Thanks for your reply. I can't tell you you're wrong since a great deal of this topic is subjective, However I would like to point out some things that I disagree with in your post.
Goldie Mariola wrote:I can see how someone might think Jerome is maybe unprofessional or sarcastic, but you know what, he's not a business man, and thats one thing I loved about meeting him, you see his love for life and plants beam out of him when he is doing his work. He loves nature, he loves simplicity, no wonder he hasn't focused on setting up a paypal system for the course!
I also loved the facilities (I will admit, we did not have to use a porta-jon). The intimate setting of the class room in Jerome's house made it easy to get close to each other and make connections. It was awesome for me to see that this place was primarily a home, and then secondly, an education center. It made it clear that a home can be an education center. The green houses were amazing, I mean, to have tropical fruit growing int the high desert is an accomplishment. Doing the actual work was a bonus for me, too. I enjoyed when we made swales, grafted trees, mulched the garden and acted out scenarios. This helps solidify the information in my brain.
Jerome is a businessman. He runs a business (CRMPI) that takes people's money in exchange for a service. I don't disagree that he has a passion for permaculture, but his management of CRMPI is extremely underwhelming. I understand what you mean when you say that you liked CRMPI for being primarily a home, and secondly an education center, but I would have prefered that CRMPI was an educational center first, and a home second, or not at all, especially considering the cost and length of the PDC. I felt that the systems they had to manage and teach the course could have been greatly improved, especially if the grounds were designed to teach a PDC from the beginning.
I am someone that does a lot of research before committing to something, especially when the price is high, and I thoroughly read the CRMPI website before signing up. I did not feel misguided at all. Camping is camping, personally, the fact that we had access to a home, made it not even seem like camping...The activities we did were engaging and dynamic. We got to do actual projects for actual clients in the area. I felt taken care of and supported the whole time. It was a beautiful experience and I would really hate for someone to miss out on it. It's not your average university course, it's an interactive experience at living a permaculturally-focused life. I am forever grateful for the facilitators at CRMPI and my experience there.
I did my research as well, but found hardly anyone giving a detailed review or description of the place, except the CRMPI website itself. Back when I signed up for the course, their website gave no information about the setting of CRMPI. They continually described themselves as an, "Institute" or, "with 30 years of experience" which implies a degree of professionalism, that I did not find while taking the PDC. Their current PDC page paints a far better picture of what the setting was like. Read the section titled, "CRMPI"CRMPI_PDC. If this description was there when I signed up, I would have had a different idea of what to expect from taking this course.
Like I said, most of this is subjective, but I feel that if the words, "unprofessional, and expensive" come to mind when considering something, it probably isn't worth your money or time.
Just wanted to give a quick update on this post. It looks like the staff at CRMPI did listen to my concerns, and updated their website to be more informative. Here are two links to their PDC page, one from February 2016 advertising their 30th PDC (when I signed up) and the other from their current page advertising their 31st PDC.
Pardon my delay, as well as the following wall of text.
I tried to break this into paragraphs so it’s easier to read.
So to start off, why did I sign up for this course in the first place? I had spent maybe a year or so learning about permaculture through the internet, and various books like Gia’s Garden. I came to the conclusion that I was missing something, and decided to sign up for a PDC to gain some real life experience. CRMPI seemed to be an ideal choice. It was expensive ($1,875) but looked like it would be worth the money since they had been running for 30 years, and were clearly very experienced in the field. This is really important to emphasize – the idea that CRMPI was a professional institute, and well worth the money. A lot of the information on their website was vague but implied Professionalism, organization, and high standards. This was not the case however.
What was I expecting to get from the course? Obviously I was expecting something worth the money. This would include a professional learning environment, good food and lodgings, bathroom facilities, and the chance to gain knowledge I would not be able to learn through a book or website. I think it’s safe to say that I was expecting a permaculture institute with 30 years of experience to have a well refined system of operations.
