My name is Robin Gosse. At present, I’m 31, married, living in Roddickton-Bide Arm, on the Great Northern Peninsula on the beautiful island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Over the past 15 years I’ve made it my mission to build Tir Tairngire (Tear Torn-Gear-Ahh) Ecovillage in St. Fintan’s, on Newfoundland and Labrador’s western coast, near the town of Stephenville. Within that community, my family owns 35 acres (approximately 14 hectares) of wooded land that I intend to turn into something more than a woods lot. To that end, I have made it my business to study, read, research and dissect every means within my grasp of living cleanly in an off-grid community built from the ground-up, out of whole cloth; Tir Tairngire.
Since my graduation from high school in 2003, I’ve spent 11 years in various post-secondary institutions, always working towards the goal of solving the riddle of how to make my dreams real. That path took me through two years of computer science, three years of civil engineering, a degree in psychology with a minor in social/cultural studies, two years towards a degree in environmental studies, a contribution towards a PhD thesis is Agricultural Science and two years in the Canadian Armed Forces Infantry Reserve where I served with distinction as an infantry soldier and where I trained to be an officer. I had also endured dozens of other sundry part-time jobs, including three years as a taxi driver, during these scholastic explorations in order to keep bread on the table, as it were. I had spent almost twenty years in and around Corner Brook, just 120km away from my dreams in St. Fintan’s, a community which neighbors St. David’s, the town in which I was raised. Always, and forever, with my eyes on the proverbial prize, preparing myself to create the world I want to live in; Tir Tairngire.
Following my marriage in August 2013, myself and my bride moved to the Great Northern Peninsula where she would continue her career in public education, and I would do my best to make a living with the smattering of skills I had collected for a very different purpose. I would earn a diploma in at-sea fisheries observation and work on inshore fishing vessels, and work as the Operations Manager of a regional developers cooperative before the economy of my precious Newfoundland and Labrador… weakened. I now have a basement workshop where I have developed a reputation as an accomplished wood turner and manufacturer of collector-quality pens of wood, antler and acrylic; I also make jewelry as a hobby and secondary craft, and finally fix computers after hours for both personal and commercial enterprise in the region. We all do what we can to roll with the punches and make a living, but we all need that light at the end of the tunnel, that north star, that compass needle to keep us moving towards an inevitable truth; and my truth remained Tir Tairngire.
So I am currently forming a corporate entity: Robin Gosse Enterprises. That entity has several identities from which it may be known; including Widdershins Woodworking, LoreCrafters Jewelry and others. My chief mission is to serve as a product developing think tank in which I create a product and build the market, then find the staff to run that particularity line, brand or service. Next on my proverbial chopping block looks like it could be soaps and cosmetics, but that’s not a tomorrow decision. All the while, all these products, all this new work since moving further away from my geographical goals, all my painstaking work and research is designed for one thing; to generate solid businesses with reliable shares of a stable online market for a variety of goods, and those which I can migrate to their final home in the Ecovillage. Every mission of my life has been variations on a theme… tangents and deflections from my eventual goal of creating Tir Tairngire.
My vision for the community is simple in concept but complex in the details. I was inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s vision of The Shire. Those opening scenes in Lord of the Rings burned themselves so deeply into my mind that they never left. I wanted to create a community like that, in my frozen island paradise. I wanted to create a balance with nature, where we can be freed from the wage slavery and freed from the prison of contracts, salaries and having to beg for scraps from the big banks. I wanted to create a safe pocket of peace that myself and others could share. After over a decade of work studying the challenges that other eco-communities had faced, I came to a painfully obvious solution; use the evil system to our own advantage. Facilitate the same rules and leverage the same advantages that helped huge transnational corporations enslave us for a century and use those fountains to build a refuge for those willing to change the rules and join me in Tir Tairngire.
