I am writing a book about sustainable living. It will be published as an ebook on Amazon in May, 2019. Here is a list of the contents and the Introduction.
How to Build Ultra Low-Cost Homes
and the Art of Living Free
1. Introduction to building.
2. Building an Earthbag Hobbit House.
3. Building a Yurt.
4. Water Wisdom.
5. Composting Toilets.
7. Worm composting.
8. Intensive Veggie and Herb Growing.
9. Energy – The Currency of Life.
10. Foraging to Freedom
11. Living Free.
11. Living Free.
We have driven ‘Old Blue’, our planet, into the ditch by driving backwards into the future on a road we’ve already trashed. Mother Nature wrote the rules of the road and we can only hope she will give us a tow. In the meantime, here’s a guide book for those who feel stranded, it’s also the story of how I turned off the highway onto a forgotten byway and created my own hobbit land.
Ten years ago, I moved into a one-room cabin in the woods, I thought that I would be living a life of voluntary simplicity with one boot in the 19th century and the other in the 21st - after my first summer the bank called. The manager met me at the door and asked if she could sit in on the meeting. Across the desk I faced two sets of arched eyebrows, their concern was my sudden wealth. I told the bank ladies that Charles Dickens wrote the book of finance, his stories are about keeping your head above water in hard times. I paraphrased the money lender in David Copperfield - disposable income or happiness equals income minus expenses. I went on to say that neo-liberalism had turned the necessities of life into commodities. Not for me though… I get free electricity from the sun, free heat from my woodlot, free water from nature and free food from my garden. The bank ladies smiled and so did I, by wiggly my toe in Thoreau’s Walden Pond I had jumped up an income level. Now, for the first time in my life I had the affluence of time and money. I left the bank as chagrined and mystified as I had entered and began picking away at the threads and tangles of off-the-grid living. How come other people can’t unleashed their inner Bilbo Baggins? I came up with four insights.
1. Going green is a money mission from a banker’s viewpoint. My life energy would no longer be sacrificed on the hamster wheel of work and debt.
2. Clarity of thinking. Every aspect of this lifestyle must be thought out and acted upon. You think, plan and do. Mainstream life is digitalized and automated – including thinking patterns. In contrast, to make this work I used my emotional intelligence for critical and creative thinking. I became innovative.
3. Location. It was easy for me to make this transition because I could harvest the discarded treasures from the crawlspaces and slip steams of the consumer society.
4. Turn Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on its ear. Like a winning jockey, you bust free from the pack and hit the front. Forget about meeting basic needs, that’s easy, instead connect with the mystic or spirit world. I don’t mean disappearing down the rabbit hole of esoteric practices, but rather, roadster the contours of life with nature in the passenger seat. When travelling in the wilds under your own steam you feel a slight spiritual undertow that sweeps you closer to nature and further from mainstream society. The veil between myself and other dimensions and its denizens was a heavy broadloom until I met my Gandalf while cycling through Ireland. It was a winter’s day in an empty Youth Hostel on a wild shore. He was in his sixties, had a massive head of shaggy hair and beard, his face was as furrowed as a ploughed field. He was walking across Europe. He told me to go to St. Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenes and walk the Camino de Santiago. Adventure is bred in my bones and bicycling the emptiness of Patagonia, Iceland and Newfoundland along with sauntering the Camino pushed my reset button. The physical and spiritual world have always been one for indigenous people and if you can tap into that you discover something wonderful that you didn’t know you’d lost. Desolation, uncertainty and change dominate our world; building resilience and optimism into our lives gives us buoyancy and fills our sails on this Homeric adventure.
If my DNA could be unraveled like an old wool sweater the three dominant threads would be - swinging a hammer, snapping the synapses with a good book and roaming forgotten byways. Having the affluence of time means you put your feet up, sit back and ponder the big questions. How much is enough? What do we need? What do we want? What are our responsibilities to each other and the planet?
It’s about co-sufficiency, rather than mere self-sufficiency. As soon as you bale out of the rat race; you jump right back in with your skills and enthusiasm to help create a strong and vibrant community - we all need someone we can lean on, as the old song goes. I wriggled my way into the local community with my vermicomposting business. A farmer’s market had just opened, and they were looking for vendors. Spending Saturday mornings selling bags of worm poo and partially composted manure full of worms might not excite entrepreneurs, for me, it was dirt into dollars. My neighbour grazes his cattle on my rough pasture. Red Wriggler worms give manure the Midas touch turning it into ‘black gold’ compost. At the market I would plunge my hand into a bag of compost and brandishing squirming worms tell tales of sustainability.
Whether folks want to admit it or not we face an inevitable collision between two mutually exclusive ways of doing things. Our economy depends upon infinite growth, our lives depend upon the finite and sustainable systems that govern the planet. Once you know something it’s hard to unknow it. We need to adapt now so that we are not so far of the mark that it becomes impossible to adjust later. Living ahead of the pack calls for confidence and being at ease in challenging the norms so that we can share often simple solutions to problems when they arise.