The CELC year-end adventure ties into our annual thematic study. This year: Ecology and Sustainability. KROKA Expeditions in Marlow, New Hampshire, whose motto “where consciousness meets wilderness”, became the perfect choice to integrate and truly experience sustainable living.
Leaving Connecticut along Interstate 91-North, we noticed the landscape change and soon were amidst open fields, old-style farmhouse scenery, wooded landscape, and winding country roads. KROKA itself is situated upon a hillside. There is a large farmhouse where the director and his family live, a post and beam barn, a winding wooden pathway crossing through the large campus, gardens, a greenhouse, chickens, and a pasture with two cows and a horse. All the camp dwellings are hand built by staff, along with students, and are a combination of yurts, tent platforms, and unique Scandinavian or Cree Indian-style “hobbit houses”; we were assigned to the latter. The directors believe in learning by doing and want students to be part of the construction, using real tools, helping to plan the design, figuring the dimensions, taking measurements, etc. All is done with care for the type of materials that will be most pleasing, long-lasting, and have the least environmental impact. Locally grown timber or trees that are cut to size from the land at KROKA are all considered.
The “hobbit houses” are crafted using 300 or so carefully peeled (mostly Hemlock) tree trunks; these huts are built in the round and made to become part of the land, literally built into the shape of the land, with sod and grass growing over the hut on all sides. The wooden doorways are small, giving the hut part of its charm and character, and lead into a large open area that is covered in pine boughs for comfortable sleeping. Each hut also has its own wood stove and a skylight and/or windows.
Overall, KROKA was a perfect choice. We all became more conscious of our water use, our ability to live without wasting resources, and more interested and able to incorporate everything we used back into something that could be used again. We developed greater understanding about healthy choices, such as eating locally-grown foods and finding ways to use similar ingredients to make a great variety of delicious and hearty meals. To fill one’s plate with only the amount one can eat, and not let food go to waste. Of course, compost is a must and so is licking one’s plate before sending it into the wash basin. We were able to live with minimal impact. One of the clearest examples of this was the water use. Without the faucet to turn on and let run, water did not flow freely, yet we all discovered how much less water we could use to accomplish the same tasks.
Misha, the camp’s co-founder, gave students a class on sustainability. He spoke of how we obtain water, a shallow versus a deep well (the underground streams versus the aquifer). He spoke of the choices he makes, and the way one decision affects another. He impressed upon the students that while life may seem simpler, and certainly more peaceful when living in a way that is truly connected to the earth and nature, it is actually built upon the understanding of complex relationships among the systems that are in place. It is possible to meet our needs while simultaneously having little to no impact and to give back in order for resources to continue to be readily available. Available not just for the present – decisions are made as the Native people did, by looking at how a decision will affect the next seven generations.
Students were able to understand and appreciate the idea of living in an ecologically friendly way. Based on their thoughts and journal reflections, students seemed to find that living more consciously, in connection with the environment is a very meaningful, satisfying, and practical way to live. It certainly could be easy to slide back into the regular regiment of processed foods, going to the grocery store rather than the garden, taking extended showers, etc. However, having a greater awareness of the possibility of being able to care for oneself, the environment, and future generations is not easily ignored. As Misha said, we are lucky to have a choice about how to live. He shared his memories of a childhood in Russia when this was not so. We want to ensure that we are not forced to keep certain habits due to the depletion of resources.
Our lives are different from one that spends the majority of time out of doors. Yet, our lives are still dependent upon paying attention and taking care of our planet. It is important to take care now and be mindful; conservation is something that adds to our life; our connection to the planet is not something to be taken for granted, but rather to be recognized and consciously considered.
The following excerpts are highlights and impressions from student journal entries:
“We may think that life is so hard, but it is really the best time to live because there is so much that we can change. The only thing in the way is ourselves.
Over the past week, I have really enjoyed myself in New Hampshire. I really liked how the first thing we did at KROKA was chores. This weekend at home each morning, I woke up and did all the chores I could at that time of day. I would like to continue to do this, but also try to get other family members to begin to do this as well.” – Bryce
“It is Sunday, the day after we came back from KROKA. I feel that KROKA has made me more conscious of what I am doing and how it affects the environment. I am very happy I went.” – Liam
” After KROKA, I find it surprising to see how much of an unnecessary amount of resources I am using. A major example is water use when washing hands. At KROKA, a faucet on a bucket would have to be turned many times in order to get a tiny bit of water. The tiny bit of water was all I needed to wash the soap off my hands. Unlike KROKA, in my bathroom at home I turn the knob a tiny bit and water gushes out from the faucet. Another thing I notice is how KROKA lacks any garbage, instead everything is composted or re-used.
KROKA inspired me to recycle and to live ‘simply’. I am hoping to make a water contraption for which I can push my hands under a pin to only receive a tiny bit of water. Living sustainably is important.” – Anton
“Something that I noticed about KROKA is that we always had something to do, whether it was building a tent platform, cooking dinner, or going on a hike. When I came home, I noticed how much free time we have and that we do not always fill it with the most productive things.” – Cole
“Today I arrived at KROKA. I was surprised at the type of shelters; they were a bit like hobbit holes. We went on a hike, played some games, and continued on to a dinner of macaroni and vegetables and a dessert of trail mix. At this time we are reflecting in our journals about our first day. I wonder what the rest of the week will be like. So far, I like the ways that KROKA shows us the world of the woods in a different perspective .
Water is something that is taken for granted, and people also think that using non-renewable does not matter, but it does. Sustainability is cycling life and other things into a new thing. Some people think less beyond their generation and do not care what happens to the future as long as they are not in it.” – Cade
“My life in Connecticut is not as nice as at KROKA. There is not as much wilderness around for me to be in. I would much rather have no devices than many; it was super nice just being outside without any technology to be consumed by. ” – Luke
“Tonight is solo night. We’re going to stay up all night. Last night was solo night. We didn’t stay up all night.
We had solo night on Thursday. Solo night is where we get to camp by ourselves in groups. My group was Sue and me. We learned to make a fire, cook, and put up a tent. When we first got to our campsite, we put up our tent and made our fire. Our fire took a while to start, but we started it. Our food was good and we made it ourselves.” – Sophie
“After living simply for a week at KROKA, I notice much more about my normal life style. I find myself being more conscious about my actions and trying to live as simply as I can. KROKA taught me a lot about what it means to have an outwardly simple, yet inwardly rich life. Really, you don’t need to waste electricity (phones) to be happy. Enjoy the things you already have, but most of all, enjoy nature.” – Sue
“Kroka – sustainability and nature, these are the things that come to mind. Coming home I checked the toilet water and found out that each flush is 1.6 gallons. So much water wasted when so much water could be saved.” – Jakob
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