Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Great Escape Part IX: Earthed

A sleeping Earth spirit at Cornwall's Lost Gardens of Heligan

“Everybody thinks of changing the world but nobody thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy.

When I first learned about our energy crisis and all the implications I asked myself the same question that everyone else must do who has been through a similar epiphany: ”What the hell am I going to do about it?” 

At the time it seemed like there were two options. The first of these was to do nothing and just hope that engineers and chemists will come up with a new form of energy that allows us all to continue living our normal lifestyles into the far future. This was the easy option because effectively I wouldn’t have to do anything myself; all of that would be taken care of by someone else. The risk of going down this path, however, was that ‘they’ wouldn’t find an alternative energy source that packed the punch of oil, and that we'd all be left in a dangerous blind alley with no escape route. This is the approach taken by the majority of people, in most cases unwittingly.

The other option would require more effort, and to most people it would seem like I was taking a giant gamble. To do so I would have to try and unhitch my life from the global carbon gravy train which, as anyone who has tried it knows, requires quite a large amount of effort. But to do so I would know that in fact I was really just creating an insurance policy for myself – a get out of jail card for me and my family. This sounded like the more sensible option.

Which is why I have bought a six acre wood in Cornwall, in the far west of England. It is situated a few miles inland from the sea, not far from the town of Penzance, an ancient market town and seaport famous for its pirates of yore. Tucked away in a small valley, the woodland is virtually impossible to find, even with a map, and it has a kind of ‘lost world’ feel about it. In the centre of the wood is a grassy clearing of about an acre, which is where I intend to build a house. 

It won’t be a normal house, of course, unless you are a hobbit. I’m going for the Simon Dale style of earth-sheltered building, and when it is completed you will hardly be able to see it. I have some fairly strict rules that I intend to stick to in its construction. Firstly the materials will be, wherever possible, natural. Wood, which will be a major element, will come from the forest, stone from a local quarry and straw bales from a local farm. Cornwall has plenty of sheep, so wool may also play a part in insulation.

Obviously, some materials don’t just grow on trees, such as glass, but for these I intend to look around salvage yards and take stuff off peoples’ hands that they no longer want. Instead of using regular cement, I intend to use lime, which biodegrades far more readily than concrete does, and absorbs CO2 as it hardens. It will, of course, be completely off grid and I’ve got my work cut out devising reliable systems for providing heat, power and clean water. 

As for the woodland itself, my plans there are to turn it into a working coppice wood, continuing to allow wildlife to flourish within it. The trees are a mixture of English woodland broadleaf species, so we’re talking mostly oak, beech and chestnut. There are a few other varieties too, such as lime and ash – although the latter may well be doomed as disease spreads through the British Isles. I intend to get hold of a charcoal furnace or two. Cornwall is a popular holiday destination and I can’t see demand for barbeque charcoal dropping off any time soon.

In the grassy bit I’m planning to turn some of it over to growing vegetable and most of the rest to growing a food forest. There will be fruit trees. There will be nut trees. There will be beehives and a pond with slug-eating ducks. 

The wood, if you like, is my pension. I don’t expect ever to get a pension from the government that will amount to more than a few pennies a month (or more than a few million pounds a month if hyperinflation hits), and it seems like my predictions are proving to be right as the age of retirement keeps moving up and the forecasts for pension values keep moving down.

Of course, I’m not deluded enough to think that selling hazel rods and bags of charcoal will earn me anything like enough money to provide for me and my family. I’ll still be doing some freelance writing and translation work for the foreseeable future, and my wife will be working restoring old furniture and reupholstering it, which is where her marketable skills lie. We also have a little business making and selling natural soap, which earns a bit of extra money. Publishing a local newspaper focused on transition is also something I would consider doing. From now on, diversification is the name of the game.

A batch of our natural soap, this one made with elderberries
Why England, why Cornwall?

