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

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.

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