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are there currently millions of permaculture millionaires? (the story of Gert)  RSS feed

 
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paul wheaton wrote:
I think that there are homesteaders that are just getting started with permaculture. The first few years is a lot of work. Then it just gets easier.

In either of these two cases, the first few years are more of a joy than a burden. In the first case, the burden factor is technically lighter, but a lot of the joy is lost, so the burden seems greater. In the second case, the joy continues to build as the "gift to your future self" starts to pay off handsomely.



I recently spent several back-breaking days planting 300 production trees that are going to outlive me. The pain didn't matter because I knew that I only had to do this once, and will hopefully be now reaping the benefits of the trees' bounty year after year with little further input.
 
pollinator
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I am hardly bored, nor lazy, in fact I am actually a workaholic that kind of has to keep that in mind sometimes.

I think the difference is that I put my time into other things besides farming. I built my own house from the cement on up and so it might mean spending a day logging so I can cut the trees to put wide planked floors in my kitchen, or split slate for the entry way, or build loft beds for my daughters. That is not farming per se, but it certainly is gratifying and as a guy providing for my family (a stay-at-home mom and four daughters (2, 8,9 and 10), I enjoy the time to do those things.

We also try and get out and enjoy our land as a family too; no matter the season. This is Maine so that can be tough, but once we went down and built a fir lean too, then made a fire, went to a stream and got some water and made cocoa with the kids; smack in the dead of winter. All that was done on our own land and a lot of fun, and I am sure we built some memories in our girls. Again that is NOT actually farming, but it incorporates our farm (woodlot) into our lives and that too is important.

Now that my father is fully retired, I spend time with him as well. He is unique in that he does some permies stuff too. The guy can grow anything, but beyond that, he makes caskets for a funeral parlor that does "green based funerals", so the caskets are built from wood off the farm here, no mechanical fasteners so that its an all natural end to someones life who prefers holistic endings. It sounds morbid I know, but he makes some nice caskets that shows respect to the deceased and yet is affordable. That unto itself is noble.

I do more than this of course, like work a lot at a local Christian Camp nearby, occasionally do some bulldozing for someone on the side with my bulldozer, and do a lot of stuff within my church; but it kind of shows that while not really farm related at all, I hardly live a dull life either. Is life all about picnics in the back forty? Oh no, there is a ton of stress that comes from farming, we deal with weather everyday which says enough, but life is good too. I can stop when a fellow farmer stops by now and chats and not feel so rushed and that unto itself is of value.

Winter Camp


My kitchen, the slate, much of the wood, concrete counter tops, etc all came from the farm


Okay, maybe sometimes we do have a picnic (or brunch in this case)
 
pollinator
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It almost seems as if people are suggesting that folks who can't or don't want to work hard are bored and lazy. What if a person can't work hard, for instance if they have health problems or are old? To me, permaculture seems like salvation for a person who can't work hard, or can only work hard for short periods. There's hope that some time soon in the future, they can rest in comfortable and beautiful surroundings.

 
gardener
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I also think that not every permie wants to have a homestead with acreage. I have a food forest on a suburban lot. I want to retire here. Each person will want to hit their mix of jobs/gardenability/culture that they enjoy. I eat fruits,herbs, mushrooms, or vegies from my lot every day of the year, so I get the quality and flavor i'm looking for. But I also want to bike to the library, my specialty Asian/organic/farmers markets, play on a baseball team, go skateboarding, attend and play live music, visit my family who live in town, take my bike onto public transport to attend all kinds of cultural, gardening and sports/outdoor adventure events. I switched jobs to half the income and 1/2 the stress and hours. I could, because I have the food forest. There are many kinds of Gerts and Ferds out there.
John S
PDX OR
 
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At the moment, I help manage five acres. We have animals, fields, pasture, garden, and woodlot.

To maintain, it takes less than an hour a day, plus a little bit for busy times, harvest, planting, emergencies, whathaveyou. Average per week, about 10 hours. To Maintain the farm.

To improve the farm, it takes as much time as we are willing and/or able to put into it. Improving the land doesn't seem to add much to the daily maintenance. The only problem is at harvest time as it increases yield, which takes more of our time to process or sell. Other than that, we improve and expand, and it still takes about an hour a day to maintain.

