Casaubon's Book

Tell Me Your AIP Story

Ok, as you all know from my “Pyr-Buck-Bees-Sheep” post, I need inspiration to get this book cooking again. So I know you’ve told me before, some of you, but I want to hear about how you are making a lower-energy life where you are, or how you’ve found a new place to do it. I’m also looking for a couple new people to profile for my book – I’ve had some dropouts, and would love to add a couple of new participants. I’m particularly looking for people who are trying to AIP in very dry climates and deal with water issues, those adapting in rental housing, anyone adapting as part of a religious community and people adapting who are concretely dealing with issues of aging either for themselves or with loved ones. I can only include a couple more profiles, so don’t be offended if I don’t take yours, but I’d really love to hear – and if you don’t mind if I inquire further, include that info too!

I think what I really need to is to just jump-start my excitement by hearing what other people are doing! I’m very grateful to y’all for your help!



  1. #1 Raye
    January 12, 2010

    Sharon, Something AIP helped me with was get a little perspective, reassess my plans, and actually make plans, rather than being in a mostly reactive mode. That’s the overview, let’s talk specifics now.

    For water, I have and continue to survey what my sources would or will be if we have no electricity (we are on a well). For my budget, I can’t swing the thousands of dollars for a manual pump (long story), but there is a creek less than a tenth of a mile down the hill, and I have doubled my rainbarrel capacity.

    My efforts to develop an income stream have shifted from strictly service-based (teaching, coaching, consulting) to producing tangible goods. I am preparing to propagate and sell edibles and even a few houseplants. I am looking into training in woodworking, since most of my little plot is wooded, so there is a resource right here.

    The ducklings have been ordered, and the Duck Inn and Little Fort Knox are under construction.

    I am no longer as dismayed when I get the glassy stare as I bring up the topic of resiliency, or economic changes. I know there are some who see it coming, and that helps me keep going. I am extremely grateful that you are, and that you share.

    I am making space for tools and materials and activities that will help me be productive. I am crocheting, spinning, having people over for visits, starting a homesteading skills club (right now we are two), I am scouting for local sources of the basics.

    Food preservation is something I am practicing on – quite imperfect, but progress is being made. The other day I trekked to an orchard and bought giant bags of apples for making applesauce, drying, eating and giving away.

    Hope some of that helps.

  2. #2 aimee
    January 12, 2010

    Hi Sharon –
    We have five acres in western washington, and are trying to be as self-sufficient on it as we can. I have all sorts of plans, some of which are accomplished, others still in my head. On the accomplished side – we built a shop for my husband so he can work from home. We run our cars on homemade biodiesel brewed from waste veggie oil (my husband built the processor from free stuff off craigslist). I have some 2,000 gallons of water storage from roof runoff – it isn’t plumbed in anywhere yet but I use it for the garden in summer. On the energy front, solar panels and perhaps a windmill are in the future.

    About 75% of our food comes from the farm or our close neighbor’s farms. We raise a few goats for dairy and meat (I make cheese), and chickens for eggs and meat, and a pig once a year. This provides us with plenty of protein to eat and to trade. I am not a great gardener, so I like to trade eggs and cheese for veggies in season. I do garden, of course, just not very good at it! Also we’ve planted a dozen varied fruit trees. I inherited a cider press and we make cider every year. So far my experiments at brewing have been flops, but I feel sure success will come.

    I have learned to can and otherwise preserve, to butcher and make sausage, and to take care of my animals. I love it. There are many skills I still want to acquire – sewing is high on my list. I have beekeeping equipment but so far not the gumption to use it! Maybe this year!

    I would love to switch our heat from propane to something more earth-friendly. My husband has a furnace out in the shop he’s trying to convert to run on either biodiesel or waste veggie oil, so maybe by next winter! Meanwhile we turn down the heat.

    My children are thrilled with this new life, although there are more chores. Nobody likes hanging up wet laundry. My teenager has learned to spin and knit, and my little girls like gathering eggs. My favorite thing is the trade network – I am meeting so many cool people and neighbors, some of whom are into sustainable living and some who just like to bake or garden or knit and are happy to make trades.

    I also am truly in love with goats. Milking goats is my new favorite hobby – who knew? It’s truly gratifying to offer my family and friends really delicious goat cheese from my own happy, healthy animals.

    There’s so much to learn. There’s so much to do, I can’t even list it – just sitting here I’m thinking about where top put the herb garden – whether or not we have enough scrap wood for another couple of raised beds…

  3. #3 KiwiRach
    January 12, 2010

    We’re doing our best to ‘adapt in place’ and increase the sustainability and resiliency of our lifestyle. It could be argued that we are adapting in the wrong place because we are New Zealanders living in Oxford, UK. I will admit that I fear that if we delay our return to NZ for too long we may not be able to get back. Our parents are still alive and we’d like them to enjoy their grandsons more than once every couple of years.(a trip back every 2.5 years is our compromise between carbon guilt and family love) Yet we cannot feasibly go back without a job to go to. We have dual UK / NZ citizenship which I feel is a good thing in an uncertain world. We have a small fund in NZ that will help us get started there when we do move back. Fortunately the climate is similar between the two countries so all the horticultural skills I learn here should be useful to me there. Just over a year ago we took over half an allotment plot. (a whole plot is 10 roods big whatever that is) I grew a large variety of things with varying degrees of success. I am so pleased that I don’t *have* to feed my family from the plot whilst I am learning to grow things, or we’d all be very hungry. We also grow some veg in pots and a builders bag at home. We rent, so can’t actually plant in the garden. Our landlord was happy to get the house properly insulated for us, especially since his age made him eligible for a grant. The insulation was done this autumn just gone, and we’re definitely feeling warmer for less central heating. We get an organic vegetable box delivered once a fortnight, which has taught us a lot about seasonal eating and has taken some of grocery spend away from the supermarkets which is a good thing. I’ve increased the food stores in our cupboard and now only food shop once a fortnight. I was very proud of my cupboards this past week when snow delayed our planned shopping day by four days and we were perfectly fine even though it was three weeks since we’d last shopped in the week before Christmas. No panic buying for bad weather needed in this house. There’s other bits and pieces we’re doing and I’m happy to be emailed if you want to know more of our story.

  4. #4 Gina
    January 12, 2010

    We are simultaneously adapting in place and trying to find our place.

    We are live on a 7500 square foot lot in a two-bedroom, seventy year old house in Pasadena, California. There are nominally four of us (myself, my husband, and two young boys), however, at times my younger sister has lived with us for months at a time as well. There are a lot of challenges here in the way of living a sustainable life and it is because of those challenges (and also personal desires) that we are looking to find a new place. Unfortunately, job opportunities have not yet made that possible, but we are seriously looking. For now, we attempt to adapt in place in our little, old, drafty, house.

    We’ve converted most of back yard and some of our front yard to food production – from March 2009 through December 2009 we harvested over 200 lbs of produce – all organic. I think we can at least double that this year. I’ve learned to preserve food through drying and canning. We are hoping to add bees this year and chickens next year; perhaps goats in a couple of years. In addition to the food we grow we have really changed the way we eat in general. We are vegetarian and buy only local produce, dairy, and eggs. I have always enjoyed cooking, but two years ago as a result of concerns about the environment/resource use and the discovery of multiple food allergies for our older son we began to cook basically everything from scratch (make all our own bread, soups, etc.) It has been a wonderful change for us and I am now writing a cookbook with seasonal recipes that are adaptable for those on special diets (for health, allergy, or whatever reasons).

    We are living on much less energy, in fact, we have not turned on the heat for the past two winters. We use human powered tools in the yard and in the house as much as possible. We have figured out how to get everywhere we need to go without the use of a car and try to avoid driving as much as possible (much to the chagrin of friends and family who come to visit and realize that we are *walking* if they want to go out to dinner). We are quite zealous about minimizing waste and re-use everything possible –cloth diapers, cloth TP, real towels instead of paper, fabric bags for gifts, etc. In addition to food we make our own cleansers, gifts, and this year I think I am going to bite the bullet and learn to sew (a personal nemesis of mine) so that I can make/repair some of our clothes and linens.

    I have an interest in medicine and I am starting to treat minor illnesses/injuries at home when a couple of years ago I would have gone to the doctor. I have a chronic, incurable, illness (rheumatoid arthritis) and we have adapted our house to work for me (e.g., raised beds instead of planting in the ground, invested in warm clothes instead of turning on the heat) without resorting to high-energy solutions. I have also discussed with my doctor strategies for dealing with my disease should my expensive, hard to manufacture, temperature sensitive medication become unavailable/unaffordable.

    We’ve paid off all debt other than our mortgage and are actually managing to save money in a very high cost of living area even though neither of us works full time. On a wider scale we are working on building family and community. Talking with our parents, brothers, and sister about where we all might live in the future. We have made friends with like-minded folks and I have even taught a few “classes” to friends on canning and bread baking.

    Our house is a challenge. We purchased it seven years ago from the original owner (she was 94!) and there was a lot of deferred maintenance that we are still dealing with. We have absolutely zero insulation along with some very ill-sealing windows and doors. I fear we will need a new roof soon (my husband plans to do it himself). While it only gets below freezing a few nights a year here, the heat here is dangerously brutal. We had many days last summer over 105 degrees. The water situation in southern California is completely unsustainable. We are very concerned about the future availability and affordability of water in our region. Right now, we are under mandatory watering restrictions (although with our low usage they actually haven’t affected us). We have seen the prices of natural gas, electricity, and gasoline rise substantially. We have two young children (ages 3 years and 9 months), and as I am sure you know, it can be quite a challenge to keep up with them and our “inconvenient” lifestyle. We both work outside the home part-time (me by choice, my husband by the lack of available full-time teaching jobs) and that severely limits our time for homesteading work. All that said, we’re very proud of what we have accomplished with our little patch of earth.

    If you would like to inquire further, just send me an email.

  5. #5 GreenRoofGrowers
    January 12, 2010

    We are three families growing heirloom vegetables on our Chicago rooftops using homemade sub-irrigated planters (SIPs) and commercially available Earthboxes.

    We’re likely not the example you’re seeking for your book, but perhaps you’d be inspired that our experiment in growing has produced not only a bunch of fine food, but also knotty challenges to solve, joy, and a sense of community in our city neighborhood.

  6. #6 Art
    January 12, 2010

    So what is an “AIP”.

    If you use a acronym, particularly if it is in a title, it will serve you to define the term. Leaving people to wonder doesn’t help draw them to your POV, Point of View.

  7. #7 Brenda
    January 12, 2010

    Hi Sharon – After doing a lot to adapt in place in the mountains of Southern California, we decided that we would never feel secure there and our footprint only kept getting bigger. So we decided to significantly downsize and we went back to Plan C (the sailboat). Our NEW AIP plan is to make the sailboat as “green” (gah – I hate that term) as possible by taking out high energy systems (5 air conditioning units came out; composting toilets and LED lights are going in). We’re working on how to handle water (a watermaker), heat (a small wood-burning stove), lighting (plenty of solar lanterns and headlights with rechageable batteries), and refrigeration (determining how small we can go). We’re hoping to meet our overall power needs with solar panels. I suppose at the end of the day we’ve gone from adapting in place to becoming hunter/gatherer/nomad types, but we think it’s going to work for us.

  8. #8 Ramonan
    January 12, 2010

    Much of our adapting is still in progress. We have many improvements we want to make and I feel we’ve only just begun, so I’m not sure how helpful this will be.

    We’ve lived in N.E. San Diego county on 3.5 acres in an old avocado grove for 12 years. The grove (and our shed, greenhouse, and landscape) burned in the 2007 Witch Creek wildfire. We’re replanting with fruit trees and a vineyard. We also have large vegetable gardens. All of these require water, but much, much less than the avos did. So relative to the past, we’re using much less water now. We’re switching over to drip irrigation wherever possible and the entire vineyard will be run on drip from the beginning. The irrigation system gets turned off as much as possible in the winter when it rains. I water pots, which dry out quicker, by hand if necessary. We take short showers and if we take a bath, the water gets used to flush the toilet. The list of pending improvements in the water area include: rain barrels in 3 locations around the house, a composting toilet system (need to build a larger compost pile first), and a diverter line for the washing machine.

