We hosted a bit of a party at EarthSong Retreat last night. It was our first since we moved here, and it was a bit of a house-warming as well. Friends brought goodies to swap, I gave a tour of the property and related our permaculture -type plans for it, we had a taco feast and a drum jam.
The friends who attended came from several diverse avenues of our interests; pagan, Tarot students, Avatar, Sherwood Forest friends, even a lady friend of mine from some time back.
At one point, after the tour and tacos, said friend pulled me aside and asked me, "How can you afford all this?"
You see, she knows a lot of my history, as well as the fact that monetary riches and my name do not normally go in the same sentence. However, here I am, living on a very pretty six acre property with a nice house, my own office trailer, a workshop/studio for Cat and myself, and plans for orchards, gray water systems, and so on.
She seemed to think we own the place. (Apparently she missed the part on the tour where I introduced our landlady!) I gave her a very shortened version of how it happened, she thought it a bit inspiring for her own reasons. I was thinking about writing her an email with the expanded version to clarify things.
And then I thought, hey, why not make it a blog? After all, I've posted several of the related issues here before, but I never really tied it all together in one post.
Cat Dancing and I met in 2007 and instantly knew we belong together. I moved in, and we immediately were dreaming of finding another place where we would have more freedom to make some of our mutual dreams come true. We hoped for enough space to have a retreat center, a place for making art and writing, for teaching classes, and to host our friends. A few things presented themselves, but didn't work out.
In 2009 I took my first Permaculture Design Course in Austin. I was blown away by it. All my life I've been interested in so many subjects that make up what we can now refer to as sustainable, even self-sufficient living. I was a long time believer in organic gardening, long time reader of The Mother Earth News, practicing what I had learned in various ways. Suddenly, here was Permaculture, tying it all together, showing me how all these things relate to each other. This became a model for how I wanted to support myself. We renewed our search for "our place" to carry out these principles.
At about the same time, Cat became interested in "Avatar", soon bringing me into it as well. Not the wonderful movie, but the wonderful self discovery course by Harry Palmer. We both became Masters, and Cat has gone on to become a Wizard.
It is not doing the course justice to simplify it in this way, but one of the many effects is to sharpen the will and focus the mind on what you need in your life and erasing negativity around those needs. (Take it from me, there is a lot more than that to it. All of Avatar is well worth looking into.) Anyway, we learned how to constructively desire our new place.
We also became active in bartering. Cat has long traded art and tarot readings for other goods and services at events and shows. We also joined the Austin Time Exchange, a clearing house for bartering time units. Really cool. If you are a webmaster, for instance, you can do a website for someone who gives you however many hours credit on the exchange you agree on, then you may exchange that credit for, say, an equivalent amount of work from a participating auto mechanic, or masseuse, or whatever.
Money is NOT the only economy out there! Barter is alive, as is time exchange and even gift economy!
By the way, as I've posted before here, we are active Freecyclers. Our workshop and office trailer were freebies, free for the hauling, not really through Freecycle, but because I was paying attention and celebrating the concept.
Freecycle would be an example, I believe, of the gift economy mentioned above. Instead of taking usable things to the dump, or even a thrift shop, I post online that I have it. Someone who wants it gets in touch. Likewise, if I need something, I post that need, someone else possibly has it and would like to get rid of it. "One man's trash is another's treasure", etc. No money changes hands, only usable goods.
All this goes to illustrate our mind-set when it finally happened! Another interest of ours has been "intentional communities". We learned of a meeting of one such, Vajra Azaya, taking place in Austin. While there, we fell into conversation with a new friend, who told us of her new property, six acres near Lake Bastrop. She had plans to retire there in five years and hoped to find a renter who would be able to make needed repairs, as well as someone who could carry out a Permaculture plan on the property.
We went to see the place and quickly volunteered! We offered to exchange my Permaculture services, as well as our "fix-it" know how for partial rent on the place. With that exchange in place, we pay no more rent than we did at our previous house, we have much more freedom to "do our thing", and it is much more convenient to everything we do in Austin and elsewhere. In actuality, since it is a "real" house and much more efficiently built, we pay less overall per month due to savings in utilities, etc. (The previous rental was an un-skirted, unshaded mobile home, although a nice one.)
Another factor that makes it work; the landlady and we are totally in agreement on plans for the space here. It's a win-win for us both.
I'm not sure any one of the above factors can be considered the major factor in this project. They all play a part. Avatar and barter for mind-set, Permaculture and skill set for inspiration, partnership and friends for opportunity, it was all there.
On the other hand, there is a quote attributed to Seneca. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
So that's how we "afford it". Now we just have to "do it!" Stick around and watch it happen!