Someone mentioned earlier (or perhaps in another thread) that they didn't like the Gert scenario because it didn't offer enough time farming/gardening. For me, Gert can spend as much time as she wants to improve her land. If she want's to put 60 hours a week, then no one is stopping her. It's Gert's choice. If she only wants to maintain and do the minimum, then that's her choice too. I imagine as Gert ages, the larger improvements will become more difficult to do on her own. Perhaps if she gets sick or breaks a leg or something, she might slow down a bit. Or she might not. The thing that strikes me as most important to this story is that Gert has that choice. Wage workers often don't.
 
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Here is a passage from a children's book called "Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH." I think it encapsulates the experience of a first world person:

"“…It was a comfortable, almost luxurious existence.

And yet all was not well. After the first burst of energy, the moving in of the machines, the digging of runners and rooms - after that was done, a feeling of discontent settled upon us like some creeping disease.

We were reluctant to admit it at first. We tried to ignore the feeling or to fight it off by building more things - bigger rooms, fancier furniture, carpeted hallways, things we did not really need. I was reminded of a story I had read at the Boniface Estate when I was looking for things written about rats. It was about a woman in a small town who bought a vacuum cleaner. Her name was Mrs. Jones, and up until then she, like all of her neighbors, had kept her house spotlessly clean by using a broom and a mop. But the vacuum cleaner did it faster and better, and soon Mrs. Jones was the envy of all the other housewives in town - so they bought vacuum cleaners, too.

The vacuum cleaner business was so brisk, in fact, that the company that made them opened a branch factory in town. The factory used a lot of electricity, of course, and so did the women with their vacuum cleaners, so the local electric power company had to put up a big new plant to keep them all running. In its furnaces the power plant burned coal, and out of its chimneys black smoke poured day and night, blanketing the town with soot and making all the floors dirtier than ever. Still, by working twice as hard and twice as long, the women of the town were able to keep their floors almost as clean as they had been before Mrs. Jones ever bought a vacuum cleaner in the first place.

The story was part of a book of essays, and the reason I had read it so eagerly was that it was called “The Rat Race” - which, I learned, means a race where, no mater how fast you run, you don’t get anywhere. But there was nothing in the book about rats, and I felt bad about the title because, I thought, it wasn’t a rat race at all, it was a People Race, and no sensible rats would ever do anything so foolish.

And yet here we were, rats getting caught up in something a lot like the People Race, and for no good reason. And the worst thing was that even with our make-work projects, we didn’t really have enough to do. Our life was too easy. I thought of what the scientist had written about prairie dog ancestors and I was worried.

So were many of the others….. we realized that finding the Toy Tinker’s truck, which had seemed like such an enormous stroke of luck, had in fact led us into the very trap we should have avoided. As a result we were now stealing more than ever before: not only food, but electricity and water. Even the air we breathed was drawn in by a stolen fan, run by stolen current.

It was this, of course, that made our life so easy that it seemed pointless. We did not have enough work to do because a thief’s life is always based on somebody else’s work."

 
pollinator
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This is slightly off topic but I think you will get why I am putting it here.

I am not so young, some people would even say old at 71. I am starting a 20 acre project in eastern Oregon to demonstrate what I have been learning in the last 20 years which I believe is radical permaculture. I have chosen to plant myself in a desert environment, 8 – 14 in. a year of water so that I can demonstrate how we can grow without irrigation and without fertilizer. With broadacre permaculture, there is no way to purchase compost at least not on my (or I should say my investors) budget. And more important no reason to as we can get great yields by increasing soil organic content which we can do by adding microbes. Many people think we need to have organic content in the soil for the microbes to eat. The microbes can eat the dirt.

I very much value people growing their own food and the homestead life in general. Our team are living off the grid, planning to install the Korean ground heating system under our tiny houses (trailers) before winter, using a compost toilet, and planning an evaporation refrigerator. We will grow many of our grains and beans as well as our vegetables, fruits, nuts and herbs in the food forest. We want to be free of the medical system which means using our own herbs for our medicine. One of the best ways to be free of the medical system is to eat our own food grown without any outside inputs.

the connections between our health and permaculture was not mentioned so far on this thread. When i was in india they were offended that i wanted to work on the land. it turns out that paid managers do not work on the land and certainly not land owners. I said that the reason i am healthy is because i love to work on the land. another way to be a millionaire is with our health.

