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Land ownership can be a lifestyle choice in its broadest sense – a way of life. It is one well suited to a growing number of people who wish to take control of their lives by creating more security, broadening their options and delighting in a renewed sense of connection to the earth. I am convinced that if more people could ‘see’ the possibilities of land ownership and the joy it offers, they would step confidently into a whole new culture, one offering a refreshing sense of purpose and meaning to life.
What is land management? It is whatever you do with your land. You could simply make a path to a suitable spot somewhere on it, put a bench there and watch it revert to woodland over the course of the rest of your life. Or at the other end of the scale, you could design a living productive landscape supporting human life in every way. You might go as far as to move the earth around and create banks and ponds and streams, you may create an edible landscape with multiple productive systems decorated with well thought out planting of blossom and bloom to nourish the eye. Your land management plan is what ever plan you choose to realise, modest or grand.
Reasons to own land fall into several categories, all of which inter-relate with each other to varying degrees. This in itself is another benefit of owning land, it fosters an inter connected and inter-relating sense of life – holistic living you might say. It’s a place to work, a place to play, a place to express your self and your values. It is also potentially a place of beauty and of security, and a route to physical as well as mental well-being.
First up, land ownership provides solid lasting security. Even without government planning permission to dwell upon your land it is a means to provide food security. You can grow a reliable and abundant supply assuming the effort of setting up and maintaining a system of production. But your land is also a means to produce food of specific purity for optimal health. Not only can you guarantee supply, but you can guarantee the very best quality by growing yourself. In a time where anything not bearing an ‘organic’ standard is likely GMO this is becoming increasingly important for thinking people who do not wish to be human guinea pigs in that particular experiment.
Secondly, a secure and reliable source of clean water is priceless. Here in England where tap water is contaminated with estrogen-mimicking chemicals, antibiotic residues, chlorine and fluoride, as well as a whole host of other undesirables, a clean water supply is a massive asset. Digging a well or a bole hole can be expensive, but when values are carefully weighed its worth every penny. Testing is easy and water quality is most often a huge improvement on mains water, assuming there is no “fracking” in the locality. Also, bear in mind that groups of landowners coming together to divide larger parcels of land can share the costs and the benefits.
Land ownership also affords you security of productive capacity. You will never be destitute if you have land. There is always something you can grow to sell or to eat. And with imaginative planning and thinking the possibilities to produce are enormous even well within the bounds of conventional agricultural land use.
Lastly, land ownership offers you security of place. Don’t let that mental hurdle of government permission to build a house blind you to the practical bottom line of having a place to go. And anyway, planning permission can be sought with a long term plan. If you own a piece of the countryside with no outstanding loans on it, you have a wonderful asset in having exclusive right of use to some place that is yours. And yes, ownership is important – see below.
The land-based way of living is only really possible with land ownership. This means you are out and about through all seasons, planting and harvesting what ever you grow obviously keeps you active. Owning land and either growing food or rearing animals is a sure fire way of keeping moving and being outside in the fresh air. There are more and more studies being published showing how a sedentary lifestyle is a huge contributor to chronic disease. Sitting is being heralded as ‘the new smoking’. The outdoor life associated with managing a plot of land is far healthier than the average day at the office.
As well as the fitness benefits of motility around the land, I have found my personal experimentation with health and diet very well supported by my ability to grow food organically. Food purity is as important as food security. Monsanto’s Glyphosate is everywhere in the environment. It is a pernicious and health destroying chemical that cause leaky gut amongst other things. This causes chronic inflammation and leads to scores of modern chronic diseases. Almost everyone has a leaky gut to some degree these days due to the ubiquitous use of glyphosate in the environment coupled with eating gluten in grains – particularly wheat, Rhy and Barley. Growing your own food, on your own land is a central plank of a lasting strategy for a healthy life.
