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.
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.
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”
I am married, have no kids, a long distance walker, a climber of moderate terrain, a warm water surfer. I'm currently pursuing an MSC in advanced environmental studies and energy. I've lived off grid on a small sailboat in Bermuda. I've been a teacher, a theatre technician, a carpenter, a drifter. My wife and I are planning a move back to the states with the intent of once again going off grid, pursuing a permaculture based lifestyle and developing a community education program about the process.