“In truth, I did not know much about Permaculture when I booked on to my PDC and thought it was some sort of ‘clever way to grow more food’. Little did I know that it would turn my plans on their head and slingshot me in to a totally different life and almost a totally different person”.
The first in a series of Permaculture Stories – true tales of encounters with permaculture that have changed lives and perspectives in positive ways…
I’m Tricky Wolf, I’m 28 years old and I own a 5 acre Permaculture centre called Wyrdwood Acres. My dreams to transition to a more earth based life began in 2015 but it wasn’t until I took my Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in early 2016 with Graham Burnett that our dreams were transformed into a reality with plans and designs based on the GoSADIM (Goals, Survey, Analyse, Design, Implement, Manage/Maintain) thinking framework.
We were tired of living out the Groundhog Day style destructoculture of the rat race. We decided we would make a 5 year plan to remove ourselves from the 9-5 lifestyle and build a homestead in the countryside somewhere so that we could live the “Good Life”. In truth, I did not know much about Permaculture when I booked on to my PDC and thought it was some sort of “clever way to grow more food”. Little did I know that it would turn my plans on their head and slingshot me in to a totally different life and almost a totally different person.
Graham summed up the GoSADIM framework with just a few basic questions that made it easy to understand and relate: What do you want? What have you got? How can you make what you have into what you want? Do it, then keep doing it and after that figure out if you could have done it better.
Well I knew what we wanted, a life closer to nature to spend more time together as a family and live as self-sufficiently as possible. The absolute ideal outcome would be a remote piece of land that we could grow our own food on, keep livestock and home educate our young children. What did we actually have at that point? A mid terraced house in the most stereotypically urban area of Southend possible with a garden just about big enough to swing a proverbial cat in. Our limiting factor was resources, since the neighbours wouldn’t take kindly to us flattening their houses and turning them in to food forests it seemed that we would have to move elsewhere! But with no capital behind us the only way we were going to be able to buy a smallholding was if we sold the house, even then we would have nowhere near enough capital to afford land in the UK, especially within our home county of Essex.
Around the same time that I was in the middle of my PDC my wife Carly took an Appreciative Inquiry course in Southend. One of the tools introduced was “Reframing a Challenge as a Great Outcome”. When we applied that to our financial problems we saw that its wasn’t that we had insufficient funds for our dreams, it was just that we hadn’t found a place that we could afford to do them in yet. So we broadened our search to cheaper areas of the UK, then abroad in places like Portugal, Bulgaria and finally Spain. Although prices were much lower than comparable smallholdings in the UK they were still outside of our budget for anything even close to ideal. Another problem reframed, if we couldn’t afford a house with land we would have to buy the land and build a house ourselves, at least this way we could make it exactly the way we wanted it. When we switched to this outlook we found many plots of land within our budget that would leave us enough money to build a modest, low impact sustainable home on.
Which brings us to the D in GoSADIM, and we decided there was no point waiting around if we had the means to achieve our goals already, the 5 year plan turned in to more of a 5 month plan, we sold the house, invited Carly’s parents to come with us and moved the entire family to Spain to begin our Permaculture adventure.
Which brings us to where we are right now, our implementation stage. So far we have sold the house, moved abroad, bought the land and are now going through the legal processes with the town hall and our architect that will enable us to build a solar powered Straw-bale house on the land, complete with composting toilets and greywater recycling systems. In the true spirit of permaculture we have drawn inspiration from the patterns of nature itself and are designing the house in the shape of an Almond Tree’s blossom as it grows abundantly on the land, a shape that our architect tells us lends itself well to the reciprocal roof structure and grass roof that we have designed.
However, one area that we have struggled with is timescales, it seems that anything involving the sale or purchase of land is impossible to complete within the expected time frame and it can be incredibly frustrating but you have to accept that there are some things that you cannot influence and government red tape time delays are certainly in that category. Apart from that we have had a great deal of success with our plans so far and when we finally finish the build of house we will have a centre for permaculture that we can host events and courses at to share our knowledge and experience gained along the way. We are also currently setting up a Community Garden to give back to the community that we have moved to and hopefully teach the locals a thing or two about sustainable systems and good organic home grown food.
We got to where we are now by setting goals, doing our research, gathering resources, deciding our designs and implementing our plans to make our dreams a reality. We can’t predict the future but we are confident that with positive adaptive thinking framework that we will continue to thrive no matter what the world throws at us.
Follow the progress of Wyrdwood Acres here, and Tricky and Carly’s Family Attempting to Survive the Times (F.A.S.T.) blog adventures here.