For someone who hates “tap tap tapping” on a smart phone or even worse – an actual computer – the starting of a blog might seem a contradictory endeavour. The truth is I do rather hate the internet, and social media sends me into a spin of social anxiety, but I feel motivated to reach out to people anyway and whether I like it or not, in this day and age reaching out to people is going to involve the internet one way or another.
My motivations for starting this blog and for wanting to reach out to people on the internet are fairly straightforward: I want to encourage as many people as possible to unplug from their phones and leave the bubble of their Wi-Fi, to go outside and to experience nature, and because I’m convinced our society is totally unsustainable and that people need to take an urgent interest in learning to be more self-sufficient. The irony of using the internet to deliver this message is not lost on me, I hope you will forgive me the contradiction.
My Story (or how I bought a farm having never previously set foot in one).
We are a gay couple, a pair of city kids, a computer nerd and a book worm, who like many of our avocado toast-eating millennial friends became disillusioned with the lives we were being offered. Wasted lives spent blankly scrolling on Facebook in bland box-like rental accommodation, zero hour contracts, payday loans, and student debt all set woefully against a backdrop of revolving apocalyptic national and global catastrophes: the death of the NHS, the financial crisis, the refugee exodus, the wild fury of climate change and the great scam that is Brexit – to name but a few. I knew in every fibre of my being that the society, the civilization, to which I belonged and to which I owed my ongoing survival was crumbling, fast. It didn’t take me long to convince my partner that we needed to make a serious change.
Having lost faith in the system to look after me long term, I was looking for solutions that would enable me to live a freer, more natural and self-sufficient lifestyle. I wanted to sleep better, eat cleaner, and be involved in the process of keeping myself alive. Essentially, what I was looking for was a lifestyle that would enable me to be a free range human, part of the earth and its cycles, master of my own time, a part of the landscape.
That’s when I started educating myself about plants and gardening. I studied plant science with the Royal Horticultural Society, had over a hundred exotic house plants, and a tiny balcony that I turned into a tropical greenhouse. I deleted all my social media accounts, took control of my rollercoaster finances and started working out with a personal trainer. It was a great start, sure, but it wasn’t enough; I felt the looming crisis all around, I noticed my friends and neighbours slowly but very obviously declining in health and happiness. There seemed to be a chronic lack of hope and positivity for the future. I started prepping, hoarding supplies like food and first aid equipment. I soon realised that simply buying things would not be enough to equip me for the collapse I was convinced was coming. With time I understood that true self-reliance had to be holistic, to be right for me it had to incorporate all the things that I valued, like nature, natural chemical-free foods and environment, good health and a soul-centred system of healthcare, resilience and sustainability, personal and ideological freedom, and free control over the means of my survival.
My discovery of permaculture was long overdue and totally necessary. A system by which the human animal can live in balance with the location in which they find themselves, to harness and respect nature, to work within the cycle of seasons, to produce food and medicines without chemicals and without an over-reliance on the global flow of oil and petrol products. To live for a long time with what you have, without depleting but instead replenishing. Permaculture taught me that the human animal can be a positive force for good within the environment, not a drain, not a destroyer or a polluter but a guardian, a friend, a member of the family.
After that, the end result was almost entirely inevitable: I was going back to the land, and we started our search for a place in the world where we could live a more outdoors life, a life with clean air, with space for a garden, with room to grow ourselves and our family.
Quite how we ended up with a three hectare derelict olive farm, halfway up a Spanish mountain, with a house that had no roof, I will never truly be able to explain, but it might have something to do with the cost. You see, we learnt fast that bucolic nature paradises cost rather a lot of money and us two, washed up theology graduates that we were, did not have that kind of cash. Of all the variables of all the different options we looked at, we decided, for various reasons some of which are entirely naïve and inexplicable, to go with a wild, remote property without any mains connection to water or electricity, without a liveable house, without a reliable access road, without any other humans for many many miles, and without even a sliver of phone or internet connection. Just two guys, three dogs, a tent, and some pretty wild ideas – in the middle of winter.
As we stood in ankle deep mud surveying our €14,000 kingdom it was not without some irony that we half-heartedly declared “we’ll call it the Freedom Farm”.
This blog is about what happened after (and why you should do it too).