Versatility is green.  That should not be a revelation, but I think it is. As I’ve been working on explaining the North Country Sustainability Center, I have come understand that concept is part of our problem. People are used to specialty places; kitchen stores, specialist doctors, finish sanders, bread machines.  They have a difficult time envisioning that a tool that does a lot of thing is more worthwhile than so many different appliances.

But our schedules are now full of visits to different specialists, rather than a single visit to a general practitioner. Of course there are times when a specialist is needed, but because medicine has learned so much, and so many doctors are afraid of lawsuits, they now pass that final diagnosis onto a specialist with more training in that particular area. Is it bad? No, but it’s inefficient.  And think about how much fuel is spent driving to all the doctor’s appointments.

Our kitchens are now huge because we need  a place for the double oven, stove top, toaster oven, bread machine, food processor….  However did our parents survive without all those appliances? – Oh, the stove/fireplace and a stirring spoon and  bowl.  Antique collectors hunt for “Hoosiers,” which are getting harder to find. What’s a Hoosier? Besides the state nickname, it was an all purpose kitchen cupboard that had a flour bin, a pullout counter, storage cupboards, drawers, all in one compact space that was crucial in many early 20th century kitchens. Those were so well made they are still hunted today. But how often do you have to replace your kitchen appliances? What’s the electric bill after using them all?

I happen to be a follower of a fairly rare breed of dog – the English Shepherd, also sometimes called the Farm Collie. When the original settlers came to this country they needed a dog that could hunt, herd, guard, get rid of vermin and still be steady enough for the family’s children.  That was the farm collie. This breed is frequently found in old photographs standing in the orchards or fields with the farmer, then playing with kids. Another picture would be a dog standing proud with its “catch” from the barn, or just lying around on the porch.  This one dog did the work and play of a Border Collie, Border Terrier, Coonhound, Bulldog and Rottweiler, with a lot less dog to feed.

So when people say to me “no place can do all that in one space,” my answer is “Why Not?”  If we provide the facilities for people to be trained in trades and skills, they can help with maintenance and learn at the same time. If we provide a garden that teachers children biology, stewardship and patience, why can’t that same garden be a source of healthy nutrition and the basis for learning to cook and plan?
If we have an arena that allows 4H children to exhibit their animals, why not let dog trainers use it to help develop the human-animal bond, keep children safe, and create income for the trainer and joy for the dog owner?  Why not let that same place be a site for dances, movies, or just letting children run around in a rain storm without getting drenched?  It’s a more conservative approach to financial and land resources.

The other part of the title “Jack of All Trades,” is less polite – “Master of None.”  We’re not trying to master any one particular one, except providing a space and opportunity for others to master their own trade.  We don’t have to be a master of masonry, sewing, cooking, dog training, farming, and more. We just have make sure that the masters have a place to work. That is our mastery, please help us get there. Please visit and helps us get there.  Versatility is green, and hopeful. Who doesn’t need hope these days?