Off the Grid: week 30
While visiting our family in Michigan over the Christmas holidays we realized what an incredible opportunity for learning Turtle Island would be for our 11 year old nephew. The beauty of home schooling is that teaching can be done anywhere and so with his mother’s consent, our nephew has been living and learning with us by being fully immersed in the work, culture and countless teachable moments of a 1000 acre classroom.
Off the Grid: week 23
While doing evening chores Rachael discovered a newborn goat in a corner of the shed almost frozen in the frigid 6 degree weather. Wiping it down and wrapping it in a blue blanket, the baby goat was quickly taken to our cabin and warmed by the wood fire. With much effort the mother goat was coaxed to our cabin and tethered outside for nighttime feedings. Cameron constructed a pen from pallets for mom and baby. We are thankful that “Juniper” is healthy and feeding well! He is even walking and exploring on his second day of life!
Off the Grid: week 21
Now that winter is here the animals need extra food. Its Pizza Pizza for the pigs and hay for the goats and horses. The Subaru has become a critical part of this process used to shuttle hay down the steep road into main camp and deliver food to the animals.
Off the Grid: week 19
First snow of the season brought 6 inches. Beauty surrounds us. Steel studded snow tires mounted on the car will help us get in and out of Turtle Island Preserve in the snow and ice.
Off the Grid: week 18
Chilly mornings prompted Rachael to consider how to shorten her walk to do chores. By placing a wood board over the creek bed to feed Miss Piggy she was able to avoid circumnavigating the creek. Eustace noticed the wobbly make-shift "bridge" lying across the water as well as the embankment Rachael was climbing to get to Miss Piggy. He suggested that Cameron and a volunteer crew make an actual bridge to the pig. Eustace downed a dead black locust and Cameron and volunteers laid the logs and placed metal grates over the top. Rachael cooked a "thank you" lunch over the fires for the work crew!
Off the Grid: week 17
We traded our snake boots for snow boots as winter has arrived in Boone, NC. Our efforts to collect, chainsaw, chop and stack firewood has brought us comfort as the first snow begins to fall. The potbelly stove lets off a steady heat throughout the night and the cast iron steamer humidifies our cozy cabin.
Off the Grid: week 15
Turtle Island Preserve is 1000 acres of forest and so all of the buildings there are made from wood harvested from the property. Critical to that harvesting is the sawmill where the tree trunks are cut into lumber and stored to dry in the lumber shed. Cameron recently had a chance to work with Eustace learning how to run the saw mill. The mill consists of a 48" circular saw blade attached with belts and pulleys to an old diesel tractor motor. An adjustable carriage holds the log and runs on a track - taking the log back and forth through the blade to make each cut.
Off the Grid: week 11
With winter wood chopped and stacked Rachael has found time for landscape painting again. Colors surround us here at Winter Cabin inspiring a new body of work for the fall. Canopies of ocher and crimson arc across the trail to a beautiful cabin that has become Rachael's studio for the season.
Off the Grid: week 8
Leaking holes in the tin roof and a missing elbow in the stove pipe needed to be fixed this week. Cameron lowered the heavy stove pipe with a block and tackle attached to the rafters. He placed a chimney cap on top and then raised the stove pipe and connected the elbow. With cooler weather coming we look forward to firing up the pot belly stove soon.
Off the Grid: week 6
Well-seasoned cast iron fry pans hang in a row above the outdoor kitchen counter. Breakfasts and dinners are cooked with our one burner Coleman camp stove, the propane lasting for at least a week of meals. Fruits, veggies and opened jars of food are stored in a latched metal cabinet and potatoes in a bread box. Outdoor wood shelves are lined with glass Mason jars of grains, wild rice, crunchy granola and nuts, all staying fresh with an oxygen pack. The jars can be opened and closed resealing themselves within four hours. This summer before moving to Turtle Island Rae dehydrated 12 onions, 32 ears of corn and 10 zucchini for warm winter soups which are also stored in canning jars with oxygen packs. The fall season camp fire has served well for a few dishes including delicious hot peach cobbler.
