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When to share knowledge

 
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I love to learn everything I can about many subjects, that is one of the things that not only drew me to permies, but keeps me coming back.  I think it's important to share the knowledge we gain.  This week for some reason this has caused me a bit of conflict.  Two different incidents made me want so badly to talk to a total stranger.  In both cases I keep my mouth shut, but it was hard!
1. I was picking up my daughter at her boyfriends house.  While I wait in my car the neighbor is spraying roundup all over the cracks in the side walk.  I kid you not my hole car was full of the toxic smell.  I wanted to tell him it would be cheaper and so much less toxic to use vinegar.  I wanted so bad to share this bit, but I was the outsider. It was his home, and he didn't so much as give me a glance.
2. This was very very hard for me.  I was at Lowes picking up a flower for my sister in laws birthday.  The couple in line in front of me had a cart full of veggie and herb plants, and a second cart full of miracle grow garden soil.  At the last minute the woman added organic fertilizer.  I was drilling holes in there back wishing for some opertunity to share some of my knowledge.  Oh it was killing me. They spent 260.00.  I could have saved them money, and the veggies may have been healthier, and move nutritious.  I don't know why they would spend so much on that organic fertilizer when the soil they bought was full of miracle grow.  Makes no sense. I figured they just don't know any better.  
Without some opening I didn't know how to share my knowledge without being one of those people who butt in unwanted. It's a fine line between helpful and interfering.  
It's kind of strange I'm an introvert, give me my family, my garden and a good book, and I could be happy.  But people always talk to me where ever I go.  Even though I find this strange and sometimes uncomfortable it has given me the opportunity to help people without being that pushy person who tell total strangers what to do.  But not this time.  Would you have said something?  How do we achieve world domination without being the creepy stranger?
 
pollinator
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Hi Jen, I definitely get what you are saying.  I am an extrovert and it is extremely hard for me to keep my big mouth shut.  I have learned over the years that example to a few spreads the word much better than me trying to correct someone.  Most of my neighbors are my fathers age and tell me how I should be doing things.  One retired farmer from down the road caught me burning the grass out of the driveway and told me I should just use roundup. I just let him tell me and keep going my way.  He keeps coming over more and more and little by little he picks up on my different strategies. My mother was complaining to my father that they don't get much from their garden compared to ours.  It drives my father nuts that we don't use 12 12 12 or any fertilizer other than poop, compost, and wood chips.  The other thing he noticed was that we don't suffer from tomato blight. This year he is trying his best to copy what I have been doing for years.  He planted rye this past fall and is going to put a ton of compost on the garden.  Then he said he would like the wood chips to top dress when he is done.  I love my father to death and he taught me many things that most never get.  He was raised doing things the industrial way and that doesn't make him bad, it just means he needs proof of another way.  It is going to be hard for him not using fertilizer that he has used for 65 years pryer.  So I guess what I am saying is example does not work instantaneously like we would like, but it works in the long run.  At this point my whole neighborhood is doing gardening differently than mainstream.  People notice things over time and if it works they will copy it to improve their system.  My advice is don't worry about the neighbor and keep going.
 
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I think the best time to share knowledge is when someone asks. With myriad different personalities on the planet, I believe it's quite difficult to offer knowledge to others and not have many interpret a kind gesture as some form of bossiness or preaching - inadvertently implying that what they're doing is wrong. Most people, to me, seem sensitive or carry insecurities, and just want to do something their way without being "bothered" by good intentioned people trying to help. It seems to me people have to want to change to learn something new. In my experience, I find it easiest and more effective to lead by example, which can bring about people or neighbors for example beginning to ask questions.
 
master gardener
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I go with James, I suspect that none of us wants to live next to a neighbor who is always telling us what to do and not what not to do.  So, why be that neighbor?  At the same time, if someone opens the conversation, I will certainly share information in the least dogmatic way I can come up with.  The rules of this site provide good guidelines.  I avoid telling others what they should do.  I do share, to a point, what I have discovered.  I avoid terms like permaculture, organic, and other terms that might convince others that I belong to a strange kool-aide drinking cult.  Now if I am asked by someone where they can find more information,  then I will gently guide them.
 
pollinator
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That's tough. I have felt that way many a time. And while I feel there are fewer things more precious than knowledge, and giving it away for free irks me, sometimes, I also feel there are some things more important, like spreading knowledge that has the potential to help the grassroots achieve sea change.

