This 110-Acre Homestead Runs Without Fossil Fuels

A visit to the Possibility Alliance reminded me also that the one constant of life is change.


Published:

The Possibility Alliance is a 110-acre homestead run by Ethan and Sarah Hughes. Their reliance on fossil fuels is limited to trains for long-distance trips, municipal water, and a telephone landline.

© James Garcia, Unsplash

I stepped off the train in the farm town of La Plata, Missouri, with my 9-year-old son, Zane. Thomas was waiting to meet us with two well-maintained bikes, one with a trailer for our backpacks, the other with a long wooden seat for passengers, to make the 6-mile trip to the Possibility Alliance (PA).

The PA is a 110-acre homestead run by Ethan and Sarah Hughes, who have two young daughters. Their reliance on fossil fuels is limited to trains for long-distance trips, municipal water and a telephone landline. They purchase bike parts, bulk grains and tin roofing, as needed—but that's about it. No electricity, no gas, no cars, no planes. With the imminent release of my book on how life using radically less fossil fuel turns out to be more satisfying, I'd been curious to visit the PA both to glean technical knowledge and—more importantly—to see whether their experience of increased joy and satisfaction matched my own.

While my stay was brief, it felt full in terms of the ingenuity, beauty and love I experienced. The sun set as we biked from the train. A bit later, the land lit up with fireflies. With only candles to light the darkness, the stars and the quiet took center stage. The next morning at dawn, I walked through the lush greens of gardens, orchards, pastures and forests, then joined Ethan and other members of the community for an hour of meditation.

In addition to the Hughes family, the PA is home to two permanent members, Dan and Margaret, as well as two long-term visitors, Thomas and Maggie. Thousands of other visitors have come and gone over the years. A few have settled on adjacent homesteads, while others left to start far-flung urban permaculture centers. All are contributing to a more beautiful and just world, as they feel uniquely called to do. Ethan and Sarah have given away tens of thousands of trees and plants over the years—they are still in awe of nature's abundance, the way life regenerates and propagates through time, a key difference between a tractor and a draft-horse—but perhaps more significantly, they've seeded the world with the people they've taught and inspired.

Thomas cooked all meals over ultra-efficient wood-fired rocket stoves in an outdoor kitchen, starting with multigrain porridge and autumn olive jam. (Autumn olives are considered invasive, but they do make great jam.) Breakfast is a time for community members to check in with each other; this was especially important on the day of my visit, with a dozen visitors due for a weeklong class on post-fossil-fuel living.

Ethan shared his disappointment that after a long remission, symptoms of the Lyme disease he'd contracted 15 years earlier seemed to have returned. I was touched by this glimpse of his vulnerability, the intimacy with and reliance on the community he'd helped build.

After breakfast, Zane and I milked the PA's four goats and helped in the garden. Dan hitched the two horses to a sledge and pulled a large log to the woodlot near the kitchen, which one new visitor and I cut with a two-person saw. Not only was the work great exercise, it was meditative and conducive to conversation. I then split the pieces with a maul, a thoroughly enjoyable task. The fossil-fueled wood-splitter might be among the worst inventions ever created.

After a sumptuous lunch of vegetable and goat-milk soup, cornbread and a salad of wild arugula and purslane, Ethan gave a tour that emphasized the deeply interrelated topics of natural building and gift economy. The PA is living proof that both work, and together are indeed more satisfying than modern industry and consumerism. After a dip in the pond and a light supper of leftover soup, Thomas, Zane and I bicycled back to the train station. The freight trains thundering past every few minutes as we waited for Amtrak's Southwest Chief seemed somehow just a bit larger, louder, less necessary than the day before.

The PA is a success, yet Ethan and Sarah are in the process of moving toward something new. When they acquired the land in 2007, it had met 18 of their 20 criteria for a teaching homestead. The two unmet criteria, however, represent deep personal needs: for Ethan, to live near the ocean; and for Sarah, artistic expression through classical singing. As these needs have called more insistently over the years, these pioneers of sustainability are discovering at a personal level what they've long taught others: sustainability begins by listening to the heart—"zone zero" in the language of permaculture. They're now searching for a community ripe for their vision of transition—someplace near the ocean and with a decent choir.

My visit with the Hugheses affirmed what I know about sustainable living. They reminded me also that the one constant of life is change. The Hugheses are restless in exploration of the good life: bold authors of the new story we desperately need. With gratitude, I wish them well.

Peter Kalmus wrote this article for YES! Magazine as part of his monthly column, “The Climate Conversation.” Peter is a climate scientist working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (he speaks here on his own behalf, not on behalf of NASA, JPL, or Caltech). At work, Peter uses satellite data, in situ data, and models to study the rapidly changing Earth with a focus on boundary layer clouds. At home, he explores how dramatically reducing carbon emissions can lead to a happier, more connected life. His new book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, is due out in August.

Peter volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a group focused on implementing carbon fee and dividend. 

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
Better-Looking Rooftop Solar Panels
New Thinking To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

April 24, 2018

Word from a long ago love, friend or acquaintance could arrive this morning. Venus is on the move, transition from the last degree of Taurus into charming Gemini during the noon hour. Don’t be surprised by an encounter that makes your heart sing…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

April 2018

Usui Holy Fire II Reiki I Prerequisite: a desire to learn Reiki Study includes the history of Reiki, the Reiki principles, the hand positions used to give Reiki to yourself and to others,...

Cost: $175 (pre-registration required)

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
Website »

More information

Sunday yoga is back! Hatha Yoga with meditation to get you ready to tackle your spring intentions. Sign up for series or drop in. 

