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Podcast 317 - Wheaton Laboratory Update Part 1  RSS feed

Cassie Langstraat
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Credit: Vida Norris

Paul Wheaton opens with the declaration that this could be the most important podcast of all times since the podcast is going to focus on the least talked about but in Paul's view, most important, aspect of permaculture:


Paul and Jocelyn describe the 20 month long “party” with having over 200 guests and visitors staying at wheaton labs, experimenting with different aspects of community living. Paul gives an overview of some of the new changes they will implement at Wheaton Labs with the community set up, like how they will no longer have people reside in their home or have a kitchen commander.

Paul points out that the recipe they were using for community was much better than many other communities he had experienced, but it still fell short. He makes it clear that they aren't intending to throw anyone under the bus with this discussion, but want to talk about this important aspect of permaculture in the hopes of improving it and finding the solutions to make it work. Paul also expresses that he feels it's his fault that it did not work out, being a badly designed system which he hopes to improve on.

They go into the new system, which is the ant village and deep roots design. They discuss how “obligation is poison” which Paul felt was part of the reason things did not work out, since everyone felt obligated to work or get things done, which can take the passion out of the activity itself.

Another big change will be how big equipment is used. They circle back to make clear that the situation with everyone leaving Wheaton Labs was more or less organic, with everyone leaving at different times and for their own reasons (ie. time they commited to was up or getting a job etc.)

Paul gives a few more details about how the ant village and gappers will work in general, and how himself and Jocelyn will be less involved in the system but still there as a support in different ways.

Wofati 0.7 is going to be dedicated to gappers and ants, the center point for a tool library, and community kitchen.

Paul discusses his philosophy that if you are going to build something, you need some level of predictability. He shares that the “flake out factor” is the straw that broke the camels back, since continuously asking people to come through on something and then having them not, is debilitating in many ways.

Another problem they had was enormous amounts of time was taken up by equipment repair or building infrastructure instead of gaining experiences in permaculture and natural building etc that would be more enjoyable, which took its toll on people.

Paul and Jocelyn discuss some of the more intricate problems of community living and sharing a space and how the hardworking, responsible people whom they want to be a part of the community are often those who can't come for long periods of time.

They dig deeper into the specific downsides of community living. First off, Paul and Jocelyn talk about how when people leave Wheaton Labs after making mistakes, they make a point of not talking about it in podcasts or on the permies forums to protect the integrity of the people and their lives.

Paul vents a bit on the flake-out factor again, which ultimately was the biggest problem in the end since things had devolved so much at that point.

Jocelyn points out how Wheaton Labs is an experimental space, and trial and error is a big part of it which could lead to different issues and frustrations. They start to give the example of the fence scenario, and then the podcast finishes to continue on in part two.

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paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Four hours of stuff has already been sent to cassie. Two more hours have been recorded and not yet sent to cassie. We have about two more hours of stuff to record.
Jon Nyman
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Listening to the podcast today reminded me of the "tragedy of the commons." That sounds like what Wheaton was dealing with. A well known problem. How to deal with it when trying to live in a community setting I have no idea. But understanding what the problem is at its core is important. It sounds like they are on there way with 2.0 of taking care of it. It is unfortunate that we don't care as much when we don't feel ownership, but that seems to be what is built into our minds. Since people don't stay very long on the land I wonder if you can expect too much from others, since they don't have ownership.
River Klein
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I like the idea of world domination! As long as it benefits everyone! . I've wanted to get into permaculture for a long time and my well do so with the info you and everyone provide. I'm also seriously into aquaculture / aquaponics.

Hoping to learn more about those things.

Thanks for your efforts and info.
Hey! Wanna see my flashlight? It looks like this tiny ad:
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