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Introduction


I grew up in Sweden in the 1940s and 50s, when it was still clean, green, and orderly. There was no trash along the roadsides, no pesticides in our foods, no unemployment or poverty, very little crime or violence. Excellent education and health care were free for everyone. It was a well functioning nature-loving society.


My grandmother had a large heavenly garden, abundant with many kinds of sweet and juicy fruits, berries and vegetable, and beds of fragrant flowers. To this day, whenever I smell phlox, or ripe peaches or pears, I am instantly transported back to her garden, reliving that joy for just a moment.


I loved munching my way through this paradise, and planting, weeding, harvesting and learning alongside my grandmother. And I loved hanging out with the children on the small idyllic family farm nearby, helping with milking and bringing in the hay, and caring for the horses, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a farmer's wife on a self-sufficient farm, with 6 kids, and a large room for weaving, sewing, pottery and painting.

In school, we learned cooking, canning, baking and nutrition, and also knitting, sewing and mending. In the wild mountains and forests nearby, we learned orienteering (finding our way in the wilderness with just a topographical map and a compass), and which wild plants were good to eat, and which were toxic, and cooking over a camp fire, building shelters - and so many other basic life skills.


And I learned early on that deep attention with animals and plants, brings deep connection and bliss, which, in turn, brings gifts of magic, awe and joy.


In 1956, I met an American in Paris - we fell in love and soon married and moved to the U.S. Some may think of the 1950s as the best time in America, but I was shocked: thick smoke billowing from chimneys and tailpipes, foul-smelling rivers thick with toxic gunk, trash everywhere, gigantic cars and gridlock traffic jams. Deep poverty and horrendous racial injustice. The nuclear arms race, bomb shelters, radioactive particles in the air - "don't breastfeed your babies!" Natural childbirth and breast-feeding were considered uncivilized. DDT and other toxic chemicals were sprayed on everything, contaminating our foods, and devastating our natural ecosystems in the water and on land.

I soon had three adorable daughters to protect from the toxins being used on everything. We spent summers in a small cottage on Martha's Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. There was no organic food available anywhere, so I started a garden. The soil was poor and sandy, but, on a nearby farm, I was lucky to discover a pile of old manure that had accumulated ever since the farmer started using chemical fertilizers. My garden thrived, and back then, people were astonished that such bounty could be produced without any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.


Then came the 60s surging with hope for better ways to live - Solar! Organic! Recycling! Do-It-Yourself! Racial Justice!

The Vineyard seemed to be a safer, cleaner place to live, and in 1971 we decided to settle there. We bought part of a lovely old farm, built a house, and made a large organic garden in the fertile soil where the old chicken coop used to be.


But life was not easy. Our marriage fell apart. The winters brought paralyzing blizzards again and again. Recurring blackouts, and oil embargoes, and gasoline shortages brought great hardship, and heating with firewood was difficult. As I was approaching 40, I felt so stuck - what am I doing with my life? Being a weaver seemed so irrelevant in a world that was falling apart.

And then, there was this little 4-word notice in the local paper: "Life begins at 40."

Woah, how true that turned out to be for me! Three events blew my mind and changed my life:


- I discovered that urine is an extraordinary fertilizer.

- I discovered mindfullness meditation.

- And then, on a cold windless sunny day in February 1979, my state-of-the-art airtight woodstove exploded (too airtight!), and I saw my house burning down. The thought of loosing the family photographs and my daughters' early childhood art plunged me into bottomless despair.

As soon as the firemen allowed me to go inside the black stinking dripping corpse of my home, I went straight to the places where those treasures were stored, and I found that they had been somewhat protected by other stuff falling on top of them - they were singed, smoked and soaked, but they survived!

The rush of intense gratitude and joy cleared the cobwebs right out my brain, and gave me immense energy and clarity of purpose.

With solar technologies and organic food production just starting to develop, I was inspired to feel hopeful, wanting to believe what Lincoln said: "America is the last best hope for Mankind",


I decided to build a new home in ways that would greatly reduce my need for grid electricity, heating fuels, and gasoline, and it would also have composting toilets to prevent nitrogen pollution, and thereby show how we can greatly reduce the harm we cause to our planet and to ourselves.


