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Simpler living extolled at festival

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CANTON — As they walked among the newborn lambs, the smoking blacksmith’s furnace and the ax-tossing woodsmen, visitors to Saturday’s Local Living Festival were urged to simplify their lives and make something for themselves.

Exhibitors showed off wood-burning stoves, farming gear and composting techniques, all to promote ideas of simplicity and independence.

The festival, created by the Local Living Venture to promote resourceful lifestyles, returned to Canton’s Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm, 2043B Route 68, for its third year.

Attendees and exhibitors extolled the virtues of simple living instead of the technologically dependent lifestyle of today.

“You don’t see kids developing a skill from a hobby, except for calluses from a Nintendo machine or whatever they’re called,” said James S. Juczak, Adams Center, who misses the days when schoolchildren were expected to learn to whittle.

Mr. Juczak is part of Woodhenge Sustainable Community, a group of people who live off the grid in Adams Center.

David J. Woodward, Paul Smiths, makes his living by making things. He runs Train Brook Forge, and showed a miniature forge at the festival.

A self-described child of the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s, Mr. Woodward became a blacksmith by accident. He learned to shape metal to make the tools and parts he needed for other crafting projects.

“I wanted to have control over the quality of my stuff,” he said.

He soon discovered a market for his handmade metalwork, and has worked as a blacksmith ever since. The same attention to detail that drives his work, he said, could serve as a model for life.

“Be conscious of what you’re doing; be responsible for your work, and be responsible for your food,” Mr. Woodward said.

Things built or grown by hand are more time-consuming and simpler than those bought from the store, Mr. Woodward said, but they are of a higher quality.

Throughout the day Saturday, experts demonstrated skills for independent living. Would-be farmers could learn how to raise pigs, rabbits and cows, grow herbs or tap maple syrup. Homeowners who wanted to go green attended talks on solar energy, wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps, which use the temperature underground to regulate the heat in a home.

Students from SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University created their own presentations on living simply and eating healthy foods.

“It’s just amazing, all of the work that they did,” said festival coordinator Chelle S. Lindahl.

Jerry J. Bartlett took conservation to new heights with a self-built car that can travel 127 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel at 52 miles per hour.

Mr. Bartlett built the car with $5,200 worth of junkyard parts and used designs found in a 1982 magazine. He compared his effort with modern hybrids, which boast only 40 to 50 miles per gallon.

“That’s with the best technology on the market. This is old school,” he said.

The car’s body, made with fiberglass and resin over sculpted foam, was roughly painted silver using a roller. While the paint job may be improved later, Mr. Bartlett said, he wanted the car’s lack of polish to show that anybody with the dedication could successfully complete a similar project, regardless of expertise.

“The idea behind all this is to get people interested in this sort of thing,” he said. “If you really want to do something, you can.”

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