Episode-1182- Xavier Hawk on Ecovillages and Permaculture Homesteading — 35 Comments

  1. Excellent! Looking forward to this. I really enjoyed the previous interview you did with X. Hawk!

  2. “Militant Libertarian Hippie”

    Dude hilarious. I have been coming to grips with this one. Paul Wheaton asked this question a month back “Am I a hippie?” Jocylene rightfully pointed out that in some camps they’d consider him a hippie, and in other circles they’d call him a crazy conservative. (This was the same podcast that he said he doesn’t use shampoo or soap and doesn’t wear deodorant and wears the same clothes for a week…)

    I’ve been asking that question out loud myself. I shop at a farmers market for the majority of what I eat, I wear flip flops all the time, with shorts, I have (now unkept shortish hair), I have a giant beard. I bitch about genetically modified food everytime anybody else even talks about food, I want to “get back with the land”, I think that if I lived with less (ammenities, not necessarily tools) I’d probably be even even more happier. Hmmmm.. So hippie.

    Yet I’m still a marine that says daggon and friggin, all the time, and I call my wife a turd (every single day). When I’m digging out in the yard I always wear my marine combat boots and I have quite a few guns, a ton of ammo to boot.

    I think at the end of the day the labeling is the problem and I think Xavier nailed in on the head. This whole movement actually can/does bring together the entire spectrum of people under a common flag. I think the reason why what he was describing works is because people have a common purpose of ACTION. They are driven perhaps by different purposes however, they’re attempting to achieve the same endstate and seek to make that a possibility. This is why teamwork can be some powerful stuff.

  3. Just heard what struck a chord with me about ownership. What is land ownership? What are we trying to do, what are we trying to achieve and how has it been attempted to be enshrined via law?

    To me this question lies at the hard of what is private property and its purpose. I think the answer to this question is that we want to be able to work with a purpose and be able to pass that on to our progeny (or to whom we choose). We want to be able to build the structures, improve the fertility, create a working model, store up things that hold value (gold/silver) and be able to pass them on. In the real world, things decay, require maintenance, are lost, are stolen. Regardless of any kind of contract or belief that is the reality. Even if you “own” the land legally, there could always be some sort of entity that forcibly removes you from that land (and builds a highway, or uses it for themselves, or wants to salt the earth who knows).

    While I certainly think that some of the ideas of long term leases might bother people (even me deep down), I think what perhaps should be considered is that in reality your entrusting your work, productivity in an individual whom you would hope is a Shepard and a leader with similar desires. We need to either start trusting people, or we’ll continue to decay.

    • It should be noted that strictly from a legal protection standpoint a 100 year lease with a guaranteed renewal that is willable to an heir or sellable to a third party might actually be MORE SECURE for everything you just so well outlined.

      A lease isn’t ownership and say if you were sued would be more seen as a liability than an asset. If the land owner is set up as a non profit trust or such the odds of them being sued are pretty damn low, the odds of them being sued for their land successfully are likely lower then being eaten by a shark.

      Such an arrangement is actually as much “ownership” in land as what we consider ownership.

      There is another line of thought from a completely other angle as well. There is a truth in the world about truly wealthy people, generally they want to personally own very little while controlling a great deal. Warren Buffett doesn’t own Berkshire’s assets, instead he controls Berkshire. There is a reason. He can’t be directly sued for Berkshire’s actions and Berkshire can’t be attacked for anything he does outside of his role specifically inside the company.

      • One more thing to ponder.

        Most people that say they “own land” or a house or whatever don’t. They actually own a debt and the lender holds title to said property.

        What if you can’t pay how do these two options compare.

        Fail to pay your lease there is likely an easy mechanism to sell it, turn it over and at least the property owner is going to work with you, especially in a model like this. Walking away can be pretty easy to do.

        Try that when Bank of Amerika is holding your lien.

        This is not to say traditional ownership is bad even with leveraged debt, just that the two concepts are not as different as we might think.

        Lastly consider that for many this is far better than the alternative. Sure I can go buy a 5 bedroom home with three acres and have it to myself but not everyone else can now can they. What is better a 100 year lease on part of an ecovillage or a 24 month lease for a crappy 700 sf apartment where they call the fire department if you have a grill going on your balcony?

        • I’ve been thinking about this a lot since our last exchange on this blog (I think it was after your interview with Nick) re: Chapter 14, permaculture ethics, and “invisible structures.” Some of Mollison’s statements still bother me or leave me a little unsettled. He says permaculture isn’t political, but he sure seems to strongly articulate a political view at times, making very strong statements about ownership, population, even the generic “church.”