I like the idea of the BWB. I feel, though, that it's almost necessary to take some of the issues Paul has championed and written articles on and print them out in pamphlets.

To avoid the idea that free knowledge is a hook to either get you to buy something or to join a cult, I would be up-front about donations being donated to a pre-selected charity, or being used to do something like a tool library, where you could keep a compendium of Permies stuff, including a dozen BWB books for sale or use.

I feel that the whole pamphlet-on-a-notice-board thing is probably the best way for what you're trying to do. Unless you can get an organisation like the Girl Guides or Boy Scouts onboard, but even then, they'd be using pamphlets.

I mean, unless we want to start a children's permie guides group organisation of our own. Or maybe a religion?

Wow. That is quite the rabbit's hole, isn't it.

-CK
 
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I'm an extrovert with hermitesque tendencies. I'm an herbalist, a Jane-of-all-trades (master of none), with a wide range of interests and off the wall knowledge, and I just cannot keep it to myself! But, I've become fairly adept at opening, and sometimes guiding conversations - especially at the store, or park, and sometimes, even in a total stranger's space. If I truly can't keep my trap shut (I'm still working on this skill, and fail often, and badly), I'll ask open, yet leading questions. Like, at Lowe's, I might have opened with something like, "Wow, it looks like you've got a busy weekend planned! Have you been gardening long?" In my experience, focusing on the other person, in an open, positive way is usually the easiest way to find out where their heads are. Sometimes, they're at wit's end, and desperately grasping at straws. Sometimes, they are first timers, and are just taking pot-shots, hoping for the best. Other times, they're just stuck in a rut, and don't even know that's where they are - they're acting on habit alone, maybe even thinking their problem, last year was the weather, or it's been so long, since their last garden, they don't even recognize the available products, and are relying on old memories. A sad percentage of people think they're doing the best they can, in using all the toxic garbage. Asking a friendly question invites them to open up, and maybe helps them relax enough to ask you questions, too.
 
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My beloved (with an entirely earnest demeanor) bought a plaque and hung it above my desk, it reads:

Everyone is Entitled To My Opinion

I try to live up to her expectations of me........
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thanks everyone.  I don't really have Neighbors except the millionaire across the street (who must have lined someone's pocket to take out an orchid to build there mansion on land zoned agracultur, and would like us to leave, a hole other post, probably for the cider press).
When family comes over, they always seem interested in what I'm doing, and why.  When my daughter brings her friends over she always take them through the gardens, she is proud of what I do. My son told me the other day his friend really liked my new nesting boxes. I asked when he saw them, and my son said he has been showing him pictures. I guess my kids are helping spread what I do. It humbles me and makes me proud.  
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Carla I love your approach.  I may have tried something like that, but it was super busy, and they never once even looked my way.  Social distancing is important, but also discourages interaction in a generation that is loosing the ability to interact in person.  It's sad.  Don't change, the world needs people like you now more than ever. Thanks
 
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It's funny. I am playing a conversational japanese game (persona 4), and it features precisely this type of social interactions.
What the game is suggesting here is that you never say them what to do. No one likes bossy people. Even when the other person is willing to hear advice, telling them directly is wrong. The same goes for gifts. If you give a piece of knowledge or a gift to someone who didn't ask for it, most likely it will not be well received.

