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Live each day like it’s your first

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I have officially hit the jump.  I am now in the single biggest in-between period of my life.  I have left my job, to prepare for my move to Kentucky.  I am in the process of leaving my house and my state behind, to start a new and better life in Kentucky.  I have not had such a period of unlimited potential since I have been an adult.  Even when I first moved to Tucson, and I was unemployed for 3 months, there was a tremendous and immediate pressure to get a job.  In a very short period of time, I will be doing that again in Kentucky.  For now, I am in the between phase, and that has given me some time to think.

I have a period of time that I may never have again in my life.  I can literally do anything that I want to.  I want to make use of that time to set the groundwork for our future, rather than just sitting around and watching TV.  Plus if I sit around watching TV for a month I would have to shoot myself out of boredom.  I can learn, I can read, I can build, and I can write.  So I will use it.

When we are caught up in the normal rat race of life, we feel so much pressure to not rock the boat.  We don’t want to upset the delicate balance of whatever it is that we are doing.  We might not like what we do, but dang it, it keeps the roof over our heads.  Why rock the boat?

This leads to a certain sense of fatalism in what we do.  Well, I feel that changing course will disrupt my life forever no matter what I do.  So I am going to “Live today as if it was my last”.  Then we go crazy, go get hammered, spend too much money on a credit card jetting off to the Bahamas, do something stupid, and really do wreck our lives.  So we have naturally concluded that we have to be stuck in the rat race, because if we deviate at all, it will end badly.

That’s stupid.  If we really lived a day like it was our last we would be huddled up in a panicky ball crying in terror with our family.  Because that’s the only rational way to stare death in the face, no matter what crap you believe from TV.  We think that the only way for new growth to occur is for everything else to be burned down around us.  New life can only spring from the remains of everything else.  I don’t want to work in this cubicle anymore, so I am quitting to go be a fishing guide, even though I have never fished before.

Everything is gone, so stuff can grow now.

Everything is gone, so stuff can grow now.

There is a better way, and also, a better catch phrase.  Live each day, as if it was your first.

Everything doesn’t have to burn down around us for us to change something in our lives.  We simply must decide to change.  Rather than igniting the mess that we have created around us and hoping something grows, we can start something new.  Like a seed, we can start an idea.  We can shelter it and nurture it when it is very small.  We can slowly test it and make it stronger as it grows.  When it gets big enough, we can move aside the old, and plant the new idea instead.

New Idea

Living each day like it’s your last, implies that there are no consequences to what we do, when in fact ignoring them can be horrible for us.  Instead we must live each day like it is our first, so we can always take care to leave somewhere better than we found it.  That is the key to freedom, as well as the key to a legacy.

Why ELSE permaculture hasn’t caught on

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As I mentioned yesterday, in the course of writing my post, I was able to think of three more reasons why permaculture hasn’t caught on yet.  So rather than creating one long mega post, I split it up into the two days to make it a little more readable.  The other thing I noticed about how these fell, is that these three can apply to more than just permaculture.  These three are all excellent reasons why many initiatives fail.  So while I am writing this about permaculture, I bet you could apply these to just about every environmental initiative you know.

#1 Hippies aren’t good spokespeople

hippies

Ok, now this one may come off as touchy if you don’t look at it objectively, since many of my readers either were legitimate hippies or at least identify with the movement.  So don’t get defensive.  This is strictly a discussion on the use of hippies as spokespeople, not a commentary on hippies in general.

There are two main problems with identifying as a hippie when trying to promote something.  First, they look different.  When you are selling an idea, you want people to be able to identify with the person selling it.  Either they could be that person, or they could be with that person.  Often people can’t feel either when it comes to hippies.  So while hippies might be a great draw to college children, they aren’t going to make any in roads with the actual movers and shakers in life.

Benfalk

Go for less of the Jerry Garcia look, and more of the Ben Falk.  Ben runs Whole Systems Design in Vermont and is a certified PDC Instructor.  Also looks like a professional.

Second, hippies aren’t very good at actually executing ideas.  Lets take a look at the occupy movement shall we.  A bunch of hippies had the idea that they would block traffic in major cities and change the world.  They got the first part done, but couldn’t even agree on goals.  So in the end, they just ended up hanging out in a park until they got cold and dirty.  So when we have a great system that is PROVEN TO WORK, we lump ourselves in with that when we present it wrong.

Again, this is about presenting an idea, not how you live.  Live however you want.

