RESILIENCE SPOTLIGHT: New House, New Neighbors, New Life

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 - 4:35pm

This next contribution in our new Resilience Spotlight series, featuring stories from Peak Prosperity readers, comes from reader sebastian. He has embarked on building his own home on acreage he's moved onto recenetly, and is designing his house and lifestyle to be as resilient as possible.

Hello Chris, Adam & Peak Prosperity folks,

My name is Sebastian.

I’m writing to you to let you know about our family's journey, in the hopes it might inspire meaningful change for others. Your great site and its resources have inspired us -- hopefully I can do the same for some of the other readers here.

First, let me provide a little background to give perspective on who we are and why we have set out on this venture.
I was born and raised in Argentina until the age of 9. At that time (1989) we immigrated to Canada where my maternal grandfather was from. My wife Nicole is Canadian-born and was raised in the same town my grandfather lived in as a child.
Fast-forward 19 years: Nicole and I are starting our own family with our lovely daughter Maya.
I found my way to this website (actually its precusor) during the 2008 financial crisis, which fortunately for us didn't affect the Canadian housing market (I’m a tradesman). 
Now I can’t exactly remember how I first found your website, but I believe I was researching peak oil. I have frequented the site almost daily since. And I continue to inform myself on the subjects the Crash Course discusses. 
I’ve done my research in a varied way so as to get a number of different opinions on what to do about our global/personal predicaments.  
After many years of educating ourselves and much discussion about what we should do, my wife and I came to the conclusion that a change of location/life style was what we needed. 
So here we are now -- with two more little ones. We've just relocated to a town three hours from our last home, where we're we've made a free and clear land purchase.
We are staring our homestead in Lund BC, a small town near (20 mins by car) the city of Powell River. It's a truly rural setting with 5-10 acre homesteads around us, surrounded by vast swaths of PNW forests.
I’m in the middle of building our home. We're doing it modestly without shackling ourselves to any banksters.
I feel most fortunate and thankful to the universe for having the neighbours I’ve come to live near. 
They are the most hands-on, helpful and kind people I’ve ever met. Take our neighbour Ted: he's a retired carpenter instructor and builder with 30 years' worth of experience. He comes by every day at around noon to answer all my questions. And he's willing to help me do some projects with his heavy equipment soon. 
His wife, Annette, is a retired teacher with a heart of gold. She offers to have our kids over any time. Their children live next door (Eric and Alisha) who have 3 kids the same age as ours.
Our back 40 neighbour, Mehtab, lives off-grid and is a yogi who's into permaculture. He's helped me various times without asking for anything in return. So I gave him my old work van when his broke down.
Down the road are Jasmine and Mac, two highly educated 30 year olds who make ice cream and teach tap dance (my daughter taps and I have a sweet tooth)
Our hope is to turn our 9 acres of forest into 6 acres of permacultured landscape. We'll leave the remainder forested. 
We've been inspired by the Peak Prosperity message as well as by the amazing work Ben Falk has done on his homestead, as well as many others. 
Our hope is that those who are on the fence, or are not sure if they can do it, see that the transition to a resilient life is possible. With hard work and resolve, the universe will answer back: YES!
We want to give thanks to Chris and Adam as well as to the PP community. 
Here are some pictures to share with you so you can see our progress. 
Our first winter
Starting our homestead layout
The hole in the ground I’ve got to fill in with a house
Our temporary housing :)
Starting to build footings
The foundation is poured!
Monkeys at play!

To share your own story, email us at [email protected]


Matt Holbert's picture
Matt Holbert
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 3 2008
Posts: 161
I am interested in knowing

I am interested in knowing why those who are familiar with the content of the Crash Course would choose to have more than one child... I understand the biological/evolutionary "reasons" but am convinced that with knowledge these can be overridden. Am I wrong? Were Albert Bartlett's exponential lessons not convincing or was he wrong? 

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 1022
I think the answer is...

1) in the low population where he is
2) in the fact that the population growth is only one aspect of many in the PP agenda
3) in the fact that stability still requires a certain core size, especially if you're going to low energy
4) in the fact that the boom is likely GOING to result in a deaths-heavy bust, as well as a crash in births, so his having children doesn't affect the overall picture.
5) In the fact that PP leadership is as green at this as anyone; they correctly identify a problem. But they don't know exactly the roadmap around, much less the road map through. So there's room for people to conflate their hopes, desires, and best guesses, and come up with different choices than you might come up with.

In other words, 1) exponential growth is not correct -- the "limits of growth" curveset is believd to be correct. 2) he may well have not got to the conclusion you have, yet, or even the information. This is a very big site.

The point of the baseball stadium lesson is not that we're all going to drown; it is that it can't continue as an exponential curve, but in its overshoot phase it will still be incredibly destructive.

cowtown2011's picture
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Joined: Sep 12 2011
Posts: 54

Me and my wife are currently looking for land near Golden, BC. I'm going to build an off grid home,not sure what type yet. They have no building codes outside the city limit so it should be a fun exercise. I'm a former accountant who quit the rat race several years ago. We are currently renting in an extremely expensive mountain town. Worried a little about rural living but we are trying to stay within 3 miles or so of town. Maybe I'll send an update to PP one day. Good luck with the home build and permaculture food forest.