Cost: $75/5 classes; drop in $17.00

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Rd
Devens, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Dragonfly Wellness Center
Telephone: 978-227-8297
Contact Name: Anita Perry
Website »

More information

Have you done yoga before but feel a little rusty? Haven't been on your mat in a while? Yoga Basics is a great place to begin again. Do you feel you need motivation to jump-start your...

Cost: $60

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This workshop is part of the At the Heart of the Matter: a series of workshops about all things HEART. How do we connect with our hearts? And what keeps us from staying connected? In this...

Cost: $35

Where:
Newtonville, MA


Telephone: 617-913-0683
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Feel the bliss of opening your spine, while being totally supported and meticulously aligned. Great for sciatica and low back pain! Classes also held Saturday mornings.

Cost: $18 drop in

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

As springtime rolls around, many of us get out our trash bags, buckets, and boxes in order to clean out and tidy up our homes and offices. Physically cleaning our spaces is great and all, but did...

Cost: Free

Where:
WeWork
31 St. James Ave
Boston, MA  02116
View map »


Sponsor: The Kabbalah Center
Website »

More information

Ayurvedic practitioner. Presenting a 28-day program designed to initiate and maximize detoxification and nourishment of your body, mind and soul, inspiring results that can last a lifetime. For...

Where:
Concord, MA


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This workshop is part of the At the Heart of the Matter: a series of workshops about all things HEART. What does it mean to be deeply touched inside? To feel something deeply? To be connected?...

Cost: $35

Where:
Newtonville, MA


Telephone: 617-913-0683
Website »

More information

Join Mediums Laura Wooster and Andrew Dee for an evening of mediumship! In addition to sharing how you also can become more aware of your connection to passed loved ones, Laura and Andrew will...

Cost: $40

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01835
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

YogaLife studio would like to offer this opportunity to slow it down, step back, notice your breath and sit quietly in community. Join us Thursdays from 5:40-6:30 PM. No Yoga...

Cost: Free

Where:
YogaLife Institute
6 Chestnut Street
Suite A
Exeter, MA  03833
View map »


Telephone: 603-969-8968
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ann Barker will be seeing clients on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th at Balance Bethlehem. Call to book your appointment today! This non-invasive screening utilizes a thermal...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
View map »


Sponsor: Ann Barker
Telephone: 603-897-9645
Website »

More information

Friday, April 27 - Sunday, April 29, 2018 April Ropes and Ritu Kapur Sohum’s 3rd Annual Retreat will be offered in Beautiful Berkshires, The Spirit Fire Meditative Retreat Center in...

Cost: $385

Where:
Spirit Fire Retreat Center
407 W. Leyden Road
Leyden, MA  01337
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

April 27 - 29, 2018 What if there were 5 love languages in the bedroom…and you had a secret decoder ring? Imagine the erotic satisfaction you could unlock…for yourself and for...

Cost: $1097*/couple; Early bird $997* by Feb 14, 2018

Where:
Angel’s Rest Retreat Center
63 North County Road
Leyden, MA  01301
View map »


Sponsor: Conscious Intimacy
Telephone: 415-244-1652
Contact Name: Brynn Bishop
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ann Barker will be seeing clients on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th at Balance Bethlehem. Call to book your appointment today! This non-invasive screening utilizes a thermal...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
View map »


Sponsor: Ann Barker
Telephone: 603-897-9645
Website »

More information

India Discovery Center is pleased to announce the next seminar in the “Let us explore the Cultural History of India.” The fourth event entitled “Seminar on the Golden Period,...

Cost: $20

Where:
Bemis Hall
15 Bedford Road
Lincoln, MA  01773
View map »


Sponsor: India Discovery Center
Telephone: 781-259-0029
Contact Name: Bijoy Misra
Website »

More information

World Qigong Taichi Day is celebrated globally, and at Eastover, it is a day of free presentations, demonstrations and mini-classes offered by nationally recognized leaders in Taichi, Qigong,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Sponsor: Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

April 28 - 29, 2018 Led by Marconics Teacher Practitioners:  Josh Brotherton and Nadine Muhammad To register:  From US:  Tel: 774-987-9449 Email: yourhealinglight@gmail.com...

Cost: $450

Where:
Suffield Massage Therapy and Wellness Center
230 Mountain Rd
Suffield, CT  06078
View map »


Sponsor: Marconics
Telephone: 774-987-9449
Contact Name: Josh Brotherton
Website »

More information

With award winning author Nancy Smith. Starts April 28th, 7-month certification program about Akashic records. One Saturday a month, 10am - 4pm. womenofwisdominc.com

Cost: $860

Where:
Women of Wisdom
North Easton, MA


Telephone: 508-230-3860
Website »

More information

Be a part of healing history! The last saturday of April each year in hundreds of cities, spanning over 80 nations, people come together…to breath together and provide a healing vision...

Cost: Free

Where:
Elm Park
Russell St
Worcester, MA  01609
View map »


Sponsor: Kung Fu & Tai Chi Academy of New England
Telephone: (774) 321-6611
Contact Name: Sifu Gary
Website »

More information

2018 Eclectic-Fest! Our fourth event that is building community, celebrating all spiritual beliefs and practice. Free parking and free admission. Featuring aura photography by the...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Taunton V.F.W.
82 Ingell Street
Taunton, MA  02780


Sponsor: The Enchanted Forest Taunton
Telephone: 774-208-6195
Contact Name: Brother Granite
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags