“Australia is the richest country in the world”, David Holmgren would often say during my stay with him.
To be honest, it’s really hard to disagree with that statement once you get a sense of just how big, rich in resources and sparsely populated this country is.
I came to Australia 5 years ago to pursue my career as a geologist and to take advantage of its huge mineral wealth.
Working as a geologist allowed me to travel across Australia and to explore this vast and enigmatic continent, and yet, although I was living a lifestyle many people dream of, I nonetheless couldn’t stop myself from questioning what I was doing.
I really liked the engineering side of the job but I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was contributing to the very cycle of destruction I was so opposed to. The reason why I wanted to be a geologist in the first place was to get in touch with nature; not destroy it with open cut mines.
Through dinners with my CEO and the project managers of my company I grew to realize how little respect they had for native flora, fauna and the local community – something had to change. Soon after this, I handed in my 3 months’ notice; just enough time for my wife and I to put our house on the market and to devise a plan to get out of this unsustainable industry.
The decision to leave wasn’t easy, and a lot of people thought I was crazy for leaving such a well-paid job, but looking back it was necessary to push me on my permaculture journey towards starting my own permaculture farm.
You know, one of my biggest fears in life is living a mundane life in the suburbs, trapped in the daily grind of the rat-race until 65, with little to look forward to.
Having a mortgage, being in debt and pressure to conform are handcuffs that keep us shackled to something we ultimately don’t want but are somehow locked into.
My wife and I were in that position, a nice house in the suburbs, yet long working hours and continually being stuck in peak hour traffic jams when trying to return home. Well, you have to pay off that nice house somehow!
Here is the deal, if we are continually putting our dreams on hold, if we don’t try to live true to our inner selves we’ll eventually live the way society dictates we should.
Especially now, when we are on the tipping-point of so many things; peak oil, climate change, ongoing financial crisis – with so many aspects to the 20th Century ‘ideal’ of how we should live now unsustainable, there is a sense of urgency that something fundamental needs to change. All the signs that we are living in a pivotal moment in our complex society are there.
With this in mind, my wife and I have been living in shared housing for the last three years, effectively saving 50% of our income. I worked like a stonemason for Melbourne city council, and, supplemented my income, as an excavator operator, carpenter, and anything practical I could get my hands on.
We used our free time learn from older people, who had been through World Wars and have wisdom and the essential life skills. I have always actively searched for mentors and have been humble enough to learn from their experiences.
All of this is was with one goal in mind; eventually having enough knowledge, skills and capital to start our own permaculture farm back in Europe.
This was a critical phase in our lives: it is a largely unacknowledged fact that the road to making the transition to a permaculture farm is paved with sacrifice, financial prudence, downsizing of lifestyle and a perpetual quest for knowledge.
Now it’s time to move to that next stage, soon we’ll be moving to Europe and attempting to make our dream a reality.
I recently finished Online PDC with Geoff Lawton and designed the farm from my grandparents we plan to takeover. Already having land available makes the whole thing easier, yet owning a piece of land doesn’t, in itself, guarantee success, it’s what you do with that land afterwards that counts.
Ultimately, the aim is to have a home-based lifestyle and a community around us. To produce healthy food and enjoy the autonomy of being self-sufficient.
And, most importantly, sit on our porch at the end of a working day and listen to the birds sing their sunset songs.
Is it going to be hard? Of course, that’s what makes it so rewarding!
Are we going to succeed? Who can say, but at least we’ll try and shoot for the stars.
Les Brown said: “Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.”
How about you? What are your plans?
This is not one-way street, I would love to hear your stories.
Let me know in the comments!