Pilot Grove woman lives green, fairly sustainable life

Sunday, May 3, 2009

SEDALIA, Mo. -- She is the queen of green.

Valerie Larm, of rural Pilot Grove, Mo., lives a fairly self-sustainable life by gardening and canning; hunting and fishing; and sewing clothes, blankets and "eco-bags."

To Larm, being environmentally responsible is important.

"This is the only Earth we have," she said. "I don't think you can be completely self-sustaining, but any little bit will help."

Larm uses a decades-old Singer sewing machine to make shirts, blankets and pillows, and to recycle old jeans into "eco-bags." Larm cuts old jeans into 6-inch-by-6-inch squares and sews them together to make a bag.

"I try to use them every time we go to the grocery store," she said.

Larm's green thumb allows her to produce most of the fruits and vegetables she needs. She cans produce to have it available year-round. Larm also bakes bread and cooks from scratch.

"We don't do prepared stuff from the store, especially the breads," she said.

Larm and her husband, Robert, plan to sell many items at the Sedalia Area Farmer's Market. Larm wants to sell elephant ear bulbs and starts of house plants, strawberries and other plants, along with a variety of fresh produce when in season. The Larms also plan to sell gourds of various shapes and sizes.

Larm is trying to grow something new this year: hops. She hopes to use the climbing plant to make homemade soda pop. The Larms also recently planted four fruit trees for their own use.

Wild animals and mushrooms also serve as a food source for the Larms. The couple found 32 wild mushrooms recently.

Larm has much success as an angler. She catches bluegill, crappie and catfish. A worm bin inside her garage provides the bait. Photos featuring Larm proudly holding stringers full of fish are evidence of her skills. She is also a turkey hunter.

Larm retired in 2005 after 24 years of teaching special education and ninth-grade science in New Franklin. She lived in Rocheport until 2001, when the Larms bought the property near Pilot Grove and Robert's childhood home and began building their home. The Larms' electricity bill is kept low by using fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights, hanging clothes outside to dry and heating the home with a wood heater.

Most of Larm's self-sustaining lifestyle is complementary to her love of the outdoors. She opts for the country over urban settings.

"I prefer it," she said of living in the country. "I like nature and taking the walks."

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