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PEA - Permaculture Experience for Apartment dwellers

 
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A few weeks ago, in a permies.com staff meeting via zoom, D. Logan introduced the idea of PEA - for apartment dwellers.   I really like this idea.   An experience list that can be done entirely within an apartment.  

Since then, I've had several conversations with Mike and Raven about this idea.  

In general, there would be a lot of PEP BBs that could fill out some PEA badges.   And PEA would have fewer aspects, and the requirements for a badge would be a bit heavier on BBs per badge.   Further, PEA1 and PEA2 would be defined, but probably no PEA3.  

Another thing is that there could be a PEP1 event for people that have been PEA1 certified.   So it would cover just the things that are not in PEA1.

I think that there are a lot of people that are kinda stuck in their day job or other situation, but they do have time on the weekends and would like to get started.   They could probably knock out PEA1 certification in one saturday a week spread out over several months.  And then use vacation time to pop out and get PEP1 if that's what they want.   Or maybe they can find a property nearby that encourages or tolerates PEP BB stuff.   "Hey, do you mind if I come to your place and build a three log bench?  I'll leave the bench for you."

Aspects for PEA:

gardening (in pots)
round wood woodworking (will need to buy materials like spoon carving blanks)
tool care
dimensional lumber woodworking
food prep and preservation
animal care (aquariums and small rodents)
community living
textiles
greywater
metalworking (soda can, soup can, wire, purchased materials)
electricity
commerce
natural medicine
nest
oddball

Aspects not in PEA:

natural building
woodland care
earthworks
rocket
foraging
plumbing and hot water
homesteading


To get PEA1 certified, you would need 12 sand badges.  And while a sand badge for PEP1 is roughly 5 hours of experience, the PEA1 sand badge would probably be closer to 8 hours of experience.

I think that if somebody is pursuing PEA1 certification, but they develop an opportunity to to do some PEP1 BBs (maybe developing a relationship with a local park, a community garden, somebody's backyard, or a periodic trip to a homestead a bit out of town) then it is possible that shortly after getting PEA1 certified they could get PEP1 certified.   They rack up those PEP BBs on the side.  

The deep beauty of D. Logan's idea is that this works for anybody, anywhere in the world.   And if somebody gets excited about SKIP, they can actually start today - just take a picture of cooking some rice.   And as the months pass, they can build their own strategy about how someday they might get PEP4 certification.


Our bunch of ragtag goofballs have put some thought and organization into this, but now we need feedback.  First, of course, we need to hear that we are brilliant, and hard working, and generally smell good.   And then we need to hear about what we might not have thought of yet, or how this might need a bit more polish.   Are there more ideas?  Is there another aspect for PEA that doesn't fit into PEP?   Are there people that will want to start with this right away?   Etc. etc. etc.  .....      ??

 
paul wheaton
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Animal care for PEA:

   aquarium
   raising guinea pigs for meat
   worm bin

 
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Animal Care:  
 - Can pigeons be done with a window?
 - Meat rabbit
 - Supporting wild birds via a window feeder?
 
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Animal Care:
silkworms
 
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I think this is an excellent, and much needed, iteration of the PEP system. I think the people who came up with it are excellent, smart, and awesome. (Having not smelled any of them, I cannot comment on their general odour.)

The real beauty of it, to my mind, is that it potentially covers 80-95% of urban dwellers, whether they are in an actual apartment or (like me) in a duplex with a vaguely reasonable-for-the-city sized yard.

With regard to Animal Care, quail might be a good choice for some people.

I would be reticent to have anything involving wild animals as part of a badge, though, as it is much, much easier to get it wrong than it is to get in right. (See - feeding ducks bread, feeding magpies any kind of human food at all, the many many posts that a wildlife volunteer friend has shared via Facebook about well-meaning people who have done wildlife more harm than good.)

Pigeons *might* work, though it's a very dicey thing in the city as they're a vector for so many things. I personally would not want to be eating wild city pigeons. Raising one's own from squab, in a confined environment, might be OK, depending on the city. Though I think quail would be happier in many instances.

A black soldier fly or other maggot composting system may also be a good fit for animal care. Particularly if one is also raising insect-eating animals.
 
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I love the name, one question; why would foraging not be in PEA? it seems one of the more possible badges to do as it doesn't require any land of your own. while dimensional woodworking without any space would be very difficult.

Perhaps something on aquaponics? It should be possible to do at any scale, from a fishbowl to a decent sized aquarium
 
paul wheaton
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Much of the credit for this path goes to D. Logan.

