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

 
paul wheaton
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Scenario Ferd: Ferd works a job in the US for 40 hours per week. Ferd spends about a half hour commuting each way. So that is now 45 hours per week. Ferd spends 10 hours per week on food stuff: driving to restaurants, waiting in line at restaurants, ordering, waiting .... driving to grocery stores to get his favorite foods with the best price, shopping, waiting in line .... Between income, monthly expenses and whatnot, Ferd has about $200 per month of disposable income. Maybe $800 in the bank. Ferd spends nearly all of his disposable income on fun things. Ferd is looking for entertainment and life substance. Ferd dreams of having a million dollars so that he doesn't have to work anymore. If he had a million dollars, he could buy a better house, a better car, awesome toys and would no longer have to work at this sucky job, or any sucky job. Ferd earns $40,000 per year now. In 20 years he will have had several small raises such that by the time 20 years has passed, he will have earned a million dollars.

Scenario Gert: Gert has realized the permaculture dream. Gert lives on a few acres and eats the food that grows there. During the warmer months, gert spends some time harvesting and preserving food. During a week or two in the fall, Gert is working a good 50 hours a week. But for most of the year, Gert is working less than ten hours a week. Gert does spend about 10 hours a week making her meals. Usually it is something quick, but sometimes she makes something more elaborate. Some neighbors sometimes buy some of Gert's excess food. And once a year Gert will help with a permaculture design for somebody. Gert has a little pickup, but she hasn't fired it up in three months. 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. It just sort of accumulates. Gert earns about $7000 per year now. She intends to earn less money in future years. Over the next 20 years, Gert will have earned $100,000.

If Gert had a million dollars, what would she do with it? How would her life change? Since Gert is a fictitious person in my head, I hereby declare that her life would not change. If your life does not change if you have a million dollars, then is it fair to say that you are living the life of a millionaire? Maybe we could call this being a "permaculture millionaire"?

Maybe Gert should write a book and tell the world all this. But ... Gert doesn't feel like it. Gert is a humble woman and thinks nobody would want to hear that. And Gert is more of a reader than a writer. Plus, there are already dozens of lovely permaculture books.

Maybe Gert should get more acres and sell more food ... market the food to get more per pound than what people pay at whole foods - maybe get $20 per pound and have five or six people move onto her land and scale up. Set the pace for permies all over the world! Nah, that sounds like a lot of hard work.

Maybe Gert should teach some classes at her place so people can learn from her example? Gert doesn't feel like a teacher. Plus, to pull this off, she would have to do advertising and marketing and that really isn't her thing.

Maybe Gert should go onto the internet and tell the world about her lifestyle. She tried that a couple of times and was told by a few dozen people that she's a fucking liar and a shill. So she decided to not bring this stuff up on the internet anymore.

....

I think the world has at least a million Gerts. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are a billion that are using non-permaculture systems that require a lot more labor, but are quite similar in many ways. And those people would benefit from hearing about permaculture, but have not yet looked into it for a lot of different reasons.

I think there are a lot of people that study permaculture and in a few years they have achieved Gert-hood. They don't go completely silent. They have friends and neighbors just like most other folks. But they choose to not advertise what they do because they don't want to get into some sort of hostile debate. They just want to do their thing and have a lovely day.

Some people study permaculture through the library. Some buy books. Some buy videos. Some learn exclusively through the internet. Some like podcasts, some like articles, some like videos .... Some people take a PDC, but most don't. Some people will take a PDC and a dozen other courses. Some will do something like wwoofing, and some might just learn a bit from somebody they already know.

....

Some people say that permaculture is a steaming pile of horse potatoes, because if it worked, then all of our big ag systems would convert over. I think the folks that work in big ag get a lot of marketing from chem ag, and a lot of subsidies to do the chem ag game, and a lot of marketing that says that permaculture is stupid. The ag schools are run by chem ag. And there is a lot of shame attached to the word "permaculture." And then there is the sheer volume of money that can pass through your hands .... granted, most of it comes directly or indirectly from the government, and has to be spent on certain equipment, or certain kinds of buildings (hog warehouses, chicken warehouses, dairy warehouses ...) and always on the chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides and GMO seed. The ag school teaches how to optimize this process, including how to optimize the subsidies. And when a farmer travels this path, the path is a lot like the Ferd path: work long hours, not a lot of disposable income, go get food at the grocery store and restaurants. Seek entertainment and life substance.

I think that when people have the courage to go down the permaculture path, they end up generally going silent. They just don't need the hostility that comes from sharing. There are a few people that choose to share and brave the onslaught of hostility. These are our authors, the people that try to share on the internet, the people that teach PDCs, the people that make videos. The more they share, the more hostility they harvest.

