Daily Audio - AKG Sustainable Living Project episode #4 - Rainwater Harvesting

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Sunshine, plants, and baby birds.


It's been chilly the last few days, down to 44F at night and lovely and cool during the day. This was a welcome development after several days of over 80F, not that I'm complaining, the warmth has been delicious. Until this morning we hadn't had a drop of rain since we arrived, which has been great from getting work done but it was pretty dry. Yesterday, I started putting in the first raised bed and the ground is rock hard, admittedly this strip of land, see picture, on the north east side of the house was used as an extra driveway by the last tenant. The plan is to fit 5 beds in there. All my beds will be 8x5 so that I can build an 8x5 chicken coop  to set on top of each in turn.

Meanwhile Jacqui took somewhat of a break from cleaning,  she needed to give her arms and hands a chance to recover from 3 days of vigorous scrubbing, and potted up some of our seedlings. The rest will go in the bed; tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers. We've got cantaloupe, watermelon, and squash for a separate area where they can spread out.

I've also gotten the leaf mold pile up and running. I tossed in some half rotten split logs to help it along.

You'll notice from the pictures just how incredibly white our legs are. As we were walking recently we were accosted by a local gendarme on suspicion of being foreigners. Just the fact that we were walking instead of driving is suspicious enough but no this was due simply ti prejudice. Our white skin gave us away. This type of profiling based on skin color, now the law in Arizona, is heinous in the extreme. I can understand that we might prove a hazard to all the people going by in their tanks (locally known as SUV's) because the extreme whiteness of our skin temporarily blinds them, but that is no excuse for treating us as something special. Fortunately we were able to produce our passports and he let us off with a warning to "get a tan.... and a car" and we were on our merry way, thankful for our freedom as legal, if marginal, people. Of course that never happened but gosh aren't our legs white!

We have a nest with baby cardinals just outside our dining room window. Wonderful!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The AKG Sustainable Living Project podcast episode #4 transcript- Rain Water Harvesting

Hello,
Here is the transcript for our latest episode for The Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast;

"Hello this is Jacqui and Robb from the sustainable living project. First we’d like to thank Emma for allowing us to contribute to her wonderful podcast and for sending us her book as winners in her birthday plant competition. We are thoroughly enjoying the book, “The Alternative Kitchen Garden- an A to Z”, and highly recommend it to all our readers and listeners. And now on to our contribution for this month.

In our last post we mentioned our plan to create a rainwater harvesting and management system on our site. Why would we do this? The public water system is a surprisingly inexpensive way to get your water when the supply is plentiful and local. One of my instructors on my masters course was adamant that investing money into rainwater harvesting was pointless from an economic perspective as it would never pay itself back, and perhaps in the mountains of west central Wales she is right, I’ve never seen a rainier place.  But this fails to address several issues with public water systems; they use large amounts of fossil fuel generated electricity to pump, purify and process water. They leak vast quantities of this energy rich water. The water they deliver has had a chemical cocktail of treatments added to it to make it “safe” for human consumption, more on that in a moment. In the US, the drinking water in many locations contains rocket fuel from the defense industry, pesticides from industrial agriculture, e coli from concentrated livestock feeding operations, heavy metals from sloppy mining practice, and in may cases is too acid to be safe for long term exposure. And of course there are the obvious inefficiencies of mixing sewage with treated drinking water and then having to clean the whole mess up again. In addition, depletion of ancient aquifers is a looming problem, threatening our future food and energy supplies.

As to chlorine, it is a chemical designed to be antithetical to life. It is used in water for one thing, whether in swimming pools or drinking water, to kill micro-organisms. Perhaps it is the best choice for large municipal water systems but there are many indications that consuming chlorine and its by products, notably trihalomethane, is not good for your immune system.  The basis of healthy soil and thus healthy plants is a thriving, diverse ecosystem of micro-organisms. Thus, chlorine is designed to eradicate the very foundations of healthy soil. Rainwater is better for your plants as it is naturally soft and contains no chlorine. Rainwater can be purified for human consumption without chlorine.

So we have decided to harvest rainwater. Rainfall in Hickory averages around 4 inches per month. However, prior to the current El Nino cycle there were extended drought conditions. Water levels in the reservoirs in the SE fell to historically low levels causing jurisdiction and ownership disputes, threatened hydropower production, and brought on water usage restrictions.