#2 Free Giveaway = garbage

free

Sign up for this credit card, get a free T-shirt.  That little toy inside the crackerjack box.  Free ski weekend if you sit through this Timeshare presentation.  People automatically associate free with bad.  Free can’t be quality.  It’s going to break.  Worst of all, by accepting this free thing, I am somehow going to get snookered down the road.

So why do we keep trying to give permaculture away for free?

Charity is a wonderful thing, and many people feel called to do better for their neighbours, and those are noble ideals, but people automatically distrust free.  We need less veggie co-ops and more “Eddie’s edible landscapings”.  We need less Permaculture blitzes and more “Bluegrass Food Forestry”.  We are standing on a gold mine of food information that is PROVEN TO WORK.  Stop trying to give it away for free to prove it.  We are living in an era when people are paying $10 a pound for organic Kale.  Get out there and make some money.  People are much more likely to sit up and take notice of a successful business that is creating good in a community than yet another group of idealists looking for donation.  Plus, once a business is successful, others will try to replicate it.  If it is really about making the world better, rather than stoking your ego, the best way to do it is to create a business.

#3 – We can’t afford green initiatives

save

Permaculture is an excellent way to save the planet.  The upsides of this system are nearly endless.  It uses no chemicals, less water and improves the land.  Animals are happier.  People are healthier.  It is the deliverance of all of the green initiatives ideas into one form.  Best of all, it actually makes people freer, unlike many green initiatives relying on government strong arming.

Boy, that sounds really expensive.

It isn’t.  We all know that it isn’t, but we continue to pitch it in a way that sounds expensive.  People are automatically associating us with the $10 kale movement mentioned above.  When you talk about what something can do for the earth, you set off the cash register sound in someone’s head.  Bad for marketing.

What we need to do, is emphasize how much it can save people money.  How much money would you save if you provided 25% of your own food?  Or 50%? What if you didn’t have to pay for medicine anymore because you weren’t sick?  What if you only had to drive to the store once a month?  What if you made some extra money selling veggies or eggs to your neighbours?

Again, these are all concrete benefits that are PROVEN to work.  So lets talk about what they can do for someone.  Marjorie Wildcraft has sold 250,000 of her DVDs because she called it “Growing your groceries” not “Saving the planet in my backyard”.  You need to hit people where it counts.  In their wallets.

So the next time you feel sad that permaculture isn’t the way of the land.  Stop thinking like a zealous true believer, and think about what you can do to correct the situation.  This will spread or fail based on what we do.  So let’s spread the right message.

Why hasn’t permaculture caught on in the US?

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A friend of ours on Facebook last night posted an article, and asked a question with it.  The article was about permaculture blitzes, and can be found here.  You can read it if you like, but it is essentially about the establishment of a permaculture round robin work force.  You volunteer to help others, then they eventually get around to helping you.  None of which I have a problem with, I just didn’t find it fascinating.  Then she asked a question, why hasn’t permaculture caught on here in the United States?

Well, my first thought when I read it was, it has.  Look at me, I am a 28 year old retail manager with a background in technology sales and marketing.  I learned about permaculture, and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I want to design, grow and teach.  How many others are there out there like me?  More than we would think I am sure.  Our message is getting out, but of course, all true believers want that message to be 100% of the population right away.  For us, our numbers can doubly yearly and it would still be a fraction of 1% of the population.  So it is growing, but this is the long haul road.

My second thoughts were a list of things that we permaculture people do wrong that are stopping this message from growing faster.  Perhaps these thoughts came to me easier since I am a newbie in this motion.  It is easier for me to take a step back and look at the whole of this because I am not swept up in true believer syndrome.  We cannot be blind to the weaknesses of our message if we ever have hope of spreading it to others.  So here are some of the things that I think we need to address about ourselves if we ever have hope of taking permaculture mainstream.

Issue #1: Our Bible

PDM

If you are a permacultureist you know what this book is.  This is the designers manual, originally written by Bill Mollison when he set out to codify permaculture in writing.  This is the book that we tell all newbies to go and read to gain an understanding of what we are doing.  That’s a problem.

Have any of you ever read this book?  I have tried.  Repeatedly.  To make any progress into this book.  I know for a fact there is a ton of great info buried in this thing, but to get through it, you have to sift through a lot.  What information is there is very dry and dense.  It’s also sandwiched between a bunch of claims that have been proven false, such as all trees disappearing from America by 2000, or all saguaros being lost from the desert.  These claims would have been hard enough to believe in the 70s, but at least the dates hadn’t come and gone yet.

