"homesteading in the yucatan"
(last revision, January 31, 2014)
Join with seven others currently helping Jim and Mindy Phypers of "SolarHaven2" in Veracruz, Mexico establish a new off-grid model eco-community in the Yucatan.
Learn how to build an earthbag house, install a rain catchment system, expand our solar electric system, make a Rocket Stove with cob, and establish an Aquaponics system to grow vegetables and fish.
Experience living simply and sustainably, be an "eco-pioneer" --
help us out for awhile, consider joining
We are Jim and Mindy Phypers, directors of SolarHaven2 in Veracruz, Mexico (and earlier of Solar Haven in Arizona). We need to relocate our program to promote living simply and sustainably due to increased safety issues in our village and surrounding area. We have also not been able to purchase suitable land here to establish an Eco-community as all land in the country is owned jointly by the people (Eijido). It does not carry any legal documentation and can not be split up or sold. Increased safety issues
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the AMAZING YUCATAN...
Choice of properties in the Yucatan peninsula is not finalized but we will have approximately five hectares of natural, undeveloped land in the forest. The Yucatan is considered the safest place to live in Mexico and has highly suitable tracks of undeveloped forest land for sale with proper documentation.
Since the Yucatan is predominantly flat, it has no rivers and lakes. They are all underground (!) and are accessible by countless "cenotes" (literally a sink-hole).
Most of the Yucatan is tropical semi-rainforest with 40-60 inches of rainfall per year. Water for the community can by easily provided by a rain-catchment system at first and a shallow well dug at a later time.
We must clear enough land to build an A-frame bunk-house and kitchen with native bamboo harvested nearby (with tin sheets for the roof to collect the rain-water) before we build our individual houses.
The land will be owned by the "Solar Haven Land Trust" not by individuals in the community. This land will be inland from the coast and be located near but not in a small village. We hope to interest the local people in what we are doing and to hire a few strong hombres at times when labor tasks are intense. We also will need to buy local produce on a daily basis until our basic solar electric system is increased in size to run a refigerator.
HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE BUILDING AN EARTHBAG HOUSE...
from digging earth and filling bags, to building courses for the walls, to plastering/rendering. Here are the six basic steps...
Earthbag building has become very common-place in the last ten years all over the world. Earthbag houses are less expensive to build, use primarily natural, non-manufactured materials that consume much energy to produce, can be built by non-professionals, are more sturdy and better insulated than conventional houses, and are better able to withstand extreme weather events and earthquakes.
We plan to build small earthbag houses with palapa/palm frond roofs from natural materials gathered on-site...
Hobbits knew how to build the perfect community and live in harmony with the earth.
Well, we think so.
A Hobbit House is more than a dream:
1 - Build a basic earthbag dome house with it's usual two-foot thick walls and ceiling
2 - Berm it up with earth and rocks
3 - Plant a "living roof"
4 - The result is a "Hobbit House" that Bilbo Baggins himself would be proud of.
The three houses below were made with earthbags and much love and immagination... and we must not forget to mention a lot of hard work!
While a "Hobbit House" is our personal choice, other residents may prefer a slightly more conventional design with straight sides and right angles or perhaps round. Earthbag construction is very versatile.
Please visit our earthbag construction page for more details..
.GROWING OUR OWN FOOD
With over seven billion of us now living on what seems a smaller and smaller earth every year, land for growing a persons own food is scarce and limited usually to a small back yard or in our case to a piece of land which was available for sale by a large wealthy land owner only because if was not suitable for growing crops. Aquaponics is the answer for us "little guys" - growing vegetables in containers along with raising fish which provide the fertilizer for a hydroponic solution for the plants roots...
HOUSING AND COOKING...
Volunteers in Veracruz helping us pack up and install a solar electric system will sleep in our Airstream travel trailer. Volunteers in the Yucatan will be camping out till our A-frame bunk-house and kitchen building is completed. It will have bamboo walls and frame and a tin-roof for rain-catchment. There will be four bunks and a big kitchen area with a wood-burning Rocket Stove and a two-burner propane stove. An alcove in the bunkhouse will have a lap-top computer for everyone to use which has Internet access.
We can make either a simple Rocket Stove from ceramic blocks (left) or if we get inspired a Rocket Stove with some real personality constructed with cob (right).
Weather permitting, we also plan to cook many meals in our Solar Oven as we have for over 20 years now...
While there are no costs for lodging, everybody must pitch in to help prepare meals and wash dishes and share in the food costs. We are not vegetarians. but we cook with meat sparingly, and are open to preparing vegan dishes.
The best we can offer at this stage in our development is a solar shower. They are a wonderful invention. When we first settled on our land out in the desert in Arizona, there were only squirrels and a husband lurking in the bushes with a camera to worry about. Now with more of us, we will make a curtained enclosure for privacy, of course.
Our electricity will be provided by a small solar electrical system (500 watts) installed on the roof and inside our Airstream travel trailer -- four solar panels and four batteries. Eight more batteries and eight panels will need to be purchased to support the needs of the larger community, initially volunteers, and to be able run a refrigerator. We already have a 2500-watt inverter which will easily handle this larger system.
None of the earth's finite resources will have to be used to create our power.
and no nuclear radiation, dirty air, or CO2 emisions will be produced.