If you want an example of making a million dollars per year just from growing food: sepp holzer's Krameterhof (about 110 acres) is a great example. 100 people per day come and self harvest - they pay 95 euros each. That is over 3 million euros. Of course, sepp holzer has also paid more agricultural fines than any other farmer in europe - so he had to face some painful obstacles to get where he is because he did not travel the chem ag path. If he stayed quiet, his life would have surely been much easier.

When people insist that permaculture won't work, or that it is a fool's errand, my response is: then don't do it. Follow whatever path you think is great and the rest of us will follow whatever path we think is great. I wonder if these same people also crash a catholic mass and start yelling that catholocism is stupid, everybody at the mass should stop doing the catholocism thing and do paganism instead. Or athiesm. Or mass-crashing. Or whatever.

...

In trying to talk about permaculture in the past, I found it extremely frustrating. It is one of the many reasons I created the forums at permies.com: so I could talk about the things I like the way I like to talk about them. A place where Gert can share. Maybe, in time, this community will safely nurture Gert so much that Gert will decide that she is a writer and write that book.

 
Travis Johnson
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I guess I am a Gert Paul.

I have no interest in writing about how I have used hugels, rotational grazing, utilizing nitrogen fixing and clearing forest back into fields to grow from a hobby farm into full time farming. I make a few posts on here from time to time, but since I am rather reclusive except for church and a deep friendship with my wife, I tend to be humble and spend a few hours helping out a local charity; I pretty much just "keep sliding the puck down the ice", which is my mantra for continuing to grow my farm, make one big farm improvement per year, and one house improvement per year. Of the latter, we have no mortgage on it, building it slowly over the last 22 years starting modestly with a 24 x 24 house and expanding it now to 4000 square feet, but always doing the work and using as much materials as I can off the farm. This includes wood, slate, gravel to make concrete, etc.

My Uncle once said while looking out across a field we had just harvested, "You know, when it is all said and done, and the coffin goes in the ground, in the end it is the farmer who is the richest man of all."

He was not talking about money, but he could have been. When you add up the value of the gravel from the gravel pit, the slate from the quarry, the sheep, the value per acre of the land, what the forest products are worth, the houses, barns and machine sheds, and yes even the farm equipment itself; you are absolutely right; it well exceeds a million dollars. But the best part is, when you drive by from the road, you would never know it, and that is the way I like it.

As my Uncle pointed out: I am already wealthy, the monetary collateral for any loan is just a bonus, even though I typically pay in cash. But what you failed to mention in your post is the educational aspect of things. On any given day I can walk into the milking parlor of our family's dairy farm and hear a truck driver discuss the latest trucks, a vet talk about new vaccines, an agronomist talk about the latest seed varieties, a county extension person discuss soil health, a NRCS Conservationist talk about conservation practices, a mechanic talk about the innards of a diesel engine, etc, etc, etc. It is that wealth of knowledge, gleaned over years of observation on the same farm from many knowledgeable individuals that is also uncalculable. But then again I typically just say this in passing, "but what do I know, I am just a dumb sheep farmer", when the truth is, I probably know quite a bit more than I am letting on.

In another month, my knee will have recovered from surgery and I will not be on here nearly as much. Its been a nice six months of rest however. Like your fictional Gert, I hope I have helped a few people at least. I have always tried to tell the truth; in what worked (like my fencing thread) and what failed (building ponds). Some appreciate it, and some not so much...but I emerged from the farm and told the truth to what I experienced in 42 years of farming.
 
Todd Parr
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I think I'm starting to risk sounding argumentative, and I don't mean to in any way. I've learned lots from these forums and the people here, and I'm grateful for that. I have to ask though, do people that practice permaculture really feel that they are the victims of all this hatred? There are lots of threads about it recently that make me think many people are drawing attacks from all sides. I have seen the articles and one in particular annoyed me quite a bit, but in the future I just won't read them. Generally speaking, the people I talk to have never even heard of permaculture, let alone feel any animosity towards it.

As I have said before, I don't call what I do permaculture, but I certainly study it and implement some of the techniques. People that know me know I grow things and I do use the word food forest, but far from belittling me for doing it, most people are interested. My family laughs at my "projects", but in a good-natured way because I do everything so differently. There is a standing joke among my family and friends that they look at my land and see chaos. I see biodiversity

It may be that Paul and others like him really DO draw negative attention, simply by virtue of putting themselves out there in the public eye, and creating places like this that draw lots of traffic. I can understand that it would get very old and very tiring having people look at your life's work and saying it is nonsense, but I hope at the same time those people realize that, in the end, they will be found to have been correct the whole time. And I hope at some point, I will be Gert.
 