          Putting that aside, the idea of land trusts and leases is a very interesting one. As somebody else pointed out, even if you own your land free and clear, is it really “yours” if you have to pay $5,000 in property taxes on it every year? Sounds like renting to me.

          The key with a trust/lease situation probably comes down to what kinds of limits/restrictions/covenants etc. is put on the land. What can and can’t you do, build, or set in motion there? What assurance do you have that the rules of the game won’t change. Same concerns can apply to private land purchases, I guess.

          For me, the issue is about control, autonomy, and the “right” to hand something to my heir(s)…all of which might be summed up as freedom and liberty. In fact, why couldn’t somebody set up a LibertyVillage, just as easily as an EcoVillage? Or for that matter, an AnythingVillage? I am not one to advocate a “commune” type of living arrangement, or to withdraw from society at large. But I’m intrigued by the idea of a like-minded (relatively) group of people pooling resources and forming a very strong community, while not infringing upon the individual. Is it really possible? Like Geoff says in the PDC…”The idea is fantastic. Doing it is really, really hard.” Forgive the paraphrase. Also, I should really stop posting before listening to the podcasts. Apology #2.

      • Totally,
        All these points are super awesome for me to hear because they are ways I hadn’t even thought about it. I have a fuller an more complete picture myself now on why this works so well in our economic structures. Thanks for all the points y’all!

    • @Jack
      You’re describing the classic LLC. Sigh. I personally can’t stand the thing. Its obviously is used over the top at this point because of the sue happy nature of the country. (Basically to play in the system you have to play by the systems rules, so if you’re not an LLC you’re a walking time bomb to get sued right?) I remember my sister’s (now husband) was saying instead of owning my own business just do an LLC so I won’t be held liable for the business. I kept thinking….. “so basically nobody is held liable? How about taking some responsibility? Thats the problem with our society, nobody takes charge and nobody accepts responsibilities.” (He is kind of a snake in my opinion and is always looking for a way to slither around stuff like being responsible and upstanding).

      This podcast is wow… what timing since I’m going through the Geoff Lawton global nation stuff which is literally talking about this. You bring up really great points about the legal ramifications regarding non-profit… leasing, and all those things. I can honestly say after listening to this podcast, it has pushed me back just a moment and go… ok when I want to own my own place (I do have a mortgage at the moment) what does that mean, what am I really trying to do, and why do I feel so compelled to say “I want to own my own land” come hell or high water? I think the most bare basic answer to that is… I want to be able to NOT pay somebody significat portions of my earnings every month, and get nothing but TODAY out of it. (You cannot concentrate on giving wealth to future generations if you’re consistently paying large portions of your earnings out via interest/rent and so on. Look whos poor and who isn’t). I also don’t want to “lose it all” where I sink in all this money into a debt interest and am left with nothing. (Basically my parents). This is why I REALLY like what that gal you had on awhile back did with buying acreage with cash and putting a mini home on. Too cool.

      I think I can also say after listening to this podcast, that I think home owners associations are mostly awful because of the legal control they have, and the ability for even a sleeping association to awaken and turn into an awful nightmare. If the rules were “static” you could agree or disagree with them before commiting. (Also obviously the personalities that gravitate to those are people not going in the same direction as me in life, but thats another story).

      Regarding your statements about owning land… yeah no shit… On top of that I mean there is that classic saying you’re just renting it from the government anyways. Right now I think there is little incentive to stop non-payers of mortgages, but I can tell you if you don’t pay those property taxes, stand the F by because you’ll get the jack boot, thats for sure.

      I am also very very curious how the taxes go and the tax assessments go living in a situation as Xavier describes. (If you’re reading this Xavier I would certainly be EXTREMELY interested in that). Its so far out of the typical property tax scheme. But then again it might just be considered something like a private multi-family housing tax situation plus the non-profitness of it.

      • Shoot, you posted this while I was typing my post. Sorry about all the redundant thoughts in my post. Sure sounds like you and I are contemplating very similar things right now.

      • The best thing about this is that we are coming together to say “this land shall not be f*cked with.” We all want to make sure our children’s children children …and so on… have a place to be safe. Screw ownership. Here is a contractual agreement that will last longer than you will draw breath that will ensure that this piece of land shall continue being stewarded in such a way as to ensure healthy living environment for growing sane, intelligent, and anti-fragile human beings who actively live the change they with to see. Tell me what do any of us really own and who is doing the owning? Even these bodies are loant to us by the earth itself.