I would personally prefer to do 2 acres near Eugene where my friends are. The ‘reason’ I am doing 20 acres in a desert is because I want to demonstrate what permaculture is capable of, for the sake of the earth and her people. After my trip to India I see that the current prime minister is aggressively looking for corporations to give folks a way to earn a living in factories. 70% of Indian farmers are growing food dry land. They have been sold into buying chemicals. The plants grown on chemicals need 4 times the water. So their production is way down and they want to go to the cities to earn money. So who will grow the food.

I find that I am motivated by making a contribution, more than living my life “comfortably.”

If we do not want to be a movement of rich people (or gringo farmers) I believe we need to have a way to make an income farming.. Permaculture is capable of reversing desertification, stopping drought, reversing climate change and this will not happen unless we have hundreds of thousands of farmers on board. We are the paradigm shift that makes industrial farming obsolete. I am personally demonstrating this on this farm.

There are many farms now, a lot using mob grazing, which are growing without irrigation in very low water situations and without fertilization. Gabe Brown’s rain fall is 15 inches. There is also Narsanna Koppula in India with his food forest also growing in low water situation (20 inches) without fertilizer with excellent yields. This works because plants work synergistically with soil biology in no till systems.. We can easily and rapidly increase soil biology, well documented by soil scientist Elaine Ingham and others. .. Gabe Brown says his soils do not show a lot of NPK but when his plants are measured, there is better NPK as well as micro minerals in his plants than plants grown with chemicals (and I would say than plants grown organically with off site inputs). He uses no irrigation, gets higher than average yields and uses no fertilizers of any kind.

In permaculture we talk about feeding the soil and not the plants. In fact all these off site materials are to feed the plants. We do not listen to ourselves. Especially in situations where we are earning money from say market gardens we want to stack up the soil to make sure we get good yields. The soil does not need these inputs to get great yields in no till systems. Gabe Brown tells us of someone who planted 1/2 his fields with chemical fertilizer and one half with no fertilizer, diverse cropping and no till. The one without fertilizer did better. We talk about closed loop systems and think we have to buy off site compost if we are exporting nutrients in the form of vegetables. The fact is the whole earth is one closed loop system. The world is literally starving for what we know so LETS DO IT.
 
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Could Gert's story already have been written? I read a book a few months ago; 12 X 12 Life Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream and I think the character "Jackie" could be Gert... She's a physician who takes a salary of $11,000/year treating native and immigrant patients. Her salary is based on protesting war taxes. She practices permaculture in that she lives on her land with very little outside input or waste. She uses a little money to pay her property taxes, minor expenses and greyhound bus trips to visit with her activist friends in Berkeley from her hippie days in college. She is considered by locals as a person of wisdom, a healer, a loon to some and at the same time a true local "daughter of the South". The book really goes into the author's personal issues, but his experience in the 12 x 12 leaves a permaculture taste in his mouth.
 
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John Weiland wrote:@Mick F: "If farmers markets started seriously impacting the grocery store supply system, you would see regulations and taxes put in place pretty fast. "

Don't think they aren't working on it: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm334114.htm



Yeah, the Farmers' Market here in Fairbanks is now required by their insurer to require all vendors to carry farm liability insurance. That's right, you have to have an insurance policy to sell produce to your neighbors at the Farmers' Market. Who knows where it'll end.
 
pollinator
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There may be a million Gerts but . . . not this sentence.

Gert has about $300 per month of disposable income and $4000 in the bank. Gert has trouble spending this extra money. She's not sure what to spend it on.



Can anyone here relate to this?

I think most Gerts live in the tropics in a third world country, where this sentence would not be true.
 
pollinator
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Gert's lifestyle is great for a single person. Things are getting more complicated when your office job supports the entire family.
Fantastic if your family shares Gert's mindset, then you can go for the journey together.
But if it is not the case ...
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:There may be a million Gerts but . . . not this sentence.