From the outside, as a legal entity, the community would be a legally incorporated business that happens to own land. On this land buildings and facilities will be built as a proving ground for environmentally sustainable research, including tiny-homes, log cabins, hobbit holes, earth sheltered dwellings, earth ships and the like. All for the purpose of providing open-access to the research data generated. Within the confines of this corporate-owned testing ground will be a basic set of factory facilities; cottage industries studying “third-world-appropriate technology” such as blacksmith forges using induction heaters, pottery kilns using rocket mass heaters, and closed-circuit greenhouses suitable for desert through arctic conditions; all for the purposes of a research program who’s results will be published for free on our website. All data, all sensor findings, everything. Free. Forever. The products from these workshops, including apothecary herbalism for alternative healing, textiles mills and tailors, bakers and communal kitchens, are all exploring manufacturing and social research developed by the corporation for use in assisting third-world nations in building their own economies in an off-grid manner, requiring minimal intervention from first-world nations. Those who work there will all be voluntary interns, who are willing participants in the research. They will grow the food we eat, build the tables we sit at, forge the plows that prepare the fields, and tend the livestock that will share the land. There will be no currency in the community, and all resources are shared and distributed in a manner befitting Ubuntu Contributionism, as witnessed in tribal Africa for centuries, for example. Ubuntu means “I am, because we are.” and so too will it be in Tir Tairngire.
On the inside, it will be a true participatory democracy. Each member will be responsible for a primary task, blacksmithy for example, a task to which they are most ideally suited or skilled. A secondary skill to assist in others and allow for cross-training, woodworking for example, which rotates regularly to ensure each trade gets equal assistance, and all workers are available to assist if required, and tertiary responsibilities include chores like dishes or odd-jobs as required by the community but not a trade or industry in and of themselves. Seniority will play an important role, but committees and councils will exist at all levels for consensus-based decision making. All votes must be cast and counted, even if a citizen votes to abstain, their vote must be made. Decisions that involve the greenhouse gardeners (who will grow all of our food, year round, whole diet, naturally and sustainably... our cuisine and menu will be subject to some different things that we might not be used to, but it might be better for us and for our environment) will be made by those gardeners, and voted by members of that committee for their own needs. Those recommendations would be ascended up the channels until the final decision is made by a general assembly of the community elders, the most senior participants. All committees can be attended by any member, though voting is limited to the committee most directly responsible. Decisions effecting the whole community are voted on by the whole community. All voices are created equal, and no one is left behind, in Tir Tairngire.
Community outreach programs are being investigated, including providing safe child fostering, as well as animal fostering accommodations. It has also been proposed to include assisted living for the elderly, and even recruiting among the homeless populations for those who wish to and are able to be rehabilitated in a safe, consistent, clean set of conditions. Private schools and children’s creches will be a pivotal part of the community, placing more of the natural world in the attention of youth, involving gardening, community involvement, and naturalistic time in a given school day to better enrich the lives of children; all in accordance with home schooling regulations and guidelines set out by the provincial government. It will also be pivotal that, though recent laws concerning midwifery are under change in the current political climate, at the earliest opportunity (even if it takes years to get there) a registered nurse would assist any natural healers in the community, to provide those services to the community members in the most responsible way possible; and to create as safe an atmosphere as possible in Tir Tairngire.
Economically, the internal model will be contributionist, the external model will be small-order heritage trade manufacturing. Our blacksmiths will make cutlery, farming implements and other tools, but they may also make knives, swords and other metal goods. Once our initial, internal demand is met, all reasonable excess is sold and exported outside the community walls for profits commensurate with the labour, care and skill involved in their creation. This includes woodworking, grocery, textiles, clothes, cosmetics, soaps, jewelry, and even knowledge and skilled labour services to the outside world. All profits are recycled through the corporation so that we can purchase equipment we cannot ourselves manufacture, goods and supplies we require for our micro-industries, and services we require from the outside, like the aforementioned paid registered nurse; unless they decide to commit to our cause and commit to a new life in Tir Tairngire.
Working terms are flexible, and at the current model (subject to change) all community members are volunteers; willing participants in an ongoing research project in off-grid living. For those willing to sign an agreement of service, a signing-bonus may (one day, once we’ve reached that milestone) be made available; for example, the complete elimination of student loan debt for fresh graduates who wish to devote x-number of years to our community, or skilled tradespeople willing to leave life in the city and enjoy a different pace while running one of our facilities. There may be many reasons to draw a given citizen to a community such as ours, former Canadian Forces personnel, wealthy business persons, retired factory workers and young lovers fresh from Memorial University. Whatever the cause, once they are inside the confines of our community grounds, they could kiss a life of debt-slavery away and become one among equals in Tir Tairngire.
