"In high-school the teachers were always telling us that we had to study hard so that we could find good-paying careers as adults. I found it irritating that they would paint such a dismal picture of the future. I did not realize at the time that most of my classmates considered it normal. I had a lot of Dreams in life, and the idea of getting a job and working for the next forty years just scared the heck out of me. Thus I was highly motivated to find a no-job path to success."
--Thomas J. Elpel
Building a House on Limited Means
The Homesteader Experience
The freedom that you find as a Hunter-Gatherer is something that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. And yet, while the Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle is good, it is inherently temporary. The Homesteader level of experience is about learning how to return to civilization, but without surrendering your freedom to the Machine.
Learn how to build or renovate your Dream home on a budget and without a mortgage from Thomas J. Elpel, author of Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction. Learn the fundamentals of passive solar design and how to design and build a low-cost, high-efficiency home from the ground up. Get hands-on experience working with local materials and scavenging useful resources from the industrial waste stream. Among other things, past students have built a passive solar stone house, a masonry fireplace, and a little castle guesthouse, primarily from free, scavenged, and recycled materials.
At Green University® LLC, you have the opportunity to learn about solar water heater systems, wood-fired boiler systems, attached greenhouses, masonry fireplaces, slipform stone masonry, wood-frame construction, and the basics of plumbing and wiring. Help out with ongoing construction projects and get first-hand experience retrofitting old buildings for energy efficiency and longevity. Construction projects vary considerably from year-to-year, and usually take a back seat to the Hunter-Gatherer program, but there is always something going on. Be sure to inquire about upcoming building opportunities.
Green University student Michael Morgan led the "tire palace" tool shed project, constructed with used tires packed with earth, still presently in progress. Margaret Fulford led the effort to design and build a pallet-cob chickenhouse. Through our Practical Permaculture Class, students designed a garden for the stockyard and subsequently turned it into a beautiful garden in our Applied Permaculture Class.
The Green University® LLC Homesteader program includes the opportunity to gain comfort and confidence with livestock, including raising chickens and tending the resident flock of sheep. There are days of fencing work and sheep herding, plus butchering meat for camp, and tanning the hides for blankets and clothing. Winter requires daily attention to keep the sheep fed and watered through any kind of weather.
The Homesteader program provides the opportunity to build a more sustainable lifestyle and escape the job trap.We mentor participants to create a lifestyle independent of rent payments, big utility bills, and big fuel bills. Those who are interested can get hands-on experience with biodiesel and straight vegetable oil (SVO) fuel systems through Tom's brothers, who have specialized in these alternative energy systems.
In the Homesteader program, you can learn to become more self-sufficient, to meet many of your basic needs without depending on regular employment to cover monthly expenses. Learn to cook and create in the kitchen with the resources on hand or readily foraged, without being dependent on someone else's recipes and a dictated list of store-bought ingredients.
Learn to avoid the rat race and gain the freedom to pursue your own interests in life. Be choosy about when and what type of work you do to earn a living. When you learn to avoid full-time work, you can also avoid commuting back and forth, and all the other expenses and "conveniences" associated with keeping a job. Get the skills to walk your own path without being enslaved to the Machine. Become empowered and free to make a positive difference in the world.
Recommended Reading: To get the most out of the Homesteader experience, be sure to familiarize yourself with Tom's books and videos on sustainable living and alternative house-building:
Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams
-Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
-Slipform Stone Masonry DVD
-Build Your Own Masonry Fireplace DVD
Ready for an Adventure? Join us!
Registration: How to Apply
Next: The Caretaker Experience
Dear Tom and Linda,
Perfection is the best way I can describe my experience with the immersion program. I entered the program hoping to get out of the box of my suburban life and learn how to live more freely and closely with nature. To that end, everything that has unfolded on the River Camp campus has been undeniably perfect--not manicured lawn perfect, but zoomed out ecology perfect. Even without a course in rites of passage, I've found myself transforming as I accepted the opportunities presented. As the poetry of campus' location on the Jefferson River suggests, there is a genuine free flow of raw life that brings many gifts. I've seen diverse demographics find their medicine at River Camp: the jaded veteran, the recovering addict, the urban refugee, and the seeking healer. Tom and Linda's commitment to and trust in a loving universe holds open a portal of abundant wisdom and connectivity which has indeed brought me and others a wealth of experience.
This is Kyle from Washington, if you remember. I visited your place for a while one spring.
I happened upon your book Living Homes and read a few chapters. I'm not normaly drawn to the home-building subject. I've blamed many difficult family moves and the loss of my childhood haunts, in part, on the home improvement craze. It always seemed such a presumptuious, wastefull, and irreversible form of self expression. Very recently, I've seen one of my favorite springs filled in for the sake of construction. Though it may be irrational, the sight of anybody building anything puts a bitter taste in my mouth. I've even vowed to live "structuraly neutral." So if I should ever build a new house, I would first tear an old one down and rehab the site. I'd hate to see the West become cluttered with the junk of just a few inconsiderate generations.
But your book seemed to be about something different. It realy touched me, gave me hope. Fortunately for your audience, it seems college never had the chance to rob your writing of it's human tendencies. This book isn't just about construction techniques. The driving aspirations of you and your family are unabashedly blended into the book's how-to. And I think that's how it ought to be. Those chapters told me in a basic emotional way that my dreams are possible too. I'm saving money in hopes of buying land. My girlfriend and I will probably start working for a youth therapy program this fall. So coincidentaly it seems I'm tracing your footsteps.
I think if my life ends up being a bit like yours, it wouldn't be so bad. Many thanks for making room for me that Spring. Kids like me flock to your place largely because society leaves them without a place. I think what you do with the immersion program is important. Thanks for the inspiration Tom. You and the rest of the clan take care!
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