    On the energy front, we’ve cut our electricity usage in half by not watering the avo grove. (We have an electrically pumped well.) Then we cut it in half again by not using the central air conditioner last summer. We bought a small window unit and put it in the small guest room on the first floor and slept down there when it was unbearably hot. And it DOES get hot here. We also have not turned on the heat this winter. I no longer use the clothes dryer except for emergencies, we’ve switched out all of our light bulbs, and we have all newish, energy efficient appliances, except for the washing machine. I use a small hand-cranked washer sometimes. The best way to cut our power usage any further is to cut our water usage, which I addressed above.

    We have reduced our trash to about one 30 gal. can/month. I recycle everything with a number on it and reuse containers and packaging as much as possible. I’m still hoping to lower our landfill contribution, but I don’t have any specific plans.

    We eat and preserve food from our garden as much as possible. I’m replacing most ornamental plants with edible/medicinal/useful ones. My rule is that if I’ve got to water it, I better be able to use it for something! We have to compete with the wildlife for the produce, but we recently got some unexpected help from our newly-adopted Jack Russell terrier. Turns out she loves chasing critters. We’re planning to add hens, Babydoll Southdown sheep, and a livestock guardian dog next spring. The chickens will produce eggs and help weed and fertilize, the sheep will mow the vineyard and orchard areas, fertilize, and provide fiber, and the dog will guard the sheep and property. At least that’s the theory!

    I forgot to mention that our property is mostly vertical on a decomposing granite hillside. Everything that we’re doing outside would be 10 times easier on flat ground, but for many reasons, we choose to adapt in place instead. I admit that I question that decision often!

  9. #9 prospective
    January 12, 2010

    This was on page 5 of our city paper – The Age – in Melbourne Australia. Water is our main issue here when trying to adapt. Hot weather etc don’t help. Stuart McQuire might be be an interesting profile for you.

  10. #10 Brad K.
    January 12, 2010


    AIP – Adapting in Place. Adapting is short for “Adapting your lifestyle to survive an economic decline due to Peak Oil, in a manner that is sustainable in many senses, including economic, cultural, and social. Adapting should be sustainable in terms of living as near fossil-carbon neutral as possible, that is, to avoid generating greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate change.”

    Sustainability includes localizing production of food and many other needs. The current international trade in cheap crap and food depends, heavily, on existing international agreements and lack of violence, and on cheap energy. Growing food in gardens and small farms – instead of industrial farming, as American agriculture is mostly practiced today – minimizes the amount of energy needed to transport food to consumer. It also, in many cases, produces more food for less energy. Many see the gardening and local food production approach as also encompassing another spectre of doom – the lack of genetic diversity in America’s agribusiness, monoculture production. Monsanto is but one of the three remaining seed corn producers for the farms of America, and much of the rest of the world. Monsanto is also the name most commonly linked to suppression of competing brands, and buying legislation to “protect” their patented seeds – by outlawing competition.

    So you will see “heirloom seeds” and “seed saving” linked to AIP, as individuals deliberately turn away from commercial hybrid seeds for some or all of their garden produce, to select Open Pollinated varieties. Open pollination refers to plants that can be raised, year after successful year, from the seeds they produced the previous year. Look into beans – there are individuals that are saving upwards of 200 varieties. Or tomatoes, or squash. Etc. The catalog is gorgeous, and impressive for the number of varieties of common and uncommon produce. Seed saving is an important part of maintaining the genetic resources of a varied gene pool – that is, sustainable.

    Peak Oil is an economic theory, that the world is no longer able to produce fossil oil and coal as rapidly as current demand would consume it. The implication is that availability, especially of oil, will become increasingly inconsistent as competing demands alternately starve different areas of demand. The resulting instability of price – like the $4 gas a while back – will recur into the future, each time hitting new levels of cost and scarcity. The essential impact of Peak Oil, aside from economic, political, and technological instability, is that the era of “cheap energy”, especially coal and petroleum, is ending. Regardless of announcements of new finds and vast deposits, the rest of the world is developing an ever-increasing demand for oil. At the same time it takes years to begin producing oil from a new field found today, and production rates and oil quality decline as current fields are depleted. The current lull in instability is, as I understand it, due to the recent worldwide recession. As the rest of the world recovers economically, their demand for energy – oil – will resume, most likely to result in new rounds of instability in oil availability and increasing prices.

    At least, I think that is what Sharon meant, by AIP.

  11. #11 Scholastica
    January 12, 2010

    With apologies to Sei Shonagon.


    Eight Beautiful Things

    Twilight rose petal fights with children.

    Picking ones’ own currants, glittering like rubies in the sun.

    Eschewing Christmas shopping, one dances Nutcracker excerpts for family.

    Delighted children discover an indoor snowball fight and galaxy panels, made from “trash”, under the Christmas tree.

    One ventures out in falling snow, digs through ice and dry leaves, and gathers fresh herbs for dinner.

    Already thrice-harvested, new chard leaves peek through snow.

    One eats the first crusty, fragrant slice of a fresh-baked sourdough loaf.

    One’s nerves tingle with delighted anticipation as one pours dark, vanilla-scented Christmas Orchid Ale into a waiting glass. Ah, homebrew.

    One Petty Thing

    One feels smug and clever upon receiving many compliments on one’s outfit – a too-large camisole found in a donation bag(covered with mulch), and a child’s lace shrug, all tied up with the ribbon from a box of candy.

    Four Frustrating Things

    One sells one’s house at a loss to go help an elder. Many sensible actions must now be taken surreptitiously to avoid disagreement with same.

    One is in the rust belt and must be careful. Many would consider one’s preparations to be detrimental to one’s country. Silence is best.

    One must make many of one’s edible plantings appear to be part of suburban-style landscaping.

    Prolonged unemployment puts many preparations out of reach.

  12. #12 Tammy and Parker
    January 12, 2010

    Um….my efforts to cut down on electricity include purchasing one of the outside wooden dryer racks you wrote about. Then this summer I’ll dry diapers, etc., outside.

