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steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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There are dozens of stories.  I don't want to go into all of them right now.  But they all boil down to the same thing:  people want to come here and check out all-the-things.  Maybe visit with me.  Maybe others.  Maybe, maybe, maybe ....   all-the-things ....

We've had so many people come through.  And people are so .... human.    And they seem really pissed at the $100 gapper fee.  So they then proceed to tell us how that is terribly unreasonable. 

I suppose there might be a big construction site and somebody wanders up and wants a tour.  "what are you building?  why are you doing it that way?"  They want the tour when they arrive - and they want the tour from somebody knowledgeable. 

"Could I speak to President Obama please?  Oh.  Well, tell him I'll be in town on tuesday morning.  Maybe he can show me around the white house a bit, and I will like to tell him a few things about politics."

When people pay the gapper fee, they have been super respectful.  For a while we had a couple of loopholes, and that generally didn't go well - there were excepetions.  But for the most part, people would want to exchange about 20 emails before coming, and then they would say they would arrive at 9am on tuesday.   So we make arrangements for somebody to meet them.  And around 10am on tuesday they would text to say that stuff happened and it would be 9am the next day.  And then they would show up at 3pm the next day - and be in a big fucking rush, so where the fuck are the people to meet them? 

Earlier this year ... around may or june ...  a guy called.  He wants the tour.  For free.  On his schedule.  He lives a few hours away, so he'll come by sometime in the next few days. 

For a long time, Evan was our tour guy.  So he would stop work to come down to basecamp ... usually re-arranging his day to fit smaller projects into the day.  Then he would arrive and sit around and wait. 

Oh, and if somebody didn't pay the gapper fee for some reason .... we still have to pay evan. 

---

Last november, I had a few different people that wanted a few decks of cards when we were offering the sweet deal.  They wanted me to deliver them to their house.  And then they agreed to meet me in missoula.  All this so they could save a few bucks in shipping?

I used to do something where I would give a presentation in missoula, or would announce that I would be somewhere in missoula for .... stuff.  And three people would show up. 

---

For a while we had a loophole for people that have listened to 90% of the podcasts.   And then we found out that about half the people who exercised that loophole didn't even know what a podcast was: "how do I watch it?"

For a while we had a loophole for people that were looking to buy land adjacent to our land.  About half of them didn't even have the money to buy land.  But they still wanted to see the land and get the full tour.

---

I like to think that in a few years we will be in much better shape to give tours, or facilitate people who drop by any time, etc.  But right now we are under construction. 

The $100 thing works out.  If people pay it and then they cannot get here for some reason, then I guess I made an easy $100.   The people that are passionate enough to part with that much money are very respectful of the time taken to show them around and facilitate what they would like.   We can pay somebody to give the tour.   We can pay somebody to deal with the emails/texts/phone calls before and after.   

Rather than having a ten page menu of all the different things a person might do during their visit here, the $100 covers nearly all of it.   Maybe just a tour.  Maybe just a quick tour.  Maybe an overnight (tent? rv? back of a pickup?).  Maybe help the ants.  Maybe be part of the bootcamp for a few hours or a few days ...   Maybe visit with me for a few minutes.  

---

People will insist that they are not like the others.  And yet, that is nearly the universal sign that they are either just like the others or that they will be true to their word and find a whole new way to disrespect the time of the people here.

---

I remember doing the wwoofer program 12 years ago.  And several other programs like that.  And since then I have visited with dozens (hundreds?) of other folks that hosted that sort of thing, so the numbers were verified.   For every person that shows up, there were six that promised to show up using phrases like "I always keep my word" and "I promise", etc. 

The rate that people lie about their intentions and then possibly refer to that as "gaming the system" is well over 80%.  And then for those that do show up, 80% don't show up on the time and date that they say they will.  So, as with many things, 95% of the people fall well within the definition of "human" but outside the definition of "noble" or "dependable". 

---

So, here are the loopholes at this time:

521:  big media.  Destiny has ways of verifying this. 

522:  authors and videographers and the like with a collection of impressive works. 

523:  Jocelyn invites people over for a potluck or feast night or movie night.

524:  anybody that has ever been here before does not need to pay the gapper fee.

525:  workshop - sometimes the price tag is less than the $100 gapper fee.

526:  tour days - the gapper fee is reduced from "$100 for the first person and $20 for each person after that" to "$40 for the first person and $20 for each person after that". 

527:  guest of a resident.

528:  a resident has undercut our $100 gapper fee

529:  classes - we've arranged for some classes to be taught here.  Or for other classes to come by en masse at no charge.

530:  the sepper program

531:  becoming a resident like with the ant village program or deep roots

---

Much like the state of the jungle stuff that I have posted about in the past, I get a lot of people that write and their position is "why can't I come out for free?  explain it to me in detail."   And I suppose this thread is an attempt to do just that. 

Because we have a rich history ...   and because we are in a state of "under construction" we currently lean on the gapper fee system and we will probably come up with something better later.

