Walt Patrick

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since Dec 12, 2018
one of the founders of a sustainability research center. Especially interested in the conversion of woody biomass to energy and natural burial.
south central Washington state
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Recent posts by Walt Patrick

What an exciting book about an important subject; thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion with us. I steward <a href="http://www.herlandforest.org/">Herland Forest</a>, a 20 acre natural burial permaculture forest on the eastern edge of the Cascadian wilderness in the Pacific Northwest, so I'm eager to learn from you and your vision.
3 weeks ago
The challenge of creating a perennial form of family enterprise is somewhat alien to American culture, but it's something that's well established in Japanese culture where there are family businesses that are centuries old. For example, there's a family-owned inn that was established in 1291 and, 46 generations later, is still in operation. Line families you may have heard about would be Toyota, Subaru and Suntory, and there are others that you've probably not heard about but which have assets measured in the billions of dollars.

What enables the line family concept to work is adult adoption. If the next generation of a family business doesn't have a child who's capable of taking over and running the family business, they can adopt in someone who is. And even if they have a child who is a potential heir, the practice of seriously looking for additional talent can keep the heir on their toes and working to fulfill their potential. If you're interested in more information, here's a link to an article about adult adoption in Japan.

Adapting that practice to western society is a bit tricky, but we believe it's doable. The key, from our perspective, is to have an explicit process by which the adoption happens on an agreed upon timetable and by following agreed upon procedures. We offer a three month get-acquainted Apprenticeship period to see if there's a good match because we find that lots of people who are interested in creating a sustainable community based on permaculture principles are unaware of the level of commitment needed to make it work. It's a time they can chop wood and carry water while they share the hopes and fears that move them.

If there's a mutual agreement to go forward, then there's a two year period in which the new person is recognized as an Assistant Steward who's working on developing their relationship with the land, the animals, the gardens, etc.  And it's a time in which they can build their understanding of the strengths and limitations involved in the line family format. We've found that living with the land and the seasons is a crucial part of figuring out if someone really, truly wants to transition from being a consumer to becoming a creator. Going through the dark gestation of winter, and then experiencing the renewal of life in the spring, seems to work on a deep level as a rebirth into a new way of living.

Once someone has shown that they have the fortitude to make it through two winters--and all that entails--we figure that they're serious. The next step involves formally recognizing them as Stewards with a stake in the community and a meaningful voice in its governance, something which happens at about the two year point.

The closest analogy people might be familiar with would be a law firm in which would-be lawyers start out as Associates. The ones who mesh well with the firm can move on to become Junior Partners, and those who prove themselves capable can eventually become Full Partners if they want to take on that level of commitment. We call those categories Apprentices, Assistant Stewards and Full Stewards, but it's pretty much the same thing.

If someone is interested in the procedural "nuts and bolts" of how such a system can be structured, they've welcome to check out our Bylaws. We've been doing this for more than forty years, and learned a lot about what works and what doesn't; much of that knowledge is embodied in those Bylaws.

So, the good news is that intergenerational permaculture has a long track record of successful examples--they're just not part of the rugged individual ethos that's dominated American culture up to now. The challenging bits generally involve having to learn some new concepts such as shibumi, nemawashi and keiretsu.

~~ Walt
9 months ago
Homestead Butchering Workshops
When: Weekends, October through November 2019
Where: south-central Washington, some 80 miles east of Portland, OR
Bone Fire to be held the evening of Saturday, October 26, 2019

Windward will be offering a string of weekend workshops demonstrating how we butcher and process our surplus animals. Windward's not a farm that grows animals to sell; the meat the community consumes is a natural by-product of a self-reliant farm's need to use animals to convert things we don't want to eat (think acorns, bugs, weeds) into things we do want to eat (think eggs, milk, cheese) and the resources that support a self-reliant lifestyle (think wool and leather).

Since there are few places where one can go and take part in the process of butchering for the homestead, we're inviting folks to come join us for this ancient rite of harvest. Starting October 5th, we'll be harvesting an animal a week; the butchering will happening on Saturday, and the processing on Sunday. Folks are welcome to sign up to participate according to their comfort level for one or more of the weekends. Cost of the workshops will be on a donation basis.

Those who are interested in exploring the ancillary aspects such as making sausage and bone broth, tanning hides and processing wool, are invited to consider signing up for a fall internship to gain hands on experience. YouTube is great, but there's no substitute for working with the real thing.

Traditionally, October and November are the months when a homestead has to decide which animals will over-winter to start the cycle again in the spring, and which animals will won't. Since herds of goats, sheep and pigs will triple in size each year, hard choices have to be made in order to keep the herd from growing so large that it crashes the farm's carrying capacity.

We hold off butchering until a hard freeze kills off the house flies, and then butcher one animal a week. By taking it slow, and taking a few days between butcherings, we ensure that the process doesn't become a chore. It's fall, and there's lots to do on a homestead in preparation for the coming winter, so we spread things out. Also this gives us the time and space needed to make peace with the essential process of culling the herd. On an intellectual level, we know that it's necessary, but it can take time for the emotional impact to settle.

On Saturday evening, October 26, we'll have a Bone Fire. Bones are made of calcium phosphate; a large, hot fire breaks down the bones and activates the calcium and phosphorus, providing essential micro-nutrients for next year's garden. That's why the end of October is traditionally a time when the barrier separating the living and the dead is felt to be very thin, an ancient, gut-level belief that survives in the modern rituals of Halloween.

So if you're interested in learning about how this is done, and how this feels, you're invited to send us an email and we can take it from there.

~~ Walt
9 months ago
Dave, I totally agree. Evocative non-fiction is a high art form, and while most fiction stories seem to fade away over a short period of time, non-fiction that's well done seems to change the way one sees the world.