    Add that to our gardening, seed saving, cooking from scratch, canning, buying in bulk, buying second hand or just flat out not buying at all, and well…….that’s where we are.

    Because Parker’s pulmonologist almost fainted when I mentioned getting backyard chickens,(who knew chickens and a trach were not a good mix?) we are back to purchasing free range eggs from a small farm a few blocks away.

    We’ve gone totally blenderized with Parker’s diet using homemade yogurt. No more little cans of Pediasure. Everything organic.

    My husband drives a zillion year old Jetta that was gifted to us. One tank of diesel gets him through the entire month. The car passes safety inspection, but has no air conditioner.

    If I need something from the store, instead of driving there I make the 14 year old bike there. ;D

    Finally, I’ve cut way back on my baggie habit.

    Some people start at ground zero and move up from there.

    Then there is me, starting at at negative 35 or so. I’ll be happy dancing when I get to zero! ;D

  13. #13 Sonrisa
    January 13, 2010

    Well, I live in a very dry climate (western Utah). We average about ten inches a year. I was born and raised in Hawaii, but the first time I went to Arizona I felt an instant connection(I am Zuni on my dad’s side). Utah isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it’s where I am. So, I’ll start with the “place” then move on to how we’re “adapting” to it.

    The place
    Our property is one fourth of an acre. It is surrounded by thousands of acres of public land. The vegetation is mainly sagebrush, greasewood and non-native tumbleweed. The soil is very alkaline, and since this whole area used to be a sea it’s also salty. The house is about 1000sf and is built of three layers of brick (14 inches thick). It was built to be a telephone building in the 50’s. The previous owners started to turn it into a house and eventually abandon it. The town is 2 miles away, has one tiny store/greasy spoon/gas station, a post office, a two room school house, and a church. It has a population of about 250. The nearest place with shopping/entertainment is 30 miles away. The altitude is approx. 5400ft, so the sun is intense and the temp drops dramatically at night. We are lucky to get 90 days frost free.

    The Garden
    I’m always trying new things, but there are a few things I have found that really work well here. One, is keep the ground covered, preferably with something organic, and put it on thick. Two, don’t mess with the soil too much. I once tried the pigs as rototillers and ended up with solid cob. Don’t stir the compost in, heap it on top and let the worms do the work. Leave the roots from the previous crop in the ground if possible. In my soil tilling = concrete. Tilling in organic matter without a heavy mulch = concrete with rebar! Three, soak don’t sprinkle. Sprinklers never get the water deep enough, so you end up with shallow rooted plants that need constant watering. Use a soaker hose or flood basins and trenches. If you water properly you should only have to do it once a week. You just have to be careful not to water too much or it will bring more salt to the surface. Here’s what I do in my garden. I scoop the soil out of the paths and heap it on to the beds, which makes raised beds, but it also lowers the paths. The beds are two to three feet wide and the paths are one foot wide. The path gets a heavy layer of straw and the beds get a thick layer of compost. Once a week I flood the paths which soaks into the beds. I plant winter wheat in most of my beds in the fall (since nothing else grows until June anyway), then it gets harvested in June/July. I plant the next crop directly into the stubble and heap more compost on. By the time I harvest that crop the wheat stubble has almost disappeared. I also try to find plants that are adapted to my conditions. If it needs babying it has to go.
    I don’t buy fertilizer of any sort. Only compost and manures are used. Everything is composted. Including bones, which are picked out, burned, then ground to add to the garden (phosphorus).

    The animals
    We have come to the conclusion (after lots of experimenting)that the barnyard trio (cow, pig, chicken) is a very efficient combo for us. Unfortunately we don’t have the space for all that, so I went with the smallest version I could find for each. Mini goats for milk, meat, and a little cashmere. Japanese quail for eggs, white meat, and feathers. And we recently added mini pigs as garbage disposals. At one point we had the full size version of all of these, but it was just too much everything for a family our size.

    Part of our goals are to provide most of our animal feed as well. Last year my little pasture fed 2 milking goats for 6 months. I managed to clear and plant enough area to triple that for the coming year. The goats also get tumbleweeds from outside our property.It’s very nutritious and it also happens to be an invasive plant here. I have been growing dry peas to add to the quail feed, but if it came down to it the poultry would be the first to go. They require too much people food to produce well. And the mortgage lifters (pigs) get very little purchased feed. They get the whey from cheese making, potato peels, excess eggs, etc.

    We have one fuel efficient car. My husband works from home and the kids are in homeschool. The car gets used once or twice a week, but we have gone over two months without leaving the property.

    Our house is heated by a passive solar green house, a wood stove, and electric space heaters. The passive solar covers 30-50% of our heating as well as growing food year round. Unfortunately, it is undersized because the short side of the house is facing south. On really cold days or cloudy days the wood stove gets used. It is also used for heating water and cooking. We use about 1 to 1 1/2 cords of wood a year. We have a few space heaters for use as needed.

    Cooking is done on the wood stove, in a solar oven, on a single electric burner, or when we need a lot of heat a propane burner.

    This is our greatest weakness. We do have a well and enough water rights to irrigate the entire property and then some, but it is dependent on power. We have several tanks that total about 500 gallons. We use very little water, between 20 and 30 gallons a day. That even includes laundry and livestock watering. It doesn’t include irrigating in the summer. We would like to have the well set up on solar or wind, but that may be a while. A well bucket is on the to get soon list. That’s all I can think of for now.

  14. #14 Barn Owl
    January 13, 2010

    I find most of these AIP stories to be fascinating, so I imagine that Sharon’s book will be a great read. I’m AIP in a semi-arid suburb of a large city, and I’m tenured full-time faculty at a medical school, but I’ve only begun the process of adapting and reducing comsumption, and don’t have much of interest to share.

    I am curious, though, to know how people in remote areas manage internet access. Is this done sporadically, through a local library, or at a coffee shop or bookstore with wifi? On the few occasions that I’ve used the 3G capabilities of my iPhone to access the internet, out at my friends’ ranch, I’ve noticed that the battery is drained rather quickly. So if that’s your strategy for internet access, how do you manage the frequent recharging? Just curious, as I am seldom without ready internet access at home or at work.

