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Permies who started young, what are your stories?

 
Posts: 7
Location: Michigan
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I'm Gabi, a 23 year old recent college grad, currently living in a big US city and working as an engineer. I'm currently in a bit of a "quarter life crisis", as I've gotten to know myself a little better in the past year and realized I have an itching to get back to my roots. I was incredibly lucky to grow up on a sustainable farm where my family and I practiced the old ways of growing food, raising livestock, and building/fixing everything ourselves. Moved to the city when I was 17, didn't look back until fairly recently...anyway, that's enough about me. Has anyone began their permaculture lifestyle in their early 20s/30s? What are your backstories, and how did your journey go?
 
pollinator
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Gabrielle May wrote:I'm Gabi, a 23 year old recent college grad, currently living in a big US city and working as an engineer. I'm currently in a bit of a "quarter life crisis", as I've gotten to know myself a little better in the past year and realized I have an itching to get back to my roots. I was incredibly lucky to grow up on a sustainable farm where my family and I practiced the old ways of growing food, raising livestock, and building/fixing everything ourselves. Moved to the city when I was 17, didn't look back until fairly recently...anyway, that's enough about me. Has anyone began their permaculture lifestyle in their early 20s/30s? What are your backstories, and how did your journey go?



I grew up with grandparents who were about as self-sufficient as I have ever seen anyone get. They raised sheep, chickens, potatoes, beef cows, had two milk cows, cut wood, trucked wood, had a huge garden, and even had a greenhouse. From making butter to digging dandelion greens, they did it all.

Their two sons wanted NOTHING to do with that, so they worked off farm and leased their farm to other farmers starting in 1988 when my Grandfather retired to 2008 when I took over the family farm. I had always managed it, raising some beef cows and keeping the farm going, but in 2008 I decided if we were going to continue, we had to do it ourselves, so I introduced sheep in 2008. I started with only (4) and $600 that we got that year from the Government as a stimulus package. I bought the sheep, put up some fence, and started raising sheep commercially.

Along the way I bought 161 additional acres of land, got $67,000 in USDA grants, got about $164,000 in low interest farming loans, cleared over 100 acres of forest for use as fields, built a nice barn, put up miles of fence, and raised hundreds of sheep.

In 2015 I got done my "real job" as welder at a shipyard and managed to go into farming full-time. It was a feat at the time because I had (4) daughters all 12 and under, and a wife that did NOT work outside the home.

Unfortunately in 2017 I was injured in a logging accident and spent 4 days in the hospital, that was when they found cancer. Since then they have found that it is spreading, so this is my third winter dealing with my third bout of it. (Thyroid/Brain/Lymphatic Cancer). I was so weakened by cancer that I could not work, and so I had another logger come in and cut some of my wood to help pay the property taxes. He was a friend, but had an addiction to gambling, and ended up stealing 72 tractor trailer loads of wood, some $18,000. So we sold some equipment off, sold most of the sheep, and struggled through the winter. I always expected to get better from modern medicine, but as of yet I have not.

Another round of cancer crippled me last winter, then we found out we lost our unborn baby, and figured we should at least sell the house. So we moved into a Tiny Home we had, but while we got 4 offers, and had 35 couples tour the home in 2 months time, but it never sold. Two more times we tried to rent it, but that fell through as well, so we moved back in a few months ago.


So now we are in limbo. I am still sick with cancer, we have the farm, but as of a few weeks ago, sold all the sheep off, and are not sure what to do with the land. I am working with the USDA on a program for "Disadvantaged Farmers" in that they are trying to transition me from farming, back into the work force, but it is pretty tough. No one wants to hire a washed up, cancer ridden ole farmer. So I might go to college or something, the program has gobs of money, but there is still no real direction for me or my farm.

As for the farm itself, it was officially given to use by the King of England in 1746, then during the Revolutionary War we switched sides, and have farmed here every since. So 1746 to today, so 274 consecutive years, and 9 generations, my daughters will be the 10th generation...

Written down like this; my "story" seems kid of boring, but last winter I sat down and wrote a memoir about it all. I never embellished anything in the book, but when you hear all the details, it is an interesting story. It is not all gloom and doom, and so it is a real interesting story with amazing discoveries, and yet struggles and death.
 
