The Possibility Alliance Apprenticeship Part 1

I left the chicago area in the morning on March 30th with my dad and it was a 7 hour trip with one stop in western Illinois for my dad to buy a beekeeping suit.  There was a warm welcome when we arrived and a special dessert for dinner, it was really good although I don’t really remember what it was… Anyway, the rest of the night and the whole next day were just getting settled and hanging out and starting to get to know people a little bit.  There are 5 full time people and 5 apprentices, including me.  Our training started on friday and continued through the next friday.  It was a really good introduction to pretty much all facets of life here.  It was also really thorough and fun.  Included in the training were introductions and explanations of the gardens, orchards, food forests, chickens, goats, horses, forestry, hand tools, tool maintenance, bikes, bike maintenance, cooking, cleaning, schedules, phone use, firewood cutting and storage, outhouse/composting toilet, non-violent communication, core values/mission/vision for the project, philosophy of raising a child in community (Ethan and Sarah, two of the founding members of the project, have a three year old daughter named Etta), and probably a lot more that isn’t coming to my mind right now.  It was really great to have such a detailed training and introduction.  I knew a reasonable amount about most of the things that were a part of the training, but I learned a lot of knew things and got excited about the opportunity to learn lots more during my apprenticeship.  Since there is no power equipment or machinery or tools and everything is done by hand, they have lots of really cool hand tools, some of which I had never seen before and I’ll get the chance to use most if not all of them.  Maybe I’m weird, but that gets me excited, tools are awesome.

One of the things the stuck out to me from the training was the ridiculously small amount of money that the project needs to keep itself going throughout the year.  For the 5 full time people, the 5 apprentices that are here for 8 months, and over 1000 visitors that stay from anywhere from an hour for a tour to three weeks the budget is about $9,o00.  That includes everything!  Taxes, the small amount of bulk food that they buy to supplement what doesn’t come from the land here, tools, garden seeds, new fruit and nut trees, building materials, hay for the horses, straw for mulch for the gardens, soap, wax for candles, a small water bill, a land line phone, mail, everything!  It blew my mind when I heard that.  Its only possible because they grow most of their food, they rarely if ever buy anything new, they don’t have any cars or trucks so they don’t have to buy fuel, they don’t use electricity so they have no electric bill, they heat and cook with wood which they get for free from neighbors or they cut it themselves from their land.  Its pretty amazing and the lifestyle isn’t super difficult and is very enjoyable and satisfying.

Another thing that stuck out to me from the training was the core values, mission and vision for the project.  They call it a project because it is really an experiment and they are willing to move on to something different if they experiment fails.  It is an experiment to test the boundaries of what is possible.  Is it possible to live well without electricity and without petroleum in the middle of industrial society?  Is it possible for people that grew up in the industrial society paradigm to transition to a radically simple life?  Is it possible to provide for all the needs of people directly from the land and the local bioregion?  Is it possible to offer educational programs and to continue this experiment on the gift economy?  The gift economy is basically providing goods and/or services with no obligation to pay anything, but accepting what people are willing to give as a gift.  This leaves the opportunity for people that have little to give little and for people that have much to give much and in the experience of the Possibility Alliance, the gift economy has worked very well.  The core values are radical simplicity, service, political/social activism, inner work, gratitude and celebration.  I’ve already explained the radical simplicity part.  They embody service in that each member of the community does about a month of service in either the local area and/or beyond.  The service is offered without judgement so they will help anyone with anything not discriminating even though the service is often not radically simple.  This could be painting a house, building something, cleaning up something, helping to create a community garden, helping to create a community bike shop, and lots of other things.  The political/social activism illustrates itself through participating in and/or organizing in protests or demonstrations to try to effect change for the benefit of all life.  They don’t do protests like most people thing of protests, however.  They try to do it in a way that creates dialogue instead of creating conflict by telling other people or groups that they are purely doing something wrong.  Inner work is meditation, reading, group discussion, yoga and/or anything else that helps each person move towards reaching their full potential.  Gratitude and celebration is a part of everything and is built into the daily and weekly life in the form of end of the week celebrations, daily times for reflection, daily times for sharing gratitude, and lots of other things.

Pretty much every part of my experience so far has been great.  It has been a little bit awkward as I expected in getting to know new people and trying to figure out where I will fit in, but that is coming along.  There is always that strange combination of expectations desires to connect with people and develop strong relationships quickly along with the reality that all of that takes time.  I already know that my world view and desires match up closely with all of the people involved and I am starting to connect with people here, it will just take time to get close and I just have to be patient.  The other part of the mission/vision is basically to live and do everything for the greatest good and for the upliftment of all life.  They take that into consideration in every decision they make and everything they do.

My time at The Possibility Alliance has been wonderful so far and I’m excited about all the great things that I’m going to be a part of and that I’m going to learn and do while I’m here.  Hopefully my writing about this will touch someone in some way or encourage someone to make a change in their life for the good.  If you have any questions or comments, please send them my way.  I will be able to access a computer to use the internet probably about once a week.  Feel free to send a letter or give me a call.

The address and phone number are:

28408 Frontier Lane
La Plata, MO 63549


Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great day!


2 responses to this post.

  1. really have enjoyed following your blog! Love the bow making, etc. Felt especially struck by your statement in this post about them experimenting with living without electricity or petroleum in an industrial society. I just got a one acre property (started blogging too) and slowly have made strides to a sustainable lifestyle (a simple one that makes sense). would love to get away from the money too, but baby steps. Keep up the inspiration, we all need as much hope as we can get!


  2. Posted by dantruesdale on April 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my blog. I’m working on more bow making. I finally finished one about a month and a half ago and it is awesome. I just harvested some osage orange and I’m gonna be working on some more bows over the next couple of weeks when I have time, which won’t be much. I feel like slow strides are a great way to get there. Sometimes I forget that and try to move to fast and get ahead of myself. Keep it up, we need more people on the path of love and simplicity.


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