  15. #15 curiousalexa
    January 13, 2010

    I am just old enough to remember the 70s oil crisis. Understanding that cheap oil would not always exist (due to a variety of reasons, it turned out), I have long been interested in living a more sustainable life, such as humans experienced for thousands of years prior to oil, keeping our petroleum reserves for specialized processes such as medicine.

    This isn’t so much about Adapting In Place as Finding Your Place:

    I have explored many places, both with a partner and by myself. I discovered a mortgage to be not sustainable (for me), yet did not have the nest egg promoted by Rob Roy (“Mortgage Free”) to purchase outright. Instead, I am following the example Dan Price gives in his book “Radical Simplicity” – renting land with the right to make approved alterations.

    Land rentals are common in non-residential uses: leasing farm fields, long-term hunting agreements, even summer-long rental campsites that renew each year. Granted, there is more concern for water and waste disposal in a more residential situation, but these are not insurmountable.

    There are many examples of people in the US who live in non-traditional structures – tipis, yurts, even RVs. I would encourage people to explore these types of alternatives. With the advent of storage facilities, it no longer requires selling everything you own to experiment for a year or two. And if you choose to use a mobile storage facility (e.g. PODS), your possessions could catch up to wherever you end up landing!

    As for me, I landed in Maine, far from the Midwest I grew up in and had expected to stay in. And I couldn’t be more pleased!

  16. #16 Casey
    January 13, 2010

    After 5 years in the phoenix desert, it was obvious that adapting was not an option. As a native Floridian and a gardener with a small child, it was time to go home. Time to go back to our native climate of south florida and back to family. Our phoenix garden would not sustain us in a crisis. Phoenix was “home” only because of our jobs. So 2 years ago, we started making plans to come home. We bought raw land, then a small fixer upper on a 1/2 acre, the house is roughly 1/2 the size of our phx house, and perfect for us. We then succeeded in getting both of our jobs to give us telecommuting contracts. My husband moved before my son and I and then 6 months ago we were all back together in our florida home. We have been very lucky and are very grateful to have our jobs in this economy, but we are even more grateful for the opportunity to be back home with family. So what have we done to adapt in florida? Being able to telecommuting is huge, since I alone was commuting 84 miles a day in phoenix. We have had a hybrid since 2005, so our impact when we do drive is lower than most, but now we drive about 15 miles a week (daycare trips). I started a huge garden, which we just lost to unusually low temps for zone 10. I had 600 sq ft of heirloom tomato plants. ” ( I’m still bummed about it. I installed a cistern that holds 1100 gallons and collects rainwater from the roof. I have 8 heirloom chickens and share my eggs with the neighbors. My closest neighbor just got 2 hens of her own now, and another is considering it. I plan to replant bananas (frost stinks) as well as planting a large orchard on the raw land-citrus, nuts, avocado, mulberries, etc. I have about 6 months worth of food storage-sharon, thank you for your books, esp. Independence days- you answered many of my questions. I have taken a canning class and bought the necessary equipment, and am getting more confident. I have a solar oven, and line dry my clothes. We are trying to keep our electrical load to 500 KWH a month, which is great considering we both work full time from home and each have computers, and I have two monitors(required). We have quite a bit more to accomplish, but we know that in this climate we can live without electricity, if necessary. I grew up in south miami and we never had heat or air conditioning. The goal is to get solar panels to supply all of our electricity needs. We still need to install passive cooling options for summer. We have a Florida room which heats up during the day and helps warm the house in the winter. We are about 200 feet from a fishing pier where the river meets the harbor, so we’d like to start fishing and preserving our catch, and we will begin to decrease our meat consumption. Plan for 2010 is to buy only local foods—this is florida and it provides all we could desire.
    The only wrench in my long term plans is climate change…rising seas and hurricanes. BIG WRENCH! I went through hurricane andrew in 1992, only 4 miles from eye. I do not look forward to another, however, I learned a great deal from that experience. I’m sure we’ll have to re-evaluate in the future, but this is home. I’ve lived many places and have traveled around the world and there is no place like home!

  17. #17 FarmerAmber
    January 13, 2010

    Our adapting in place story… We live on 0.25 acres in an eastern Kansas mid-sized town. We are working to become as sustainable as possible where we are and draw tremendous inspiration from you and others. So far we have:

    *turned nearly our entire lot into a garden. We’ve grown over 1200 lbs of produce for the last 2 years and we’re shooting for 2000 this year.
    *preserved everything from the garden using all the usual methods – canning, dehydrating, freezing, fermenting and root cellaring. We eat something from the garden every day, all year at this point.
    *Stocked up on bulk grains (wheat, rice and beans for us). We have over a year’s supply of these staples on hand.
    *Switched to buying no new clothing (other than underwear and socks), fixing it or doing without, and finding most everything used.
    *Kansas is fickle for water. This year it rained all summer, some years it doesn’t rain for 6-8 weeks at a time. We are increasing our rain barrel storage to cover an 8 wk drought for the garden as well as our own drinking water this year. We conserve water using drip irrigation and hand watering for most of our raised beds.
    *we’ve started reaching out. I helped organize a city food garden tour last year and hope to do it again this year. The goal was to show people that you can grow food in town – and lots of it! I’ve done canning and pickling workshops and I’m helping a local community garden get started.
    *We’re building bonds with our neighbors more deliberately than in the past. That has been as rewarding as anything else.
    *Last fall we built a greenhouse addition to our house to let us have green things to eat in the winter and so that we can start all the plants for our garden.
    *We’re working on alternate sources of income. We’ve started selling some produce through a local CSA. I’m planning to start enough extra veggies this spring to have a plant sale. My husband is reviving some commission painting work he used to do. I also teach natural childbirth classes in the evening. My job is not secure and we’re hoping that these things combined with extreme thrift could let us stay in our house if/when I loose my job.
    *We keep rabbits and are seriously looking at chickens. Protein and fat are the parts of our diet that we don’t currently provide for ourselves in significant quantities, so these two would go a long way. I would love some goats, but I don’t have my husband sold on them yet.

