1. What do you do?
Conservationist-Author-Innkeeer-Student-Teacher-Spouse-Photographer-Philosopher-Muffin Baker-Recycler-Bioneer . . . .
Our lives and our work - what it is that we "do" - doesn't fit into a neat package. Passions blend, interests overlap, and traditional notions of "work" and "play" merge. Likewise, our personal values are the core ingredient of everything we do: locating a bathroom tile made from recycled auto-windshield glass for the B&B; helping foster and support a nation of ecopreneurs eager to thrive in the emerging restoration economy; hand-weeding our gardens; preparing seasonal, fresh and organic breakfasts for our guests; serving Equal Exchange organic shade-grown coffee to our guests and visitors in hand-crafted Inn Serendiptiy mugs.
At one point in our life, we had confused purpose with profits and ignored our personal values as we commuted to and profited from mainstream corporate jobs. Not for long. As the sterile cubicle sucked our soul dry, we knew we had to change. Change our lifestyle, our livelihood, our lunch options. Today we have evolved - and continue to evolve - at a place based on the five acres we share with the rest of nature and where we try to make mindful choices that let our values and commitment to the Seventh Generation permeate both our business pursuits and our daily lives. Living closer to the land, eating lower on the food chain, participating in our community. Every day is Earth Day, or Christmas Day, or ...
Following a more sustainable path is not a straight, predictable, or perfect journey. Life doesn't come with an instruction manual and it's full of paradoxes. Serendipitous discoveries, inspiring detours and unexpected encounters all blend together in a batter that bakes into this abundance called life. Some of the projects and passions that currently stretch our mind, body and soul include:
* Sustainable Agriculture: With every seed we plant and squash we harvest, we rally for sustainable agriculture. Lisa's agricultural passions focus on supporting women transforming our food system. She founded and directs the Rural Women's Project (RWP), a venture of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), championing women farmers and food-based ecopreneurs by providing resources, networking and collaborative opportunities to inspire new business start-ups that support food system change. Additionally, the RWP serves as a national leader in the women in sustainable agriculture movement, supporting a collective voice, collaborative vision and leadeship opportunities for women. RWP projects include women farming training (including on-farm workshops such as "In Her Boots: Sustainable Farming For Women, By Women" and land conservation training), facilitating the Women, Food and Agriculture Network - Wisconsin (WFAN-WI) which connects Wisconsn women committed to sustainable agriculture, media connections and educational outreach.
* Conservation & Stewardship: How do we protect, conserve and restore our diminishing and increasingly degraded environment in a fast-forwarding world of development and consumption? Our first step was to farm organically at our Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast and Farm, eventually adding a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine and .7 kW photovoltaic system to completely meet our electricity needs. In 2000 we established Inn Serendipity Woods, a 30-acre wildlife sanctuary and retreat facility, in the hills of Vernon County, Wisconin. We now manage the woods on the property to enhance biodiversity, wildlife and forest health. There's a riparian buffer and we've implemented "timber stand improvements," or TSI. Recognizing our environmental impacts from travel, and that of our guests, we now support Trees for the Future and their Trees for Travel program to ameliorate some of carbon dioxide added to the atmostphere with every mile driven or flown.
* Renewable Energy Education: It's tough to teach what you don't know or do. Our renewable energy educational work is "reality based." What can the average person or family, like ourselves, with limited expertise and budgets, do in their own home or business to live more sustainably on our planet? By "sustainable," we're talking about how can enhance and restore the very living systems on which our survival depends. Inn Serendipity continues as an evolving educational resource, with a solar hot water heating system, wood stove for heat, energy efficient appliances, creative use of recycled materials and incorporates other "green design" strategies. We've "renewed" a century-old corn crib granary by rehabing it into an active solar straw bale greenhouse. Recognized as an award-winning Energy Star Small Business, we also support the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) and have facilitated workshops at their Energy Fair -- the world's largest -- on topics ranging from sustainable living on a farm to children's sessions focusing on diversity issues inspired by John's award-winning children's books like Be My Neighbor and To Be an Artist.
