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Climate change awareness leads to trans-Atlantic journey by boat for Bitterroot couple
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Climate change awareness leads to trans-Atlantic journey by boat for Bitterroot couple

Homestead Organics owners Henry Wuensche and Laura Garber had the “winter adventure of a lifetime” in Europe and — just before all the travel clampdowns due to the coronavirus — returned via a slow boat from Germany.

They had visited family and friends across Germany, enjoyed a three-month Eurorail Global Pass, explored 15 new cities, went under the English Channel on the Eurostar train and enjoyed a wine and olive oil tasting party in Italy.

But the couple said the biggest adventure was their return travel home.

Garber said that after three months of being inspired by “European sensibilities, big-city human creativity and learning about realities of climate change,” they knew they needed to act on their beliefs.

“Flying releases so much carbon dioxide and we know it affects the balance and chemistry of the atmosphere,” Garber said. “It is like stealing from the future, almost. We were inspired to change our life. It is our position right now to live our truth out and be examples.”

They decided to stop flying.

No more airplane trips meant selecting different transportation to get home from across the Atlantic.

“We decided to take to heart the information we all know about greenhouse gases and their effects on our atmosphere and our global environment,” Wuensche said. “We decided to take the road less traveled (and less polluting).”

They returned to Montana as passengers on the CMA CGM Otello, a 15-year-old container ship with a 340-meter-long hull (nearly 10 football fields), from Bremerhaven, Germany, to New York City. The trip took 12-days covering 3,725 nautical miles. The boat transported three passengers, 25 crew members and 8,000 shipping containers.

“Instead of 8,000 trucks driving around with one container each, this one ship can move all that stuff for a fraction of a fraction of the energy it would take to move things singly,” Wuensche said.

Garber said the trip home was a harsh change but liberating.

“I’ve traveled all over my entire life and really enjoyed it,” she said. “Giving up the convenience of traveling by airplane was a lot to hold onto and then let go of, but it was the coolest thing ever. It was a different way to travel and the shipping container industry is amazingly creative and inventive. We got home just before everything changed for everyone.”

Garber said the trip provided them a gift of time before everyone else in Montana was shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We did nothing for 12 days and we get home, and everyone is in forced isolation, staying home from work,” she said.

On the voyage they did a lot of reading, dancing, napping and staring at the open ocean.

“It was the first time ever that we did not have any work to do — no animals waiting to be fed, no plants to be watered, no children to be fed or driven somewhere,” Garber said. “We had time to relax, be in the present moment and to heal all those little twinges and tweaks in our bodies from working so hard all the time on the farm.”

Besides dancing to Brandi Carlisle and Medicine for the People in their cabin, they read Anne Rice novels and took naps every day. They sat on the ship's bridge and watched the underwater map of the contours of the ocean floor, watched for whales and pondered the vastness of the sea.

“We had two weeks of being together, enjoying the quiet and the expanse of the ocean,” Graber said. “We had two weeks to enjoy all that is in the present moment. We had our 'lockdown' on the ship.”

After docking in New York, Wuensche and Garber rented a car at Newark Airport and drove to Montana.

“We were able to completely avoid flying and do not plan to use air travel again,” Garber said.

When the couple arrived back in Montana they began their fast pace of spring work on the farm.

“We had our time of quiet three weeks before everyone else did,” Garber said. “Our daily life is pretty much normal now, despite the pandemic, because we are on a farm. Our daily life on the ship was perhaps a bit like what other people who do not live on a farm have now. We’re working now, but we did do it. It is so refreshing.”

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Voters in the Hamilton, Corvallis and Victor School Districts will decide on a three-mill levy to fund the ongoing operations and maintenance costs of the Bitterroot Public Library on the primary election ballot. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2.

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