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Living Close to The Land

Celebrating Our
Twentieth Year!

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?

A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.

by Orren Whiddon

Personally, I was first introduced to these concepts by a wise high school teacher who assigned me to read the original “Limits to Growth” report of 1974. The conclusions drawn by that report, which I have essentially presented above, hit me like a thunderbolt, followed immediately by the first global oil crisis of 1973-74. In those times there was a lively public discussion around issues of industrial sustainability, renewable energy systems and “Back to the Land Self Sufficiency.” I determined on a technical education to focus on renewable energy systems, and spent four years helping to build what was then the largest array of photovoltaic panels in the world.


Making Changes
Kate Burlette

“It is a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.” -Dalai Lama

Boy, it’s getting tough out there. Everyday we hear about another bank, another company going under. We see the unemployment numbers rising, homeowners in crisis, and feel the pain of it all when we try to buy our groceries.

Peak oil, economic crises, global warming, even seed shortages ...yep we’ve got it all. Perverse consumption, consumerism and a culture that feeds on instant gratification are all symptoms of what I believe has caused the situation we now find ourselves in. And until we realize why we got into this mess in the first place, I don’t think we can effectively change our way of doing things.


Grow Your Own
by Cathy Rich

Canning_TomatoesSml     My husband and I are growing more Earth Aware these days; we recycle, compost, have an outside garden, greenhouse, and a growing herb garden inside. We’re not nature activists or environmentalists per se. But we are Earth Spiritualists who recognize the importance of giving back as we take. We consider ourselves stewards of the land and do what we can to take care of our little portion of Mother Earth. For example, each Yule for the past three years we have purchased a live dwarf evergreen tree to transplant after the holidays. More and more these days, we are hearing, “the economy is bad, save wherever you can.” Gas prices are higher. Grocery prices are going up, too. Cutting corners and tightening purse strings is not always that easy, but let me share with you a way that is quite easy, not terribly expensive and is enjoyable.

     A few years ago my thumb was any color but green. I had the seemingly black thumb of death; even plastic plants in my apartment could not survive. I didn’t know the difference  between basil and sage. That all changed after I met my husband and our Wiccan study group held a workshop on growing herbs. Herb gardening is a pretty inexpensive hobby and the more you do it, the more you learn. And I have found, helps to feed my spirit as I develop a deeper connection with the Earth.


Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary 190 Walker Lane Artemas PA 17211 USA 814-784-3080 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an InterFaith Non-Denominational Church, Monastery and Spiritual Retreat Center.
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