Living Close to The Land
Orren Whiddon

        For those of us who live at Four Quarters, simplicity has always been a way of life, either through necessity or foresight. In the early years we relied on gifts of food and clothing from Members simply to survive and make it through the hard winter into the next season. By the turn of the millennium times were easier, and we focused on maximizing the money available for the camp by minimizing our living costs. Five years ago we began a very conscious effort to put into practice the skills required for long-term adaptation to the emerging Age of Limits. It has been a process that began from simple need and has grown to be seen by us as an integral part of our Earth Spirituality.

         We have learned a lot over the past ten years, and we have quite a few “facts on the ground” to show for it. Energy efficient buildings, gardens, orchards, root cellars, tools and equipment. As important as the physical is the social, the mechanics of how a diverse group of people can come to share their everyday living needs and arrangements in an emotionally and financial productive way. And as we have learned on our local level we have expanded our understanding of the global predicament, the exponentially growing ecological load on our very finite planet. The Age of Limits.

         Ours is a rural strategy, obviously; but we believe there are urban strategies of “Power Down” that are just as valid. And we use the word strategy, because the challenge before us is that of evolving adaptations to address how we live and interact with the planet. It is not a set problem that is amenable to a set solution.

In the beginning, it is a matter of education as to the nature of the global predicament and how each of us are tied into that web of cause and effect. How the sum of our small everyday choices have huge ramifications. Once we reach an understanding of that big picture, we can begin learning about the small, but important changes we can make in our choices. Many of these choices are technical in nature and range through our options in more efficient transportation, housing and personal energy generation. Others are cultural-financial and often reflect what we chose to stop doing and stop consuming. Finally, the deepest choices are social, how we interact with those closest to us and to the global society of which we are a part.

We living here at Four Quarters are under no illusions that there are quick and easy answers, but we know from our own experience that it is important to start somewhere, sometime. And that place is here and now. Four Quarters  is our start in taking on a larger mission, personally and as an organization.


We want to share what we have already learned of the nitty-gritty of sustainable country living, and we want to increase that storehouse of knowledge. We want to identify and develop the strategies of adaptation that are appropriate to the urban setting too. We believe that there must be a broad mix, that there is no “one way.” Gardening techniques vary between the city and the country, and an amazing amount of food can be grown and stored in a small city house. Where to start, how to begin? Some may have the financial resources for large scale grid-tied photovoltaic systems, while others will will need the basic hand skills to wire up a system for their laptop and a light. Solar thermal systems can be equally complex or simple, and great savings are possible through simple details. How do they work, what does it take? Very sophisticated automobiles are in the offing, but transportation efficiency is also as deep as choosing to live where you work. And the deepest response is how you live, day to day. Understanding the global picture and making preparation.    

Earth Living will not develop overnight, it will take years to create the content and infrastructure required of a teaching center. It is not a money making project and is very long term, like much else that we do here at Four Quarters. But we are well under way with what has already been learned and created, and the need is pressing.

In the near future we hope to have installed the beginnings of active solar thermal, photovoltaic and windmill systems; and with our shops we can show you how to build and understand these systems. In our gardens we can range from small to large scale food production with bio-char generation for soil remediation. And it may be that a CSA from our gardens will be in the offing for the Members. We hope to organize our first full weekend intensive for the fall of this year, to focus on the fundamental issues of global resource depletion. And we will soon begin a complete redesign of the Four Quarters websites, with the goal of recreating them as information access portals for issues of Earth Spirituality and Earth Living.

For the time being The Center will operate under the Four Quarters non-profit umbrella, but it may be that in time it will spin off into its own non-profit. We would appreciate hearing about your own concerns and interests, what kind of programming would benefit you and your family and how you would like to see the Center for Earth Living become a part of the mission of Four Quarters.

Earth Living through Earth Spirit.

What could be more natural?