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Hi Everyone,

I've finally started to bite the bullet, but I think it's going to be a long time to chew. I've just graduated from university in the UK and have been watching these forums for years, finally I've decided this is it, this is what I want my life to be.

Growing up I always enjoyed gardening, fishing, building, caring for animals. I'm also very fond of a bargain wherever it can be had. As I worked hard, I always came top of my classes, and fell for the classic modern rhetoric that I was too smart not to pursue more academic pursuits. How wrong that was. I now understand that what you choose to do, what you enjoy, had nothing to do with your intelligence.

So now here I am, a 23 year old in a city job trying desperately to move and carve out the kind of life everyone here is pursuing - sustainable, back to nature, and focused on the important things, like family. I have a little money saved and am trying to increase that as rapidly as I can (currently renting). I'm also trying to build any skills I can that would help in the future - I'm quite good at fishing, though the potential for feeding yourself cheaply by this route in the UK is someone limited unless you live somewhere coastal. I'm forever improving my gardening ability, I have a few seasons under my belt growing larger numbers of crops on a small scale and I grew up on a building site so my DIY is quite good. I know there's always room for improvement, so if anyone can offer advice on where to focus my efforts while awaiting a move o somewhere with more land I'd be glad to hear it.

I'm also wondering if anyone could offer advice on finding a property? I think I would gladly move to most areas of mainland UK, which makes the house search somewhat problematic - I'm becoming increasingly annoyed that you can't order on Rightmove by the size of the land! I'm really looking forward to learning from all of you and plan to start completing some of these badge-bits I see so much about. I also fully intend to return the favor and offer help wherever I can, although at this point those skills might be limited (I have a chemistry masters if anyone needs any of those kinds of skills though)

Thanks again everyone!

Mark
 
gardener
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Hi Mark, welcome to Permies!

You remind me of myself from many years ago.  Good job on recognizing your life’s passion at such a young age.

Regarding your quest for land, I am afraid that I can only be of limited service.  I have only academic knowledge of UK geography and no knowledge of UK real estate.  I wish I could be of more help there but I can’t.  But there certainly may be others here on Permies who might have quite expansive knowledge about UK real estate so please don’t get discouraged by my personal lack of knowledge (I really only know real estate for the US Midwest and from my perspective, coastal and especially large urban/suburban real estate prices seem astoundingly high—but that’s me).

On a slightly different topic, I see that you want to eventually grow all your own food—wonderful!!  Something I have learned recently is that even a small patch of land can be made extremely fertile and offer up very heavy yields.  My trick:  I don’t focus on soil chemistry, I focus on soil biology.  I try to get as many microbes working in the soil as possible and they take care of the chemistry.

I am rambling Mark, but I want to welcome you again to Permies and I look forward to seeing you achieve your Permie goals!

Eric
 
Mark Holter
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Hi Eric,

Thanks for taking the time to reply and for the welcome! No worries on the land side of things, hardly seems reasonable for me to expect someone across the pond to have a better knowledge of my domestic real estate than myself . I fully agree with you on the price of real estate, which is why my search area is so broad, I think I'd be happy to find land wherever it could be had in the long run. That being said I would have to be within commuting distance to somewhere more urban as my other half is a healthcare worker and would struggle to work out in the sticks. Having said that I think the US has far more rural spots than we do in the UK so perhaps not so much of a concern.

With regards to growing food in small spaces, I do echo your sentiment. I have windowsills lined with herbs, a few chilli plants and some seedlings ready to go out in pots onto my 10'x10' patio as the weather warms up (vertical gardening here for efficiency). I've also got my compost bin on the go, but this has to be quite small scale due to the nature of renting and the fact we might have to move at short notice.

Mark
 
author & gardener
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Welcome to Permies, Mark! So glad you decided to participate.

Mark Holter wrote:As I worked hard, I always came top of my classes, and fell for the classic modern rhetoric that I was too smart not to pursue more academic pursuits. How wrong that was. I now understand that what you choose to do, what you enjoy, had nothing to do with your intelligence.


There is so much wisdom in that! Good for you for realizing it and for having the courage to act on it.

I'm also wondering if anyone could offer advice on finding a property? I think I would gladly move to most areas of mainland UK, which makes the house search somewhat problematic...


I'm guessing some of our UK members can help answer that.

I'm really looking forward to learning from all of you and plan to start completing some of these badge-bits I see so much about.


Yes, the PEP badges are a fun and inspiring way to learn permaculture skills. They are part of what makes Permies uniquely special.

I also fully intend to return the favor and offer help wherever I can, although at this point those skills might be limited (I have a chemistry masters if anyone needs any of those kinds of skills though)


That's good to hear. Welcome aboard!
 
