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paul wheaton
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One of the people here at the wofati workshop came into the office a couple of days ago and attempted to be helpful by telling me that we need more _____ and _____ and ____. Further, a gapper arrived and expressed at a campfire how this place sucks because we are not currently providing even half of our own food - where are the food systems?

I think both of these guys bring up valid points.

First, I'm pretty sure that I have not advertised that we are doing anything that we are not actually doing. That's really important to me.

The food systems are huge. And, at the same time, permaculture systems are dominantly perennial. So if somebody is going to plant a food system that they really care about, they have to be set somewhere where there is the potential that they will be there at least five or ten years. As is, the housing at the lab is not yet built - so it would be challenging for somebody to be there through one winter. So, between the tipi+rmh, and hopefully two wofatis will be completed this year, we will be able to begin to put in more food systems at the lab.

Basecamp is a little odd. There is a serious lack of soil at basecamp. So the plan is to import soil from the lab. We have some soil imported - and a few other things have been cobbled together. The food systems are starting. But they have a long ways to go. Further, the people here aspire to someday live on the lab. So if you plant a tree in zone 1 here, it won't be in your zones 1-5 on the lab.

And there's the root of it all. To get more zone 1 spots started on the lab. And zone 1 spots require permaculturalist habitat that will keep somebody comfy in the winter. So the priorities have been:

1) build winter habitat on the lab

2) move soil to basecamp

Along the way, we have created some infrastructure. And we have some rough starts at some attempts at things. Like two poopers, the solar voltswagon, the four electric vehicles, the solar leviathan, two wofatis, the tipi+rmh, the compost heated showers, the lemon tree site, berms, hugelkultur, the love shack, the rolling shelves, rocket mass heaters ... Several of these things are being completed or optimized.

But, this is not a completed permaculture site. This is an "under construction" site. I suppose if we showed up with a couple million dollars a year ago, we could have a completed site now. Instead, we are cobbling things together on a shoestring as time and finances allow. Maybe in three years it will be looking pretty impressive.

For now, it seems that the people that come by and throw their shoulder in can see what can be. And they are excited to help build what can be.

The purpose of this post is to make it clear what to expect when coming here.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Paul - thanks for sharing your insights and thought processes regarding the Lab and Basecamp. I think it's a valuable look into what creating a permaculture project on a larger scale, from scratch, is all about. And I remember Geoff made some similar comments on Permaculture News or maybe in his PDC about the same thing when he was setting up Zaytuna Farm - he would get EXACTLY the same feedback!

One of the things people need to remember is that permaculture is all about patterning. Patterning happens in both physical ways - water flows, foot traffic patterns, patterns of sun and shade throughout the year and so on. However, some really important patterns happen OVER TIME. Consider the way nature seeks to heal a damaged ecosystem - hardy pioneers come in first and prep the soil and create niches for other, more favorable plants to follow. As the environment becomes richer, the pace of progress towards a climax system increases and diversity explodes.

The same is true with homesteading. In the beginning, there are a few hardy pioneers working overtime to establish favorable conditions to attract more high value inputs. Each successive iteration over time brings more richness (with the inevitable few disasters along the way). Annual food gardens require the most amount of work per yield - which is why they are zone one elements. Like you say - you need someone dedicated to the work to make it viable. They will show up in due time as part of the succession.
 
Charles Tarnard
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FWIW, This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like from threads, a few podcasts and the like.
 
Cj Sloane
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paul wheaton wrote:There is a serious lack of soil at basecamp. So the plan is to import soil from the lab.


A can't remember where this comes from, but Bill Mollison has said you don't really need soil for a good garden, that you can grow a good garden on top of concrete. His current wife thought that was ridiculous so she tried to grow a garden on concrete and it did work - and then somehow she married him! I think the technique is similar to what PRI suggests about converting lawn to garden except you don't need cardboard to block out the grass, over course.
 
D. Logan
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paul wheaton wrote:...Further, a gapper arrived and expressed at a campfire how this place sucks because we are not currently providing even half of our own food - where are the food systems?....The food systems are huge. And, at the same time, permaculture systems are dominantly perennial. So if somebody is going to plant a food system that they really care about, they have to be set somewhere where there is the potential that they will be there at least five or ten years....