Permaculture is a great, wonderful, fascinating and living science.  People in this movement are doing amazing things in incredible places.  We are turning deserts green, and growing annuals foods in the tundra of Montana.  Stop trying to make this boring for new people.  It would be like telling new converts to Christianity to go read the book of Deuteronomy to get them started.  You picked the absolute worst thing as an introductory vessel.

Issue #2: Stop fighting about what is and isn’t permaculture enough

spiral

This is a picture of an herb spiral.  It’s a way to grow many of the spices you need for your kitchen within easy access to improve your diet.  This is one of the many dozens of fixture types in permaculture.  So yes, if someone builds an herb spiral they are practising at least a part of permaculture.  What if 10 yards from that area, he has a traditional garden that he tills every spring and puts down fertilizer?  Is he still a permacultureist?

Most people in the movement would say no.  He is breaking the rules.  He isn’t doing it like you would.  He is using chemicals.  I would say, shut up.  At least he is doing something right.  Rather than punishing people for not going 100% of the way into the permaculture mindset, we should encourage everyone who puts even a toe into the permaculture waters.  Let us reward the effort, rather than punishing them for lack of purity.  We should be uniting together with every effort and supporting them, rather than look for reasons that they aren’t as pure as you are.  Every person that we get on-board strengthens the movement, so lets bring them all on.

#3 Stop making permaculture sound like socialist garbage.

There are three primary ethics of permaculture.

Care of people

Care of the earth

Return of surplus

This is straight from the mouth of Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton, the founder and crown prince of permaculture.  If you can’t take their word for it, whose can you take?  I think the first two we can all agree on, I haven’t heard them bastardized yet.  The last one though, that’s the one that causes trouble.

The rule is return of surplus.  This can apply to both a physical substance, such as returning chicken poop to the garden, or something more metaphysical, such as charity work.  In permaculture, we are looking to create closed systems, where the waste product from one thing is used to solve an issue with something else.  Again, like chicken poop.

Instead, what some people want to do, is use that as a justification for socialism.  Taking from those that have more than you think they should based on your arbitrary jealousy.  That is not why permaculture was created.  It is merely being used by some of the same people that always try to advance a socialist agenda.  Infiltrating something good and trying to turn it to evil.  That one phrase has done more to damage the permaculture movement in the USA than anything else, as most of our society still knows that it is garbage.  We, as permaculturists need to stand up and stand against this bastardization of our values.  Our message would spread much faster if it wasn’t carrying along needless baggage.

While typing this I actually thought of more, but I will save those for tomorrow.

Expanding you borders, and seeing what’s new

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What do you think of when you think of Arizona?  Maybe the Grand Canyon, our big beautiful hole in the ground.  Maybe a lone saguaro sticking out of the sand.  Maybe the big bustling metropolis of Phoenix.  Maybe the college with a reluctant city around it that calls itself Tucson.  Certainly those are the big things that draw the most people, so that’s natural, but it’s not all there it to my state.

Jenn and I took a trip up to Show Low, AZ and the surrounding White Mountain area last week.  It is an absolutely gorgeous part of the state, and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful in the country.  It very much stirs my soul in the way that all beautiful western places do.  There is something about the vast remoteness that just speaks out to me.  Most importantly for my point, it is absolutely nothing like Tucson, and it is only four hours away.

Take a look at some of the terrain types in this area.

Lake in Alpine AZ

Lake in Alpine AZ

This is a beautiful lake on the road down to Alpine AZ.  You can see we have a lake, which actually has water in it, shocking for Arizona.  The green trees on that hill are about to turn into a large pine forest in just a few more miles.  So yes, trees can grow in AZ.

Frozen lake in Arizona between Springerville and Pinetop

Frozen lake in Arizona between Springerville and Pinetop

I don’t actually think this is a lake, I think it was just a field that got flooded and froze, but it was beautiful.  This picture is probably about 20-30 miles from the other one.  Trees, ice and snow.

Rolling plains in Arizona between Show Low and Springerville

Rolling plains in Arizona between Show Low and Springerville

Here we have some rolling plains.  At one point this whole vista would have been covered with those little scrub bushes, but where it’s clear is where it was overgrazed.  Arizona, apparently, dedicates a huge portion of it’s north eastern corner to beef production, which is both awesome, and kind of sad to see so many ranchers doing it badly and damaging the land.