For foraging or raising quail or anything that might have an outdoor component:  we are trying to define something that can be done anywhere in the world.  And one concern about PEP is the idea that somebody might look at it and think "there is no way I could do that" - usually because they don't have access to a garden, or a bunch of trees or whatever.   So what we end up with is that we pick 100 apartment dwellers and come up with something that can work for all of them.  

Some apartment dwellers have a balcony - but not all.   Some apartment dwellers know somebody 20 minutes away with some garden space - but not all.   Some live in a cold climate and some live in a tropical climate.  Some have a park nearby where they could get sticks - some don't.  

So the function of this is to have a PEX that anybody can do anywhere.  It will primary be a stepping stone.   And maybe, in time, they will choose to complete some badges for PEP or other PEX structures because they were able to go somewhere for a weekend and do stuff.  

So maybe they will work on their PEA1 certification and, simultaneously, go out and get certified for the PEP foraging badge.

 
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Some ideas:
- consider bokashi kitchen composting bucket. It takes a square feet of a floor space so I guess it can fit anywhere and works great.
- I'm tempted to include rainwater colection (for watering plants grown in containers).
- a typical urban food growing strategy - hanging window herb farm
- micro solar for emergency light and charging electronics (I use flexible, movable solar panels to charge my power tools, anywhere where sun shines)
- not sure if anyone have mentioned dishwashing
- also producing own biodegradable soap and other cleaning products
- using chestnuts for washing clothes
- internal clothesline / clothes hanger instead of electric dryer
- solar cooking is possible as well, if only sun hits your window (vacuum tube cooker is compact and fits on window sill).
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
Aspects not in PEA:

natural building
woodland care
earthworks
rocket
foraging
plumbing and hot water
homesteading



I’m wondering why plumbing is excluded, while electricity is included? In my experience of living in apartments and condos, owned or rented, plumbing is a lot more accessible and more frequently needed, than electrical. Also it’s a lot harder to kill yourself or destroy the whole building with plumbing 😀

Kevin
 
Mike Haasl
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I may be wrong but I think you probably can't do plumbing projects in all apartments.  Many landlords wouldn't take kindly to that (I assume?).  

For electrical I'm assuming the experiences (BBs) would be things you could do on a kitchen table in an apartment.  Like repairing/making lamps, fixing appliances, making machines, etc.

If you do have the ability to do plumbing or electrical projects, you can always do the BBs in the PEP system.  
 
Kevin Wilson
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Mike Haasl wrote:For electrical I'm assuming the experiences (BBs) would be things you could do on a kitchen table in an apartment.  Like repairing/making lamps, fixing appliances, making machines, etc.



That makes sense, you can do a lot of electrical stuff that’s not permanently connected to the building systems.

I definitely did un-allowed minor plumbing work in apartments 😀. It’s pretty basic to know how to stop a faucet leaking, or unclog a sink or toilet (without making possible plumbers life harder later), or stop a flood. I wish my upstairs neighbor knew that before her dishwasher leak sent water cascading though my ceiling light fixtures!
 
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This may seem silly, but couldn't people do small scale designs with sticks and whatnot to demonstrate concepts if nothing else? I'm thinking like dioramas some of us had to build in grade school for various classes. Could those with parks or wildlands/gardens/whatnot nearby make miniature buildings and get BBs or Bits for that? Could even be an action figure cabin or a 'fairy house' type thing they build in a planter in their apartment/small dwelling. They could still strip the bark off the sticks/twigs/small branches and go through some of the motions of creating wofati/roundwood/cob/etc. homes without it having to be a huge scale endeavor. If nothing else, they could build the model as a test of concept for ideas they may have or to get a greater understanding of the layers these types of buildings generally have and their uses.
 
Mike Haasl
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Hi Jen, that's not silly at all!  The struggle we have is that for PEA it needs to be something that anyone can do in an apartment anywhere in the world.  So I don't even know if we can count on having a window, much less a balcony or sticks.  I'm a bit stuck on it myself because I think almost anyone could find a stick if they needed to.  But the hope is that the structure of PEA allows anyone to do it without leaving their apartment or finding a park to work in.    

But there could be a lot of benefit in practicing building techniques, even if it's just with popsicle skicks.   All the PEP BBs are for actual things or "artifacts" that are generally useful.  But for PEA maybe they don't have to have a practical use except for the skill building experience.  

