We love hearing testimonies and getting updates from our students. From those who plant their first gardens to those who completely rock the homesteading. And this couple did just that. In 2016 they took our in-person PDC course and used their property (10 acres), which they purchased a few years prior, to design their final project.
Check out what we would call an AMAZING success told here in their words:
We learned so much by taking the PDC and are so glad we did! It helped us to narrow our focus and figure out what we really wanted from this property.
The first thing we did on the property was install a gate and a driveway. Then, we bought a shipping container for tool storage and built a carport off of that so we could have a dry sheltered place to work.
We spent the first couple of years just camping out here whenever we could. Eventually, we installed rainwater tanks to catch water off of the carport.
We bought a 12×30 portable building and turned it into a tiny house where we could live while we built an Earthship (more pictures about that below). It was a good way to get some building experience and learn to set up off-grid systems before jumping into a more permanent construction project. We really learned a lot from this little cabin!
The cabin electricity runs on solar panels and batteries. We filter the rainwater using the WOM system from Earthship, and we have two burners that run off of propane fuel. We use a compost toilet. The shower is located in a greenhouse that is built onto the shed, and the sink and shower empty directly into a greywater bed in the greenhouse. We have a portable hot water heater for the shower, but have done without running hot water inside the house. When we started building out here we were given some advice: Don’t make your temporary house too comfortable, or you’ll never be motivated to build the permanent house! We can verify that showering outside in all types of weather and not having running hot water is doable but certainly not too comfortable!
The soil here is quite poor red clay, so we decided to build some modified hugelkultur beds to start gardens. We tried just planting in the ground, but unfortunately pretty much everything died right away! We dug four 3 foot wide and 2-3 foot deep trenches, filled them with branches and limbs, buried them with the clay we had dug out, and then added tons of finished compost to the top. They have worked well for us the last several years and get more productive every year. We add some compost to them just about every year and have used cover crops as well. One bed is full of blackberries, and another one has perennial herbs. The other two we have used for annual vegetables.
We started building the Earthship in June of 2016. We wanted a house that would be tornado resistant, fire resistant, termite resistant, and could function well off-grid. We chose to modify the Simple Survival Earthship to include all the systems a regular house would have. It’s almost like the Vaulted Global model. We completed the tire walls in December. The next year we spent building the vaults on the ground, and in Spring of 2018 we had a big party and moved the vaults onto the tire wall. Then we built the bond beam and are currently in the process of applying ferrocement to the vaults.
Last year we identified an area where we could put a series of ponds and swales to start our food forest, and this has been one of the most fun projects to work on. We started by noticing a low spot where we could build a small pond. We did this by hand and it’s only about a foot deep when it’s full. Then, we decided to build a swale where the pond could overflow. We added another pond above the first one, and then another swale coming off of that. The plan was to put one more swale at the very top that would empty into the pond, so the water would basically go Swale –> pond –> swale –> pond –> swale –> and then finally into a series of larger terraced ponds that would irrigate a large flat area of crops.
We have also incorporated animals into these systems as well. We started with laying hens in a chicken tractor and electric fence. Eventually we just dropped the tractor and fence for a permanent coop and let them free range, fencing off the garden areas where we didn’t want disturbed. We used the tractor and fence to raise some meat birds in the summer of 2020 and it worked very well. We also tried our hand at raising sheep for the first time in 2020. We had 4 lambs that we bought in spring from a friend and butchered in the fall. They fed on the grass in the fields all summer and the grass stayed really green. We could tell even just with one season of having animals on the fields that there was a big improvement. I’m excited to see what the pasture will look like this spring!
WOW! Amazing progress and updates. So where are they today? Well like anyone, sometimes plans and priorities change. Check it out:
Our plan was always to finish building the Earthship and then have kids. Well, we felt like we were getting too old, so we switched up the order of things a bit. We are due with our first child any day now. Bringing a baby into the picture has really shifted our perspective and our priorities have changed. We have decided to move out of state and live closer to town, with a smaller property that will be easier for us to manage. Ten acres is really a lot of land to take care of. We always thought we would eventually start a farm business, but now we feel like we just want a little bit simpler of a life and to focus on raising our family and food for ourselves instead. It was a really difficult decision as we have grown to love our little piece of paradise, but I think we will be happier in the long run.
Sean and Kelcey – we wish you and your growing family the best of luck and can only imagine the beautiful and healthy permaculture family you will raise on your next property!
There’s so many stories like this one from Sean and Kelcey. We encourage you to join our online community and sign up for our Online Permaculture Design Course to begin designing your dreams. It’s easy, so why wait to get started on your own property? Check it out: