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visiting the labs

 
paul wheaton
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We get a lot of people that say they will be travelling through western montana and would like to have a look at the labs. Sometimes they can only stop for an hour or two and sometimes they say that they might help out a bit for the short time they are here.

In the beginning we said "sure! come on out!" and people came. And we gave them a tour. And they had questions. Lots of questions. Of the people that were here a day or less, a few helped, but mostly they came, took a lot of time, ate my food, made a mess and left. Sure, they were nice people - but after a few dozen, it seemed like we were offering a free B&B.

So then we came up with the $100 per person gapper fee. It applies if you are stopping by for a minute or you are stopping by for a day, a month, a year or for life. That worked much better, but it seems a little steep for people that are going to get here on their own power, go on a tour, and leave under their own power.

So now we have another system. Residents (ants and deep root peeps) can have guests - including people that are just stopping by for a short visit. They can charge more or charge less than the gapper fee. They can even advertise stuff that they are setting up. I hope they make some real money doing whatever it is they might try to do.

To the residents that might be considering this, I would like to point out a few things we have discovered about the gapper program:

1) We pay a bounty of $20 to fetching one person from the airport.

2) We pay a bounty of $20 to returning one person to the airport.

3) We pay a bounty of $20 to give one person a tour.

4) There is a lot of email exchange, talking on the phone, calendar stuff - which usually gets changed twice before they arrive, further changes in what they want, how to get things, what else can they do in the area, is it okay to bring dogs/kids/friends/relatives - what if they don't actually walk onto the property but sit in the car? Help them find a spot to put up a tent, find water, tell them about where to fish, what the deal is with hunting, camp fires, etc. Pooper, showers, electricity for their phone, their laptop, their hot place, their rv ... This is the biggest part, but we have no bounty for this.

5) We did some math. We shelled out $20,000 to clean up after people during the first 20 months. With about 200 people, that makes for about $100 per person. I suspect that every last one of those people are utterly certain that they left no mess whatsoever. Granted, if a person is here for just ten minutes, they don't make as much mess as a person that is here for ten months. And the person that is here for ten months is probably bringing a lot of positive to the table that outweighs the mess. And .... keep in mind ... this is a significant factor. And I think that there is also a lot to be said for setting a precedent. People visiting a clean spot tend to keep things clean. People visiting a messy spot don't mind adding to the mess. So we are trying to maintain a higher standard for clean.

6) If we charge people $100 to come here, we seem to get the people that know a lot of the details about what we are doing and the $100 is easily worth it. When we didn't charge people $100, we got a fair number of people that showed up where this is the first time they heard the word "permaculture" and .... that was often not a great fit. So the $100 thing has worked really well for us.

- - - -

So, let's suppose a family of four wants to come by and stay a night or two. And maybe help.

A resident might say that for $50 they will accomodate the whole family on their plot. Maybe give a bit of a tour and the family might help a bit. Nearly all the mess is contained within the plot and the resident is happy and the family is happy.

If they contact me I will say that they need to send me $400. If they wanna be involve in projects, I will connect them with brian or a resident for projects. Through brian it is possible that they might get some bounty work and, thus, get their $400 back. For more on this program, see the gapper 2.0 thread.

- - - -

So, for any residents that are open to giving a tour, please post your contact info in this thread.



 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Requests keep coming in - 'we're a permie' (or 'we bought a DVD!' or 'we're with a Transition Town' or 'we organized a convergence') and we'd love to stop by.

In a perfect world, Paul and I could spend oodles of time visiting with or giving tours to folks who want to stop by. Though this just isn't possible right now.

If you want to stop by for an hour, a day, or a week it's the same price: $100 per person via the gapper 2.0 program. (And we will most likely delegate the tour to one of the residents here.)

UNLESS you contact a resident here (an ant, a gapper or other wheaton labs resident) who might agree to facilitate you and give you a tour for a different fee or exchange.

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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More common questions.

I'm interested in buying the land described in the won't you be my neighbor thread. I'd also like to swing by wheaton labs while I'm there.

Again, this will need to be the $100 per person gapper fee, or contact an ant, gapper or other current resident to see if they will show you around for less or for a different exchange.

I'd like to stop by and talk about your internship opportunities at wheaton labs.

We don't have internships here. To use the base word "intern" implies an affiliation with an educational institution of some kind. wheaton labs is not affiliated with any educational institution. We have the gapper program and the pep1 program, both of which require either the $100 per person gapper fee (even for just stopping by) or contacting a resident who might offer a different deal to show you around.

How do I know who are current ants, gappers or residents at wheaton labs? How do I contact them?