Well, I’m from England, so for me, after 13 years as a castaway in foreign lands it’s a homecoming of sorts. Being a foreigner in other countries has taught me many things, but one thing that I always felt lacking was my ability to participate in democratic discourse. If you’re reading this then you probably already know that the ability of democracy to function on a human scale is imperilled by apathy and the inability of reasonable people to frame logical arguments that everyday people can relate to. It’s long been a frustration of mine that I was not able to fully participate in improving that, even on a small scale such as at my kids’ school. Going back to a place where the cultural norms are my cultural norms means I will be able to be much more engaged in making a difference on a local level.

As for the geographical placing, we picked Cornwall for a number of reasons. First and foremost among these was the fact that it’s an out-of-the way place, too far from the centres of power to be worth exploiting, and with little of commercial value there. As one of Europe’s poorest regions it has a resilient spirit, and the people are warm and have a no-nonsense attitude to live. You will not find many Cornishmen (or women) queuing up all night for the latest iPhone.

It’s a place already packed full of collapsees and transitioners and there is a strong network of small scale growers, and people experimenting with alternative ways of living. The palm tree friendly climate is warmer than the rest of the UK, meaning that things grow well there and, being a peninsula surrounded by the ocean, it’s not hard to go and catch your supper. It’s also an area full of artists, attracted by the ethereal beauty of the place, and is home to the wonderful Minack Theatre and the inspirational Eden Project and the mystifying Lost Gardens of Heligan

There's a great cafe there too.

There are no nuclear power stations in or near Cornwall, and the land, while not the most productive, has been farmed for some 5,000 years and is still more or less unconcreted. There are no known shale gas or oil deposits lying under the ground and, what’s more, it is the only place in the world (as far as I know) where Earth spirituality is taught in the schools as a regular subject, alongside maths, English and, er, surfing.

On this last point it has occurred to me more than once that to get through the looming crisis we would do well to develop some useful tools. One of those tools is cultivating a sense of our place in the universe. Our religion of materialism and ‘progress at all costs’ has turned out to be an empty one, with levels of dysfunction and stress at historical highs. Is this a world you want your children to grow up in?  The reason for this, I am convinced, is the fact that we have turned away from the bounty offered to us by nature, grabbing all our ‘rights’ but neglecting our responsibilities. 

I’m 41 years old now and if you have been following this ‘edited highlights’ autobio skit, you’ll have noticed that I’ve done a lot of travelling, worked in a lot of jobs and seen and done a lot of things. The reason I wrote it, however, wasn’t to stroke my own ego or find some cathartic form of self-therapy – no – the reason I wrote it was to explain the rationale behind the decision to move to Cornwall and throw in my lot. In my experience I have found that whatever work you choose to do in life, you will almost inevitably find yourself being sucked into the globalized profit-maximising paradigm that is firmly in place at present. Call it what you want – the Machine, the Matrix or even the System – it is the black hole at the centre of humankind that sucks us back in every time we attempt to get away from it and, God knows, I’ve tried once or twice.

But black holes can end up eating themselves and the one we have created is eating up the very planet we live on. It is a system that defines our economy, dominates our politics and dictates our lives. How do we escape its gravitational pull before it sucks us all in? Buddhists talk of ‘right livelihood’ as part of their Noble Eightfold Path. The premise is pretty simple: engage in a trade or occupation that does little or no harm to others. Would not doing something outside the orbit of The System constitute 'right livelihood'?

But how does one achieve such a step in the 21st century, dominated as it is by huge corporations and governments hell bent on increasing economic growth at any cost? Let’s say you wanted to cure people of sickness and decided to become a doctor, under our current system (in some countries more than others) you would find yourself being pressured to ‘do the wrong thing’, following the agenda set down by pharmaceutical companies, and prescribe your patients pills that would make the company profits but not necessarily cure the sick person. Indeed, in the end you might do more harm than good. It’s a conundrum.

I myself have been working in media now for a number of years, and have discovered that this analogy applies equally there. Media, like any business, has to make money to survive in our current paradigm. Most people, on the whole, do not like to read about uncomfortable and often complex issues, so if you publish a newspaper that focuses on uncomfortable and complex truths then you won’t have much of a readership. It is far simpler to focus on entertainment, which by and large makes people feel good about themselves, and garner a large readership at the expense of publishing  news and views about climate change and peak oil. This has the benefit also of not embarrassing the powerful corporations that own many publications, who rely on business as usual to keep the profits rolling in.

