Living in the outer islands

We left regular paid jobs on a mission to develop a sustainable lifestyle; introducing appropriate technology such as a Rotaloo composting toilet, rainwater harvesting, solar power, a house designed for passive cooling, wheel chair accessibility, and natural agriculture practise.

So in September 2008 we began the challenge of small island life on family land in Mauke, Cook Islands – Population approx. 280, 18km around and 30metres from sea level at it’s highest point.

After a short stay inland we moved to the wilds on the opposite side from the residential area with no power, no water, no phone; so far away (by local standards) that we go days without seeing another person, just the birds, our chickens & 2 cats, and from time to time roaming pigs, goats and feril cats. 

The first 6 months ‘camping’ included numbers of  stormy nights holding tarpaulin ties in one hand, the other stretching out a broom head to release pooling water about to burst over the bed. What memories!

Planting for a healthy diet was top priority, but Mauke’s volcanic soil is wrapped by a 1.5km band of ‘makatea’ (uplifted coral), where we live. The thin layer of topsoil is suitable for adapted pioneer plants, but not food gardens. Though rich looking, even weeds avoid ironwood needles. Our first successful veggies grew in drums (raised up away from animals), coconut fibre base and filled with inland soil.  Over the years natural systems have developed encouraged by composting, grey water recycling, worm farms, mulching and just being aware to work in harmony with nature, rather than fight it.

Building has been without electricity some hand tools going back two generations and still working! For a few years a small solar system provided 240v power, but as costly batteries ran down we adapted to live within our means – refrigeration being the first thing to go. Now a 12v system allows for a water pump, lights and charging of cell phones, reading lights, MP3, and radio via a USB port. Internet time and charging the laptop requires a trip to town.

Living in touch with creation is an awesome awakening of original purpose, reminding us that God intended humans to work in his garden, handling it with utmost care so future generations might  take pleasure in it, as we do.

“Ko i toou rima ki roto i te one, a tetai ra, ka rauka taau.”

(Put your hand in the soil, one day, you will reap)

  • June and Andrew Hosking