More about the gapper program

Our general info about visiting here.

An overview of everything here

 
pioneer
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paul wheaton wrote:
The $100 thing works out.  If people pay it and then they cannot get here for some reason, then I guess I made an easy $100.   The people that are passionate enough to part with that much money are very respectful of the time taken to show them around and facilitate what they would like.   We can pay somebody to give the tour.   We can pay somebody to deal with the emails/texts/phone calls before and after.   



I want to agree that those who pay the $100 gapper fee are generally more responsible and professional to deal with. It helps a LOT.

*And* I want to add in simple terms: we lose money at the $100 fee.

Besides the expenses of paying for help around here, if Paul or I are taking time out to help with visitor or gapper details that means we are *not* doing what we could be doing to earn (more than) a professional wage.

 
master steward
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People who have never been to Wheaton Labs may not know that there are two properties.  (I'm sure this is posted elsewhere, but it's pertinent to this discussion.)

If you are arriving by car, you drive in to Base Camp, which has room for parking, the Fisher Price house (a double wide manufactured home that came with the property and has been upgraded with an awesome pebble bench rocket mass heater) and a few outbuildings, including many of the guest beds.  In order to see the wofatis, the tipi heated by a RMH, the future lemon tree spot, the Ant village, etc. etc. you have to get up to the laboratory.

The lab is not far away, but it's too far to walk.  Biking is do-able, but the ride up the mountain is daunting.  When I visited I brought my bike and then I never took it off my car.      There are multiple cool electric vehicles used to get back and forth, but this takes time.  This is why you can't just "drop by" and "see a few things."  It's kind of a production to get the guest(s) to the stuff, and then show them around.
 
pollinator
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In many ways, it sounds as though you are operating an "educational-institution-in-progress" that goes beyond the traditional concept of educational institution.  And yet, alternative school or traditional university, I know of no institution that would generally accommodate 'drop-by' visits, unless they were some potential financial donor with known deep pockets.  Such institutions may, or often will, have routinely scheduled tour and visitation days for the public, and if you miss the deadline for applying or attending, then come back when the next tour is being given.  My own observations for those wanting to visit our property or even get together for garnering information on career or homestead related topics dovetail with those detailed above by Paul.  Unfortunate, but accurate.
 
pollinator
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For people who don't know what a "podcast" is, it's just like a radio show, kinda like Prairie Home Companion. 

If you go to this web address you get to the first radio show.  Paul talks a lot, and Jocelyn talks a little, and there's lots of information and it's fun: http://permaculture-podcast.com/Podcast/2011/wheaton-permaculture-001-saving-energy.mp3 ; If you don't know how to go to a web address, if you know how to cut and paste then cut and paste this into the white box near the top of your screen.  If you don't know how to do that, then send me a purple message and I'll help!  technology complexity need not be a barrier to progress and communication.

I just started listening to the podcasts and they are so entertaining, packed with information, and well-thought-out. 
 
pollinator
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You can read Pauls posts and easily conclude he is an asshole. Then you listen to his podcasts and get his " tone". Then later when you read his posts, and read it in his voice, you conclude he is not an asshole.







 
pollinator
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Paul is definitely not a "touch hole" as I prefer to call it, because I prefer not to swear, but still have made my point. I have said before, if I was not 3000 miles away I would shake Paul's hand in deepest respect.

I love people. I do a lot for my community, I really try to give back, but people still suck. On a farm it is even worse. Yes we all have the exact same hours in a day, (24), but for a farmer those hours are already filled...about 7 years ahead of time. I understand people wanting to stop by, and I enjoy the conversations, but make no mistake about it, I really do not have time to chat, I am just putting something else off in order to do so.

Sometimes it is good, I need to take a break from the constant toil and chat. But other times people stopping by just means I am going to crawl into bed at mid night instead of 10 PM.

My heart goes out to you for your patience as your exposure is more so than mine, and has got to be a constant drain.
 
paul wheaton
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I have become a minor celebrity of sorts.  So there are lots of people that know me.  Based on that, there are those that like me and those that don't - as is the case for nearly all celebrities.  And as it should be - after all, the masses have different tastes. 

And then I make myself accessible.  So this inspires thousands of people to get in touch with me.  For anybody that might stumble onto a bit of fame, I strongly suggest that you hide from fame.  Let yourself be famous and talk to nobody.  utterly zero people.   Because what happens is that people are so very human.   As a form of conversation, they will suggest a change of personality.   "you should _____"  - just a suggestion.  Of course, as part of a conversation, if you choose to not follow the suggestion, then you are clearly an asshole and the person making the "suggestion" has a new opinion to try to warn the masses against any encounter with this asshole. 

From a philosophical standpoint, most people would never suggest another adopt a personality change.  Mostly because they would not appreciate others doing this to them.  But the reality is that most people simply cannot stop themselves. 