So what did I get and why was I disappointed? First of all, the emails we used to communicate back and forth were questionable. When I paid for the course, they suggested I pay with either cash or check through the mail. I’m not sure what their policy is now, but that’s probably the most insecure method of payment possible. They have been operating for 30 years and never went to a digital method of payment? The money order I sent to CRMPI was addressed to Mr. Jerome Osentowski personally, as instructed. I found this suspicious since CRMPI is a not for profit organization that is advertising and offering these courses. Through the emails they also made it clear that it was common for students to arrive from abroad, and that they were able to provide transportation from a nearby town to the more remote CRMPI location. Since I arrived by plane, this was a requirement for me – having no access to a personal vehicle. It turns out there was no structure for transportation in place, and that I was the only person not driving to CRMPI from a local area. Long story short, I had to make several phone calls to CRMPI, until Jerome finally answered the phone, and agreed to come pick me up personally. As you can imagine, the idea that CRMPI was professionally managed in any way was quickly disappearing from my mind at this point.
Next I’ll start at the experience I had at CRMPI itself. Let’s start on a positive note – the food. The food was actually very good. The chef, Gordon, was fantastic. It was a testament to his skill to be able to produce 3 meals a day of such high quality for 25 people in the conditions he was working in. I was however, disappointed that very little of the food we ate came from the surrounding forest garden - most was purchased offsite. Now when I say, “conditions” I am referring to the fact that the entire PDC is taught from Jerome’s personal house and living space, which as you could imagine creates a very cramped environment to do anything in, especially with the large number of students. The classroom was a very small room, which looked to be a living room of some kind, and had bad vision, no desks, and mismatched chairs. The kitchen was not equipped to handle the number of people - not enough seats, very crowded, and flies everywhere. The composting toilets that were advertised turned out to be a single one, which students were not allowed to use. Instead we used two porta johns, that were not emptied or maintained regularly, and were disgusting. I heard from a few people that some students were resorting to digging holes in the ground rather than use the porta johns. I know I held everything in for as long as I could in order to use the porta johns as little as possible. In the house there was a regular washroom labeled, “Jerome’s Personal Bathroom” which needless to say was off limits to students. There was no dedicated area for students to use as a personal hygiene area, washing, drying, showers, etc. Instead there were the porta johns, solar showers, 1 washing machine, and a line for which to dry clothes on. Now I’m not complaining about solar showers or drying lines, those are fine systems, but I am unhappy about how poorly these systems were managed in the wake of so many students. The camping was alright, but nothing beyond a flat spot to place my tent was provided by CRMPI. The only problem I have with this is that their website states, “Tuition is $1,875 and includes meals, camping, and all curriculum materials…” which implies part of the cost is going towards camping. No fire pits, tents, sleeping bags, or lodging of any kind were provided. I’m alright with this, as long as it’s made clear beforehand that these were the conditions. The website seemed to over exaggerate almost every regard of CRMPI. The majority of the infrastructure (Greenhouses, irrigation systems, animal pens, aquaponics, etc.) would be best described as ramshackle, and were shoddily implemented. Again, I’m alright with this as long as it was made clear that these were the conditions, which the website did not.
So obviously I wasn’t happy about the environment the course was taught in, but what about the course itself? Most of the course was an introduction to the theory of permaculture principles and its design methods/ethics. I felt like I already knew most of it, or could have learned the concepts online or from one of the many books on the subject. It did not teach details about plant guilds, or very many practical applications of permaculture design. More of the course seemed dedicated to teaching us how to apply permaculture to social situations rather than plants and forest gardens. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that there was nothing I learned which would justify taking this course. Very few hard facts about the patterns of nature, plants, animals, or ecosystems, and mostly just vague theory and methodology of these systems. The hands on classes had little structure for education, rather they seemed to be used as a way to get manpower for chores, such as spending hours picking noxious weeds, or digging swales. It’s important to note that I’m not criticizing the activity itself, but the poor structure in which the activity was implemented. Specifically, the lack of educational value for most of them. The teachers were mostly very good in my opinion. Despite my general dislike for most of the course content, the teachers could be described as enthusiastic, willing to discuss subjects, and able to create interest in topics. I say, “mostly very good” because of the exception of Jerome himself. He was very difficult to communicate with, or learn anything from. It’s worth mentioning that he is 75 years old and has poor hearing, which makes him even more difficult to communicate with, and thereby learn anything from.
