Excerpt: Wendy Jahanara Tremayne’s ‘The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living’

(c) Gina Triplett/Frank Sturges Reps.

Image: Gina Triplett/Frank Sturges Reps. (C)

Excerpted from The Good Life Lab (c) Wendy Jehanara Tremayne. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

“The secret of madness is the source of reason.”

Mikey hung up the phone and paced agitatedly in the kitchen.

He had been talking to someone from his old job who had wanted to know why he was cashing out his 401k account. Mikey explained that he did not trust the stock market. “I’m going to use the money I have to invest in the life I am living right now,” he told the befuddled rep.

“He thought I was crazy and wanted to help me find equity,” Mikey said as he rolled his eyes.

How does one find equity? It seemed so abstract. Equity is not unearthed from a tomb on an archeological dig; it does not emerge from a dusty box at a garage sale. You can’t hold it. The banks made it seem as though it could be produced from thin air — as long as you owned something worth money, like a home.

Picture: (c) Gina Triplett/Frank Sturges Reps.

Picture: (c) Gina Triplett/Frank Sturges Reps.

A trick of the world of capital, we decided. A way to detach money from something valuable and make it, as they say, liquid. I figured equity was a code word that meant “easier to steal.” Bankers were doing this kind of thing with homes all over the country as people were offered giant mortgages and then foreclosed on. “Not us,” we vowed.

In 2008 the market became volatile. We watched it rise and fall as it had done in years past, only now it was even more erratic, the changes more extreme. Sometimes its fluxuations were due to real circumstances in the world, such as a bone-dry rainy season in Florida causing a spike in the price of oranges. But all too often the swings of the market seemed tied to the mysterious workings of a world to which we were not privy. Financial products too complex to figure out (even, as would later be clear, by those who sold them) shifted and re-formed the lives of real people, making some rich and others poor. Never did the activity make the overall conditions for life any better.

Since the dramatic game does not make common sense, we opted out entirely: we took all the money we had and made it liquid. No more stocks, no investments. We put it in a plain old savings account that earned 2 percent interest. According to all the experts, the professional money managers, bankers, and the like, we did the dumbest thing possible. But when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, Bear Stearns collapsed, and the whole economy went haywire, it didn’t seem dumb to us. I thought of something I’d heard the Sufis say: Life lives; only death dies. Well, the nation’s dying banking system had never contained life.


(c) Gina Triplett/Frank Sturges Reps.

More about The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living:

Reimagine Life

Described as “an invitation to experiment” by MAKE magazine’s Dale Dougherty, Wendy Jehanara Tremayne’s new book The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living is a brave, modern manual for a post-consumer life. Released in June from Storey Publishing, it tells the inspirational story of how one couple ditched their careers and high-pressure life in New York City to move to rural New Mexico, where they made, built, invented, foraged, and grew most of what they needed to live self-sufficiently, discovering a new sense of abundance in the process.

Wendy’s story begins in a more-than-decade-long search for, in her words, a decommodified life — a life less entangled with commerce, materialism, and the influences of marketing and more connected to nature and to her own creativity and resourcefulness. A life in which she was less a consumer and more a creator. A life inspired by the celebratory nature of a gift economy and shaped by Wendy’s personal credo, “When the whole world is for sale, the maker is the revolutionary of the age.”

Wendy’s reimagined life led her and her partner, Mikey Sklar, to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where they bought a one-acre abandoned RV park and remodeled a 40-year-old mobile home using mostly materials from the waste stream. In a process of discovery and skill-building, they became makers with multiple identities: forager, builder, herbalist, engineer, botanist, welder — more than they had ever thought themselves to be. In tutorials both contemplative and practical, Wendy and Mikey share what they’ve learned, from wild-crafting medicines to making biofuels, from hacking electronics to fermenting foods, and from building a home out of paper to installing a PV-solar system for electricity.

Part memoir, part DIY manual, bound together with inspirational art by a community of contemporary illustrators and Wendy’s honest and passionate narrative, The Good Life Lab celebrates the richness and abundance that comes from a self-made life and, in the words of Sandor Katz, “provides us with much creative inspiration for our own transformative journeys.”


Prior to life as digital homesteaders, Wendy was a creative director for a marketing firm in New York City and Mikey was an IT executive on Wall Street. Wendy is the founder of the international textile repurposing event Swap-o-Rama-Rama and has written for Craft’s webzine and MAKE magazine. Mikey has blogged for Adafruit, Hack-A-Day, and Popular Science. Together, they keep the blog Holy Scrap.

The Good Life Lab

Wendy Jehanara Tremayne

Storey Publishing, June 2013

320 pages; 6″ x 8″

Full-color; photographs and illustrations throughout

$18.95 paper; ISBN 978-1-61212-101-7

3 Comments on "Excerpt: Wendy Jahanara Tremayne’s ‘The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living’"

  1. I think I need to read this book.

  2. I think I need to read this book.

Comments are closed.