Our property collection area, including the structures, is approximately 14,520 square feet. Assuming normal rainfall patterns return, we can expect 250 to 400 thousand gallons falling on our property per year. A typical household in Hickory NC uses 68,400 gallons per year, not including lawn watering. I’ve seen estimates that 10,000 feet of lawn will require an additional 312,000 gallons per year.

The large amounts of food and biomass we plan to grow would normally be expected to need more than the average lawn for irrigation but we believe that by using sensible permaculture techniques to increase the moisture retaining properties of the soil we can use less. Our demand should easily fall within the supply.

The key is to keep the rainwater from running off the property too quickly. Storage is to be accomplished in three ways: tanks to store clean water for household and garden use fed by rooftop collection, small ponds and reed beds to treat grey water and collect the overflow from the roof, and in ground storage via swales and raised beds with deep, rich soil. A swale is a ditch dug on a contour designed to interrupt run-off and allow water to slowly sink into the soil.

Instead of a single permaculture tip today we’ve got 8 principles of rainwater harvesting from an interview on Sustainable World radio with Brad Lancaster author “Rainwater Harvesting for Dry Climates”. You can find this interview at sustainableworldradio.com in the podcast archive. You’ll probably recognize the permaculture influence in these principles, the book is recommended by many permaculture practitioners.

1. Long thoughtful observation of how water behaves on site.

2. Start at the top of watershed. Our property has a slope to it, so we will need to address water flow from the top of the roof to the bottom of the property.

3. Start small and simple. As the house currently has an asphalt tile roof, we will start by installing water butts on our carport which has a tin roof.

4. Slow it, spread it, sink it. We will be installing swales and terraces on the property to reduce run-off, and to increase absorption and storage.

5. Always plan for overflow as a resource.

6. Maximise living and organic groundcover, no bare earth, no standing water (mosquitoes need 3 days of standing water to breed)

7. Maximise efficiency by stacking functions, for instance: use tanks as thermal mass and use berms on the down side of sales as high and dry paths; also, raise lots of moisture rich plants to cool the property in the summer.

8. Long thoughtful observation. Get the feedback; what works and what doesn’t.


And that’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening and remember you can visit us at sustliving.blogspot.com. We’ll leave you with another take on water, slightly edited for brevity, from Sandra Postel, Post Carbon Institute Fellow,

'I think with water there is certainly not a facing of reality yet. It is a major issue that we have to deal with. There is so much we could do with the water that we have to meet our needs in a more efficient and productive way. It is very easy to see how we could save 25% of our water use in most situations if we put our mind to it and planned for that. Each of us has a water footprint, water is in everything we use everyday, embedded water. To the extent we use less paper or buy fewer clothes, and recycle those things when we are through with them, to the extent we move our diets down the food chain, consume less red meat, we shrink our water footprint. Which means we are leaving more water for other people and other species. But only if we get real about the issue and proactive about the solutions.'

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Behold this Compost

Thanks to Organic Consumers Association for this

Quote of the Week

"Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick person-Yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch'd eggs,
The new-born of animals appear-the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk-the lilacs bloom in the door-yards,
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead."

-Walt Whitman, from the poem "This Compost"

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Video - An Experiment in Back Yard Sustainability

"Peak Moment 51: Tour Scott McGuire's "White Sage Gardens" in the back yard of his rental home -- a demonstration site for suburban sustainability. He ponders, "How might a household produce and preserve a significant portion of its own food supply?" Composting, a water-conserving greenhouse, and seed-saving are all facets of this beautiful work in progress. [http://www.cocreativeliving.com]"


Friday, 26 March 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food revolution, a message from TED

Dear Global TED Community,

I need your help with something. This won't take long... but it's a big deal.

Today, Friday, TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution comes to America. His show premieres on ABC tonight. The show is *awesome*. If people watch it, it's going to change their lives.

Here's what I need you to do:

  1. If you're in America, please watch or record the show. I promise you won't regret it. Here are the program times. Here's the trailer.
  2. Whether or not you're in the US, please encourage your American friends to watch. Forward this email to at least five people. They will thank you for it.
As a reminder, America, along with much of the rest of the world, is suffering an obesity epidemic. Millions of people are literally in danger of eating themselves to death. Jamie Oliver's food revolution tackles this head on... by helping families rediscover the thrill of delicious, healthy, freshly-cooked food. He is a magnetic spokesman for one of today's most important issues.