Gert has about $300 per month of disposable income and $4000 in the bank. Gert has trouble spending this extra money. She's not sure what to spend it on.



Can anyone here relate to this?

I think most Gerts live in the tropics in a third world country, where this sentence would not be true.



"Disposable income" means she doesn't need it for necessities. So I'm not sure where's the problem? Once all my necessities are covered by permaculture and a small income, I'm not sure what I'd spend an extra $300 on, personally. That's a lot of spare money.
 
Richard Gorny
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Gilbert Fritz wrote:There may be a million Gerts but . . . not this sentence.

Gert has about $300 per month of disposable income and $4000 in the bank. Gert has trouble spending this extra money. She's not sure what to spend it on.



Can anyone here relate to this?

I think most Gerts live in the tropics in a third world country, where this sentence would not be true.



"Disposable income" means she doesn't need it for necessities. So I'm not sure where's the problem? Once all my necessities are covered by permaculture and a small income, I'm not sure what I'd spend an extra $300 on, personally. That's a lot of spare money.



But that also means all her annual and monthly obligatory expenses boil down to approximately $283 per month. Is this realistic? Here, with growing fiscal regime that eats up 74% of salaries, not an easy task.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Richard Gorny wrote:

But that also means all her annual and monthly obligatory expenses boil down to approximately $283 per month. Is this realistic? Here, with growing fiscal regime that eats up 74% of salaries, not an easy task.



I think the idea is that Gert supplies most of her obligatory expenses with her permaculture system. And in the example, Gert isn't on a salary. She is self-employed with an annual income well below the poverty line. Looking at my own current situation, I think it is quite realistic. I'm a half-assed permaculturist with a brown thumb and rudimentary permaculture system, but I can imagine someone who is more advanced and with a green thumb being very comfortable on very little income.
 
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Once you climb on the back of the industrial complex its hard to get off. "The lady from Niger...." problem. Going that route usually ends up looking at labor $ per acre yield which means big farms monocultured with large inputs. Its successful but the problem is one of market entry. The average age of a farmer is 62yo. A budding Ag grad does not have $10m in his back pocket and unlikely to qualify for loans of that amount. So that system is its own destructor.

Could Permaculture fill the gap? No. if the model is megafarms feeding combines like ADM and Conagra. But what if export was not a major consideration? Then Perma has a shot. Thousands of Polyfaces dotting the landscape would not be a bad thing. It would also require changes in laws up and down the food chain as well.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm not convinced this thread is about farming. I think it is about living permaculturally.

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm not convinced this thread is about farming. I think it is about living permaculturally.


Indeed. As badly as permaculture farms are needed in the short term, I believe the longterm goal is for as close to 100% of the population as possible to be producers with some trade between.
 
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My brother-in-law in Ladakh is definitely a millionaire by Paul's standards.

He inherited his mother's adobe house and diverse, traditionally organic farm when he had already been exposed to modern organic and other progressive ideas. For income he has a shopfront during the tourist season in town an hour from the farm, selling the best jam in India, a small assortment of dried organic veg from his farm, ecologically friendly laundry service, boiled water to reduce tourists' bottled water waste, and a few suitable products sourced from elsewhere. The shelves look sparse but it does brisk business in the tourist season. He, his wife, and one farmhand produce a good portion of their own food at the farm as well as enough to sell in the shop, which also has one employee. He doesn't use the word permaculture, only organic, which, happily, the government of this country does not define.

He has a college degree, and was briefly director of a local environmental/organic NGOs but quit because he found it stressful. Then he rented a shopfront to show his art photographs, but it morphed into selling the farm products, and 15 years later it's still going strong.

Every year someone from the big cities comes into his store saying "If you produce hundreds of thousands of units of this jam we could sell it all over Bombay and Delhi!" Sometimes they insist and try to negotiate, but he's not interested in building a large workshop to govt standards and overseeing a dozen employees. "Cottage Industry" scale suits him just fine, and it's largely unregulated.