Look at the active threads in the wheaton labs forum. Several residents are keeping daily (or almost daily) logs of their activities here. Click the name of someone you'd like to contact, then click the PM button. PM stands for Purple Mooseage, which is a direct message to that permies user.

When is the best time to visit?

We've only been here two years, and our rhythms and cycles are still being worked out. In general, camping here (if that applies) is better from April/May through September/October. For 2015, we have scheduled what we call "super weeks" which are a way to try to have visitors come at the same time, for many different reasons, and especially since meeting other like-minded folks is at least half the fun of visiting.

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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I recently heard that a resident offered a family of four facilitation and a tour for $50. And the family turned that down saying "We will gladly do work trade instead of the $50." and that didn't get worked out.

I am relieved. I feel a little less crazy now. It seems weird to say that we gotta have $100 per person no matter what, and then something like the museum of flight charged $15 per person.

On the other hand, the tour guides at the museum of flight get paid zero. And the museum of flight gets millions of dollars in donations and other gifted stuff. And they have a stream of maybe a thousand people a day.

And for all of our visitors, we have averaged paying $100 per visitor in cleaning stuff. And that's what we paid AFTER people cleaned up after themselves. I suppose that if we had more traffic, we might be able to optimize this to just $15 per person.

We do, sometimes, do something where we will have a work party set up and people can come out en masse and do stuff - and the gapper fee is waived. But it is usually pretty short notice.

I guess I am writing this because there is such a disconnect. $100 does seem high. And when we run all the numbers, $100 works out to be low.
 
Warren Bellant
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Hi all! I'm a heavy diesel truck mechanic, on vacation this week and would love to swing by and get a tour. I'm perfectly willing to pay the going rate for that service. I'm driving out from Seattle so I'd like to know who I'm dealing with, exactly when to show up, and where. I've never been to a PDC but I've viewed much of this material and have listened to (and enjoyed) all the podcasts, and I've been employing some basic Permaculture methods in my half acre yard here at home. If my tour guide accepts bitcoins I can pay in advance, otherwise I can bring cash. I'll check back several times today and tomorrow for responses. Thanks!
-----Edit-----
Alright! Looks like I've got a contact and will soon arrange the time for my tour. This is going to be awesome!
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Warren,

Come on out! If nothing else, our kenworth dump truck is not running. Although brian ordered in a part that we are hoping is the magic ingredient.

I am away from the lab right now and typing this on my phone. Will be back there in a couple of days.
 
Warren Bellant
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Had an awesome visit, thanks Evan! You guys have an amazing place up there. Feel free to move or delete this post if it's in the wrong place. I'm a noob around here.

Arrived at base camp around 4PM and met Evan who was our guide. He showed me the pooper with its urine diversion system which I needed to use. I was amazed to see no flies in there. None at all.
He showed me the Berm shed which serves as covered storage and an awesome visual barrier from people passing by on the road. Once finished and planted with blackberries or some other thorny plant, it could add another layer of security to the place. Zombies would have a lot of trouble getting through that, lol.
Saw the "ring of fire" were the rocket mass heater heats an oven and a cooking surface then goes into the bench to heat the seating area. Very cool!
Saw the electric tractor and was told of the difficulties it's having with powering the scoop. It might need a less aggressive, lower GPM, hydraulic pump. Then the blade would move slower but with more lifting power. Wish I lived closer and had more time to look at it. I don't remember seeing a charger plugged in. It would be a shame if the batteries drained away then froze. Maybe I just failed to see the charger.
Then we checked out the portable skid cabin with its solar heater before moving on to the hugle beds around the main house. Those beds dwarf the little 3' tall hugle bed at my house. There are a lot of things I couldn't recognize planted. I did see comfrey planted under the apple tree and that reminds me that I need to get some of that. I've got, let's see, 9 fruit trees that could use some comfrey planted as a chop and drop, under the drip line. Having grass planted under those trees is a bad idea.
I also saw some mole hills. I have no problem with them in my hugle bed but when they start to get near my 3 very young trees, I take action. Those things will kill trees of that age. Anyway I take a garden hose and nozzle and blast the dirt back down into the tunnel. When I do that a couple times, they go elsewhere.
I was amazed by the way they built a fence from native materials and the rock jack method of supporting the fence (when it's too rocky to dig a post hole) is very interesting indeed. I took notes and pictures.
Then we tossed his bike into the truck and drove up to the lab.
He showed us what I think is the second wofati. What an amazing structure! Must have taken a lot of labor and good design to put it together. It's amazingly quiet inside. Love the rocket mass heater. It's the first one I've ever seen with my own eyes. Wish I could have seen one operating but time is short. It's a shame to see such an awesome home standing empty. I imagine someone could live quite comfortably in that place, even in a Montana winter.
Then we saw the 1st Wofati, a smaller version of the empty one where two of Evan's fellow Ants were making dinner. I saw the straw bale compressor and the cob mixing station, and took some pics of the cob straw bale wall. That's too cool! Man I wish I lived closer!
Then we drove out to the TeePee and we saw the rocket mass heater there plus the electric fence protected Bee hive. Evan was talking about putting straw bales around the hive when it gets seriously cold.
Then we drove around to Evan's place. He has quite a garden. His ducks had put themselves away by the time we got there so he just filled their water and closed them in. He's going to make a Duck Wofati for them as well. He dumped the old duck water (heavily manured) to a likely spot in his garden and that got me thinking. There are many places in my half acre yard that could use a shot of that Manure water. I might just have to get some ducks. The weaker of my two grape vines (the ones I'm growing as a visual barrier between my deck and the neighbor's) could definitely use some of that brew.
We saw Even's future home that's under construction and it looks like it's going to be a nice place. I asked him how he was going to trim the wall boards and realized one of the saws from my bug out kit would be very useful there. Before we left his place Dad gave him his two 6 gallon water jugs and since we had decided not to camp, I handed over the carpet I was going to sleep on and that saw (plus the fee for the tour).
Then we saw the lemon tree site, with it's double sun scoop. That should be interesting.
On the way out I took a peek at the dump truck. It has an old style non-electronic NTC-350 Cummins engine. It's been a long time since I've worked on one of those. It's so old the manuals aren't available on the Cummins website. I've got a paper manual that's close though. I could provide technical support on getting it running but I can't get back out there till spring myself. I'd need to know the symptoms, how it failed, does it crank? (when the batteries are hooked up), that sort of thing, before I could determine a cause of failure and a possible fix.
Evan let us out the gate before it was fully dark and we took off to the hotel. It was a fun day and an awesome tour. I can't wait to see how the place develops over the next few years.
If bitcoins go nuts in value as I suspect they will, I might be able to retire early and become a wandering mechanic for Permaculture communities like this one. That would be fun.
 
