But if we don’t do it, then none of us really can. We can’t force anyone, but we can make it easier for them to integrate the idea into their lives.
But if we are lacking the skills for sustainability, where do we learn them? If our grandparents are gone, or if they didn’t learn them, where do we go? Is sustainability simply local food? No. Is it shopping locally? Not exclusively. Where do we learn how? If you’re lucky you live near someone who can teach to preserve, or cook, build a fire, or a tool shed, but many of us don’t have that luxury. If we’re “plugged into” the sustainability community we can locate those mentors, but what if there was a beacon that shone leading the way? That’s what we’re working at the North Country Sustainability Center and “the Hearth.”
We have put in an offer on a retired catholic church and its rectory, but we need a sustainable miracle to make it happen. It’s in downtown Fitchburg, MA, just blocks from the train station and Fitchburg State University. It’s kitchen will allow small businesses in shared facilities. Classrooms will teach basic skills such as sewing and carpentry or more advanced environmental topics. The paved areas will permit urban agriculture classes, dog training and other programs to build community, and the old sanctuary can be filled with the sounds of oral tradition, folk music, and dance tunes. The steeple can hold a solar powered LED leading others to find ways to rebuild their families, communities and a more sustainable nation.
Even though Fitchburg is an urban, it is surrounded by small towns with numerous small farms. The suburbs of Greater Fitchburg, Worcester, even Boston, want to enjoy the food, knowledge and talents of our region’s residents. The Hearth will make that possible – but we need help.
If someone has thousands to donate to us, we humbly accept. But we know that the likelihood of that is small. We believe that it is the strength of an entire region giving $10, $25 or more to NCSC that will make it possible to revive this old building, our local community and the regional economy. NCSC is a 501(c)(3) organization, so all gifts are tax deductible. Funds can be donated to the NCSC Hearth at PayPal at the address
The simple skills that were a part of every day are still needed today. To eat healthily, keep our closets and homes in shape, and to keep our planet livable we need to rebuild our connections between ourselves and the means that make our comfort and life possible. Help us make this Beacon of Sustainability come to life, so that we can help others create their own community sustainability centers, and we can serve the Central New England region.
You can see what we’re working on at
www.northcountrysustain.org, or call 978-827-1305 to get your questions answered.
Find a building in search of a new purpose.
Add a balanced blend of farmers with food and hungry neighbors.
Stir in the wisdom of cooks, elders and teachers
Season with creativity
Warm with the love of pets and nature
Blend ingredients with the energy of community
Add enough funds to make a batter of betterment.
Cook by The Hearth until warm and fragrant.
Serve with a side of veterans and families looking for healing tools
Invite all to join in and Enjoy!
The Hearth has possibly found a home, but to bring the empty edifice back to life
we need the help of many, many people. Help us bring this recipe to the table
for a sustainable future – “Be a Revivor”
I’m been mulling over a problem with clarifying our mission statement for people. I’ve long struggled with how to explain it, but it came to a focus when we were denied a grant because we were “agricultural,” not cultural. This has caused me to really ponder how to get people to see that there is a “culture” associated with growing things. It’s one of tradition, hard work, celebration, community and practicality.
I spoke with my son the scholar about this issue this morning. When people study archaeology and anthropology, they are seeking to learn about a culture of a society. That culture is identified through the items that were used, maintained and how populations adapted their environments to make their lives possible. Though the fine arts celebrate the individual talents of people, there is a beauty to how people learned to live with the land they had access to, how they created beauty and life out of the raw materials that were there, the ways they celebrated and taught those skills to subsequent generations. My son explained that when thinks of agriculture, he thinks of science, and he grew up on a farm. I told him that in my opinion many of the advances that farmers have seen over the centuries are based upon oral tradition, basic observation, happy accidents and later were explained by scientific examination. Farming is a combination of art and science, but the ways we appreciate that practice is through food, celebration, song, dance and sharing. Given the challenges we face as a people in the future, we need to nurture both the soil and science, and the people and practices that define agri-culture.
