… May 2021
Hi, and welcome to my site about simple living, or how to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on money/ having a job. Based on real life experience, both good and bad. Stuff like: how to believe in yourself (not get sucked into the allure of quick-fix faiths and isms)/ avoiding the need for a huge income or job/ taking back the responsibility for your own health/ and making & growing as much for yourself as possible. As well as doing all this in a way which puts the planet first, ie not taking anything more out of the Earth but working at putting things back, acting sustainably.
What this site isn’t, is any kind of manifesto or life coaching. Either for others to follow, or feel they have to comment upon, especially negatively, so please remember that. Nor am I claiming to be an expert on anything, this is just what I’ve picked up along the way (33+ years of treading this path) and thought others might find useful (especially the mistakes). Often a hard and very isolating way to live, going totally against what everyone else believes in (unquestioning), so good to know there are others out there trying to do the same thing.
Until October 2013, we were Maureen and Phil Rooksby. Originally from South London, where in the late 1970s we started out together as freshly-minted (art) teachers. A choice based entirely on disappointing A level results (neither of us could do exams) and the shared fear we’d end up in low-paid/ boring jobs, with not much time left for anything else, if we didn’t qualify at something. Being art teachers also would provide us with an opportunity to satisfy our developing creative appetites. Good plan, but fatally flawed. Being a student in the state education system was bad enough, but working for it a million times worse. Luckily at that exact moment a totally new kind of career opportunity was being born, shaped exactly for us, the alternative world of community arts. Sweeping us up on a 20 year journey that took in London/ Milton Keynes (during its formative years)/ North Yorkshire/ and Leeds. In 1986, when Maureen was setting Leeds on fire as the Associate Director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse, I began to put some ideas together for making our home and one acre garden more self-sufficient. Which led in 2000 to making our biggest life-changing decision yet. To sell everything, give up on the idea of “work”, and go live in a van. Resulting in an epic nine-year odyssey, where we searched for meaning in our lives/ explored our own creativity, and found the one place on the planet perfect enough to have everything we ever wanted.
The journey is best left for Maureen to describe, in her book: TREAD SOFTLY BECAUSE YOU TREAD ON MY DREAMS. Available free (as a download) simply by clicking here.
Also highly recommended are her blogs, now available in a single book entitled MUSINGS ON A MORE SIMPLE LIFE. Available free (as a download) simply by clicking here.
During that time we explored NW Spain/ Portugal/ an island in British Columbia (Canada)/ and then the Sierra de Aracena in SW Spain, before finally finding El Pocito in Almonaster la Real, the one and only place that fitted most of our criteria:
– somewhere we would be able to live without debt. No mortgage/ rent/ utility bills/ or any other charge on our time, and with all the natural resources not only to build a home, but provide our food/ fuel/ other building materials/ electricity/ medicine/ plus earn cash when necessary.
– our own water supply. Originally we wanted it to be nothing less than a spring, but they proved so hard to find we eventually settled on a borehole instead, where the water is as natural/ unpolluted/ and plentiful as possible. Also we wanted to be where there was at least one metre of rainfall per year, in order to be able to capture and store as much as that for non-drinking purposes.
– high up. At +/- 600 metres. This is because the further you go the less extreme the climate becomes (all-year-round)/ humidity is lower/ pollution less/ but probably most important of all right now (with the imminent melting of both polar ice-caps and a subsequent 50m rise in sea-level), there’s absolutely no risk from flooding or tsunamis.
– south-facing. Having tried all the other options this is undoubtedly the best. For crops/ minimising frost damage/ solar & wind power/ as well as being a lot warmer and lighter indoors.
– with a soil that is as sandy as possible. All the others just make the job a lot harder.
– where neighbours are as far away as possible. Which is not as easy as it sounds, for even with 2.5 hectares that’s still at best only 200 metres, unless like here you are surrounded by nothing but trees.
– proximity to a local town was crucial as well, it had to be no further away than an easy walk/ cycle. And small, +/- 500 people. Almonaster la Real is perfect. While at the same time as far away as possible from any cities (Sevilla, the nearest, is 120 km).
– well away from all roads and any other hazards to healthiness.
– a climate where we can grow the widest range of crops all-year-round.
– where we could have the perfect house, the most practical/ healthy/ and inspirational living space possible.
We bought El Pocito in 2009. However, as we now know, nothing ever goes exactly how you wish for, because suddenly, in 2013, Maureen got very sick and in no time she was gone. Her vision though, for a more sustainable/ simpler/ healthier/ and creative life continued. On the following pages you can see/ read all about that. Also included are some of the many influences/ ideas we came across over the years. I hope you enjoy dipping into them. Please feel free to ask any questions, am always happy to help in any way I can.
Maureen dying was a terrible blow, we had been together for 35 years, and she still had so much to give the world, you can’t imagine what that does to the one in her shadow left to keep it all going. But Almonaster la Real is a very special place, and thanks to all the good people there I survived, eventually finding a new partner, and to cut a long story short we got married in July 2019. Then came BREXIT, another blow, so we decided to leave Spain and move to Shetland. Which means EP is vacant and for sale.