      • In regards to the taxing…I will look into it. Until this moment I had no reason to think that we would be taxed any differently. I will ask my lawyer. Thanks for bringin it up. Fill out the contact form at with ur email and ill let u know what they say.

  4. Xavier, great to hear you are making such superior progress. Still working on my artwork ideas….you have ignited a new thought to help fund you after listening to you today. As soon as I catch up on orders I’ll have to throw an idea your way.

  5. I got very sad when I listened to this today. I’ve been trying for nearly 10 years to find someone or someones, originally hoped for a small group, possibly 4 or 5 families or a mix of families and singles, to share and work 80 acres I own in Saskatchewan, without any luck whatsoever.

    Even just one person would have been a start.

    One person sounded possible (even though he made it clear that almost everything I planned to do was either silly or unnecessary) but after a month of emails he wanted to know exactly what sort of land ownership he was going to get if he came and this before we had even MET, much less worked together.

    Someone else was extremely enthusiastic because, as she said, her teenage son was causing her a lot of grief and she wanted to get somewhere she could keep him busy. When I asked what sort of grief he was causing her (she brought it up every email) that was the last I heard from her.

    Another was very enthusiastic about the ideas but she was 50 years old and had never even grown so much as a radish or a geranium and imo by that time if you are really interested you’ve at least had a plant of some sort at some point in your life.

    I am old and I worked all my life to get some land and left it too late to be able to do what I want to do with it because I got hit with severe arthritis.

    There are a lot of farmers who are hanging on because they don’t have anyone who is interested in caring for their land the way they want it to be cared for. I know if I leave my land to my kids it will be sold for a subdivision as soon as they can get the papers drawn up and I don’t want that. None of them have the least interest in caring for it, they just want it for what it could give them in terms of money if they sold it.

    I was told about land trusts but I’ve heard that they sometimes sell the land people give them, I had thought of Ducks Unlimited and I KNOW that they do. I offered it to two different permaculture Institutes with the proviso that I could live on and use part of it for my lifetime and one didn’t even bother replying, the other missed the point entirely and sent me the names of two people who might want to intern; and both of THEM want to do urban stuff, they have no interest in rural stuff at all.

    I know of a woman who arranged for someone to come live on her property and help and she left her land to him, he sold it within a month of getting title and moved to town. I don’t want that to happen but have pretty much run out of ideas about what to do, indeed am beginning to think maybe I should listen to people who tell me I should just sell it. It’s a nice piece of property in a very good spot..and would be worth a chunk of money to a developer. I’ve already had unsolicited phone calls from people asking to buy it. It seems like the ultimate surrender to do that though.

    If the land was in a nicer climate I’d have no problems, I think, but it is what and where it is. I still thought someone would have jumped at the chance but so far the only ones I really really would have liked to have come and seemed like the absolute perfect fit were a young couple from the States who had been woofing around the world, he was a musician and she was an artist, but they seemed to be also quite realistic people. Unfortunately visa issues for them to stay for a couple or more years turned out to be too difficult for them, they could only get visas to come for a visit so that didn’t work out.

    So the best of luck with your plans, but listening to this made me sad. What you were discussing had been a dream of mine and I wished I had been able to see my dream come together like that.

    • Well hell, sounds like quite a difficult situation. But you know, you sound pretty tough. Can’t quit now!

      Have you tried going through the permaculture institutes website? I know they have either a link or information about world wide woofers.

      I can definitely see the visa thing being an issue. I’ve known quite a few people who have had visa issues with canada, to include one who married a canadian citizen…. He had to live in detroit (dear lord) while she lived over the border. Not sure what ever happened to them…

      Well I wish you the best of luck! At a minimum you can work on little things and improve your own life one step at a time. I’d love to “clear” my land and work it with a clean slate, but well.. that costs money and time, both of which are in short supply right now for me, so the alternative is to just work small.

  6. Loved your first interview here, and have been following your progress by newsletter, and contemplating a visit. I’m happy to see such progress. I have lots of basic and earth skills, and education, so I believe I could make a significant contribution to any village, but save that for later. After hearing you today, I did have one curiosity about how you might view a person who works hard for six days, but takes the seventh (Saturday) as a day of rest, renewal, and to fast. I’m wondering if that might interfere with village scheduling. Were I to find a place which takes a weekly sabbatical, then respecting the land, permaculture, creating food forest,etc. might be absent. I live alone, but realize the benefits of sharing, so I’m in a quandary about finding a community in which I’d fit and contribute. How does Hawkville (my term) regard spiritual differences?

