Permaculture Through the Seasons

The Essentials of Homesteading and Permaculture

We are living at a critical time in history. This is a time on our planet where we must learn how to live sustainably, and gain the self sufficiency to unplug, at least in part from the grid. Permaculture design is the missing element, one that we all must learn and observe. But there is another side to this story, and that is that learning to live in tune with the land is a wonderful, joyful experience. When you take the step to improve your life this way, the process itself is inherently rewarding. Your health, your confidence, and your place in the world all improve as you build your skills and grow your roots.

If you truly want to dive in and learn about how to live off the grid, to build a self-sufficient homestead, as well as earn your permaculture design certificate, the Essentials of Homesteading and Permaculture course is an opportunity like no other. Instead of a week or two crash course, we gather roughly a weekend a month over the course of nine months. Renown teachers join us, bringing the wisdom of their ancestors and their own lifetime of dedicated work.

Seeing the seasonal evolution of the homestead operation gives you more than a glimpse, it takes you through the procession of the season and gives you the space between sessions to practice your new skills. Learn to grow, harvest, and preserve organic foods. Build a tiny house, tour the natural building methods of the region, execute the permaculture design process, meet and grow with wonderful people along the way.

The Teachers and the Crafts

We begin our journey with primitive skills. In the first session you are presented with your knife, and shortly you will be sewing a sheath with Mira Brown, daughter of, local hero, carpenter/welder/jack of all trades, and gifted teacher of all of these trades including the Women’s carpentry course later in the year. Shortly we move on to friction fire with Tyler Lavenburg, keeper of ancient knowledge in materials and ecology.

Soon we’ll be cultivating Shitake mushrooms with Cailin Campbell, you will even get to take your own mushroom log home to harvest from for many years to come. Again, this time between sessions is important. Practice sets this knowledge into place and ensures you will retain it and put it to use. Cailin will also be teaching animal husbandry, some really fun stuff like the proper use of a chainsaw in forest maintenance.

Doug Elliot is a well known herbalist, naturalist, and storyteller. He joins us for the wild foods hike and always brings a vast knowledge of the local ecology and a unique sense of humor, along with a deep connection to the plant and animal life here in the Appalachian mountains.

The bulk of permaculture and permaculture design topics will be taught by our very own Natalie Bogwalker, founder, director, and revered queen bee of Wild Abundance, and Laura Ruby, owner of Yummy Yards and Curriculum Connector of the Roots Foundation. Together, they bring an incredible mix of pedagogical knowledge and on the ground experience in the Appalachian and Southeastern region.

The Self-Sufficient Homesteader

Stewarding a self-sufficient homestead means maintaining a year round supply of food, and this means being knowledgeable about growing organic food, organic food preservation, canning foods, fermented foods, how to make cheese, how to make bone broth, how to use every resource available to you in the cultivation and harvesting of livestock and gardens, up to and including tanning hides. In our outdoor kitchen, we will be covering many organic food and food preservation related topics throughout the year.

But we don’t stop there! Foraging is an important part of living off the land, and outdoor survival as well. Sustainable living means making use of resources when and where they are abundant, which is everywhere if you know where to look. Included in this essentials course is the Wild Edibles Adventure, backpacking through the mountains near Asheville, NC for three days learning of ethical, safe foraging and plant identification.

In July we attend the Firefly Gathering, the largest primitive skills gathering in the U.S. An incredible experience on its own, Firefly is an unforgettable weekend of expert teachers and hands-on courses that will undoubtedly open your mind and your circles with new skills and incredible people.

In August during the tiny house and natural building workshop, we drop in on three days of design and construction of sustainable, accessible structures, as well as a tour of Asheville and Barnardsville’s best examples of these. You will meet the people who create them, build them, own them and occupy them. You may even want to join the rest of the workshop as we build a home from the ground up.

Permaculture Design

Finally, this group will go through the full permaculture design process of of an actual homestead and receive their design certificate. If you are preparing for your own local set-up, you may even be able to enlist the group to design your land as the group project.

But whether you design your land or someone else’s, the experience and knowledge that you will use will change your life. It will empower you to know that you are capable of true self-sufficiency. You can take your life into your hands and live in harmony with your ideals and with the earth itself. We encourage you to consider your own human needs and where you can use more education and competency. If any of this sounds like it fits, then by all means come explore further with us. We would love for you to join us on this journey.