AaronMcKeon's picture
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Joined: Apr 29 2014
Posts: 77
Children and Overpopulation

I understand the noble intent behind questioning people's decision to have more than one child, but this question has always bothered me because I can't help but feel it's not right to make another individual to feel guilty for having children, especially when their circumstances aren't known.  Children provide a lot of joy in life and, sometimes, come unexpectedly.  It's hard to view the topic in such isolation, boiling it down to just one facet.  What I can do is speak to my experience.  I have two children, and I'll get the shelfish reason out of the way first: I've always wanted children and they bring me a lot of joy in life.  Why else are we living if not to experience one of the simplest and natural of life's pleasures?  Regarding over-population, I fully plan on living a life where we don't take more than we need from the planet.  In order to have the "over" in over-population, you have to extract more than you put back.  I know this change won't happen for us overnight, and I don't expect it to ever happen for all of humanity, but at the individual level I believe it is entirely possible to live a life more in balance with nature.  I won't let the exuberences and extractive wastefulness of others punish me and prevent me from having what I want most from life, but I will certainly do all I can to teach my children to not be like most of humanity.  Perhaps then my children will go forth and be a positive impact on humanity due to their experience.

The second point to make on this topic is in response to a similar question I get from people all the time.  "Well if you believe oil is running out and life is going to get so hard, why would you ever have children?"  Again, the guilt.  How dare you condemn an innocent child to a life of pain and hardship!?  I believe, however, that the children being born today will be the best equipped to deal with a world after peak-oil.  Sure there will be hardship and maybe some suffering that comes along the way, but kids are so resilient, and they learn so well.  It's going to be us Gen Z / Millenial / Baby-Boomers / Whatever that suffer the worst, because we're so ill-equipped and blinded by decades of conditioning.

Perhaps a third point to take is more of a Darwinian one.  Perhaps some day (soon) the world will need more people who possess knowledge currently all but lost in our society.  Perhaps the children I raise will be able to out-compete children raised in a normal status quo environment because they'll have that leg up on the inevitable change, if not for selfish reasons but for that humanity could be better off with more of them around.  It could be shame if all the "smart" people stopped having kids but all the "less-informed" people didn't.

Just some extemporaneous thoughts on the matter.  Of course there are no right answer on this one because none of us has a crystal ball - just opinions.

sebastian's picture
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Joined: Feb 9 2010
Posts: 18

Hi Matt, great questions. I am very much aware of our global population predicament. One of the reasons we chose to move to a rural area was because of said predicament. It’s my belief that going forward we will experience overshoot in drastically different ways depending on our locations. On a personal note my children give me hope and a reason to do my best to think/act towards a long term sustainable lifestyle. As I understand it manual labour is one of the main constraints when it comes to permaculture homesteading... a few more years and I’ll have a some strong backs to help with the hard labour ;)



Uncletommy's picture
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Joined: May 4 2014
Posts: 682
To each his own.

Over 7 generations, my paternal line has maintained an average of a 2.1 birthrate. Most were not college educated, but did have a strong farming background. If we all shot for this level, the population will slowly begin to decline accompanied by certain unexpected consequences, both positive and negative. Embracing a long term outlook coupled with good stewardship of our resources is, IMHO, a way out of this predicament. However, there are exceptions:

richcabot's picture
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Joined: Apr 5 2011
Posts: 242

Hope there's no rebar in that concrete!

Michael_Rudmin's picture
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Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 1022
Umm, Rich; no... rebar is a good thing.

Rich, it's kindof like taking arsenic for worms. Arsenic is toxic, but worms will kill you far quicker.

Of course, if you can get mebendazole (in Canada they can... $.25 a dose; in the US it's $180 a dose for the few who can get it) then it's better to go with that.

There is a reason why ACI318 has both a lower limit for rebar and an upper limit for rebar. And there are things you can do to eliminat the rusting problem. One thing to do is to drive a few magnesium rods into the ground, nearby. Another is to apply 2-V voltage (make sure you get the sign correct) from bar cage to ground. Do it with solar panels, and it'll hold the rebar strong.

They're going to have freeze-thaw cycles up there like you wouldn't believe. If I had my preference, it wouldn't only be rebar; it would be prestressed concrete, with the rebar-prestressed cage charged.

But even if he's only got rebar, it still should be good for the lifecycle needed.

westcoastjan's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 4 2012
Posts: 582
Uhhhhm, no

Please fact check before saying things like “they’re going to have freeze thaw cycles up there like you would not believe”  Contrary to popular belief, not all of Canada gets the winter weather you are referring to.

