We met in the middle of nowhere, literally. In fact, Brewster County, Texas, is one of the least populated counties in the United States. It is home to Big Bend National Park, and is a place of exceptional beauty and solitary wilderness. It seems a fitting place to have met, and the desert’s spell was largely responsible for the life we chose to lead.
Before coming to the area, Abe was Vice President of Internet Media in an advertising firm in Austin. He was attending the University of Texas, majoring in Aerospace Engineering, when he got involved in Lyon Advertising and he worked there for five years. No matter how much fun it was, he had come from a ranch life and felt the need to return to a simpler existence. He left the city in the midst of a huge flood and moved to the 20 acres of pristine desert he’d bought over the Internet.
Josie was working on a boat in the Mediterranean before coming to the United States. British by blood, she was born in Africa, raised in Portugal, and schooled in England. After getting a degree in languages, she continued to move around, picking up a variety of different jobs, from teaching to sailing to waitressing. She hadn’t planned on staying that long in the States, until she met Abe. For the first time, she settled down in one place.
Despite the fact that we came from different backgrounds, countries, and cultures, we found ourselves perfectly suited to one another. Abe was great at research and coming up with ingenious new ways to get around problems, while Josie was practical, organized, and liked to jump into the physical side of Abe’s ideas. Neither of us was afraid to try new things.
We started building our first home in 2001. At that point, our resourcefulness and inventions came mostly from necessity. We had very little money and we lived a long, long way from any kind of amenities. So, if we needed something done, we had to do it ourselves. We found we had a flare for that kind of independence. Somehow our culture teaches us that experts are needed to do each type of job, but we discovered that was not true. With research, effort, and a little courage, you can do almost anything. And we did!
We learned how to build a house, catch rain water, produce our own electricity, have a garden and raise animals. All while living very close to nature and with a very low budget. We would spend a lot of time hiking and camping and getting to know our environment, and then go home and work on whatever project we had going at the time. The more we did, the more we felt we could do.
Then, in 2007, we decided we were ready for kids, and so we moved to a place more suited to raising a family, one closer to a small community with schools and a clinic. We were there one month before Leo was conceived. There was nothing on the property when we bought it and we started off living in a tent. By the time Leo was born we were comfortably installed in a single room house.
We kept building and increasing the homestead’s systems, and Nicky was born into a relative palace, with an upstairs and downstairs, hot running water, a surplus of power, and a ton of homegrown food.
The boys have grown up in this lifestyle, and they seem to be flourishing. They are super healthy, love being outside, whether hiking with us, playing in the dirt or chasing the animals, both domestic and wild. With the kids by our sides, we are slowly moving towards a fully sustainable homestead.
We have gardens, trees, mushrooms, and animals for food. Our water comes from several home-made cisterns filled from rain catchment, and our electricity from the sun and wind. We are constantly making gadgets, tools and toys, often out of junk. Abe will read about something online, we’ll research every angle of it and then we’ll try it out. Our experiments are not always successful, but the ones that are always benefit our lives in some way. The failures can be pretty helpful too, mostly in knowing what not to do again.
As we move towards our goal, we try and document things as fully as possible, both in how-to guides and articles, so that others like us can benefit from our experiences. We have also started a series of books called Food Web. These revolve around the integration of different species and their waste streams to provide a sustainable, local and happy food production system.
We hope you enjoy this site, and if you want to follow our adventure, check out the blog or sign up for the newsletter.