Ten years ago, Darren and Espri Bender-Beauregard of Paoli built a straw-bale house on 12 acres of land in Paoli, Indiana. With their increased concern of the direction the world is headed, as a whole, and what kind of future that may bring, the couple and their three children — Viola, 9, and twins Eleanor and Sylvia, 6 — have built a life focused on homesteading, self-sufficiency and sustainability.
Espri Bender-Beauregard helps her daughter, Sylvia, 6, feed their bunnies at their home in Paoli, Indiana. Espri, her husband, Darren, and two other children have built a life centered around homesteading and sustainable living. “I enjoy all aspects of homesteading,” Espri said. “The fact that it’s more sustainable — that it’s living in a way that cares for creation — helps you get through the hard parts. It’s not all just fun and playing with animals.”
Espri harvests strawberry guavas from one of the family's two greenhouses. The Bender-Beauregard’s raise about 80 percent of the food their family eats, whether it be organic produce grown in their gardens, greenhouses and orchards, eggs and meat from their flock of chickens or beef from a small herd of Dexter cows.
Viola Bender-Beauregard, 9, practices jump roping for an upcoming school talent show outside her family’s straw bale home. “I feel a little bit of hopelessness in terms of is it really possible for us to reduce our emissions in time?” Espri said. “But a lot of what we are doing is working toward resiliency for whatever does happen to the environment. That’s a much more hopeful place to be in.”
Espri reads to her 6-year-old twin daughters, Sylvia and Eleanor, while Viola reads a book for homework in their living room in Paoli, Indiana.
Darren makes a small cut into a rooted stem in order to graft a small twig onto the plant. Plant grafting is a horticultural technique that fuses a scion (upper part of the plant) to a root system, which allows for faster-growing plants as well as the ability to repair existing trees. Darren and Espri estimate they have about 7,500 seedlings and immature trees within the nursery, along with 300 mature fruit trees on their property, all in an effort to try different crops that can survive climate extremes.
Viola takes a break from harvesting fruit with her family.
Sylvia uses her hands as binoculars to look at the sky while playing outside her home.
Darren and Sylvia pick up hardy kiwi’s from the ground after part of the vine was removed while remodeling a section of the bathroom at their home. To the right is a rainwater barrel which is used to water the nursery plants. The family has a total barrel capacity of 11,000 gallons held in multiple rain barrels throughout the property, supplying all of their water needs.
The family laughs after both Sylvia and Eleanor try to snack at their dinners while singing a dinner prayer in their home.
Darren reads a bedtime story to Sylvia and Eleanor in the girls' bedroom. “My hope is that they will enjoy the way that we live,” Darren said. “I just hope that it’s something that brings them joy in their life, however that takes shape.”