So, in that respect, media has to go mainstream if it is to survive, effectively relegating uncomfortable news to blogs, which are of interest only to a select niche readership.  Thus the media amplifies and gives exaggerated importance to the business as usual paradigm, while ignoring or side-lining many important issues, creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop that allows everyone to keep their heads in the sand a little longer. 

We can add into that unholy mix the role of government which, in many cases, acts simply as an enabler for powerful interests and has no regard for the future beyond the end of its term in office. Take UK chancellor George Osborne’s backing of the fracking industry. Developing such an industry in Britain will be disastrous for many reasons, and it is guaranteed to fail, causing quite a lot of damage in the process. In fact, it has all the hallmarks of a panicky decision made by a government which knows the country is going to run out of cheap energy in the not-too-distant future.

This shows that The System is reaching the limits of its growth and the business as usual model, which has worked fine for decades, is rapidly becoming untenable. Like a cancer, it will grow until it kills the host, which in this case is our planet and all the species which live on it (including us). The cheap energy and materials necessary for the continued survival of the global economic system that provides a lavish lifestyle for Westerners and a few disparate global elites at the expense of most of the rest of the world have hit their natural limits, and all that remains now is to watch as it slowly comes apart, with disastrous consequences for those who rely on it for survival.

I’m not a great believer in any so-called fast collapse scenario, in fact I think John Michael Greer’s Long Descent is far more likely, but I do think we will now lurch from one crisis to the next for the rest of our lives. Some of them will be financial and economic, but we can’t rule out war and other man-made cataclysms. All of these will take place against a backdrop of a steadily worsening climate, acidifying seas and the disappearance of ground water, topsoil and biodiversity. We will also witness the slow decay of our creaking infrastructure and institutions, the rising anger of populations who have not realised that it is payback time for the Faustian pacts entered into, and the disastrous consequences of the overshoot of the global population. It will not be pretty.

So the only logical and reasonable thing to do in such circumstances is to detach ourselves from the tumour and attempt to build up some new, healthy, tissue. It won’t be easy, but then again, we don’t have any other choice. I’m not talking here about being a ‘prepper’, living a life of isolation and fear with a pile of guns and tins of beans; the only way we can hope to make any progress in transitioning to a more sustainable and less dangerous is at the community, village and regional level. The number of friends you have will be of far more importance to the number of guns you possess. 

That’s another reason I’m happy to be moving back to England; the fact that hardly anyone owns a gun. And for all its (many, rapidly getting much worse) problems – not least the fact that the carrying capacity of the country has been severely breached – thousands of people across the country have been working at building resilient systems for decades. Indeed, the Transition movement, which was born in nearby Devon, is vibrant and growing, and I’m very much intending to be a part of it when I get there.

In terms of resilience, if I were to compare England with Denmark, where I currently live, the contrast is sharp. In Denmark people rely on the government to sort out their every problem, and I have never encountered anyone here who has done anything other that ra-ra-ra on about smart grids and electric cars and other government subsidised white elephants that will supposedly deliver a future that looks much like the present. It’s true that there are a few resilient people in Copenhagen’s Christiania alternative enclave, but these are societal outcasts rather than the norm.

Finally, I’d like to point out that Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places in Britain. It has miles and miles of golden beaches, wild moorland dotted with ancient stone circles and tumuli and cosy organic villages nestling along the coast around natural harbours. It has its own flag, its own language and its own culture. I know some people will object to this observation and accuse me of idealism, rose-tinted glasses and all of that – and I am aware that Cornwall also has some pressing social problems due to poverty and under-investment – but really, where would you rather live? Who wouldn’t choose somewhere rich in nature and culture rather than a concreted patch of suburban wasteland on the edge of an increasingly dangerous city? On my various travels I have been to a lot of different cities across Asia, Latin America and Africa, and in my opinion the only thing worse than being dirt poor is being dirt poor in a giant city with millions of other dirt poor people. 

