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Darren Tasker

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since Nov 18, 2018
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Recent posts by Darren Tasker

Rural living gives a sense of where the resources for modern life come from and the effort required to provide the food for the cities. We have many old farmers by us we often see planting onions, garlic, beets for seeds - damn hard work.

We grow some of our own food which has made us appreciate how much hard work is involved to produce a substantial harvest. We now know what our soil is like, the weather impact on its fertility and life (we live in the SW of France is hot and dry in the summer). We see the infestations, moulds etc. first had and now have a better understanding on what causes them and what nutrients and protection they need.

Our land was industrially farmed before us. Only now after 5 years we are seing biodiversity return, bugs, bats, birds, wild orchids and a change from deep rooted "weeds" to grass wild flowers and clover cover. It is great to see permaculture principles having such a big effect and the joys of rural life.
1 month ago
This technology sounds very promising:

"World's first working thermal battery" promises cheap, eco-friendly, grid-scalable energy storage

Thermal battery

Fingers crossed it works out due to the low price and longevity without degradation
2 months ago

Mike Jay: Doesn't work=money=things?  How can you live without making money?  Um, maybe by saving it so you can live off it while you're still healthy.

Completly agree Mike - a job can seem secure to buy stuff and waste money. I tried to have similar conversations about wasting money in work pointing out the exotic holidays, titanium alloy bikes (for getting fit - never understood that one), German cars, gardeners, cleaners and the like. They could not understand how my family was saving 50% of our salaries - often saying that it was not possible (so why bother) so didn't think for a second about it.    

My observation, having been there, is that working for someone else means you get "paid" and they get the "benefit \ profits". Secondly a salary is an odd type of security as pay is typically related to living cost so will never be very high unless you land that dream job. Spend the excess and you are left with nothing at the end of the month.

A salary is one dimensional \ one income source. This makes it inherently fragile - one income source (poof its gone) and probably high living costs (how do I pay for that withot my paycheck). Unfortunately compounding this is modern work is usually highly specialised. This makes it difficult to move to a different job if the role is eliminated.

I worked for a large multinational and the rate of automation was amazing and is just moving faster and faster. Unfortunately without having transferable skills and multiple income streams the salaried employee looks like a riskier and riskier situation.

So coming back to point on to why rely on a single salary in your prime? Why give all your effort to a profession that may be eliminated without diversifying and saving for those rainy days? This may sound harsh but these are the best years of your life and health truly is wealth. Expecting a salary to pay the bills indefinately and a pension to be there, in hindsight seems fragile now. If a shock comes hopefully it works out ok and it is a blessing in surprise and a creer you always wanted. Unfortunately it has the possibility to impact health and vitality possibly through having to work longer / take a lower paying job.  

Compare this to someone who has their own business. They will have lots of customers. They choose who they serve and how many customers they need to have or find. They expect their income to go up and down but the profts are theirs. They will naturally hedge their bets and spend below their income. For example the gardener can loose a client but still have many other jobs and just needs to fill a "gap in their schedule". A highly specialised production line worker looses a job has no other income and has to re-skill or find a similar job fast or drawdown savings fast.

Savings and personal businesses considered this way can give some breathing space. Space to say "I need a day off", "To enjoy life a little" or "Reduce my workload" - it is their choice. It is the reason we went for FIRE to have some space for our kids, not burn out, and enjoy our health while we can. Work=money=free time=freedom ? :)

We like permaculture as this alings with our ides of freedom for us  growing our own food
1. We now where it comes from and what has gone into it
2. saves us a huge amount of money that otherwise would have to be purchased with after tax money (hours worked).

The same can be said for anything purchased money = time. I guess we are looking for the right balance between money and time.....

8 months ago
It is amazing how rich the west is yet how much we squander on consumption. It is not real wealth or generational wealth just some entertainment or plastic gizmo that will end up in the dump.

We cut our consumption by at least 30% with some simple activities, pay as you go phones that just make calls, no treat food, re-negotiating insurance contracts and the like. We are now using permaculture to cut our living expenses even more by becoming more self-sustaining.

We have been using the permaculture principles to look at our whole lives from investing, where and how we live and how we interact with people and our thought processes. It has really opened our minds in many ways. For example

1. Defining what is really important versus consumption and entertainment
2. How we don't need to waste fuel, food etc. just by changing some habits.
3. Healthly eating and the impacts of bad eating and processed foods etc.
4. Mental health - we were stressed out monkeys in our corporate jobs, keyboard bashing, going from meeting to meeting, appraisal to appraisal all the time stuck in boxes all day long. Cutting consumption to work in the garden is so much more relaxing and we get to exercise.

On retirement: We did initially fall for the retirement "dream" of slogging away doing something, we did not really like, for a very long time. Just so that we could continue to live at the same consumption level. I regret putting so much aside in accounts that are locked up now knowing what I could do with the funds invested in our land instead. We will just have to wait!

On interest in FIRE: We have been fortunate to have checked out early yet we have been astounded by the lack of interest in how and why we did it. Some of our old friends spend eye watering amounts of money and work all hours and we struggle to see the joy in that lifestyle.

On interest in Permaculture: In the SW of France permaculture is gradually gaining more traction as is organic farming. We have a few friends that are practicing some aspects of it which is great to see. We can swap seeds, vegetables and ideas with them. There just does not seem to be a critical mass to push it into the mainstream here yet.

8 months ago

I fully agree with Jay on educating the kids.

From what we are seeing most kids are just entertained at home and are taught to repeat facts at school. The school environment is nothing like a real world work environment yet we expect them to move straight from school to a job.

