I’ve had this book out from the library the past few weeks, but after test-driving it, I just emailed Kathleen at Bookmamas to ask her to order it for me. It’s a keeper. Here’s my review:
Wendy Tremayne’s The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-on Living gives a powerful example of a reimagined world in the shape of one couple’s desert homesteading adventures.Many of us work toward self-sufficiency (or better, community-wide resilience, broadening the circle from homestead to neighborhood). But we’re hampered by the need to make money to prop up our lifestyles, cutting into the time we have to learn and practice new skills. Wendy and partner Mikey demonstrate what is possible by leaping into a completely new way of life. They cash out their retirement accounts (a prescient move, before the crash) and transplant themselves into Truth or Consequences, NM to build a new life.
And build they do: using waste materials and nature’s bounty, they craft a beautiful, abundant, interconnected home base that allows them to live their deepest values.
In contrast to some “green lifestyle” books that focus on giving up luxuries for the earth’s sake, this book offers an exuberant romp through the reclamation of life’s biggest gifts: time, beauty, creativity, connection, purpose. More than just a memoir, it is an invitation to adopt the “maker” mindset. Tremayne’s lyrical descriptions of the spiritual aspects of this journey, coupled with the gorgeous, whimsical artwork and photographs, make this an inspirational book.
The author (who founded Swap-O-Rama-Rama, a community-based textile repurposing/skill sharing extravaganza) observes, “When all of life is for sale, it is a revolutionary act to become a maker of things.” She describes “life in the waste stream” as the ultimate freedom.
“By relying on waste, on what nature provides, and on ourselves, we gave the world a chance to demonstrate abundance. By becoming makers of things, we let our creativity become a transformative link between the free materials available to us and the finished goods that made our lives better.”
She notes that mistakes are part of this process, and describes combatting the inevitable “I can’t do that” by simply taking the next step. For those of us who consider ourselves less than handy (ahem), the book offers both challenge and a roadmap. The last section, in fact, provides concrete steps toward reclaiming the building blocks of life, covering food, power generation, fuel, and shelter.
The physical book itself embodies the new world by its very design, in which art and joy and utility are married into a brilliant manifesto.
In short: Stop what you are doing and order one now from your local independent bookstore, people!
(Can’t wait till your book arrives? Hungry for more after reading it? Check out Wendy and Mikey’s blog at Holy Scrap.)