Of course, I realise that there is a big debate surrounding whether one should pack up and move somewhere ‘safer’ or just white-knuckle it where you are. The jury is out on that one, but for me at least, while the music is still playing, I’d like to make my move in the full knowledge that it will probably be my last one. How do I know it is going to work out? I don’t, is the simple answer. And it depends what you mean by ‘work out’. But uncertainly is a thing that we must all learn to embrace. Life has always been uncertain, it’s just that we have had the illusion of the uncertainty being taken away for a while. 

Finally, I want to put something back into the community into which I am about to embed myself and my family into. I was able to purchase the woodland with money I inherited from my father who died earlier this year, and I’m sure he would have approved of my venture. Likewise, I have finally sold the house that I own in Spain that was like an albatross around my neck for so long, meaning we can live without getting into debt again. I recognise this good fortune for what it is, but don’t want to keep it all to myself like some kind of Scrooge. 

To that end I am planning on running courses at my woodland, primarily to teach people about ancient woodland skills (a local man has offered to teach the courses and I’ll be his first student) I also want to select a few of the local kids who show an interest, and offer apprenticeships; and a woman nearby is breeding shire horses, which she wants to use for hauling lumber out of forests and I’ve said that she can practice on mine. These are the kind of self-reinforcing links in the new network that we are going to have to build, instead of spending too much energy simply demanding that the government and corporations change their evil ways. 

As we continue on our long descent I suspect that my decision to own and work on a woodland won’t seem quite so strange to people in five to ten years’ time. I know that I am going to make plenty of mistakes along the way – that’s the best way to learn. There will be plenty of challenges, I’m sure, but also plenty of joy. Indeed, it seems to me that life is a conundrum that each one of us, with our own unique set of circumstances, must solve. So eventually, after a long and winding road and a few false starts, I feel like I’m just beginning to solve mine and can finally feel Earthed.

And so, at the end of February, it''ll be time to say Farvel to Denmark, and dydh da to Cornwall


  1. I wish you well in your new (ad)venture - you do have your work cut out for you, but I can see that you understand that.

    Three-plus years ago my wife and I relocated to a community that's about 300 miles from any large city but is still large enough to remain somewhat viable during the long descent. Socio-politically it has a ways to go, but there are many 'seeds' of true community here, so we're hopeful. Our plans are not as ambitious as yours (we're quite a bit older), but we'll be content with our small house and yard full of veggies & etc.

    Good Luck to you and your family.

    1. Thanks Martin.

      I'm quite looking forward to having my work cut out for me. There's something to be said for working towards building something up for yourself, rather than sitting behind a desk drawing a salary.

  2. Sounds like a plan Jason. Been reading your blog for some time now. Hope you will continue to keep us posted on how the new move goes . Best wishes Paul

    1. Cheers. I'll be keeping you posted. The house plan is long-term and there are no plans to start that yet within the first year. Instead I'll be concentrating on building up woodland skills and renting a house somewhere nearby.

  3. Very happy to read that you are going back home.

    Enjoy the new adventure along with other "fellow" adventurers such as this one on http://simple-living-in-suffolk.co.uk

  4. Interestingly, the book I asked my husband to get me for my birthday next February is on coppicing and coppice crafts. The little nut forest I've been nurturing on the north half of our acre has grown enough to now require some coppicing to keep it well managed. I am thinking it could be a good skill to acquire and to pass on to others in due time.

    Congratulations on your move!

    1. Thank you Claire. I've long been interested in coppicing - it is something of a lost art that is making a comeback.

      In England, if you have nut trees you also have to have an air rifle and plenty of time on your hands to pick off the ubiquitous grey squirrels.

      Still, I've heard they taste nice ...

    2. My husband has been gathering the equipment and skills needed to move some of the local squirrels out of the trees and into the crock pot. So far none have made it there yet, but I have hopes ;). It was only this year that the squirrel population had one of its periodic crashes and we actually got to eat some of the nuts out of our trees.