Pod people seem so excited to meet me ... and then the "suggestion" spills out and it is all downhill from there.  So come on by and see if you have such great personal substance that you can talk to me for a full minute without suggesting that I make a full personality change!



 
pollinator
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Was that an invitation, Paul?

-CK
 
paul wheaton
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Chris Kott wrote:Was that an invitation, Paul?

-CK



I think we need a lot more people to attend the schmoozaroo!
 
pioneer
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Thanks for sharing.  I think $100 is reasonable, especially for all you get for it.

I'm reminded of many experiences myself.  I've been involved in a wide variety of things in my life, but  selling real estate, being a landlord, and learning herbal medicine taught me the most about people overall.  Now my husband and I want to start a permaculture farm, center, and a retreat center of sorts.  So these sorts of posts, while they might not interest everyone, are quite valuable to me!

Looking at Paul's experiences and writings about such, also what Diana Leaf Christian has to say on the matter, and considering my own in business and life, it seems like a key to success in just about any operation involving humans lies in managing expectations. It seems to me that Wheaton Labs has been set up to try to be as absolutely clear about expectations as possible.

Of course, still, some people will have different images or narratives in their heads.  Sigh.  You do what you can! We are a culture of people with very high/specific expectations, and a huge emphasis on "customer service" and the "customer is always right" concept. Which seems to me had created a lot of entitlement in our culture.  Is this your take on it Paul?

I'm also reminded of a tour my husband and I did years ago at Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, CRMPI (tour page), one summer.  We paid the fee.  We showed up on time.  Jerome and one other person, a volunteer who was working, were the only ones there the day we came.  Jerome gave us the tour himself.  It was great.  He's certainly a character, the sort of guy who seems happiest in his element, in nature.  We had a very positive and memorable time, with a little hilarity added in, but that's another story...  A totally worthwhile tour. 

Driving up to the center, Jerome was very explicit about the road conditions.  Had he not been, we might have turned around and not found the location.  I'm used to driving rough Oregon forestry roads, but this was something else...part of the dirt road was washed out recently in a huge storm that hit on our way to Colorado, and just barely repaired.  It was a very steep drop on one side, with soil that was way more silty than I like driving on. (I come from the land of hard clay ... it's like rock.) Anyways, we were given great directions, we found the place - and they let us come even though they had barely been able to fix the road and get out for their own needs, we got a totally personalized tour, and it was so worth it!

But what amazes me is that we had a great experience, but others might have had a terrible one.  And that doesn't seem preventable.  Recently I saw there is a thread on permies about CRMPI, where people had some very different experiences from one another with their PDCs.  Maybe (definitely) we can't please everyone, but we can learn from what others want and expect, and assess whether changes are good or not reasonable...?  (I don’t mean this as a suggestion; it seems apparent it already happens.)

And as consumers, try to remember to respect the complicated, exhausting and life-altering aspects of running organizations, businesses, farms, etc. and examine our American sense of customer expectation a little bit...?

I guess this all falls under "be nice".  So sweet and to the point.  Sorry you guys still run into so many challenges with people!
 
Travis Johnson
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Our farm is starting to get some notoriety now as we host an annual concert in the summer, and host forestry events for the Maine Forest Service. This is a little different than you Paul as your property is as much about location as it is permicultural principals, and certainly you are engaged in it all year, and not just a few weekends a year like my farm.

But now we are starting to see issues crop up; people seeing the farm and think, "oat fields, I bet the hunting is great here", and now more people are showing up in November during deer hunting season. And I see more cars threading the maze of heavy haul roads, and checking out our woodlot.

It is a two way street though. I feel an obligation to give back to community, and so in my case the benefit concert weekend is for drug addiction counseling services (drug addiction is a huge issue here, losing more people per capita than most states), and the forestry stuff helps those engaged in sustainable forestry, but there is a cost to that generosity too. For now, it is worth it as we are talking literal life and death in the case of drug addiction, and general good will in terms of the forestry events.

But celebrities? I don't know how I feel regarding them. Without a devoted fan base they would not have what they have, yet the price they pay for that is a loss of privacy. I think most want both, and they just cannot have that. When a person is just barely scarping by though, and they lose their privacy, that is a tough thing to deal with; a very high cost.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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There is an address that goes out at the bottom of the daily-ish e-mails. We've had people write a note to (or drop off a note or stop by) that address to ask about visiting. Or ask us for a phone call so they can stop by.

In very brief, straight-forward terms, for $100.00, yes, we can have a one-on-one discussion about you stopping by.

Would you stop by unannounced at a stranger's house and ask to see their fireplace? Or expect a stranger to have 5 e-mails and/or phone calls with you, at your leisure, about visiting their home to see what they built?

If/when we have some consistent, regular help here, we will do our best to schedule some group tour dates which would be more fun (and less costly!) for everyone. To help make that happen, encourage folks who like to clean and organize to consider joining the bootcamp here or becoming a resident in another way (read about options here). :-)
 
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