I'm creating an anti-fragile family. And it starts with our home.
The makeshift office in my front room looks like a collector’s nightmare. Books have been thrown about, landing everywhere except the bookshelves. Musical instruments rest on top of an easel that hasn’t been used in forever. They all cover drawings and post-its and articles taped to the walls or lost to the clutter of the floor. The one bare spot in the entire office is the too-thin black console table that serves as my desk. That marked surface props up a lone sheet of translucent tracing paper.
This paper is a memento of a future I promise myself every time I feel lost. I’m reminding myself to build an anti-fragile life: through self-reliance, harmony, and intentionality.
The lessons I want to pass on are written in comically crooked graphite lines on the page. My not-so-silent acts of defiance are right there. As are my plans to mold my children into men and women that even Wim Hoff would swoon over.
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My first goal is to become self-reliant at home. I’ve seen too many friends decide between eating healthy food or paying for their child’s medical care. That isn’t going to be me.
The circles outlining the perimeter of our yard catch my eye immediately. Those circles represent our orchard. I want pear, cherry, and apple trees. My children want crabapples. We’ll probably have 3 crabapple trees for every pear or Honeycrisp tree. But what really matters is that we’ll stop wondering if every apple was grown using fertilizers and pesticides. Because it’ll be our apple, from soil to mouth.
Nestled in between those circles, a small rectangle barely announces itself. That’s my greenhouse, where I can start seedlings before the weather has declared it’s ready. I plan to use it as a laboratory for growing native varieties. It’ll extend our growing season three months on either side. Eating our own food is more than just a summer activity; it’s the life I want.
The overgrown octopus right in the middle is our food forest. I’ll grow the three sisters – squash, beans, and corn – as well as broccoli, carrots, strawberries, garlic, cabbage, lettuce, herbs, and whatever else roots into my mind. This space is intended to provide 90% of our food, supplemented with local farmers and ranchers in our community.
By becoming self-reliant, I’m becoming anti-fragile. And my kids are going to be a part of that.
My second goal is to find how to live in harmony with the land. For too long, the point of my yard was to keep animals (including pesky neighbors) out. I’ve taken what I could and never given back more than a flower bed worth of synthetic fertilizer. I’m not alone. Most of us were taught that way. Which is what got us into this climate catastrophe in the first place.
This is my act of defiance: to figure out how to live better.
This paper is my plan to build a continuous cycle, including my family as humans who both add to the place and benefit from it. Our permaculture design consultant helped me plan curved walkways with more natural edges, a compost area near the greenhouse, a rainwater collection tank, and a wildflower garden in our septic drain field.
We still have a lot of hard work and failed experiments in front of us. But as we fail, I hope we cultivate a closer relationship with nature. I want this place to inspire others to do the same. Every revolution starts with a single voice.
My final goal is to hone my mindset. I felt disconnected from myself in the modern world. I had come to rely on others to solve my problems, help me, or save me when I needed to take responsibility for my own well-being. I had a mindset of a helpless victim at home while presenting an image of success to the world.
I’m becoming confident and competent in my home. I am learning the skills to help myself and others. And I plan to teach that self-reliant confidence to my kids. Think Henry David Thoreau meets Bob Villa.
Steel doesn’t become strong naturally; it needs fire. In the same way, I can’t gain those skills and confidence by reading a book. This plan is my fire — my challenge to learn with tangible goals and outcomes. On this page are my actions to master my axe, cut limbs and ER visits be damned.
If this sounds like hard work, it’s supposed to be. That’s the point. My kids and I will earn every bite, scrape, bruise, and swear word as we intimately commune with nature. Not out of some idealized fantasy of returning to the land. Because I’m raising them to have confidence, and nature is the best teacher I’ve met.
This paper is my life plan to bring about a better future. For myself, my family, and my community of friends. I’m not naive enough to believe it will change everyone’s relationship with nature, but I want to believe that optimism, sprinkled with some good work and a bit of confidence, can inspire the next person.