  5. Aha! So I was pretty on the money after all - you sly dog you ;)

    It all makes perfect sense to me and I could see it brewing in the things you've been saying for a while. Interestingly, your thought patterns have echoed mine in many ways and I'm pretty much on the same sort of path. I've been learning green woodwork skills for the last 3 years and I'm currently doing a bit of volunteering with a local coppicer here in Herefordshire. There really is nothing quite like being in the woods and turning a log into something beautiful and useful with just your bare hands and some hand tools. It's a real antidote to the oil-soaked consumerist way of life, and once exposed to it, there really is no turning back...

    Though I'd have to say that we've been agonising a fair bit this last year or two about that 'right livelihood' as it's pretty tough to make a living from green woodwork/coppicing. But reading your story (and it's peculiar similarities with ours) has been a real inspiration to me in reminding me of where I've come from and what I need to be doing. It's tough throwing off the comfort blanket of seeming security, though it's in tatters anyway - at some point you just have to accept that you don't know what's going to happen. So thanks for that reminder - it's timely!

    So I really wish you well with it Jason, this is what it means to enact that overused Ghandian phrase (you know the one). It also makes me even more keen to have that beer sometime. I'll be happy to throw in a bit of woodland labour too - to earn a thirst!

    Merry Christmas, and good luck!


    1. Hi Matt - yep, you were right all along. Still, I think I mentioned it once or twice at other places on the blogosphere, so maybe I'd given it away myself.

      I think I've always felt at home in the woods, so working with greenwood just seems natural to me.

      I'll bet that Herefordshire has some pretty nice woods?

    2. For some reason I lost my RSS feed from you, so all had seemed rather quiet at my end. I thought it was taking you quite some time to buy your trailer!

      Have you much experience with green woodwork? I can point you in the direction of some skilled artisans if you need.

      And yes, there are some very nice woods in Herefordshire and throughout Shropshire and the Welsh borders - a pity none of them are mine!

      Right, I better catch up on the rest of your blog!

  6. Good luck Jason. Cornwall seems like a good choice, one of the better places to base yourself in the UK. You seem to have a good plan - as good as plans can be in these interesting times. But I'm thinking that flexibility, a variety of skills, a sense of humor and some financial cushion will be more important than a plan - and you seem to have those in place as well. So have a great time and hopefully you will keep us all updated as you go.

    I moved from England to Connecticut a long time ago. Every few months I go through the should-I-stay-or-should-I-go debate, but keep deciding to stay. Pros are a functioning homestead, some land, community contacts, agricultural town, family; cons are lots of neighbors with unrealistic expectations, wobbly weather, a nuclear power station thirty miles away and NYC an hour and a half down the highway. We're about due to rethink this decision and I expect your wonderful post will be the trigger for a review. But, overall, we're all looking at such humongous changes coming down the road that it's hard to predict how it will all unfold in any place we might move to. So, generally we're trying to live day to day, reduce our footprint and get our teenage kids grounded for the life ahead of them.

    Good luck again, and thanks for sharing your story.

  7. I still think that at the worst of the collapse virtually anywhere in the UK one is still at threat from roving thugs. There will be plenty of them when there's nothing left to pillage and rape in the big "shities" or when they get under control of local warlords. I'd probably look at living in a small town/village where local defense can be easier to organise.

    Of course Cornwall seems to be a pretty good place to be overall, the UK and most other places will be Club Med compared to the US. Count the number of prisoners, soldiers and other security state employees and think what will happen when they're all out on the streets with nothing to do (and lots of guns)

    BTW, my personal long-term choice is New Zealand, for various reasons but mainly because I lived there most of my life and I still have some good friends there. I'm still not even close to the transitioning state as I do need the money from my current employment to fund some of my family's 2-3 year "projects" (such as IVF). Where in New Zealand though - it's a very hard question, as a lot of good land near big centres is already way too expensive. Will have to wait for the real estate collapse first I'm afraid.

  8. You seem to be making the right decision and at the right time. You should have time to learn the new skills you will need while not being pressed by necessity to succeed. Good luck!