Eric Hanson
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Mark,

So we may have more in common than I initially thought as my wife also is in healthcare (she is a doctor) and our search for land was partially dictated by how far she would have to travel to work.  In our case we lucked out, meaning I lucked out in particular.  She has about a 20 minute drive, while mine is about 5 minutes on a good day!  Yet our property looks very rural and isolated.  I have no idea if this is something you can achieve, but one factor that worked for us is that we are not in a metropolitan area.  We live in a fairly small town (25k-30k) but they still need doctors and the surrounding area is overwhelmingly rural.  Is this something that could possibly work for you?  I can’t say, but I just offer that as a thought.

You are also probably right about the US having more rural land, largely owing to the size of the US vs the UK (just talking acreage here, nothing else!).  Although this can vary tremendously depending on where one lives in the US.

But on the gardening side, I love the sound of your progress already.  With just a patio to work with, growing vertically is a great way to increase yields on a small plot.  Hopefully you can eventually enlarge your plot and still utilize the space-saving technique and really get great yields.

One last question that is an obsession of mine:  have you tried or considered growing mushrooms?  They are amazing for fertility.

Great starts you have,

Eric
 
Mark Holter
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Leigh, thanks for the welcome!

And Eric, that sounds like exactly the sort of ideal situation I'd be looking to set up - these places do exist but finding them is the gem. It sounds quite similar to where I grew up, right on the edge of a conurbation.

I often think the US has such varied landscapes and climates, when watching and reading about gardening from American creators and some of them are gardening in sub-tropics and others in Alaska! It's really interesting that you raised mushroom growing! I brewed some beer at the weekend and spent some time trying to work out whether I could use the spent grain for growing mushrooms. The consensus seemed to be that it was too sweet and would be subject to colonization by other microbes, but I might still give it a go. It's definitely something I want to do, but I've only recently started to like mushrooms, which explains why its late in the to-do list.
 
pollinator
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Hi Mark,
Good luck with your life journey!  There is so much fun to be had.  My first degree was in chemistry and I've not used it since: worked c. 20 years as an engineer in the automotive industry before buying a shop on Skye.
Have you considered Wales?  If you are serious about an alternative lifestyle there could be real opportunities there, without a really huge capital start.  See reason to be cheerful for some information.  The main point is you need to be comitted to a one planet lifestyle so your partner's commute would have to be considered.
My suggestion would be to have a go growing wherever you are.  If you don't have space yourself, then there are usually gardens that need help so consider volunteering.  I helped at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens (an 18th Century walled garden) which was on my way home from Jaguar for a while, also a bit of time at Garden Organic at Ryton.  Although not paid positions as well as the experience you gain there are usually benefits in kind, whether that is spare produce, seeds or plants, as well as the knowledge you can get.
If you like study then you may like the RHS general certificate courses, which give a bit of grounding in the science of plants and soil, albeit mainly from a conventional view, and have a look at the SKIP project on permies, that may also be just the thing for you.
 
Eric Hanson
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Mark,

If you are really interested in the mushrooms, I would suggest two different varieties:  Wine Caps or Blue Oysters.  They are both so aggressive that they will outcompete anything else that started there ahead of them.  Just don’t mix the two or they will arm wrestle each other to death.  I like to grow Wine Caps because they are such an easy mushroom with which to get started.  Also, while I do like the actual mushrooms, I really grow the fungi in order to break down wood chips and add fertility.  If you are still interested I can post a couple links to some long-running threads I have.

Also, regarding the variety of climates in the United States, you are absolutely correct.  I presently live in the southern Midwest which I suspect is similar to a warmer version of where you live.  But we have people on Permies here who garden at altitude in the mountains and have year-round snow and others who garden in deserts—and pretty much every climate in between.

Good talking to you today and getting to know you a bit.

Eric
 
Mark Holter
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Hi Nancy,

Thanks for the welcome. I've been looking at Wales a lot, it's more rural, land prices are lower and you're not often too far from the sea. In all honesty I think the One Planet Development might be a bit too much of a shock to the system given that I grew up as a townie and I think I'd struggle to convince my partner, but who knows in the long run. Definitely plan to follow your advice on finding some local places to volunteer gardening. I did have a go earlier this year but it may be something to look at when Boris says we can meet people again.

Eric - really interesting advice on the mushrooms, if you could point me in the direction of those threads I'd be grateful. Do you find you can use most wood chips? I know a tree surgeon I could probably pilfer some from but I don't think he'd be too impressed if I started getting overly picky about species.
 
Eric Hanson
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Hi Mark, try these links:

https://permies.com/t/82798/composting-wood-chips-chicken-litter

https://permies.com/t/130092/mushroom-newbie

The first link is to a long running thread that details my mushroom journey from a complete novice to having at least some skill in it today.  I won't say I am an expert by any means, but I have grown quite a few Wine Caps.  The second link takes you to a thread where I gave someone a step-by-step process for putting together a mushroom bed.