Marco Banks
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Back in college, we read the classic poem about Helen of Troy, whose face could launch a thousand ships. Based upon that standard of beauty, we created a metric measurement system: mini-helens. Helen was the standard bearer -- 1000 (the metric system based upon 1000 being the best). All other girls were then ranked from 1 to 999. Yes, I know, it was sophomoric, but it was also the era of Bo Derek and the idea of the perfect "10". The ladies used this language just as much as us guys did. I was interested in a young lady who was very attractive -- 800 mini-helens? until she realized that our group of boorish pigs were objectifying her and her friends with our silly ranking system. She didn't find it clever. She kicked me to the curb pretty quickly.

So let me suggest that if quiet living, humble self-assessing Gert is our model of permaculture maturity and self-sustaining lifestyle, she would represent 1000 points on the mini-gert scale. (Perhaps "minigert" is easier).

Sepp Holtzer would rank 1000 minigerts. He's living the dream, stacking functions, making plenty of money to sustain himself, and will leave the planet much better than he found it.

Joel Salatin runs a 1000 minigert system. The fact that he's so invested in raising up a dozen new farmers every year, showing them how to make a living at this and regenerate denuded land to abundance . . . that's worth a great deal, in my book.

Jeff Laughton, Paul Brown, Mark Shepherd, Ben Falk, Eric Tensmeier, and of course, Paul Wheaton . . . 1000 minigerts for all of them. These are the people we hear of, but there are thousands of others (and as Paul states, perhaps a million?) who are quietly doing their thing, building their systems, and enjoying the lifestyle of freedom and health that goes with it.

How many 1000 minigert permaculture practitioners are there? I don't know if it matters, but what is evident is that this is a growing movement of people who are making incremental changes to their land and their lifestyle every year, just as Travis illustrated above. If Travis is currently 685 minigerts, by next year, he'll be 729.

I'd say that right now, I'm at 378 minigerts. We eat about half our calories from our garden/orchard/food forest. This summer, we'll be bringing chickens back (after a 3 year absence), and I hope to add bees. I planted 5 more trees this spring (another pluot, an almond, and 3 moringa) as well as a bunch of goji berry, pigeon peas and other understory plants. We are going to re-plumb the kitchen sink and dishwasher to capture that grey water and run it out to the apples and citrus, and hopefully will do the same thing on the other side of the house to capture the grey water from the upstairs bathroom. That'll water that new almond tree, as well as other trees on that side of the house. What is that worth? 35 minigerts?

Every new tree adds a few more minigert points.

Every new layer to the system, be it rainwater capture, grey water recycling, fruit tree guild, or whatever . . . every new stacked function represents another couple of minigert points. We've got about 60 fruit trees now, and have fresh fruit 12 months out of the year. I'd say that's worth 50 minigerts. We grow all our greens. 11 minigerts. We can tomato sauce, salsa, tomato soup . . . all summer and enjoy that throughout the year. 9 minigerts.

I wish I could have a couple of pigs, a steer, a duck pond and a smoke house --- but that's a bridge too far for Los Angeles county. But I've got a line on a couple of bee hives that we'll add this June (which is at least worth 19 minigerts) and we'll be bringing back the chooks to once again have fresh eggs (and the function of tractoring them successively across the garden and food forest for nitrogen capture and bug patrol (27 mingerts) . . . every little bit makes life richer and the system more resilient, sustainable and regenerative.

Will we ever be self-sufficient? That isn't the goal. Like the fictional Gert and the real Travis, I'm content to add to my operation every years, making it more sustainable and dramatically improving my soil.

I agree with you Paul: it's hard to put a value on seemingly intangible things like sitting on a bench back in the shade of the orchard, reading a good book, praying, having a quiet conversation with someone you love deeply, and doing it all in the presence of more birds than you can count, knowing that none of this existed 15 years ago. Does that make me a millionaire? Well, I wouldn't trade the pace and space of this lifestyle for any other.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some cabbage, heirloom tomatoes and serrano peppers to plant. 2 minigerts.
 
John Weiland
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@Marco B: "Every new layer to the system, be it rainwater capture, grey water recycling, fruit tree guild, or whatever . . . every new stacked function represents another couple of minigert points."

It was shocking to learn recently that those firmly embedded within economic theory actually consider(ed) "the environment" as a subset of "the economy".

To wit: "Compared to pork bellies and Palm Pilots, most goods and services provided by the environment are peculiar and ill-behaved: They don’t respect property rights, they may take millennia to turn a profit, they benefit those who pay for them and those who don’t alike. Neoclassical economists — the intellectual scions of Adam Smith — have generally been content to treat the environment as a particularly vexing sector of the overall economy, developing a group of theories collectively known as environmental economics to sort out the thorny problems presented by goods that don’t fit the market mold." -- https://grist.org/series/the-wealth-of-nature/
 
Dougan Nash
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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.

