We’ve been attending a local fellowship consisting of an interesting mix of Mennonite families (almost all of whom have left agriculture for more “professional” pursuits), as well as baptists, quakers, and a bunch of folks I won’t try to categorize. Many of them are self-employed, live fairly simply, and try to uphold basic principles of love and justice. We sing and share potluck every week. That, to me, is the essence of “learning by doing,” and as such means much more to me than any creed. And I’m filling in a big gap in my education, which didn’t cover this whole realm that makes up one of the central traditions of the Western cultures that spawned all my ancestors. (One of the things I’ve learned is that the word “believe” is rooted, literally, in love — which suggests to me that what you believe is less important than what (and how) you love….)

In any case, one of the members is an editor and writer through whom we were invited to contribute to the 30th anniversary edition of a wonderful book called Living More with Less, by Doris Jantzen Longacre, who was writing about it before “being green” or “sustainable” was even part of the lexicon. Editor Valerie Weaver-Zercher writes that this new edition “collects the wisdom and experience of those who live with less than a consumer culture says we need. With stories, reflections, and advice from people around the world who are making changes to their daily habits in response to climate change and global poverty, Living More with Less 30th Anniversary Edition is a vibrant collection of testimonies, old and new, of those who are discovering the joy of living with enough.”

I haven’t actually read the new edition yet, but the old one is great, so I think I’m safe in recommending the new one. It’s published by Herald Press, the publishing ministry of the US Mennonite Church. The Mennonites, along with the Quakers and Brethren, are known as a “peace church” (all of whom worked to help set up the Conscientious Objector program during WWII). They are known and loved for their service to disaster victims worldwide; they also subscribe to principles of simple living. “Old Order Mennonites” often live and look much like the Amish (with whom they share common roots and anabaptist history).

Our contribution is on the web here, under the heading “Cob House Life.”


  1. Thank you for all your mudworkearthwork artistry Kiko Densler!
    I was a ceramic sculptor and production potter for 25 years, am a 40-year organic gardener and herbalist, retired dairy goat farmer, one of those lunatic fringe late 60s “unrepentant hippie herbalists” – so dubbed by the sorely missed great American southwest herbalist Michael R.Sh. Moore.
    I have built temporary clay/brick/wood-fired bread baking ovens for 35 years and have a suggestion. I patterned my ‘take down’ ovens on Paul Soldner’s catenary arch stoneware kilns, i.e., downdraft structures, much more even, & fuel efficient. Add a baffle shelf on back wall to direct the heat under the inner bread baking shelf. I always used high temp capacity recycled 24″ diameter kiln shelves as my baking shelves, my old plywood catenary arch form that I used to build full-scale kilns, and an improvised temp chimney of recycled Metalbestos chimney sections. I also recommend chimney caps in these high fire danger times.

    Billie Luisi-Potts,
    author of Small Scaled Goat-keeping, Potworks: A First Book of Clay, Ergonomics: A Problem-solver’s Handbook, and the infamous Witches Heal: Lesbian Herbal Self-sufficiency.

    1. Thanks, Billie. It would be great to have some kind of visual, so folks can get a better idea of what you’re talking about. Got any pix or drawings? If so, it would be great to have them on the “share what you’ve built” page, which is here. There’s some very interesting work being done along similar lines with “rocket ovens” — some of which you’ll also see on that page.

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