A feline named Henry joins Paul for this interview. Paul and Jocelyn go to Erica's after a funeral for his aunt Donna Lee, near Enterprise Oregon. She took Paul in when he was 16. His Aunt was from Joseph, Oregon and Paul graduated high school near the area too. Paul's Grandfather was a tour guide in the area, and growing up Paul did lots of camping. Paul went to LaGrande high school. Paul talks about how he feels about losing his Aunt. Jocelyn’s Grandmother also recently passed away, she was 99. Paul spotted a Kickstarter starter which was from Joseph, to fix up a hotel/warehouse and Paul decided after supporting the Kickstarter, that he would try staying there. Erica Houck and her parents own an artisan chocolate business. Paul reflects on all the places he grew up as a young person. Paul thought that Joseph was an ugly town when he was younger, but it is so much nicer these days. Paul recalls the Chief Joseph days. The dialect of the locals is one of a southern drawl. When the railroad came through Joseph, Oregon the people were from the South and they remained after the construction was completed. Joseph is now a funky, artsie kind of town. The city is chock full of bronze sculptures. Erica was worried that the town might be a little too purple for Paul.
Paul thinks that many of these old towns are evolving into permaculture communities. Paul thinks that someday Detroit might become a great permaculture community. Paul hypothesizes how Joseph has evolved into the town it is today. Jocelyn seems to think that make of the people within the town is a 30/30/30 % made up of three primary groups. Paul thinks that as property got cheaper, new people came to Joseph and they saw what Joseph could become. Growing up Paul remembers how yuppies were all around him in Portland and they dressed in boring khakis. Although Paul admits there is a video of him holding hands doing the purple thing. Paul talks about how towns go through transitions. Jocelyn thinks that the art helped turn the town around. When Paul was in Eugene there was a whole crew of hippie cool people, but then the yuppies moved in there. Now Eugene is hippie-lite. Erica says that now Portland is being infiltrated by yuppies too. Erica mentions how she was home schooled and Paul talks about Gilligan’s Island the TV show. Paul talks about how he met Erica at the family chocolate shop and Jocelyn explains how Paul's cousins are close to Joseph. Paul talks about how no one in his family really knows what he does. Paul did put his Aunt on one of the permaculture cards as a tribute to her. Joseph is a small town and everyone knows everyone. Paul makes the observation that it is utopia-like because it is such a small community. Erica loves how Joseph is tight knit. Erica talks about where she grew up and it was not so tight knit and how the idea of community was lacking there. In Erica’s old town people argued a lot. Paul has seen both types of small community. Paul loves how Joseph has evolved. Jocelyn talks about how the hotel is being reconstructed and how nice it looks. Each room is planned to be done by different artists. Paul is amazed at how the area has changed from a place he did not like so much to a place he really likes now.
Paul wants to talk about the land Erica and her Mom own. Paul walked the site and has some things he wants to share about Erica’s garden. Erica wants to talk about the ponds she built. Paul noticed the scum in the pond. Paul noticed algae in the pond. Erica’s dad was a biologist and that is why Erica knows the scum in the pond comes from algae. Paul says the slime is easy to correct. One option is to rake it off and use it on the garden. The more you fish it out the longer it takes to come back. Paul says it makes for great fertilizer. It makes good mulch and good fertilizer. Another technique is to use an organic straw bale and it must be organic. Throw the bale into the pond. The bale will attract the algae because algae wants to be part of the composting process. Paul did not want to have the twine or baling wire in the pond so he has removed those with other ponds and waded out with the straw and submerged it. With a small pond it might only take one or two bales to clear up the pond. Paul asks if Erica plans to dredge the pond. Erica knows a person so she does have access to one. The muck that comes out of the bottom is also magic for the garden. The quack grass issue comes up. Erica called it crab grass. Erica explains how she did use a rototiller. Paul hates tilling. Each time you till you lose 30% of the organic matter. Erica jokingly blames her dad for tilling the garden. Erica’s site has lots of water and Paul has been looking for water on his farm. Paul explains how to build a hugel culture mounds. With mounds constructed with the excavator they will out produce the rototilled beds. Paul asks if they are using toxic gick on the quack grass. Where the beds go the soil will be three feet high and there will be a three foot hole giving the appearance of a six foot mound. By mounding and excavating the bulk of the quack grass will be denied sunlight and as such eliminated mostly. There will be some along the edges which may be eliminated using mulch possibly. Huckleberry discussion came up. The patches location is a secret that only Erica knows where it is.
Joseph sounds like a community that's being gentrified by art-culture moving in. I'd be interested to hear if there are permaculture developments happening along with the art. Art is cool, and can be a great door to open a community to alternative lifestyles, and ultimately a tool to change norms. But sometimes art is so aesthetically lovely that it's easy to not see that many contemporary, conventional art fabrication processes and materials are actually harmful. There's art, but then there's art made with sustainable processes and materials. Permaculture art.
Paul, if you're in Joseph again, or another community that's going through gentrification/renaissance through the culture of art, I'd encourage a tour of the place with an art guide, someone who can talk about all the cool stuff that's around, know roughly how it was made, and can speak about how the community is better because of it; and maybe you can assess the environental impact of the artworks in town. Much like the permculture garden chat, but different.
This podcast explains the cool reception when I said I like to spend time in Joseph! I love the magic of connections. Alsea is the only other place in OR where I've spent time because my sister and her family lived there. I never got bad vibes there. We went to a local restaurant with an attached garden and my multi cultural family didn't get the cold shoulder. My sister and her kids hung out with Bahai people who also lived near town. The kids seemed to be happy at the school. I attended my twin nephews graduation there and every kid in the graduating class was going on to college -- which is a lot more than I can say for all the other rural NW towns I've experienced. A rich logger left an endowment, so any kid who graduated from Alsea got a free education, all the way through to a PhD, if they wanted. I heard it's not quite so generous anymore. But with five kids, Alsea was a good place to hang.
I have a question for the Joseph 'miracle'... usually, $ to support the new permie ventures has to be there... is it from tourism? is it a new retirement destination? or does the 'bronze foundry' employee enough, well enough? or is the $ just kept in the community because of recirculation through the permie businesses (i.e., no/few big chain stores) ?
It's time to get positive about negative thinking -Art Donnelly