Painted Desert in North Arizona

Painted Desert in North Arizona

Lastly of course, we have the Painted Desert.  Which is absolutely gorgeous, and speaks for itself.  You can’t look at this vista and not be swept away.  This is pretty desert.  This is not what the Tucson desert looks like by the way.  Ours is much more, sterile.

All of these pictures were taken on the same weekend.  In fact, all of the except the Painted Desert were taken on the same day.  We spent our vacation driving around, and exploring a new place, and it was beautiful.  All of these pictures were within 100 miles of our cabin.  The cabin was only 4 hours drive from where we live now.  It’s not that far to branch out and explore.

How often do we really get out and explore our surroundings?  How many beautiful things exist only a few hour from your home, and you have never seen them?  When was the last time you went out simply to explore someplace new, and see what surprises life holds for you?

This country contains some of the most amazing places and people of anywhere on earth, but we often go through such lengths to make sure we never encounter them.  We fall into our routine and stay nice and cozy inside our box.  That’s no way to live.  Get out and explore.  See what there is.  The world is very different so close to us, if you only get out and look.

We stay in one place, and make snap judgements on the entire world based on our experiences.  Well, that thing you said might be true where you live, but it might not be true down the road.  How will you know unless you get off your butt and explore?

I would challenge everyone who reads this to find someplace they have never been within 3 hours of their home, and go see it.  Three hours or less can be done all in one day if you want.  Go out, see it, and come back.  Bonus points if you just pick a direction or a destination and go, without knowing what’s there first.  Those are the best kind of experiences.  You just might shock yourself.  The world is so much of a bigger and more open place than we ever want to admit.  Most of the limits we place on ourselves are simply that, self imposed.  We pretend we are trapped to justify why we can’t do something.  So go out there and remember you are free.

 

 

Why we should let Whole Foods have their 5 years

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I am sure by now that most people who are plugged into the natural food movement have heard that Whole Food’s market has decreed that by 2018 all foods containing GMOs need to be labeled in their stores.  If you haven’t heard about this, you can go read the article here.  I have found the response to this decree to be a little bit interesting, and I just have to throw my two cents into the mix.

What I have seen, instead of the rampant celebrating that I expected from the pure food movement, has been about equal parts of “why isn’t the government doing this” and “Why aren’t they doing it now”?  I personally find this reaction quite puzzling, which is why I felt compelled to speak.

 

wholefoods

First, I don’t shop at whole foods.  I think in the entire time that I have lived near them in Tucson, I have set foot in their store once, because I wanted to see what they had.  The short answer, is that they had the products I normally buy at higher prices.  I feel when you are shopping there, you are buying a nice slice of status symbol along with your products.  However, they have built a thriving business, so good for them.  The also clearly are willing to put their money where their mouth is and stand up to what will no doubt be an expensive legal process, so also good for them.

NOGMOSo the first type of criticism I have seen is some people saying the states should label the GMO ingredients.  Yes they should, but that is you putting your faith in the very institutions that allowed us to be eating this poison in the first place.  They sold us out to the GMO industry years ago.  So why the hell would we trust them to protect us now?

A state has no vested interest in protecting it citizens.  It has only a vested interest in protecting it’s own power and influence.  As long as they can stay comfortable ensconced in their throne, they would sell us out in a heartbeat.  If the states ever do bother to get up off their butts and label GMOs, the law would have so many loopholes as to be a meaningless joke.  Take a look at the requirements for Organic, and why they don’t match Europe if you don’t believe me.

So no, the government is not the answer.  Unlike a state, a business has a vested interest in serving it’s customers demands.  If they don’t serve, they lose business, and cease to exist.  So while the State of California has no interest in you, Safeway and Whole Foods and Kroger, etc do.  They want what’s in your wallet.  Pushing that lever will get change enacted much faster, since we have a viable alternative to a grocery store that won’t play ball.

The second type of criticism I see is people saying “Why wait till 2018, do it now”.  I looked, and I haven’t seen an official statement from Whole Foods on that, if I am wrong then correct me, but I have my own theories.

First, GMOs are in almost everything.  If Whole Foods want’s to offer GMO free corn tomorrow, I am willing to be they couldn’t do it.  Same with wheat products at right now.  So if they enacted this tomorrow, either their whole store would be labeled, costing them business, or their shelves would be empty, costing them business.  I think they want the time to make this more than just an empty gesture.  They want to setup an actual alternative to the GMO crap.  That will take some time, and I say good for them.

