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Biocadence International: A Global Examination of Sustainable Living- Sietske, Off Grid in Spain

Hello there! Biocadence is growing, and will continue to deliver accessibility to sustainable living solutions, and strategies for over-consumption recovery! Please subscribe to the Biocadence blog by entering your email address in the open field at the top right of this page, and clicking “subscribe”. Since launching Biocadence, I have received a sweet surprise: many Biocadence readers are global. As of this morning, Biocadence has reached readers in 54 countries! Along with the consistent evidence of generosity from my readers, this has emboldened me to ask for more. I want to explore the sustainable living practices of our global siblings. Today, I launch this effort, in sharing the first Biocadence, International interview, of Sietske from Spain. My wish is that the descriptions and images will impact you. If they do, please comment. I will love to hear your response!

Sietske, Off Grid in SpainClick here to follow Sietske on twitter.

Short Bio: In August 2012, after more than 10 years of living and working in the Middle East, I moved with my husband Tariq, our two Saluki dogs and our two Arabian horses to Spain. We bought an old ‘cortijo’ in the Spanish Sierra Nevada mountains, left our city lives behind and are now working on setting up our lives ‘off grid‘. Our aim is to be self sufficient in water, energy and food (eggs, fruit and vegetables). We are enjoying the amazing views and the stunning sun rises, we are getting to know the land we own, surprised by seeing the horses and dogs make use of their instincts (that they never had to use before), learn how to work with nature, learning about permaculture, doing physical work instead of sitting behind a desk and feeling true satisfaction at the end of a day’s work. It is a very different life with many ups and downs but we are looking forward to planting our first trees and watching them grow, sowing the first seeds and harvesting them and growing the first plants and seeing them flower. It is all quite magical…

~ Biocadence: Where do you live?

Sietske: In Pampaneira, in the Natural Park of the Sierra Nevada in Spain.

~ Biocadence: What current events have the most impact on your community?

Sietske: As we live in a community that is mainly Spanish, the politics of the region and the country are often talked about as well as unemployment and the financial crisis. The rules and regulations of the natural park have a huge impact on the tiny community that we are part of, as the park authority would like to preserve the natural environment while the inhabitants of the park would like to enjoy their surroundings and live comfortably. This clashes sometimes and getting permissions to build is really difficult and time consuming due to bureaucracy.

~ Biocadence: What sustainable living practices are common in your community?

Siestke: Every family/home in the park is off grid, so water comes from the spring and electricity is generated by solar power. We are not connected to sewer systems so everyone has a septic tank on their land which forces you to use biologically degradable soaps and detergents. Each house has a vegetable garden and an orchard that provide vegetables and fruit year-round.

~Biocadence: What do you do for a living? How many hours a week do you work?

Sietske: I work our own land for a living and do not have a ‘paid job’ to go to but instead make sure there are fruit and vegetables (needless to say that the vegetable garden is in preparation at the moment and nothing grows there yet).

~Biocadence: How often do you cook at home versus eat out?

Sietske: I cook at home every day, we eat out maybe once every 6 weeks.

~Biocadence: Do you know your farmer(s)? Where do you get your food?

Sietske: The fruit and vegetable vendor in town gets the fruit and vegetables from farmers in the immediate surrounding areas and villages. I haven’t had time to get to know any other farmers around yet! For now, fruit and vegetables in town, and the rest unfortunately from a large supermarket where we can buy most things we need in one go. We live quite remotely and I would like to minimise going to big supermarkets if we can.

~Biocadence: How do you choose your food vendors?

Sietske: I haven’t managed to get to know the best places for different types of shopping yet but bread comes from the bakery (freshly made), fruit & veg from fruit & veg man and meat from the butcher (also fresh). I would like to buy more organic and free range but that is not always easy in meat-loving Andalucia.

~Biocadence: Approximately what % of your diet is meat/veggie/grain?

Sietske: Meat & fish 25%, veggie 40%, grain 35%.

~Biocadence: How do you refuel your spirit, energy, and optimism?

Sietske: I read, listen to music, go for walks with our dogs, ride my horse, enjoy nature, and chat with my husband, friends and family.

~Biocadence: If you could change one thing about humanity, what would it be?

Sietske: I would like to remove the importance of religion.

~Biocadence: What sustainable living behaviors did you grow up with?

Sietske: To be aware of the use of water and electricity and we never used to eat much meat because it was too expensive to eat daily.

~Biocadence: What sustainable living transitions have you incorporated into your lifestyle?

Sietske: We live off grid and I try as much as I can to purchase local products (food and non-food).

~Biocadence: How do your sustainable living practices impact your quality of life?

Sietske: It is very liberating to know that you will not receive a bill at the end of the month for your water and electricity consumption. It is amazing to know that you are not registered as a consumer of this anywhere, so ‘big brother’ can’t watch that aspect of your life and it is fantastic to realise with everything you do how much electricity you use (with solar panels you have to keep an eye on the status of your electricity before you use your washing machine for example).

~Biocadence: Why do you engage in sustainable living?

Sietske: I have lived in cities, worked for bosses, saved for holidays and done just that what everyone else does because you are expected to do so…. that was fun but as I grew older I wanted different things in life. I also wanted to try and make my dreams come true. One of my dreams was to have my horses close to home (i.e. on the land next to the house), have a few dogs (was not possible in the city) and live closer to nature, away from the stress and hastiness of the city. Only when I stopped being busy leading a life that wasn’t what I wanted, dreamt of or desired… only then did my life open up… it became richer: I read more, listen to music again; I have the time to be inspired and the courage to make changes.

~Biocadence: Who are your role models? Why?

Sietske: I don’t have a role model, because I believe in making your life the best you can for you and those you love: ‘Life has no remote, get up and change it yourself!’ I do have favorite writers and poets, one of them is Khalil Gibran. He wrote: ‘If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours – & if they don’t, they never were’. This is also so true…. When asked: ‘what about humanity surprises you the most’ the Dalai Lama answered:

‘Man, because he sacrifices his health to make money, then sacrifices his money to recuperate his health, he then is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present. As a result he doesn’t live in the present or the future and he lives as if he’s never going to die. Then he dies having never really lived.’

~Biocadence: What estimates do you have about the state of global affairs, 50 years in the future?

Sietske: I don’t believe the future of the world looks good. Without management of populations (which is a taboo subject apparently) the world population will spiral out of control which will result in wars over basic needs such as food and water. Furthermore the continuous economic growth that every country aspires to is unsustainable, as well as traditional agriculture and the way the banking industry is organised at the moment. This will have to change but I don’t believe politicians are necessarily concerned with what is best for you and me. Politics are run by the large corporations around the world who are not necessarily worried about the wellbeing of the people of the world.

~Biocadence: When you are seeking answers, where do you go? Books and quotes by subject matter mentors? Exercise? Nature? Silence? Discussion with friends and family? Meditation and/or prayer? When you’ve reached your answer(s) and look back on the experience, what pleases you most: the solution you found, or the process that got you there?

Sietske: I read, I discuss, I listen and take in. There is not one fix for the questions we have so I do all of the above except for pray. The process is always worth more than the answer because in the process you discover new things, about yourself and others, and in the process much more than that one question got answered.

~Biocadence: What does the verb “to enjoy” mean to you?

Sietske: Live life fully, enjoy what you do because it is too short to be miserable. Forget your troubles and enjoy what you have.

~Biocadence: Do you remember a moment when you mastered “enjoyment”? When… where… what were you doing? And, what made it so?

Sietske: There have been many: sledding with huskies in Svalbard was the ultimate enjoyment of silence / riding my horse is the ultimate enjoyment of feeling connected with an animal / but also smaller and more ‘daily’ things such as eating delicious food, drinking wonderful wine / a kiss from your loved one, etc.

I asked Sietske if she’d like to feature a link to an organization that has impacted her positively. She offers, as their website is excellent, with a wealth of information.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Sietske’s off grid sustainable living adventure, as much as I have!!!

Until next week,


Quicklinks to Most Popular Biocadence Articles:

“The Hunger Games”… Fiction or Non-Fiction?

What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Use Biodegrable Trash Bags!

Embracing the Fulcrum: Reconciling My Belief in the Law of Attraction With My Sustainable Living Transition

Biocadence Column for H3O Eco Magazine!



I’m thrilled to announce my column for H3O Eco Magazine, a publication tailored to environmentally conscious consumers in any stage of sustainable living transition. The “3” in “H3O” represents 3 vital focus-points of sustainability: Environment, Economics, and Education. This online digital magazine covers everything from the hottest eco-trends to the basics in living a green lifestyle. Stay tuned for “Biocadence: An Exploration of Sustainability in Books & Films”, in the next issue.

Felicia Phillips is Founder of H3O Eco Magazine, and Co-Founder of H3O Bottling Company, bottling water from atmospheric water generators, using biodegradable bottles. She is enthusiastically active in the recovering over-consumer movement, and consistently involved in sustainable living events. Phillips’ next event promises fun, education, and enlivened inspiration. Check out Midtown EcoFest for details! To my readers in Atlanta, Georgia… maybe I’ll see you there;)!

Please subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the open field at the top right of this page, and clicking “subscribe”. Biocadence is growing, and will continue to deliver accessibility to sustainable living solutions, and strategies for over-consumption recovery!

Quicklinks to Most Popular Biocadence Articles:

“The Hunger Games”… Fiction or Non-Fiction?