As an intern participant in the corporate research programmes, unless under particular voluntary contractual obligations like those mentioned above, an individual would be free to leave at any time. Even if contracts were signed, there would be provision in the documents for a dismissal, voluntary or otherwise; subject to adherence with provincial and federal laws, of course. A code of conduct must be clearly understood prior to participation in the community, and a firm understanding of expectations. One of the chief reasons for ecovillage failure has been damaged expectations or political infighting withing the community, and such codes of conduct, including dispute resolution, assist in those challenges. First and foremost this organization is, legally, a corporate entity and even though all members are, in the strictest sense, volunteers and interns studying and participating in ongoing research, terms and conditions guaranteeing fairness in all cases, insofar as possible, must be preserved for the good of all participants in Tir Tairngire.
The leadership would be elected from the group and each of the various councils in our sociocratic model are all, at all times, elected and subject to dismissal as necessary. Individuals, somewhere, would have ownership in the company, as a non-profit corporation, but decisions concerning the ecovillage internal must be left to it’s members, and the budget would remain subject to export after internal needs are met. Research must remain the primary purpose and industry of the entity, and income will simply be maintained to further that research and continually grow the enterprise. The corporate shell, the legal and logistical armour of the community is there to keep those within it’s borders safe. There will be no closed doors, no locking gates, and complete transparency at all levels, featuring read-only access to all accounts, ledgers and council minutes open attendance is encouraged of all membership in Tir Tairngire.
Culturally, when the time comes and we can spare the various resources required, we’d want to deliberately incorporate cultural specialists like writers, musicians, thinkers, painters, sculptors, etc. Integration of new human resources will have to occur in waves, and the cultural development will have no less value than any other, though simply later in our timeline. Involving an artist or author or musician to come and allow themselves to be inspired. Their primary task would be their craft, and such crafts could be monetized to help support the cause. Architects could assist in the development of the community, botanists could assist in biodiversity, historians can assist in chronicling our story. The possibilities are endless, only our needs, flexibility and eventual excess resources would limit our potential to incorporate tertiary intellectual resources to our community. Initially, however, we simply need those willing to work hard to lay the foundations to a dream like Tir Tairngire.
Taking a page from the Shaker tradition of Christianity, our community will rely heavily on old world wisdom and techniques, but incorporating as much new technology and knowledge as practical to maintain a competitive edge and recreate old methods into a sustainable future while always maintaining stewartship over our environment. Net-Zero carbon emissions, pollution scrubbing and recycling, sequestering of CO2 through reforestation and responsible forestry are among our goals, including responsible use of information technology. Publication of all data and resources to the internet for data integrity, maintaining open lines of communication for citizens to friends, families and groups online, as well as subsidizing educational growth for community members will be very important in our personal, as well as community, growth. There may not be a television in every room of every residence, but open lines of communication and opportunities to enjoy 21st century luxuries would be made available and integrated into our daily lives insofar as possible. Our community cannot, ever, resemble a prison, but instead become a tabula rosa for those leaving a busier, polluted life outside the confines of Tir Tairngire.
At this point in time just a half-acre of trees have been cleared from the initial area, the section of forest closest to the asphalt frontage of the property; this clearing will become the eventual home of Ceili Park, our public open space for celebrations, festivals and gatherings. Our neighbors are receptive, more and more provincial and federal government programs exist that entities like this can avail of, and organizations like various pagan assemblies, WWOOF and various grassroots political organizations may find solace within the future walls and before the future hearths of communities like Tir Tairngire.
I’m one man, with one dream. A dream that has fueled my soul and lit my dreams for over half my life. If it takes me another 15 years, or 30 to see people living on those grounds, sharing community meals and dancing around bael fires on the first of May, I’ll consider myself blessed. A new website is under development, and will feature a message forum, chat room, pictures, articles and a blog covering everything from permaculture to aquaponics, strawbale houses to shipping containers, hobbit houses to hide leather tanning. A this moment, it remains a dream, but it’s a dream I’m willing to share. Among the six isles of the Fae in Irish folklore, Tir na nOg was the place of dreams, a fantastic world we travel to as we sleep and dance with magical creatures; I intend to pay homage to another isle of the Fae, a Place of Promise, a place devoid of greed, of hunger, of sickness and of slavery to all that capitalism created in the past two centuries. I intend to turn their sword to defend our mission and I intend to create a safe place for my children, I intend to create the Place of Promise, help me create Tir Tairngire.
Robin Gosse, signing off