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.

Pathway to FlamencoIn 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.

And so…

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.

imageWe 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.

imageThis 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.


Right now it’s all about packing. We are in the middle of moving, shrinking everything in our house into boxes ready to reassemble it all out at Pirate Camp. This means some liquidation, of course – things we no longer truly need, clothes we don’t wear, books we won’t re-read; and it has also meant a fair number of purchases, and a few key finds.

playroom stuffMoving home provides ample evidence in support of the well-tried concept that one parent’s trash is at least one of their children’s treasure; and the small members of la familia pirata are not going to give up hoarding theirs easily. As I write this, in what soon will no longer be our playroom, I cast my eye down to the floor – a teeming mass of, ahem, trash (or at least, items to be passed along). I know that anything to be disposed of must be done beneath the cover of darkness during the 30 minute period when both The Z-Man and Lady C are asleep and I am not. Tricky. Looking around me I see: a plastic mermaid with no arms and a broken tail; a pencil and a wooden block fastened together with medical tape; a Happy Meal toy that was bought (broken) from a yard sale for 20 cents; a doll’s right foot; a dive skin that no longer fits; an odd sock; a favorite pair of too small fur-lined boots, and a squashed plastic container from a Kinder Surprise.

Let’s face it. Packing sucks. For everyone: us, kids, pets. The consolation is that I am sure and certain that the challenges of packing will melt away into the past as quickly as the house disappears in the rear-view mirror, when we drive away in a borrowed truck this weekend. And the other end, the unpacking, the camp building, is where the fun really begins.

Happily, yesterday afternoon was punctuated by a huge slice of pirate-booty-acquiring excitement, when our UPS guy showed up with a bunch of goodies we had got all Amazonian about. Let’s get real here, and to the point. We may be ‘moving into a tent in the woods’, but we are a family, and we are going to make sure that we are comfortable, that all our needs are met. We are not slinging up a Walmart disposadome, climbing into the polyester innards of a cheap sleeping bag, cracking open a can of beans, only to look around and wonder where all the veggies are and what the hell we are going to do next. No, no we are not.

soulpadWe are building a camp. A super awesome camp. And we will be working steadily on a permaculture farming vision that serves Life on the island. We have made progress clearing the land of a 16 x 16 foot / 5 x 5m square, the space enough for our tent – a Soul Pad 5000 – to land, all beautiful and canvas in its gypsy majesty. We have ordered the timber – arriving Friday – to build a raised platform for said palace to sit. We have a 14 x 14 family tent to use in the meantime while we wait until our Soul Pad’s arrival in June. We will be moving our king size family futon, plus The Z-Man’s twin futon extension, with all our favorite bedding and fluffy pillows. We will have carpets and throws and cushions, musical instruments, books, toys neatly stowed away in woven baskets and boxes… OK, they will actually be largely strewn all over the floor, but the attempt to keep them stowed will be there, at times, largely thwarted and ultimately defeated I am sure.

stove and kettleWe have a new stainless steel tea kettle, an essential element to any reasonable British person’s kitchen, be that indoor, outdoor, or lunar. We have a cast iron camp stove, and are the proud new owners of a Berkey water filter. I am particularly stoked about this, as I have coveted this filter since I first saw it online and read the reviews and went all obsessive for a minute. We bought a solar laptop and cell phone charging pack, solar and mains chargeable lanterns, solar-charging flashlights, solar fairy lights, some steel locking 5-gallon buckets for bulk food storage and a plastic one for our loo. We have been gifted a sink, a huge hose and two large cisterns, one of which will be used for rainwater and the other will hold water that we will bring down to camp from the municipal water source that comes in to the property by the street. For now, until we invest in a large enough solar set-up, our refrigeration will be a cooler with freezer packs that we will replenish daily from the fridge up at the main house. We will keep the majority of our perishable food in Senora Azul’s house and bring down what we need for the day. You could call this ‘cheating’, if you were thus motivated. But as we are not playing a game, I call it eating without contracting listeria.

Kitchen CubbiesWe found the most awesome brightly colored cubby-holed counter / cupboard thing at the dump this afternoon, several wooden pallets for more kitchen counter space, lots of reclaimed lumber for the outhouse and shower, chicken and duck coop and steps to the tent, and we moved our hammock in today.

hammockIt feels good.

