It’s been a while since we last chatted and a lot has gone on here in the gorgeous Mojave Desert at the Sustainable Learning Center (SLC).  We had a spectacular wild flower bloom this Spring- with the purples, yellows and reds flowing down into our back door. A lovely reminder of why we did not clear our building lot and left nature to do its thing (Minimizing our Ecological Footprint).

We definitely gave it “the old school-boy try” this summer in our quest to implement the principles of natural design and at least make the inside of our home livable, as we venture into another winter- it seems that full-time camping has lost its appeal especially for the ole wife!

The hours of good, honest physical labor gave me plenty of time to consider the thinking behind Natural Design (also called sustainable design, green design or ecological design). It all starts with the realization that our modern building and lifestyle are out of sync with our ecosystem and who we are- I honestly believe that most people come home after a rough day thinking more about when the mortgage is due, and the “honey dos” rather than feeling a sense of connection, comfort and overall peace in their homes, their way of life and families.

Eight years ago, Tammy and I decided to put all the talk into practice, and begin to live green. We left a comfortable house and a middle-class lifestyle in Apple Valley to test ideas of natural design (very shaky back then) and a way of life that was more sustainable. I had been teaching the values and principles behind the sustainable development movement for years but it was time to put these ideas into action. For us these principles revolve around being good caretakers, stewardship of nature, our stuff, and most importantly the people around us.

The literature will tell you that Natural Design like all sustainability practices depends very much on your context and that the first step is to get connected and understand that context. Our first step happened by accident, out mountain biking one day, I noticed a “For Sale” on five acres of undeveloped, undisturbed and just plain awesome land here in the Mojave. Our special place is only six miles from town but amazingly cut off from the hustle and bustle of the 300,000 people that now live in the Victor Valley, California. Spent time enjoying and learning from the Creosote Scrub and Joshua Woodland communities and the incredible diversity of critters that “tough it out” here. One of the basic principles is to mimic nature, or use nature as a teacher. For us in the Mojave, why not take a lesson from the world’s cutest rodent the Kangaroo Rat and build our house into the 62 degree, year-round, hillside and allow that to moderate the wide swings in temperature?

Today we are talking natural/clay plastering, hard work but lots of fun and great stuff in terms of recycling and using local materials. The secret ingredient is horse manure that is often used as cover on local garbage dumps and is a significant source of methane, a 25 times worse greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide. Mix that with clay from a local dry-lake and some sand and you are in business.

Although we realize you all don’t have the opportunity to start building from scratch as we have done, we hope that this blog will inspire you to personalize and change something about the way you live and experience that wonderful feeling of contributing to a sustainable future.