If I took all the money I am paying retroactively for school and could put it into land, I would be a Gert. However, I cannot find a permaculture solution to this debt. I have tried government aid, and working with my private loans. Neither work. Bankruptcy won't even erase it. I probably won't even be approved for a mortgage until I'm in my 40s.
 
Mick Fisch
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Since there's a soap box conveniently placed, I'm going to jump up on it.

Part of the problem is simply lack of understanding by most people. But that problem can be dealt with over time and is not the biggest challenge permaculture faces.

The real reason that permaculture is not embraced by the corporations, governments or those dependent on their largesse is because it is harder to tax or otherwise bleed permaculture practitioners.

If I make $100,000 a year, I pay a pretty hefty tax (social security, income, real estate, gasoline taxes every time a put a tiger in my tank), plus I buy everything at some store, (taxes there also, everyone in the supply line plus the mark up to allow them to throw out half of what is shipped in). Maybe more significant, everything I buy is funneled through the same system with a relative few people skimming the cream off of everything that is trucked across the country or shipped in. If it is moved around, it's in the system. These big business tycoons are also contributing heavily to elected officials to sway the rules in their favor to let them skim more. Does anyone really think the major corporations aren't more in control of the government than the voters? Has anyone ever wondered why the richest areas of the country don't grow or manufacture much of anything. The money comes in from skimming the shipping and sales every where else in the country as well as a good part of the world.

Slavery never really ended, the masters just got smarter. Slaves need to be cared for, much of what they produce is used taking care of them, very inefficient. Why insist on ownership of the body when the master really wants just part of the profit. Student loans, credit cards, it's all just a modern, more sophisticated version of slavery. It avoids all kinds of problems and focuses on the final goal, PROFIT.

Now take permaculture. (I'm going to idealize, I'm personally still at least three years out from the situation I'm describing). Most of what I eat, I grow or trade for. It's not part of the system and can't be easily identified, therefore it can't be skimmed or taxed. I live in a lower cost area, so my property taxes are lower. I've paid cash for my small property and built my home without any long term debt. I don't need to drive as far or as often so I'm not paying much to Big Oil or gas taxes. I'm not wearing out my vehicles driving 100-200 miles a day, so I don't need to spend as much on vehicles. I no longer need to 'dress for success', but rather for comfort, practicality and my own sense of style therefor I don't haunt the expensive clothing stores. When I buy something, it's almost always used, from an individual and a heck of a lot cheaper than new in the store. Often there's no record that I'm buying something (garage sales, neighbors, Craigs List, cash and a hand shake) and once again, they can't tax what they can't track.

I don't earn nearly as much money, but I don't need nearly as much, so I pay a lot less taxes all the way around. The major corporations rarely see any profit from me, because I'm buying used. (With the exception of gasoline and maybe socks. I like good, thick socks)

I've often wondered how much of my income is actually going to pay someones taxes. Not just my taxes, but every company I buy from and every person down the supply chain (companies don't pay taxes, they pass them on to their customers in the form of higher prices, a portion of the wages are just to pay taxes). I've also wondered how much of my money goes to pay for fat cats setting at the top of the money pyramid.

In the end I have a better lifestyle as a permaculturist than as a rat on the corporate treadmill. I sleep better and have less stress. I have more time to pursue my own interests and to help my fellow man.

I still contribute to the local economy, overall, but as far as the mega corporations and governments are concerned I barely exist because they get so little out of me. I am no longer their cash cow! I am almost uncontrolled by them.

Why would any government or major corporation want to encourage permaculture given this scenario. As long as it's just a 5x5 garden patch in suburban back yard, it's kind of idealistic and cute, but if permaculture was widely understood, it could hit some big players in the wallet. If farmers markets started seriously impacting the grocery store supply system, you would see regulations and taxes put in place pretty fast.

I think it is inevitable that Permaculture will eventually seriously upend our current social system and replace it with a much more egalitarian one. I think it's foolish to expect any support from the top tiers of our existing heirarchy unless they can figure out how to control and profit individually from it.
 
John Weiland
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@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
 
paul wheaton
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Todd Parr wrote:I have to ask though, do people that practice permaculture really feel that they are the victims of all this hatred?


We delete a lot of hate stuff here on permies. It used to be worse - but those haters have stopped posting here and have taken their nasty stuff elsewhere.

But if you really feel my word is not good enough, here is one spot on one site that is just dedicated to organizing hate for me. The hate for me is a tiny spec when you tally up the hate for geoff lawton, sepp holzer and Willie Smits.