In addition to all this stuff, the most delighting thing of all, is watching our children interact with this land. The Z-Man is not a creature of the town, even a small and sleepy town like our one and only town on this little island. He is a farm boy, a nature child, and he is also adjusted perfectly for communal life. There is a peace that descends on Z when we are at Pirate Camp, a particular type of peace that we have not seen since we left our farm in New Mexico to be honest. We have seen his ecstasy at the ocean and his hunger to observe and experience all things marine, we have seen his efforts to explore the Spanish language and his delight at rooting himself through his new friendships into a sense of community once again. But I have missed seeing him at ease, wandering around his natural environment at home, pottering, sitting, exploring, sensing. For him, the neighborhood style life, the overlooked backyard, the deliberate planting of an, albeit very beautiful, tropical, fenced and gated plot is not nature, and does not (being a farm boy from rural hundreds of acres of backyard) feel like home. In this he is not alone.

Our children are, I always feel, our barometers. If something is not quite right for them, it’s probably not right for us either; excluding, arguably, armless plastic mermaids with no tails. Where they thrive and flourish, so do we. Where they are free to be huge and unbound, so are we. Lady C has added ‘Pirate Camp’ to her ever-growing vocabulary, The Z-Man is already planning his own garden plot, and J and I have to pinch ourselves regularly to make sure that we are not still dreaming. For this opportunity is an even sweeter, more sustainable, more beautiful situation than the one we suspected we were being greedy in visualizing, but wished for and prayed for and hoped for nonetheless. Daily, I thank this island, her elemental spirits, and the ancestors who lived here and dwell in her spirit realm, for bestowing such blessings upon us. Many times daily. And if you have made it this far – thank YOU for reading.


I got up to find J in his swim shorts already doing battle with the elements and dressed for wet play. He looked mildly wild and unhinged, thorns in his hair and mud across his cheek, eyes wide, and we commenced the guy-rope tethering, thorn dancing, mud splashing and tarp re-jigging hooha of the morning previous. It was, again, intense. And hysterical. And we managed to also eat scrambled eggs, make tea and coffee, arrange a playdate, and make chocolate granola, so it was a lot mellower than it might sound. Life goes on, even when there’s little more than an overgrown carrier bag separating you from a tropical storm.

J then proceeded to make a boat. Not unlike Noah in similar such meteorological circumstances.

This is the second time that he has tried out this particular design of boat. The first we made after a trip to the Historical Museum of Culebra, where we had seen a small canoe made from a piece of roofing tin, that islanders used to use (not long ago, this past generation) to race between the small Cays around the island. The design is simple and the boat can be put together using the roofing tin, a pair of tin snips, a two-by-four, a few screws, a garden hose and some epoxy, in a couple of hours.

The first attempt produced a boat for The Z-Man. It took on too much water for J to be able to do much, but he could balance it and row a couple of metres before it took on too much water and the joy-ride aborted. Z was always highly resentful of his father taking such liberties with his boat, so the fact that J was relegated to ship’s mate and boat hand fitted in pretty well with the power paradigm of the moment. Z had a blast deliberately capsizing it, fishing off the side and being pushed around by his father behind, who was holding on to keep it balanced and propelling it forward by swimming whilst wearing flippers.

Carrying the boat down to the beach, with it poised bulkily across the back of our bike trailer, garnered a bit of attention, especially from locals,who were smilingly asking us whether the thing would float and, I like to think, were mildly imprused (that cross between impressed and amused) by a couple of newcomers sporting such a relic.

photo 1(4)Well, yes, it did float. But the tin canoe mark 2, today’s attempt at an improvement on the original, the larger version, did not. It sank. Instantly in fact, it was quite something to watch. In got J, a touch less confident now that we were actually down by the shore, beginning to wonder about the seaworthiness of this new vessel; and down went J, boom – under and down. To the bottom. It took just a second. The only visual evidence that there had ever been a boat there at all was about two centimeters of wood at the stern pointing up out of the water.

J rose from the water, broad grin, and proclaimed, ‘I hereby christen this boat – Planter’.

And here she is. Planted. Featuring, from left to right: thyme, parsley, rosemary, basil, lemongrass, oregano, basil, dill, mint, sage, and savory.