North San Juan, CA — A recently transplanted Bay Area family found itself earlier this week on the brink of starvation after moving to the North San Juan ridge located in a remote part of Nevada County. John and Dorene Liverman had spent several years in suburban Pleasanton, CA, where they both worked for telecommunications giant AT&T. Last year, as the presidential election started to heat up and became increasingly acrimonious, the couple along with their two children decided to make a huge lifestyle change and move to Nevada County to “get off the grid and back to nature.”
“We found them after a neighbor called in a report,” said Nevada County Deputy Sheriff Fred Hackman who was the first officer on the scene. “They really didn’t know what they were doing. I’m surprised they made it through this horrible winter. You just can’t watch a few Internet videos and become an expert on survivalist living.”
According to the police report and county records, the Liverman’s purchased a homestead early last summer out on Tyler Foote Road with no utility services and cashed in their retirement accounts to purchase solar panels and building supplies. They spent the summer attempting to build a sod [grass-based] new home, but because neither of them had any building experience, their efforts resulted in what country officials now saw was a dangerous living situation. They apparently relied on videos from the do-it-yourself website Instructables.com. The home was never properly finished with windows or doors, nor did the Livermans take into account their eldest son’s extreme allergy to mold and grasses.
However, that was the least of their issues.
“Well according to their neighbor, they didn’t get the permaculture operation going until the late summer when they bought a couple of goats and sheep,” continued Officer Hackman. “And they didn’t have their gardens tilled until September. I’m not sure they had any agricultural experience, to be honest. Anyhow, when the winter storms came, they were out of money and out of food. It was almost a modern Donner Party situation.”
Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. It’s main goals, among many, is to create self-sustaining agriculture. Another goal is to produce enough food so one doesn’t starve to death.
“They’re going to be OK now, but I don’t ever want to see anything like this again,” continued Officer Hackman.