Tiny House – Learn, Build, and Enjoy

Planning for your Tiny House

Imagine your dream tiny house… we know you have one. Yes, they’re cool. Yes, they are key to a sustainable future, as they are less resource intensive in basically every way when compared to a traditional American home. But best of all, they are actually within your reach. Financially speaking, saving up to buy one is a viable option for most. But even more accessible, and of course much cooler, is to build your own. Again, if you are somewhat handy, willing to work, and have a plan, you can do it too.

Here at Wild Abundance, we have a 10-day workshop in which we tour an array of local tiny houses, as well as some natural building examples, then we actually build one to give you all of the skills you need to build the basic structure. But first let’s go through the basic design process and a few of those big decisions you’ll have to make.

It is always wise to start with a sound budget. This will help guide the decisions on what you could buy, whether it is a whole home or just certain features. Even if you plan to build from scratch, you will still want to shop around for design ideas, being certain that you will get the most out of your investment. Local builders can build a wonderful home for $60,000, which might be a great choice for you depending on your needs.

Building Your Base

For those of us that like to get our hands dirty, let’s start the design process. The first big decision will be whether to build your tiny house onto a trailer or on a set of skids. The main considerations are the legal restrictions in your area and then how often you plan to move this structure over its lifetime. If you are planning to move it often, meaning more than just a few times, put it on a trailer or something with some permanent wheels.

Building it on skids will also give you some flexibility with the width of the house. You’ll have options with length either way, but on a trailer your width will be capped at 8 feet. Without this limitation, you might be able to push that to 10 feet, which will make a huge difference in the interior space of the home.In either case, your tiny home will need insulation throughout the base of the structure. There are trailers available that are built specifically for tiny houses that come with the necessary insulation. Remember, in your tiny house every inch of space will matter as we will see when we try to fit everything in it.

Floor Planning

Here is where this house begins to become you. In this phase, you will draw out the layout of each room, wall, divider and storage space. Think long and hard about everything you will have in there so you can plan effectively ahead of time. You can find plenty of free tiny house designs online to get started or get ideas, such as those at http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/free-plans/. Small dividers and thoughtful storage can maximize a rooms usefulness while not taking up to much actual space or making too many very, very tiny rooms.

Where will your stove go? Where will your desk go? Your couch? Here’s a big one-where will your bed go? A common place for the bed is on a loft if you don’t mind climbing up into it every night. If you do put one up there, make sure you give yourself a window that opens for proper circulation at night. Kitchen space and bathroom space can be minimal if there are on-site kitchens and outhouses, as there are in many communal settings. It is important to determine your own needs and work with them to achieve your goals with your space.

As you draw up your plans on paper, Sketchup, or any flavor of floor-plan software, be sure to include the thickness of the walls, doors, and windows in your design. Every inch counts. For the more tactile thinkers, try making paper cut-outs to have a tiny-scale representation of your furniture or room needs. This will help as you try to wrestle down the size of all of your needs into this tiny space.

Raising Your Walls and Roof

Next will be your walls, which are determined by your floor plans of course. We recommend commercial 2×4’s to erect your stick walls, which actually measure 1.5″ x 3.5″, as opposed to rock sawn 2 x 4’s if you are accustomed to using that. Anything to save a little space and weight will be preferred. When it comes to your windows, shop for them first and build your walls around them. Used windows can be found and purchased ahead of time, which will greatly decrease your cost and efforts putting these in.

The style and dimensions of your roof will have a great impact on your usable interior space, and the overall feel of size while inside. You may go with a number of roof styles, but gabled or shed style the most popular. Commercial 2 x 6’s will generally be appropriate for a simple roof structure, though with a gabled roof you might use 2 x 4 with trusses.

The pitch of this roof will be very important to the functional size of your tiny house once complete. Height is generally limited by law for tiny houses, so that will always be your highest point. Maintaining a lower pitch enables you to open as much space as possible within the limitations of width and height.

Our Tiny House and Natural Building Workshop

If you’re really interested in learning to do this right, and learning from the people who know, consider this 10 day intensive offered at our homestead here in Barnardsville. This class includes two days of tiny house tours, including a tiny house business and a number of natural building examples. Each day includes lectures with more in-depth coverage on things like legal constraints, electrical systems, plumbing systems, composting toilets and waste management.

Thank you for reading and for your interest in tiny, sustainable, houses. We are happy to help you along, and to help us all move toward living more responsibly with the space and the resources we are blessed with on this planet.