I think I also need to dedicate a section of this review to what I’ll call, “customer service”. Overall it was very unprofessional and even offensive. what do I mean by this? When I brought up my concerns about the course, Jerome agreed to meet with me later and hear me out. During the meeting he reacted with hostility and dismissed what I said. At one point he even sarcastically asked if I would like a refund, then proceeded to taunt me, and make it very clear that I could do nothing to get my money back. I was very offended, and my view of CRMPI being unprofessional was only solidified by our meeting and the way Jerome acted to my critique.
Overall I think CRMPI stands as a poor example of professionalism. Somebody new to the idea of permaculture would not leave CRMPI with confidence in the value of permaculture practices. Being somewhat new to the whole concept of permaculture, and this being my first experience with a site which practiced it on a large scale, I can attest to this feeling. They present themselves as an elite and experienced group of leaders in the permaculture movement, yet from everything I’ve experienced, it seems more accurate to describe CRMPI as an overpriced, overhyped, and unprofessional organization. I honestly feel that I’ve learned more from reading books and posts on forums like Permies.com, than I ever did from this PDC course. In the end this is just my opinion, and maybe I’m just crazy or have unrealistic standards/expectations.
The one thing I can safely tell you though is; please do your research before signing up for any PDC or permaculture course. They are expensive, and the amount of effort you put into finding one that is right for you could make the difference between an experience of a lifetime, and flushing thousands of dollars down the toilet (or porta john in my case). I went into CRMPI with only the information that was given to me on their website and was disappointed. Try finding people who have actually taken the course you’re interested in, and ask them what they thought about it. I can’t recommend a PDC since this was the first one I’ve attended, but it shouldn’t be hard to find a better one.
So a while ago I made a post asking about CRMPI (Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute) and the courses they offer. I just finished the 2016 PDC which ended on August 19th, and had a rather unpleasant experience. I won't get too far into detail unless somebody asks, but as an overall assessment I would describe the course as overpriced, overhyped, and conducted in an extremely unprofessional manner. I would not recomend that anybody take this course. This is the website advertising the course if you're curious. I'm still quite angry about my experience there so I wouldn't mind answering some questions or talking with anyone else who has been to CRMPI.
This is really good. Pictures seem like they could add a great deal to this. What if while the man is explaining the concepts to the girl there is some sort of time passing. Like a year between each picture to represent the time it would realistically take to establish such a system? You could represent this by showing the girl getting older/wearing different clothes/the garden growing. You could also have some continuity within the pictures, so the pond that you describe would still be in later pictures. Might help with establishing the idea of a system that grows and changes overtime. Just my thoughts, but overall I really like this! Nice job.
Peter Ellis wrote:Checking out the videos can give you a sense of how material may be presented in their courses. At the least, it is a taste of what the place and its people are like.
Ya thats a really good point. I've seen some of their videos, as well as some pictures on their website already, but I might end up watching a few more. From what I've seen, it feels like it is a very down-to-earth and practical environment although since I havn't been there I really can't say.
It would be really great to get someone with first hand experience at the place to talk a bit about it. Anyone?
Hey there. Has anyone heard of, or participated in courses from the CRMPI? This is their website if you don't know what it is (http://crmpi.org/) From what I've seen/read about it, it's basically an established food forest where people go to take hands on permaculture courses and learn from a bunch of experts who've been doing it for a while. What I wanted to know was if anyone here has had any experience with these folks, and what they thought. I ask because I am considering taking some of the courses they offer and was just wondering what to expect. Honestly it seems like a pretty cool place, especially since I don't know about any other places that teach permaculture like this. Tell me what you think!
Hmm you know, now that I think about it I may have had these growing where I used to live when I was a kid. It was a while ago, but I remember large pinecones like what you described, though maybe not as large, falling from some of the pine trees. I also remember squirrels always grabbing them up and eating what seemed like those little paper wings you were talking about. I guess they were going after the nut? That would make sense. I don't think I ever saw any nuts on them, but maybe it was because all of the pinecones I found had already fallen from the tree, or perhaps it was the wrong species of tree.
