I am a relative newcomer to the permaculture lifestyle / principles and have been browsing this site since I cottoned onto it after my light bulb moment last year. Before, I had been pursuing a relatively standard and unfulfilled western lifestyle that never really fitted, but I started to accept that was just my lot. However - permaculture to the rescue, I have since taken two PDC’s (I thought I should try to start with a good grounding…) and am constantly trying to increase my exposure to the ideas and opportunities, but also to a range of self reliance and homesteading skill sets wherever I can find the resources to do so.
I’ve got a tricky question to contend with now and I thought it would be good to get some opinions on this (apologies for the long story).
I currently live in the city and my wife and I have made the decision that we want out ASAP. We’re done with pursuing jobs we don’t really want, money we aren't motivated by and a lifestyle very literally fueled by depleting fossil resources that could be turned on its head at any minute. We’re looking at quitting our jobs (both in the city and in no way related to this lifestyle) and getting to a more rural setting so we can start to engage with homesteading / real community / a landscape we are invested in / our long term plans. My wife’s parents have also shown an interest in retiring, moving with us which would facilitate having some land, and living in close proximity to family. Although for them it’s probably 2/3+ years away.
It may be idealistic, but our current perspective is to move early 2014 and apply the skills we’re learning / start making our mistakes. We can then be in that location until my wife’s parents are ready and move with them to the long term home. We’re pretty happy with this plan – it will enable us to get underway and reduce our mortgage by 40%+ whilst giving us a small piece of land to work with and get some experience (obviously new employment either full or part time will also be part of the plan initially). We don’t currently have children, but that’s on our minds in the next couple of years as well.
Where we are is a tiny hyper urban apartment and we do have a very small, very ‘landscaped’ garden. In the 6ish dormant months that we have until we start the process of selling our current home I feel we should continue consuming information – reading, watching, researching – as well as getting our apartment in order for sale. BUT – I have a niggling at the back of my mind that tells me all the information is well and good, but until you get your hands dirty, it’s just theory, so should I be trying some sort of permaculture-esque systems in my yard, despite the fact that a) we won’t be there to see them to any meaningful conclusion, b) it’s likely that a sale of the apartment would be ‘easier’ just sticking to the landscaped norm, c) winter is on the way? I guess the question is really (eventually) if you had 6 months or so in my situation before starting to move your life in this homesteading / sustaining / permie direction, what would be your priorities? Permaculture on your space? Volunteering in your spare time? Continuing to consume information whilst getting ready to sell?
Sorry, very long but I thought it would be interesting to get some other opinions on this. Really appreciate the insight and keep up the good work.
I would try to find localpermaculture farmers that you can visit, and volunteer for. Seeing fully operating systems, and getting your hands dirty there, will be a much richer learning environment than experimenting on your own. I think that given the obstacles of winter and an appartment, you will learn much more working with somebody ahead of you on the path, who has actual working examples that you can observe. Where are you located? There are great growers all over the country, so you will surely be able to find what you need nearby.
There are lots of other "homesteady" things you can do--learn to can, sew, cook, sprout, seed save, and RESEARCH all the other parts--building methods, tools to purchase, water management, etc. Learn what to look for in land so you know what you need to look for, research zoning, taxes, raw milk and farm produce laws, topo maps, water rights, etc. to find what you want and DON'T. Ben Falk's book talks a lot about this, as do some of Geoff Lawton's videos.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Excellent - thanks R Scott / Adam - that really helps to hear. It sounds like my thought process is on the right track with you guys then.
I'm actually based in the UK, but am a big fan of Ben F - I've read his book and will no doubt use it as a future reference material. Given my UK and urban setting, there isn't actually a huge amount of permaculture projects in action near me. That said there are a few 'urban farms' and alike so maybe I can help out there, doing some good whilst learning.
I hear you on establishing the don't wants as well - just as important as the do wants I think.
One good way to move is to send out resumes to places that you would like to live. If/when you get an interview go out, do the interview, and look around and see if it suits you. DH and I have done this twice. We moved into an apartment and then we had time to look around for a home. Also some hotels will rent by the week at a discount.
As for your garden, I would just make it look as pretty as possible right now, as the next tenant will probably be a city person who loves cities!
Since much about permaculture revolves around planting perennials that need minimal maintenance once established, I feel that such a path could help sell your present home. If it is designed to appeal to typical city-dwellers, yet require minimal maintenance, AND provide some foods along the way, most buyers should look at that more favorably than just a bunch of pretty flowers that will just die in a few weeks time. A perpetual, no-care garden should appeal to many. Just bear in mind that a full fledged food forest that looks like a jungle will be as likely to discourage as many as it appeals to.
Keep it simple, but productive. Cottage gardens are quite "the thing" in the eyes of many Brits. If it appears that it will entail a life time of hard work to maintain, it may scare off many potential buyers. If it is left "half finished", they can see that the hard work is done, ...the foundations,...all it needs now is for them to put on their "finishing touch" to make it into their personal dream garden - or just let it go as is - their choice.
With the UK winter coming it gets pretty hard to grow much, and rather miserable to be outdoors. I struggle to grow plants indoors in the winter- not enough light makes it through our narrow Victorian windows to even grow radishes on a windowsill. So my advice would be to spend the winter reading and researching, trying out stuff that doesn't require land (now is a brilliant time to be trying out foraging/preserving. Hawthorn jelly, blackberry jam, fruit leathers maybe even apple juice or cider if you know anyone with unwanted appletrees).
Permie projects in the UK can be a bit sparse, whereabouts are you?
The Greenhouse of the Future ebook by Francis Gendron