So, the proper way is to offer help and listen. That's what Carla's approach is doing. She tries to break the ice so the other person is willing to talk, and at the same time she's hinting that she might be of help to some new gardeners. If it is too complicated, just do it in steps.
First, break the ice. Comment on something you think the other people is willing to talk about. Did they buy onions? Comment how much you love onions, or how hard it was to get a decent yield last year.
Then, figure out if you can help them. Try to ask or interfere from what they say if you really can help them. It could be that the fertilizer is not for what you thought.
Once you are certain you can help them, offer them your help in a polite way, which you feel comfortable speaking. Like: "Wanna know the secret for raising onions?", or "I've been doing this for years, if you have any questions I'd be glad to help", whatever, as long as you allow the other person to show interest. If they don't look very convinced, don't insist, it will make things worse.
Even when they allow you to share your knowledge, try to not tell them what they 'must' do. That's the bossy way. Instead, tell them what happens when you mix too much nitrogen, if it happened to you to burn some crops some time ago. There are more chances that they will listen (not everyone knows how to listen) if you talk about your experiences rather than enouncing facts.

An extra for a quality conversation is to keep watching for feedback. Observe what they say and how they say it. Have you noticed that these people are the religious type? Then avoid any subject that might offend them. Extremely liberals or reactionaries? Avoid talking ideologies, or saying that you are doing this to save the planet or combat climate change. On the other hand, if you share faith or ideology, then feel free to talk about it, but only after they have expressed their ideas. Remember, it's you who want them to listen, so it's your duty to keep to conversation agreeable for everyone.

Talking is a skill: You have to practice it often to master it. Being extrovert helps, of course, but you don't need to use many words to have a meaningful conversation.
 
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Chris Kott wrote:
I mean, unless we want to start a children's permie guides group organisation of our own.
-CK



I think that is a great idea! Using the technique Paul used in the videos to promote the SKIP Kickstarter is great and if there were videos like that,that were shorter and more geared towards children, that had small action steps that children could try on their own, I think it’d go over well. Maybe there could be a video of interviews of children showing their permaculture gardens and sharing their favorite techniques.

Many schools (prior to Covid) have been very open to growing their own food gardens on site, using native plants for landscaping and are willing to have guests come and speak about an topic via presentation and do a small school project.

Unfortunately, many parks and schools in CA use TONS of pesticides on their property and have it posted on a small laminated piece of paper near the entrance. When caring for a friend’s children, I told them not to play on the grass after I read all that was on the paper but I doubt most, if any, actually stop to read those.

When I worked at a Waldorf school, they actually had organic gardening as an elective the students could take and it implemented some good permaculture garden concepts.

I liked the permaculture playing cards as a way to invite children and adults to learn more about permaculture. (Obviously, I’m not handing them out in the line at Home Depot but to people I already know who I think might enjoy them.)

Carla Burke wrote:
Like, at Lowe's, I might have opened with something like, "Wow, it looks like you've got a busy weekend planned! Have you been gardening long?" In my experience, focusing on the other person, in an open, positive way is usually the easiest way to find out where their heads are.



I’ve found open ended questions connected to comments work well too. My former boss had a saying when we needed to approach parents about their children’s, what we considered, kinda ‘out of control’ behavior. We heard the parents out about their frustration and challenges and asked something like “have you considered what he/she might be like at 17?” And then offered some solutions to help them improve communication or identify what the behaviors were stemming from. I’ve pocketed this phrase “have you considered” for situations like Lowe’s along with comments like, “I have a lot of interesting resources I’d love to share with you, if you’re interested.” However, most would consider me to be an extrovert.

I’ve not had a ton of people take me up on my offer for resources but I’d probably continue with more questions like “what kind of resources would you enjoy the most audiobooks/podcasts, videos, or written literature?”

Abraham Palma wrote:
An extra for a quality conversation is to keep watching for feedback. Observe what they say and how they say it... Talking is a skill: You have to practice it often to master it. Being extrovert helps, of course, but you don't need to use many words to have a meaningful conversation.



I think this is key Abraham. As an opinionated extrovert, I don’t want to come off as a know it all or bombard people with my opinions. Additionally, I sometimes have to rework my thoughts like instead of ‘what a jerk, he’s poisoning the whole neighborhood and me!’ ‘He likely has no idea what the consequences of using those chemicals and is doing the best he can to solve his problem.’ When I was in sales, I hated the icky feeling of looking at people like their decision was gonna be the determining factor of whether or not food was going to be on the table. I didn’t want to feel like I was using people to accomplish my goals. In this instance though my real goal might be to get my neighbor to stop using RoundUp or for the gal in front of me at the store to not use MiracleGro refocusing my mind to simply having a meaningful conversation with another human being has been incredibly beneficial for me. Thanks for emphasizing the importance of a quality and meaningful conversation Abraham. I do think quality meaningful conversations will accomplish Paul’s world domination goals.