    It’s been a wonderful journey. The best part is watching my kids (8 yrs and 4 yrs) as they grow up learning how to do things for themselves – pick and snap green beans, pick strawberries, can tomatoes, plant all kinds of things. It was magic when we invited my son’s boy scout troop over to plant a container of lettuce, radishes and carrots as part of learning to grow food. His response to the idea was “But I already know how to grow food!” I thought my heart was going to burst with joy and pride.

    If you need another temperate climate, city lot profile, we’d be happy to share more about what we’re doing. I can’t wait to read the book!

  18. #18 Susan
    January 13, 2010

    Well, we live in the high desert with a rainfall of about 12 inches a year (mostly in big downpours in the summer). We violate Steve Solomon’s law by gardening intensively, but we have installed rain gutters and barrels; my plan is to get taller tanks with the same or similar diameter so that we can harvest probably 70% of the rainfall in a given year. That, coupled with a portable solar powered pump, and drip irrigation will easily take care of all our garden watering needs. And of course I would still like to install a grey water system.

    If you would like more info, please feel free to drop me a line, I’d be happy to help out. The thinking you and Aaron made me do in the AIP class last year really propelled me in this direction, it made me realize what our single most precious resource was.

  19. #19 Sharon Astyk
    January 13, 2010

    Art, fair cop, although I defined it just two posts down. I figured this post would mostly attract my regular readers who have heard me nattering about AIP for a long time, but you are, of course, right.



  20. #20 Lora
    January 13, 2010

    I grew up in PA Dutch country with Mennonite and Amish great-grandparents, grandparents on dad’s side, numerous Anabaptist aunts, uncles and cousins. Rejecting their religion is one thing (heinous, but common enough in these modern times), rejecting the culture not to be thought of. My extended family would have considered me foolhardy in the extreme to buy a property that couldn’t feed me, one way or another, and given the price fluctuations of groceries over the past several years, I am forced to agree. Cost of five pounds of tomatoes that taste like watery cardboard = $10; cost of one packet of seeds that can produce >50 lbs. tasty heirloom tomatoes + water, fertilizers, dirt = $10. So I started from a place where many of the things you describe as adaptations, were already considered common sense and healthy frugality. It still surprises me that my colleagues consider this abnormal, sometimes.

    Also, the combination of working with commercial food processors as clients of my previous employer, the various contamination issues they’ve had, and the taste and nutritional differences between food produced from my cousins’ farms and what is more widely available from ADM/Tyson/Sysco et al. confirms my cousins’ belief that the mega-food processors just are not clean. You know that one really dirty roommate you had in college who refused to wash dishes for months, smelled like a dead mouse’s armpit, who would leave hair all over the shower and pee on the toilet seat, and never saw anything wrong with that? That’s the guy in charge of the mega-processors’ manufacturing plants.

    The main thing I learned about renting apartments and half-duplexes, gardening in shared spaces, and being poor for many years pre-grad school, is that starting conditions, as Barbara Ehrenreich notes in _Nickeled and Dimed_, are everything. If you don’t have good sun exposure in a dank little hillside apartment with few windows, you’ll have to spend so much on grow lights that food is too expensive to grow. If your water is expensive because you have to buy it from another state and the local water authority is constantly raising rates, there really is no point in working from the ag extension research done in more humid climes, or from areas where water rights are organized differently. You might as well learn completely different methods of growing from scratch. However, given that most of the farms where I grew up were supposed to be completely non-functional per the ag extension claims, that didn’t bother me. Plus, part of being a scientist is being willing to try new things.

    When selecting a property to purchase, I kept all this in mind, and today I am still astonished at how much more functional my 300-year-old farmhouse is than the modern homes of my neighbors. Simple stuff like how my kitchen was designed to cook lots of food and carry out lots of different tasks efficiently. I suspect this was because the house was designed by the people who would actually have to live in it, rather than someone whose notion of cooking, butchering, laundry and water use were purely abstract ideas under the heading, “things other people/machines do for me.” After all, the developers and architects who design modern housing aren’t the poor bugger who is going to have to cope with frozen plumbing and sky-high air conditioning bills, why should they think about these things? I see a similar mind set in my professional life.

    Now I keep a small orchard, a decent-size veggie garden, poultry and woodlot on two acres not terribly far from Boston. Our main source of both water and agriculture-friendly security is really our community, though: our town council reacts very unpleasantly to anyone who suggests violating the town’s exclusive water rights to the large, pure reservoir. There are a lot of reasons why they are so protective, but I see that as another hurdle for communities with few resources–getting a say in the politics of resource allocation, and then fighting dirty and being downright nasty to protect what you’ve got.

  21. #21 Ana
    January 13, 2010

    We live in a small historic city and are renters. Our place is around 700sqft maybe a little more for two people which makes it much easier to be resource efficient. Our landlord controls heat and major appliances so we can’t do much there, but we’ve been trying to improve in other ways. Water scarcity isn’t a major issue where we are.

    We’ve been storing more things in our fridge to add thermal mass (water jugs, beans, etc) since it’s half of our electric bill. Laundry is done at the laundry mat a few doors down that has high-efficiency washers. We hang dry clothes on racks in our apartment. Cooking is overwhelmingly vegetarian and from scratch. Usually we’re in the same room so we only have lights on in one and close up other rooms if it keeps us warmer. Fans, cold drinks, and less clothing in the summer instead of the window AC unit. My commute is by public bus and I drive maybe once every week or two. We walk for most errands and combine tasks when we do end up driving. With such a small apartment we’ve gotten into the habit of not buying anything unless we absolutely needed it, buying used when we need to buy, and freecycling anything we don’t need.

    What I’m most excited about is starting a container garden in a few months. We don’t have a balcony or yard with our apartment but we do have several hefty, wide window ledges and some roof space we can get access to so we’re hoping to grow a noticeable percentage of our produce for this summer. Last year we started seedlings and planted in a friend’s yard. We had a ton of basil we kept in containers with us and got a few things from the garden, but we weren’t close enough to check on the plants regularly so the experiment was mostly a failure in terms of feeding us or sustainability, but was a great source of entertainment.