Please help make a TED Prize wish come true.

Very best,

Chris Anderson, TED Curator

P.S. While you're at it, please add your name to Jamie's petition. We'd love to get to a million signatures within the next six weeks.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Stinging Nettle, my favorite spring green


This time of year I walk through the local parks and check on my favorite nettle patches. We had a long cold winter this year and the little sprouts are only about 2 inches high, not high enough to escape being wee'ed on by dogs. Though they are tastiest when they are young, particularly picked and eaten raw, due to the dogs I'll have to wait for em to grow a few feet. I pick the top cluster, roll it in my fingers to disarm the sting, and pop it in my mouth, chew it well and always have some water, apple cider, or beer at hand in case a wayward stinging hair sticks in my throat. If you want to avoid the possibility of the sting, wear some gloves and pick the top 6 inches or so and bring em home and cook em like any greens, steam, boil, or saute. MMmm...mmm good!

And they are very good for you.
"People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fiber, and dyes since the Bronze Age. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) has a flavor similar to spinach, and is rich in vitamins A, C, D, K, and many minerals including iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. Nettles also provide chlorophyll and tannin, and they’re a good source of B complex vitamins. Stinging nettle also has high levels of easily absorbed amino acids. They’re ten percent protein—more than any other vegetable. " - Dawn Gifford

Read more from Ms. Gifford over at Farm to Table "Stinging Nettles are good for you"

Friday, 19 March 2010

Farmers Speak: Bust Up Big Ag

"There are 2 million farmers and 300 million consumers in the US. Standing in between are a handful of companies who control how food gets from one side to the other.

In 2010, the USDA and Dept of Justice are holding a series of hearings on this issue -- the matter of corporate concentration in food and agriculture. The first hearing was March 12, in Ankeny, Iowa. The night before, about 250 independent family farmers and community activists gathered for a town hall meeting to share their own experiences with big ag.

For more; www.bustthetrust.org "


Living off the land. It is a pretty sweet life.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Why grow your own food or The many problems with industrial agriculture

I recently received a request from an ex student of mine, now in college, needing a suggestion for a paper on sustainable agriculture. We ruled out genetic modification as others were covering that disaster, also water conservation was ruled out. What's left?
I quickly came up with many topics relating to the problems associated with Industrial Agriculture and only afterwards did I realize that I had neglected any suggestions relating to Sustainable Agriculture. I added those at the end. Looks like I need to focus on the positive a little more. Here is the text of the response to her request.


There are so many issues with industrial agriculture. Here's some off the top of my head;

If you want to deal with the nitrogen cycle and overfertilization you can look at it's contribution to climate change as nitrous oxide is 300X more potent as a greenhouse gas. Or you could look at the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and other river mouth oceanic areas around the world largely attributed to excess nitrogen runoff, again from overfertilization. There is also the issue that the nitrogen in chemical fertilizers break down and dissipate into the water table, atmosphere, rivers, far faster than organic fertilizers such as manure and compost.

A related issue is factory farming of livestock and it's link to the development of superbugs and the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics, not to mention the issues of cruelty.

Of course there is the well trodden issue of food miles with it's related issues of chemical use to keep food from ripening, thus drastically reducing nutritive content and exposing the populace to the excess pesticides used. Clearly Food miles also has implications to climate change and peak oil as it so heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Another heavily debated issue is the energy balance in corn ethanol and the the effect this industry is having on food prices as it furthers the damaging effects of the commodification of food (an issue in and of itself).

There are social justice issues having to do with the treatment of migrant labor, the destruction of the family farm, and of course the effects of climate change which impacts the poor disproportionately. A little known fact is that Industrial agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change on the planet when you factor in the deforestation involved with palm oil plantations and cattle ranches. Even without that it is one of the highest emitters in North America.

You could look at the estrogenic effects of the plastics used in food packaging, both on humans; girls reaching puberty much earlier, and on the feminization of various aquatic species. Other issues include;

Pesticides in the water table, specifically atrazine.
Corporate control of government regarding agriculture
(the subsidization of agribusiness via the farm bill)
Damage done to biodiversity via habitat loss and chemical usage.
The epidemic of obesity and diabetes since the widescale promotion of High Fructose corn syrup and it's leptin suppressing qualities.
The reduction in depth and quality of soils worldwide.
Farmer suicides worldwide, worst in India.

