Rubha Phoil from Armadale hill, Isle of Skye

Earth Ways is really proud to announce, after 9 years of hard work, the birth of a brand new nature-based permaculture community: Rubha Phoil.

This page is being updated often, so come back again soon.

Great news!

The planning application for the house site and the one for the huts and shower block are approved! A major step has been taken in providing abundance for the community at Rubha Phoil.
The plans are here and here.

This means that there is an extra house for a family to join us (plot for sale here) and that all the possibilities to create an economically viable permaculture community are here. Exciting news!

Have a look at some pictures of the land and project here:

Rubha Phoil on Isle of Skye

The creation of the cultural framework of the community is inspired by the hard work of awesome people.

A little bit of background to my search for the best community model.
My learning experience went from trying to join existing communities, feeling disappointed, wanting to live alone in the forest in a tent, to wanting to find the best way to live self-sufficient, to realizing that living in some sort of community is the only way.

My experience of intentional community living is that it is hard work. That it can only work if there are a few things ‘sorted out and clear’ before the community is started.

Problems I often encountered:
– too much alcohol or drugs and people who turn up for that purpose.
– unclear or dysfunctional power structure: Either one person is the boss, or the structure invites the creation of a majority able to evict ‘undesirables’. Often these undesirables would be the people that trigger issues. It is much easier to evict the trigger than to do the internal work.
– one person as ‘laird’ prevents tenants from feeling secure enough to give their best investment and I don’t want to expose myself to the possibility to be voted out by a majority vote. So I wouldn’t expect that from anyone else.
– a capitalist ownership model. In a permaculture design, this is self defeating. If all goes well, and I am doing my damned best to make sure it is, (so far so good), increased value means an incentive to sell to the highest bidder. Permaculture is about increasing the yield. Pretty soon, the members of our community will own their own home, have little out going bills to pay and have a secure income (that is what permaculture is all about) That home and spot in the community will be desired by people with money. Too much value that is able to be exchanged into cash is not a good idea.
– Trying to reinvent the wheel and learn by trial and error alone.

When contemplating the best community structure, I decided to learn from the communities that have been successful for a long time. It is clear to me that the only success stories, as I have seen in my limited experience, are indigenous peoples communities. So I decided to learn from them as much as I could.
Luckily, someone else has spend their life’s work answering that question already: Jon young and his extensive team. More info to follow.

The rest of the community structure is crowdsourced. I am inviting my precious and extensive network to help me create a good framework. This page will reflect the growing project. You will regularly see changes being made, please check regularly. At the moment this page is functioning by comments that turn into FAQ’s with answers. You are welcome to ask any questions in the comments. I will answer them and turn them into FAQ’s.

At the moment the only decision maker is me: Ludwig Appeltans, with my advisory team of elders and friends around me. As soon as the community gets long term members, this will change and the power will be shared.

If you want to make sure that you hear about important stages in the plans and developments, you can registering on the email list. (on the home page, sidebar, top)

The application process to allow people to join in can be found here.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to put them in a comment. All questions are welcome.

Rubha Phoil


1 Who owns Rubha Phoil?

At the moment, I, Ludwig Appeltans am the sole owner of Rubha Phoil.
These are the boundaries: (it includes two gorgeous Eilean Moal and Sgorach)

This is the google location,-5.8960562,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xacabe7f49af7ee8b!8m2!3d57.0640459!4d-5.8952413

To alleviate any confusion, here is a letter from the solicitor that acted for the previous owner, to confirm that I now own Rubha Phoil and all the buildings. If you click on it, you’ll be able to read it better.

2: What are your plans?

In short: I want to calculate how many people the land can sustain. I think there is enough potential to create resources on and from the land to sustain 3 small ‘families’ or about 12 people. I intend to sell a plot of land to one family that want to be part of the permaculture community so that they can own their own land and build their own home. I intend to allow other people, with less or no money to join in other ways too.
Together we would manage our commons, and create abundance to share both within Rubha Phoil and with the wider community. My aim is to develop an environment in which we can make a living off the land. There are possibilities in food growing, herb growing, tourism, shops, teaching, workshops, outdoor nursery, shop, cafe, nature exploration, nature connection holidays for families and small groups, courses and workshops, mountain guides, organising tours, …

3: Is Sandra still involved?

Sandra -the previous owner- has retired and is no longer involved in the project or the land. Also the lease of the land to the charity Skye Permaculture, of whom she was a founding director, has ended. It is all in the hands of a younger enthusiastic generation now.

4: Why did you remove the otterhide?

The otterhide was really dangerous. I could push it down the cliff easily. This picture below is the last thing that was holding it up right. I do intend to replace it. But we’re a bit short of cash at the moment. It needs to be designed and approved by health & safety people and build by professionals, so it will cost quite a bit. If you have any ideas please do let us know. If you know someone who can give us a quote to make one, let us know. And we’re sorry for the inconvenience. We miss it too.

