Seven years ago this month, J and I got married. We had only known each other for six months but when you know, you know, and all that schmuzz.
This past year, things have gotten pretty itchy. Last September we moved from a tiny community in a small mountain valley in Northern New Mexico, where we rented a 20 acre farm. We moved from the state that had been our home for almost seven years, to our current home: a little island twenty three miles east of Puerto Rico.
In our New Mexican valley we had little ground water and even less rain.
Our crops were not abundant, but we had food in the summer months and grew greens all year long in our greenhouse. We kept chickens and milked the neighboring farm’s cow three times a week. We made our own yoghurt, cheese and butter. We had access to some incredible, locally grown produce, and locally raised meat, but the distances we often had to travel to locate our supplies were large.
We frequently drove the 80 mile round trip to the Farmers Market, even the local store with its bulk goods and organic products, was 7 miles away down a steeply descending dirt road. We ate very well, and loved a great many wild-souled and full-hearted people, but were hankering for a smaller locality that was cycle-able and walkable, relief from those cold winters, and the ocean. We longed for the ocean.
Despite making some pretty awesome (by our own reckoning) psychedelic electroacoustic music, throughout our marriage, we have mainly relied on income from our Internet Marketing and Web Design business. Our approach to touring often gave us extremely fun adventures, but drained us financially. We toured extensively, both the west coast US, several times, and Burning Man, in our veg-powered Greyhound bus. We spent a couple of long (and expensive – dollars to pounds, gahh!) summers in the UK, for festival season. Our tours have always required extra income. This has meant taking time away from the process of creating music and the rhythm of living a life of art and family, supported by earth.
Our second vacation to Puerto Rico found us stepping off the ferry onto the soil of what is now our home. The island drew us in. Six months later, we returned to the island to live.
In moving from the desert to the tropics, we – oddly – went from feast to famine, in terms of viable foodstuffs. Our raw milk, local veg, eggs and meat were replaced by pesticide-laden produce from Mexico and California; battery chicken and feed-lot beef from the USA and Argentina; and hormone and antibiotic-laced, GMO-fed cow’s milk from homogenized Cow Corp USA.
We mail order pasture-raised organic meat, butter and cheese via FedEx from Missouri. Yes, I know – completely absurd (though our meat has made a shorter journey than the meat lining the shelves of the few small stores on the island). Eggs are reasonable if you buy Puerto Rican, hideous if you go to the store on an off day and all that remains are indoor cage-raised cruelty eggs from Georgia.
As a joyless and startling aside, Puerto Rico has the highest rate of diabetes in the US, the highest rate of Autism Spectrum Disorders, the highest rate of ADHD, has experienced eight straight years of negative economic growth, and has twice the rate of unemployment than the mainland United States.
Growing and raising our own food has, for us, gone from satisfying pass-time and addition to our diet, to functional necessity for health and required basis for life. At the same time, at the end of 2013 we lost a significant proportion (the vast majority) of our income. We primarily serve small businesses and, with the troubled economy, small businesses are struggling. This huge financial shift, has meant that we we have now found ourselves paying more rent than we can afford.
This has meant working more and more, scrambling for cash to dig ourselves out of the ever-growing hole we have found ourselves in, bills mounting, threats and legal ramifications looming. And all the time our clear, present and absolute awareness that this entire house of cards and the quicksand on which it is based is, well, wrong. That Our Planet is in crisis. That our health is suffering. That our leaders are muppets, that corporations are closing in on our food and water supplies, and that our addiction to fuel is the root cause of our demise.
Our itch has now grown beyond all tolerability.
We are done with landlords; through with utility bills; so over working long long hours to pay for food that is nutrient-less thanks to Big Agriculture, and polluted thanks to Big Chem; and absolutely finished with being a divided family unit during the daylight hours, due to the need to make (never, ever enough) money to pay for all this Big Bullshit. We have decided to call it quits and move into a tent in the woods.
As of a few weeks time, we are going to be the proud residents of Camp Pirate, so-named by our just-turned five year old son. We are setting up an off-grid, semi-permanent eco-dwelling that we will be so proud to call home. CP will consist of one principal sleeping, reading and music tent, one additional homeschool classroom/playroom/office tent, an outdoor kitchen, composting loo, sun shower, and our son’s private-no-parents-or-sister-allowed-hideout.
We are lucky enough to have found a generous and visionary soul, with 5 acres of raw Culebra and the permaculture bug. Señora Azul has opened her land to us, so that we can grow food, in a holistic, respectful, closed cycle that is natural and honoring to each component of the ecology, from small microbe through to human and around full circle. J will keep his one programming client, and our scrambling for extra work and frantic, clawing at the sides of the debt pit will cease.
We have wandered and dowsed, and asked the land and our deepest selves where we should set up camp. We have found our perfect spot, we have staked our flag, and we have set the ball rolling in Crazy World to begin our extraction from all that binds and restricts us. We are paying our final dues, closing our accounts with Grown-Up Life, and opening up reciprocal trading agreements with the credit union of Fucking Awesome.
Over the next couple of weeks, J and I, plus our two children, The Z-Man and Lady C, our three dogs, four cats, five chickens, ten baby chicks, two ducklings, abundant herb garden, and tomato plants will start our new chapter together, under the canopy of trees, with the earth most firmly (and sometimes soggily – welcome rainy season!!) at our feet.
By May 1st we will be fully off-grid. We will be able to charge our laptops with a small, travel solar array, and will post updates as we establish camp, and share our adventures in sustainable farming as we go. Our music set-up will obviously be moving with us, running on car batteries and solar. This summer, neither Mohammed nor the mountain shall be going or coming anywhere. Mohammed will be the mountain!! The festival will be us, at home, in the woods!
It is my hope that Our Pirate Life will send out its own small ripple into the ever-growing ocean of unrest, as we all, collectively, cast off this ridiculous lose-lose financial system, say knickers to convention and conformity, and take our power back. I hope to leave some blog evidence of our part in humanity’s process of unlearning and relearning.
This movement reaches far and wide, as globally as the financial and corporate madness it runs counter to. It is in the forest schools, the art curriculums, the community gardens, urban farms, backyard chicken coops, compost piles, clothes swaps, bake offs, pot-lucks, cow shares, barter economies, free parties, online permaculture programs, communal living centers, child care and home-learning co-ops, farmers markets, boycotts, protests and online forums. It is us, and it is inherently and universally omni-powerful; yet the current power matrix depends on our belief in our powerlessness.
We do all of us, from our varying standpoints, belief systems and preferences, know that it is time to rethink how as a human family we are doing things. It simply isn’t working. We need to begin again, from the earth up, and we need to communicate and share our stories while we are doing it.