Secondly - the need to get a good job at the end of it all. This means doing a difficult and useful subject that is in demand. There is no point in studying something that can be learnt from a book and paying 40K for it ending up with no specific qualification or advantage.

Third the school system is about gaining grades - typically an individual pursuit where the world of work typically means getting results as part of a team. Working with other people in a constructive way needs different skills.

Unless kids are introduced to these skills early they will suffer in work - learning on the job. Making these mistakes on the job will hold them back and they probably wont learn all of the skills they need to get ahead (unless they are fast tracked or mentored).

The same goes for financial intelligence unless the parents are clued up something like FIRE it is up to them to find out (it will never be taught in schools). Even if they do find out about it they need to understand the importance of its message, actually take an interest in it and put a plan into action.

Otherwise they are sold the retirement dream of handing over their money into a pension account invested in the market. Another promise is made by the government if you work long enough you will get a pension from them as well. Unfortunately the government keeps on moving the goal posts farther away, its amount can be a guarenteed but not its purchasing power - it is out of your control.  Even worse pensions are underfunded and governments get deeper and deeper into debt. It does not sound like a financially stable system to me.

Further financial education is required for big purchases such as a house - how to do it at the right time, right cost, right pace and right size. How to save and invest and how to have clear goals and plan for the long term.

We are spending lots of time with our kids to try and introduce them to some of these real life skills. We include them in small renovation jobs, growing food, splitting wood and the like. We have no TV and we sit down as a family at every meal. We are trying to fill in skill gaps such as:

Emotionally Intelligent
Communication skills
Setting Goals
Being Proactivity
Keeping a Positive Outlook
Looking out for themselves

Further gaps include philosophy, planning, languages, some coding, art and crafts and the like so they can start to understand the world around them and how choices have different outcomes.

Coming back to the FIRE movement I think it has to look at the education it is giving as well. My opinion is that it needs a much wider discussion other than index investing and 4% drawdown while living really frugally. My concern is that it needs to look at risk of the market more and other alternative investments. These can be investment in yourself, different ways of living and ways of working.

We have lived in a prosperous time (Just to say - I am not a doomer type of persion more a realist ;) yet long term history has many stings in its tail. For instance if there is huge crash, you are all in on the market and you halve you savings but still have to take say 20K out a year, your savings and investments probably wont last very long.

This is why we have to look at risk planning and resilience as part of our lifestyle - because of history.

For us permaculture fits perfectly into this (risk planning, a simple less stressful and enjoyable lifestyle). It is reconnecting us with nature and we love it.    

8 months ago

Our family 2 adults and 2 kids checked out from city life in London following the principles of Early Retirement Extreme (late 30's). Since then we have bought a small holding in the SW of France and are applying as many permaculture principles to our lives as possible (with loads of mistakes).


1. We saved over 50% of our take home pay and invested it all.
2. We sold what we needed to buy and renovate our farmhouse with 2.6ha of land.
3. We use the rest to generate a modest cashflow from companies whose products we use.
4. We need purpose in life so have lots of projects and some work to keep us engaged in early retirement.

FI mistakes

1. We tried to invest in renewable projects using unproven technologies when we should have kept to proven technologies and utility companies that used them.
2. We underestimated the impact of opting out of the mainstream to a quieter permaculture lifestyle would have on our old friendships.

We continue to live well below our means and have adopted many techniques and some technologies (many simple) to reduce our need for external resources.

Why Permaculture?

1. Our land was industrally farmed. The soil is clay, deep but depleted and we are leaving it alone for nature to do its work.
2. We want to be as self sufficient as possible but not in the same way as documented in the book "Back to the Land" - we have plumbing and insulation!
3. We don't believe that that living off investments will necessarily pay off in the long term. We want to be able to fend as much for ourselves as possible. We are moving investments into sustainability at home such as solar hot water and a solar greenhouse.
4. Ideally we want local work to be engaged with the community (my wife is already providing a translation service)
5. We are concerned about climate impacts (although more towards the cooling side of things)

Our Permaculture mistakes so far

1. I wish I had come across mass rocket stoves earlier. We have a wood heating system with a double combustion chamber but I worry how much heat goes out the chimney. We also have two stoves. One has a double insulated chimney and does not heat the room quickly where as the second has a floor to ceiling single chimney which heats a bigger room much faster and with less wood.
2. Not realising how much work needs to be done with damaged soil and how our soil type (clay) does not favour certain plants and trees. Unfortunately we have lost several nice plants and trees because of this.
3. Underestimating mother nature to be so variable from hail, heat and wind. We have to protect our crops more and make sure they recieve suficcient water and root protection.
4. We have insulated our house alot yet as it is at least 200 years old it needs alot of work to make it as air tight as possible.
5. Our permaculture mounds did not work well at all in the first year. We used soil from the intensively farmed field, failed to mix in the organic material sufficently and a had dry winter. The clay soild caused any rain we did have to run off instead of sink into the soil. This year we mixed the top of the mounds by hand adding some sand and compost whilst mixing in the wood chips from the year before. This seems to have done the trick as this year they were very productive.

Permaculture surprises,

1. We are amazed how abundant the garden can become following the principle of constant adittion of organic material. We collect leaves from the forest in the winter, add all of our garden waste and ash from the fireplace.
2. We have reduced our energy consumption so much that we are surprised when we talk to other people how much they use.
3. We have a well and a spring which we use under gravity to water the garden.

Next Steps

1. Grow all of our fruits and vegetables for the year
2. Build a permanant solar greenhouse
3. Options for electricity generation \ backup
4. Grow and prepare more of our heating wood

Good luck to all,


8 months ago