Joshua Myrvaagnes

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since Mar 20, 2014
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Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Recent posts by Joshua Myrvaagnes

This is good food for thought.

On the "keeping pipes from freezing" thing, it makes the idea of thermal inertia and rethinking plumbing more essential.

After the explosions in Lawrence, MA, I speculate there are lots of people who are quitting natural gas.  Whether the threat is real or not, the perception of possible explosion is a deterrent.  I read a quote in an article of kids saying they were afraid of gas, and if my memory serves the parent said, Wow, I have to agree, that does seem really dangerous.

Is it a matter of paying really high premiums for the insurance more than just 'we won't insure that"?  if so, what amounts are we talking here? maybe you come out ahead? 

Travis Johnson wrote:One really hard thing to calculate here is what people use for heating sources. I would NEVER depend upon a single source of heat, and in Maine I do not know of too many that do. heating our homes is tough business here!

My father has wood, coal, corn, or #2 furnace oil (here on out called oil: a very common heat source in the Northeast)

My Tiny House has Oil, Firewood, Coal, Corn and Pellets

My other house has Firewood, Coal and Propane

My house in New Hampshire has Firewood and Oil

Sadly, when the US Government does their surveys they only ask for "Primary" sources of heat. This unto itself is misleading, but for someone like me or my father, we burn whatever is cheaper at the time. Generally it is firewood in the shoulder seasons like Fall and Spring, then when it gets really cold, switch to coal to really crank out the BTU's from the stove. In other words I draw from a variety of fuel sources to get me through the winter depending on what best suits my needs in terms of output, control, and cost.

Some are merely back up, like burning corn. Having the ABILITY too burn it, just means if pellets were short for instance, I would just burn that in a pinch if I had no firewood/coal/propane/oil/etc.

2 days ago
Thanks Shawn.

There is a distinction between "more efficient" and "in the black ecologically," and this is something the Better World Book is really helping me grasp.  Much of the other solutions we're used to see around in the US are "how to make things less bad"--sometimes significantly less bad!--and that's not nothing, but it's still not a real solution in a sense.  It's not your "final answer." 

Putting more people in one house, in the cold climate, could be a part of the final answer, however.

Or, putting more sun into the thermal battery of the passive solar house.

Certainly, sharing a hot water supply makes really good sense, not just for "less bad" but for "in the black."

Another thing I take from this is "natural gas is cheaper, moneywise, even if it is not cheaper carbon-wise, and this is distorting people's perceptions of the real cost of heating up space"

I also wish we had a chart to show how the consumption works for a household that is in the black carbon-wise.  It should be more pronounced--more people = more 100-watt heaters in the house = less wood needs to be burned.  The charts above barely reflect that, but in "developing" countries and in truly sustainable homes in "developed" countries the more people the more heat, period. 

A chart of what's truly sustainable would make it more real in people's minds too, I think.  Anyone with chart-making skills and some numbers want to take a crack at making one? 
3 days ago
I'm sure she'd by far not be the most dangerous driver on the road.  Have you _seen_ Boston??

Travis Johnson wrote:By the way, my sister has down-syndrome, and my parents got tired of driving her to work. She applied 5 times to get a driver's license, but each time failed due to a couple of tricky parts; merging into traffic, stopping on a hill, and parallel parking. So in desperation my Mom called the DMV and my sister got her license on the next drivers skills test: they just "modified" it.

I admire my sister as she has only missed 4 days of work in 5 years of employment at the same place, but I have no confidence in the DMV as aspects of what was modified is important for everyone else on the road. My parents are smart enough to limit her driving to work and back, a short distance in a rural area, but by rights, she could drive through Boston if she wanted too...legally! YIKES!

1 week ago
Squatting is done world-round except in societies that have lost it.  Virtually all children can squat. 

If you have trouble staying up, you can try turning your feet outward more and may be able to make it; or try putting a 2x under your heels to give a little "downhill" advantage. 

It's great to be able to vary positions when working (squat, kneel, squat on toes, one-side-squat-kneel, stand and bend at the hips, etc.) 

And, once again, as I have said dozens of times, the quality of movement has a great impact and not merely the gross movements themselves.
1 week ago
So the other thing I feel a need to add, and hadn't gotten to in my other post, is another thing those of us of dominant/privileged groups can do is become more aware of our privileges and make fewer assumptions--or, better said, learn more about what assumptions we have that we don't know we have.  That's the thing about an assumption, you usually don't make it knowing you're making it.  If we all grow up in our communities, in some kinds of bubbles, then we don't know what lies outside the bubble--like the expression "the water the fish swims in." 