    I made the decision 5 years ago to relocate around the world from the Us, in the Philippines. Partly because I have friends here and partly because I wanted the challenge of something really new. To go from the seasons of Pennsylvania to the lack of seasons in the Philippines was good for an old man (68). The people here are not at all like those in the Us. Here, family and community are still important. Perhaps more important then anything, even money. Sharing is common. Self-sufficiency is also common. I currently live in Makati, but we have 12 acres in the country, near the Pacific that we are grooming for a farm in the near future (1-2 years). It is totally off the grid and 60 miles of mountains from Manila. Nothing like a challenge to wake up a retiree and make life interesting again! And it is as close to Paradise as you can get these days. Temperatures of 65-90 and sunny most of the time. ^_^

  9. I would like to come to Cornwall and help you build the house and garden. I have some skills. I'm a hard worker :)

  10. Thanks for the encouragement, guys. I wish I could reply individually but I'm about to rush off to England and pick up the means of moving (car and large trailer) and won't be back for four days.

    Words of encouragement mean a lot here because in the 'real world' whenever I have mentioned this plan (yes, it's been brewing for a while) people utter little nervous laughs and say 'you are joking, right?'.

    So, yes, it is a scary prospect throwing off that frayed safety blanket, but I know it makes sense.

    And William - yes, I think you'd fit in there more than at Big Bank ;-)

    Hope you all had a great Christmas.

  11. Congratulations Jason. Hope the move goes well and bestwishes to you and your family in the new future you will be building for yourselves. Cornwall is a magical place and going as far west as you are doing is smart. I see its even more remote this week with the main train line being taken out by floods near Exeter.

    By the way there is an excellent cafe in Penzance by the harbour just across from the railway station. Its one of my favourites and run by a three fingered ex fisherman.

    1. Hi Phil. Thanks for that. I am already envisaging that cafe with the three fingered fisherman. It must be right next to the law firm where we did all the paperwork to buy the wood.

      Yep - I just got back from England and Cornwall was well and truly experiencing being cut off. I expect plenty more of that in the future too.

  12. shouldn't you also mention that Denmark is pretty much below sea level...isn't it? Seems I read that In "Collapse," by Jared Diamond.

    You are doing exactly what I would do if I had the means to do it. But by the time I'm in my 40's, hopefully I will have achieved the means and done it. Good luck brother, and don't forget to blog about it.

    1. That's an excellent point Lucid. We spent 4 years agonising whether to buy an old farm on the Danish island of Møn. It had everything - beauty, land, affordable.

      But it was only about 3m above sea level - so that kind of decided it for us.

  13. Best of luck to you! It's an exciting thing to be embarking upon.

    BTW- I can vouch for William Hunter Duncan's skills and work ethic. He's far more skilled at building than he lets on. Big bank doesn't know what it lost.

  14. Congratulations on your new trajectory through space-time. May you live closer to the earth and more in tune with the land you live on.
    Re coppicing, working with sticks is a wonderful craft. I took up building kayaks in a traditional Arctic style some decades ago and found the harvesting of willow withes one of the most satisfying parts of the project. I was so enamored of the whole process that I wrote a book about it - The Aleutian Kayak - which eventually brought me to the attention of the Aleut community which has invited me for several years now to help teach kayak building at their culture camps that try to revive some of their traditional culture. I mention this only to point out that my fascination with thin sticks of wood which goes back to my childhood has taken me on an interesting trajectory. May your work coppicing likewise take you on an interesting path. I made a brief attempt at growing willow out back of my workshop here in California but after a good start, the dry summer killed all the plants - I should have watered them until they had a chance to get their roots down to the water level. Oh well, some of my best lessons are taught by failure. I would guess that your climate is better suited to the growing of plant species that produce the requisite woody shoots that can be used to make all sorts of useful objects. Perhaps you will be poorer in electronic gagetry in the future but I am sure that you will be living a richer more satisfying life supplying yourself and your community with building materials.

    1. Thanks Wolfgang. Wow - building kayaks is a very useful skill!

      I think I had a similar fascination with sticks when I was a kid. Maybe all kids do, I don't know. As for the willow - I don't think I'll have any problem growing that. Not only is there a stream forming the boundary of the land, but England (and especially Cornwall) is on course for the wettest year in recorded history!