    • Well Ayala,
      When we are not stoning people who have different belief systems and tarring and feathering people who take breaks from the slave labor conditions we force on all our members we all wear burkas and worship baphomet. Hope this is ok and sounds like the little spice of heaven ur looking for.

      Of course that is all a horrible joke.

      Frankly I couldn’t care less what day of the week people choose as their “holy day.” Everybody here takes time off and has their own practice.

      • Thank you so much! the first part scared my pants off. Actually, that’s what I pretty much expected you to say, but I also learned not to take things for granted. Better to ask, than assume. But I have another question: have you set apart a burial ground?

  7. Excellent interview. While I don’t see adding an eco-village to my farm anytime soon, it did stretch my mind to consider some alternate income streams. And in turn those ventures would be beneficial to not only myself, but also to my land, my community and to others who are looking for a place do some positive things but don’t own or have access to any property. I especially like the workshop idea. Thanks for tweaking my melon and getting me thinking!

  8. How did you know to move to North Carolina? What prompted you to go to that particular location? I have been thinking of possibly moving to North Carolina also, but I don’t like snakes, insects, etc and I figure the southern parts of the US are going to have an abundance of insects in the near future due to climate change (insects proliferate during warmer weather).

    I feel a killing urgency to move out of the city, have been reading up on permaculture, and other issues connected to sustainable living but don’t know where to move to (and also, am very, very poor!) How do you know where to move to??!

  9. Actually, I hadn’t listened to all the podcast before writing the above comments… sorry about that! (I had to turn it off the other day without hearing it all). Will listen to the rest of it now. : )

  10. I have a chance to get between 76-198 acres in southern Illinois. How could I start collecting information on doing this? Yes I know it’s IL, it’s a generational farm that I don’t want to loose. If I can’t improve it I’m going to go ape shit on the guerrilla farming, by sowing seeds everywhere. To include a feed plot for game.

    • Apologies for misposting this reply in the wrong thread. i been working while listening to the podcast. So rushed my response to get back to work.

      Moderator: i would not mind if this and the erroneous placed reply were “not approved” for public posting.

  11. Jack, oft i hear you struggle with use of the word Hippie. Drainbow might work better for you. Hippies will know what you mean. Others will figure it out; or you can help (for less words than used now).

    Drainbow: The slovenly hippies among the Rainbow Gathering crowd. Those who drain community resources without offering a return. A minority who adversely affect the majority.

    H.I.P.P.I.E.S. = Highly Interesting People Pursuing Interesting Endeavors Socially 🙂

  12. A couple of thoughts:

    Setting it up as ‘a business’:
    A business has clearly defined, measurable goals (profitability). Interactions between the ‘business’ and its ‘customers’ are defined by CONTRACT. Both reduce uncertainty, misunderstanding and ‘hurt feelings’ and angry exchanges based on perceived ‘broken promises’.

    Benevolent dictatorship:
    Beats democracy 100% of the time on clarity of vision/purpose and ability to ‘get things done’.

    You MIGHT manage to get a group of liberty loving people with equal authority to all get on board and agree on what needs to be done when and by who.. but then again, you MIGHT win the lottery.

    The Liberty part comes in the fact that you can choose your dictator.. the contracts are enforced by a 3rd party, and you can walk any time you want.

    ‘Ownership’ is NOT equal to ‘Freedom’.. and in the case of land, there is no such thing as ‘ownership’..

    What we’re really talking about with ‘private property’ is a societal agreement (social contract) granting you special/unique privileges in regard to a part of the territory controlled (via force) by your ‘group’. Those ‘rights’ only exist as long as your group controls that territory, and as long as it continues to ‘grant’ them.

    I realize this doesn’t sound terribly libertarian 🙂 but there’s only one way for you to ‘control’ a piece of property when someone else wants it.. the same as for any other ‘owned’ object.. which is by the threat or act of force. Whether that force is via the strength of your arms, your families, your neighbors.. town, state or ‘country’ is irrelevant.. so even in your minarchist/anarchist utopia.. ‘ownership’ requires the ‘agreement’ and support of your ‘neighbors’.

    • Let me add to that Insidious. On the liberty issue, if I own property and you live on it my liberty in regard to the PROPERTY is above yours. You get to do what we agree to and in return I receive agreed upon compensation, this is fine with me.

      Where it departs for me is when say I get 100 acres and sell it to people at say 1 acre a piece. If there are to be restrictions they should be spelled out in full BEFORE anyone buys, no NEW restrictions should ever be added but I don’t mind if old ones are removed. Because in this model YOU OWN YOUR LAND, I don’t. Once you take title unless you are in some way truly harming me you should be able to do as you please.