Posts: 7
Location: East Texas
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For me, I haven't "started" because I am still looking for a job to pay for my land however I am definitely planning and researching at the moment.

Too Long; Here is a Summary:

Essentially, my journey has been an ERE mindset "follower", who is an environmentalist and advocate for biodiversity, to me getting a wake-up call from IPCC 2018, me building off my previous mindset and knowledge, and eventually becoming a permaculturist. I could go into detail about my journeys in the Baltics during my master's, learning how in even suburbia a modernized peasant lifestyle exists there, and me reconnecting to my father's side of the family being the American equivalent of peasant farmers. However, I really don't like typing long posts and prefer to get to the point for everyone's sake.
 
gardener & author
Posts: 1600
Location: Tasmania
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I discovered permaculture when I was around 23 as well. I did guerilla gardening, rental house gardening, backyard goat and chicken keeping, and learning heaps of homestead kitchen skills like preserving, fermenting, and cheesemaking. We also worked on passive income streams, and eventually had saved enough from frugal living to have a deposit towards land, which we bought when I was 31.

Wwoofing is a great way to learn too, and Wheaton Labs has a great bootcamp for learning permaculture skills. The PEP program on these forums also offers a great way to learn skills.

I guess I just took things step by step, looking at one thing I was buying at a time that I could be growing/raising/DIYing, and learning how to do that, and then just doing more stuff one thing at a time whenever it felt right.
 
gardener
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By the time I was 11, I'd already had a couple of rabbits, various rodents, cats & dogs, a pony & a small horse, on the outskirts of town, at my mom's, in IL, so was no stranger to livestock care, and mom always had a huge garden, and put food up, for the winter. Turned out, my new step mom did too, as soon as they got to the farm my dad bought in MI, when I was 11? 12? I moved to my dad's, when I was 13, and we had well over 100 rabbits, I don't recall how many chickens, ducks, geese, beef calves, a Jersey cow, a pig (they got more pigs, sometime after I moved back to my mom's, at 16),  6horses, a pony, and a raccoon. That was where I learned how to really live as sustainably as possible, off-grid as much as on, and with next to no income - with all those animals, 6 kids, and more weekend visitors than you could believe.

You'd think I'd have gotten it out of my system, by the time I went back to my mom's, in the suburbs. Nope. I can't remember a time, when I haven't wanted my own, self reliant little farm. I have no clue how many critters I've taken in, nursed back to health, and rehomed - or gotten too attached to, to give up. I've gardened in some way, shape or form, whenever I could, and I've been close to getting the dream, before. At 54 3/4, hubs and I finally bought our dream place. Now, we're stocking it up with the rest of the dream.
 
Posts: 53
Location: Iron River MI
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Gabrielle May wrote:I'm Gabi, a 23 year old recent college grad, currently living in a big US city and working as an engineer. I'm currently in a bit of a "quarter life crisis", as I've gotten to know myself a little better in the past year and realized I have an itching to get back to my roots. I was incredibly lucky to grow up on a sustainable farm where my family and I practiced the old ways of growing food, raising livestock, and building/fixing everything ourselves. Moved to the city when I was 17, didn't look back until fairly recently...anyway, that's enough about me. Has anyone began their permaculture lifestyle in their early 20s/30s? What are your backstories, and how did your journey go?



I grew up with grandparents who were about as self-sufficient as I have ever seen anyone get. They raised sheep, chickens, potatoes, beef cows, had two milk cows, cut wood, trucked wood, had a huge garden, and even had a greenhouse. From making butter to digging dandelion greens, they did it all.

Their two sons wanted NOTHING to do with that, so they worked off farm and leased their farm to other farmers starting in 1988 when my Grandfather retired to 2008 when I took over the family farm. I had always managed it, raising some beef cows and keeping the farm going, but in 2008 I decided if we were going to continue, we had to do it ourselves, so I introduced sheep in 2008. I started with only (4) and $600 that we got that year from the Government as a stimulus package. I bought the sheep, put up some fence, and started raising sheep commercially.

Along the way I bought 161 additional acres of land, got $67,000 in USDA grants, got about $164,000 in low interest farming loans, cleared over 100 acres of forest for use as fields, built a nice barn, put up miles of fence, and raised hundreds of sheep.

