Category Archives: Land

Off The Grid Living in The UK

Small holding UK

Land.

Land is expensive in the UK. Agricultural land is pricey and if it has a house or some sort of permission to live it can be extremely expensive. It’s not at all uncommon to see £1,000,000 plus prices for quite small houses if they have a good area of land attached. This is a function of the large population and small land area available. You can find smallholdings in Wales or some other areas for under £500,000, sometimes even under £250,000 but that’s still ten times what you’ll pay in Spain or Portugal.

Living on the land

Planning permission is very hard to get in many country areas and is bitterly opposed by some locals. You can stay on the land for limited periods in a caravan or tent but for permanent habitation proper permission is required. Effectively you have to have some capital or be connected, lucky or very determined.

Climate

Climate is generally benign compared to continental area. Being surrounded by water Britain suffers far less in the way of temperature extremes than other larger land masses. Rainfall is between 600mm and 800mm for most of the country. Parts of Scotland and north west England go up to 1200mm with the absolute extreme being the far north west of Scotland getting over 2000mm (take a wetsuit and aqualung).

Regulations and taxes

If you are an EU citizen you could go and live there with no problematic visas however this may change as and when Brexit takes place. Apart from the planning permission problems council tax can be expensive. It will almost certainly be £1500 plus per year. However this is offset by very much better than average taxation for the self employed. National Insurance is half or less of most EU states and self assessment means paying income tax can generally be avoided with a decent accountant or some reading up on the regulations and tailoring your business to that.

Property rights are very good and the legal system is probably the most reliable you’ll find. Not always fast or cheap but thorough and with a good solicitor you are unlikely to have ownership issues unlike many countries with more “flexible” legal systems.

Overall the UK is a good place to go off the grid if you have access to land with permission to live on it. Plenty of rainfall, good property rights and tolerable taxation. Biggest downside is that initial purchase of land is going to be expensive or difficult.

If you manage to get going in the UK drop me a line, send some pictures and tell me how you did it.

Peter

pete@offthegridliving.co.uk

Off The Grid Living in Spain

Off The Grid Living in Spain

Spanish Farm

Spanish Farm

This is an article in a series that may help anyone thinking of relocating to various countries to live off the grid.
This is all information I gathered when looking into doing exactly that. I wanted to buy some cheap land, live off grid, sell a few vegetables or fruit and generally do my own thing and mind my own business.
I’m going to start with Spain as that was the one I identified as having well priced land and tolerable planning laws.

Land
You can buy land very cheaply. In one area, near Tarragona in Catalonia, I’ve seen 4 hectares of land with a ruin selling for 6500 euros. Others I’ve seen go for anything from 15000E to 100000E and include 50 hectare properties with liveable farmhouses. Prices are similar across Spain but obviously in tourist areas you’re going to pay more. Land is surprisingly cheap compared to holiday villas in Spain. In some countries you will pay a large premium to have a house with land in the country but not Spain, almost the opposite.

Living on the land
There are ways and means of arranging to live on the land either in caravans, yurts rebuilt ruins, converted barns. If there is already a house there it makes your life easier as permits can be obtained to “repair the roof”. Locals use this as an undercover way to virtually rebuild the whole place but be careful, check out the local way of doing things as regulations and levels of tolerance do differ greatly. Ask some people who are living off grid there already if you can. It is possible to just roll up in a caravan and live there but a surprise visit from the authorities after a tip off might make your life hard.

Climate

Spain precipitation map

Spain precipitation map

There is a very big variation in temperature and rainfall in Spain. Along the northern coast there is very high precipitation throughout the year. Up to 1200mm, which is a lot. I thought England got a lot at 700mm but 1200mm- wow. The Pyrenean mountains also get high rainfall and lower temperatures. Down the eastern coast there is tolerable amounts- 300 to 500mm lessening the further south you go. Contrary to the old saying “The rain is Spain falls mainly on the plain” it actually doesn’t. The central plain is high, quite cold in winter and mainly pretty dry. Good ways to estimate the sort of rainfall you’ll get in a particular area is look at rainfall maps that are easily available online. You’ll be able to see where to avoid and where to start looking. Then have a look at satellite pictures on Google Maps. The greener the area the higher the rainfall. Personally I’d want 450mm+ as anything less will make your life a lot harder.