This can get really emotionally charged, so I'm going to leave it really general, but Google can be a help with this.  What I was taught in school didn't cut it in many, many ways.

Just as we have to expand our awareness more and more in order to learn how to be more permanent in our horticulture and other material culture, I am quite sure we need to expand our awareness about how other people experience the world.

This doesn't have to mean, "I did everything you do in heels and backwards so your accomplishments are invalid and you should feel insignificant and inadequate," it just means that other people may have done things beyond what I imagine is possible for myself and I need to let go of the assumptions.  No shaming is necessary for progress.  The people who I know of as really getting aware and doing something constructive about it were taught by compassionate intervention, not by being yelled at.  Compassion is a lot to ask of someone who's already being shat on, but it's still what works.  It may be more effective to say nothing and ask the offending person to web search [fill in the blank].

I have learned a lot about how I was unconsciously assuming people of various oppressed groups were thinking and what opportunities they did and did not enjoy, and I am quite sure I will continue to have more to learn. 

Just as people higher up the eco scale than oneself can appear crazy, people with much more awareness can seem crazy, but from another perspective what they have to say is common sense.

Learning is a part of permaculture.  As Sepp always says, Listen!

Also, regarding the Indian community, a shout out to Bryan Deans, a Lakota permaculturist who teaches and holds builds on reservations, and the Wampanoag of Aquinnah, who built a modern carbon neutral building for their public information building decades before it was cool.  (Of course, all the Indians' buildings were carbon neutral, but doing one that simultaneously meets modern building code is a feat that boggles my mind.)

As for the thing going viral, my thoughts were a bit muddy about that, I have to rethink what I wrote. 

I appreciate learning about more Black permaculture voices in this thread.
SoulFire Farm is awesome!  they are a force!

One thing they are doing is giving people a chance to grieve intergenerational wounds about this stuff.

Leah told an amazing story about a foster kid who touched the earth with his bare feet--he was autistic, and had never spoken, and he started talking again.  He talked about his gramma, how he remembered her showing him her garden when he was little, how much he missed his gramma.  Everyone started balling and talking about their grandmothers.  She is a person who's willing to give people space to grieve, to go through that kind of process, as well as doing the working, the celebrating, hte partying.  It's all part of it.  I may have some of the details of the story wrong.

Leah's also the person I learned about the theft of Blacks' agricultural land from.   It's some really high statistic of people who were driven off their land. 

Also, one of the most essential permaculture tools in the toolkit of the Big Black Book is worker-owner coops. And they were, to my understanding, created by Blacks in the US (and perhaps independently invented by kibbutzniks too and other places).  This may not be what people first think of when they say the word "permaculture" but it most certainly is permaculture principles in action.  A single entity serving multiple functions, shifting the dynamic toward people-care instead of profit-care. 

I would love to see an anonymous poll on permies to allow persons of color to indicate this.  I don't know how that would work exactly, but I think it could be done.  Maybe just showing a percentage of all registered users? of all users active within the past X months? a randomized survey sent out to all subscribers to the daily-ish?

At the risk of offending someone, I would also say that Blacks in particular in America have been the innovators of a vast amount of culture and of memes and often occupy a kind of pedestal (for better or worse).  In music, poetry, sports, film, literature, theatre, and other fields the contributions have been visible and widely celebrated.  There have been less visible contributions of equal or greater real significance too, but the flashy ones have grabbed a lot of attention.  George Washington Carver I'd count as a permaculturist, even if he predated the term and was more focused on breeding, his approach was very much in line with the essence of permaculture.   There is something about the history of this country that has a good percentage of its general population focused on "Black cool." 

So, if a Black superstar permaculturist felt comfortable enough starting a youtube channel and went viral, it could become a fad almost overnight.  This might not be that helpful to the cause of permanence, but it might be somewhat, might open the door to a new idea for many.  I guess the hole in that idea is that permaculture is actually not all that flashy--it's about boring stuff like efficiency, saving resources, not being wasteful...but you can hype it up too, yes? "I raised x,000,000 lbs of food on a piece of land the size of my foot, and here's how." 

One of the obstacles to this is climate.  In North America you can't say "here's this really great technique my ancestors in Ghana used."  (OK, I'll keep that one in mind for when I move to Florida.)  And I get if as a person of color you don't want to go on the air and rave about hugelkultur or even Masanobu Fukuoka--you want to be able to talk about people who share a history with you.  You can use the principles, but then that becomes more abstract, it's not easy to popularize a principle.  So I think that is a factor in how things stand--and I don't have an answer to that.  I support persons of Southern hemisphere/equatorial ancestry in doing whatever they consider right--whether using Northern people's' growing techniques and plant palettes or returning to their ancestral lands or some other possibilities I'm not aware of.  Not for me to say.  I don't support anyone in saying "I need a job and someone else to grow my food for me for all time, because money is the only reality in my world for all time."  Just because it's self-inconsistent.  But it's not my place to say what the answers are.