What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Use Biodegrable Trash Bags!

Embracing the Fulcrum: Reconciling My Belief in the Law of Attraction With My Sustainable Living Transition


Today’s Thoughts on Behavioral Change & Sustainability

I have come to understand that over-consumption is, in many ways, similar to any other addiction. In my sustainable living transition I take one step at a time, enjoying the process. I observe and analyze each area of my life, incorporating sustainability and global issues as an element of my daily decision-making process, and ensuring that I take commensurate joy from the consumption I choose to engage in.

I am currently in a space where multiple elements of my life are evolving at once. As I adjust my behaviors, surroundings and priorities, my brain synapses are changing. I am less capable of handling the consequence of maltreatment of my body… or might I simply be less tolerant of it? I want children one day. I want meaningful work… from every angle… work that gives back the energy it takes. I am resigning to reality, and learning about the contentment it brings with its sadness. I am releasing illusions of perfection and fabricated safety. It’s a BIG time, not to be underestimated. I sense that absorbing it now surrenders me to the blueprint my soul may have planned for this life, helping me to avoid the proverbial mid-life crisis.

Source: Midlife Crisis Checklist

What does “surrendering to my blueprint” mean? This is where I gain traction in my over-consumption recovery. This is the substantive detail we should share with one another, in order to contribute momentum to the recovering over-consumer movement.

Surrendering to my blueprint means taking inventory of behavior and activity, and being purely honest in the process. What do I really want? In what areas do my behaviors and choices align with my goals? In what areas do they not? Spawning the frightening discoveries that originate so much breath-taking art: Why do some of my behaviors & choices not facilitate my goal achievement?

If I continue on this courageous path of self-uncovering, I come to an ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT of self-love and trust with the following question: What is truly necessary to change the behaviors and choices that do not align with my goals? What kind of valiant faith must I have in myself? How much time, space, and energy will it take? What do my answers mean about my career path, daily activities, recreation, and relationships? Must I adjust them, in order to realize my dreams?

When I have honest, fully formed answers to these questions, I have a major decision ahead of me: Am I willing? Is it worth it? I visualize what I really want. I imagine what is necessary to achieve it. I place the two beside one other…

Am I willing? Is it worth it?

Source: The Fork in the Road

I recognize why so many of us don’t choose to align our behavior and choices with our goals. Often times it isn’t worth it and we are not willing. If we do not go through the process of inventory outlined above, we may not recognize how much work is required to achieve what we “want”. It likely involves sacrifice and discomfort, repeated rebirth, and a deliberate evolving of self.

Many of us torture ourselves because we underestimate what it takes to reach our goals, and thus beat ourselves up for not achieving them. On the other hand, many decide that they are willing and that it is worth it. Fully committed to the necessary sacrifice and discomfort, they may find a sweet surprise. The net process may be much more enjoyable than any alternative. As we resign ourselves to swimming upstream toward our rainbow, might we find that the force of the current is an illusion? 

“The Tao is dark and unfathomable. How can it make her radiant? Because she let’s it.” (Source: Tao Te Ching)

Photo by Nicolas Valentin
“Life is short.” “Life is long.” Each quip has resonated with me, relative to specific circumstances. What I’m certain of today is this: Life is not long enough to pass time unsure of why we do what we do. Life is not long enough to engage in behavior that distracts from, or destructs our achievement crafting process. As behavioral changes impact our purpose-driven experience, we must practice the grace we offer others. What do our systems (“mind”, intellect, body, instinct, soul, spirit, chi) tell us today? Our collective systems are working so hard to communicate with us. They will never stop knocking on our door, offering guidance in the form of valuable information (whether it be serene contentment on one end, or pain/fatigue/anxiety on the other). Perhaps the knocking is a big congratulatory smooch, no matter the form it takes. Perhaps it means that we are ready to listen.
Written by Annie Tichenor, Founder of Biocadence
I dedicate this article to my husband Dan Tichenor and my friend Rachel Sutton. Dan has the most stunning intellect I have ever met. Without meaning to, quietly, modestly… he teaches me about key components of behavioral change and achievement crafting: patience, love and compassion. He sprinkles each of my days with snapshots of heaven. Rachel is a social worker, soldier for love, and spirited behavioral change expert. She speeds my processing by sharing her courage, vivacious wit, and keen interest in improving the world.


Lao-tzu, “Tao Te Ching”. Trans. Stephen Mitchell. Harper & Row, 1988.

Midlife Crisis Checklist

The Fork in the Road

How to Photograph a Rainbow

Quicklinks to Most Popular Biocadence Articles:

“The Hunger Games”… Fiction or Non-Fiction?

What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Use Biodegrable Trash Bags!

Embracing the Fulcrum: Reconciling My Belief in the Law of Attraction With My Sustainable Living Transition

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