Recently he contracted to have a handsome 3-storey solar-heated rammed earth house built on his inherited land in town for about $50,000, which will house his family with almost no running cost for decades to come. It's all paid up, no mortgage. The food workshop will be in the ground floor, with cool storage underground on the north side. Lots of local people came to gape, and the solar/earth builders got several new clients as a result.

As Travis says, the shop and farm attract interesting people from all over the world.

No, he doesn't have a blog or a book, and I bet he's refused many journalists for fear they'd just attract more business than he wants to deal with.

When in Ladakh, visit Dzomsa.
 
pollinator
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How many years do you have to work maaaaaaany hours
....so that you can work only 10 hours per week?

This of working so little is not true IMO.
It would be fair to say that you do more per action.

I came across people who after a pdc say "You only have to go down the garden and colect tomatoes."

I will not get bored, when I see all what I can still do at my place!
It is not only about food, but medecine, building, clothing....
10 hours per week?
Who do it?
 
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John Weiland wrote:
With some exceptions, it sounds like Gert is living quite close to the tenets of the "Original affluent society": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society



Light Bulb experience: "Original affluent society" = When my food forest is working I can live like Baloo the Bear
 
Xisca Nicolas
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"These studies show that hunter-gatherers need only work about fifteen to twenty hours a week in order to survive and may devote the rest of their time to leisure.
Lee did not include food preparation time in his study,
arguing that "work" should be defined as the time spent gathering enough food for sustenance.
When total time spent on food acquisition, processing, and cooking was added together, the estimate per week was
44.5 hours for men
and 40.1 hours for women,
but Lee added that this is still less than the total hours spent on work and housework in many modern Western households."

This is "work" as defined by our society!
I include all, such as preparation,
and not only food.

When you have to process an otter in the cold or bananas, the time will change.
I know why I eat a lot of bananas!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Are the exact number of hours needed to make a living as a permaculture millionaire really important?
 
Xisca Nicolas
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It is not about the EXACT numbers, but about opinion about permaculture, and this of the "lazy side", I have heard it too much in a BAD way. I have felt some despise about this. I do not feel it is good for permaculture.

For me the question is "Why chose this aspect of permaculture to promote it?"

Why insist on a veeery little number of hours of work, when I see that my hours are
MORE interresting,
more rewarding,
making my neurones work, instead of following a railway and a routine...
And I feel the ETHIC. (lacking in a lot of jobs because you have to follow some blind rules, here they grow bananas, and quotas make them throw away some. Also, they get subvention, which prohibit to use the land for anything else than bananas, so they cannot go on having cows, or papayas and veggies between banana trees, and they have to buy liquid manure in containers, and put it in the water at calculated doses....)
 
Tyler Ludens
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For me, the low work hours mean hope. I don't think anyone is insisting that everyone work as little as Gert does, but what if they want to work as little as Gert does, or maybe that's all they can work? Or what if there's a bunch of stuff they want to do that isn't making a living, such as writing books, making music and art, etc?


 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I think the idea is that Gert supplies most of her obligatory expenses with her permaculture system.



I am a long way from being a Gert-style permaculture millionaire because for one reason or another I am very slow about getting the up-front labor invested. But one of the games I play with myself on a tiny scale is the "what thing do I currently buy that I can produce for myself" game. Sometimes I call this the "Why in hell am I still buying this?" game. The current revelation came when I was putting a bit of bulk dried chamomile into my iced tea maker for another batch of my beloved mint-chamomile tea. I have been ramping up my mint production to meet all my mint needs for some time, and I suddenly found myself staring at the little batch of dried chamomile flowers in my hand and thinking "WTF, this stuff grows like a weed, why haven't I planted some yet?" And thus began a small-but-worthy project that (once I get it established) will permanently erase another (admittedly small) regular expense from my cash-economy budget.
 
John Saltveit
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Dan, I do the same thing. The point is, for some people, frugality is a hobby. For others, it's part of your family cultural background. For others, it's a sense of spiritual/religious harmony with the poor. For others, it's a more ecological way to live. To me it's all of those.