Land ownership also provides hidden health benefits through growing food and keeping animals. New research is showing that one of the key ways in which our gut flora are populated is actually by breathing in bacteria from the environment around us. By getting your hands in the soil while you till the earth growing vegetatbles you are brewtahing in millions of beneficial bacteria. Similarly, raising livestock exposes us to billions of bacteria helping to innoculate the gut. Landownership and the activity opportunities it affords us, is a massive bonus to the foundations of our health – maintaining a healthy gut.
Choice of what to grow is interesting too because it turns out that the most health supporting crops are easy for anyone to grow, and the ones requiring a huge investment in machinery as well as an economy of scale (such as wheat) are unhealthy and best avoided. This means that with specifically selected animal rearing and a modest vegetable growing area you can secure the fundamentals of an optimally healthy diet – one to which the human genome is well adapted. More on that in another post.
A growing number of people are becoming aware of the benefits of grounding – that is, being at the same electrical potential as the earth. I go barefoot most of the summer on my land, as do my children. It can be scientifically demonstrated that the free electrons that our bodies take from the earth’s abundant supply, serve as free antioxidants and are a significant contribution to supporting optimal health. ‘Earthing’ or ‘grounding’ can easily become a way of life on the small farm, and it is just one more way of integrating one’s lifestyle to satisfy all of your needs in one holistic package. The fun of creating an area of meadow and wild flowers for play and recreation in your overall land use plan can also serve your health.
Most new build houses in England offer a minuscule garden, a postage stamp token-gesture that is ridiculously inadequate for any kind of outdoor life. Many people have forgotten muddy fingernails, along with their connection to the earth. Lives have moved ‘in doors’ with a resulting disconnection from the earth. On a practical note, this indoor retreat combined with an obsession for cleanliness has a detrimental effect on the gut flora. Exposure to local ‘dirt’ is a significant factor in the fine-tuning of an effective immune system. Given the importance of gut health in overall health, a hands-in-the-soil connection to the earth is good news and is another boost for health from land-based living.
Psychological benefits of land ownership
Land ownership is just the start, its what you do with it that counts. Simply holding title to a patch of turf will offer you no psychological benefits that I am aware of, but a land based way of life and the experience of managing a piece of land to produce food and goods, does. It both requires certain practices, and fosters them.
To plan a project over decades requires long-term thinking. The new landowners will need to be pioneers, and thinkers, people ready to embrace full responsibility for every aspect of their lives. The new landowners will be playing for the long term, planning ahead, and thinking big. Land ownership is not for the fainthearted, nor for those who desire the unearned. It is not for anyone who would prefer to live as a parasite off the backs of others. Land ownership doesn’t support the habit of consumerism, but of production.
But so much for the psychological requirements for land ownership, what about those benefits. Well, a sense of purpose and meaning in life is top of the list. Being bound to the seasons and to the land in whatever productive capacity you choose makes you feel good. Yes, you can go walking barefoot through the woods or skinny dip in your private swimming pond. Simply being there is part of it, but achieving your plans on your own patch is the greater part. Seeing the scenery change as you erect fences and hedges and plant trees and make access tracks is very satisfying, and seeing the fruits of your labours written in the fabric of your physical surroundings is truly awesome. Being the architect of a pleasing environment is very enjoyable. Simply watching trees grow and mature is amazing. Every achievement of even the smallest plan is visible right before your eyes as in your experience. Every step of the way to realising a greater goal in your land use plan, even minor victories becomes part of the landscape as you create the physical layout of your land and your holding. Self-esteem and confidence grow with every successful endeavour, and you learn valuable lessons from the unsuccessful ones.
Landownership has taught me to think long term, and to plan for my old age and appropriately make ready for it. This involves many other related lifestyle choices discussed elsewhere in this Blog, such as eating a well-formulated Ketogenic diet, but planning and looking to the long term are called for in our relationship to the land. You have to think more broadly if you are serious about taking responsibility for your life and land ownership supports this habit.