In 2015 I got done my "real job" as welder at a shipyard and managed to go into farming full-time. It was a feat at the time because I had (4) daughters all 12 and under, and a wife that did NOT work outside the home.

Unfortunately in 2017 I was injured in a logging accident and spent 4 days in the hospital, that was when they found cancer. Since then they have found that it is spreading, so this is my third winter dealing with my third bout of it. (Thyroid/Brain/Lymphatic Cancer). I was so weakened by cancer that I could not work, and so I had another logger come in and cut some of my wood to help pay the property taxes. He was a friend, but had an addiction to gambling, and ended up stealing 72 tractor trailer loads of wood, some $18,000. So we sold some equipment off, sold most of the sheep, and struggled through the winter. I always expected to get better from modern medicine, but as of yet I have not.

Another round of cancer crippled me last winter, then we found out we lost our unborn baby, and figured we should at least sell the house. So we moved into a Tiny Home we had, but while we got 4 offers, and had 35 couples tour the home in 2 months time, but it never sold. Two more times we tried to rent it, but that fell through as well, so we moved back in a few months ago.


So now we are in limbo. I am still sick with cancer, we have the farm, but as of a few weeks ago, sold all the sheep off, and are not sure what to do with the land. I am working with the USDA on a program for "Disadvantaged Farmers" in that they are trying to transition me from farming, back into the work force, but it is pretty tough. No one wants to hire a washed up, cancer ridden ole farmer. So I might go to college or something, the program has gobs of money, but there is still no real direction for me or my farm.

As for the farm itself, it was officially given to use by the King of England in 1746, then during the Revolutionary War we switched sides, and have farmed here every since. So 1746 to today, so 274 consecutive years, and 9 generations, my daughters will be the 10th generation...

Written down like this; my "story" seems kid of boring, but last winter I sat down and wrote a memoir about it all. I never embellished anything in the book, but when you hear all the details, it is an interesting story. It is not all gloom and doom, and so it is a real interesting story with amazing discoveries, and yet struggles and death.



Travis, this is a fascinating story! I’m sorry to hear about your ongoing struggles with cancer. Have you heard of The Truth About Cancer? It is a documentary about cancer and it’s various treatments, mainstream and alternative. I do not have cancer (that I’m aware of) but as a child watching many family members succumb to it, I developed a fear of it. Getting diagnosed with cancer was my biggest and only real fear for years of my life until my wife and I watched the documentary. It completely changed my understanding of cancer and outlook on life. I highly recommend watching it, it may empower you or at least encourage you! I also may be able to find links to the videos so you can stream them for free, although they may be free online too, I’m not sure.

Best wishes
-Brody
 
Brody Ekberg
Posts: 53
Location: Iron River MI
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Hi Gabi! I’m 27 now and have been passionate about permaculture for 2-3 years now. It resulted from my own “quarter life crisis” in which I had a revelatory type experience, coupled with recently finishing reading Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemmenway (highly recommend this book, it should be mandatory in public schools!). I realized my oneness with all and purpose in this life as a human being is to embody love, not only for myself but my environment and all it contains. It was a massive change in perspective and hasnt been easy.

Since then, I married my high school sweetheart (and her student loan debt), bought a house (more debt) and continued working in the utility world for 6 years now. Currently, I’m getting quite ready for a change. Though I make great money and have good benefits, my job is physically destructive to my body, very unsustainable and totally unfulfilling. I’m tossing ideas around on how to find a way pay a mortgage, bills and debt in a way that’s more in line with permaculture and my values. These include a fermentation business, a sustainable edible landscaping business and/or a CSA. I’m actually going to be posting shortly looking for advice on which of these to pursue. I would love to be actively teaching children permaculture concepts and skills so that they are aware that massive amounts of debt from college and owning a house are not a necessity to be well and happy in this life. Nobody told me that when I was a kid, quite the opposite actually! I feel I was brainwashed and now have had to learn the hard way and find a way out of the hole I dug for myself. I would love to stop others from doing the same, but all in good time!

Best wishes to you and I hope your journey is fulfilling!
-Brody
 
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