If we are talking about Wine Caps or Blue Oysters, pretty much any hardwood will do.  And don't get put off by the term "hardwood."  In this case, "hardwood" means any non-conifer.  There is something about pine sap that inhibits the fungal growth.  If you accidentally do get conifer wood, my suggestion is to let it thoroughly dry so that the sap dries up.  This may improve things.  Personally I mostly use Autumn Olive (very similar to Russian Olive) which is a weed tree around here, introduced in the 1930s for use in shelter belts.  It is one of the softest hardwoods that I know about, but the Wine Caps love it.  I have to trim back my fence rows every couple of years and then chip the trimmings.

I hope this all help out.

Eric
 
Mark Holter
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Thanks for these Eric, really looking forward to this project.
 
Mark Holter
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Right team! Update (apologies for the radio silence)
Per Eric's advice I've bought some oyster mycelium. I've got this in a conventional bag growing so I can test the process before converting to a larger scale outside. There's the first signs of fruit on the bag and I'll post photos when they come. Am I right in thinking that as this reaches the end of its life I could take some of the straw out of the bag and blend it with fresh straw to rejuvenate it? Or will it reach its mortal end as the food runs out?
I've also managed to strike a deal with a friend who lives down the road. Her husband recently died so I'm helping tend her garden in exchange for control of the veg patch. I've got some raspberries and strawberries in. I've also sowed some carrots, beetroot and peas for shoots.
I say down the road - it's actually down the road from my parents house where I grew up which is quite far away, but I'm planning to use this as a learning experience and I'll keep things that need regular picking/tending at mine and 'longer crops' (spuds and roots) at hers.
I've also noticed some ramsons in the local woods which I'm planning to pilfer some of in the next few days. A very exciting start to my journey, thank you for all your help everyone!
 
Nancy Reading
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Thanks for the update Mark,
It's good you've found a mutually satisfactory way of increasing your growing space.  Let us know how you get on.
 
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Hi, Mark.
excuse me if I sound very paternalistic here.

This is a very important decision, what you are going to do to make a life. It's almost as important as choosing the right partner for the voyage. And the answer to both is the same, try it for a year before you commit fully to it.
If you think you want the farmer's life, then I would suggest to find a farmer, permaculturist preferably, who is in need of help and take an apprenticeship. There are pages that link farmers with volonteers (however, pandemic is getting in the way). Hopefully, you will learn useful skills before you make big mistakes, but most importantly, you will experience what it is like, and decide if you can live like that for decades.

Permaculture is not just about the farmer's life. You can be a plumber and practice permaculture gardening at home. You can be an architect, never touch a plant or an animal, but have all your house and your appliances according to permaculture. One key aspect of permaculture is community, we can't leave people behind just because they are not into farming.  In summary, it's doing the best you can to live sustainably with ethics.
You are still very young, you can learn new skills and make mistakes and recover, but please, be patient. Actually, you will find that a whole year worth of learning is key to success. Take a good honest look at yourself, get to know yourself. What skills do you thing are the strongest? And the weakest? You don't have to live by your current abilities, but considering them helps very much. Then ask you again, what brings you joy? Family? Animals? Tinkering? Music? Take your time, it's not an easy question. It helps to write this on paper.
Skills and preferences will give you the image of where you are. If you want to go from point A to Z, you must know where point A is, isn't it?

Then, to find happiness you need to find your purpose in life. Purpose is a very broad concept. You will recognize it because it is not what you think you must do, but what makes you feel good when you do it. What is it? Helping people? Wealth? Learning? Creating community/family? The purpose is not something you decide, if wealth is your purpose you don't wake up one morning and say 'I need to earn more money to be happy', but rather you know you jump on every opportunity to make more money and become sad when you don't have the chance to do it for more pressing issues. When learning is your purpose, gaining 'more' money will not make you happier, trying new things will do. However, you still need to make a life, so failing to make 'some' money is not good either.
Purpose is, in a sense, a compass that marks the right direction for you. Sometimes you have to make a detour, but as long as you keep the direction you'll be fine.

OK, when you know point A and the direction to point Z, it's time to find point B, that is, setting a realistic short term goal. A good goal is something that you are confident you can achieve in a short time and that is in the path to your purpose in life. If you failed to reach the goal in time, maybe try a more humble goal, maybe make a goal of improving a skill. No matter how humble the goal is, we need to feel success in order to continue on the path.