You might think that this is coordinated or comes from just one source or ... whatever. But it comes in hundreds of flavors from hundreds of vectors. This was the topic of my 2014 keynote at permaculture voices. I presented that I manage two online communities. In the large one (coderanch) we have a problem once a month and we can take our time to talk about it and figure out what to do. But at permies, the problems come every day. So I explore, in the keynote, "why?"
 
Tyler Ludens
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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.


Gert probably worked a few years for $ so she could buy some land, but you don't have to buy it.

Free land:

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-6/intentional-community

http://www.permies.com/t/53723/financial-strategy/rat-race-homestead-savings-money

http://www.permies.com/t/55698/permaculture/Continuity-Operations-Permaculture
 
Dougan Nash
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Thanks Tyler. I have very little land now, but could maybe still turn a profit if I worked hard enough. I guess I just don't want my neighbors hating me yet, though my yard is still a mess all the time. The second link you posted was actually a massive inspiration to me. Since I read it 2 months ago I have changed jobs (now working in a fine dining farm-to-table restaurant) and am trying to network with local farmers. Certain opportunities my present themselves or not, but I am learning a lot!
 
Tyler Ludens
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You might be able to find some free land with less fussy neighbors, or you could take this as a teaching opportunity and make such a beautiful productive yard that your neighbors will love you and want to know more about what you're doing!

 
paul wheaton
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So let me suggest that if quiet living, humble self-assessing Gert is our model of permaculture maturity and self-sustaining lifestyle, she would represent 1000 points on the mini-gert scale. (Perhaps "minigert" is easier).


I think you are suggesting a "milligert"?


Joel Salatin runs a 1000 minigert system.


I would propose that Joel Salatin is about 400 milligerts.

And Gert is about 400 milli-salatins.

They each have their own thing.
 
wayne fajkus
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I have a simple definition of whose rich. If you lost your job today, how many months can you live the same lifestyle you are currently living.

The simple down to earth folks are richer in this scenario. They supply their own food and have no BMW car payments or credit card debt to keep up with current fashion trends.
 
John Weiland
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@Paul W; Re: Permie Detractors---"You might think that this is coordinated or comes from just one source or ... whatever. But it comes in hundreds of flavors from hundreds of vectors."

Without realizing it (and most likely not wanting to), you may have just unintentionally entered the mental health field as "rehab director". Doesn't matter what form the 'junk' comes in, be it money, security, or just one's entrenched view---the addict, coming from all levels of society, will hurl invectives at you for threatening to take it away. Talk to any of your friends or colleagues on what it's like to deal with the junkie mentality and motivations and I suspect this will be echoed. It may sound counterintuitive and certainly of little comfort, but on some level, be glad that they are being up-front with their vitriol....there will be other efforts aimed at protecting the junkie's supply..... and derailing permie progress..... that will not be so honest and forthcoming.
 
paul wheaton
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Naturally, the story of gert is one where gert now has the land. How to get the land is a myriad of ways. I think I have dedicated an enormous part of my life helping good people get land so they can practice permaculture.

I feel a bit like George Washington Carver: I made it so that people can grow peanuts so much better but people are angry because now everybody is growing more peanuts - and they blame me for that.

Billions of people simply inherit land.

I have done a lot of work to help people that will never inherit land to connect with people looking for somebody decent to will it to.

I have promoted and added my own philosophies about finances to get land.

I have promoted and added my own philosophies about community living (joint land purchase).

I have set up sections of my own land for deep roots and ant village. I have offered work trade for sections of my land.

I have podcasted, written articles, contributed to forums ...

Today, in response to this thread, this message appeared at facebook:

I appreciate the sentiment. I feel like getting those couple of acres actually requires 100,000s of thousands of dollars to be saved and the numbers paul is working with are not functional. I do love the dream and live it as much as I can. There is an element of privilege and access that a lot of people are frustrated by that Paul just doesn't seem to see in his Ferd v Gert narrative. The mere acquisition of property is not easy for many, the building of eco structures, solar, landscaping and earth shaping, trees and perennials etc... Even presupposing that you build your dream over time, it is costly. Which is why you see so many decrying the permie movement as exclusive and obtainable by those of means and or support.


I think that if a person sits at a coffeshop and expects that somebody will walk in and hand you property .... then, yes, I think you will be really frustrated.

Two years ago a guy showed up here full of enthusiasm for permaculture. After visiting with him a few times I felt certain that in eight or nine months, I would set this guy up with an acre of his own. Permanently. He did good work for the first six weeks. I fed him and gave him a bunk and access to my house - he preferred staying in a tent, but that's fine. Then his love life drew him away.