Regulations and taxes
If you are an EU citizen you could go and live there with no problematic visas however you have to register with the local town hall if you live there more than 3 months. Then you are either a temporary resident or permanent resident. Obviously if you’re running a farm or other business you’ll probably be a permanent resident. To register as permanent you have to show you have the means to live in Spain without becoming a burden on their social security system. Fair enough. If you have a pension no problem, foreign income no problem as long as you’re not working in Spain. If you are employed no problem, your employer will sort taxes. However, if you want to be self employed in Spain you have to register as an Autonomo (autonomous individual- which I thought we all are anyway).
An autonomo has to pay social security monthly. That payment is a lot more than we pay here in the UK. It is 265 euros a month. 3180 euros a year. Add to that the cost of an accountant 100e pm upwards, income tax, VAT (which is payable on the first euro you make unlike the UK where I have never in 25 years of self employment been VAT registered).
Now if you’re going to start a big business or earn lots of cash from consultancy or other high powered work that’s not so much of an issue. If, however you’re going to flog a few olives now and again just to pay your very low costs on a permaculture farm or supplement your pension doing a bit of eBay selling then you’re going to be paying out a lot more than you’re getting in. You will be needing 500 euros a month to pay your dues before anything else. Yes you can claim lots of expenses and maybe get a refund sometime in the future but I wouldn’t like to have to wait on the completely bankrupt Spanish government to pay me back when they get round to it.
This is a massive issue in Spain and has led to very many would be entrepreneurs being discouraged or leaving Spain. It is also why many Spaniards evade taxes and work in the black economy. I don’t blame them, who wouldn’t? It is certainly a big factor in Spain’s abysmal economic performance but this fact is totally ignored by the state of course.
There are workers cooperatives that take some of the tax burden off you but you still have to pay them and they don’t really work for cash businesses like farmers markets.
One good thing about taxes in Spain is that local council tax is very low, around a tenth of what you pay on a very ordinary house in England.
So beware. Do your homework and see how these factors affect your situation. Things may change and I recommend that you check these facts as bureaucrats have a habit of changing tax rules very often just to catch you out and justify their miserable parasitic existence.

If you decide to move there and make a beautiful off grid food forest farm send me some pictures and remember I’m always available to come and have a holiday on your piece of paradise.

Peter

pete@offthegridliving.co.uk

The Food Forest Technique You Must Know!

The Food Forest

This is an amazing concept that I came across online, the best way of growing food I’ve found. It is, essentially using on contour ditches (swales) and ponds to hold rainwater on the land rather than allowing it to drain away immediately. This replenishes the water table on your own land and others below you. A good water table on your land is like money in the bank- really nice to have.

Once you have plenty of ground water you can plant all kinds of ground cover, fruit trees, vegetables and just about anything else that will eventually give you an abundance of food without the constant weeding and watering that conventional gardening requires.

I recently helped a friend, Mike dig a system of swales on his land using a towable digger like in the picture. This sort of digger is absolutely ideal for small holdings or self build projects. In the UK you can buy them secondhand for between £1000 -2000 (about $1200 to £2500). Compared to hiring expensive JCB machinery repeatedly it is an absolute bargain and it will run all day on less than a couple of gallons of fuel. Of course you could dig all this by hand but they ditches we dug in 2 days would have taken weeks of work by hand and my back certainly would not survive that.

Towable digger

Towable digger

His land consisted of 2 acres of south east facing gently sloping grass which made the design really easy. As it is in England south east facing means it has the most sun possible and is away from the prevailing winter wind. We dug the swales three feet deep and four feet across running along contour lines that my friend had previously laid out using an A frame and spirit level (total cost $15 or £12).

The spoil from the digging was laid on the down slope side of the ditch and then planted with several species of pioneer pants to prepare the soil for later plantings of apple and pear trees plus raspberry, gooseberry and other types of low maintenance fruit and legumes. The exact mix of plants will depend mostly on experience on the site. No matter what you think you can grow and what experts tell you will grow nature is the boss so reinforce success. If something doesn’t want to grow in a certain place it won’t, try something else. The idea is to make a self sustaining food forest that will provide food at minimum cost in effort which is very welcome if you’re getting as old (and grumpy) as Mike.

Since digging the swales the plentiful English summer rain has confirmed they work holding thousands of gallons of water onsite. Two new natural springs have started running and the early planting has progressed well. We have high hopes for the land and reckon that the next 3 or 4 years should dramatically change the look and productively giving a good surplus of food to either sell or distribute to Miles family.

To be honest I was very surprised at the ease of the project. For some careful thought, a few days work initially then regular inputs of planting and modifications you can drastically increase productivity on a relatively small underused field making a real food forest.

Pete