"Gardens for wildlife are immensely valuable, but they are only a partial answer to habitat loss. As I’ve said before, if we ignore the material needs of humans in our urban and suburban landscapes, we’re doomed to continue our voracious consumption of wild land for factory farms and tree plantations. Ecological gardens, using guilds and the other tools described in this book, help our developed land to blossom into nourishing places for both humans and wildlife." (page 275)
This is very true, and its something I always see people who claim to be all for saving natural habitat overlook. They want to plant oak and pine trees allover the place because they look nice and don't attract nasty bugs which might bite you if you get too close, something an apple or pear tree might do. This is why I'm so into permaculture - its all about creating a rich environment that provides for everything that is apart of it in a synergistic way, which includes humans.
On a seperate note, I'm very glad I decided to read this book. Thanks for reccomending it guys!
Through swimming in an inground pool over the past week or two, I've noticed a huge amount of living things that get caught and die (drown) in it. This includes mice, toads, frogs, cicada, dragonfly, worms, crickets, grasshoppers, ants, spiders, and many other unidentifiable bugs. It would seem that the sudden drop into the water makes it nearly impossible for entrapped creatures to climb back out. Anyone else notice this?
First of all, thanks for the links, I'll certainly take a look at those.
I think I agree with you, permaculture in the long run is much better than normal farming as its goal seems to be to work with nature and not against it. I've grown standard gardens since I was a kid, but there always seemed to be something out of place. Having to weed out certain plants, kill certain bugs/pests, water at specific times...ect. The question "If this is the right way then why doesn't this happen in nature" was something I thought about. I've always liked the idea of producing your own food, and overall it seems like permaculture is the correct way to do this as it is more self sufficient and harmonious with ecosystems.
John Polk wrote:A huge part of the permaculture mindset is in planting perennials rather than annuals.
Yes, I've noticed this. It makes sense since perennials seem much better at surviving on their own. I had some blackberry bushes growing in an area, and I was amazed at how well they were at surviving harsh weather year after year and spreading to other parts of the property. They have the resilience of most weeds, except they are a great food source. I would assume annuals still have a place in a permaculture ecosystem. It just wouldn't look like a garden. That brings up an interesting question: how would domesticated plants like tomatoes and carrots survive without human care? My guess is that they would probably look alot different, and rely more on seed carriers to be a successful species.
Wheras its very easy to just plant your favorite things in a row next to each other and replant them again next year instead of taking the time to create an ecosystem with symbiotic relationships.
This may be initially true for the short term but in the long term you end up bringing in offsite inputs which increase expense and labor (fertilizer, sometimes commercial compost, lime, etc). So while the backyard garden may produce year after year with truckloads of new topsoil and fertilizer you invariably progress towards some sort of depletion. Permaculture may be looked at as a short term slow starter and labor intensive initially but as natural processes take over and the system produces for itself your workload is lighter, your inputs are minimum to zero (the system provides the needs), and your yield (as compared to the backyard garden when all things are taken into account) ends up being higher.
Its kinda funny, the whole reason I found out about permaculture is because I'm a bit lazy when it comes to garden maintenance. I remember thinking something along the lines of "How do these plants survive in nature if nobody weeds, waters, or fertilizes them?" I definetly agree with you here, conventional gardening is constant work and maintenance, and permaculture is quite attractive in this regard since it just takes care of itself like it would in nature. Reminds me of a saying, "Work with mother nature, not against her". When you think about it like that permaculture is very simple, as its just letting things work the way they would in nature. I guess the complicated part is understanding how nature works and recreating it.
Jimmy Manning wrote:
Hope it helps, I'll yield the floor to someone with more experience and wisdom
Thanks for the detailed reply, and yes it certainly did help. Its encouraging to know that you can use permaculture methods without a huge amount of land. I'll be doing some research into it and seeing what I can come up with using the space I've got here.
When comparing conventional agriculture (farms and gardens) with permaculture, it seems like the latter is much more complicated since it requires and understanding of how species interact with each other. Wheras its very easy to just plant your favorite things in a row next to each other and replant them again next year instead of taking the time to create an ecosystem with symbiotic relationships. With this in mind, how would somebody whom knows very little about permaculture realistically begin learning about it and begin practicing. It doesn't seem like something you could do in your backyard. From what I've seen you would require a large amount of land and a great deal of resources and knowledge to set up a permaculture system. Thoughts?
