• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • thomas rubino
  • Bill Crim
  • Kim Goodwin
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Amit Enventres
  • Mike Jay
  • Dan Boone

best approaches to The Big Transition?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 159
Location: Mason Cty, WA
7
forest garden fungi cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Permies,

I'm ready to take the unpaved detour from the city road to the rural nondestination: To embark on a life towards permaculture outside of an urban environment. I thought I'd summarize my decisionmaking process and see folks' different approaches to this milestone. Hopefully something here could be helpful to others.

What I’m asking here is folks’ opinion on the “live light then take root” approach to finding land & community: moving to a rural area, living in temporary housing, working around to see who’s doing what and learn, and looking at land until you find the right place.  Of the approaches I’ve taken and heard of, it seems the most sensible. I’ve been using the “urban desk job & weekend land scouting” tactic for almost a year and I don’t think it’s working well; I feel barely any closer but a lot smarter. There is also the “urban base, group scouting” model where you, in a group of people, live in a city with its resources and income and you pool your time and money to look at land whenever members of the group have time. What other processes have you used or heard of that have found people the land and community they’re looking for?

For almost a year  I've looked at land based out of New York City, driving several hours north to MA, NY and VT. This is also expensive in a 14mpg Silverado. Many of those hours were spent getting out of the gridlocked heat-island pavement-peninsula that is NYC, and most of my vacation days at my city deskjob were spent on the road between properties. I saw several places. Many were clearly listed to hoodwink outsiders: Locals knew that this place was a rattlesnake preserve, or that that place lost access to floods 3 months out of the year. The remote, internet-guided realty tour started to seem pretty inefficient after doing this for a while.

At a late-winter regional networking meeting of farmers, the career demographics were wonderfully varied: There were prospective young ones, middle-aged ones looking for help with their projects, and older farmers looking to transition their properties to a next generation and keep them out of development. A few grizzled elders offered cautionary tales, funny '60s anecdotes and warned against commune utopianism. There was sauna and the requisite didgeridoo playing. It looked as though, if one wanted to get a group of folks together, anything would be possible with good people skills and character judgment. But relying on randos without a core of good people you know and trust seems unwise, no?

To that end, I met a great collective of city-based young folks who want to start a sort of model farm project no more than 3 hours outside of NYC. For the most part this means staying in the extravagantly expensive Hudson Valley, staking out colonies in the Greater NYC Food Shed. Between them they have a lot of great ideas and skills, but almost all want to remain city-based. This is not my aim. They seem to be taking their time looking at land, with maybe 3-4 of them doing most of the heavy lifting. Whatever decision they ultimately make will be subject to maybe half a dozen people, and it's not even clear (to me) whether anyone will even stay at the property full time to coordinate and continue work. And they will always rely on their city incomes so the property needn't float itself…a sort of hobby farm then.

Had the pleasure of speaking with a guy with nuff self-sufficiency skills who could make almost anything out of wood, canvas and leather. He'd grown up on a farm in Amish country, and his parents were prosperously engaged in same. He'd moved to a cheap apartment in a tiny town so he could better integrate into the community he was planning on buying land in, not just by searching efficiently but by working for stints on area projects. He and his girlfriend worked on local farms, learned traditional timber-frame making, and planned to study ice harvesting. Eventually they'd buy land but didn't want to be hurried or estranged from the process by distance.

Recently I drove through Washington state for vacation. My belle and I took a course passing through Port Orchard, yakima, Richland, Wenatchee, deception falls, Duvall, carnation, Redmond, camano island, Whidbey, Port Townsend, rialto beach, forks, ruby beach, hoh river rain forest, kalaloch, harstine, olympia, lake Cushman, staircase natl park, and Seattle. We camped every night, hiked when possible and foraged some astounding mushrooms, visited farms and farmer's markets. She loves PC too and has been studying it with me...eventually we hope to be working on the same project together. I was floored by the awesome farming and farm products of WA state, which I've never seen.

At this point I've been looking for a while, and as mentioned, my technique has seemed slow and inefficient. I feel like I need to step it up a notch, not to mention that I can't stand another season in NYC where I've already spent 2 decades. And this year has been my first in almost 10 that I haven't subsisted largely on food grown in my own soil or hydroponics.

So my GF's family offered me use of their trailer on Harstine Island for free, so I can stay close to rural areas and find experience-building farm work and easily look for land.  Inspired by Amish-country self-sufficiency guy, I'm on the verge of shedding most of my stuff (anyone need a dining room set?), storing what remains, studying and working in the PC crucible that seems to be the PNW, and living in a trailer too old to park in any trailerparks until I find my promised land.

