Updated: Dec 2, 2022
I've been in love with eco-villages since I read Mrs Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh, about a colony of very clever escapee lab rats, who lived in carpeted, air-conditioned tunnels under the rosebush at Mr Fitzgibbon's farm. For me, ecovillages are places you can take refuge in, if the powers-that-be get out of control, and want to take over your life, as powers-that-be tend to do every now and again. My friend Ringo has been working for the past ten years with that ingenuity and resourcefulness I so admire, and now his labour of love, Tiger Hill farm near Hobart, is for sale. I've made a full album, 'Move to EcoTopia' on social media, to show what one person can create, when they have a lovely vision and share it with others, borrowing their strength and smarts. If ever you too want to claim your independence, team up with friends, and make a world that looks after you, Ringo's story might help your vision along.
This place is for sale for less than the price of a suburban house in Melbourne. All the self-maintaining systems have been implemented, including the swales and self-watering systems. He has set up income streams, and accommodation for students and helpers. Everything a dreamer would need is included, even the tools in the shed and chickens that roam. Ringo did all the thinking and work, now someone else can coast along. That's the story of humanity. We see far because we sit on the shoulders of giants, those who went before.
What would you do if you found yourself boss and caretaker of a place like this? It is 70 diverse acres of hills and dales, near the town of Buckland. It's 45 minutes from Hobart airport, set amongst eco-tourist attractions. It's dotted with useful structures, with permission to build a second family house. If you had a buddy you worked well with, you guys could buy the place together, and take the financial and off your future. Windbreaks, orchards, dams, swales and vegetable gardens are all in their proper place, ready to care for the next owner. It's been free of cattle for many years, so the soil is fluffy and un-trampled.
The transformed garages are happy places. This one is the classroom where Ringo's volunteers and students draw up their plans and trade jokes in the evenings. It is rustic, made from recycled and found materials, giving people hope that they can find the resources to live a good life. It's also super-colourful, decorated not with consumer items, but with artworks of the wonderful helpers that have come and gone over the years, to build their own dream. The garage kitchen is similar, eco-deluxe, with a regular kitchen plus cob pizza oven, solid timber butcher's block, food dehydrator, kombucha and beer-making equipment, all the good things. That's what the next buyer walks into. They just have to bring a carton of milk and start living there.
It looks like a conventional 3-bedroom house, but is made from timber harvested from the property. It's got sophisticated water filters, energy and infra-red night surveillance, so you can see what your chickens are doing from anywhere in the world. People from Finland build their saunas before they build the rest of their houses, so Ringo trusted their priorities and put one in to make his workers happy.
Ringo is a heavy machinery expert and runs earthworks courses. Now that the swales and dams are in place, he can move on to other properties. It was a priority to make a property with food growing and infrastructure to care for lots of learners, so whoever has something to teach the world will have a launching pad ready to roll.
The income streams
Potential income streams include fully developed detailed plans, and nascent ideas:
Sapling production, cabbage seed production, organic egg sales, ethical beef or mum-and-bub ethical micro-dairy, campsite leasing and Airbnb holiday accommodation. Eco-tourism is an option, with Rock climbing at The Crag nearby, and a 4x4 adventure school next door. There is a year's worth of firewood, and heaps of felled timber ready for milling or to sell for immediate income. There are now 7 dams and a network of swales. There is not much need to go to the supermarket, with a 1,000 square meter vegetable garden, fully drip irrigated, including an orchard of 60 mixed fruit trees. The raised garden beds provide food to feed students and workers, and preserve in jars for hard times.
The cute outhouse can be called an engineered wood pile or Holtzmeter compost toilet, both are correct. Its multi-functions include 19 cubic meters of firewood drying, water harvesting and a wheelie-bin toilet on a pedestal. It has a classic solar chimney, a magical passive way to draw up air and keep the place fresh and temperate.
The fluffy pile is an irrigated potato tower. No digging, no worries about watering, and when it's harvest time, just knock the whole thing over, and you've got nice compost and spuds for dinner. Even your grandma could do it.
The property has been powered by the alchemy between excellent people who want to learn and a culture of doing things right, but playfully, which is part of Ringo's character.
Whoever buys the place might inherit his Workaway listing, with its testimonials of many happy volunteers. I too have hosted volunteers for many decades now. It is a kind of perpetual motion machine of inspiration and gratitude, that everyone who wants to make life extraordinary should join.
Ringo the owner and his faithful crew have been working hard upfront so that we can all coast later. Putting in infrastructure is now complete, and Ringo has new dreams to go make real.
My aesthetic is a bit frillier than Ringo's. If it was me, I'd keep many of his features as 'legacy', and put my own more feminine spin on the garden. Ringo, you need more flowers. And baby goats, for adorableness. But I guess Ringo has been busy like Gimley the miner in Lord of The Rings, doing those things that big strong blokes do first.
To see the big picture of Ringo's creations, follow 'Move to EcoTopia'. If you have a friend who might be ready for an eco-adventure, send them this story.