I dunno, I'm just speculating a bit...
 
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paul wheaton wrote:Animal care for PEA:

   aquarium
   raising guinea pigs for meat
   worm bin



Guinea pigs for meat? That's one I've never heard of. So, what do they taste like? (please don't say chicken, you said chicken didn't you?) How much meat do you get from a single animal. I know the boars are a bit larger, by maybe a few ounces!? Can the hides be tanned and used for making anything? For that matter, can't you also raise rats for meat? Maybe I'm being a bit silly, but really? Guinea Pigs!?
UPDATE: Looked it up on google. Taste is like a cross between duck and rabbit. At least it wasn't chicken! Net per animal is .7 - 1 pound. I guess it would be sorta like serving cornish game hens?
 
r ranson
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tastes a lot like rabbit.
 
Mike Haasl
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Cindy Haskin wrote:Can the hides be tanned and used for making anything?


Guinea Pig earmuffs!
 
Jen Tuuli
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Mike Haasl wrote:Hi Jen, that's not silly at all!  The struggle we have is that for PEA it needs to be something that anyone can do in an apartment anywhere in the world.  So I don't even know if we can count on having a window, much less a balcony or sticks.  I'm a bit stuck on it myself because I think almost anyone could find a stick if they needed to.  But the hope is that the structure of PEA allows anyone to do it without leaving their apartment or finding a park to work in.    

But there could be a lot of benefit in practicing building techniques, even if it's just with popsicle skicks.   All the PEP BBs are for actual things or "artifacts" that are generally useful.  But for PEA maybe they don't have to have a practical use except for the skill building experience.  



If we're doing it for skill building instead of purely practical.. I had this conversation with my partner over lunch today and considered that maybe instead of using sticks, if they're not available, the person could make breadsticks. The size of each would be according to whatever size building they're making, easily sawn to the right size with a knife - or if the person wants practice using a small hand saw they could order one and use that on the bread, later giving them a tool to maintain for another BB. If they wanted to do a 'cob' or 'lime plaster' exterior for their bread house, they could cut some herbs from their garden and whip up a dip (hummus, tzatsiki, etc.) to plaster the walls or fill in the gaps of their bread-log cabin. For the roof, bread logs, 'cob' filler, spinach/lettuce leaf barrier, breadcrumbs or maybe a hummus dip for soil, then sesame seeds/chia/whatever to 'plant' on their green roof. And go on from there. :)

I may have been really just craving carbs, or it may be a creative way for people to get a couple different badges (make bread, harvest herbs, build a little house with "green" roof, etc.) and eat it as a snack when they're done. If they have kids, have them help make this like they're doing a gingerbread house.
 
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What about gardening requirements that take lot size into account?

This might be a different PEX system altogether (including small urban and suburban lots), but I'd suggest something like:

"Produce the equivalent of 100 000 calories per acre" (or maybe a smaller amount if this is for the sand badge?)

( I will assume for the sake of this that Paul based his original requirements on a 1-acre plot, which is what boots get allotted after a certain amount of time.

You should calculate the entire size of the plot you live in (you cannot deduce the building itself, the driveways or parking lots, etc.). If sharing the lot with other living units, divide the lot size by the number of units. If you have a community garden lot, you should include that in your calculation. My small urban lot is 8% of an acre, for instance. Someone with just a balcony and some common areas would have to produce a lot less, but still get creative with convincing the neighbors/landlord to use a fruiting hedge or have potted vegetables in the parking lot).


 
Kena Landry
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A few other options for an urban-adapted PEX system.

- Volunteer for at least 4 hours in a community-based gardening project (1 pt)

This can be a school garden, a collective garden, a fruit-picking drive for charity, your CSA, etc. Or you could simply help an elderly neighbour manage their garden. At least half the yield has to go back to the community - it cannot simply be your own plot in a community garden. Can earn this bit multiple times, but you need to perform different type of work. Document with pictures and include dates and hours.

Rationale: Grass-roots gardening initiatives help share the permaculture bug outside of our limited community, and are a good place to learn new skills from veterans. Teaching kids to garden will pay the world a hundred-fold.

- Haul garden inputs (at least 25 pounds of dirt, compost, organic material, reclaimed bricks, etc.) over > 500m using only human-powered transportation. (1 pt)

Use a bike trailer, a caddy, a wheel-barrow, your own two arms (enlist your kids)... You're allowed public transportation for part of the way (hauling bulk compost in the subway or on the bus would be particularly bad-ass) Can be in multiple runs. Honorable mentions (no extra points but you'll get my respect) if those are found/bartered materials rather than a run at your local store.