People have expectations based on their own views of 'how it should be' and 'where the priorities are'. I have seen people and communities that provide 50+ percent of their own food and it can take up a lot of their time. Until perennial plants were established, you would be relying on animals and annuals. Each aspect you add creates more chores. More chores means less time to get other projects established that are possibly more vital in the short run. I don't think it is unreasonable to manage 20 percent of your food on site while working to establish the food systems and outsourcing the rest from local and responsible sources. If, however, the person in question is volunteering to attend to a garden large enough to feed X number of people as well as the required animals, perhaps taking them up on the offer would be worthwhile. Until there are the extra hands who aren't dedicated to other jobs and who are more than happy to spend hours working on conventional crop growing until the perennial food system is more established and able to allow for higher production with less active annual growth, I don't think anyone can really complain overmuch and still be honest in their sympathies. There are a lot of irons in the fire over there and each one of them entails a substantial workload.

People need to have realistic expectations as well as recognizing that each individual has different priorities. Where I rank something may not be where the head honcho ranks it. That isn't ignoring its importance, but rather simply recognizing that there is an alternative for the time being whereas other things have no viable present alternative. There are farmer's markets, local growers and even the grocery if need be. Heating and buildings are going to get priority in that case. Even in survival situations, shelter from the elements is a priority even over water and food. At least this is how I see things.
 
Tim Wheaton
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A wise man once said " Get of your ass and do it yourself. Nobody is going to do it for you!"
 
dan collins
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Location: Nova Scotia
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There's 2 of us on our farm, we have to do everything and have never had help, our farm runs with a rule set of garden/water in the morning and build/maintenance in the afternoon, or else I binge build. Keep on working hard.





 
Jocelyn Campbell
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dan collins wrote:There's 2 of us on our farm, we have to do everything and have never had help, our farm runs with a rule set of garden/water in the morning and build/maintenance in the afternoon.


This simple statement is one tiny example of how differently Paul wants to do things here. He does not want to irrigate (or water). And for animal systems, we want the majority of their food to be forage.

So, while you could grow on concrete with transplanted annuals and plenty of rainfall or irrigation, that's not what we've got or what we're doing at wheaton labs. Building soil that will hold moisture in a fairly dry climate, planting things from seed for that all-important tap root, all of that takes time to establish.

We could have chickens tomorrow, if we were willing to buy feed for over half of their diet. We want to treat our animals better than that. Though we also need a person dedicated to animal (and/or garden) systems at base camp, which we don't have yet. We need more housing first.
 
dan collins
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I agree with you Jocelyn, I'm 3 years into my premaculture farm and understand the time things take. Just seems as though a temporary growing systems (nusery/garden) for seed saving, plant propagation and food would make sense to me.

 
Cj Sloane
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
So, while you could grow on concrete with transplanted annuals and plenty of rainfall or irrigation, that's not what we've got or what we're doing at wheaton labs. Building soil that will hold moisture in a fairly dry climate, planting things from seed for that all-important tap root, all of that takes time to establish.


The story about growing on concrete was meant to imply that you could grow on what I presume is rock at base camp. That you could plant into a layer of manure, compost, and mulch and that it would do fine. No reason why you couldn't do this from seed. Pretty sure Sepp talks about planting chestnuts in crevices between rocks and the roots find their way.

Of course, you'd need someone available to take that on.
 
S Haze
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Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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I can identify with Paul's comments on the problem of establishing zones (1-5) for future arrangements that don't necessarily match up with what's there today. The farm I'm setting up is only 10 acres and all of the zone 1 areas are really only confined to 2-3 acres. If you're considering a much larger set-up these issues will be even trickier such as the distance between the lab and basecamp. Don't know exactly how far that is but get the impression that it's pretty substantial.

When I moved here I was faced with the dilemma of wanting to get slow growing perennials started right away but not knowing exactly what the layout of the place was going to be. Drawings are useful tools but plans in my opinion should always evolve as you spend more time in a place and begin to observe and understand at least some of what's going on.