This terrifies most of my concretewalker friends and family. It sounds insane to the small part of me not yet myceliated by permaculture thinking. It could be a midlife crisis on fire speeding full bore towards a nitroglycerine factory! Fam say:

“But you'll have no job!” Seems to me there's work to be done out there, not all of it profitable or educational, but I'll have no overhead. And thing is, you can't find the work unless you're actually physically there...a seductive idea in a world where we're abstracted from the things we consider by a baklava of screens.

“But you'll have no health insurance!” From what I can tell, WA's Applecare is pretty good, and as a lumpenlaborer I'll qualify. Presently I have insurance with a $2k deductible, so unless I get hit by a NYC garbagetruck I'll never be using the insurance I already pay for. Hard not to beat that.

“But you won't know anyone!” It's amazing what I've been able to do in terms of outreach just by having ideas and sharing with folks. Permaculture and regenerative farming's ideas forge community, with all the tribal loyalty (...and admittedly, some attendant drawbacks) that entails. Besides, as if I've joined a cult, it's become hard to relate to people who want to soldier along with Business as usual in a sorely compromised world* when we have a toolkit of options, sooooo much exploring to do, and not much time*.

Permies, do you have any thoughts? Criticisms? Advice? Do you think I'm a nutter? Is this brave if you're 20, dumb if you're 40? What have other people's journeys been like? Which approaches to the great transition have you seen working best? (Feel free to link to stories if they're extant.)

I've learned a lot here and I'm looking forward to the next stage when I can contribute more. It's been difficult to be useful when I've only been listening to podcasts, reading, and community gardening.


____________
* Trying to sound neither apocalyptic nor preachy.
 
Posts: 68
Location: Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
3
forest garden hugelkultur solar
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You have all the time you need. Move at your pace; the world will wait.

There was a time I felt I had to act NOW. It was 2008 and my income had fallen dramatically due to the economic crisis. I responded in earnest and readied myself for whatever might lay ahead. In hindsight, it was both the right and wrong thing to do.

I made a wise decision because life did in fact get more difficult. I made an unwise decision because many of my investments were difficult to undo. I wish I'd taken more time then, to leverage what I know today.

This is the best advice I can offer. Be strategic. Be comfortable with your choices. Do what you do because it is in your soul... let it be something you embrace, instead of a place to run to. Do not act because the world forces your hand; act because you feel in your heart it is right.

What was your past remains your past. Do not think you can leave it behind and be happy. These concretewalker friends and family you mention... your terminology shows you are distancing them, but you are of them. They are of value to you, and vise versa. Perhaps instead of distancing yourself, you could embrace them and think of how that understanding fits into the life you see as reasonable today. It has a place; whether it is large or small will depend on you.

It sounds like you are ready to embrace the agricultural side of permaculture. Have you come to realize it is more? Permaculture is about growing food in harmony with the environment, about building structures that embrace their surroundings, about consistently acting in a fashion that is in the mutual best interest of both yourself and the good earth. It is a lifestyle, complete with spiritual understanding and a foundational connection with all that surrounds you. Is this what you intend to embrace? Is this what draws your soul? I ask because all beings who find happiness do so through personal growth and love. You can't adopt a lifestyle because of fear the old economy is unsteady. You have to do it because the lifestyle you have found is in tune with your nature. This ensures you will be happy no matter what happens, economic or otherwise.

There's one other thing you might consider. A permaculture life is not always an easy life. Should you build a self-sustaining forest garden, you'll work hard now to live easier later. It's one example of permaculture as a non-financial investment. It only works if the lifestyle fits you and you remain within it. Imagine spending five years building a food forest, only to decide you wanted to return to the world of concrete and steel. Don't think it so absurd; permaculture involves casting off many illusions and not all are ready. Impetus can involve relationships, loss of kinship with those who won't follow, a yearning for the faster life, an unwillingness to break from the constant stimulation of the digital world. I can't say this does or does not apply to you, but I can suggest you think about it. You might even try volunteering your time and brawn in trade for wisdom and experience. It'll be a worthwhile trade for all involved. Don't fret the fact you'll be green; we like green.

I hope this advice helps. I don't wish to direct you either way; only you should do that. I seek only to stimulate thoughts that will help you know what is right for you.
 
Fredy Perlman
Posts: 159
Location: Mason Cty, WA
7
forest garden fungi cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for your thoughtful post Chris,

I see that I have made a lot of decisions in my life out of fear: fear of losing social status, of poverty, of loneliness. Moving towards permaculture might be the first one I've made because it's obvious and correct, synthesizing most of my beliefs over my life. I don't expect it to be easy at all, in fact, my urgency in in starting right now is to make sure I have the physical strength and resources to give it my best years...and be able to enjoy it when it's established.