5: I don’t know much about permaculture, can I still join?

Yes of course, you can apply to join. We would want you to learn about permaculture though. Don’t worry it is easy and I know an excellent teacher: I can help you connect with her if you like.

6: What does ‘nature-based’ mean?

It means that we try to live in harmony with the natural world, that we enrich the ecosystem with our presence. It means that we learn as much about it as possible so that we can protect and enrich it. It means that we grow our own food and woodfuel on our own land. It means that we try to make a living from the land, whilst working together as a community. It means that we take inspiration from the 8-shields model, which has many many years of expertise put into a nature based cultural frame work that I have seen works really well. It means that community building begins with listening to the birds and trying to understand them.

7: Scottishpine commented: “Would be lovely to hear who the guardian of this land was until recently, what her dreams and efforts were, and how the transition happened…?”

Her name is Sandra. I’m not sure what her dreams were, you can google keywords (“skye Permaculture” or “skye forest garden”) I saw on the land that she tried hard to establish a permaculture site. She decided last year to retire and pass it on to me. I’m now working a permaculture vision that is quite different than what has been tried before.
This is a copy from an old magazine I discovered in the archives that were left behind.
It was a beautiful vision indeed.

8. Will Rubha Phoil be an education project?

Yes, it will. Teaching permaculture is my passion. In my experience inspiring people by showing a beautiful working model of how permaculture works in harmony with nature is the best way to spread it far and wide.

I haven’t started to run courses yet. There is too much work to be done. I want to feel proud of the land and of what we have achieved, before I can feel comfortable to hold permaculture courses.

9: Will the woodland walk remain open to the public?

Of course. I wouldn’t dream of closing the walk to keep all this beauty to myself. The only times I would ever close the walk would be if it is dangerous because of the weather, or if it is very muddy. We’re slowly working on improving the paths too. Many many stones have been carried in buckets and laid on the muddy parts.

10: Why do you not allow dogs?

I love dogs.

When I made the deal to become the custodian of Rubha Phoil, I made a deal with the land, to look after it the best I could.

Very quickly it became clear that there were too many dogs visiting. After trying different options to reduce the impact, but still finding dog shit right in front of an otter holt, our ducks being chased and myself being really scared and almost attacked by 3 -off the lead and uncontrollable- doberman dogs, (in my own garden), I decided I had enough. Since the sign: ‘responsible dog owners only or dogs on the lead only’ doesn’t work (everyone thinks of themselves that they are responsible), ‘No dogs’ seems to be the only option.

These are the reasons:
– I want to feel safe in my own home and garden.
– I want everyone else to feel safe too.
– I am tired of finding plastic bags of rotting dog shit hanging in our trees.
– I don’t like scraping dog shit from the soles of my shoes.
– Our customers in our campsite deserve a dog shit free experience.
– I like kids being able to play barefeet in the forest without stepping in dog shit.
– I don’t like dog pee and dog shit on my plate or in my cup of tea. Dogs don’t know the difference between vegetables or herbs and grass.
– The otters feel anxious and would move away if there is too much interference. Even dog-scent can turn them away.
– If your dog would attack an otter, it would likely loose and your dog could be otter dinner.
– We like to encourage ground nesting birds on our land.
– Rubha Phoil is incredibly rich in wildlife. We want to encourage that.
– My lifestock is scared of dogs. And I am scared of loosing them.
– Too many people, waiting for the ferry, think my garden is a quick perfect dog run and toilet stop.
– There are lots of other gorgeous nearby places where dogs are welcome to ‘do their business’. There is no need for Rubha Phoil to be a dog walking spot. Dog owners that want to come and visit Rubha Phoil, can take their dogs for a run on a nearby beach and come see us and the land after.
I’m sorry. I tried other solutions. It is not the dogs fault. And neither is it yours. It is the 5% of bad dog owners that ruin it for everyone. I tried other solutions, but failed to find one that works. If you have any other suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

11: Why is your community alcohol and drugs free?

We want everyone, be it residents, customers or visitors, able to feel safe at all times.
In my years long research of how to create community, I have learned that alcohol and drugs can easily damage the peace and connections in a community. So I, Ludwig, have chosen to have a alcohol and drugs free baseline on Rubha Phoil. Residents and customers are welcome to have some alcohol, if they choose to, in their own space, away from the community. Or on special occasions, people can ask everyone present if they mind if we share some. We are all empowered to object.
It is not a guarantee that there would never be any problems, but it creates an easy solution should there be any.
Put simply: if alcohol and drugs play an important part in your life, Rubha Phoil is not the right place for you.