"Our son will grow up with these values and ideas being second nature to him. That's probably the most important part."
"We do a lot of little things that we hope add up to a large reduction in our carbon footprint. Most of them simple things, like recycling, composting, reusable mugs and shopping bags, using natural light when possible and LED lights when needed, and growing a lot of
our own vegetables. Those things took a little time to become second nature, but were also reasonably low-cost and low-effort. Some of
our other choices took more financial resources and personal effort, such as when we chose to not install air conditioning to minimize
our electricity use. Electricity use is a big point for us, since we installed a rooftop solar array several years ago. The end result is that we typically have no electric bill May through October and sell electricity back to the grid. We have some too-warm nights in the summer but we also have naturally cool areas of the house to sleep in if needed. When the monthly electric bill arrives and it's a credit to our account, it makes up for being a little sweaty!
"Our place is a constant windmill of projects and ideas. My favorite project is our rotational mini-farm, which provides us with chicken, eggs, vegetables, free fertilization and free tilling. It's a two pronged system. First, we raise chickens for meat in a chicken tractor that we can move around the yard every day or so. The chickens get fresh greens daily and repay us by de-bugging the yard and fertilizing it. The other prong is our rotational paddocks. One paddock houses our layers, raised garden beds, and hoop house. Another paddock has 2 potbellied pigs, Wilbur and Dukie. The third paddock is seeded with a cover crop to fix nitrogen in the soil. At the start of the growing season, the pigs are sent into one paddock to root around and, by extension, till the soil. After it's tilled, we seed our cover crop. Once the cover crop is established, the layers move there and the tilling-seeding process is repeated in their paddock. Once all three paddocks have established grasses, the pigs are sent back in to mow as needed. This provides our animals with good nutrition, we get good nutrition (via eggs and chicken), and our garden areas have high-nutrient, low-pest soil. The hoop house allows us to grow greens through the winter.
"Speaking of our personal nutrition, as well as raising our meat chickens, Dave and his father hunt to supply us with venison so we have a high iron meat source- we stopped eating beef about 5 months ago. We installed an energy efficient freezer in the basement to stockpile the venison, chickens, and the chicken stock we make when we cook chicken.
"Upcoming projects include installing a clothesline and building a cob barn for the pigs and chickens. I'm looking forward to watching the electricity credit grow even more when we aren't using the clothes dryer as much. The cob barn will be naturally temperature-controlled due to its high thermal mass and provide a sustainable way for us to build a structure to house the pigs and chickens. This all sounds like a huge amount of work, but most of the changes were small and easy to make. The bigger projects grew out of our personal interests and environmental accountability, so they were not a huge sacrifice. Rather, they were -and are- enjoyable, always evolving parts of our lives. It's extremely satisfying to watch the compost pile become rich soil, serve a meal made entirely of foods from our back yard, or pick a basket of apples and pears. Plus, our son will grow up with these values and ideas being second nature to him. That's probably the most important part."
Emily is the coordinator for lifetime fitness and physical education at the Kenyon Athletic Center.