And yes, whatever else I become, I'll always be a concretewalker. It's what I was first, and maybe if I'd been raised something else, I'd take the magnificence of the wild for granted. I might never think of trying to relate to it symbiotically, only to raze or colonize it as we agricultural peoples always have. You're right that my past is me too; there really are no "mistakes" but the ones we don't learn from.

I realize, and try to embody, the full-spectrum philosophy of permaculture. I have paid more attention to the agricultural aspect because I have the most experience with it, and also because the property I was focused on for months had all its buildings included. As a self-taught welder, I'm looking forward to thinking about building, though I need to develop a lot of other competencies. I'm glad that PC counsels observing the land for at least a year before building anything permanent on it, because it would take me at least as long to figure out what I'd live in, how to build it, and whose help I'd need.

Ten years ago I would have adopted permaculture out of fear for the old economy's collapse, so it's funny you should home in on that. There's still an element of that in my thinking, but I providentially wandered into PC after years of wanting to leave the urban milieu and not being able to imagine a lifestyle outside it. I've lived in the country for a few years and some of my happiest times have been in the middle of a forest or desert, or on a cliff...and now I read an ecology, I don't just move through it. The texts of a valley are richer to me now than a municipal library's. The word "magical", hokey though it sounds, is the only one that describes our recent hours in the Hoh Rainforest. I saw how much I have yet to learn and was excited beyond words to think of it.

I'm not sure I could even be forced back to the concrete and steel, where the climate is "controlled". Most are not going to follow me from that world, but I've had no problem finding people in this new (old) world. You are right that one should think deeply about such things. And the point of living lightly in a trailer on 5 acres of forest is to barter and learn!

It's probably unclear from my long-winded post, if anyone even finished it, that I've decided to move to the trailer. I wondered if other folks have done or heard of doing the same, and hoped they'd share some stories. Sure I want Answers, probably we all want Answers. But Stories are the feedstock for making your own Answers.
 
Chris Wells
Posts: 68
Location: Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
3
forest garden hugelkultur solar
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have.

What you are doing is a direct parallel to my past. When the economy soured in 2008, I purchased a travel trailer and then upgraded to a motorhome when I had saved sufficient funds. I ended up living two years off-grid, surviving -36C winters without heat and living through summer no-see-ums at temperatures that reached the mid 40s indoors. For those who understand Fahrenheit, we're looking at extremes of -33F to 113F. I documented the entire experience. I'll start a thread on Permies to share what I learned in a succinct fashion. It was one of the most rewarding and trying times of my life. The resultant spiritual and emotional evolution I experienced still astound me.

I suspect your journey won't involve the extreme cold that mine did, but it will still temper you. I hope the information I share in my next thread will be of use. I'll post here when it's active. Plan to see the thread in about a week, as I am going to be tied up for the next few days.
 
Fredy Perlman
Posts: 159
Location: Mason Cty, WA
7
forest garden fungi cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Chris, that sounds like it will be helpful and interesting for me and folks to come. Looking forward to it!
 
pollinator
Posts: 533
Location: Pac Northwest
52
chicken forest garden homestead solar trees wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Harstine Island is a good place to start, congrats.

I grew up in Bellingham WA, but I have traveled around the country living all over the place. It has given me a great perspective on the country both the place and the people in it. But I kept returning to the PNW, I just love the region. Having moved all over and starting over not knowning anyone, the whole "you don't know anyone" issue is minor. Something I have found is making friends and contacts is not that hard. And again and again you find the same types of people everywhere. The same circles of friends (with different names and faces) appear in every town and city. Something worth mentioning though about West Coast vs East Coast people however is how on the East Coast you know where you stand with someone in 2 weeks of knowing them. If they are an asshole you know, if they hate you you know, if they are great and really like you you know. West Coast however people are too polite for their own good. Someone could hate you and you might not know for 2 yrs of knowing them. This literally happened to me. A guy who I had lived with twice helped him out through his depression of not having family during Thanksgiving and I find out after several yrs, he never liked me, in fact sort of hated me. East Coast personalities get some flack for being abrupt and aggressive, however at least you know where you stand with them quickly.

If your looking for large tracts of land, the Eastern Wa side you can get more for your money. Western Wa the land prices are quite a bit higher. Both in buying and in taxes. However there are always good options both sides of the Cascades. A lot will depend on what you want and what you want to do, as well as what you might be able to afford.

I recently just got 40 acres of raw land over in Okanogan County. https://permies.com/t/56342/rockies/Moving-Okanogan-homestead-land-pics and am slowly building up to live there full time and build infrastructure to hopefully be ready to start gardening and bringing in live stock next year. This 1st year though is building infrastructure and observation to understand how to manage the land properly.