Most people fear that reducing fossil fuels, CO2 and nitrogen pollution to near-zero will require giving up cars, comforts and conveniences, and meat and dairy, and even flush toilets - and that their cost of living will skyrocket.

Very few would be willing to give up any of that for the sake of having a chance to reduce the nightmare scenarios that are forecast if we just continue burning fossil fuels and spreading toxic chemicals.

I wanted to find better ways to live that let us keep what we need and want, do not cause any pollution or other harm, are more secure and reliable, and that also reduce our cost of living.


Thus, in spite of having no degrees or formal training (I didn't even go to college), and only miniscule amounts of money, I dove into learning to figure out new and better ways to live, in what seemed like just plain old "common sense" - allowing my reasoning mind to deeply imagine, envision, in great detail, the simplest most reliable ways to achieve my goals. Always in that basic mode I learned as a child: deep attention brings deep understanding. Allowing my intuition to guide me along the path of this immense crisis/opportunity and the many new ideas that came flowing into my mind.

I imagined a home that would stay warm enough through subzero blizzards, solar-heated with only a wood stove for back-up, and cool enough through sizzling heat waves without any exhaust fans - with a large lush fragrant indoor garden fully integrated with the whole house without any walls or doors to separate it from the living spaces, and a splash-all-you-want deep old bathtub and shower in the middle of it (Bliss!) - and clean beautiful odor-free easy composting toilets that would cause no nitrogen pollution, and would produce gorgeous compost fertilizer for everything (except not the food garden) - and greywater purified in shallow woodchip filter gardens, irrigating the surrounding flower gardens, trees and bushes - no wastes, just mutually beneficial recycling in endless loops. All without causing any pollution.

 

To my great joy, everything succeeded way beyond my highest hopes (see "Solviva Home Sweet Home"), and soon I was inspired to proceed on my chosen path, this time focusing on year-round food production. I wondered:

? Might it be possible to build a greenhouse that would stay warm enough even through the

worst sub-zero blizzards, without any heating fuels, not even firewood?


? Could it also stay cool enough through scorching heatwaves, without any exhaust fans?


? Might it be possible to incorporate warm-blooded animals, like chickens and rabbits, within

such a greenhouse, to increase the temperature and thereby also the yields?


? Might it be possible to grow high yields of organic food in such a greenhouse without

using any chemical fertilizers or toxic pesticides, or heating mats or extra lights, and

causing no pollution?

In 1983, this became the Solviva Winter Garden.

And again, this succeeded far beyond anything I could have ever imagined!


News of this quickly spread via TV, radio and print. This in turn led to numerous awards, speaking engagements and workshops across the U.S. and Scandinavia. Also, hundreds came to visit, work shoulder-to-shoulder with me, and learn about the Solviva methods and designs.


After 45 years on the Solviva Farm, advancing age and health concerns forced me to downsize.

I was lucky to find a cozy little cottage in town, with good solar exposure. I plan to transform this property to become 100% solar energy self-sufficient, non-polluting and food secure. Fully powered by enough PV panels and batteries. By doing this, we will no longer require gasoline, heating fuel or grid electricity. This will save more and more money as the price of grid electricity, heating fuels, gasoline and food continues to rise.


I am hoping that this will inspire others to do the same. If enough of us do it, we will all be able to continue living well even after the electric grid is sabotaged by cyper or physical attacks, causing ther whole national electric grid to collapse, for a very long time. If not enough of us prepare, then we will all suffer the consequences.


The purpose of this website is to show the various Solviva designs and methods, how they worked out, and what I therefore know is possible to do, and what I can therefore recommend. May you be inspired as you cruise through this website, and may it help you find your own ways to do what needs to be done.


You are welcome to add your thoughts on the platform set up to enable community discussion. Ideas, concerns, questions. I know it's risky - there may be some nasty remarks from deniers who make it their business to denigrate any suggestions of real solutions. All inputs will be monitored, and the most senseless ones will not be posted.


But, I ask you to please not count on me to respond. I am now old, and don't have much time left, and still have so much I want to do in my life. I hope I have included enough information on this website and in my two books, to enable the community itself to figure out the answers to whatever I have not described sufficiently. I will definitely be checking in, and I will respond sometimes - just please do count on it.