I think the dream is attainable. Easily attainable to good people that work hard.

Take a look at zach weiss. I don't know all of the details of his life, but I get the impression that in 2012 he worked all over the place for pretty much free. I suspect that he might have been pretty much broke. And now .... I bet he will be able to buy his own chunk of land outright this year.

I think if Gert came into her property and it was ten years until she got to the permaculture ultimate scenario .... that's about right. Permaculture is, I think, a long term process. A little bit of permaculture joy every year. Planting some perennials, building a permie shed, building hugelkultur, switching to solar ... a bit of tinkering and gardening each season. After three years it is quite lovely. In six years it is something really amazing. And in ten years there is really nothing more than can be done. Ten years of giving a gift to her future self - each gift is a permaculture gift.

The stuff that I quote makes it seem like permaculture is a horrendous expense followed by years of suffering. I suppose if that person wishes it to be so, then it will be so. But I proclaim that for Gert it was nothing more than knowledge and joy.
permaculture-gert.png
[Thumbnail for permaculture-gert.png]
 
Kyrt Ryder
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If people think purchasing a few acres with a house on it is hard, they should try purchasing large tracts of raw land.

At least they can work with The System and use the mortgage option. [Not that paying said mortgage is easy, but it does work and makes such a purchase far more accessible, at the cost of interest etc.]
 
Mike Jay
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Another element of the land acquisition is location. If Gert doesn't need to be near San Francisco, Boulder, Chicago, etc her capital starting cost can be much lower. I moved from an unknown midwest city of 70,000 people to a midwest town of 7,000 people and land prices dropped dramatically. I got the same size house with 40x the land, an orchard, barn and field for $45K less. I recently did some random property searches to see how cheap you could get land in rural areas and it's very reasonable. Near me you can get a livable house with 10 acres for $80K. I randomly threw a dart and hit an area in Missouri that had a fixer upper with 5 acres for $22K. Barnett, MO These houses aren't near a big city but they are affordable and you can build a permie dream there.
 
paul wheaton
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I want to take this moment to thank my high school Algebra II teacher, Sharon Shannon, who concocted story problems with Ferd and Gert on a nearly daily basis.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Kyrt Ryder wrote:If people think purchasing a few acres with a house on it is hard, they should try purchasing large tracts of raw land.


I think many people want to purchase too much land for most purposes. Intensive production is much more efficient than extensive production and a couple of acres is all a single person can manage, and enough to support a family in many regions.

I see people with dozens of acres in regions where the carrying capacity is one animal unit or more per acre and I wonder how many cows they think they need for their family.

Are they using it for cows?

Many people who want this sort of mid-sized acreage are more interested in privacy and space than in heavy animal production. Then there's also the idea of having food forests and woodlots and ponds...

 
Kyrt Ryder
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Yeah, assuming rainfall is plentiful and the season length is decent, 5 acres is plenty for the average family to provide food and fuel for themselves comfortably. Now get into drylands or very cold/short season zones [say hardiness zone 3 and below] or have a particularly large family [or multigenerational household] and the need for land goes up.

There's also sometimes a need to sacrifice a pretty thick band along one or more perimeters to exclude either pollution or unwanted guests.
 
Richard Gorny
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paul wheaton wrote:
Permaculture is, I think, a long term process. A little bit of permaculture joy every year. Planting some perennials, building a permie shed, building hugelkultur, switching to solar ... a bit of tinkering and gardening each season. After three years it is quite lovely. In six years it is something really amazing. And in ten years there is really nothing more than can be done. Ten years of giving a gift to her future self - each gift is a permaculture gift.


It is very important to emphasize this.
Slow and steady wins the race.
 
David Livingston
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May be Gert rents like I do
I rent the Owner loves me and what I do I remove the pollution and plant stuff and more stuff and more stuff I spend about 100 € year on plants and I cut grass and stuff and the landlord charges me half the normal rent my GF works part time and we are year on year increasing our food out put . I am also tidying trees for the LL = free fire wood for me . I live somewhere with solid protection for tenants who pay rent and free healthcare . How would that rate on the Gert scale?

David
 
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I love where you are going with this. I've been thinking a lot about this very same thing. What if we took the average American's food, shelter, transportation costs and place them in a food forest setting? I made a video that tries to explain it within three minutes. It is a made up company in the video. I wish a company like this existed. I am just trying to get people thinking in these terms. The cool thing is that the City of Tulsa is now going to apply for a $500,000 grant from the FED to turn this trail into a food forest!
 
Todd Parr
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:

Many people who want this sort of mid-sized acreage are more interested in privacy and space than in heavy animal production. Then there's also the idea of having food forests and woodlots and ponds...



That would be me.
 