As a result many trees shrubs and other plants have been moved once or even twice. Others have been set back of killed due to driving on or too close to or just because of neglect, in that case I guess I should see it like Mark Shepard does and just say "Good riddance! If you're not tough enough to take it I didn't want you here anyway!" (paraphrasing from something he wrote)

It's not an easy task to start from scratch no matter the scale or how many people are helping out, good things take time!
 
Julia Winter
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Paul, you've been very straight forward in what is and isn't yet happening at your place. Some people are dreamers, and that's cool. It's just when the dreamer combines with the whiner that patience starts to wear thin.
 
paul wheaton
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I think there are a few more important points:

1) I feel like we now have a lot of really cool things, but we also have some stuff that is a bit like living in a construction zone. The berms and hugelkultur at basecamp were stopped in mid stride when the dumptruck broke down. The "we'll have it fixed in three days" turned into "one more day" for three months. Now we are scheduled to take it into a shop in a couple of weeks. And that is just one example.

2) People are coming here hoping to see paradise and are bummed to see some stuff under construction. I think those people need to wait five years. Only in five years I think we might have a different problem: too many people want to come. So we will probably limit access to the people that threw their shoulder in in the early years.

 
Julia Winter
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The dump truck is back! Are there people to load it and drive it and dump it? Fall planting isn't a bad idea. . .
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Julia Winter wrote:The dump truck is back! Are there people to load it and drive it and dump it? Fall planting isn't a bad idea. . .


Yes! Some really awesome people are learning all about big (and small) equipment use.

Fall planting sounds so, so simple.

And yet we have the following to do with our equipment and people first (not necessarily in a specific or priority order):
--finish the second parking lot (we have 50 people parking here later this month)
--move boneyard stuff from the first parking lot to the newly excavated boneyard
--move the pooper, showers and compost hot water system to the newly excavated terrace
--bury wofati 0.7
--bury wofati 0.8
--finish / add more soil to the berms and hugelbeds by the house (this is why they weren't completely planted in the first place)
--run the sawmill for more lumber
--build more tables with said lumber to feed those 50 people
--source food, plan menus, gather all kinds of RMH and other supplies for the RMH events
--we're also repairing EV's, excavator, sawmill, chainsaws, and finishing the solar leviathan as we go
--cutting, splitting and stacking firewood for the RMHs

Oh, and it would be nice if the two guys staying in the red cabin had some insulation this winter. That would be good.

Let alone all the tasks of paying the bills, feeding everyone, keeping info and people organized and on task (building endless shelves!), yada yada.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Wow! this post made things make so much sense to me about how the world is at this moment, and how to fit into it! When you get the teleporter working let me know, I'd love to beam in to Montana.

But Paul, you should definitely have some ___ and ___ and ___ by now, I mean come on.


Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:Paul - thanks for sharing your insights and thought processes regarding the Lab and Basecamp. I think it's a valuable look into what creating a permaculture project on a larger scale, from scratch, is all about. And I remember Geoff made some similar comments on Permaculture News or maybe in his PDC about the same thing when he was setting up Zaytuna Farm - he would get EXACTLY the same feedback!

One of the things people need to remember is that permaculture is all about patterning. Patterning happens in both physical ways - water flows, foot traffic patterns, patterns of sun and shade throughout the year and so on. However, some really important patterns happen OVER TIME. Consider the way nature seeks to heal a damaged ecosystem - hardy pioneers come in first and prep the soil and create niches for other, more favorable plants to follow. As the environment becomes richer, the pace of progress towards a climax system increases and diversity explodes.

The same is true with homesteading. In the beginning, there are a few hardy pioneers working overtime to establish favorable conditions to attract more high value inputs. Each successive iteration over time brings more richness (with the inevitable few disasters along the way). Annual food gardens require the most amount of work per yield - which is why they are zone one elements. Like you say - you need someone dedicated to the work to make it viable. They will show up in due time as part of the succession.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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You can do it, guys! you only ever need to do one step at a time, and you'll make it somehow. Maybe some of the visitors for the workshop will want to pitch in too.

When I have to do something that's not directly plant- and soil-related I remind myself that I'm gardening by doing that too. I'm gardening when I'm taking lead samples from parts of the house and whatever.