      "Perhaps you will be poorer in electronic gagetry in the future but I am sure that you will be living a richer more satisfying life supplying yourself and your community with building materials."

      Yep - fewer Apples, Blackberries and Kindles and more apples, blackberries and kindling!

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  16. Interesting blog, I look forward to reading more of it over the next few days.

    The wife is taking a six-week contract at a hospital in Truro, so I may be over in Cornwall. We have friends near St. Austell who are peak-oil aware. We'll probably settle in South Wales (my homeland) in a couple of years.

    I'm very interested in how you make the transition from a tropical climate to a temperate one, so please keep blogging. We'll be moving from California to the UK when the time comes.

    (re-posted with "six" spelled with an "i" not an "e"...

  17. Harry, thanks for giving me a good laugh and its a good job you reposted, the original could have started a big rush at Truro hospital :-)

    1. Yes, thanks Harry. I was going to say what a liberal-minded fellow you were ;-)

      If you make it over then give us a shout.

  18. Siwmae Jason! Read about your new wood in your comment on JMG's latest post. It all looks great, and I wish you good luck. Only one small hint, though: Why would you say that Kernow is in the west of England? It's a small Celtic country in its own right, to the west of England, but not part of it. Lived there and went to school there in my youth, though from Cymru myself (another country to the west of England in the island of Britain, that's also Celtic and not England :-) ) Generations of both nations have had to put up quietly with this English absent-mindedness about us. But that's changing now, on both sides of Mor Hafren. Probably you'll do better with your Kernowek neighbours if you let them know that you understand and honour the vital difference. Just a thought. Hwyl, ac pob lwc! RhG

    1. Siwmae Rhisiart! Yep, you're right - I'm inviting myself to be lynched upon arrival ;-) Still, I hope I'm not included in the absent-minded masses as I've always held a fascination with both Welsh and Cornish culture. People are still shocked to hear that there exists a Cornish language - sometimes assuming I am pulling their leg.

      But exist it does, and I fully intend to get to grips with it not long after arrival.

  19. Hi Jason,

    Just a note- for some reason this post doesn't seem to be showing up on the sidebar on other blogger.com blogs. Not sure if you changed the address slightly, or if it's yet another problem with blogspot. In any case, I thought I'd mention it. This is a good post and some might not see it if they are looking for updates on the sidebar of another blog (which is what I usually do). I've noticed that the new post doesn't show up on the sidebar of Justin's Americana blog either, so I know it's not just an issue for me.


    1. Hi Jeff. Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn't noticed.

      I think it is something to do with Blogger - I didn't do anything different!

  20. Hello Jason,

    I promised to contact you again after New Year's Eve, and here I am, responding to your Earthed-post. You sound so happy and inspired, I hope your move will bring lots of joy and happiness to you and your family. And I believe 2013 is a great year for such undertakings.
    In 2011, I dragged my family into buying a house and some land in Nova Scotia, the Canadian peninsula on the east coast. That is our Avalon, a relatively safe shelter from the big storms to come, one of the last outposts of our crumbling civilisation. Like Cornwall, Nova Scotia is pretty much forgotten by the rest of the country, and people like to keep it that way. Nova Scotians are also resilient, and genuinely nice. We are very happy with this house, and are carefully planning our future around it. Coppicing is also on the wishlist of my husband.
    Of course, there are also downsides to a life in Nova Scotia. Second-hand furniture is hard to get by, and overly expensive. There is no Ikea for example (generally perceived by the CFAs -ComeFromAways- as THE major downside). However, people organise shopping sprees via internet, and some people drive to Montréal to buy furniture for a large group of people. A most unexpected form of community building, I'd say.
    Friends of ours got so enthusiastic about our switch, they bought ten acres of woodland nearby, and now have a house constructed on it. The local builder initially thought that my friends were nuts with all their special ideas about eco-building, but slowly, he is beginning to see some sensibility in it, plus new opportunities for his future business.
    Keep us posted, you really have a way with words, and good luck in February/March, when the time of your Farvel/Dydh da has come,



I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.