SasEz Sustainable Living Project
The Sustainable Living Project is our attempt to become as fully self-sustainable as we can on seven acres of land near Tucson Arizona.
We’re growing our own food completely organically, and in time we plan to build our own house. My husband even has plans to create his own metal working/smelting system so that he can forge metal for creating nails, engine parts, and so on.
Low Tech Living
At the moment we are “living” in a 5′x8′ enclosed cargo trailer. It is primarily our bedroom/sleeping area though, because it’s too small to have a kitchen and bath area. We have the bed designed so that it can be sat up into a bench style couch, and under the bed is storage for our clothes, books and misc other things.
When the bed is sitting up in the couch position, we can use the top of the cabinet that runs along the length of one side of the trailer as counter space, and this works for cooking when it’s raining outside.
Thankfully this area of the country has sunny weather around 300 days out of each year, so most of our living space is outdoors. We have an outdoor kitchen area and currently use a propane camping stove for our cooking. I’m also experimenting with solar cooking–not too successfully yet but I’m learning.
We have a 60 watt solar panel system that generates the electric power for our lights, and for me to work. The panels charge a small car battery so we can use the lights at night and watch movies on a little portable media player.
High Tech Working
I work online as a writer and publisher. I write website articles for other sites to keep money flowing in for food and bills, and I publish several different websites which earn small amounts of advertising revenue each month. Those are our two primary income streams at the moment, and I also earn occasional money from stock photography and Amazon Kindle book sales royalties.
I use an HTC Touch Pro cell phone as my “work computer” at the moment because the monitor on my Tablet PC went out in late March 2010. I like it for the most part because it’s very low in power needs, and since most of my work is writing I can use the mobile Microsoft Office Tools to get everything done. I also have a Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard because it’s much easier to use for writing than the built in TouchPro keyboard.
Our bills are currently very low and we set out purposely to design them that way. Including our land payment, our fixed expenses are $654 per month. We spend about $500 a month on food, misc supplies and gas for the truck as well. So in total, we’re at just under $1200 per month–and that includes all infrequent bills like land taxes, vehicle registration and so on.
The trick to being even partially sustainable however–particularly when you’re first starting out–is keeping enough money flowing in while also having time to devote to getting everything going. Since we don’t grow all our own food yet, I still have grocery store expenses. And I will for several years until we start raising chickens, cows and other animals, and until I get a good feel for how much fruit and vegetables to grow to last us all year.
To keep the bills paid and food in our stomachs, I write web articles for other sites. The pay is low so I usually have to write at least 20 articles a week to keep enough money flowing in for everything. In time I hope to earn enough money from this and my other websites to stop writing for others and concentrate on writing here instead.
Despite our low day to day bills I also have to buy seeds, hay and starter treelings or fruit bushes. We also have many pending projects that will require extra money by themselves. We are currently hauling water each week because we have no well. So one of my goals over the next one to two years is to get a well drilled.
In time we’ll be buying materials to build a solar water heater–at the moment we’re simply using garden hoses, camping shower bags and plastic water cooler jugs.
I also hope to buy a regular camper trailer before this next winter, so we’ll have room to live and work indoors when the cold winter rainy season hits. In all of these examples of course, we’ll need extra money to pay for those items so I may have to continue writing for others for quite some time.
I’ve added a donations button to this site so that others can contribute to our project as desired. Every little bit counts so even a few hundred people donating a few dollars each will allow me to spend more time adding photos and articles to this site as well as making progress on the project itself.
The goals of this project are quite simple: Become as sustainable as we can. That means we’re reducing and reusing everything possible, but we’re also trying to contribute too. We want to enrich the soil of our land so that it can continue to produce a wide variety of food year after year–without deadly chemicals.
We want to encourage the flys, bugs and bees so they can help pollinate the plants and contribute to the natural order of things.
We want to use the natural power of the sun that’s there day in and day out, and eventually we’ll take advantage of the small amounts of wind we get here too.
We want to turn any and all of our organic waste into nutrient rich material that will make the plants and trees flourish.
We want to learn and relearn basic concepts such as using a root cellar for food instead of a refrigerator, taking advantage of thermal mass and landscaping for natural heating and cooling, and using the basic concepts of heat rising to warm our water or the air in our home during the cold months of winter.
The start of this project is very gritty. Our “yard” area is dust and it blows around at the slightest provocation. We don’t have a shower built yet so just keeping ourselves clean is a challenge.
We have plenty of wild things growing around us, so we know the soil is viable. That was an important selection criteria for us when we were looking for land. The clearing we’re currently camped in is surrounded by Creasole trees and lots of little wildflowers. It’s not enough to keep the dust down and anchor the soil fully so we’re working on improving that over time. The soil here is really sandy too, so I’m enriching it with horse manure, hay and sawdust. In time I’ll have finished compost to use, and I plan to sow some cover crops like Clover and Hairy Vetch. I can’t do it all at once but every small step forward helps
A project like this takes a big investment of time, money and faith. As the years go by though, things will continue to become easier and at some point–if we do it well–it may almost seem to take care of itself.
Seven acres may not seem like a lot, but we can do alot with it. The food we produce will be enough to feed us year round, and probably several branches of family too. What we and they can’t use will go to a local food bank to help feed other families. Could I sell the excess and let the land pay for itself to some extent? Sure. But that’s not a priority.
I’ve been a fan and practitioner of natural and herbal health techniques for about 20 years. I know the value of real food that provides all the nutrition it’s meant to provide. Growing enough for us and family to stay healthy over the years is a primary goal, and having enough to share the wealth with others would be icing on the cake.
And even more icing on that cake will be the fact that we’ve kept these seven acres free from the harsh chemicals that are so commonly used to grow food these days, and along the way we’re providing a wildlife friendly habitat too.
So the beginning may be dusty, dirty and rough… But I feel the end results will be more than worth it