Stepping back a little, I look upon my relationship to my land as an incredible personal development tool. It has helped me find adulthood. I have had a canvas upon which to paint. Initially, my land was somewhere to just party in the woods in the summer, but it became somewhere to be responsible for, somewhere to interact with reality on a meaningful scale. It has enabled me to express myself somewhere, and it has enabled me to be completely in charge somewhere. It has given me the opportunity to practice ways of being and become more competent at their use. Simply being able to make decisions and carry out plans – even if only with regards to where to plant trees and hedges, and where to site sheds and shelters – is a wonderful flexing of one’s ability to choose and make happen. It is also a thorough grounding in rationality and in reason. When you deal with the reality of managing your little piece of the earth, you simply have to accept realty as an objective absolute, you quickly learn that to master nature it must be obeyed. Nothing happens on my holding unless I make it happen or unless I bring about the necessary causal chain of events, wishing doesn’t make it rain, feed the animals or make the crops grow in poor soil. Rational thinking, planning and acting appropriately is required to keep winter fires burning.
My father used to say to me “There is no such thing as can’t”. Although technically his statement is incorrect, the mindset of which it speaks is spot on. A ‘can-do attitude’ is essential to hit the ground running and give yourself the best shot at anything and everything in life. In my experience of land ownership and management, I have often been confronted with a situation where the buck stops with me. In some situations if I can’t fix it, it isn’t going to get fixed. Being the sole master of my own Estate pushed me into making a conscious decision to be the ‘man who can’. I am convinced that land ownership and management for security, health and food production would help anyone become a ‘man who can’, necessity being the mother of invention.
Subjecting yourself to self-imposed discipline is the surest way to improve the quality of your experience of life, and land ownership provides a wonderful platform for doing this. Rising early is a great way to psychologically get ahead of the game and to start the day productively. Everyone knows it doesn’t feel good to get up at mid-day. A landbased lifestyle where early rising is a necessary part of the daily schedule, to attend to the needs of livestock for example, is a great way yet of promoting disciplined beneficial habits as well as all the other benefits these productive activitie bring. The regualr committment to on-going projects of food production and the strict adherence to the seasonal time schedule is another. Many opportunities come round once a year in the growing cycle, whether it is planting hedges and vegetables, or digging ponds and stacking firewood – activities have their time in the annual cycle. The lifestyle of land based living afforded by land ownership provides many opportunities to learn and to practice a self-disciplined approach to living with all the benefits that it offers.
Financial strings to your bow
What ever your trade, you will have more strings to your financial bow with land ownership due to the potential for production. Growing things, adding value and selling produce may only seem like subsistence way of living, but within the constrains of the planning legislation in the UK it is still possible to use land for all sorts of production. I don’t mean setting up huge factories in the countryside, but I do mean being innovative and creative and thinking outside the box. There are many ways that agricultural land users can legitimately diversify their business interests whether by offering a space for events, renting workspace for other crafts people, or being creative in the art of adding value.
Land is an investment. Many people may argue for or against the merits of investing in it for financial gain, but I see land as a different kind of investment. I would not necessarily buy it solely for the return it may afford me upon resale, but on the benefits it would afford me during my life through having access to its use. I see nothing wrong with speculating on the increasing value of land in a free market, but my point here is that the right bit of land (a beautiful place to be) is in some ways priceless. It can be worth much more than the money it cost to buy!
Capacity for production
Land is the ultimate resource. Anything you want to do requires space, and owning land opens the door to so many ideas and possibilities. Over the years I have heard scores of suggestions from well-meaning friends for what to do with my land. You can produce healthy food, and you can rear animals for eggs, meat, dairy and other produce. You can grow building materials, ornamental plants, shrubs, herbs, and trees, adding value where appropriate before sale. You also have the space/place to manufacture products (woodland or agricultural, or even pottery from a clay soil). Imagination is the limit, albeit with appropriate consideration to any relevant legislation. For example, here in the UK you need a government license to extract sand or gravel. As well as producing material goods land can also be a productive resource for hosting meetings, gatherings or events.