I suppose that you are instinctively sensing some of this, since you are ready to abbandon the logical path set for you. Farming, it might be the answer, it has a lot to offer. At least gardening is proven to be therapeutical. A good practice after achieving one of your goals is to check whether you are in the right path. Say you succesfully grew the mushrooms, what was it great for? The money saving? The improved health? The tasty result? The marvel of helping a life being to fruit? The learning process until you stopped killing oysters? Being honest with your answer will help you set the next goal right. We have a tendency to fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing things for the highest purposes (saving the world, anyone?) and thus failing to recognize what will really fulfill us.

Sorry for the lecture, I hope it helps.
 
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Hello and welcome
I'm a bit new here myself but have a few decades of 'experience' I hope I offer you

The property market appears to be at or near its all time high. While it might feel good to get a loan, find the right patch and start your dream I will humbly suggest you lease some land and make sure you are doing what you really want to do. I'm not trying to question your motivation or passion, only suggest that the day to day can become a grind just like any other job or task can. You will get your feet wet while at the same time learn about the things that interest you without the monthly mortgage cost. If you can turn a profit from farming which can be a challenge even for the best of us, you will have achieved something many of us only dream about.

Plus you also will have a better idea about what kind of perma appeals to you. Get to know people who are motivated in the same way as you are, who will have experience and can help to point out one of many ways to move forward.

Feel free to ignore advice from a stranger but if "we" are in for a market correction and prices drop you might be in for an upgrade in your holding. Either more land for the same price or a "better" location for your plans.

Nobody knows which way the market is going to turn tomorrow, but we do know that all markets correct to the downside. The question is the timing

I am also in the wait camp, but don't have the ample time you have

Best of luck and congratulations for choosing to move out of the City
 
Mark Holter
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Wow, thank you for your heartfelt and thought out responses both of you. Purpose and finding my motivations is definitely something I've spent a lot of time thinking about recently. I think you can tell by the speed of reply that I've taken some time to really consider what you have said.
I should point out that I'm looking for a place with a bit more land, but I'm not looking to move straight into a farming lifestyle (think what most people would classify as a large garden). There are times to be bold and take risks, but if you can achieve the same or more by taking a gradual series of smaller risks - much better position to be in. In terms of finances, I do appreciate the price of property at the moment, and I spend everyday looking at new properties on the market, and as soon as I'm able I'm going to start leveraging local contacts a bit more to see if they know anyone looking to sell and see if we can save each other some money on the fees. I know what the price of property is like at the moment, but rent is high too. If I bought the house I'm currenlty living in my mortgage repayments would be 2/3rds of my rent.
I'm very conscious that I'm going into this not having fully tested it, but everything I've ever enjoyed has involved being outside and using land and creating great spaces outdoors.
The way I see it, if I buy a place and decide I don't like the lifestyle after a few years, at least I can sell on and I'll have built a little equity in the house, rather than throwing money away on rent. I am also aware the market fluctuates and rent isn't just thrown away, but time tends to increase investment value and as I said before, I'd actually be saving money with a mortgage.
 
Abraham Palma
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That would be true if you didn't pay taxes per every purchase. Here in Spain we pay 7% of any house or land we buy, plus another 1-3% in scripture costs. I don't think UK is any cheaper. If we are talking something that costs 200.000 €, even if you manage to sell it again at the same price next year, you would have lost almost 20.000 €. The usual advice is to wait until inflation makes up to the loses in taxes, but I'm not sure if it will apply any longer. The economics gurus are foreseeing a long period of stanflation, similar to what happens in Japan since twenty years now.

Take your steps very carefully. Failure is fine as a learning experience, as long as you can recover. I wish you best luck.
 
Mark Holter
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I take your point about land taxes Abraham, but in the UK first time buyers don't pay the land exchange tax (stamp duty) until £300k and ongoing land taxes you pay when you're renting anyway.

Even if inflation does stagnate, the buying fees (solicitors, mortgage arrangement) are less than a years rent plus the interest (I have done the maths when I was deciding whether to rent or buy). I don't think this situation is particularly likely in the UK as housing demand far outstrips supply and house building projects are moving more slowly than demand is increasing. There's a much stronger drive for ownership in the UK than in many other countries.

In the event of recessions, governments do often start large scale infrastructure projects to increase employment and prop up the economy (American railway network, German autobahns). The UK may invest in an affordable housing project in the wake of the pandemic. The housing supply may catch up with demand, but I can't see it reducing house prices, if anything they would stagnate. In this case the houses which may continue to increase in value are those older, more characterful properties with more unique qualities and larger gardens, which is what I would plan to buy anyway.

All of this aside, I'd be willing to pay a premium for the freedom to decorate my own house, and do with the outside space as I please. I know this might sound ranty, it's not intended to, it's because I've had this conversation with myself many times. It's something I've thought a lot about and I'm justifying my decision to myself, but I am very happy with that decision.
 
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