BY: MATTHEW CHIN
On the southern part of the United Kingdom, tucked away in the thick of a 40-acre woodland in Somerset, England, lies a tiny community that thrives in the wilderness.
The community began in 1994 when Michael Zaer wanted to escape this consumerist lifestyle and leave as little negative impact on the environment as possible. He named his new 40-acre orchard home “Tinker’s Bubble”, said to be named after the spring that flows through the woodland to the base of a waterfall. The gypsies who were passing through would bring their horses to the base of the waterfall before continuing their nomadic wandering. Tinker’s Bubble is now home to about 15 people, some with children, who share the same beliefs of anti-consumerism and reducing one’s carbon footprint.
This tight-knit community works together to build their homes from refurbished windows and the trees around them. The homes are designed to fit only the necessities, with most containing just a single room for sleeping, working, and eating, as well as a fire pit for cold nights. They cook their meals in a shared wood-burning stove.
The inhabitants’ diet consists of plants grown in the forest and gardens, especially apples, cucumbers, squash, carrots, and lettuce, as well as a couple chickens and pigs for protein. All the uneaten food is used to feed the animals, and any unused produce after that is sold to local farmer’s markets in the form of ciders or jams.
There are guest houses for visitors and a communal bathhouse with hot water heated by fire. Some homes have solar panels and wind turbines which provide electricity for lighting and powering of minimal electronics, such as the two computers used to teach children on the land.
Homes are built by manually cutting trees with a two-person saw; trunks are hauled by their horses to the steam-powered mill which cuts the wood. The houses are improved over time, as their durability is a huge concern for the community.
During rainy seasons, hurricanes can form, which have previously ripped apart homes, leaving the remaining parts damp and susceptible to rotting. To solve this, the community uses plastic tarps to shelter homes from the rain, held down by strings and nails.
Now existing for 21 years, the off-grid community is one of the longest standing low-impact communities in the U.K., and though difficult at times, the people of Tinker’s Bubble are happy living off their land.