When you own land you have considerable potential for independence. Without it, by necessity life can be very dependent upon factors outside anyone’s individual control. Freehold land ownership with productive systems designed into the landscape can offer a secure and stable platform upon which independence can grow. In today’s macro-economic climate with the future of an un-backed fiat currency system uncertain, it is a good time to be thinking about security and independence. In uncertain times being able to plan for the long term, so as to be able to ‘weather the storm’ and survive through severe economic down turns or depression, is a real advantage for the landowner. If you live in a city, perhaps in a flat with no outside space at all, you are totally dependent on others for the provision of food and water. This means being vulnerable to interruptions in (or shortages of) supply as well as the quality of supply.
When we take a considered look at the greater economic picture in the world today, the future is uncertain to say the least. Context is everything, and in different times different choices would be appropriate. However, today in the second decade of the third millennium, land ownership and the means for independence it affords offers the potential to avoid being pulled down by the collapse of a broken system.
Independence also offers the ability to live by different values from the main stream. Many of us see so many problems with the way humans are living, but few have the means to live differently. You are far better positioned to be able to make a change, to step outside the Matrix, if you own land.
With thought and consideration, the benefit of land ownership can extend across generations. Children love to be involved with creative projects on the land (to what ever appropriate degree) and it gives them a sense of permanence and a sense of time. Yes there is potential for division when land is inherited, but I know from my experience that a connection to the past and family history is a treasure that enriches my life. I may probably never have discovered the joy and advantages of land ownership had it not been a gift from my father. But what a jewel to pass on. Imagine handing on a place of practical value and beauty to your children.
On going self-education
The educational possibilities for the land owner are limitless. The lessons for children and adults alike are endless. Whether you call it land management, garden creation or edible productive landscape design, engaging in a project on your own land offers much potential for learning through creative interaction with the earth. Land ownership provides plentiful stimulation to get involved with life, to interact with the world and to engage fully with it. Children, as well as their parents, can learn about growing all kinds of plants, as well as gain knowledge of the local environment and the species it supports. The construction of necessary buildings for storage and well-fare facilities requires a broad range of skills and knowledge for those inclined to do it themselves. You don’t have to be a jack of all trades, and of course delegation has its place, but I have enjoyed a wide and varied voyage of self-educational discovery through my 18 years of land management.
The sheer pleasure of creation
Create a beautiful landscape just because you can. It’s fun, and the pleasure grows year on year as the trees you plant grow and mature. Maybe you have never dreamed of designing a landscape, but why not? You can design your own garden of Eden. There is no rule preventing agricultural land from being beautiful. There can be aesthetic consideration to the proportion of paths, layouts and functional structures, and to shrubs and hedging set against evergreen windbreak back drops. Zoning for production is as important as zoning for human requirements. A well placed sitting area for tea breaks and a pack lunch is all it takes to maximise the joy of a working day in your creation – whether it be landscaping a valley or growing a few veggies. With an ongoing land project of your own every spring you can smile at the blossom trees you plant, every summer you will delight at the new growth in shades of freshly painted green. It brings so much pleasure to lie in the summer sunshine and simply gaze upon the fruits of your own labour in the form of the growing and evolving landscape around you.
A means for self-expression
My small patch of the earth’s skin is my little canvas upon which to paint my ideals and express my values. It is where I get to have my say in action. I don’t like litter and mess, so I express that preference in my surroundings. I express my values in my organic animal rearing and food growing, and I express my values in how I deal with waste and disposal, and in matters concerning energy provision and use. What we feel strongly about because it represents a value to us, we can do something about if we are land owners. OK, it’s a small jurisdiction, but you can manage your own little piece of the earth according to your principles and values, and thus make a difference. When you realise this it makes you appreciate all the better the need to have principles and values.
Being a land owner is an opportunity to express new ideas about how to live. If we are designing a landscape that supports human existence; it makes sense to produce food without the use of toxic chemicals avoiding pollution of the land with anything detrimental to human life; it makes sense not to routinely use antibiotics, it makes sense to graze animals rather than feed them grains. It makes sense to build fertility into the soil with appropriate management and to rotate the land use thoughtfully. It all results in minimising toxicity in the environment, maximising productive capacity, enhancing beauty, and benefiting all other supporting life forms. It is precisely because the issue of land use is so important that the new thinking men must be land users who can demonstrate what works. Yes, consumers can express their values with the exercising of their purchasing choice, but land owners have a greater capacity by being creators and producers.