Travis Johnson
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Richard Gorny wrote:
paul wheaton wrote:
Permaculture is, I think, a long term process. A little bit of permaculture joy every year. Planting some perennials, building a permie shed, building hugelkultur, switching to solar ... a bit of tinkering and gardening each season. After three years it is quite lovely. In six years it is something really amazing. And in ten years there is really nothing more than can be done. Ten years of giving a gift to her future self - each gift is a permaculture gift.


It is very important to emphasize this.
Slow and steady wins the race.


This is indeed true. I did have 3 acres given to me by inheritance; as did my brothers and sisters who have since squandered it by selling it off, but me...I bought the family farm; a first in 10 generations simply because times change. My parents needed money going forward into retirement and so it was only fair. Yes my father got the land for free in the beginning, but he did not squander the resources and was rewarded fiscally for that. It took us 5 years to get to a place where my parents were comfortable with the next-generational transfer; in part because it was not just a gift. I also had 9 brothers and sisters to contend with, and in the end they were more concerned with being able to use it then farming it and ownership. My brother uses the woodlot for his firewood every year...what is 5 cords of hardwood to me; he's my brother.

That being said, even with next-generational transfers where no money is exchanged, the land is indeed "paid for". In my case I paid for it with my childhood. Oh how I would have loved to play baseball, or be on the math team, or other activities that I just could not be on because work had to be done on the farm. My first moving violation was at age 10...driving a bulldozer across a paved road because that was how we made money in the winter...logging. In my senior year I would sit at the back of English class and literally fall asleep, because I would be up until midnight milking cows or tilling fields...and yes we were expected to get good grades (a broken axe handle was remediation for that when our grades suffered). None of that hard work was paid for, so when I hear people often say next-generational farmers had it easy because their land was "given" to them, it is just not true. They paid dearly for it. In my case I payed twice; with my childhood and fiscally, but slow and steady does win the race and at 41 years old, it is just starting to pay off.

Near me is a dairy farmer who decided to build a gymnasium on his farm complete with commercial kitchen and full sized basketball court. His reasoning? He wanted to give his workers, kids and grand kids something to do on farm so they would not be lured to the city and out of boredom get into a life of drugs and alcohol. That is really forward thinking...
 
Tyler Ludens
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paul wheaton wrote: for most of the year, Gert is working less than ten hours a week.



Gert doesn't look like a farmer. I get the impression that farmers and homesteaders work as much as 16 hours a day, which does not seem like the life of a millionaire to me. This I think might be the difference between permaculture and agriculture.

 
paul wheaton
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
paul wheaton wrote: for most of the year, Gert is working less than ten hours a week.



Gert doesn't look like a farmer. I get the impression that farmers and homesteaders work as much as 16 hours a day, which does not seem like the life of a millionaire to me. This I think might be the difference between permaculture and agriculture.


I think that there are homesteaders that are not using permaculture techniques - they work a lot. Year after year to keep it all moving forward.

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.
 
Mike Jay
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Gert doesn't look like a farmer. I get the impression that farmers and homesteaders work as much as 16 hours a day, which does not seem like the life of a millionaire to me. This I think might be the difference between permaculture and agriculture.



Gert certainly doesn't look like a "farmer" to me either. If a "farmer" is an annual crop grower. She sounds like a permaculture homesteader to me. I can certainly see how she can do what she needs to for 10-20 hours a week, supply most of her needs and be "rich" in exactly the way Paul intends. IE if she had a million bucks it wouldn't change her life dramatically.

I think the point is that Gert doesn't need to be a farmer or produce lots of saleable product for others to live her dream. She can grow enough for herself on her little homestead with $300 extra a month in 10 hours a week. Maybe it's really 20 hours a week. But the idea is that if you're perennially growing for yourself it doesn't take that much time. Doing annual ag on a market garden for the farmers market certainly takes more time and sounds like a "job" but on the flip side, you'll pull in a more significant paycheck if that's what you're after.
 
Mike Jay
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paul wheaton wrote:
I think that there are homesteaders that are not using permaculture techniques - they work a lot. Year after year to keep it all moving forward.

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.


I agree wholeheartedly. I'm the second one but I'm still in the first year...
 
Casie Becker
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Well, as someone who's in their third year (not full on homesteading, but working towards a permaculture garden) the established beds are much less work.
 
R Ranson
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Casie Becker wrote:Well, as someone who's in their third year (not full on homesteading, but working towards a permaculture garden) the established beds are much less work.


Absolutely. That's what Permanent Agriculture is all about. Once you get the soil healthy and the plants accustomed to your style of gardening/farming and your location, an hour a day is plenty of time to maintain a garden... with a bit extra at planting and harvesting time.
 