evan l pierce
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Warren, noting that misuse of tape in the past had been a point of frustration, brought a big pack of 9 rolls of blue tape! Paul was overjoyed to receive this gift!
20150918_112145.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20150918_112145.jpg]
much better than red tape
 
Curtis Budka
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There's is a thread for both of the points I'm going to make, but I want to answer Warren's questions.
The Electric tractor:
The charge port is under the hinged cover on the back between the ROPS and the 3pt hitch. I had searched the shop for a cord with a plug that is compatible with the input plug, but couldn't find one.

Millennium Falcon dump truck:
Llast I heard, it has water in the fuel system and the electrical system is shot. I don't think anyone bother to look at it very much, at least while I was there.
2012-09-27_152121_photo9.jpg
[Thumbnail for 2012-09-27_152121_photo9.jpg]
What I think the plug looks like
 
paul wheaton
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Warren! Thanks for the blue tape! Having this relieves me of stress.
 
Warren Bellant
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Curtis Budka wrote:There's is a thread for both of the points I'm going to make, but I want to answer Warren's questions.
The Electric tractor:
The charge port is under the hinged cover on the back between the ROPS and the 3pt hitch. I had searched the shop for a cord with a plug that is compatible with the input plug, but couldn't find one.

Millennium Falcon dump truck:
Llast I heard, it has water in the fuel system and the electrical system is shot. I don't think anyone bother to look at it very much, at least while I was there.


Hi Curtis
I looked for the thread dealing with your tractor but couldn't locate it, just one that talks about electric tractors in General. Anyway do you think this adapter would do the trick? The Tractor plug is a 20 amp but a conventional wall socket is 15 amp, if you're just keeping it plugged in to maintain the batteries though, that shouldn't be a problem (unless it pops a breaker). The charger may have a high and low setting. If so just set it to low and you should be fine.
http://www.amazon.com/Amp-T-Blade-Plug-End-Connector/dp/B00MZZKZCG
If the socket in the tractor is male, this adapter should work. Then just plug your extension cord into the adapter then plug the adapter into the tractor. If you think it will fit I'd be happy to send you one by way of Amazon. I'll need the mailing address though.

Hey Paul
I sympathize on the tape. That stuff is surprisingly spendy. It would be sad to see someone wasting a whole roll just to make a joke.

And feel free to delete this message if I'm cluttering things up with this off topic post. Just PM me the mailing address if the adapter will fit and I'll get it coming.

Warren

PS, I'd be happy to come out for a day or three to give the truck a bit of love. I'll provide the labor and the know-how if Paul is in a position to buy the parts. The soonest I could come out though is early spring since I've already burned up all my vacation for the year. Till then all I can provide is technical support.
 
