A couple of years ago, Shane and I fell in love with an acreage in the “middle of nowhere”- a small parcel of land on the Alberta prairies. We decided, pretty much on the spot, to trade our high-powered, fast paced careers and home in the city for a new way of life. It took some adjustment as we moved from a “wants”-based lifestyle to evaluating needs, and learning to prioritize and carefully plan our limited trips to the nearest town. No more running out to the store at 11 p.m. for those last minute items, or ordering pizza (or anything else!) for delivery! Even more surprisingly- no more fresh, potable water straight from the tap. (I now take the opportunity to guzzle tap water whenever we travel to the city.)
After a period of adjustment we began to notice the spiritual value in our new lifestyle. While we gave up the convenience and economic advantage of city life, we also left behind a stressful pace, noise and air pollution, and a “go-go-go” mentality that often saw us moving fast but without much direction. We now find ourselves working hard but enjoying life considerably more, and feeling more satisfied and accomplished.
A while back we started to reevaluate the “working hard” portion of our lives. We fantasized about what would we do if we could do anything that we wanted to with our lives, if we were free of obligations and bills and general expenses? The answer for us was very simple. We’d stay home most of the time and travel occasionally. That’s how much we enjoy our property and each other’s company. We have a wonderful vegetable garden to tend, beautiful landscape to wander, deer and horned owls and coyotes to watch and wile away the day…
The question then became- what’s keeping us from doing that, from being able to live and enjoy our lives right now rather than planning for the day some thirty years from now when we’ll have achieved the ‘freedom’ to do so? (And heaven forbid one or both of us doesn’t make it to our ‘magical sixties’- or seventies at this rate- then what have we been working for?) Well, we work to pay the bills. We work to provide our basic necessities. Or, more accurately, we work to pay someone else to provide our basic needs- food, electricity, and gas for heating. Whoa- wait a minute now- we work to pay someone else to provide our basic needs??? And so the question changed once again and became- what’s to stop us from providing for our own needs? The answer, quite simply, is nothing.
I’ll save my socio-political tirades for later and keep this introduction focused on the ‘planning’ aspect of our goal for the sake of brevity. Moving on- we began to research sustainable living. Let me tell you, with the internet what it is today this is no small feat. There is a wealth of information available if you’re willing to put several thousand hours into sifting through the practical to the idealistic. It just so happens that Shane and I are both obsessive by nature so we have taken up the gauntlet and digested tremendous amounts of information- some helpful, some silly, and some downright hilarious.
Michael Reynold’s “Earthships” initially caught our interest. Reynold’s himself is a man of the future with many great thoughts on sustainable living and integrating practical, modern solutions. (See http://www.earthship.org for further information.) We bought all three volumes of his Earthship series and began planning. During the planning stages we also researched alternative heating and building techniques and came across Ianto Evan’s work with cob and rocket mass heaters and Nader Khalili’s domes. Which led us to Owen Geiger, Kelly Hart, Kaki Hunter and Doni Kiffmeyer… Long story short, we have abandoned our Earthship plans in favour of building earthbag domes, which we intend to cover and partly furnish in cob, heat with rocket mass heaters, and integrate with Reynold’s greywater reuse system and passive solar design. Phew!
Oh, and Shane will build a wind turbine for generating power using the design concepts of Bartman and Fink of “Otherpower.com”. And we’ll raise some animals (should be interesting for a couple of city folk). And while some of you may already be laughing, we’d like to have this done in the next two years. (We’re also planning on harvesting and treating rainwater and incorporating permaculture techniques into our landscape, for those of you who think we’re slacking.)
So stay tuned and feel free to offer suggestions or feedback. We’re always happy to hear new ideas or about your personal experiences with sustainable, off-grid living. And of course we’ll answer any questions that we can along the way. We expect it will be a fun-filled, magical, painful experience with lots of ups and downs and comic relief to keep us (and you!) entertained.