In looking at a home for The NCSC Hearth, we’ve been looking at factories and large facilities, but I’m thinking that we need to change that to look at something more natural for us – a homestead. A place where people can celebrate, learn, share and teach each other how to make life more pleasant for us and for our planet. This is truly a cultural center, not for one population, or another. But for everyone who wants to learn how to take care of their families, stretch a dollar, better their lives or find others who share those goals. We still need to raise funds, but perhaps with this “cultural thing” defined, we’ll have better luck. If it makes sense to you, please tell a friend, and send a donation to North Country Sustainability Center, Inc. and help celebrate the culture of a planet-conscious community.
to all those who have been waiting for a kitchen to work from so that they can make a better living for their families; to those who need fresh milk in order to avoid problems with eczema, autism, psoriasis, IBS and more, and to those who have been so patiently supporting us in this effort.
I apologize for not being a better spokesperson, fundraiser, or advocate, though I will continue to try. I know how important it is for people to be able find fresh food, understand the importance of knowing how things are made, that people who feel alone in their optimism do not feel so alone.
However I don’t apologize for the work we’ve done so far, or the efforts that go forward. I would say to any who are disenchanted, disengaged, or disappointed, come join us in this work. You may have just the right skill set to make it happen. One thing I know for sure, if I quit, if the board gives up, the idea won’t happen any faster than if we keep trying.
NCSC is not looking to reinvent the wheel, or even determine the speed. It is our goal to help others achieve their goals, and if that means working side by side with other individuals, non-profits and businesses, so be it. As long as we at NCSC can continue our work of helping people achieve a more sustainable world, then we’re fine with that.
A recent story has really shaken me; three bored young men in Oklahoma killing an Australian hiker for sheer pleasure. How did we get to this point as a society? Where do we go from here? It certainly can be frustrating and frightening to look at the future when these things make the news, but I don’t think it will get much better if we don’t make some cultural changes.
I heard yesterday on NPR’s “Diane Riehm Show,” a discussion about raising the standards on our teachers, not in their performance, but in their entry to the profession. If we identify people who really care, who have a talent for teaching, and who have a positive outlook, we have a better future for our youth. But we need more than that.
When I was homeschooling I introduced Albert Schweitzer, Stanley and Livingstone, and their contemporaries. Though we tried several times, it was nearly impossible to find anything in print about these pioneers. My goal was to instill a “Reverence for Life,” in my son, so that he would consider his effect on others. It worked for him, but I think these people need to be brought to more attention to our young people.
These young men were looking for a “thrill,” and a way to kill their spare time. Wouldn’t it be a better use of their time to instill a thrill FOR life, instead a thrill kill? If young people today were taught constructive skills, such as growing, baking, carpentry, sewing, or mentoring, they could feel the reward of launching something, rather than ending. From my experience things that are quick to come to an end, even a candy bar, are less satisfying than the long term benefits of watching something become “real,” from my own efforts. It’s a lasting “high,” that inspires more ways to chase that thrill and leaving beneficial results in its wake.
Where did these ideas get lost? I’m no expert, but it seems to me when we started shortening answers to fit into computer bubbles, we made things simple, and black and white. But life isn’t that defined, and we need to introduce kids to shades of grey early so they can learn that every step makes a difference on that “shade of gray” continuum.
Our society has decided that “burning energy,” is best spent in sports, or drama, or ways that get people’s attention. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they don’t reward quiet success. They offer short term glory, but to “succeed” children aspire to professional sports contracts, stage and screen awards, all of which are highly competitive, and extremely frustrating to chase. Imagine a place where elders taught how to prepare a great meal from local food, mentors showed kids the value of time given to someone for no financial gain, and a network is built to hold people up when they stumble. Those are skills that we need to cultivate for a liveable, sustainable society. That’s what we’re working on NCSC.
If we don’t do something on a local level our nation will continue to unravel. Whether the proposed Australian boycott actually happens or not, imagine the impact on our economy if tourism falls off because people are too afraid to come here? If we let angry people take control; let selfishness take the place of community and encourage competition over cooperation, we cannot change the direction of our culture. I’m not saying that there’s no place for anger, selfishness or competition but they should be folded into a great sense of good intent and community spirit or we risk a future where young people continue to laugh at death, aspire to violence and indulge in self-pity instead of generosity. We need to nurture that reverence for good, for life and for potential. It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense, which is part of what we’re missing as a society too. Can you support that? I do.