      Those are two different worlds to me. I despise HOAs in Arkansas we did have a “neighborhood covenant”. There were exactly 3 restrictions, you knew going in and the 4th item on the list of the covenant was.

      No additional restrictions will apply now or in the future unless they result from county level or above regulations.

      This was filed with the county that had jurisdiction it was also seen as a level of protection should a city have ever decided to attempt annex us. It also fit on one page in fact it only used about 75% of one page. I have never seen a HOA or POA with less then 25 pages of bullshit.

      I actually love Xavier s model but don’t really have the funds to get the project off the ground. But I am looking into how it might happen.

    • @Modern – (no reply button)
      If you sell the land.. you sold the land, its not yours anymore, so you lose ‘rule making’ authority.

      The real issue with an HOA (IMO) is that ‘they’, usually meaning some ‘elected’ petty dictator, is able to change the rules without the ‘consent of the governed’.

      A libertarian version of this would be ‘any added rules require 100% agreement between the participants’.. on other words, to change the contract, all the parties have to agree to the changes. NOT 50.1% not 2/3.

      Not to go on to much of a rant.. =) but IMO this is where the whole idea of democracies being ‘fair’ falls down..

      In our county, the last thing that was voted on was ANOTHER school bond (tax). The county sent out vote by mail cards that contained only a PRO bond argument, and the law was written to exempt all retired persons. Right there we already have a problem.. if you’re EXEMPT from a tax, why should you be able to vote for it? 40% of the registered voters voted.. 4% decided the issue. So 4% of the voting population, or 1% of the general population, decided that there should be a new tax.

      This is of course the ‘good case’.. the bad case is some schmuck gets elected with 50.1% of the vote (cast by 60% of the ‘voting eligible’ portion of the population), and once elected completely ignores the wishes of even the 50.1% and does whatever he damn well pleases.. while supposedly being ‘kept in check’ by our system of ‘checks and balances’.

      We need a term.. elected dictator? democratic tyranny? whatever it is, its not freedom.

      (There was a video post yesterday ‘don’t talk to the police’.. most telling point? The federal government admits it DOESN’T KNOW how many federal laws are on the books. There are so many, even the government has lost track.)

      • I fully agree with this,

        A libertarian version of this would be ‘any added rules require 100% agreement between the participants’

        But want to point out such a rule would be pointless.

        • 100% agreement needed to change said agreement.. is implicit, and therefore redundant.. =)

          I do think there is some value in stating it however, as people are used to ‘tyrannies of the majority’, where if they can get enough ‘consensus’ they can rewrite the rules.

          For those who would object that one old curmudgeon can block passage of any new ‘laws’.. Yes, that’s exactly the goal.

          Taking what you said a different way.. if 100% of participants agree ‘we want x’.. they need a formal agreement, with formal consequences for non-compliance (a contract). If your ‘consequence’ is ‘we’ll give him a stern talking to at the next communal meeting’.. don’t bother.. you’re creating a hell for yourself..

          always imho

  13. I remember reading somewhere or other that in some areas of Africa, before the “first world” got involved, each area was ruled by a local “king” but they couldn’t make any new rules unless there was consensus. I have heard that although they didn’t have ” kings”, consensus was needed for decisions to be made by the Inuit.

    I suspect that that was the general idea for pretty much anything other than a monarchy, and those only survive very long if they have the people supporting the system. I see a monarchy (if you have a good one) as a benevolent system if only because it gives a sense of long term commitment rather than ” I just want to get in and do what I want for 4 or 8 years and then who cares?” Sort of like renting vs owning, for a lot of people.

    When you set up adversarial political parties rather than individuals, it all goes down the drain in a rush. Then it becomes like gang warfare over turf and the turf residents have very little to say about it, although they may think they do with elections and such. The proof of that is everywhere.

    We presently have a Prime Minister who got elected with less than 40% of the vote but because his party got more seats than the others did he does whatever he damn well pleases and it’s a total disaster. It will be a major miracle if Canada survives his term in any sort of recognizable form in terms of concern for anything but big business. He has gutted all environment programs if not abolished them, including ones that got us out and of the Dust bowl of the 30s,(and has kept us out since) and basically fired any scientists not involved in promoting his ideas and programs.

    The problem with dictators is that they are so very seldom benevolent.

  14. Eco Colony sounds very interesting .. I am trying to picture an eco colony somewhere down south, central america or maybe near some surf breaks where if I was retired I could stay there in the winter and do some gardening and what not and just have an affordable place to pitch a tent or whatever and hang out ..