Oh to live simply in the country; chickens clucking about, delivering eggs for breakfast; fruit and vegetables picked daily from the vine, placed fresh on the kitchen table; moonshine sucked straight from the still.
Though it certainly sounds idyllic, the reality is, living in the city precludes such wonders of nature, right?
Wrong. Just ask Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne how they turned their cozy Silver Lake home into an “Urban homestead.”
Or read their book, The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, which Knutzen is signing at The Environmental Change-Makers meeting, taking place Thursday, November 20th, in Westchester.
The Change-Makers are a circle of committed community members who meet on the fourth Thursday of every month. The goal of the group is to do precisely what their name implies: make changes.
According to co-founder Joanne Poyourow, the Change-Makers bring together neighbors, “who are interested in living greener, and interested in planning for our inevitable post-oil future. Through the group, we no longer feel alone as we plant vegetables, try out bicycle transportation, install rainwater harvesting, and take other steps toward making our lifestyles more sustainable.”
Poyourow initially found Knutzen by reading his blog, Homegrown Evolution: Vegetables, Chickens, Hooch, Bicycles and Cultural Alchemy.
Besides having a flair for titles, Knutzen appeals to would-be environmentalists on an economic level.
“In a way, this is a home economics book,” Knutsen says. “Growing your own food, cooking your own food, making your own beer, your own pickles—these are all money savers.”
At this month’s meeting, Knutzen delivers a PowerPoint presentation, or as he says, “what used to be called a slide show.” He’ll detail ten simple transformations which every household can do to create “a more self-reliant lifestyle.”
Knutzen will describe how to use natural cleaning products instead of “household poisons,” how to grow your own food even if you live in an apartment, and how fermentation “is a symbol of transformation, of what we can do to transform the world.”
Any meeting that makes beer a transformative symbol is probably one worth checking out.
The Change-Makers have had many a meeting worth attending.
“They not only talk about what needs to happen, but they also get down to work and do things, like creating a garden to demonstrate how to do it and what can be achieved,” says Vidya Chaitany, director of Sivananda Yoga Center in Marina del Rey, who has attended a number of Change-Maker meetings. “It is very empowering for people to work with each other and realize that they can make small changes that can make a difference.”
At times, the environmental movement can seem a lot like a nagging mother. Knutzen and the Change-Makers seek to alleviate the guilt and play up the empowerment. “The environmental movement, like so many other movements in America is way too puritanical, yet many people, I think, find our culture’s emphasis on consumerism to be lacking.
“I’d rather think in terms of the pursuit of happiness, the search for a life based on truth, liberty, equality, a respect for each other and the natural world. In short a life of authenticity and the joy that comes with self-reliance, being able to create better households and better communities.”
All good reasons, of course. But perhaps not entertaining enough? According to Poyourow, “It’s fun to reach out to others, to connect, and to share environmental solutions.”
Homemade hooch certainly adds to the fun.
Thursday, November 20, 7 to 9 p.m., at The Holy Nativity Church at 6700 W. 83rd St., Westchester. (310) 670-4777. Free and open to all. Information, (310) 670-4777.