* Celebrating Diversity: Working with the Global Fund for Children, John is the co-author of numerous award-winning children's photobooks, including To Be an Artist, Animal Friends, To Be a Kid and Be My Neighbor (Charlesbridge Publishing). The Global Fund for Children develops innovative books that give children insight into cultural, social and environmental diversity while also celebrating both diversity and those things we all share in common. Proceeds from the books benefit the nonprofit organization that helps young people develop the knowledge and skills they need to become productive, caring members of our global society. When it comes down to it, economic, social and environmental justice must be served. Is that not the same as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
2. Who or what inspired you to take on this work?
Seeds of inspiration find their way into our garden of life through a variety of sources:
Nature: The first spring green chives peeking through the winter snow, sunrise over Lake Matheson in New Zealand, the rugged Scottish Highlands, baby kittens chasing grasshoppers.
People: Paul Hawken, Anita Roddick, late night conversations with B&B guests and friends around the campfire, Paul & Nell Newman, Jimmy Carter, kids enthusiastically picking raspberries in the garden, Ralph Nader, our neighbors and surrounding community, Thomas Jefferson, Steven Spielberg, Julia Butterfly Hill.
Creative Artists and Sights, Sounds & Words: State of the World, "Mindwalk", the writings of Bill McKibben or Anna Quindlen or Daniel Quinn, Enya, "What Dreams May Come," all the discovery possible during travel, various conferences and community shared events, most recently the mind-blowing Bioneers Conference in San Raphel, CA.
Sensory: The smell of brewing java, Organic Valley Family of Farms' Yogurt, sledding down airport hill, skinny dipping in the pond at Inn Serendipity Woods, holding a warm, freshly-laid chicken egg, Eve's Temptation Serendipitea, curried pumpkin soup, rBGH-free dairy products, a rainforest, any recipe out of our Farmstead Chef cookbook. Okay, so we love great food!
3. What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing can keep Lisa awake at night; don't try to have a coherent conversation with her after about 9:30 PM. John is the night owl, working into the wee hours to complete an article, edit his photos or perhaps trying to figure out the details on building the strawbale greenhouse. But check back a couple of hours later and you'll find Lisa the early riser, up before dawn and firing up the laptop. These different biorhythms may keep our husband-and-wife partnership sane with a little individual "space," but whether late night or early morning, we are both fueled by the desire to create, to do, to write, to teach, to listen, to be.
The term "simple living" gets a lot of media attention and, at first glance, we tend to get lumped into this movement of folks yearning for placidity and balance, hammock novel reading fueled by an overdose of herbal tea. But out goal isn't to have a decaffeinated life journey, but rather one fueled by vision, hope, passion, and an unremitting commitment to leave this world a better place. It is easier, "simpler," to just super-size your soda at the lunch counter than super-size your dreams. The latter keeps you up at night drawing inspiration from the starry skies, butt-kicks you out of bed in the morning, challenges your community and espressos the soul.
4. What do you know now that you didn't know when you started?
Oodles of practical knowledge. Oh, so that is what a potato plant looks like. No, chickens really don't cross the road. If you don't pick the grapes before September 1, the raccoons will have a feast. Wow, that solar hot water heating system can really kick butt in January. FedEx will find you, eventually. Stock up on Thai noodles when you're in the city. And, most importantly, we learned that positive energy attracts positive energy. The more we grow our community, the more people with whom we share our life, the more bountiful our harvest. The more questions we ask, the more seeds we plant, the greater the end result. Nature tends to thrive in diversified abundance, as do we. Funny, but the more zucchini you give away, the more you receive.
5. What gives you hope?
Kids chasing chickens around the barn. That moment right before sunset, when the light dances in between the old beams in the nineteenth century dairy barn loft creating a cathedral of inspiration. The first asparagus of the spring season, picked and eaten raw right in the middle of the asparagus patch. The fired up woodstove in winter, just as the snow blankets the world outside and turns everything into a ghost of itself. Our B&B guests and visitors. Like the dew droplets collecting on a spider's web, the farm is our suncatcher for infusing hope, creating moments, experiences and discoveries that reaffirm goodness in this world. The farm exudes life, revealing nature as an interdependent and interconnected whole in which we each play a role. The land renews, nurtures, heals, sustains and teaches.
Perhaps John Lennon said it best, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world shall live as one."