Its good to know 4" will work better than my 2" one.
Sounds like insulation really makes a difference. I'll have to make a stove with some vermiculite in between the layers or something to test it.
With my experience with cob, i prefer mixing powdered clay and sand together in a 1:1 ratio, then add half as much water, then varrying amounts of straw. I've never had cracking problems with this method, but it is a pain to powder the clay before mixing it in.
Peter Berg wrote:Cob is nice to store heat and release it slowly over time, but it isn't an insulating material per se. In order to make it more insulative you could mix it with vermiculite or perlite, the agricultural kind. This is lightweight, heat resistant and pretty insulative.
Insulating materials are lightweight, they contain empty spaces which slow heat conduction through it.
There is straw in cob, varrying amounts depending on what ratios you're using, so I'd imagine that acts as an emptry space somewhat. But ya, I hear vermiculite is ideal for insulation, but I don't think a lack of insulation is the number one issue with my test stove. From what I've read on hear from you guys, I've concluded that the primary problem is that the tubes are too small for sufficient airflow.
I guess Cob being good at storing heat and releasing over time is why they use it in those rocket mass heater thingies. Seems like a good use of a rocket stove.
Mike Cantrell wrote:Did you let it dry first? Just ruling out obvious problems before moving to complex ones.
Well, to be honest I let it dry for only a day and it was a little damp, so I suppose that could be part of it. But I think it was dry enough for the concept to work. You're right though, I should wait for it to completely dry but i'm impatient like that.
Also, what do you guys think of using a 4x4 as a mold for the stove?
So to test the concept of a rocket stove that burns sideways, I made a small scale one out of cob, and burned popsicle sticks in it.
Dimensions: -4 inch vertical feed chamber
-12 inch horizontal burn chamber
-18 vertical smoke stack
- roughly 2 inch diameter for eveything
It just doesn't seem to work. When I start a fire in the feed chamber, it burns straight up instead of back through the burn chamber. It also seems to be choking itself out like it can't decide where to get air from. Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong, or show me an example of one that does?
Well, I just learned something about the importance of having a good "hat" on your cob structure. My small cob test box outside has been through two heavy rains so far, and I noticed something after I inspected it.
The box was only eroded on one side. I then realised that it was the side which was built leaning into the center of the box roughly an inch. The other side, which was leaning away from the center by about an inch (creating an overhang) was barely wet after the heavy rains.
So basically having an overhang of one 1 inch dramatically improved resistance against rain. Good to know!
Ya you should be able to do something like that. I've seen people make rocket stoves out of cob, so it makes sense that the inside should turn into a hard fired clay like substance. Not sure if thats good or bad though. Would be like a large 1 piece brick
R Scott wrote:good hat and boots--large roof overhangs and stone stemwalls and splash guards. Maybe a wattle fence to keep really strong prevailing winds from blowing rain sideways onto the house.
Hmm so a high stemwall to stop the cob from soaking up water, and an overhanging roof to stop water from pooling on the top. As I mentioned I made a small cob structure (just a square on the ground as a test), and it recently rained. having a good "hat and boots" would have definitely helped it resist water, so thats good to know. But what about the mid sections of the wall? Rain will inevitably hit the middle part and erode it, like it did to my test square. I guess thats where maintenance comes in.
R Scott wrote:It will erode over time if not protected, BUT....
It is easy to patch and re-plaster and maintain. Most modern building materials need to be replaced. So it is cheap to maintain cob yourself, but it does take time.
Ya I guess everything no matter how durable requires some mainenance. So cob being cheap has an advantage vs modern building materials, assuming they degrade at the same rate. What do you mean by "if not protected"? what would one protect cob with?
I really like the idea of cob as a building material, but I've got doubts about its ability to stand up to the elements. I'm making this post because I have very little experience with cob structures (only built one thing so far), and was hoping somebody more experienced could give me a first hand impression of cob's durability. It just seems like over time it would naturally erode as everything does. So basically I'm asking for examples of why I'm wrong in assuming cob is not a good long term building material. First post, be nice!