As to the work, I really enjoy going out and checking on the plants and mushrooms. To paraphrase the ending of perhaps the oldest story in human existence, Gilgamesh, "this is an appropriate type of work for humans." I feel right doing this kind of work. I get exercise and sunshine and I feel aligned with history, agriculture and nature. It feels like breathing to me, rather than work. I also feel like preparing my food, washing the dishes, walking my dog and cleaning my house are appropriate types of work. It would feel silly to hire someone else to do that for me. I'm a peasant, not a prince. I think it is better for us to aspire to be peasants who eat like princes because we grow and cook quality food/medicine, rather than to have an overall prince lifestyle.

I do think it's easier if you work for awhile and save up your money. You also can build up skills and knowledge of things like house repair, car repair, investment processes, how to travel cheaply, how to do hobbies cheaply, etc. I canoe, sail, kayak, skimboard, hang glide, skateboard, go crabbing and clamming, fishing, play baseball, etc, all essentially for free. It's a good life if you can work toward it and make it happen.
John S
PDX OR
 
Jason Silberschneider
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I earn a six-figure income, yet we live an extremely frugal lifestyle. All money goes towards paying off the mortgage, building our rammed-earth home, and fuel for my hour-long commute to work. We live offgrid, so have no expenses for electricity, water, etc. Really only phone plans and insurance. Our food bill steadily decreases as the garden gradually supplies more and more food.

One day the mortgage will be paid off, and the house built. I'll no longer need that six-figure income, nor the fuel to make that one hour commute. Our frugal lifestyle won't have changed from now, and we'll need almost no money to get by on. And probably won't know what to spend any surplus money on.

In Australia, $18000 is the most you can earn before you begin paying tax. That's my goal. $346 a week is a LOT of money if you have almost no expenses.

Whhile most people plugged into the system strive to earn more and more, my plan for financial security, is to earn less and less.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jason Silberschneider wrote:I earn a six-figure income



Oh no! That's going to make people say "You need a six-figure income to become a permaculture millionaire!"

 
Jason Silberschneider
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Unfortunately, you are absolutely correct. Any point I tried to make would be drowned out. The strawman is strong in modern thinking.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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The "Hours of work" thing is interesting.

I guess it all comes down to proof; is there anyone meeting most of their needs from an established system working less the 10 hours a week? I think in the tropics it is likely. Banana and breadfruit trees yield well with little care, I'm told. Add in a ground cover of herbs and greens that grow like weeds, a pond full of tillapia, and some free range chickens, and I imagine there would be very little work indeed.

In cold climates, we have to work double in the summer, so as to have enough food in the winter; we have to pack and store things; we need fuel of one sort or another, all of which takes work; we need heavier housing, and more clothing; there are less perennial staples; animals (which generally take some work) are more necessary, since the best crop in this area of the world is grass.

So in the temperate climates, I would imagine we might have to work 30-40 hours a week during the growing season, but work less the 10 hours during the depth of the winter season.

And I don't know, I enjoy the work. I think the minimal hours required idea is an attempt to attract lazy suburbanites.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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But I do agree that all of our work is a means to an end, which is leisure. The really important things in life are the ones we desire for their own sake; a conversation with friends, a sunset, etc.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Maybe that was a bit out of line. I guess that what I was actually trying to say, is that we use that idea to try to attract those who see all work as a curse to be avoided. I mean, when work consists of climbing the power ladder at the office, or mowing the everlasting lawn, or washing the car for the 258th time, who wouldn't be "lazy?" But the hope is that they would see the permaculture "work" as so much more rewarding and fulfilling.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Also, it is a way to get rid of critics who say "But that would mean going back to the middle ages when everyone worked all the time just to eat!" I'm just concerned that we don't have hard examples of this for temperate climes yet.

Though if we added knowledge of sanitation and ecological theory to the middle ages, I personally think the scene is set for a very happy society!
 
master steward
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I'm another one who looks at the hours of work necessary and likes the idea of having to work less. It's nice to be able to do more when I can. I like being outside. I like pruning, planting, observing my garden, and watching my ducks. But, there's also times that I DON'T have time. That's when it's nice to not worry. I have a toddler, and another on the way. I can't always do all the planting, destroying bindweed, pruning, hacking back the salmonberry and invasive blackberries that want to take over, watering. etc. that I want to. BUT I really appreciate the fact the perennial systems that I already have set up will pretty much take care of themselves.