Jen Fulkerson wrote: While I wait in my car the neighbor is spraying roundup all over the cracks in the side walk.



My solution when it was my neighbors, who were also my landlords, was to explain that the RoundUp was very toxic and dangerous for my backyard chickens (who they enjoyed.) I let them know that I was happy to solve the problem by getting rid of the weeds myself, which would save them time and money. When I moved out of the country and couldn’t find a good home for my chickens they ended up adopting them, which I was sure happy about.

Jen Fulkerson wrote:
...But people always talk to me where ever I go. Even though I find this strange and sometimes uncomfortable it has given me the opportunity to help people without being that pushy person who tell total strangers what to do.



What a blessing that people feel that you are approachable and may have answers to their questions. Talking with strangers can be uncomfortable, even for extroverts. I hope the responses you’ve gotten help with your future conversations. I’m looking forward to hearing how your next encounters go.
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I miss the girls
I miss the girls
 
pollinator
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Howdy!
Warning: Buzz words. varied and many, ahead. If you have an allergy to buzz words, you may want to be careful.

Wow! This is actually a problem I have wrestled with more than once. From different directions, too. So cool to see it up on a discussion board of a group who, I hope, shares many of my same values and decisions.

I have been the extrovert who organized a series of learning experiences in a rotating outdoors (thank goodness for good weather and pavilions!) "classroom" set up so that people could participate and learn broad brush topics about "The Middle Ages". We're talking really broad brush, here.
The same setup could work for a suitably motivated organization which had a decent sized set of volunteers, all able and willing to teach some broad brush topic to a group of younger people.
(This is from where I had seen reference to educating and/or organizing young people.)

In other news:
I was once a Garden Shop manager for a Big Box Everything Store, because someone in management had double-checked that I had taken university classes in some kind of "plant thing". Yay. It was a paycheck.
I was able to not step on too many toes in other shops and garden centers while also taking the many teaching moments as they were offered.
Fellow employees got the very short version of "Our local soil runs to sand and clay. One or the other. People need compost. This (unnamed) is the best we carry. Show the customer where to look for the information about what's better for them, then move on. People will make bad choices. All you can do is tell them that, "since they asked for your opinion, in your opinion they should do (x) and (y), but only they know what will ultimately be better." Then move on. Be nice; be polite; welcome regulars."

I ran face to face with the situation you described of the couple who had mixed "Brand Name chemically altered mess of Nasty" and actual "good for what might ail you" organic stuff. Many times in a single weekend. There was nothing I could do if there was a line and I had three people wanting assistance. Other times, if it was slow, I would ask questions about why they made different choices. That would allow me to learn about them and why they were there.  
In my experience, there were three situations:
                                                     1. They didn't know what they were doing, but a friend/relative/neighbor had been seen using the stuff in the bright colored bag, and that did great for them; and the organic stuff was something recommended by the lady at the Garden Club plant sale, so they
                                                          probably needed that, too.
                                                     2. They know the Name Brand is nasty, but they need to have something to grow in and the soil in their yard was just awful, so they were going to shotgun the mess and just throw it all together. After all, Brand Name sponsors those garden shows on PBS, right?
                                                          What's the worst that can happen?
                                                     3. They were old hands at growing stuff and they just need a little to top dress their Spring planting, but Young Relation just got interested in gardening and so they want them to have a good first experience. There's enough chemical in the Brand Name nasty to
                                                          revive a three week dead tomato plant, so it has to be good for a quick and easy hook for Young Relation. Once they get Young Relation going, it's easy to slip in a subscription to OG, or MEN and from there, anything's possible.