Off the Grid: week 5
Naughty goats and pudgy pigs are now part of the rhythm of morning and evening. Rachael is doing the chores four days a week helping to feed six goats and three pigs. One of the young goats we enjoyed caring for up at our cabin while it started the weaning process. Rae named her, "Sis" and sung to her opera arias while stroking her ears and long straight nose to calm her fears.
Off the Grid: week 4
Cameron engineered a rainwater collection system by strengthening the wood eaves and adding a hand built metal gutter. The gutter leads to a 40 gallon holding tank that is nestled in-between the two roofs. A hose has been attached to an on/off spigot that pours into the outdoor kitchen wash basin.
Off the Grid: week 3
Winter preparation has begun. Collecting and chainsawing dead and fallen trees throughout the woods - local firewood right around our cabin. Dead Black Locust, a rot resistant tree, was used to create firewood racks and sturdy up the structure of the cabin. Rae has been gathering late summer greens from the garden and experimenting with cooking over coals.
Off the Grid: week 1
Wearing our snake boots, we cleared a path to Winter Cabin where we cleaned out cobwebs, dusted floorboards, and removed a mildewed mattress and swivel office chair. We furnished the upstairs bedroom with Shaker replica milk painted beds made by Cameron and we also built an outdoor kitchen. The overgrown .25 mile trail was raked and widened and the drainage ditch around the perimeter of the cabin rerouted.
THE FUTURE PEOPLE move off the grid
THE FUTURE PEOPLE have begun a new living experiment at the Winter Cabin at Turtle Island Preserve. The 200 square foot cabin is off the grid, with no running water and no electricity. The wooden structure is propped up on large stones, where underneath Simma, the shepherd dog that came with the territory, resides at night. The cabin was created years ago by volunteers of Turtle Island, and we are now participating in the community of this beautiful and remote preserve. We begin our nine-month stay at Turtle Island Preserve which is a 1000 acre wilderness preserve in the mountains outside of Boone, NC . The purpose of the project is to experience life in a closer connection with the natural world and to work to discover the overlooked luxuries of life without the distractions of modern conveniences. Our hope is to share these experiences with others that are seeking to find a more authentic and meaningful relationship with the natural systems that support life.
THE FUTURE PEOPLE lead bicycle tour for Chicago teens
In June of 2017 the Future People along with US History teacher Christian Altena led six Chicago high school students on a 333 mile bicycle journey from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. Their history lessons were brought to life by traveling the Great Allegheny Passage and the C & O Canal tow path. This route, filled with sites related to the history of steel, transportation, immigration, the American Revolution, and the Civil War--has educational opportunities around every bend of the trail. On this 10 day trip the riders began at the site of the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike, rolled along the route of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, through the Antietam battlefield and ended their journey at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
THE FUTURE PEOPLE volunteering with Turtle Island Preserve, Boone, NC
The enthusiastic vision of Eustace Conway in Elizabeth Gilbert's biography, Last American Man, inspired The Future People to become involved as volunteers at Turtle Island Preserve. During our first experience at the 1000 acre off-the-grid nature preserve Cameron assisted with fixing the micro hydro-electric generator and Rachael stacked firewood for the upcoming winter season. Volunteering during weekend workshops such as Blacksmithing and Deer Hide Tanning, Rachael and Cameron have enjoyed working in community with other volunteers as outdoor cooks using wood burning ovens, a cob oven, and two hearth fires. Evenings are spent gathered around the stone fireplace sharing stories and lessons learned from the day before retreating to the hand built rustic cabins.
THE FUTURE PEOPLE exhibit at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, NYC
THE FUTURE PEOPLE exhibited The Orbit, at the Cooper Hewitt 2016 exhibition, By the People; REDESIGNING AMERICA. An exhibition of 60 collaborative designs from throughout the United States and across borders, By the People challenges the country’s persistent social and economic inequality. Curator of Socially Responsible Design Cynthia E. Smith conducted over two years of field research—traveling to shrinking post-industrial cities, sprawling metro regions, struggling rural towns, areas impacted by natural and man-made disasters, and places of persistent poverty—in search of design for more inclusive and sustainable communities. Presented in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery and Process Lab, the exhibition delivers a powerful message of optimism for achieving a more just and equitable society for all Americans through design.
