From Pubs to Permaculture

by: Sara on 12/07/2016

On this 7th day of our 12 Days of Giving sale, one of our editors, Rob West, shares his story of transitioning from "hygge" in the big city to "hygge" on the homestead. You can follow Rob's journey, including the building of his passive home, on his blog The Handcrafted Life. 


A roaring fire during the first snow fall of the season

During the 2000s, my wife and I lived in London, UK in a flat that counted amongst its inhabitants a Danish hygge enthusiast named Kim, who also bears an uncanny resemblance to Vincent van Gogh. A typical winter evening began with Kim’s usual cheeky question: “up for a pint?” Followed by an exodus from our cold brick flat for the conviviality of the fire in our local pub. Velvet curtains snug against the chill, warm lamp light and pints all around easing the stresses of dark, rainy nights, and frenetic urban living. When Kim left to live in a small red Swedish cabin in the dead of winter we gave him a toasty pair of long johns to keep the hygge going.  

These days Kim is a photographer in Copenhagen and we are homesteading on a small island on the British Columbia coast. Times have changed and so our hygge has evolved. Lately it’s been a roaring fire in the wood stove, maybe a glass of homebrew and long discussions about the future of the planet and the rich possibilities of the coming spring.

Last night we shelled dried black coco beans. It’s an addictive and highly tactile activity. The crunch of the shell and the release

Shelling beans by candelight

of the smooth black beans that demand to be poured from hand to hand. A millennia old tradition of people sitting around chatting while stocking the cupboard for lean times with a nutrient dense, protein rich food and saving seeds for the coming year to plant and trade.   

It feels good to have full jars of beans on the shelf. Beans are one of the key edible plants highlighted by Ross Mars in The Permaculture Transition Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Resilient Living

 As we shell we chat about our homesteading plans and our long-term vision to develop a food-rich, fully integrated permaculture-based micro-farm, designed to carry its passengers and friends safely through the uncertain times ahead. On this journey, it’s a real benefit to have Ross’


book in hand and to tap his deep permaculture experience. The book is the perfect blend of inspirational and practical reading to help us make sense of our thinking and organize our plans during the long winter months while we wait for the first green shoots of spring.

As for the shelled beans, some are for planting and others are destined for this delicious winter warmer soup from Hollyhock Cooks: Food to Nourish Body, Mind and Soil. Happy shelling!

Black Bean Soup with Chipotle and Orange

Topped with a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt, this thick soup with a subtle orange flavor will provide warmth on a cold night.

Serves 6-8

2 tbsp sunflower of safflower oil

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups finely diced carrot

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp salt

2 tsp mashed chipotle peppers in adobe sauce

2 tsp ground cumin

4 cups cooked black beans

4 cups water

3 cups chopped fresh tomato

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

In a large soup pot, sauté the onion, carrots and garlic in the oil for about 5 minutes. Add the salt, chipotle peppers and cumin and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes. Add the black beans and water; cover and simmer for 30 minutes

Process half of the cooked soup in a blender or with a hand-held processor and add it back into the soup pot. Add the chopped tomato and orange juice and gently reheat before serving.

Serve with Best Ever Cornbread or Savory Zucchini Muffins also found in Hollyhock Cooks


Enter the code Winter2016 at check out and receive 35% discount on all New Society books until December 12th.


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