As we have for the past nine years, we use a simple composting toilet. It takes approximately six months to turn humanure into beautiful compost. There are no health and safety issues and no odor involved. For more information, please see http://humanurehandbook.com/
We have a satellite dish to connect to the Internet. While the speed and throughput of our service are not great, the system is sufficient for everybody to send e-mail and keep in touch with family and friends.. There will be an older but working laptop to use in the bunk house.
We sure hope you love dogs!
We have four dogs (plus three cats), all rescued from the streets where they were starting to die. They are large, well-trained dogs now but a few are a bit overly friendly and may want to sleep with you or at least nap on your bunk. Giving them "pats" is obligatory.
We need volunteers immediately to help us pack up and to make the actual installation of our solar electric equipment in the Airstream, an excellent learning experience and an opportunity to live in the true "old Mexico" in our small village in the mountains of Veracruz. Your home will be the Airstream itself which sleeps two comfortably. To see many photographs of what life is like in our village, click HERE:
We need volunteers in early spring (March of 2014) when we arrive in the Yucatan to begin to clear the land, build a perimeter fence, and begin cutting bamboo to build the bunk-house/kitchen structure. We will build our Rocket Stove at this time as well. Untill the bunk-house is finished, volunteers will have to rough it a bit and camp out. By approximately the beginning of the summer of 2014 we will get underway building our first earthbag house and other projects mentioned below.
IS IT SAFE?...
From the images spread around the world of drug-gang violence in many Mexican cities the answer would have to be no, at least not in the bigger cities. These drug-gangs did not spread as far north as the Yucatan Peninsula, however. In fact, the intense efforts of the Mexican military to break-up these big drug cartels has driven much of drug trade further south, first into Guatemala and now centered in Honduras. The Yucatan is considered the safest place to live in Mexico.
LENGTH OF STAY...
There is no minimum or maximum stay. Most likely, however, you will have traveled a fair distance to help us and want to stay for at least a month or three to make your trip worthwhile. There is much to learn here such as all the phases of building an earthbag house and sooner than later other projects that are planned. These include expansion of our solar electric system, building a lap pool and natural filtering pond, planting a garden, and outreach efforts to help the local people learn more about living sustainability. This would include composting organic materials instead of burning them, companion planting, and building their own homes with earth instead of concrete blocks. The local folks know little about even basic environmental issues such as biodegradability let alone global issues like climate change. Through regular contact and slowly building trusting friendships with the local people, we hope to be able to help our neighbors begin to understand these things. The longer you stay the richer your experience will become and the more you can accomplish. We envision and hope that some volunteers will want to stay for a long time and perhaps even become part of the community and build their own house.
WHAT TO BRING...
...a willingness to "rough it" a bit, a hunger to learn and acquire new skills, a love of the natural world, and an appreciation of critical need for the people of our planet to begin to live more simply and sustainably. Please bring a sleeping bag (but light-weight since this IS the tropics), rechargeable flash-light, insect-repellent, hat, light-weight/water-resistent jacket or rain poncho, and sturdy shoes. While a camera and perhaps a laptop computer are mighty nice to have, keep in mind that such items are highly desirable items to steal, too, and must be watched carefully. Both Jim and Mindy are chemically sensitive, and volunteers are asked to bring only natural toiletries that do not have perfume in them. These are actually hard to find these days, and you may prefer to just use the natural soap, shampoo, and deodorant that we will provide you.
PLEASE NOTE... we are a non-drinking, non-smoking family. Wine with dinner is fine, however. Smokers need not apply. We ask if you do choose to have few drinks in town, that you return sober. Using drugs will result in dismissal from the program.
THE GANG SO FAR...
Below are pictures of the seven people representling seven countries
who are currently involved in establishing our community in the Yucatan.
From left to right, the first five people are volunteers who have come to us via Workaway.info. The two felows at the far right are close friends who will be permanent members of the community.
OWNERSHIP OF THE LAND... The property wlll actually be owned and managed by the "SolarHaven2 Land Trust", not Jim and Mindy. Our 501(c)2 non-profit status is pending. There will be no individual ownership of land at SolarHaven2 in the Yucatan. Residents who accept the Ecological Covenants and Community Sustainability Guidelines may lease a small plot of land from the Trust to build their own house and gardens. The cost is about $30 a month. While residents do not own the land, they do own the improvements they make on it. These can be sold to or traded with other members of the community but never sold on the open real estate market. This is the system used at the highly respected and successful "Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage" in Missouri. They are our mentors...
Please help make our new Eco-community become a reality as well as help SolarHaven2 continue its work through outreach to the local community and volunteers and Interns who will learn by direct experience working with us to build a real Eco-community. As in the past, people all over the world can watch the building of our communty on the Internet though a new "SolarHaven in the Yucatan" website and learn in detail what and how we did it.
We are now registered on the international "Intentional Community" website and will appear in the new edition of the "Communities Director" published world-wide by the FIC (Fellowship of Intentional Communities).
- VOLUNTEER -
- SPREAD THE WORD -
- consider JOINing THE COMMUNITY -
OUR WEB SITES...
"Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind"
- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world"
- Mahatma Gandhi
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© 2013 by Jim and Mindy Phypers -- SolarHaven2, Veracruz, Mexico