I can recommend you check out Rodale and the Organic Consumers Association for research and links to take you the other direction in investigation of positive alternatives, of which there are many.

Advantages of Organic Agriculture include;
carbon sequestration, superior nutrition, enhanced biodiversity, reduced food miles (if done that way), increased local resiliency (again if kept local), less reliance on fossil fuels, reduced reliance on medical infrastructure due to better nutrition and reduced farm related poisoning, protection of the water table, builds soil rather than destroys it, ....

You could also explore alternative agricultural technologies; foot powered water pumps, keyline design, permaculture, biogas production, composting, rainwater harvesting and storage, bio dynamics, biointensive, ....

Check out Appropedia and Agroinnovations sites.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Rabbits, not just a garden menace, they are food.

We've been considering rabbits as livestock for some time check out this post over at the Good.is blog. Thanks to Re-Nest for the heads up.
Also, keep a look out for Dolly Freed's Possum Living. She inspired me over twenty years ago to pursue simplicity in all forms, she and her dad kept and ate rabbits and she goes into detail about how they did it. It's good to see this practical suggestion here. I will likely give this a try when we get settled in America, though I'm not sure I'll be able to kill them, rabbits are also excellent lawnmowers and they fertilize as they go.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Sustainable Living Project podcast episode #2 at AKG

Here is the transcript of the next episode now playing over at The Alternative Kitchen Garden Podcast and here in the audio player.

"While still in England and waiting for Jacqui’s US visa, we are doing the initial planning for our off grid permaculture based lifestyle and educational project in the suburbs of Hickory North Carolina.

We hope to demonstrate that a low impact, ethical, resilient, comfortable, healthy, and convenient lifestyle is possible in existing suburban developments. You can keep track of our progress on this podcast and at our blog, Sustainable Living at sustliving.blogspot.com

Our project will be sited on 1/3 of an acre with a 1950’s era, brick and timber framed, 1800 sq.ft, 2 story home. It has grid supplied electricity, gas, sewage disposal and water. Since we bought the property we have installed double glazing and loft insulation, and have done some landscaping to reduce moisture under the house. It has been rented out for 8 years while we have been living in the UK and Bermuda.

We plan to occupy the site in the spring and are currently studying the basics of permaculture design in the hopes of making fewer mistakes at the outset. Eventually we will attend a permaculture design course that is based in the same growing region.

The Permaculture tip for this episode is from Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future published in 1990 by Bill Mollison

The “Principle of Self Regulation - The purpose of a functional and self regulating design is to place elements or components in such a way that each serves the needs, and accepts the products, of other elements.” Thus “to enable a design component to function we must put it in the right place.”

As we apply this planing principle in our garden design, the siting of veggie gardens, fruit trees, biomass crops, compost heaps, leaf mould piles, water features, glasshouses and chicken coops will all require careful observation of the interaction between existing structures and environmental conditions. For example: a compost heap generates heat which can be used to warm a greenhouse or a chicken coop.

We will gradually transition to an off grid lifestyle which adds additional planning considerations regarding energy, waste and water. The placing of the energy systems will be governed by existing structural orientation, solar exposure and available wind patterns to which we will have to adapt.

Extensive collection of rainwater will require changes to the roof which is laid with asphalt tile. Dealing with waste onsite will require a whole series of design decisions which will be influenced by local regulations, relations with the neighbors, and our own ability to reduce waste producing consumption.

Some of the first design questions we are considering in detail relate to food production and initial structural modifications to increase the efficiency of passive cooling and heating.

Currently the clay subsoil is covered in a thin layer of topsoil, hosting lawn, shrubs and a few shade trees. How will we quickly create the large amounts of soil needed for growing? We will need a fast composting process with more inputs than our own property can provide and are considering a kitchen and garden waste collection scheme with our neighbors. This should foster an ethic of co-operation with our neighbors, a key principle of permaculture.

But how will the neighbors respond to this project and the obvious changes in the appearance of the property that will follow? What can we do to manage that issue? As we hope to spread the permaculture ethic, it is important to keep the neighbors happy. We are looking at where to put hedges and fences to screen less attractive items like biogas digesters, materials storage and compost piles. Any hedges will need to have productive qualities including biomass, habitat, and fruit, and fences will need to be durable but ultimately biodegradable; we are considering, bamboo and blueberries for this.