Rationale: Carrying a wheel-barrow full of dirt in an urban setting is very conspicuous. It puts gardening front stage, and normalizes non-car transportation, inspiring others to be creative with their transportation.


For Textiles:
- Give a new life to at least 80 pounds of fabric. At least half of that should be clothing or textiles that are beyond repair (the other half can be clothes that you patch, mend or adjust to extend their lifetime). The end result can be clothing, household items, stuffing for cushions... Show the original item(s) and the end products with their weight.

- Rationale: 80 pounds is the average amount of clothing and textile sent to the landfill every year by Canadians. We need to start being accountable for that.
 
r ranson
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Right now I have about 500 silkworms living in a container approx. 16"x12"x4".  I will probably have to double that space before they cocoon, but I can just stack two bins on top of each other.  

A lot of cities have mulberry trees because they grow so well in extreme conditions and are extra good at purifying pollution.  Also yummy berries.

But silkworms can be grown on 'chow' which is basically mulberry leaf powder.  Not as permaculture as growing them with leaves, but still - homegrown fibre!

There are also over 200 varieties of wild silkmoths that eat different foods.  Local, regional, trees.  Whatever tree naturally grows locally with great abundance that no one would notice if you acquired a few leaves because there are so many trees, you would only need to take a little bit from each.  
 
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I’d like to suggest adding guerilla gardening For PEA. Make and distribute seed balls, plant seeds, etc. in public/unused/underutilized spaces. Show at least 1 growing. Public parks, abandoned lots, roadside ditches, even tucked into landscaped areas near your rental office/clubhouse or a local business if applicable. Just pretend you’re a teenager looking for a place to grow some pot- the most creative guerilla gardening I’ve ever seen in action.

Also, foraging still works. I did an urban food foraging class once. Really interesting and insightful.
 
Mike Haasl
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As a reminder, PEA is for people living in any apartment, anywhere on earth.  So the BBs and badges for PEA need to be possible for someone in an apartment in Abu Dhabi, Mumbai, Mexico City or Moscow.  It can't rely on going outside and working in a park because that may not be legal or there may not be a park.  It can't count on a balcony because many apartments don't have them.
 
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Participate in a community garden?
 
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So on the topic of growing food anywhere...
there could be a badge bit for transforming objects into usable planting containers (Like making self-watering planters out of 2-liter soda bottles, using old muffin tins, newspaper, or toilet paper rolls into seed-starting trays/pots, turning an old fishtank into a mini-greenhouse, etc.)
A BB for micro-greens perhaps?
Or small scale composting bins?

What about a BB for setting up a recycling system for yourself and others living near you?

You could have a BB for making a weather log and tracking freeze days/growing season/etc.

A BB for testing out and utilizing different eco/permie pest control?

 
Carolyne Castner
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There is one thing that I'm a bit confused about. From what I've read it sounds like the PEA skills need to be universally applicable with no need to utilize outside space. Conversely the PeP skills often require access to land; it is actually often stated that if you don't have access to space where you can perform the skills you should seek out space nearby (or go visit some other location) where you can complete the skill.

Why would that not be an option for the PEA? I'm not sure I understand why it would be acceptable for one system and not for the other. It seems like seeking out usable space near where you are encourages networking and a sense of community, and raises awareness of permaculture as you talk to folks about what you will be doing.

Perhaps there is a middle ground? Lots of the PEP skills have Choose-your-own-adventure lists, presumably so you can pick and chose the tasks with you are able to complete in your area. It allows for some customization of your permaculture experience which makes it feel more universal. Wouldn't having a large list to chose from (or the ability to submit your own alternatives) provide a more universal appeal?

There's also the added benefit that a large list of suggested activities may get people thinking creatively and help them engage in new activities that they hadn't previously thought were possible.
 
paul wheaton
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The answer is embedded in your question.

Conversely the PeP skills often require access to land



I think most of PEP does not require access to land.  



People interested in PEP will go through the list and see one thing that they cannot do, so they discard all of PEP.  But if they started PEP, the would probably, in time, discover a way to accomplish that one thing.  Thus getting PEP1 certified.

The primary purpose of PEA is to remove any possible barrier like that.  PEA is to be pure in this respect.  The moment you open it up to allow for a balcony or a nearby park or anything like that, then a large percentage of the population rejects the whole thing as "impossible" for them.  By keeping it pure, then the only objection those people can have is that they don't wanna.  It is certainly possible, but it isn't their thing.  Fair enough.