Curtis Budka
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It looks like this is the official Wheaton Labs electric tractor thread http://www.permies.com/t/35742/labs/Wheaton-Laboratories-Electric-Tractor#279569

I wouldn't be the one to safely confirm that that adapter should work, although I'm pretty sure the plug is male, as you said. When I was looking for a cord, my intention was to plug it into an outlet in the cabin. The problem is, all those outlets are probably on the same switch. With the fridge running, the light on, and a laptop/cellphone or two being charged, maybe adding the tractor would be too much of a load. But thank you for your help and the offer.
 
Curtis Budka
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Brian tells me that there is a charger plug in the shop, but thanks anyways!
 
Bill Andrychowski
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Hi, I would like to come to the lab as a gapper and potential ant. I would be hooking a ride share in a few days across country to get there and would like to get a response from someone at that end before sending my $100. Thanks.
 
Fred Tyler
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Bill,
Not sure what kind of response you need, but we're still here and you're welcome to come out anytime. We can go over all the details after you send in the $100 (that's part of what it's for).

Hope to see you soon!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Seconding Fred's welcome!

To clarify: the $100 goes via PayPal to paul AT richsoil DOT com. The $800 ant village fee goes the same place. After PayPal confirms, we send you directions and the like.

Quoting Paul's OP:
Residents (ants and deep root peeps) can have guests - including people that are just stopping by for a short visit. They can charge more or charge less than the gapper fee. They can even advertise stuff that they are setting up. I hope they make some real money doing whatever it is they might try to do.

Here are even more links besides the gapper 2.0 thread:
--look in the entire wheaton labs forum for threads by each ant and then you can click on their name (left of one of their posts) and use a PM (purple mooseage) to send them a message if you'd prefer to posting in a thread. Plus this forum has all kinds of other threads about things here - note that there are more threads on additional pages, too.
--read the ant village thread which explains why we call people "ants" here
--peruse the ant village challenge thread - now extended to Sept. 10, 2017!
 
Elizabeth Lok
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Hello - my husband and I will be visiting Kalispell and Missoula starting July 5th so we'll miss the weekend PDC courses. How can we arrange a visit to the Wheaton labs outside of workshop and event times?
I'm pretty new to permaculture, but would love to learn more. I'm planning to take the PDC series here in Houston, TX starting this Sept with Urban Harvest!
 
Casie Becker
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Elizabeth, I'm coming for a visit myself in August. I'm taking part in the SEPPers program, where you can rent one of the permanent structures for your visit. It's described in this thread http://www.permies.com/t/54140/labs/SEPPers-Program-Excited-Permaculture-Pampering

If you do make it out there, they've also started this thread http://www.permies.com/t/55707/labs/Choose-adventure-Wheaton-Laboratories which suggests many activities that are available in the area... I think it's well over a hundred now.
 
Elizabeth Lok
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Thanks, Casie. This is exactly what I was looking for.
 
Frank Turrentine
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This is a little disappointing. I'm in Missoula tonight and was curious about seeing what the location looked like while I was in the area. I'd even cheerfully drop 200 bones, but I feel like you'd rather I just went somewhere else with a more public outreach or somethin. Do you know of a less popular place where I could talk to people face to face? I'd rather not fly to Australia.
 
Frank Turrentine
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I did'nt want any food or time. I just wanted to gawk for a minute and then split west.
 
Frank Turrentine
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I"m in town. I have $100. I'd love to see the place. I don't know where to look for you guys, and I don't spend enough time on the net to search the forums and figure this out. I just sold my farm and I'm driving around the country with my dogs looking for land. Can someone shoot me a message or somethin?
 
Destiny Hagest
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Hey Frank - I can help you out with that. Send me an email at destinyATrichsoilDOTcom and we can talk details.
 
paul wheaton
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I know that when I see something show up in my paypal, I process it very quickly. Send $100 to paul at richsoil.com or bitcoin: 177pNU2a9iCpUXQwXX9EbtA2UwZpgeqcMT


I suppose that someday we might be able to set up some sort of monthly tour. And then maybe it will be something like $20 per person.

We had a couple people recently that were pretty demanding that they get a tour for free. I know I heard Janet on the phone explaining to one of them that we are still under construction and are not yet set up to give a tour the normal way (that would also be the cheap/free way). That might be a few more years out.

If Janet or one of the residents wants to offer a once a month tour, I am happy to edit the first post to reflect that.

In the meantime, any resident could offer a simple tour for whatever rate they want. Maybe they could give a tour to a family of four for $50. Or a huge group for $100.
 
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