A Beautiful Life: Heidi Huebner’s Story
There’s a place just outside a little river town in the St. Croix Valley called Bluebird Hill Homestead. It’s a “place where people go to breathe a deep sigh of relief and let their spirits shine” in the form of community gatherings, youth camps, adult classes and personal healing and/or mentoring. Heidi and her family moved back from Hawaii four years ago to the rich Midwestern soil of her roots, and she’s in the process of redefining what roots really mean as her life and family continues to transform. An advocate for encouraging people of all ages to interact with the earth, she and her girls just moved into their still-to-be completed off-grid wooden home. They are spending their days right now enjoying the newly warm Midwestern air, enjoying the first of the garden crops and settling into their more spacious living quarters after a few years in a bus.
I first met Heidi Huebner during the darkest time of the year (last November), during what she would probably say was one of the hardest years of her life, at a little bar and grill in the riverside town of Marine on St. Croix. We connected initially due to our shared committed to helping people connect with nature and live in ways that invite sustainability for all types of life on the earth, and it seemed like time to meet in person. We connected, and though we haven’t shared physical space again (yet) I’m so happy that we did. Mother, healer, permaculturist and earth warrior, Heidi embodies what it means to live in a way that is authentic to one’s core essence. Her journey has not been without struggle and pain, but at the end of the day, the beauty that comes from living how she is meant to live shines through even the most challenging of times. What follows is part of her story.
HB: What’s is like to live in your story right now?:
HH: Well, we are in the process of moving into our half-built off-grid house on the hill, at least for the summer. (We don’t have enough funding yet for the insulation and siding.) We spent the last 3 winters in a renovated school bus (it’s more like a cedar cabin now) and are ready for some more space for us all. We moved to the land 3 years ago, camping that first summer. We haul our water from my parents’ well, or catch it and filter it for drinking. We poop in a bucket. We’ve got a couple of solar panels, enough to charge my phone and laptop, and watch a movie here and there, or run the blender for an occasional novelty smoothie. This all was a family dream with my husband, but he moved out last fall and we’ve been separated for 9 months now. It’s been a hard transition, and I don’t recommend this life for the faint of heart. I do recommend it for anyone who wants a deeper connection with what it takes to create a meaningful life. I love this land something fierce, and my girls are growing their roots through their barefeet straight into Mother Earth. I wouldn’t trade it. Period.
HB: What inspires you to live like you do?
HH: Hmm…good question. I used to live in Minneapolis as a photo stylist in commercial photography. That life was fun and exciting (and lucrative) but it ate away at my soul that I was spending my life force making things look beautiful to convince people to buy them to make themselves feel happier. Total crap. So I sold everything and moved to a Permaculture farm on Kauai. I lived in my tent, under a tarp, and I had never been more happy, or felt more connected to myself and the earth. I met my husband on the Kalalau Trail there on the island, but we were both from the midwest. Long story short, that life, living so closely with the Earth, just felt right. I felt more alive, more connected to what was happening. When we lived as a family on Kauai, on a biodynamic farm, we would sit down to dinner every night in our outdoor kitchen at our camp, and the same barn owl would fly out of the tree and sweep across the field in front of us. It brings me to tears just remembering it.
HB: What is challenging about living like you do?
HH: The biggest challenge living off grid here is that none of our neighbors are doing this. Every night, as we sit with our candlelight, or as we do our night chores of hauling water, closing up the chickens and so on, we can see the blue glow of our neighbor’s tvs. Often we feel isolated in that way, like we are trailblazing [down an old trail that so many have forgotten about!] to a certain extent in this area. We do have many allies, people that fully support what we are up to, they just don’t live right near us.
HB: What is beautiful about living like you do?
HH: I wake up every morning knowing I am doing exactly what I want to be doing with this life. And I am Home.
HB: What have you learned about yourself and your family so far by living like you do?
HH: Oh, boy, this could be a novel. First, tiny living is not for a family of introverts. Three winters in a bus with 3 kids…whew! I can’t wait to have my own room again…with a door. Take real stock of the things that bring you joy. If having friends over for dinner brings you great joy, maybe don’t live somewhere that barely fits 3 people at the table. Or dance parties…if you really love spontaneous dance parties with your kids, I recommend a home layout with more than a single walkway down the center isle.
But in general, the biggest lesson is that we are resilient. We can rise to the challenges and work together…or go down bickering. And the choice is ours.
HB: What are you looking forward to as you continue to live like you do?
I look forward to having more of our infrastructure created so the systems are in place and we reach more of an energetically sustainable exchange with caring for the land here. For the past 3 years, it has been an insane amount of work. But things are starting to come together in a beautiful way.
HB: What would you say to someone who is nervous about changing the way they operate in the world?
HH: In some ways I want to say “take it slow…small steps are wise”, but there is also wisdom in going for it, knowing the challenges will be revealed. The journey may bring you to your knees, but the rewards of living an authentic life are priceless.