Christopher Colwell

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since Jun 27, 2012
I wanted to study Philosophy in College, so I decided to become a Massage Therapist first cuz, you know, jobs. I completed my BA in Philosophy and then went traveling with the amazing woman who is now my wife. We explored Mexico, Guatemala and Belize and were first introduced to WWOOFing.

After a 9 month stint back in the states to refill the bank tank we departed for Utila Honduras where I set up a small massage studio and started a Dive Master Program at Utila Dive Center. It was during our time here that we met two lovely marijuana growers from California who introduced us to the concept of Permaculture.  Permaculture became a constant topic of conversation among ourselves and those we met in our subsequent travels. 

Once the temperatures became unbearably hot for my Nordic blood we headed back to the states with a large part of our savings in tact thanks to the success of my massage studio. We decided to use the leftover money to fund a 2 month road trip around the USA living out of a Ford Aerostar. We managed to see ~85% of the National Parks and I have now been to every state except Alaska and Oklahoma.

With the bank and Aerostar running low we returned to Washington and applied to teach English in South Korea as a way to continue traveling and refill the coffers at the same time. We spent an amazing year in Busan teaching English in the public school system and managed to save enough to launch us on a 6 month round the world adventure.

While hitchhiking from Rome to Florence we were picked up by an amazing woman who told us that she was the president of the Italian Acadamy of Permaculture and introduced us to many amazing new Ideas including cob building and the Rocket Mass heater system. 

When we finally returned to the states we were feeling a bit burned out on traveling. We had truly enjoyed out time as "Leaves on the wind" but wanted to put down some roots. We decided to return to South Korea as a way to acquire a down payment quickly.

At the end of 2 years in South Korea we spent 2 weeks in the Philippines which included a Island Hopping package with Tao Tours. A fantastic organization that takes its guests on an Island Hopping adventure to many of the smaller islands of the area between  El Nido and Coron. Here again we found Permaculture. The Men who founded TAO Tours are teaching the principles of Permaculture to the residents of the small and mostly isolated islands in that area. 

Before all of our travels my wife and I were inspired by the film The Motorcycle Diaries. Especially the quote "Let the world change you... and you can change the world."  I am not egotistical enough to try and change the world, but if the world is telling me anything – if there is one overarching theme of my life since we started traveling - and one concept that I consider worthy of such a change, it would be Permaculture.

After 3 more months in Thailand, where I continued my education in Thai Massage from our previous round the world adventure and became a certified Thai Massage Instructor, we flew back to the Seattle area. We lived in an RV for the summer and planned our wedding. 

We are now married and living in the Seattle area where I practice clinical Massage Therapy and teach Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology among other subjects at Cortiva Seattle as Adjunct Faculty. I am about to begin a sabbatical during which my focus will be the solidification of our dream to purchase land and practice Permaculture.  My vision is a marriage of Permaculture principles and modern technology.  I would love to make our future land a showcase for the amazing things that this community is doing and establish a retreat and school where myself and others can learn and teach the many aspects of Permaculture and intelligent living.
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Recent posts by Christopher Colwell

Loved reading other peoples stories! Here is ours... Also in Seattle. Currently in an apartment in Lynnwood. Just bought 5 acres out east of Duvall. We started off with a significant down payment from our savings while we were teaching English in South Korea. The initial plan was simply to fix up the amenities (well and septic) and throw a trailer on it then build a dream home with Cobb or Cord-wood masonry or hay bale.  Fortunately for us, my mother-in-law came forward with some early inheritance that has opened a whole new realm of possibilities. We are still very restrained by finances. If you want to have an idea of what is necessary financially to buy land and build, there is a woman named Susan at the Lynnwood Washington Federal bank (a portfolio lender, meaning they will make their money off your interest rather than making their money from selling your loan on the market). She offers a free 90 minute class where she walks you through all the financial expectations and permitting steps that the process involves. Its not a perfect class that will prepare you for everything, but at-least it helps you understand the banks perspective.  We got our land for a crazy cheap price, but we are located on the east boarder of nothing. There is literally no civilization east of us unless you go north to 2, or south to 90 or all the way east of the cascades. Its pretty awesome!!! Now we need to determine how much we can afford to build based on the gift from my mother in law and our very limited income. Interest rates are spiraling upward and the world is so crazy right now. We see this as our best opportunity to invest for our retirement, but there has also been a court ruling against Whatcom county recently regarding private wells. It is still up in the air whether king county will ban building permits on private wells the way that some other counties have done in reaction to the ruling.  I'm planning to start a blog outlining the process we are going through, but for now I would recommend Google earth to check what a parcels layout really feels like. and as you know... Zillow. Watch them like a hawk. Look for good deals. Check the good ones using google earth to find nearby power lines, or other odd geological features. Also use too look up public records using the parcel number.  Let me know if you ever want to grab a beer, I love to talk about this stuff and would love to make more permies friends in my area. Same goes for anyone on here. Would love to start a Seattle meetup. Does such a thing already exist?
4 years ago
The Ponds. I have much to learn
4 years ago
Another Batch
4 years ago
Thanks for the replies Nicole and David!
Sorry for the delay. Here is a link to the plans we are currently interested in altering

I was hoping to go with the Glacier Ridge plans which were the same, but with a walk out basement. Unfortunately the lady at the bank told me I'm too Poor.