Next, Hickory is very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. What is the first thing we should do to reduce energy use in the house? Fortunately, we have excellent solar exposure along 3 walls of the house and this plentiful supply of energy needs to be properly utilized. In the summer we will need to utilize the excess solar gain on the south side of the house to produce ventilation, drawing cool air in from the North side. The first structural change will likely be the addition of a shade structure along the south side of the house that will block the sun in the summer but not in the winter.

This shade structure will also provide vertical growing space for climbing plants like cucumbers and grapes, further shading the area immediately surrounding the sunny side of the house. This interface between shelter and growing area will be the subject of our next episode when we’ll discuss the permaculture concept of zones.

And that’s it for this episode. If you have any questions about our project or this episode please leave a comment here at the Alternative Kitchen Garden Site or at our blog sustliving.blogspot.com."

The next AKG podcast audio

The audio widget has been down for a day or so. it's now working and I have changed the file to the newest episode of the AKG podcast with the latest contribution from The Sustainable Living Project.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The black soldier fly and composting

I've been looking for a low tech method for speeding up composting as we will need lots of good growing medium for our project in Hickory NC. I heard about this website and composting acceleration method through The Agroinnovations podcast. Check out the Black Soldier Fly blog

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Grafting workshop in Sheffield - UK

I received this from the Abundance team, looks good, might go myself.

"Come and learn the Art of Grafting on

14th March at 324 Albert Rd, Meersbrook, Sheffield, S8 9RD
Time - 11am - 4pm.

Grafting is the most common way of propagating fruit trees. In this session you will learn to graft your own apple or pear tree (your choice), and you can then take it home to look after. In the spring when the sap starts rising you will know if you've succeeded in grafting it!

This grafting Course will be led by Niels Corfield from Leeds Permaculture Network. Niels has had many years experience working with perennial plants, specializing in forest gardening techniques, and the permaculture philosophy of multiple layer systems. He has a wide knowledge of edible perennial plants and he works regularly with leads permaculture network, running workshops and events, teaching and educating about permaculture

This course runs parallel to The Abundance Project, in that it is one of the key tools in creating abundance. Fruit trees have an amazing capacity to bring nutritious food to people at relatively low cost and effort.


We will provide Cups of tea and drinks. Bring your own packed lunch and warm clothes.

Cost - £10 waged, £5 unwaged

Phone Stephen on 07960774732 for more information.


All the best

the Grow Sheffield team"

support the pollinators! - US site

We all depend on pollinators, for much of our food, for our flowers, and for the pleasure of watching them in our gardens. Here is a site that will help you plan what to plant in your garden to support the pollinators. You can enter your zip code and download a planting guide for your area. Do it today they need our help!

The Pollinator Partnership

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Sustainable Living Project


Since I started this blog I have posted about many developments of interest to me that pertain to sustainable living, from my own personal exploration of technologies to increase the sustainability of my lifestyle to trends which threaten the very basis of all our lives such as climate change and peak oil. Since those first posts in January of 2008 I have completed the work for my masters, I have attended transition training and helped start a transition initiative in Bermuda, I’ve built gardens in 3 countries, gone car free, and have generally tried to lower my carbon footprint. In some respects I have failed miserably, I have not managed to quit flying, I have not managed to get back to living off grid, but overall I feel I have been making progress.

And now I come to the culmination of much of my life experience over the past 30 years and most of my study and interest over the the past 10 years with the planning and implementation of a project in the US. This project and it’s peripheral issues will become the primary subject for this blog the closer we get to implementation.

Currently Jacqui and I are settling our affairs in the UK, shopping for a property in the southwest of England, obtaining my British passport, and applying for Jacq’s long term Visa for the US. As we have family on both sides of the Atlantic, we see maintaining viability in both the UK and the US as an investment in resilience in the sense that keeping options open provides security for the future, particularly for Jacqui. She comes from a long line of long lived women, all of whom seem to maintain their wits to the end. My genetics don’t look so good. The likelihood is that I will need more serious medical attention much sooner than Jacqui. Given the chaotic state of affairs with health care in America it is highly likely that we will return to the UK at some point in the next 15 to 20 years and almost certain that Jacq will return eventually. Thus we hope to find a house to buy that offers us a good southern exposure, some garden space, and proximity to the sea (albeit high above). In the meantime it needs to be viable as an investment. So we are looking for something we can rent out without spending too much time and money in renovation. We hope to put in an offer in the next 2 weeks. We must return to Sheffield no later than the end of February to attend to the details of Jacq’s visa application. Once that is in we will be waiting for a purchase to be accomplished. At that point we will move back to the southwest to live in our house until the visa arrives.