THE FUTURE PEOPLE at the North American International Auto Show
In our first major deployment THE FUTURE PEOPLE exhibited both the Cyclone and the Zeppelin at the 2015 International Auto Show in Detroit, MI. The deployment of the Future Cycles Project at the auto show was an opportunity to directly engage car culture in a conversation about energy efficiency, health, and the future of mobility. The Detroit auto show is 14 days long and over 800,000 people attend.
Wide Bike Feasibility Test in Ann Arbor, MI
The Wide Bike Feasibility test was conducted over a three-day period in October 2013 with three goals in mind. The first was to understand how people in cars react to large and slow bicycles on the roads; the second was to understand what elements in the built environment help or hinder the use of such a vehicle; and the third was to create a map that shows which roads in Ann Arbor work best for “wide bike” travel. Using an old “granny trike” Cameron constructed a tiny mobile home out of recycled materials and rode the wide bike through the city and made observations concerning these questions. Cameron's Wide Bike Feasibility Document can be downloaded below:
Human Powered Vehicles and their Definitions
This paper explores potential legal definitions for the Cyclone.
Bikes in The Netherlands
THE FUTURE PEOPLE went to the Netherlands in the summer of 2013 to research the bicycle culture of the Dutch and see if there are any lessons to be learned that could be applied to our future designs and any lessons that could be brought back to the US. We landed in Amsterdam, bought used bikes, and set out on a 3-week trip covering almost 500 miles.
In Amsterdam everyone rides a bike. The bike is faster, cheaper, and more convenient than any other mode of transport there. The reason - narrow streets and traffic congestion, the erratic design of the streets because of canals, slow public transportation, difficulty finding parking for cars, the high cost of car ownership and gas, the fact that everything is so close together, and the fact that it is fairly flat.
But perhaps one of the biggest reasons people bike in the Netherlands is that the government protects bike riders both physically and legally. Bikes have their own separate traffic lanes, traffic lights, and often have the right of way at intersections. Most of the time the bicycle lane is painted red - signaling to a car that he is crossing a bike lane. There are also many “Fietsstraat” or “Bike Streets” where bikes have primary right of way and cars are allowed only as guests. The bicycle is also protected legally by having the strictest penalties for injuring a bicyclist with a car.
This emphasis on bikes as the primary mode of transportation has made it logical to create many different kinds of bikes to suit many functions and multiple riders. On a Saturday morning you might see a whole family and groceries on two wheels. The classic “Bakfiet” or “Box Bike” has 2 or 3 wheels and a large wooden box on it for cargo and can be modified to do many things – including acting as a small bus to bring kids to school. The Dutch have even modified the “car” to shrink it down to bike size for use by the elderly on the bike paths. THE FUTURE PEOPLE test drove many of these bikes and met with several small manufactures discussing the possibility for new combinations of the bike/car.
Instantly Deployable Insulated Shelter
THE FUTURE PEOPLE began hanging out with homeless people downtown in order to learn more about what it is like to be homeless and what some of the possible solutions might be. It began to get down into the 20’s at night and we became concerned for the warmth of those sleeping outside. As an experiment Cameron designed and built a small, insulated, collapsible shelter out of ridged foam board on a Saturday afternoon and then went downtown to see if any of the homeless people we had met would be interested in giving it a try. No one was interested in trying the shelter – they each had a system to keep themselves warm enough. We were disappointed at first until one of them suggested that Cameron join them under a nearby bridge to test it out. Sunday afternoon Cameron set up the IDIS shelter under the bridge next to the train tracks. He stayed for three nights – it got down to 18 degrees on his last night. On those three nights he had a chance to visit with Rick, Jack, and Mark - his new friends under the bridge and learned a lot about how they ended up there. The reasons are not what you may think; these guys are smart, hardworking people who had careers, homes, and families. Their welcoming and honesty encouraged him and we think they were encouraged by our interest in them and our concern for better times ahead. What we learned mostly is that these guys are not “homeless” they are “houseless”. They have created a home of sorts – pieced together between the bridge, the tents, the places they get meals, and the places they spend their day. What they lack is the physical permission and financing to be somewhere they can legally call their own.