Quest for Land: My Advice for Permies and Homesteaders
Part 3 of 3

(Publisher’s Note: This is a 3-part series about Paul’s quest for land and how it (the land) relates to all things permaculture. For a bit of background, be sure to read Part I and Part II)



While I was in Montana searching for land, my brain stumbled into this idea that I now call “rehusp” (or “re-husp”). In a feeble attempt to summarize: I want to grow the future of permaculture. Not just with my ideas, but with 20 different artisans in seed and soil. Each permie would have their own vision for what is “best” and as they demonstrate their vision and talk about how the other 19 are “wrong”, the cross pollination accelerates discovery.

This discovery came as I pitched an idea to a local tribe in an attempt to lease land from them. While it didn’t work out with them, the idea became clearer and bigger in my head.

Part of me remembered seven years ago with just $5000 and a residual income streamhow I needed a few acres to do my thing. I paid a lot for that and didn’t get what I wanted. I also met other people that were looking for a space to build a cob home. They just needed to try. And they were willing to pay thousands of dollars just to have a space to try.


Photo by ©Arthur Held

And I’ve met hundreds of people on their quest to find a place where they can do their permaculture thing. To get out of the rat race and stop being a wage slave. To build a magnificent gift to their future self. To someday pursue art, beauty, and delicious instead of pursuing the dollar to just barely pay the bills.

Yes, I have my own crazy stuff that I must do because my innards demand it. And my innards now demand that I do re-husp even more.

Crazy is Relative and Subjective

About 95% of the population looks crazy to me. I expect that nearly all of those people will look at me and think that I am crazy.Crazy is relative and subjective. Well, most “crazy” is relative and subjective.


Of the remaining 5%, I think they are not crazy. And I am comfortable with most of them thinking I am crazy.

This bit about “crazy” is the foundation for my next few points.

When trying to get a million dollar property, one idea that comes up is “if I go in on this with nine other people, then I only need to pay $100,000 instead of a million dollars.” The math can run for all sorts of properties for all sorts of different number of partners. You get the idea. The key is that if this works out, you can leave the rat race a LOT earlier. But people are crazy. And even if they are not crazy, people change. And even if they are not crazy and they stay not crazy for life, there are still all sorts of things that can go wonky.

Consider for a moment: marriage. Two people come together and judge each other to be not crazy. They are even certain that the other party is so super awesome that they decided to inform the authorities of their marriage. And half of them get divorced. But more importantly: before they even try to get married, look at all the relationships they had that didn’t work out. A pretty high failure rate.

Thousands of properties have been purchased jointly. Some do work out. The concept of people coming together on a common piece of land is called “intentional community“. Some smell a lot like an HOA. Some smell a lot like a hippie love-in. Right now you can pop out to and look at the hundreds of intentional communities that are currently open to new members. And hundreds more that are in the stage of “forming” (a group of people searching for the perfect piece of land). This doesn’t include land that was purchased by married couples, or business partners or the hundreds of other potential arrangements. The point is that there are a lot of ways that this idea can be attempted. And a few do stand the test of time.

Permaculture is a very long term thing. What is the point of giving a gift to your future self if your future self moves away in two years to get away from all the crazy?

So we need a solution.

Seven years ago I dropped a lot of money and moved all my stuff to a place that sounded like a fit. Only they lied because they needed my money. It turns out that they knew nothing about permaculture. My permaculture ideas seemed not just crazy to them, but fucking insane. When they prevented me from building hugelkultur, they couldn’t even allow raised beds. Naturally, as expected, they looked crazy to me.

And I wasn’t even looking for 30 or 40 years – I was looking for something for three or four years.

So how could I have prevented that? How could I have found a better match? And all of the other people that are looking for a place to get out of the rat race and start with permaculture and homesteading.

The book “Mortgage Free” offers a dozen different strategies. Typically, you live frugally, build a grubstake, buy land that is near a town where you can continue to work and then build a tiny house in your spare time. And in the coming years, you add on to the house in your spare time.

In the book “Early Retirement Extreme“, you live frugally, invest your money and the more frugally you live, the earlier you can retire. It sorta leaves open the idea of forever renting or buying your own place.

An Experimental Path For a Few

I have given some general advice for people seeking land to purchase, but my brain is screaming about my own devious plots and ideas.

