The Road West
So in May of 2010, I made the choice. I quit my job after saving up several thousand dollars, again packed what I could fit in my Honda Accord (which wasn’t much), only this time including my partner, and two other friends Nova and Zandor whom I knew through the sustainable habitat program called the SHIRE, and drove to California to attend a sustainability festival. We never made it.
Zandor, the original driving force behind the formation of the SHIRE, expressed his displeasure with the project and the direction it was heading, and voiced his need to separate himself from it. In my naïve enthusiasm, I offered to take on his duties and responsibilities as President of the Board of Directors. He agreed, and sent an email the following week to the rest of the Board.
My first project as President was building a composting toilet on a friend’s land in California. They were having trouble with their septic system. Our traveling crew offered to build them a composting toilet. The structure was about 2 meters tall, an elevated throne that dropped down into a pit, where the humanure would decompose for two years, when it could then be used as fertilizer. As long as sawdust (or rice hulls or corn husks or what have you) covered each deposit, there is no offending smell. I oversaw the ground leveled, the primary structure put up from scraps we found laying around the property, and finally the walls enclosed using waddle & cob, woven sticks with a mud and straw mixture. It was a beautiful building when we were finished. I felt so proud of myself, and grateful still to have people around me who were competent builders.
Instead of returning to Texas, I opted out of the broiling heat and thought my time would be better spent back East, gathering myself together and preparing for my responsibilities as President. I returned to Chestertown and spent the remainder of the summer there, repainting several rooms of the house and doing general maintenance around the property. With my new lenses and excitement about the possibilities of living sustainably, I appealed to the three owners at the time, my grandmother and her two sisters, about the value of the property and how it could be turned into a productive space, instead of a one month a year rental property. I was rejected and, heartbroken, returned to Texas.
On the way back to Texas I picked up my best friend Ross, who had just graduated Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Fresh to freedom, we stopped in the Everglades, Florida, to visit our marine biologist friend Sara, who gave us a tour of the glades and the beaches. Our last stop before reaching Austin was two days in New Orleans, walking around the city and enjoying the delights of the South. At the end of September 2010, I was back in Austin and officially moved into the Hundred Acre Wood.