…..For those interested in buying, the following pages pretty much describe everything you need to know. I especially recommend this tv interview which not only features EL POCITO but every other interesting feature of Almonaster la Real. It’s in spanish but you’ll get the gist:
Ideally EL POCITO would suit an energetic couple or a small group/ community (no more than six people). Or another idea we were working towards, creating an animal sanctuary there, building on the TNR cat project we started in town (see the appropriate page). But in reality it could be anything to anyone, you just need the imagination and drive to make it happen, just like we did. Back in 2009 there was nothing like us, now with each passing day more and more un-conventional souls are arriving to make it their home. In a couple of years time Almonaster la Real will become the new Orgiva.
My original asking price was 130,000 euros, but the house/ land has been unoccupied since October 2019 so this has been dramatically reduced to 75,000 euros (which includes all furniture/ fittings etc) to effect a quick sale. The price is not negotiable, so only those who have 75,000 euros should make contact, if you plan to live there full-time you will need a NIE number, and we are NOT open to offers, stage payments, or a rental/ tryout period.
All the paperwork is legal and ready to sign with our solicitor in Aracena, so exchange could be effected in a matter of days, subject to a deposit (15,000 euros, non-returnable) being paid. A friend in Almonaster la Real is waiting to show those who have the 75,000 euros. Beatriz at the Almonaster la Real Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) can also confirm its legality, as can our solicitor in nearby Aracena.
We are also offering a commission to anyone introducing the buyer, 3% of the eventual sale price.
Have a read through the website, then send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or WhatsApp me: (+44) 0797 996 5876
or telephone our landline: (+44) 01806 533 393.
Very briefly, El Pocito is situated in a very large area of forestry (pine/ sweet chestnut/ oak), approximately 182,000 hectares (called the Sierra de Aracena). The property is: approximately 2.5 hectares of hillside/ a small off-grid house (42m2, which can be expanded) with solar power/ and its own water supply (via a borehole). The site is south-west facing and sloping, at a height above sea-level of 600m. Access is via a 2km forestry track, after which it is 1km of highway to Almonaster la Real (where there are all the usual facilities, see the appropriate page for more details). For more information read all the other pages on this website, everything you need is there….
Someone who is living an almost identical life is Mark Boyle, in Ireland. Here’s a video interview with him, a similarly sized home, his values exactly the same as mine.
Thanks also to Nacho Suárez Obel who provided many of the photos for this site.
some thoughts to ponder…
“To be free (as it is possible to be) you first have to escape the gravitational force of con-vention, that insidious pressure of con-suming created by those who rule over us to enslave and conform. Once you have overcome the great cons of our current epoch, and are well clear of its influence, then the entire universe will open out for you to explore.”
“It may seem wrong to ignore the sum of our collective knowledge, but land left alone, from human interference/ culture, will (given time) become infinitely more diverse and sustainable than any treatment we have or could ever devise. If in doubt always do nothing.”
“There are only two solutions which will save us from imminent extinction.
1) An immediate global ban on all further births, until such time the total population is reduced to a sustainable level again (more on what that means in a moment).
2) A similar ban on the use of money, but permanently.
And the reasons? Because this is the only way we can save the planet (and by implication, ourselves). That unique self-governing eco-system, composed of an ever-expanding number of interdependent species, created in such a way, so infinitesimally complex, that even all our collective brain-power and computer-resources could never even begin to guess how it functions. The sole provider of all the necessities we take for granted. From oxygen we need to breathe, water, food, fuel, in fact everything. Such an infinitely complex mechanism, that for us to tinker with any part of it is to court disaster. Which of course is exactly what we have been doing, for the last 10,000 years.
Yet before that we were actually a positive and integral part of this wonderful creation. For three million years, 98% of our existence. We did this by acting sustainably. Which meant keeping our numbers to a pre-determined level (around 5 million), and not taking anything out of nature (be it species or materials) that could not be replaced with exactly the same. Then for some reason, 10,000 years ago, we decided to opt out of that. At first it didn’t seem to matter, but our destruction was exponential, each new day it was worse, until now a single minute creates more damage than a thousand years at the beginning. And there is so little left of the eco-system it is on the point of implosion. We are all about to die. Today, tomorrow, next week, next year. Nobody knows when exactly. But this is certain, it will happen soon. Children born today will not live to become adults.
Sustainability is not rocket science. If we want a future we have to stop taking out, stop using money, stop multiplying.
Which leaves just the one question, are you prepared to do that?
“…each world has a song that is begun with the first life on a world, a song that sounds within the world to foster life and variation. All living creatures are a part of the song which shall be sung forever, until the last star goes out… sometimes living creatures do not wish to be part of the song, they do not hear it, they rise up against it, they cry that they are larger than the song and more important than the music, and when their words drown out the song, then the world begins to die…”
(Sheri S Tepper)
“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear”
(Jerome K Jerome)
“There is only one cause for the ills of this world, and that is money. The purest souls among us are those who have none, for they spend nothing and harm nothing. It is an oxymoron to claim to be righteous, walk lightly on the earth AND have money.”
“The longing for Nature, strong, silent and healthy, is the vital phenomenon of our time, and is the counterbalance to an inorganic civilisation, which we mistakenly describe as culture.”
“…by making the choice, not to have or do what everyone else considers right, you not only no longer have bills to pay but can experience that unique freedom of being able to live your own life …”