We’re Loni and TJ, a pair of homeowners who are on the road to resilience. We’d like to share a few things we’ve learned along the way that we hope will be of value to you, or at least have you nodding your head in recognition. And since we’re seeking a new housemate for the next stage of the journey, we’ve included what is essentially an ad for anyone who’s interested in joining us at the table.
Both of us have done a version of rural homesteading, the kind most people think of when they think of self-reliance. TJ spent two years living in a Hopi Indian village as part of a three- person voluntary service unit. I, Loni, and my late husband owned and worked ten acres outside of Seattle.
My husband John wanted our family to be self-sufficient, and while our land was beautiful and fruitful, he couldn’t trust anyone outside of our family to be there “when it all came tumbling down.” So we had to do everything ourselves, while also earning enough money to keep things afloat and raise two young children. As you probably know, it’s hard to be shifting out of the cash and job economy while investing the serious time and money required to grow self-reliance. The continual stress of always having to do both ends by himself is a big reason why I lost my dear John to an early death.
For TJ, it was deeply rewarding and intensely challenging to have everything depend on doing it yourself. He was the service unit member responsible for the maintenance and systems upkeep of an hundred-year old former mission complex, and his job list was always endless and urgent. And it was only one of many hats he wore while working at the mission, so his time was always divided. And speaking of time—most of his projects could have been done so much faster if he had had other hands and minds to help.
So we each realized that for us, any next efforts towards self-reliance had to include more people than us and our nuclear families. We believe that true resilience requires some kind of interdependence, even at the basic household level.
Another lesson is the true cost of a rural setting. TJ’s case was more extreme, in that getting a spare part or materials or filling the pantry meant driving an hour and a half to Flagstaff, each way. But I also remember how almost everything required a drive into town, and how I was torn between giving my children a fuller social world and conserving fossil fuels. And how isolated I felt, as our neighbors were either holed up on their acreage or driving into town, and seeing friends became a special event rather than a regular part of my life.
This taught us that self-reliance could not mean being completely car-dependent, or isolated in a segregated world. Our next version of resilience had to include living in enough density with other people to make walking and biking and public transit a core choice. And to have a wide web of friends with whom we share support and perspective.
So this time around, we’re living in the city of Berkeley in a big 1908 house. We’re already sharing our home with two adult housemates, we’re not a co-op or co-housing, but we’re all finding it a genuinely enriching way to live. We’ve established a conserving way of living as the house norm, but that isn’t enough for us.
Our next step is shifting our mix of housemates to include people explicitly committed to growing resilience and a Transition household.
We don’t know what this new stage will look like. It depends a lot on who joins our household, and what skill and passions they bring to the table. We aren’t gardeners, for example, but we’ve used our large corner lot for a community garden. It has a lot of space, and differing zones of sun and shade. We have a huge back room that we’ve used for public meetings, classes, performances, dances—it would be an excellent site for reskilling classes, or big projects. We’re particularly interested in developing our artisan skills, water catchment, graywater reuse, and reshaping our house so that it amplifies our self-reliance.
If you’re interested in becoming a housemate, what follows is more specific information for you to consider. Please contact us if you find it intriguing, or moving:
300 sq ft Master Suite with Private Bath and 1,300 sq ft Commons in Elmwood/Rockridge
The 300 square foot suite being rented is in our large 1908 home, literally just steps from both the Elmwood and Rockridge districts. Unlike most shared living situations, our house has been reshaped to give everyone both privacy and easy-to-share common areas. So you get a totally private realm, with friendly, adult housemates who are working towards Transition, and eminently walkable Rockridge/Elmwood right outside your door.
Your Private Suite
This is the original master suite for a grand house, and it shows. A 15.5’ by 11’ main room has a hardwood floor and a sliding door out to a semi-private deck. The master closet is 12’ by 2.5’ with double shelving above. There’s a lovely 8’ by 8’ side room with thick carpeting and two windows. The full bathroom is 8’ by 7.5’ with a large sink, and a tub/shower with a nice (lo-flow) showerhead. The deck gets constant sun, and could be the site for a small container garden. The suite is sunny, and looks out across our roof deck to green avocado trees and a continual stream of birds and squirrels.
Your Local Neighborhood.
Our Elmwood-Rockridge neighborhood is rightly considered one of the most walkable in the East Bay. Buses for Cal, Oakland and San Francisco stop at either end of our block. We’re a 12-minute walk to the Rockridge BART. If you’re hungry, we’re close to dozens of restaurants, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. (Even closer to the amazing Star Grocery.) On Sundays you can walk down to the Temescal Farmers’ Market for local produce and live music.
As you shift to pedaling through life, we have a lockable side gate and bike parking area. (One of our housemates bikes up to the Berkeley Lab for work most days—we’re not worthy!) When you do drive, freeway access is excellent in every direction. Yet we live in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood that has easy street parking
In addition to your upstairs private suite, all 1,300 square feet of the first floor are our Commons. So make yourself at home in our comfortable living room, dining room, and small movie room. There’s also a shared laundry room and sewing area. At the heart of it all is our huge, well-equipped kitchen. (It really is bigger than many living rooms.) As well as full kitchen access and cooking rights, you have your own 3-shelf cabinet and small fridge for your personal use. No tiny corner in someone else’s fridge!
Outside, we have bearing plum, apple, avocado, fig and persimmon trees. (I’ve made what the household thought was a killer plum chutney this year.) And we’ve just started some potted tomatoes in a sunny corner to see what fares best there.
Wherever possible, this big old house has been rethought to offer both privacy and efficient sharing. So the kitchen has been reworked for multiple cooks at the same time—with three workstations and a spare set of cooking burners. (It has become everyone’s favorite reconnect place in the evenings as we each cook and clean up.) The living room has three seating areas, for any combination of solitude and conversation. The long harvest dining table seats eight.
We care about our planet, and live with a conscientious, conserving attitude. This is a big house, built for another era, so we’re serious about watching our utilities, recycling, and composting as much as possible. We’re moving further towards resilience and more self-determination, in forms we are starting to evolve. (If you love gardening, let’s talk!) We also try to keep things clean and neat. And fun!
We’re a creative couple who both work from home. We have one mid-20’s college-student son still with us. I’m a residential space planner, specializing in reshaping single family homes to better meet our needs for resilience. My partner has been an acoustic musician, editor and writer, but is now shifting to body/energy work.
Our current mix of housemates includes a scientist and a grad student, and is working extremely well. As a collective our qualities are: educated, low drama, friendly, quiet at home, sense of humor, clean, naturally curious. Ethnically and culturally diverse. We’re socially independent people who relish coming home to a warm human connection before heading off on different paths. At home, we tend to collect in the kitchen, …and we laugh a lot.
All of us have tried living alone, and none of us liked it. It’s more fun to share new cooking triumphs and disasters, to hear about each others’ days, to sneak extra muffins into someone’s fridge space as a surprise, and be around people you’ve come to care about, who care about you too.
YOU ARE: someone responsible and neat enough to live in a shared household. You can start with a conserving/recycling/aware way of living as we evolve towards resilience. You enjoy a family-style household that’s quiet enough for you to keep your focus, and respects your privacy when you want it. At the same time, you’re aware and respectful of others. And you enjoy being part of the informal camaraderie that happens in the commons. You definitely have a sense of humor!
THE DEVILISH DETAILS:
-$1300 rent includes wifi.
-All other utilities are split by the number of people in the house that month.
-No smoking of any kind.
-No pets. We have one small non-shedding dog who doesn’t want to share his pack.
-We don’t have cable TV, but do have a movie room for occasional dvds.
-We do month-to-month rental, and ask for first month’s rent and a $1300 security deposit up front. But we’re open to longer-term tenants, once we all see how we fit together.
-Your suite is currently empty. We’ll begin showing on August 9th, but please contact us now so you can be in the queue. And so we can start getting to know each other.
(The last phase of the kitchen and new bathroom remodel is still being finished, so there is some hope that we can show before the 9th. But we are on Contractor Time, so who knows?)
Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do? What’s your schedule? How do you contribute to making a welcoming place to live, work, and relax? And what ‘s your experience with self-reliance and resilience?
510 655 4037