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The Holographic Homestead
According to the ancient Hermetic sciences, the universe is holographic. That means that a single atom within your body is actually an entire solar system all in itself. Similarly, each star system in outer space is a single atom inside of a macroscopic being. In a holographic universe, everything is both fully autonomous and fully interconnected at the same time. As above, so below!
While quite romantic of a notion, how can this insight provide something useful for everyday life? Basically, we must mimic nature when creating community homesteads. A home that is 100% reliant on its community won’t work. A home that is 100% self-contained and cut off from its surroundings likewise is not our goal. A home that is 50/50, while apparently a better choice, will not measure up to the holographic model. Our aim is to build a home that is 100% self-sufficient and 100% connected to its neighbors simultaneously.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine that every single resource that comes from outside of your immediate homestead is cut off. Can your family still thrive in this scenario? The answer should be yes. Now, pretend that every one of your homestead systems fail all at once. Does the community immediately surrounding you have the means to provide for all of your needs? The answer of course should be an affirmative. This is what a community of holographic homesteads looks like.
Let’s shed light on a few of the many features our ideal community will have. Water is the most necessary ingredient and we will require both individual and communal sources of it. Each home will have rainwater harvesting systems or on-site shallow wells in addition to being connected to a common source such as a deep well, aquifer or lake. This way both of our requirements are met. If any home depletes their on-site supply they can draw on the much larger common source. Likewise, should something decommission the common source then everybody can use their individual systems until the community water is operational again.
Food production is another important puzzle piece. Each home in our harmonious reality will have individual gardens. Every vegetable garden will produce more than it’s family will need to eat throughout the four seasons. One large community farm will meet our other requirement. This will grow a few staple grain crops and most importantly will support livestock. Although the community may choose to be vegetarian, the livestock provide a necessary buffer against unpredictable weather, not to mention the valuable resource their manure represents as fertilizer. Good grain harvests can be stored for a few years. In the event that unpredictably bad weather persists and nourishment needs become desperate, then some animals may need to be harvested. In such an unlikely yet dire circumstance, even the most devout vegan may have to temporarily compromise on their values in order to weather out the situation.
Space heat is another important ingredient. Most climates require a source of space heating during winter months. Using wood stoves and biomass to heat individual homes is ideal. Many options exist for a backup source of heat that can be tied into the small community. A central battery bank that is charged with solar panels, hydroelectricity and/or diesel powered generators can juice up space heaters and provide the communal backup for other electrical devices as well. Alternatively (or in addition to), a large propane tank can be piped into homes for backup space and water heat.
Hot water can be made with solar heaters on every homes rooftop. In most climates, this will be more than sufficient during all seasons except winter. A simple and inexpensive thermosyphon can be piped from the insulated water tank through the wood stove for ample supply of scalding water in cold months. The central backup for hot water is the same source the community chose for space heat. Namely, electric or propane heating elements present in each homes water tank.
We utilize the sun to cook food during most months. Solar ovens are simple and cost effective to design and build. I have witnessed a family roast a chicken in under 5 hours in the snow on a sunny day! During warm months the oven cooks meals much quicker. Each home will also be equipped with a solar stove. Using a reflective parabolic dish that concentrates sunshine onto a metal plate, solar stoves effectively boil water in under 10 minutes. One added benefit of using the sun to cook food is the pure and clean flavor that is present from not using hydrocarbons. In the winter months food will be cooked on the wood stove. You can see now why the wood stove is so beneficial, one appliance provides three resources, heating your home, your water and your food! That is permaculture in action. With two on-site sources for cooking food (solar and biomass), a home will seldom need the community backup. Nevertheless, we use either the propane or the electricity from the larger central source to fuel a second stove/oven in every home.
Cooling homes requires some finesse that must be designed and executed at the very beginning phase, before the home is built. Earth berm and dugout techniques provide the most effective means of cooling the structure. Below the frost line (3 feet), the earth maintains a temperature homeostasis which is always cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than the surface. Locating the home in this zone and/or heaping 3 feet or more of earth against the walls provides unparalleled cooling capacity.
Earth tubes provide geothermal cooling as well. Burying a length of tube 3 feet or deeper and piping one end into the home will act as a miniature A/C system. Small DC fans (computer fans) continuously draw the cool air into the home. In spring and fall, a thermostat will turn this fan on and off as needed.
Tall clerestory windows combined with low windows will constantly draw cool air inside as the warmer air exits through the higher windows. Planting shrubs near the lower windows will increase the cooling effect. Finally, the presence of shade from trees, vines and shrubs is an absolute must to complete our passive cooling mosaic.
Central A/C, or even smaller window and portable units, use a lot of electricity. Therefore, A/C is usually only present on homes with grid power. Even if you are able to install an A/C system, using some of the passive cooling techniques in concert with it will save you energy. Furthermore, the primitive technologies described above have little or no parts that can wear out or break down. Earth berms for example will never need inputs, are impervious to storms or damage of any kind and will never break down. Thus we don’t need any community backup system to ensure that our dwellings stay cool and comfortable all summer long.
Hopefully these design details help you realize that creating a holographic homestead community is not only possible but downright plausible! These designs are in harmony with natural law, the universe and especially with our beautiful blue and green planet. These are not just ideas or prototypes either. Many adventurous humans have already bushwhacked into this frontier and put them into practice. The world is our oyster, lets start making pearls today!