For the past few years I have delved into the permaculture world, and what a rabbit hole it's been. Every spring, summer, and fall I have had something growing. I has been really fun, I totally love it. Unfortunately, I feel it will be some time before I can really settle down and plant the food forest/garden I really want. In the mean time, I don't plan on giving up on learning.
To make a long story short - my wife and I have student loan debt. We have done everything in our abilities to get the debt down, but we simply do not make enough money to get rid of it any time soon. It prevents us from buying a home or land and I even had trouble qualifying for a used car. I know what I need to do, make more money and pay down the debt. I have dragged my feet for years and I should have gotten a second job just for that, but depression is a hell of a drug. Now I have a child and I can't even afford child care, which means if I take a second job I will need to pay for childcare (which cancels out the extra income).
I have decided to go into the military. I chose the coast guard so I can stay in the USA and spend more time with my family. I am also going into food service because of my skills/education in that area. It comes with a large sign on bonus and a myriad of benefits. It also means I have to serve for a minimum of 4 years and will be moving around a good bit. I think the pros outweigh the cons. That being said, I know I will have to put my passion for gardening on the back burner while I fix my financial life. I don't want to give it up entirely.
Now I don't know what the future holds (where I will be stationed, how much free time I will have, etc). But I do plan on always keeping a few plants of some kind, trying out vermicomposting, and seeking out local permies and growers to work with a learn from. Aside from this, what are the best ways to practice permaculture when you know you may only be in a location for a year?
" With all the changes, nothing changes, no matter what you're told."
Hi Dougan, tricky scenario! Once you settle into your first assignment, you'll likely stay put for at least 3 years. If I were in this situation, I would still have a garden. You can pump out a lot of food in just a 4ftx4ft square foot garden and the things you'll learn will pay off in the long run. If you get to choose where you live, pick a place that has full south facing sun (pay special attention to the things that cast shade in your yard like big trees and buildings- you want all the sun you can get) in the backyard.
You've mentioned that you are associated with food service and there is a really nice tie in here with sprouting or growing microgreens for chefs / restaurants. You can try out sprouting with a small 4-tray sprouter off Amazon for $15 and test it out in an incredibly small space and you don't need any special lights. You could even use that sprouter on the boat and grow greens to throw in soups and sandwiches. You can ramp up your microgreen production slowly with bigger trays and lights. Microgreens are also crazy healthy for you and your family!
Quail Eggs! You can raise quail for meat and eggs in an incredibly small space and even if its not allowed, no one is going to know as Quail are really docile and quiet! Then you can use your association with food service to sell Quail eggs to chefs / restaurants too! Again Quail eggs really healthy for you and the family to eat! Good for trading with other farmer's market type folks for anything you want. Check out my Quail Condo
Worm farming also a great thing you can do. Perhaps a small scale Aquaponics set up? Aquaponcis can be a little costly to startup but you could totally move it from place to place. Check out my Indoor Aquaponics.
One thing that comes to mind is to support others who are practicing the principles. An example is to find someone who is producing in a Permaculture system and buy food from them. Another is to buy from one of those many people in the world who have never heard of the word Permaculture but have an uncanny way of embracing the foundation by growing in a natural, sustainable way just because it is who they are. Build social capital while supporting the value of these important pioneers.
When I was at a Sepp Holzer training course in Montana Sepp was told about a local man named Dale who had an abundance of perennial food plants on his 1 acre property, and could be a potential source of locally adapted plants. Dale was happy to share his surplus. A crew of volunteers went with Holzer to dig these plants for the project we were working on. Dale's place was a mini paradise of bootstrapped success, a beyond organic expression of his life's efforts, it was truly stunning.
Holzer added a lecture to the training syllabus to honor Dale and what he created. In front of 60 people I listened as the the translator told us of Sepp Holzer's declaration that Dale was one of the most important Permaculturalists in North America. Dale had just that week been introduced to the word, he naturally embraced it without ever hearing it. He probably never could have dreamed of this moment. Many others deserve this level of recognition, one way we can offer it is to reach out, tell them they have value, and support them. I think you are in a unique position to be a person who can give this recognition across the country (wherever you are posted), embrace it!
http://www.1880farm.com Central Texas, USDA Zone 8b, Temperate Grassland, 34″ annual rain, 52 acres of bottom land, with approx 4-5 acres in young woodland and 2.2 acres in ponds (or tanks, as they are called in Texas)
I'm there with you on Microgreens and or sprouts. Sprouts are so easy. Let the chlorine evaporate if any! And add a good salt if you can (not iodised).
PC is great because there are so many possible ways to better your immediate environment. And a good way to learn to observe and read the microclimate. You get to see the different element gradients!!!(And if you mess up on a project which is rare, OF COURSE you will just leave in a little bit (but i didn't really just say that). Any meet so many permies out there in their different ways. PC is about the web and the grassroots to the core! Go karma up and help someone in the area develop ian improved grey water system. Or play with wind turbines. Or an herb spiral. or black soldier flies and compost!! or mushroom something. Who knows the possibilities!!
Call me an optimist but PC is quite philanthropic by nature and design.
I think it would be fun and easy to do some rock work and gather little microclimates with wind breaks and sun rocks and shade and maybe water runoff channeled in and hugel kulture. Maybe a small raisebed or two in the mix. Polyculture! And what a treat to get to see the results of a polyculture from every other environment you go. Like a friend of mine who does little hanging terrariums of lichens or moss or plants from different forests and countries and states etc.
This might be redundant for your I'm not sure what you know or don't know but I hope I helped somehow. The rambling life has its perks, just as its counterpart.
Ramble ramble ramble Ramble ramble
I have been nomadic most of my life, bouncing back and forth coast to coast and in between. I didn't have a car until I was 35, because I was often in more urban/suburban areas where I could bike walk or take public transport. I never owned my own property until last year finally at 44 yrs old when I finally bought 40 acres to settle down and plant some roots.
I view my nomadic time as a period of learning knowledge and skills. Gaining experience not only of one region but many. Getting exposed to different ideas and ways of doing things. I spent my years of nomadic life always learning and gaining skills with the intent one day to put them to use for a homestead. I have accumulated a lot of knowledge and skills because of this focus on the long term goal.
Best advice I can give is to don't get overly stressed on not being able to do the big stuff yet. Keep your expectations small and reasonable. Do what you can, but always learn learn learn as much as you can for those big things. When possible help others out on their big stuff. Sure you don't get to have it yourself, but you gain the skills and experience doing it for others. I spent 4 yrs living in an architecture community in AZ called Arcosanti doing it someone else's way for them. But I learned a lot doing that. Sometimes even learning what not to do is an important lesson too, it can save you from being the one doing the thing best not done as well as solidify why you want to do it another way.
And of course something else you can do, is spread knowledge yourself. You might not be able to build your food forest yet but tell everyone who will listen about them as well as RMH and swales. Talk to others and let them know of the cool things permaculture can offer. Most likely wont let it sink in as it will sound to out there or just too different from what they know, but if you help spread the seeds of permiculture to just a few others here and there and they get involved more permaculture spreads and becomes just the regular culture and how people live.
"Where will you drive your own picket stake? Where will you choose to make your stand? Give me a threshold, a specific point at which you will finally stop running, at which you will finally fight back." (Derrick Jensen)