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Taking "people care" outside the box

Posts: 155
Location: PNW, British Columbia
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Hello permies,

When a new idea/dogma/system/paradigm comes up, we humans tend to apply it within the box created by the existing framework.

For example:

- gluten free bread, vegenaise... rather than just ditching the idea of bread and mayo and coming up with new stuff
- certified organic agriculture mimicking conventional agriculture in terms of scale, inputs, etc

Through some personal experiments, I have come up with some examples within Permaculture. I am hoping that sharing them will bring up more inspiration in this discussion.

1) Questioning our need for warmth

One of the big thing on this forum is how efficient rocket mass heaters are. We have this human need for heat, and our permaculture solution is to replace the conventional technologies with this awesome new tech that will provide the same thing.

My out of the box question is: do we need so much warmth? (maybe a better permaculture question is: will our grandchildren need so much warmth?)

A couple months ago, I had a personal health break through when I started taking cold showers. I pushed the idea a bit further, and am now taking long cold baths, dipping in the ocean, ditching the winter jacket, and pretty much just enjoying the cold. Now coastal BC isn't Montana, but we still get some kind of winter.

An interesting side effect is that I've stopped heating my home. Winter hasn't been too bad, and my cabin is around 50 F without heating. It's not bad at all.

Now parameters (climate and what people can handle) will vary with people and location, but the story is that we can adapt to cold and use a lot less firewood than we are using currently. The side story might be that it's healthy to be adapted to cold.

2) Questioning our need for artificial light

One of Paul's pet peeves is CFL light bulbs and how they are inferior to incandescent. I agree that CFL's suck.

One aspect was missing to the CFL vs. incandescent debate: why so much artificial light?

Have you ever gone camping away from your life distractions and realized that you were going to bed much earlier than in your artificially lit home?

Well, I now do this every day. I don't even turn on the lights on my cabin after sunset. I use a red LED or a candle when I need to. I use flux on my laptop and try to get off it as early as possible. Sunset is around 6pm now and I sleep between 7 and 8:30pm.

Did I say that my sleep is so much better? I now wake up refreshed and naturally with the sunrise. This is coming from someone who was staying up til midnight and having a really hard time getting out of bed at 11am!

I read somewhere that melatonin takes 4 hours of darkness to be produced by our bodies.

I personally think that the way we use artificial light is an unhealthy addiction. I suggest dimming your lights at night and see if you sleep any better.

3) Do we need so much food?

Food is a big focus in Permaculture. Myself I've spent hours trying to figure how many calories I could grow on my plot of land.

Two months ago, I was still snacking from the time I got myself out of bed until I was ready to sleep. Lots of bread, lots of nuts, all day long. Potatoes were my staple. I was never satiated.

I then switched to a high fat, high protein diet. I now eat one big meal at sunrise (7am), one big meal around 4pm, and that's it. I haven't snacked between meals since I started a month or so ago. I am never hungry in between meals.

Do I eat less than I used to? I'm not really sure. But food has become a lot less of an obsession. I could easily skip dinner and eventually will do that some days. I can travel without bringing a snack. I never have to worry about lunch.

Eating dinner early is I believe really helpful for quality sleep.

I guess I need more time to experiment with food, but my intuition is that caloric restriction without feeling hungry is a possibility. Therefore, we might not have to store as many potatoes and grains as we think for the winter. This is still a bit theoretical but I will keep exploring.

That's it for now! I hope that sharing my own experiments will lead to more sharing and discussion. Thanks for reading.

Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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+1 on the diet.

I haven't done the math on calories, but I know the volume I eat is WAY down.

EVERY subject I have researched lately has shown we are doing things dead wrong, but we knew the answer in the past. Often the not so distant past.
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Heat. Yes people need to use less. Yes lower temperatures can be really comfy. Yes there are all sorts of reasons cold water is awesome for ityou. It will also kill you and cramp your body into a contorted knotted mess. Humans need heat. More or less on demand. Every try taking a splash in the sound when you didn't mean too? 4 hours in february will wreck you. And like... I don't have heat or hot water. It was an extremely dangerous situations and without High Tech Gas Heatin' neighbors I would have likely been in serious near-deathly trouble. This was like 2 weeks ago. Humans need heat. On demand heat. There I said it twice.


Totally. You can totally like live on ZERO electricity. It's still totally a life worth living and living well. That said, electricity is awesome. I love electricity. I would rather use electricity for almost anything but inefficient lighting. I'm looking at you office buildings and your 4 foot florescence!!!


. Currently I am living on pretty much nettle broth alone. It can be done. God I love a nice creamy leaky scalloped potato dish though. All 15000 calories of it. You can take mine from my dirty calloused hands! If you dare. I wouldn't recommend trying. I snarl mean.

Sam Boisseau
Posts: 155
Location: PNW, British Columbia
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Thanks for the insights

I will add:

4) Individual housing

Modern people have energy inefficient individual houses. In-the-box permaculture would bring us energy efficient individual housing such as WOFATI.

Out of the box permaculture could for example concentrate all technologies (running water, light, heat, cooking, communication technologies) into one communal building and have people sleep in low/no tech dwellings (e.g. tipis).

I just camped for a night last week, the lows were around freezing temperature but it wasn't too bad.

The RMH tipi is an interesting experiment. Montana is definitely another beast in terms of low temps.
R Scott
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Housing is a really tough one. What most people have is extremely inefficient, built for expediency and profit. Fancy marble counters but no insulation or thought of solar exposure. And laws try to keep it that way.

There are modern interpretations of the long house. Big common area and tiny private areas, but all in the same building envelope. Amish, Mennonite, Hutterites all do this to varying scales. More efficient use of materials and especially of heat. Separate sleeping huts work well in warm climates or free building materials.

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