At that point we will search for a cruise line to take us to America. We are sailing because we can carry more tools, clothes, books and such with us at no extra charge and to avoid the carbon impact of flying. Also, I really dislike flying, I don’t like sitting still for hours and even the nicest airports are unpleasant places to spend any time at all. Our current hope to travel sometime in the spring.

We intend to set up a permaculture based off grid lifestyle and educational project in the small town of Hickory NC, where already own property.

Hickory is a lovely little town in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. It lies about an hour from the banking center of Charlotte, about an hour from the progressive town of Asheville, and about and hour from the crest of the Appalachians. It is struggling economically, it was even before the current recession, as it was built upon the furniture trade which has largely moved to China. We’ve chosen Hickory to be near my family and because we have purchased rental property there over the last 10 years.

We only own 3 properties but they have about 2 thirds of acre in total to work with. We will move into the largest place, a 3 bedroom brick home situated within easy walking distance of the downtown area and a supermarket. Situated on a third of an acre and excellent southern exposure we hope to grow significant amounts of food and biomass. Additionally we will take over the landscaping of the other 2 properties, a duplex across town, or as Brits would know it, both sides of a semidetached property. With the additional third of an acre, some of which is in woodland, we will supplement production.

We will be gradually taking the main property off grid, we already own 2 solar panels and a small wind generator which will be the beginnings of our energy system. To this we will add solar hot water, a multi fuel burner, various outdoor biomass stoves, a solar cooker, a bio gas digester, and significant passive solar and efficiency improvements to the structure. Additionally we will harvest rainwater, reuse greywater and of course practice the permaculture ethics throughout.

“Care of the Earth - provision for all life systems to continue and multiply
Care of People - provision for people to access those resources necessary to their existence.
Setting limits to population and consumption - by governing our own needs we can set resources aside to further the above principles.” - Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future 1990 by Bill Mollison page 2.

I will cover the details of our plan over the next several months here on this blog. After we arrive we will cover the implementation for the foreseeable future.

The Sustainable Living Project podcast episode at AK

I have been a regular listener to the Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast for some time now and when Emma at AKG asked for correspondents to add content to her podcast I jumped at the chance. We are honored to be a part of her effort to help folks build resilience through food growing.


Jacqui and I have recorded the first episode which begins the documentation of our planning process for The Sustainable Living Project in America.

You can find the podcast containing our content here. Please see the transcript below.

“Introduction - Hello this is Robb and Jacqui from the Sustainable Living project. We are in the planning and design stage of establishing an off grid permaculture based lifestyle and educational project in the suburbs of Hickory North Carolina USA. Our goal is to demonstrate that a low impact, resilient but comfortable, healthy, and convenient lifestyle is possible in existing suburban developments. You can keep track of our progress on this podcast and at our blog, Sustainable Living at sustliving.blogspot.com

Initially taken from the joining of the the two words permanent and agriculture, permaculture has evolved to encompass many aspects of sustainable living. Indeed the prime directive of permaculture is that, quote, “the only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children”, unquote. That’s from Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future published in 1990 by Bill Mollison, a text we are studying for guidance along our path.

We believe that taking responsibility entails addressing the impacts of all aspects of our lives; food, water, shelter, waste, energy, consumption, and travel. We have chosen not to have children which does simplify things somewhat. On the other hand this has freed us up to live higher impact personal lifestyles. Up until now we have enjoyed living in and visiting far flung locations. This has left us with a carbon debt, or as we like to call it carbon karma, that we feel must be paid down. We believe that a permaculture based off grid lifestyle offers us the most effective path to achieve carbon equity.

Along the way we hope to rekindle our connection to natural cycles, build better health by growing and eating our own high quality organic food, establish household scale resilience as a response to the challenges of peak oil and climate change, and also to help build community scale resilience by starting a transition initiative.

Each episode will feature a different permaculture principle and how we are applying it to the design and eventual implementation of our project. We’ll get started with that in the next episode, for now we’ll leave you with The Principle of Cooperation from the aforementioned text by Bill Mollison - “cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of existing life systems and of future survival”

Outro - And that’s about it for this episode. Thanks for listening and until next time visit us at sustliving.blogspot.com”