Lund is in the coastal temperate zone. If anything, and as with similar nearby environs, it is only getting warmer. Most of us “up here” do not own heavy duty winter clothes-more like gumby boots & raincoats.


ckessel's picture
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 12 2008
Posts: 489
Building techniques

The issue of rebar in concrete is really not a one answer fits all type of problem. For wet environments such as bridges, wear surfaces (highways) and foundations, basalt rebar can be used which avoids the oxidation problem with standard steel (or coated steel) reinforcing.

I noticed that the footings were filled with clean gravel which should allow for good foundation drainage and that will help reduce the impact of moisture on the reinforcing. Concrete which is protected from weather by a roof system also should fare better in the long haul.

Insulating the exterior of the foundation also has long term benefits for comfort and longevity.

I have been using ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms) for the foundation and exterior wall construction of buildings for about 16 years now and the strength, thermal performance and potential for longevity is impressive IMHO. Quad Lock is a manufacturer that is located near Vancouver and has a very versatel ICF product.

ICF construction coupled with basic passive (and active) solar design concepts virtually eliminates the impacts of freeze thaw on concrete structures and I would like to think we can provide a 1000 year life cycle for a typical building.  The Pantheon in Rome has been continuously occupied for over 2000 years as an example of early concrete construction.


Michael_Rudmin's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 1022
Agreed, Jan

... I had indeed been thinking “Canada in general", not "west coast canada subject to the warming currents". England and even Lithuania are similarly warmed by the Gulf Stream here in the Atlantic.

Looking at Lund, I would expect a house foundation to be relatively safe from freeze-thaw, because of both the heat shielding and the rainfall shielding of the application at hand.

Nonetheless, my base statement is also true. Rebar is not your enemy; there are ways to make it resilient.

The rebar is there to handle tensile stresses, especially when the concrete fails. Prestressing also does that, even without the concrete failing.

Little Pond's picture
Little Pond
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 9 2018
Posts: 4
Siblings equal support

One child or none is a great choice, for the planet and often for the family too. Two children leaves your disabled child with a support system after your death as institutions crumble. As to those friends of mine who had 3, well I sort of wish they could have had 4- the greater the fraction of the future generation those scrimping, saving, farming, gardening, homeschooling, flexibly-minded, devoted, right thinking people raise, the better off everyone will be. No one can make the decision for someone else how many children to have. All we can do is help people to avoid having children they don't want to have.

sebastian's picture
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Joined: Feb 9 2010
Posts: 18
Rebar and roof slope

Hi Ckessel, you basically echoed my sentiments as far as the foundation process is concerned. I wanted to use ICF but I’m trying to be pragmatic concidering our modest building budget :) I got all the standard forming plywood for a labour exchange and I was able to save on the on the concrete pumping costs as I did a mono pour. The rebar is of the standard variety and yes I had hoped to acquire basalt rebar but it’s very much not locally available and considering the trip cost/time we went conventional on it. My next biggest quandary is weather to use Cedar on my base plates with foam in  between. I’ve got lots of it from the milling of my timbers... I know it’s quite rot resistant but is it as structurally sound?

 The question about the number of children is one to ponder carefully for sure...we feel that it’s just as important if not more so the values that you convey. Specifically with regards to materialism and what one needs to truly be content. We value time together with simple pleasures like walks and swimming at one of our local beaches. We do our best to not buy  plastic toys or as we call them “dump trips” and encourage family and friends to get something local or make a nice card and come spend time together. No one answer fits all that’s for sure and we will all have some major life adjustments going forward, our hope is that we have enough time to start/stablish our homestead before whatever kind long emergency begins to unfold.



seangrif's picture
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Joined: Aug 13 2014
Posts: 5
Carbon footprint is more important than family size

It’s not about children but carbon footprints. A village of 100 in Africa can have a smaller carbon footprint than one household in the USA. 

macro2682's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 3 2009
Posts: 579

What do you guys do for money?  How do you live in a rural area, with time to build your own house on your own land?  With three kids no less. 

Matt Holbert's picture
Matt Holbert
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 3 2008
Posts: 161
I agree with you, but...

Most in the "developed" world are not willing to live with the carbon footprint of an African village. What do we do? My wife (of 30+ years) and I intuitively knew (INTJ/Ps) that the combination of overpopulation and overconsumption was killing life on the planet and we chose to not have offspring. We now know -- thanks to PP and other sources -- that what we intuitively knew is backed by science. We also don't own a vehicle, haven't flown since 2004, and we grow much of our food in a 1950's vintage suburban setting. Why? Although there is not an easy answer, I think that it is because we have a love for all life because we realize that living like we do is necessary for life to continue. It's not an altruistic thing, it's a rational thing. As Heinlein said, however, to paraphrase, we are not rational animals, we are rationalizing animals.

sebastian's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 9 2010
Posts: 18
What we do do for $

hi Macro,

At the moment we are living off our savings/building budget, doing our best to keep costs down while I build. As far as work goes the city that’s 20km from our place is quite busy with construction work/projects, mainly due to spill over effect from Vancouver housing bubble land. Once this housing bubble pops it will very much shrink the work options for all trades people, I’m hoping to insulate our needs from that by staying out of debt but it’s not easy with material cost being quite expensive these days :)


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