So - you have the chance to talk to a couple of "Don't care about the environment, just want to keep up with the Joneses". Not much of a conversation unless you can convince them that something quick and easy will make their garden better/faster/more colorful and it has to be easy and not involve any effort on their part.
      Or you can have a really good teaching moment with the Shotgunners and they can leave with some easy plants, a few large pots and the ideas for a raised bed and something nice and productive, as well as some possible reading and internet research. Maybe, in a year, they'll get a magazine subscription to something and experiment a bit more.
     Or, you can try to suggest another, easier way to get a Young Relation involved in ecological and guerilla gardening, which will really resonate with Young People, and help to get the neighborhood planted with an ever expanding carpet of wildflowers, native plants, and native fruit trees - because what modern young person doesn't want to be a cool guerilla planter with thematic outfits and the ability to tell their friend what *they* did during break and have it be way cooler than anything friend could have done.

I mean, I want to be a way cool guerilla gardener and toss seed bombs onto a local "rural resort and country club", as well as any number of places where the state highway department has "lack of wildflowers" problem.

Unfortunately, I'm no longer the extrovert and educator I once was (time and medical things saw to that), but I can and do work to help in the ways that I still find available to me.

It's easy to lecture and many of us who have years of research and are constantly expanding our knowledge base can fall into "lecture mode" without even realizing it. The method of making the conversation about the person you're talking to is the best way to go about it. Gently guide people to where they want to be. It can be hard for them to know until they have a chance to learn about it.  
It takes time for people to learn to change and to try new things. Anything new is scary and might not work.
The way y'all are dealing with the potential for teaching moments is awesome and I look forward to learning more as I get more involved both with my little area, and with the group as a whole.  
 
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If someone were to come up to me uninvited and tell me what I was doing was wrong and that I should do it differently, my reaction would range somewhere between ignoring them and being openly hostile.  I assume others feel the same way.  That leads me to my philosophy now.  If someone asks me, I'm happy to answer.  If not, I keep my mouth shut.  There have been far too many times in my life when I was sure I was right about something, and then found out differently, for me to be smug in the knowledge that I know best now.
 
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I'm not one to talk to strangers unless they ask me a question or make a comment.

So I will have to say the answer is "when asked."

I did appreciate someone wishing me Merry Christmas when I was at the Post Office.

Now, my mother-in-law never met a stranger.  She would have long conversations with people where ever she was.  Once my father-in-law asked, "Who was that?" She said, "Just someone that was sitting next to me!"

Most of the people I talk to are the people in the stores I frequent, meanly asking where something is.
 
pollinator
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Had one of these today, but on my own turf. Actually even in stores and such I find that smiling and making eye contact is usually a good segue into conversation. Not that I try (I'm a flaming introvert) but I trained myself how to make eye contact and now I do it without thinking. Saying good morning helps too, especially if it's not morning. :) Either the person will pretend they didn't see, or follow the social programming and start a conversation. What they say to start that conversation gives you a direction. Often I can tell what kind of gardener (categories identified above in several posts) they are within their first sentence.

I'm sure most of them regret getting me started.

Anyway, a guy from the phone company came. He asked me what I was growing and told me how he's turning his yard into a rock breeding ground. I mentioned that it's possible to plant into the rocks--they keep the ground below cooler and hold the water in. He is a chemical dependent follower (any-chemical-anybody-anywhere-recommends), he's close to retirement and doesn't want to work on the yard anymore, he's pulling out thriving plants and replacing them with rocks in order to save water and thus money.

I didn't say anything about the chemicals or the death throes of raspberries. What I did tell him was how I grow in one area without water. So either he listened and he'll think about it, or at some point he'll have a vague recollection that some things can be grown without water. It might help.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Anne Miller wrote:Now, my mother-in-law never met a stranger.  She would have long conversations with people where ever she was.  Once my father-in-law asked, "Who was that?" She said, "Just someone that was sitting next to me!"

I did that, just once. But she really needed someone to listen. We walked away and Dad asked if she was a friend of mine. I said "She is now," and the look on her face made the whole trip worth it.
 
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I have heard, and I think it’s true, that unasked-for advice comes across as criticism. One of the guidelines in discernment groups is, “Hold your opinions, even your convictions, lightly.” Of all the guidelines, that one gets the most push-back. I’m working on saying what I am doing and how it’s working instead of telling other people what to do.
 
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