Land is the foundation stone of freedom
Most of us know and demonstrate implicitly that we do not wish to be told what to do. We rightly consider that we own our own lives and that we should not be imposed upon by the will of others with the use of force. This means we value our freedom. We implicitly know that human beings do not function well under coercion or in captivity, it is in our nature that we require freedom. Land ownership is the foundation stone of freedom. With no rent to pay to anyone, no one else to answer to or to obey, one is potentially free to be the architect of ones experience to a far greater extent than otherwise. I am not saying that land ownership is a magic bullet that buys you total freedom, but I am saying that it gets you on the map and gives you the platform from which to begin.
Consider the displaced North American Indians and the almost total destruction of a culture by loss of land; consider the Jews and their quest for a nation; consider the plight of gipsies in modern Europe and their struggle for the survival of their culture. If you have no land, you have no place, no base, no security, no means of food production, you have no connection to the Earth. A landless people cannot be a free people. If you are landless you are dependent, if you are dependent you are beholden to others. There is, of course, a sliding scale of dependency, and the securest place to be is on the independent end of that scale.
The importance of ownership.
There have been many attempts at community living over the past several decades, almost never lasting in the long run. This is due to the misguided idea that communal ownership and communal right of use is the way to go. It is not. The idea rests upon the false assumption that collective ownership is better, but this does not stand up to scrutiny. As soon as everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and the concept of ownership has been destroyed. Further more, if you cannot own property then you cannot own your life. The fundamental philosophical issue is this; does man have the right to exist for his own sake, or does he live for the benefit of the community? This is the difference between Altruism and individualism, or between socialism and freedom. In truth, a community must be a number of individuals coming together by choice and exercising freedom of personal choice in the way they interact. The unit of humankind is the individual – in ownership of his own life.
Let’s explore what it means to own one’s own life. Well, hand in hand with this idea goes the commonly agreed notion that we own our own bodies. You can’t own your own life but not your body. For example, you own both of your kidneys and I have no claim on either of them, even if I need one really badly! From ownership of our bodies, we can then see that we must logically own the consequences of our actions. I must take ownership for what my body does and you must do the same – this is the basis of personal responsibility, and no one would seriously argue against it. So owning your life means owning your body and the consequences of your actions.
Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. In the wild you would have to think and find food, shelter, water and clothes yourself; in the urban environment you have to get a job to earn the value you must then exchange for food, shelter, water and clothes. The principle is the same – you must act to live. So to own your own life you must own your actions that support your life. If you own your own life, you must have the right to keep the effects of your actions, or the results of your work and production. If not, the idea of owning one’s life is rendered meaningless. Therefore the respect for property rights is essential. When men respect property rights, and when a society respects the property rights of the individual, men get to own the results of their thinking, choices and actions. This is the concept of private ownership, and it is what freedom, trade and wealth creation rest upon. On the other hand, if one considers that the state should own all property and distribute it ‘fairly’, there is no incentive to produce, as anything produced is not owned by the producer. Consequently and more significantly there is no right to one’s own life, and everyone becomes a slave to everyone else (the collective) or to whichever tyrant happens to have seized power. There can be no rights without property rights.
In order to enable full engagement with your land, you must own it. It must be yours. It is essential that you have exclusive right of use indefinitely into the future. This means you have a stake in the future and you have ultimate security of tenure-ship. It cannot be otherwise if you wish to be fully committed or fully invested in your land development and in your future. It is because of the nature of man and his requirement for ownership that successful community will come about only when individual landowners come together voluntarily and act in their individual rational self-interest.
A respect for property rights is fundamental to successful interactions between men, and so is holding property in the form of land fundamental to the full development of character of any individual man. It is the difference in being a surf or a trader, a slave or a producer. If you are going to enjoy the concept of ownership it may as well be land. Rent what you like, but own your land. Secure the right to the exclusive use of your piece of land.
