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default Kevin McCloud's Escape to the Wild

Post by Chilli-head on 9th June 2015, 11:24 am

Anyone watching Kevin McCloud's new series ?  As the title suggests, he is visiting people who have swapped their ordinary lives for a very much more handmade version.

The first programme, on last night (but you can see it on 4OD here), followed a family of an English woman and her German husband, who have moved to literally a desert island home in Tonga, with their three children, the youngest being 18 months at the time of the move.  Camping out in tents for their first year, they - with a bit of local help - built a home mostly from local materials - beach stone, wood, even the flooring was made from coconut palm heartwood.  They estimated that they were about 60% self sufficient.  They grow their own crops - we follow them on a boat journey to collect bat guano from a cave for fertiliser.  They catch fish.  They home educate their children.  They have some electricity from solar power, and a wind turbine that Kevin helps to erect.

Their island looks like a paradise;  they don't look like wild men from the woods, but look healthy and well dressed.  Their home is no shack either, but pretty comfortable. A truly homemade life, and a fantastic achievement.

There are some downsides to this utopia though - as Kevin says :

"The family I visited in Tonga, they actually live on a desert island,” says McCloud. “You think, ‘Oh great, lovely’, but they get up in the morning at six or seven, and they work until sun down, every day.

On the one hand these places give you this energy, but you need to be fit, active and relatively young. You can’t be in your 70s. You need to find the food, clear the ground, get the fresh water organised, I mean the very basics of life, every single day, or else you die.


Another thing that received little mention was the economics of this;  it was mentioned that they got a modest income from whale watching tours.  But the price of leasing land was mentioned too; and the need for petrol for the boat, and the other 40% to complement their 60% self sufficiency.  And the good quality clothing they all wore etc.  Either some finance to start with, or some form of income must have been in place to allow that lifestyle.  Please don't read this as any sort of criticism, or as in any way a minimisation of what they have achieved, just as an observation that this is not something that just anyone could chose to do.

Or, indeed, something just anyone would choose to do.  Kevin admits it is not for him ("My natural environment is the pub").  But perhaps the greatest value of the programme is that it invites you to consider what you would want out of life.  I'm still not sure; but I don't think I'd want to live a life quite so isolated. Respect to those who can though !
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default Re: Kevin McCloud's Escape to the Wild

Post by freebird on 9th June 2015, 9:21 pm

That sounds really interesting CH, though unlikely I will watch it. Too many other things clamouring for my attention.

It's not something I would choose. It's easy to be 'romantic' about that sort of lifestyle, but it is a subsistence lifestyle and I assume it leaves little room for other pleasures. For them it is a choice, although for many who live hand to mouth, it is not.

The questions that lifestyle raises are similar even when considerably scaled down - it seems to be about being in control, and not dependent on others. I've grown vegetables for most of my adult life, and the last two seasons have felt strange not doing so. But it has made me question why I do it, and whether it is worthwhile. There are several items that are easy to grow, but cheap to buy (onions), others I find difficult to get worthwhile crops, but are also cheap to buy (carrots). Growing flowers has previously seemed rather frivolous and unnecessary, but now I have seen how they increase the wildlife in the garden. They are worth the space and time.

Homemade/handmade is as important to me as it ever was, but I am coming to the realisation that there are times when other people do things better, quicker or cheaper than I can, and I don't have to do it all myself.

I don't disagree with this family's life choice. Each to their own. But I do think one can live responsibly, thoughtfully, without having to up sticks to a desert island.



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default Re: Kevin McCloud's Escape to the Wild

Post by Chilli-head on 14th June 2015, 10:09 pm

freebird wrote:
Homemade/handmade is as important to me as it ever was, but I am coming to the realisation that there are times when other people do things better, quicker or cheaper than I can, and I don't have to do it all myself.

This is really thought provoking, taken together with the programme I mentioned, and various things I've been reading of late.

On one hand - is this not the first step into the rat race ?

"We started leaving the home to go to work in order to support the home.  We have been doing this for so long now that we have forgotten the purpose for which we sold ourselves in the first place." -- William Coperthwaite, A Handmade Life.

I find myself in this trap.  I have a day job (albeit for a business that is half my own),  working with intricate mathematics, electronics and software.   But what I love doing is the stuff I tell you all about on here - craft, making things with my hands, growing cooking and eating my own food.  But I could never make ends meet if I were to give up the day job.  

On the other hand; people have rarely, if ever, been self reliant as family groups.  Humans are a social animal and do best in a community; even traditional crafts were not done in isolation :

"The fisherman, for example, was dependent on the farmer who grew the flax for his nets, the net maker who made them, the basket maker to make his traps and pots, the boat builder who made his boat.  The boat builder was in turn dependent on the blacksmith who forged the chain plates, the spider-bands, anchors, chains and dozens of other items needed for a fishing boat, the woodsman who felled and carried the timber for the boat, the sawyer who cut it up, the oil miller who made the linseed oil needed to preserve it, the flax spinners and weavers who made the canvas for the sails, the sail maker who made them, the rope maker who spun and twisted the hemp for the ropes, the iron founder who cast the pigs of ballast for the bilge - and so it went on and on.  All these interdependent craftsmen once knew each other.  Each could go to his supplier and discuss with him exactly what he wanted.  Each saw the beginning and the end of what he had created and each one of them probably thought of his own contribution as he ate the fish that the fisherman caught." -- John Seymour, The Forgotten Arts.

And in modern life,  our communities are large with so many individuals that there is huge advantage in being specialised - there are so many humans available that we can all afford to be intensely capable at only one very small skill.  And that is how humans have achieved what we have - not by being generalists doing everything for ourselves in isolation.

Thoughts anyone ?
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default Re: Kevin McCloud's Escape to the Wild

Post by Ploshkin on 17th June 2015, 12:00 pm

I doubt that I will get to see the programme you mention CH as we don't do much sitting down in the all too short summer.  I do the things that I do because I enjoy it.  I enjoy the process and the satisfaction of completing something to a standard that I am happy with or eating (or selling) something that I have produced myself. I think it is in my genes because I have always felt that way.  Mr P & I could be self sufficient if we needed to be - we don't have a lot of skills in common but those we do have are complementary.  However, something that is a necessity could easily become a chore and cease being enjoyable.  Mr P's day job & my pension give us the luxury of being able to pick & choose what we do for ourselves and what we purchase or get others to do for us.  We do actually have quite a natural exchange of skills / goods in our local community (including other acquaintances a bit further afield).  It makes it difficult though trying to do a tax return when no money has changed hands.
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