    We’ve talked about buying some land or cruising on a sailboat, but that’s not going to happen for at least the next three or four years because of careers so we’re doing what we can where we are. I still feel that we have a lot of room for improvement and aren’t really doing anything special but I know at least for our personal finances what we are doing is making a difference.

  22. #22 Sonrisa
    January 13, 2010

    Reading the other stories reminded me of a few other things. Our house is payed off. We don’t have any form of refridgeration. And we have no need for air conditioning, because the 14inch thick brick walls keep it below 80 even when it’s over 100 outside.

    Barn Owl- These days you can get internet almost anywhere. We might be considered remote, but we have DSL. Years ago we owned 60 acres of REALLY remote land. To get to the nearest town (town was 5 people and a gas pump:D) you had to drive 2 miles of “jeep trail”, then 20 miles of unpaved canyon roads. It was another 40 miles to the nearest REAL services. On top of that the canyon roads were impassable in the winter, so you’d be snowed in for 4 months a year. Without a huge antenna there was no cell reception. The nearest electric pole was 15 miles away. But with a little solar power or generator we could have had satellite internet. They basically just come out and mount a dish and your good to go. It’s been about five years since we looked into it, but at the time it was a little pricey. Kinda cool though.

  23. #23 Barn Owl
    January 13, 2010

    That’s good to know, Sonrisa, and I was happy to learn that people who might be very isolated or snowed in, can still have internet access. I’ve always lived in suburban or urban settings, and the longest stretch I’ve experienced without “mod cons” is four days, following a tropical storm in New Orleans (pre-Katrina).

    I have a teaching colleague who owns about 40 acres, bordering a state natural area, and he and his wife are slowly returning it to its native state, with lots of bird habitat. It’s semi-arid rangeland, and they have all sorts of water collection and storage apparati, to supply the native trees and shrubs they’ve planted. There’s a small cabin on the property, and the couple live pretty simply when they’re staying there (and at their house in town, for that matter). They might be willing to share their story, if you’re interested, and they are probably in a different age range than many of your other AIP participants.

  24. #24 evilnala
    January 14, 2010

    I’ve only been reading this blog since you came to scienceblogs, and I’ve found it a delightful addition.

    I seem to have come by this sustainable lifestyle notion by a different path than many of your other readers (at least according to the comments). I currently rent a “higher-end” apartment in a relatively urban suburb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have lived in similar situations for the last few years.

    First of all, I dislike driving. For this reason, I have long been in the habit of considering necessary commutes when choosing a domicile. I am close enough to bike to work, although I have yet to find a way to bike and carry my uniform in such a state that it would meet the boss’s expectations for appearance. I am able to walk or bike for most of my required shopping and regular errands. I also know the area well enough to plan combined trips for errands and outings.

    Second, I grew up with gardens and around farms. Because of this, I knew that food, especially produce, was much better if you produced it for yourself, or at least got it from local sources. With spikes in various food prices over the last several years, I simply grew tired of paying high prices for lower quality goods. I started with container gardening on the patio outside my apartment because I wanted better quality herbs and vegetables than I could usually get at the regular grocery stores.

    I was rather surprised by some of the reactions I received from friends and neighbors. Many seemed to find my little garden almost mystical. They seemed to think some sort of special talent was required to garden. They often remarked at the difficulty of growing things. In these conversations, I discovered that there was, indeed, a lot of knowledge I had gained about gardening and cooking as I grew up. I was also able to share new information with some of these people about how accessible this first step towards self-reliance can be.

    My return to gardening has been mostly successful. More importantly, it was the beginning of other important lifestyle changes. The abundance of fresh herbs inspired me to do more home cooking, and work towards eliminating fast food and convenience foods from my diet. It has lead me to learn more about farmer’s markets and other small, local food producers. I have been working on networking and learning about local resources, and hope to start blogging on the subject in order to start sharing this information in a more organized manner. (I have several friends and coworkers who are interested in seeing me get this blog going.) I have also been developing my own recipes, and make my own herbal teas, herb, and spice blends. My Christmas gifts for the last few years have been recipes and goodies from my kitchen. (The family wholeheartedly encourages this.) When possible, I share produce and herbs with family and friends. When visiting family, we sometimes fish or hunt. I also gather excess food from their land when I visit. (Wild raspberries, nuts, edible mushrooms)

    For my next steps, I hope to learn more about wild foods that could safely be harvested during visits with the family. I hope to expand my gardening space through the community garden project run by the local university extension. I have gotten some books on canning, and hope to start expanding my food preservation activities, which are now limited to drying and freezing goods. And, of course, I want to get my blog reworked and get back to posting.

    This lifestyle presents several challenges compared to those related by many of the other posts. The primary challenge is that I am single, no kids, living alone, working a demanding full time second shift job. This makes it extremely difficult to find time to do the types of daily chores necessary for producing food or caring for animals.

    In addition, it is easy to fall into the “single person” cooking traps. Recipes are rarely designed with one person in mind, and leftovers get tiring even if you like your cooking. It is very easy to fall into the trap of eating convenience or fast food, or buying food which goes to waste because it is not cooked or eaten before it goes bad.

    Finally, apartment living, especially in the “higher end” apartments, is not at all designed for sustainable living. Most of those I have been in have either forbidden animals, or allowed only dog or cats as pets. Some have specific regulations about plants and other items in outdoor space, if you even have outdoor space. My previous apartment even specifically forbade “Non-ornamental or non-decorative” and “farm” plants. (Fortunately for me, there are many beautiful and interesting varieties of herbs and heirloom vegetables.)

    That’s about all I can come up with for now. Not sure if it’s appropriate for this or not. I’m happy to communicate via email. Also, I’m still pretty new at all this, but I think (hope) I’m off to the right start.