A real possibility
Land ownership offers so much for the thinking man or woman, for those seeking freedom, for those seeking peace and abundance, personal growth, self-reliance, security and healthy living. Why not buy a woodland, a farmer’s field or any corner of land and set about creating a landscape. bring into being a place of functional beauty, of sustenance and security, a place of production and rejuvenation. I am talking direct action, expressing ourselves through doing rather than complaining or legislating.
It is understandable to allow the issue planning legislation and the perceived difficulty of getting planning permission to dampen enthusiasm, but see beyond it and don’t let it effectively scupper positive action. Planning permission is important but it must not be given the veto card over human development. It is entirely possible to persuade others of the merits of living on the land and to acquire planning permission as shown by the example of Lamas in Wales. I intend to follow their example in due course and acquire planning permission. But even while I am denied the right to live on my land at present, I experience the immense value it still brings to my life. Even while there are other factors that must fall into place before a truly free society emerges, there is much we can do to place ourselves advantageously.
Please comment below and join the conversation.
Cora LeAnn says
Thank you for this amazing article. I am a widowed mother of 6, and your thoughts made me realize that land is what I am looking for to give myself and my kids that sense of belonging and place in the world. Land ownership has now become my most important goal. Thank you!
Hello there. I find your article very enlightening. I’m in the process of finding a place to call my own and you have convinced me that I find a way to own a property. Thank you very much for this article.
Nigel Howitt says
I am very pleased that you have been suitably inspired. I wish you all the very best in creating your landowning future. Thank you for your comment
Hi Nigel, that’s a very well considered post. I own a few acres of land in Cornwall and it has given me all the benefits you talk about. I’ve put a lot of effort in and it has been rewarding me massively. Most of my 4 acres is dedicated to a new woodland that I planted twelve years ago. Seeing it grow has been probably the most fulfilling thing in my life. I am otherwise pretty rootless in the world. This year however lots of things are attacking my trees. All the Ash has Ash dieback, my sweet chestnut is being attacked by phytophthera, some of the shrubs have fireblight and just this year something like 30% of the oak, which are my real joy, have been decimated by squirrels. It’s turned from a joy to a morbid depression, to the extent I’m thinking of selling up. It’s the squirrels that have really finished me off. I just can’t imagine keeping up an eradication regime for the next 30 years while the trees are at risk, and from what I read it is highly questionable whether it would be effective anyway. I can otherwise only see my trees gradually being decimated. The conversion of a marshy bit of grassland into my own creation of real beauty has been fundamental to my life in so many ways it’s breaking my heart seeing this happen, and given the time it takes to make these changes I don’t think I could have the energy to stock with disease and squirrel proof varieties, which might be attacked by something else anyway. When I planted my Ash there was not even the suggestion that it might have a problem, and now look at it. I don’t know what I’m looking for in telling you this, I have a rule to only spread positivity, and I can’t find it here. I suppose I think it’s worth telling people thinking of land ownership that there are real difficulties with it as well as the joy, these shouldn’t be underestimated. I am at the stage of thinking until we get our squirrel population sorted out there is really no point in planting a broadleaf woodland, and I know I’m not alone. Without trees most of the things you talk about are redundant. I think maybe I will put my energy into campaigning for the reintroduction of the pine marten, which seems to be the only viable way to control squirrels. Am I just being too pessimistic? Have you had problems with squirrels and what have you done about it? Sorry for the negativity, I’m at my wits end.
Paul McGuinness says
I wonder if the future governments will allow us to own the land and if they will remove any land ownership from our good people
Your article has affirmed for me what my husband and I have been aiming for in our ten years together. We feel trapped in the rental system and it seems something very massive would have to happen for us to be able to obtain our own land. But for the want of passing on a family patch of land that we and our children grow on is what matters, and I do hope it comes in the near future. Thankyou for your shared experiences and wisdoms.
Nigel Howitt says
The thing that blocks most people in the UK is the planning system that ‘prevents’ them from legitimately living there. It requires thinking outside the box, lots of trees and cover, and a little daring-do. I wish you success in your quest to live the life you want to live. Nigel