I wonder if 100 people start with PEA if 95 of those people will end up PEP1 certified and never finish getting PEA1 certified.



Suppose you add something about going to local park and finding a stick that is at least 2 inches in diameter and at least 9 inches long.   I suspect that for 95% of the people considering PEA, this will be a deal breaker.  PEA is now "impossible" due to ....   well, I bet there can be a list of 100 different reasons here.   But if we add in that they could get the stick over amazon or ebay or a craft store or from the wild ...  then those objections are washed away.



When we are done defining all of PEP, we will get to work on PEA.   And then we will work on expanding both to be more inclusive.   And, in time, we hope there will be a dozen more PEX programs that each offer variations.

 
r ranson
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I'm imagining that PEP and PEA are parallel paths.  If I remember right, the PEP path goes further and deeper, but for the most part, they run side by side and the PEA path has some skills that transfer over to PEP easily.

So I imagine that PEA would be for people who have limited access to the land.  When I lived in the city, there was an 8-year waitlist to get into some of the allotment gardens.  All these ideas for accessing land are great, but they weren't open to me. Basically access to land was a huge barrier and I can see that PEA is a way to get people involved while working around that barrier.  

So this is the vibe I'm getting:  All the stuff that involves outdoor work fits nicely into PEP or some other PEX - permaculture experience - badge.  Stuff that one can do in a small space indoors fits nicely into PEA.

I'm also thinking that as more PEX badges are developed, each one is going to have more value.  I've often mused about setting up a PER (permaculture experience according to R - me) for textiles because the biggest problem I have when teaching students is that the students don't put the time into practising the skills.  So I've pretty much given up teaching for free because it's a waste of both my time and theirs.  But if I could find someone that can prove they put the effort in and are willing to put the time into practising, then I would go back to teaching for free again.

Same with hiring people for the farm.  If someone had some PEP badges in that area, I could see they are worth hiring.  But as it is, just accepting people at their word has been disastrous.  We don't hire anyone anymore because we have to pay them to break things because they cannot listen or will not put the work in.  

That is another thing I like about PEP and PEX - it shows that the person can follow instructions.  Actually, that's the thing I value most when hiring and teaching.  Proof that the person can listen.
 
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Animal care - raising mealworms

Mealworms don't smell, are easy to raise, can be raised in small containers, help compost kitchen waste, create fertilizer, are a valuable food source for humans, lizards, birds.
 
Carolyne Castner
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Thanks for answering my questions!

I’m really excited about the system you’ve created and I understand it’s a work in progress and you’re spending a lot of emotional and mental labor on it.

I’m enjoying looking through what’s been created so far, and it is prompting me to get off my butt and do more projects; it definitely does make a difference when the only barrier is the “don’t wannas”

 
paul wheaton
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As we are wrapping up the PEP community badge, we are reflecting ....    wow, this is an enormous amount of work.  Staggering.  And we are intending to not only make it free, but I will be paying for software modifications to better facilitate it.  

And once we are done defining everything in PEP, it will be time to work on PEA.   It would be great if a lot of the work for PEA was already done.  

SKIP/PEP/PEA are created by the community and are designed to be free to the community.  And there can be a broad range of benefits to the community.  But it does take work.  A lot of work.  And there is no reward for that work.  

Most of the work is figuring out what would make a good BB that would meet the requirements.  Take into account the Otis factor.  Take into account the piano factor.  Needs to be documentable.  Needs to fit permaculture values.  Have the patience to make a really excellent BB list - it usually involves a lot of brainstorming.  And even brainstorming takes time.  

At the top of this thread I made a list of aspsects for PEA.  

gardening (in pots)
round wood woodworking (will need to buy materials like spoon carving blanks)
tool care
dimensional lumber woodworking
food prep and preservation
animal care (aquariums and small rodents)
community living
textiles
greywater
metalworking (soda can, soup can, wire, purchased materials)
electricity
commerce
natural medicine
nest
oddball



It seems the next step is to create a thread for brainstorming for the sand badge for one aspect.   And maybe a similar thread for another aspect.   Get the conversation going.   Maybe by the time we have finished with all the badges (through iron) for PEP, all of the sand badges for PEA will be done.  ??

My guess is that this sort of thing will be of interest to quite a lot of people reading these words.   Wuddya say - wanna try?

 
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