The author that did that for me was Elaine Morgan and her theory that the story of human evolution can't be understood without focusing on the female body. I found her theory of aquatic evolution offered reasonable explanations for many of the odd things about humans that make little sense otherwise. My experience is that once an author like Morgan opens up some novel path towards greater understanding, well, there's no telling where it will lead

In addition to her fascinating books, we're fortunate that she did a TED talk before she passed on.

~~ Walt

10 months ago
I've enjoyed following along with the posts about permaculture at sea, and have some thoughts to offer for your consideration.

I first got involved with seasteading as a way to disengage from the military industrial complex; building a sustainable life in international waters seemed like a reasonable alternative. It quickly became clear that achieving sustainability would require that we learn how to produce the potable water, food and energy that a community needs in order to thrive.

That's a lot of learning, and the ocean is very intolerant of those who show up unprepared, thereby failing to show the proper level of respect. So, we realized early on that we needed to establish a shore base from which we could test out the various systems we would need. In time, we wound up creating our community on the north side of the Columbia River about 80 miles east of Portland, OR. Even our name, Windward, refers back to our origin as seasteaders since progress involves tacking against the prevailing winds.

We saw three key challenges that needed to be addressed. The first involved figuring out how to generate an income at sea in a way that didn't damage the ocean or get us involved in competing with established businesses like fishing or transport. Fortunately, there are more than thirty industrial chemicals that can be manufactured at sea, products like liquid air, fertilizer and bleach. Here on the shore, we've focused on converting woody biomass into replacements for natural gas and propane, but the technology is pretty much the same, and arguably that sort of tech is easier to do at sea than on shore. You can check out that aspect of what we're up to at our Biomass 2 Methanol website.

The second challenge involved working out an organizational structure that enabled people who weren't related either biologically or religiously to join together without sacrificing their individual autonomy. What we came up with is a form of representative consensus, and I believe that our set of Bylaws is our most important accomplishment. It's been flexible enough to allow us to grow and cope with change, and strong enough to deal with challenges that can derail an intentional community. Folks are heartily welcome to download a copy, change the names, and save themselves some heartache.

The third, and the most challenging, involves creating a context within which a core group of women will be comfortable raising children. It's one thing for menfolk to go to sea and do things that challenge them, but most women we've met would rather stay on land and garden, work with the animals, explore fiber crafts, build a nest, etc. And within a community approach, there's room for men who want to be in the garden and women who want to be on the water.

We figured out early on that trying to weave together a complete life on a small ship was asking too much of most people; it just didn't meet their needs. Far better to offer options at the land/sea interface so that people could pick the combination that works best for them. Down the road when larger vessels could be incorporated into the mix, that could change, but for us, I believe that shoresteading offers the best of both worlds.

The bottom line is that I've come to believe that a well located shorestead can accomplish nine out of ten of the objectives that seasteaders hope to accomplish. For those interested in studying the art and craft of shoresteading, we offer three month apprenticeships so that folks can get a sense of what it could be like.

~~ Walt
11 months ago
My experience is that a key part of the challenge of creating viable community lies in the diversity of people, and the illusion that people are interchangeable widgets. A few unusual individuals can come together and do some unusual things, but once you start drawing together a group of people, there are certain natural laws that start to come into play. A key example is Pareto's Law which applies to all of the natural world, not just people.

You may have heard of the rule of thumb that 20% of the people in an organization do 80% of the work, which appears to be the sort of situation that Andy got himself into. Pareto's Law is actually a square root sort of thing; for example, in a company with 9 people, 3 of them will be generating 50% of the income (or in Andy's case, progress). It also works in reverse in that if a company has 100 customers, 10 of them will generate half of the customer service calls.

In our experience (and our intentional community has been at this for thirty years), if you have nine active members, three of them will be generating half of the income/production/sales, etc., three of them will be creating half of the drama/complaints/conflict, and the remaining three will find themselves caught in the middle. What usually happens then is that the productive people move on, and the community crashes.

If you're interested in this concept and how it can play out in intentional community, there's a article on our blog about it: Pondering Pareto.

~~ Walt
The Windward Community (south-central Washington state) is accepting applications for fall internships and apprenticeships; internships involve the gamut of sustainable living systems while apprenticeships focus on a specific interest such as renewable energy, fiber crafts, forest permaculture, aquaculture, natural burial, etc. Both paths are the starting point towards becoming a stakeholder in a community with more than thirty years of experience in living on the edge of the Cascadian wilderness. If you're interested, send a quick email to Walt at patrick@gorge.net .
11 months ago
Curt Peterson wrote: I heard a discussion on NPR on this subject, it may have been you.
There was a mention of composting in wood chips as being very effective
Is this something you know about and is it discussed in your book
what size of a pile of wood chips aged? or fresh  would a microrrhizae inocculant be needed
how long does it take

Curt: Composting human remains in wood chips is our standard practice in the Herland Forest. Here's a link to an article on human composting that describes how we combine a person's remains with 200 gallons of wood chips gleaned from our forest waste. I can't tell you how long the process takes since it takes place in the grave and we don't disturb the remains after interment. We just plant a tree and a bunch of daffodils (to keep the ground squirrels at bay) on the grave.
11 months ago
Elizabeth is great! When we wanted to create a permaculture food forest in the form of a natural burial cemetery, Elizabeth was very helpful and quite generous in sharing her wisdom and understanding. Nowadays, when someone comes out to tour the Herland Forest cemetery, if they have questions about the funeral side of natural burial, we just give them a copy of the Green Burial Guidebook.

11 months ago
That sounds like a lovely practice. I'd like to add some cold weather pecans to our forest too. We're right on the boundary between zones 7 and 6, so I'm hoping that there'll be varieties that will do well here.
1 year ago