For instance, my blueberry/wild strawberry hugel maybe requires an hour of work every two weeks. That consists of pulling out grass and buttercup that want to outcompete my strawberries. That's less time than I spent last year, because now my strawberries have multiplied and have an easier time crowding out the things I don't want. I love the fact that I'll still get lots of berries even if all I have time to do is pick the berries due to being pregnant and/or busy with toddlers. I love that if I need to go away for a month or if I'm bedridden, this bed will take care of itself. The work is already done. That's security. That's freeing. That's reassuring. I love it!

I look forward to the day when more of my plants and systems are at that state, so that I don't have to work if I am unable to or busy with something else.

I'm not there yet. I'm at year three, and all three of these years I have not been able to devote nearly as much time and energy to it as I would like. As it is, I spend about 3-5 hours/day outside planting/watering/pruning/maintaining/weeding/herding ducks/watching & playing with my toddler. I only really maintain 1-2 acres of my 5 acres (the remaining three acres is mostly protected wetlands, of which I only maintain paths).

Do I want to spend only 10 hours a week outside in my property? Goodness no! I love being out there and watching and tending things, and I would spend more time out there if I could. But, I do like the idea that that's all the time I NEED to spend to keep everything running. There's a lot of security and peace in knowing my Garden of Eden can pretty much take care of itself if it needs to!
 
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Dougan Nash wrote:I agree with the sentiment of Gert, but she just conveniently started with a few acres. I know there are a lot of people like me who want to dive right in but land is expensive. I am also (like many in my generation) burdened with student loan debt. Half of what my wife and I make goes towards minimum payments. We were young and dumb and 8 years later, no sign of it ending.


Come to St. Louis Missouri --buy cheap derelict house on auction that has a Land reutilization authority vacant lot next to it. start rehabbing your house and start permaculture. vacant land is $175 all you got to do is promise to keep it clean and not overgrown. Lots of options here. Puultry rabbits included
 
Travis Johnson
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I like all this stuff because I am a "numbers guy". I will say that I prefer to be called a farmer that does permie stuff rather than a permiculturist just because that is what my Grandfather was and his grandfather before him was, and so on for the last 10 generations.

I think it would be foolhardy to think you are going to get something for nothing, but with agriculture patience is rewarded with a bountiful harvest. Consider corn seed; yeah you must invest in seed and prepping the soil, but 50 pounds of seed will plant 2 acres of corn at 30 inch row spacing's and net you almost 100 ton in feed! Now that is return on investment, and so time can be validated in the same way. If priorities are going to be set it can be justified by either time or money invested. Take a simple hugel for example; toss in much more decayed wood and since the nitrogen conversion is closer to swapping and you will get more growth from your plants; however you will have to recharge the hugel faster then if you use more intact woody debris.

A big issue I see is that people often get overwhelmed because they have too many irons in the fire. I only have sheep, I do not have sheep, goats, horses, cows and pigs...just sheep and it is a huge time saver. It takes only a wee bit more time to feed up 100 sheep as it does 10 because to feed up 10 it still requires a tractor and fetching hay or silage. If I am already on the tractor dumping a bucket full of silage for 10 sheep, it only takes a few more trips to feed 100. Buying in bulk also saves considerable money since I am only doing it for a single type of livestock, and I am certainly more knowledgeable about it because I am FOCUSED on it.

They say a good farm should diversify, but on three fronts, that way if one area fails, the other two areas can take over. That is the way it is with me. I do:

Forestry
Sheep
House Rentals.

I still have a lot more to do in order to get the most return on investment from the last one, but how much I get from each entity can be adjusted. This year I will rely heavily on forestry to bolster my sheep farm so that next year sheep farming can provide heavily for my family instead of logging. The last few years it has been a lucrative off-farm job, and some sheep sales, but for the last 20 years no logging at all which has really caused my forests to grow in volume. Yes I have a garden, chickens and ducks, but those are so small in number they really don't count and they provide no income, and honestly we give our excess away to a non-profit organization.