Suppose a person has saved up $30,000 and has built $300 per month in residual income streams. There might be a small property somewhere than can be purchased. There might be an IC somewhere to join. Maybe you can find a farm where you can rent a room and be allowed to do your permaculture stuff there.

Each of these things could work, but it just seems doomed for most people. The probability of success seems really low.

So I have created another path. This new path is also terrible for most people, but I think it might have a high probability of success for a few. For just the right people. Further still, I think that this idea could be a template for thousands of other properties, each with different values. It is a bit of a hybrid between all three of the above designs, plus one little thing that could take out 90% of the crazy (or crazy potential).

I confess that this idea is powerfully driven by two things:

1) My passion for re-husp

2) My frustration from seven years ago

There are a lot more things in the mix, but let’s start there.

In 1989 I rented a room in a house in missoula. I lived there for nine years. The rent was cheap and the landlord didn’t care about my gardening efforts. The landlord was very different from me. In nearly every way. Yet for nine years everything was okay. I could have kept living there, but … I moved to get a better job.

I have met hundreds of people that have lived more than 20 years in the same place –renting. They are content. But, of course, for each of those people, there are probably a hundred people where they moved out or were evicted.

Why do these rental arrangements end? Usually due to a difference of opinion in how renting should happen. For example, the tenant builds a garden and the landlord thinks the garden will add maintenance work, or it will lower the value of the property.

Here is what I am currently trying: I now manage 300 acres. I like the idea of 20 people living here to do the re-husp thing. A person lays down some money to have “skin in the game” and then has an acre or two that is pretty much for their own use, plus access for projects (like raising cattle) to the full property.

A requirement is to listen to the first 240 podcasts that I have put out. I suspect that 99% of the people that try to listen to the podcasts will reject the idea of coming here. But I hope that this idea will end up being done, eventually, on thousands of properties. So anybody that likes this idea will find a place that is a fit for them.

The goal is to facilitate/incubate those that want to get out of the rat race. They want to stop being a wage slave to the system and give a gift to their future self. To get to the point that they are, for all practical purposes, retired at a very young age. They can then pursue their passions without having to get up every morning and go to a job they hate.

Rather than buying four acres riddled with problems, they might have a hybrid between 1 acre and 300 acres. They have their one acre plot for their home and gardens. They can arrange use of ten more acres for an overlayed use.


So when comparing this solution to land ownership: You don’t have neighbors that spray. You get much better land for a much lower price. You are obfuscated from property taxes and the myriad of bits and bobs that come with ownership. You get some level of access to community resources.

When comparing to an IC: You don’t have to attend weekly decision making meetings. The cost and benefits is about the same. The “crazy” is a significantly more predictable. Hopefully this solution has less than 1% of the drama in an IC.

When comparing to renting a room/house with land: Far more predictability. Permaculture is encouraged. The design is to have life long relationships as opposed to the idea of “flipping the property.”

I like to think that for a few people that are bonkers about homesteading and permaculture, I have created the best path for them to get out of the rat race and TRY. The two dominant paths right now are:

Ant Village: rent a plot year to year. Currently priced at $800 through the end of 2016 (so 20 months if you start now). Plus we are currently offering something called “ant village” where one plot will be awarded a “deep roots package”.

Deep Roots: rent a plot for “life”. A sort of “rent a whole bunch of years and get a whole bunch of years free”.

Discuss this more in a thread dedicated to this blog



See the entire Paul Wheaton archive.

paul-wheaton-bioPaul Wheaton is the tyrannical dictator of, the largest permaculture forum on the web. As a certified master gardener and permaculture designer, he’s built an empire around what he calls, ‘infecting brains with permaculture’. His forums are full of rich information, and there are a number of great free resources, guides, and articles that can be found on his sister site, as well.

Most recently, he has worked with rocket mass heater experts Ernie and Erica in developing a DVD set on making your own rocket mass heater, and has produced another video series on permaculture gardening, which detail how to use hugelkultur, swales, and natural ponds to capture and utilize water without irrigation. His recent work with natural buildings based on Mike Oehler’s designs have resulted in the creation of the Wofati, a semi underground natural home design.

Crowned the Duke of Permaculture by Geoff Lawton and the Bad Boy of Permaculture by the Occupy Monsanto movement, Paul continues to educate and inspire at his property – dubbed Wheaton Labs – in western Montana, where he conducts experiments in permaculture and natural building, hosts workshops, and entertains the curious passerby. More information on stays at the property can be found here.