Evan P. Schneider, M.A. ’07, is the editor of The Best of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac; author of the novel, A Simple Machine, Like the Lever; and co-creator of Hive of Industry, a blog he maintains with his wife, Judith Edwards. Hive of Industry chronicles the pair’s efforts to live frugally and sustainably. Here, Schneider shares the ideas and values that inform the lifestyle they’ve chosen, along with a selection of photos depicting their urban homestead, the food they produce there, and the Pacific Northwest landscape that inspires them.
By Marybeth Reilly-McGreen
WHY WE DO IT
We are committed to subtly encouraging and exploring a slower, more intentional, earth-based lifestyle. There are a multitude of benefits for local and global communities when people are more directly involved in their own subsistence.
HOMESTEADING IN THE MODERN WORLD
We wanted to find a piece of property outside of Portland, Oregon, where we could dive headlong into our dream of having a mini-farm and producing our own food. We found a house on a moderately-sized lot within the city–in the Montavilla neighborhood of southeast Portland–and promptly dug up almost every inch of lawn for garden space. Now that we’ve been through a few years of prolific urban gardening, we’re grateful we eased into self-supporting on a smaller scale. There is a steep learning curve in growing food, and in living frugally, and it’s often overwhelming–at least for beginners like us.
FRUGALITY FOR FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE
It was driven by necessity. Being real about our finances and giving ourselves permission to live with less, pay off our debt, and rethink a money-driven existence felt incredibly freeing. What we keep returning to is the joy we experience by doing things ourselves and living with less.
Our most consistent source of inspiration is being outside.
Helen and Scott Nearing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Dolly Freed–and others like them who have worked diligently over the last century or two to remind humankind how we might live in tandem with the planet, more like our ancestors did, rather than perpetuating the belief that the Earth is ours to do with as we please. Our most consistent source of inspiration is being outside–hiking, camping, and backpacking–as well as ambling through the countryside and seeing farms and open landscapes.
There is a steep learning curve in growing food, and in living frugally.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
It sounds precious, but even the process of planting a seed and watching it sprout–then seeing it thrive or struggle–teaches you so much about the Earth’s patterns, pressures, and complexities. We’re pleased that, on the whole, people have reacted very positively to our experiment. We hope that our work will speak for itself and draw people in and make them wonder if they’re capable of doing something similar (hint–they are!). It’s encouraging to see people look at their lives a little differently after seeing what we’re up to.
THE VALUE OF MY URI EDUCATION
At URI, I worked very closely with Department of English faculty, including J. Jennifer Jones, Marty Rojas, and Carolyn Betensky, each of whom in their own way helped shape the person, the writer, and the professional I am today. I am grateful for their insights, instruction, and encouragement. In addition, Stephen Barber’s passion for theory and his ability to take tightly tangled philosophical texts and give them life made him one of the highlights of my time at URI.
We wanted to hear from others and be part of a useful and inspiring discussion.
WHAT MAY COME
We started our blog and Instagram account in June of 2014. More than just sharing information and photographs, we wanted to hear from others and be part of a useful and inspiring discussion–and social media allows us to achieve that in ways traditional print media doesn’t. We don’t know how the story ends yet–we’re still very much in the midst of trying things out and laying the groundwork for how to move forward. One of the most intriguing aspects of storytelling via blogs and social media, we think, is that they are stories being told in real time by real people living them. In The Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearing’s aim was “to present a technical, economic, sociological, and psychological report on what we tried to do, how we did it, and how well or ill we succeeded in achieving our purposes.” That, for us, was a noble experiment, and one that we wanted to try in a different century with different challenges. The Nearings gave it more than 50 years. So get back to us in 45. •
Follow Evan and Judith on Instagram: @hiveofindustry