To S. Bengi's point about the fear of rural areas, that one I especially don't have an answer for.  It's sad to hear about this from the POC folks in my community.  What can I say?  Other than, Come on, humans, we can do better than this! For persons of color considering starting a rural homestead, I would hope you'd take all the precautions you can.  I think not ALL rural areas in the US are that way, in fact most are not, but all it takes is one bad apple.  Still, the city isn't treating anyone that well either.  It seems like something that would be helpful would be supporting safety in numbers.  There's a POC community in rural upstate NY near to SoulFire that has gotten started recently, looks like they have strong support from Soulfire and I hope they are thriving.  (intentional community is another thorny challenge in itself...)

There is at least the indoor stuff: heating yourself, not the room; a certain amount of indoor gardening; drying your clothes on a rack indoors instead of the dryer, etc.. 

Geoff Lawton's question "Where are the Latino permaculturists?" is also coming to mind.  And why don't more people ask that question? why aren't more Indians getting back to permaculture?

This post has gotten long and I have more thoughts but I'll leave it there for now.

Kerry Rodgers wrote:
There are some people who are doing everything Permaculture advocates, yet are uncomfortable with the word "permaculture", or the Permaculture Movement, or both.  I suspect there are black community leaders with this perspective who are doing a lot to reconnect people with land, healthy food, community, etc.

One such leader I happened across on the internet some months ago is Leah Penniman.  Her writing is challenging to me, as I don't have much exposure to Social Justice writing or work in my daily life.  Nevertheless, I think it is important to listen to many perspectives, especially from people doing good work. 

Here is a random selection of Leah Penniman's web presence:
* Her farm: Soul Fire Farm does CSA and education retreats.  Her writings also linked.  She has a book coming out later this year.
* A sample of her writing: After a Century In Decline, Black Farmers Are Back And On the Rise 

There's a whole trend in urban planning to make walkable cities. 

And there's an even larger trend in just reality toward localism.  There are eddies against the main current, but the current is toward localism.

It's really worth stepping back from the what-is to get a clear picture of the ideal:
living within walking distance of my food supply
children are educated in the community and learn how to do things necessary to _life_--not necessarily to a job or factory, but to life (food production, communication, health, sustainable shelter)
each member of the community is valued for their unique contributions
friction in relationships is used as a prompt for growth
(These ideas are not my original ideas, I've learned about them from Robes by Penny Kelly and descriptions of village life by Elder Malidoma Some)

I heard someone in the PDC I took say her dad had left his small German town because he wanted to be able to buy his own damn shovel, no strings attached, instead of borrowing the neighbors' with all the strings.  Thing is, there are always strings.  Just because you leave doesn't mean anything has changed, you take yourslf wherever you go.

City Repair has some good stuff on creating reasons to slow down--not scare cars so much as beautiful spaces that inspire people to slow.  You do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, though I do get it if you feel like you're running out of honey sometimes.
1 week ago
This reminds me, I've been meaning to ask, since black locust is supposed to be such a great N fixer, yet also so notoriously slow to break down, is the N going to be really slow to get released?  In the school of thought that says "most of the N is only released when the plant is stressed or dies," this would seem to be the slowest possible N source. 

I guess I need to start getting more focused on alders anyway, but black locust are more numerous where I live, or more obvious anyway, plus having other great uses.  (You know, for when I emigrate to Vermont and can plant them legally.)
1 week ago

I thought I'd heard everything.

Didn't know where to post this, cover crop seemed the closest.  Apparently in old growth forests nearer the arctic there are mosses that hang in the trees that fix nitrogen (or maybe they host microbes that do the actual fixing--sort of like when I try to fix dinner for my mom).   I just heard about this from a permie in Alabama, and what I googled may or may not be what he was talking about but it's discussing "n-fixing mosses".  I don't know if these are the ones that hang in the older trees.

I'll google some more, but I thought this was amazing and wanted to share right away!
1 week ago
It's always 2:22 when I read this thread. My update--the guest building at the community had zero mold, so I never got to use my garlic or my silver-tipped wooden stake.

Moral of the story--always try sleeping in a non-guest room before you join a community!
1 week ago