One of the best resources for land searching Eastern WA is http://www.desertlakerealty.com/ though there are also many great deals to be found just by driving around the area and finding signs for property for sale.

If you see any land offered on Pontiac Ridge, don't consider it. The area is filled with extreme anti gov folks who like to do a lot of shooting and are highly wary of strangers. Not the best neighborhood to move into.

Something worth noting, Ferry County has a program with the PUD to install an off grid power set up for you if your property is not accessed by power lines. They install a system and it is a rent to own, so after you pay it off through monthly bills it is yours free and clear. Sadly Okanogan Co doesn't have that program and I had to buy my own off grid set up.

As for the "rush" something to think about is not letting being in a hurry to get a place influence you into opting for a troublesome piece of land that is not right for your needs. Take your time to find the right piece of land for what you want to do. Sure you will likely need to put effort into the land, but if you don't like hills and have bad knees, don't get land that is all slope, for example.
 
Chris Wells
Posts: 68
Location: Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
3
forest garden hugelkultur solar
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It will take me a while to condense my notes. Please check your Purple Mooseages. You'll find a wealth of information there, logged in chronological order as I lived the two years. It'll be a great read for one who intends a similar adventure.

Cheers friend, and be well.
 
Fredy Perlman
Posts: 159
Location: Mason Cty, WA
7
forest garden fungi cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Chris, I skimmed through the thread a bit (was slow reading with all the replies, detours and discussion -- I can see why you want to break it down into notes) and there is some great stuff in there, like your experience with the transmission and mud. We have been offered the trailer I'll be staying in on Harstine and though it seems great that it has a sink, a stove and a place to put one's bed, it needs a lot of work on other stuff and there is the question of getting it wherever I'm going. I can tow it with my pickup but because it's 2WD, I'd have to be careful on some kinds of road. I know you can mount 2 more tires on the axle of his a trailer to make it less likely to get stuck, but with 2WD towing that might be an even greater concern especially on slopes...something to keep in mind.

And Devin, thanks for posting and for linking me to the wealth of info you've already shared (too bad your pic links have often died). I especially appreciate the info of a person recently on the ground: I hadn't even considered Pontiac Ridge, but now I won't. I wonder if any of those folks are white supremacists besides. I keep hearing that's an issue with WA, but it seems to be in or coming from the East.

I particularly liked what you wrote in one of your other threads, that people often only post their land for sale locally b/c it excludes speculators and developers lured by the internet. I've found ok things online but it's true, the best land I've seen has been in-person. Your explanation is a good hypothesis for why one needs to be in the thick of it.

I'll keep mining your links for info, especially as the move date comes closer. I too plan to document and share my experience exhaustively here; there can never be too many detailed narratives, because every situation, property, and person is going to be different.
 
steward
Posts: 1354
Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
199
books chicken forest garden hugelkultur hunting wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I fixed the links to Devin's pictures so they are back in action. A beautiful piece of property.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 533
Location: Pac Northwest
52
chicken forest garden homestead solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Fredy Perlman wrote:And Devin, thanks for posting and for linking me to the wealth of info you've already shared (too bad your pic links have often died). I especially appreciate the info of a person recently on the ground: I hadn't even considered Pontiac Ridge, but now I won't. I wonder if any of those folks are white supremacists besides. I keep hearing that's an issue with WA, but it seems to be in or coming from the East.

I particularly liked what you wrote in one of your other threads, that people often only post their land for sale locally b/c it excludes speculators and developers lured by the internet. I've found ok things online but it's true, the best land I've seen has been in-person. Your explanation is a good hypothesis for why one needs to be in the thick of it.

I'll keep mining your links for info, especially as the move date comes closer. I too plan to document and share my experience exhaustively here; there can never be too many detailed narratives, because every situation, property, and person is going to be different.



I hadn't even realized there was a problem with the pics links, they had been working wonder what caused them to not. Thanks Bill for fixing them.

On the topic of Pontiac Ridge, I don't think the folks are White Supremacists. Most of those are over in the Spokane area. And yes there is a problem with them in Eastern WA. They sort of got kicked out of Idaho and moved over to Eastern WA. But thankfully they aren't all that plentiful in the Okanogan. The Pontiac Ridge folks from my understanding, are mostly old school survivalists, not new school preppers but the survivalists waiting for Red Dawn kinda folks. Many are military vets from what I have heard also.
 
Weeds: because mother nature refuses to be your personal bitch. But this tiny ad is willing:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show
http://permaculture-design-course.com/
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!