As for bears, we will be moving in on a 20 year bear smorgasbord. Those trees are 20+ years old and have not ever had regular human occupation. You should have seen the piles under the apple trees once they were ready. Every 5 feet. Think there is a family. We intend to get a pair of LGDs. We have already visited in person and seen his stock. We were impressed.

we have 15 or so apple trees, 3 or so plumb trees (various types), 5 or more cherry trees (in the worst shape... 2 will need to be taken out for sure), 3 asian pear trees, 2 pear trees, 2 peach trees, a tree we haven't identified yet because the bear stripped it before it ripened.  I think that's it. Kinda awesome, but we need to learn to care for an orchard.

There were tons of Deer before hunting season started. I was regularly seeing 5-12 deer each evening that I stayed around in the summer for the sun to set.

4 years ago
Next batch
There are Grapes on the property, but they are so overgrown with blackberries Im probably gonna have to take the whole hedge to the ground. Any input on this would be welcome.

There are 9 blueberry bushes in a chain link cage that we had to clear significant blackberry vines out of. We were picking on them for a few months, got maybe 2 gallons, hadn't put a dent in them when I accidentally left the gate open one time. No berries when we came back, but there was a pile of bear crap just outside the fence that would not have looked out of place in Jurassic park.

The cabin had a mouse infestation. they are either gone, or have learned to avoid poison. slowly ripping out all the affected insulation and stripping it down to sanitize it, planning a 50/50 bleach and water spray(thoughts?). What do you guys think of KILZ? Was considering priming with that to seal anything nasty into the wood, but I don't like using chemicals if I don't have to.
4 years ago
Next batch of pics. Hope its acceptable to post so many pics.
4 years ago
Hey Permies!!!
My wife and I finally found the right piece of land! We got 5 acres at the edge of civilization. Our property is about 20 minutes east of Duvall and a 1 hour drive from Seattle.  We are in the foothills at 900ft elevation southwest facing with potential views to the Olympics. There are about 30 fruit trees on the property, a seasonal creek that gathers runnoff from uphill and feeds it into 2 man made farm irrigation ponds and then carries it off the property to the north We share our eastern boundary with DNR public forest land that goes on and on.  We are super excited to get all of your input and ideas as we build our home and begin to cultivate our own eden.  We are currently taking the preliminary steps necessary to apply for a construction loan. I (purposeful pronoun change) would love to just move out and live in the cabins that are on the property, but King county doesn't allow you to live on your land without a Certificate of Occupancy. We also see this as our first real investment towards retirement, so we want to build a semi-traditional home on the property for the sake of resale value if it ever comes to that.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a small novel worth of pictures. Please let us know what you think.

4 years ago
I appreciate that perspective Kyrt, thank you. Like Glenn said, anyone else who buys the land will do the same and I will hopefully be a better steward than others.

The enthusiasts are the neighbors, and I don't know them. I have talked to 2 of them and one warned against letting the community know about any building I want to do because they might try to block it. There are lots of houses around the lake and the property I am looking at is on the south side of the the only access which is why I called the road major. Way more traffic than I would have expected for the location.

I worry about what Shawn is saying. I do plan to go the way of forest gardening, but I would like to get good sun in my zone 1 at least. While the property does slope gently south, the trees are majestic and tall. I bet I could do the math and figure out how much land I would have to clear for a sunny homesite, but until I do I worry about how much I might have to take out. I am no stranger to hard work, but the bank will want a full accounting of what it will cost me to hire everything done.

I am arranging to meet an environmental consultant up there to walk the property and get an idea of possible usable areas. I will check in with you all after that and let you know if I am going to move forward. Thanks for all your input!
4 years ago
Also, I am struggling morally with the amount that I must clear to create any permaculture systems. Should I be looking for depleted and bare land that I can try to nurse back to health rather than moving into an established ecosystem and making nature my bitch? Even if I strive to minimize it, a certain level is inevitable.
4 years ago
So, it's definitely going to have wetlands delineation on up to 5 acres. I hope that's all. None of the leg work has been done. Lots of wildlife presure in the form of bears, dear(ofcourse) and most definitely more. Also political presure in the fact that I would be buying into a community of wildlife enthusiasts. Of which I ofcourse am one, but I am also an outsider and any homestead will require the clearance of whatever minimum diameter the local regulations dictate for the trailer I am planning to put on it. I would love feedback on that. I am choosing to look at it as recycling since I can only afford used. I have an idea of many of the costs, but not all. How much does it cost to clear land? I know I can bring it down by doing lots of work myself, but the bank won't loan to me unless I can qualify for the amount it will cost to hire it all done. Anyway, thanks for all your input. I shoudl be asleep.
4 years ago