  25. #25 Misi
    January 14, 2010

    I had to drop out of the AIP class last year due to personal energy, illness, and computer problems… dagnabit! My AIP lifestyle is summed up in “compromise, container, contentment with what is…”
    Due to disability from FS and CFS and other “older age” maladies my income,energy and resources are quite limited. BUT – I’d love to share the pictures I took this fall/winter of the journey of one little pumpkin grown on my deck, to baked in the oven, to Xmas cookies made with giggles and delight with grandkids for the rest of the family. Somewhat silly, I know, but we were so proud of that accomplishment.
    Low income + radical good luck + great friends = caretaking a beautiful cabin on a lake for less rent than most folks pay for electricity. Downside is feeling guilty for using up so much space (1000 sq feet) for just me. Was a big move from my tiny >200 ft 5th wheel, but a lot warmer! Also, so rural there is no public transport so have to drive to town occasionally (closest tiny town 7 miles away) for library and supplies. But hey, I’m non-voluntarily retired so have the freedom to just stay home.
    Took part and adored the 90% reduction blog/project and reduced my already simple lifestyle so much more! Learned how to read my electric meter, reduced the Kw used daily so much that my landlord questioned whether I was really living here full-time and worried that I was “freezing to death” LOL. No garbage service here… no problem as everything is recycled, composted, or one tiny grocery bag of “garbage” produced per month is “shared” with daughter’s trash.
    Sweet landlady moved up a washer and drier to the cabin and doesn’t realize how much dust they collect. In fact, the drier never gets used, hang everything out on a rope.
    Had no running water last winter for 3 weeks but with AIP and survival info took it in stride, boiled water for drinking and flushed the toilet with buckets of water from the lake.
    I could go on and on… but learning to pace in pain-management classes, plus the best education from “FlyLady” taught me that you can do anything in 15 minute increments and with small buckets. Several years ago I built a beautiful “Zen” garden by sit-on-my-butt, hand-picked-rocks-in one little bucket at a time. Now I’m building my raised bed and container veggie garden the same way.
    I had to learn to be happy with progress from baby steps and make-do and it works! I’ve been interested and studied Voluntary Simplicity for 30 years… but am now living it more than ever before, and am happier than I’ve ever been.

  26. #26 Robin
    January 14, 2010

    Our story is a tale of finding our place. My family of five walked away from a mortgage on a suburban home and a dying service business. We put up a yurt next to my parents house, my childhood home, and began a partnership with them to build a more secure future for all of us. Our reasons for making our choice were as follows: We reasoned that because I already knew the climate and soil so well it would be easier to produce food. It also seemed wise to be near my parents sooner, rather than later, as I am an only child and my husband is not. Having four adult bodies and brains available for childcare, wage-earning, and planning seemed very attractive. Also, aside from any cold logic, coming home was, and continues to be a very secure feeling for me. I am calmer and much more productive now that I feel like my family is doing as much as we can to prepare for what is coming.

    My husband and my mom both work low-wage, not-quite full-time jobs in town and my father, three kids and I stay home and farm the heck outta these ten acres. We are in a pretty dry part of Northern California, but we have a good well with a windmill we could hook up if we needed to. That windmill is a comfort to us all. We figure we could live without power fairly easily. We’d miss the freezers, but we’d live. In the two years that we’ve been here we have used recycled fencing to create space for dairy goats, meat cows and poultry. We have learned to butcher our own meat, and produce our dairy and eggs. Thanks to a gardening course with Sharon and Aaron, my dad and I grew enough good stuff to feed most of the year through and donate several hundred pounds to the food bank. Last year we grew about half the feed for our livestock.

    My husband and I live on a fraction of what we used to. My labor now produces most of what we used to buy. Besides growing and raising an astounding amount of our food, I cook from scratch, troll the thrift stores, homeschool the kids and use the library. Most of the time I find the challenge of living on less amusing and stimulating, but sometimes I would love to run out and buy a new book or order pizza. Oh, pizza…

    The one thing that really bothers me is healthcare, so lots of my reading these days is about preventative care and natural medicine. We have insurance right now, but I don’t feel like I can count on that to last.

    I am pretty sure that we are settled down for the long haul here.

    Sharon or anyone else who cares to chat, my email is rvcworks at gmail dot com.

  27. #27 Beth
    January 15, 2010

    We are on 165 acres in northern California (the real northern California–at the head of the Sacramento Valley near a town called Redding). Weather extremes made more intersting by the fact that we live on a north-facing slope. We have had temperatures between 110 and 16 degrees within the same year, not to mention 18 inches of snow. We share the property with our daughter and her partner, their three children, and his parents, although his parents still live in town as that is where their business is. Our land was homesteaded in the late 1800s; the original cabin is about a half mile up the hill. At the moment we live in a fifth wheel trailer, with plans to build a log home, using logs from the property; the second and third generations are in the older mobile home that came with the property. We were attracted to this place by several things, but water was the big one: we have a 700 gallon a minute spring, about a dozen smaller springs–we keep finding new ones–year round creeks on the north and west sides of our land and three ponds, one covering a couple of acres. There are at least two old orchards, still bearing fruit despite years of neglect, and a fair number of trees that “just sort of growed” in places where there was water. We have a variety of apples, pears, apricots, two kinds of plums, two kinds of grapes and about ten million blackberry plants. We’ve also discovered two peach trees, one buried under blackberries that I first thought was dead, and another out in the upper end of the big meadow. I’m renovating–more like resurecting from the dead–an asparagus bed that is probably fifty years old. There are also plenty of wild edible crops, such as cattail corn, morel mushrooms and wild mint. I have a space marked out for the big garden–last year’s was too small and too shaded, although it was conveniently close to the house. Among the four adults we can claim the following skills/experience: nursing, healing (not the same thing as nursing), welding, mechanic, heavy equipment operator, logger, biologist, biochemist, artists (jewelry, painting, wood working, needlework of various kinds and drawing), herbalist, gardener, orchardist, plumber, electrician, carpenters (any of us can swing a hammer reasonably well), draftsman, farmer, seamstress, food preservation (plus we all cook), animal husbandry, computer nerd, expert marksman, butchering (large and small animals). While not as far along as some folks who have written, our goals include milk and beef cows, pigs and possibly some sheep to go along with the chickens the oldest granddaughter is raising for 4H. We have enough land to raise all of our food plus food for the animals, wood for fires, furniture and projects. We are shooting for either solar power or hydropower, as the spring has adequate flow and fall for the latter. We have some fencing put in and have done a lot of brush clearing, road repair and general clean-up; the next big project is rebuilding the barn. Good luck to all who wrote–I truly belive that efforts such as ours will save this country in the long run!

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