I think one of the biggest challenges is; not getting out there!. We do not live on an island. My main goal is NOT to be self-sufficient, but rather to have enough time to provide for my family, yet have some left over to give to my church and participate in men's ministries, children's ministries and missions. How much time I can give to my community in the name of the church is what I will base my success or failure upon.
 
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Although, I've always been interested in finding ways to work with nature instead of against it (it just seems more efficient) I'm relatively new to the study of Permaculture. For this reason, recently when I saw a “Sustainability Fair” being put on by a local community college, I went to check it out.

I was dismayed, however, to see that very few vendors were actually offering real permaculture information or technologies. There were several groups organizing a protest march against BP Oil, some selling buttons and bumper stickers about how we should get along and make love not war, etc., there was a vendor selling crystals for healing, a chiropractor promoting natural health, and even an organic hair salon – what ever that is? There were a number of vendors handing out pamphlets about adopting more “green” behaviors and they were vocal about saying, “We have to do something!.” Yet, when I questioned them in depth about what steps we should take they were less clear about their visions.

My first comment is that for permaculture to be taken seriously by the masses it will have to gain adherents in the sciences, economics, and politics (Al Gore doesn't count). Folks promoting protests and folks selling crystals that are supposed to have healing powers don't, in my opinion make for the best spokespersons for a positive impression that Permaculture is something to be taken seriously by the scientific community.

My second comment is that although I am fascinated by rocket stoves, bio-digestors for methane production, composting, and other natural technologies, I'm very turned off when the result of these pursuits leads to a dwelling that is more suitable to Frodo of Lord of the Rings than for contemporary suburban America. Contemporary building practices work for most Americans. Not only are they practical to live in but they keep a lot of folks employed building and maintaining them and the building codes are institutionalized.

My third comment is more an observation. In the 1800s, the industrial age produced a situation where it was more profitable for the average person to migrate to the city for a factory job, leaving fewer farmers who were mechanizing (due to the tractor and internal combustion engine) to produce the food. This eventually led to large corporations, including corporate farms and agricultural product producers. Without these corporate farms, millions of people in the cities would starve to death.

Fourth, individuals, small businesses or large multinational corporations, like all living things, have a strong urge to survive. Unless I'm mistaken, the field of permaculture is intimately related to the study of ecology. In the 1960s, the Social Sciences adopted the ecological perspective from biology and derived “Social Systems Theory” from it. This theory views human organizations as like organisms functioning within an ecological environment, something which I should think might come rather naturally to those studying permaculture.

My third and fourth points are to stress that when viewing the problem of large corporations, how they operate, and the damage they do to sustainability, we must view these institutions in light of ecology. If a pest issue arose with your permaculture food crops, how might you address it? The modern way would be to use potent poisons to eradicate the invaders as quickly as possible without regard for the side effects. I expect though, the person who embraces permaculture might try a more sophisticated, natural approach by studying the various ecological cycles involved, brainstorming how to divert the pests to a new target or how to erect some natural obstacle to the invaders. The goal being to change the homeostasis of the entire ecological system so that the food crops would be spared.

Permaculture contains the word “culture” in it. Culture is derived from “Cult,” or what people believe collectively. You can't promote permaculture to the masses and get them to buy into it if it doesn't address their perceived needs. If permaculture as a field of study can be embraced by the scientific community, the economy, and politicians it will gain wider acceptance. If the technologies used in permaculture can be made to work in greater harmony with contemporary building techniques and architecture, this too, will cause more people to take the plunge toward permaculture. Corporations, industries, institutions and individuals all have a strong instinct to survive and they do this by ingesting income. People will flock to permaculture if it can be made commercially successful.

If these things cannot be done, permaculture will remain the realm of a relatively few individuals who live rurally and fairly isolated at the fringes of society and that would be a shame, I think.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Brian Van Dine wrote:Although, I've always been interested in finding ways to work with nature instead of against it.....Contemporary building practices work


These two statements seem rather contradictory to me. Do you mean you want to see alternative technologies that are compatible with contemporary buildings as part of a transitional phase while we get out of these horribly inefficient, non-sustainable and oppressive-to-owner-builders contemporary building practices?
 
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