It's really exciting to hear about all of this and it's very illuminating for others starting down a similar road, thanks for posting about it.

And hurray for the dump truck!

You'll get there! best wishes,


Joshua


Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
Julia Winter wrote:The dump truck is back! Are there people to load it and drive it and dump it? Fall planting isn't a bad idea. . .


Yes! Some really awesome people are learning all about big (and small) equipment use.

Fall planting sounds so, so simple.

And yet we have the following to do with our equipment and people first (not necessarily in a specific or priority order):
--finish the second parking lot (we have 50 people parking here later this month)
--move boneyard stuff from the first parking lot to the newly excavated boneyard
--move the pooper, showers and compost hot water system to the newly excavated terrace
--bury wofati 0.7
--bury wofati 0.8
--finish / add more soil to the berms and hugelbeds by the house (this is why they weren't completely planted in the first place)
--run the sawmill for more lumber
--build more tables with said lumber to feed those 50 people
--source food, plan menus, gather all kinds of RMH and other supplies for the RMH events
--we're also repairing EV's, excavator, sawmill, chainsaws, and finishing the solar leviathan as we go
--cutting, splitting and stacking firewood for the RMHs

Oh, and it would be nice if the two guys staying in the red cabin had some insulation this winter. That would be good.

Let alone all the tasks of paying the bills, feeding everyone, keeping info and people organized and on task (building endless shelves!), yada yada.

 
Cassie Langstraat
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Paul and Jocelyn chat about what's been going on at the labs in a new podcast podcast if anyone is interested! It's just part one of three as well.

 
nancy sutton
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I'm glad Paul and Jocelyn explained the lab/base status in such detail... looking forward to the podcast :) But, I've been blown away by the opportunity to 'see' (vicariously.. thanks Kristie, Sam, et al) a real, actual, life wofati going up! I think proving out this form of building is highest priority.. as someone said, labor (lots needed) needs warm shelter/water. I don't think Sepp and Goeff are working on this aspect of permaculture...(ok, Ben Law is, and probably others I don't know)... and it is blowing my mind. You can imagine how disappointed, and now elated!, I am with the dead/alive dump truck. This winter should be very, very, very, very interesting in proving/tweaking the theory and giving potential 'roots' the promise of quick, cheap, comfortable housing ... a minor miracle, in my view. Yay, Paul, Tim, et al!!

I'm also assuming, from other threads, that seeds (well, cheap seeds, anyway :) are being thinly scattered far and wide (with a map, so success can be measured come spring ;), including potatoes and sunchokes (one will become many very shortly) being stuck in the ground all over the lab. Including the tough 'weed' survivors, amaranth, dandelion, etc, etc., etc . I see next year as much more food productive, and perhaps venison will be on the menu. If guns are out (I hope), maybe some "primitive skills" folks/teachers could be given the, temporary, opportunity to practice their indigenous, 'natural' hunting/survival abilities, for the 'rent' of sharing the results. Given the temporary use of a wilderness area, they should be pretty self-sufficient and non-damaging..... or I am waaaaaay off, as I have minimal knowledge of this 'business' :)

Now that I think of it, I understand that asparagus grows wild in Yakima, WA, where it is grown commercially. Shouldn't be to hard for someone in that area to yank bunches of plants out of the ground and send them off to you. Or I think they could be 'heeled in' for storage, and handed off to anyone traveling to the PNW and back to MT.

And, any wood chips.. maybe even sawdust... free, that is, could be piled up on the rock at basecamp...inoculated with golden elixir, it should grow lots of stuff. There is that guy in our area with a 'religious' website... mentioned on other threads... who grows in straight chips, very successfully. No layering, pH testing, fertilizing, etc. Just pile and/or spread very thick, and toss seeds.... and sprinkle with 'nitrogen' :) I know it would take time and effort to locate a supply and pick up, or perhaps get lucky with a free delivery, but once dumped, you'd have a work-free, water-holding Q&D 'hugel', growing food and turning into very rich, 'instant', humus. (Maybe folks visiting with a pickup could be offered a bennie to bring a load of chips... that they would have obtained for free back home from most any 'arborist'.
 
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