As a society, we have to wake up. We have to re-learn the fact that America was formed for the purpose of protecting our rights to do what we, as individuals and communities, know is best to do in order to protect our health, security and wellbeing. This holds the promise of what Lincoln said: "America is the Last Best Hope of Mankind." That potential, of course, holds true only if we honor the premise on which America was supposedly founded.


We need to re-learn to live up to the concept of "America, the land of the free and the home of the brave." Instead, Americans are behaving like cowards, just lamely abdicating our right and freedom to do what we believe is best. We are letting our State governments bulldoze us with regulations and codes that do us great harm (just look at the insanely polluting septic codes!! See the several posts about Wastewater!).


As a society, we have to learn to stand up for our rights to protect our water - we have a sacred obligation to not comply with the viciously destructive State DEP (Department of Environmental Protection!!) regulations that they have been forcing upon us at threat of $500/day fine for non-compliance - forcing us to comply with regulations that are in blatant violation of the Federal EPA Clean Water Act, instituted in 1972,  "... to ensure that drinkingwater is safe, and to restore and maintain oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic ecosystems, to protect human health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide healthy habitat for fish, plants, and wildlife."


We also have a sacred obligation to not comply with State regulations that forbid us to plan, design and build our own schools, libraries, town halls, senior centers and other municipal projects. We have our own local skilled solar experts, designers, engineers and builders, and we know how to create far better buildings, at half the cost, compared with what is forced upon us by the State and their approved corporations.

For instance, the outragously energy-inefficient and educationally inadequate new Tisbury elementary school that people blindly voted for without any understanding of the dire consequences, forcing a $130,000,000 debt burden onto our children, for them to pay off over the next 30 years - for a school that will be completely useless within days after the electric grid goes down.


And, like all our other municipal buildings, this school will soon develop leaks and mold, and the HVAC systems will stop functioning because of bad design and installation. The necessary repairs have cost us many millions, again and again, all leaving immense debt burdens for our children to pay back.

Now, the tiny town of Chilmark, with a population of less than 1200, is looking at spending $3,000,000 to replace the school's failed HVAC system - my calculations show that this can instead be done for 80% less cost, with individual room minisplits, air-purifiers and air-to-air heat exchangers, all installed by local experts. Thus, when one of them breaks, it doesn't mean closing the whole school, and staying closed until some state-approved experts can get to the island to try to fix it, at tremendous cost. Instead, the individual-room HVAC components are easily repairable or replaceable by those same local experts who installed it.


The West Tisbury library is another example - it started to leak and develop severe mold and rot within two years of completion, and now, less than 10 years after completion, the HVAC is useless and will cost 2 million to replace. What are we to do about such extreme incompetence?


The terrible tragedy is that, in spite of all these years of failures in our municipal buildings, people are still lamely cowtowing to the State's demands, which prevent us from doing a much better job ourselves, at 50-80% less cost.


Worst of all, when the Big Blackout descends on us all, these buildings will all be rendered non-functional and toxic as soon the propane or diesel for the back-up power generators runs out, within days, and there will be no more deliveries for months. Remember: everything will stop for a very long time.


Instead, all our municipal buildings can be retrofitted to be powered entirely by PV panels and batteries, and solar heating and heat storage, and indoor gardens to purify the air. This must be done if we want total longterm security - and it will save tons of money too. And it would reduce our CO2 footprint to zero.


Remember Eisenhower's farewell speech, in which he offered a stern warning: "Beware of the Military/Industrial Complex". He actually wanted to say: Military/Industrial/Congressional Complex, but was advised to drop "Congressional". The reality is that our society is run by people heavily invested and protective of the status quo - the fossil fuel industry and the politicians who are addicted to the campaign contributions and other irrestible perks they get in return for doing the bidding of those industries.


It's a dirty dirty game of high treason against us, the People, and the only thing that will give us a chance to pull out of the ever-worsening nightmare we are currently careening toward, is for the community to stand up for our right to do what we know is best.


My only hope lies in the fact that I know we now have all the technologies, resources and know-how we need in order to live well without any fossil fules or grid electricity, and without causing any harm.

Read on, and stay tuned,

and you too will understand how we can live without causing harm.

May you be blessed with joy along the way.








1 comment

1 Comment


Guest
May 06

Please send both books to my home in central Alberta Canada. My address is: Timothy Axe, Box 630, Clandonald, Alberta T0B 0X0. My phone is 780-853-6046.

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