Maria Holland

Meet the SSR

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 11:54 am

Ah, now I remember: THIS is what I came up here for.


Well, besides, the friends, food, and memories.

But seriously, it was great to God to send such a morning on my last full day at the farm.  I sat outside with the kids while Naomi read out loud, then went for a walk by myself.

There was a stiff Hunchun breeze and piercing sun sun except for when it occasionally hid behind one of the enormous fluffy clouds in the ridiculously blue sky.  Past the cow barn, it was silent except for the squelching of my boots in the mud.  (Speaking of my boots, I think they’re happy to be back on the farm in their natural element – mud!)


The road was still torn up from the last few days of rain, so it was slow going, leaving me a lot of time to think.  I spent most of that time sorting through the emotions I felt as I approached my destination: the SSR. 

The Sustainable Shepherd’s Residence, or SSR, is a prototype of a sustainable shelter for a shepherd and his animals.  It was the main project of the SENEA team on the farm, involving several forms of sustainable energy to power the house off the grid.  The factors that make this sort of residence necessary are many – economics, climate, physical health, energy independence, property rights issues, etc. 


When we came in the summer of 2008, the SSR was just an SR – a shepherd’s house with an adjoining open barn for the sheep.  During our time here, we worked on a greenhouse, biogas digester, solar oven, and three wind turbines – all components of the sustainable residence.  Since our time here, the greenhouse was finished but the biogas digester has sat untouched, the solar oven washed away, two of the turbines are broken, and one is unfinished.

It’s hard for me to think about, and harder yet to see.  A relationship with the project site is key to the mission of SENEA and, each time we left, it was my comfort.  The work was never done and the projects were never perfect, but because of the relationship we knew we’d be back to continue what we had started and improve what we had done.  It wasn’t failure, it was just a chance to try again next time.  But somewhere along the line the relationship grew so strong that even after the project stopped, I find myself back here at the site as a witness.  It hurts.  I know what happened during our time there, how lessons were learned and relationships formed and lives changed, but . . . the material legacy is not impressive. 

We had a picnic lunch out in the front yard – amazingly good homemade sandwiches, apple cake, popcorn, and fresh milk.  I felt a lot better after talking to Timothy, discussing the success of the project from another perspective.  Then I took a taxi into town to meet ZaiBin and the other Americans who work with him now.  We had coffee (well, milk tea for me) and talked for a long time.

We had some downtime, so ZaiBin took me to look at cell phones.  After about 5 months of wanting a new one, I finally bought a cell phone to replace the one someone gave me after I lost my first one!  It can play music, take pictures (and video, I think), get on QQ, etc., but I’m most excited to be able to text in Chinese more easily.  It was $50, but it’s quite a deal for a brand name phone – Mokia.  No, I did not spell that incorrectly . . .

For dinner, I treated everyone at 天仙包饭, a.k.a. Cellphone Restaurant, a Korean place.  In addition to me and the farm family, I invited Xiao Zhang, Xiao Li, ZaiBin, and the wife and son of our taxi driver that summer.  It was good to have such a rowdy crowd for dinner, plus the food was delicious and ample but only cost 270 kuai ($40). 


It’s my last night on the farm until I-don’t-know-when.  I had a delightful late-night (until 9) conversation with Naomi, and then retired to my room.

  1. Great pictures! But can’t you explain more about why the SSR hasn’t been used more, or the projects finished? Come on…don’t leave us hanging…

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