John Weiland
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@Paul W: "During a week or two in the fall, Gert is working a good 50 hours a week. But for most of the year, Gert is working less than ten hours a week. Gert does spend about 10 hours a week making her meals. Usually it is something quick, but sometimes she makes something more elaborate. Some neighbors sometimes buy some of Gert's excess food. And once a year Gert will help with a permaculture design for somebody."

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
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm not in the millionaire class yet, but here's my situation, thanks to permaculture: http://www.permies.com/t/54918/frugality/Working-money-expensive
 
Travis Johnson
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I guess that is what is surprising; how little time I spend farming. Most of the stuff I do is long term though...but that IS farming; invest today and recoup my investment for the next 7 years or more. For example, if I put up a fence it might take me 3 days to build, but I know it will last 30 years. If I install a swale, it might take the afternoon, but again it is conceivable it will last 50 years. If I clear 10 acres of forest back into a field, it might take a few weeks, but again could last 200 years. That is the stuff that keeps a farmer going.

I keep real good track of my hours and what I did for the day that way I can get a sense of what I am investing time wise in my farm. Paul Wheaton is dead on; I spend about 11 hours a week farming averaged out over the year. Right now I am immersed in my "big project for the year" so I am spending more hours than that, but here my wife and I pick one big project for the year and go about accomplishing it. This year it is crop rotating a corn field back into pasture with nitrogen fixing sward mixtures. Physically I am very limited in what I can do because I just came off of knee surgery, but my Dr says I can drive, so that is a project that is all about operating a tractor. My hours per week will be a bit higher, but I want to get it sown so my sheep can start grazing on it in 10 weeks or so. In a week or so, I'll drastically drop back on my hours per week.

But yes, Paul is spot-on in his assessment and while I consider myself more of a homesteader than a permie (I still use various principals) he really has opened my eyes to some things I took for granted.

Eventually the goal will be to build a cabin out here and let some people come and see what I am talking about. My wife and I love to talk farming and sheep.

 
Marco Banks
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Gert doesn't look like a farmer. I get the impression that farmers and homesteaders work as much as 16 hours a day, which does not seem like the life of a millionaire to me. This I think might be the difference between permaculture and agriculture.




I'd be bored only working 10 hours a week.

I work a 40 hour job that gives me some flexibility and summers free (I work in education), but what gives me life and health are the hours I get to spend in my garden and orchard.

I LOVE this. It isn't work -- its love. I easily spend 25 to 30 hours a weekend (I'm off most Fridays) out there messing around, planting, pruning, and tending to the kingdom. I can't work the long hours I once did, but most Saturdays and Sundays, I'm outside 8 or 10 (or more) hours, messing around with this or that. It's hard and often dirty but it doesn't feel like work.

Last weekend, I was out there digging a trench to run a drain line for our dishwasher gray water. We've already got a simple grey water system, but I want something more robust. So I'm digging up the old pipe and reworking the whole thing . . . heavy labor in heavy clay soil. And I absolutely love every minute of it. Or at least I love it when it's all done and people take a look at it and tell me how cool that is.

Then I sit down, watch a baseball game, drink a diet Coke, and take two Aleve -- the miracle drug. I look out the window, survey the kingdom, and feel tremendously gratified.

In the summers, I'll bet I spend 60 or more hours a week planting, harvesting, putting up veggies, pruning and training trees, and building new components to the system (rain water catchment, grey water systems, etc.). And then there is always something that needs to be fixed, painted, or upgraded. THANKFULLY the work is never done, because I'd go crazy if I wasn't experimenting or building something new. This coming summer, I'm going to be tearing down two smaller sheds, digging footings, pouring concrete, and building a new garden shed with an attached room. That attached room will be a craft room/sewing room for my mom (my elderly parents will be moving in with us this June), and I plan to install a murphy bed on one of the walls so it can also double as guest quarters. I'm making plans and budgets, thinking about how to use the roof of that to capture rainwater, looking at solar systems and the correct plants to grow around it . . . this is the stuff that charges my batteries.

So to get to a place in my system where I'm only out there 10 hours a week doesn't sound inviting, but like punishment. My dear wife would go crazy—"Don't you have something better to do outside? Get out of here and go plant something."

I'll bet Sepp is still out there on the side of his mountain every day adding to his system, thinking about new ways to capture energy and water, and still investing for the long term in the health of his farm. And dear fictional Gert . . . my sense is that once her system is all up and running efficiently, she will not be content to just sit in the hammock and sway in the breeze, because building new stuff is tremendously rewarding and doesn't feel like work at all.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've never been bored in my life.

Maybe that's not strictly accurate. I have too many interests to be bored.

I envy people who can work hard.


 
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