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Learning How to Live Simply

Submission by Maria Donaghy, Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Board Members

The Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center is a symbol of visionary thinking and living. The old, but functional windmill that towers over the homestead off Paper Mill Road in Taylor, Arizona, serves as a beacon for countless visitors who want to learn to live more intentionally. In addition to the many visitors who take away practical ideas to simplify and enrich their lives, the Center also serves as an educational opportunity for everyone who works for this non-profit. The KCLSC board members have been deeply influenced by Barbara Kerr’s vision for a lifestyle more in tune with the earth, and they attempt to embrace sustainable practices in their own lives. Monte Cunningham lives off grid in Snowflake and works to improve upon health and energy strategies for a more self-reliant life (Stressaway Acupressure, Clark and Barbara Hockabout created the Lodestar Gardens Learning Center in Concho, where many of Barbara Kerr’s concepts have been adapted to a farm-school context. Diane and Don Marshall, recently relocated to Portland, Oregon, are private school teachers. Maria Donaghy, president of the KCSLC Board, served as the KCSLC resident manager from 2013-2014, and her rich experience living at the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center best relays the unique knowledge living and working at the center can offer those who seek to live a more mindful life. The center awaits you.

“I will have turned 58 years-old by the time this publication is printed. To me, that number seems awfully high, but I have come to understand that age is just a number.  I just signed up for a 60-mile bike ride. I’m a bit shaky about how it will turn out, but at the same time I’m also excited about the training, the miles and miles of biking, the people I will meet, and the fact that I know I can do this.  I am healthy, I eat pretty well, and I don’t feel like that number.

That is how I felt when I moved into the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center in 2013. I knew Barbara Kerr, the owner and founder very well. One of my deepest desires was to live off-grid in a passive solar home, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to live in her home for over two years.

Prior to living at the Center, having water, electricity, and heat meant turning a knob, a switch or calling to have the propane tank filled for the winter. All I had to do was pay the bills.  Living at the Center, I had to be more aware of my use. If I didn’t fill the tank, I had no water. If I didn’t cut down on my energy usage, I wouldn’t have light at night. It was a daunting endeavor to move into the Center, but like the 60-mile bike ride, I was excited for the challenge

I knew people who lived off grid. I even did a PowerPoint presentation about nine off-grid homes in Navajo and Apache Counties for a conference several years ago, but until moving into the center, I never lived this kind of life. I had to learn all about the technical aspects of solar electrical and passive solar systems. Certainly, there were some inconveniences, like not having a bathtub for two plus years, or coming home in the evening to find no water at the faucet because I failed to keep track of my water usage, and having to replace my desktop with a laptop and then get into the habit of turning it off to avoid a phantom load on the power system. All of this was quite minor, except not having a bath tub!”