Since a “forced retirement” three years ago, Tomas Robison has been stretching his savings by exchanging labor for rent on an off-grid homestead in the Santa Fe mountains. Applying the lessons learned from 3 decades of intense camping (as a climber and river guide), Robison created his home from a yurt, outdoor camp kitchen, hand-crafted composting toilet (The Dood-R), and a “summer shower” from an old parachute.
Calling it “voluntary homelessness”, Robison believes his camp can be reproduced by others facing unemployment or eviction or simply looking to replicate his no-income, low-income lifestyle. It’s not always a comfortable setup: in winter, Robison takes cold baths and makes regular trips up the hill to fill containers with water from the properties’ only well. Having sold most of his power tools, Robison calls his new focus “paleo modern”: he relies mostly on hand tools for chopping wood and creating furniture, though he has kept some modern tools like an electric chainsaw for the bigger jobs.
For Carol – the property owner-, the location is a sanctuary where she has fled a job in international development work focused on poverty and the environment. Frustrated by a sense of powerlessness, she has chosen to apply the bigger principles of land stewardship and simple living to her own life. To the property, she has transported a traditional Ifugao hut (built by another resident of the homestead, Mamerto Tingdongan). She and Tomas have started work on a Cal-Earth SuperAdobe structure, but are currently looking for more help to finish.
Despite the difficulty of the harsh New Mexican winters, Robison enjoys the challenge and works to cultivate what he believes is the necessary mindset to find fulfillment in the solitude and his daily tasks.
“Solitude is independence. It had been my wish and with the years I had attained it. It was cold. Oh, cold enough! But it was also still, wonderfully still and vast like the cold stillness of space in which the stars revolve.” – Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf