Right now, the Low Technology Institute exists largely online and in my tenth-of-an-acre lot in urban Saint Louis, but this is about to change. Over the next few months, we’ll be packing up tools, chickens, bees, and projects and moving them to our new home city, Madison, Wisconsin.
My partner, Lauren, and I have been expecting to move for the last few years. Two years ago we took a roadtrip across Wisconsin, scouting for cities that would fit with our lives and be able to support the institute. We chose Wisconsin for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional. Wisconsin has a healthy mix of urban and rural communities. The University of Wisconsin–Madision has a strong horticultural program and the community is “tuned in” to subsistence sustainability. As we ramp up our workshops, we’ll be able to draw from the Chicago market, as Madison is only two hours away. Although Wisconsin’s economy is not red hot right now (according to various studies: here, here, and here, but see also here), this may bode well for the institute’s do-it-yourself, small-scale, self-sufficiency approach. It also allows our dollar to stretch a little farther when acquiring the institute’s physical grounds.
On the individual professional front, Lauren was able to transfer her professional skills to Wisconsin and find a job she will enjoy. On the personal side, it is located between our families, who live in Minnesota and Illinois. I enjoy the cooler temperatures, although this was decidedly not a plus for Lauren. Our dog, chickens, and bees have not voiced any objections to this relocation.
What Are We Looking For?
The following is a description of what would be an ideal location for the institute. We are scouring the for-sale listings around Madison, but would be grateful for any tips.
We would like to be within 15 miles of downtown Madison but could stretch that to 20 miles for the ideal property. To support the various research projects that we’ll be carrying out as well as providing space for chickens, bees, and sheep in addition to an extensive garden, the property must be at least a few acres and zoned agricultural. We’re open to existing structures, especially ones that can be retrofitted with off-grid energy, hot water, and other utilities. To effectively host meetings and workshops, a large, open workshop-type building is a must and might be adapted from an existing structure or built de novo. We’d love to find a place with established perennial plants, especially fruit trees. As we would like to derive a variety of resources from the land itself, a mixed landscape of open and wooded areas would be ideal, but we’re open to clearing and/or planting to mold the long-term look of the landscape.
This is a pie-in-the-sky description. We’re in this for the long haul; we’ll be planting and trimming now in hopes of seeing returns in future years and decades.
In the Near Future
Please stay tuned for upcoming announcements about the institute’s move and new location. Once established, the institute will be hosting workshops (where an expert in a low technology will share his/her skills with students in afternoon, 1-day, and weekend formats for a reasonable fee) and community experiments (which is where we’ll try to replicate unusual low technology through trial and error; these will be free and open to the public). Before long, I’ll be starting to build up a mailing list to alert subscribers to learning opportunities coming up soon.