… August 2021
Hi, and welcome to a website about simple living, how to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on money, the first step on a path to becoming truly sustainable.
What you have here is our own personal experience, both the good and bad, featuring stuff like: how to believe in yourself (instead of getting sucked in like everyone else to 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. Plus doing it in a way which puts the planet first, not taking any more of our precious resources, acting sustainably.
What this site isn’t, is any kind of manifesto or attempt at life coaching. Either for others to follow, or feel they have to comment upon. Nor is it a claim at being an expert on anything, just us relating what we learnt over the last thirty odd years and thought others might find useful (especially the mistakes). This way of life is not an easy option, going against what everyone else believes in, so it is good to know there are others out there trying to do the same thing.
Until October 2013, we were Maureen (click here to visit her website) and Phil Rooksby. Both originally from South London, where in the late 1970s we met as freshly-minted (art) teachers. A career choice we’d made after disappointing A-level results (neither of us could function in exams), and the fear of being stuck in low-paid/ boring jobs if not qualified at something. The long holidays were a draw too, as well as it would give us the opportunity to indulge/ satisfy our developing creative appetites. Thankfully we never had to put it to the test, because at the exactly the same time we emerged from college a totally new kind of option was born, 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, so that by 1986 Maureen was setting Leeds on fire as the Associate Director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse and I was a freelance designer. Throughout this period we also began to realise that the planet was on the verge of imminent extinction, from industrialisation and massive overpopulation. And in 1991 decided we had to do something, find an alternative way to live, one without causing environmental destruction. I gave up working (for money), and in 2000, aged 34/ 33, so did Maureen. We sold everything and made our home in a converted van. Embarking on a nine-year odyssey for meaning in our lives/ exploring our creativity/ and finding the one place on the planet where we could put down roots without compromise.
The story of that epic journey is best left for Maureen to describe, in her book: TREAD SOFTLY BECAUSE YOU TREAD ON MY DREAMS, which is available here free (as a download) simply by clicking here.
Also highly recommended are the blogs she wrote, now available in a single book entitled MUSINGS ON A MORE SIMPLE LIFE. Available free (as a download) simply by clicking here.
During that nine years we explored NW Spain/ Portugal/ a tiny island in British Columbia (Canada)/ and then the Sierra de Aracena in SW Spain, which is where we came across 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 ended up buying El Pocito in 2009, and for the next four years learnt all the skills needed to exist without money. Then in 2013 Maureen suddenly got sick and in no time (10 days) she was gone. Followed swiftly by the announcement of BREXIT, which overnight made my life in Spain untenable, leading to the decision to return to the UK. The last place I ever wanted to be. Which is why my current location is Shetland, as far away from England (a place I vow never to visit again) and Westminster as possible. Where, with my new partner Pauline, we are currently searching for land to continue our vision.
On the following pages you can see/ read all about it. Also included are some of the many influences/ ideas we have come across over the years, constantly updated. Hope you enjoy dipping into them. Please feel free to ask any questions, we are always happy to help in any way we can.
To get you started here is a spanish tv programme from 2018 featuring some of the more eccentric residents of Almonaster la Real, including me.
Plus two short videos showing the inside of El Pocito.
Followed by someone who lives an almost identical life in Ireland, Mark Boyle, author of several books on living simply (featured on the books page).
Thanks to my dear friend 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 …”