Second, take a Popsicle stick and break it in your hands.  Pretty easy.  Take 50 Popsicle sticks and try to break them.  Good luck.  If Whole Foods switches over right now, they stand alone.  They have 340 locations worldwide.  They are a drop in the bucket.  I think they are going to try to gather other retailers to the same standard.  If Whole Foods stands alone, they can be ignored.  If Whole Foods stands together with even 10% of the industry, they just changed the world.  So I think even now, little meetings are happening, trying to get more people on-board, and I think it will work.

So let’s not do that thing that we always do people.  When we get what we want, we should be happy, instead of just bitching about how it isn’t perfect.  We should be grateful that at least one company is standing up for us, as best they can.  The pioneers always have it hardest, so rather than complaining, lets give them the kudos they deserve.

The power of intentionality

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Quick post today, but one that is immensely powerful, if used correctly.  I just got smacked in the face with a hard lesson, and it’s one that just about everyone can benefit from at some point.  We will create the results that we set out to create, by being intentional.  There is no accidental success.

Ok, so you read the High English version of that, what the heck am I talking about?

Well, it’s best to use an example.  I started this blog in January.  I had the intention of writing a post everyday, so I did.  In February, we started seriously planning our move, and I wanted some time to be able to assist with the moving stuff, so I dropped to five posts a week.  In March, we switched our plans from moving to ID, to moving to KY.  This threw my brain for a loop, and I allowed myself to be less intentional with my writing.

So what’s the result?

In the eight days so far this month I have produced only 4 posts, counting this one today.  That’s unacceptable to me.  So how did I allow this to happen?

I stopped being intentional with it.  I stopped waking up everyone morning saying, “First quality thing I do today will be to write a quality blog.”  I allowed myself to think, “I will interact with my community this morning, and if I get a good idea, I will write it down”.  Well, you can see how well that worked out.  I am not producing anything good, bad or indifferent.  That’s no way to live a life, or start a business.  You don’t stumble into success.

What’s the larger lesson here?  Well, we create the results we set out to create.  Apply this lesson to a more worthy goal than my own musings.

You don’t like how you look, so you set out a goal to lose weight.  What holds more power?  Getting up everyday and saying, well, if I lose  pound today, that would be awesome, we will see how it goes.  -or- Today I am going to resist eating any bread or deserts, and I am going to lose a pound.  The second one of course.  You have a specific action to take that will create your result.

Let’s try again.  I don’t like where I live now, or my current job.  I hope I can find something better -or- Today I am going to read two chapters in this book on job hunting, and apply to one new job.  Again, second one is more powerful, and will generate results.

This is a fitting topic for a Friday, because it is the end of the week.  We get to look back at all the stuff we wish we had accomplished in the last 5 days, and often it’s less than we wished.  Did you approach the week with power, or did you let it happen to you?  This week, I let my blog happen to me, and it shows.  Next week, I am going to happen to it, and the quality will show.

How about you?  Did you happen to your week, or did you let your week happen to you?  If you let it happen to you, how much did you really get accomplished?

Your friends want you to be NORMAL

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Tell me if you have heard something like this come up in your life before.

It’s 2013.  You are where you are after the great recession, and your life is squared away in some fashion.  You have the 9-5 M-F job, and you just don’t like it anymore.  You have 40k in the bank, and you wanna go live in an RV for a year and explore the country.  You tell your friends, because they are your friends, and you want their support.  So somewhere after they pick their jaws up off of the floor.  You hear a torrent of things like “You can’t leave now, the economy is terrible” “You have a steady job, how many people don’t have one” “You will wreck your life if you go off an do something crazy”.  Etc.  Dozens of objections on why this is a terrible idea.

Well how about this.

Think back a few years.  Maybe 2004ish time frame.  The economy is going great.  There is no worry on the horizon.  You have the 9-5 M-F job, and you don’t like it anymore.  You have the prospects for another high paying job.  You have the mortgaged house, white picket fence and everything is going great.  You have 40k in the bank, and you wanna go live in an RV for a year and explore the country.  You tell you friends.  They still freak out.  This time they say things like “You have a great job” “You have prospects to be VP” “You can retire at 50”.  On and on and on.

Wait a minute? When it was terrible you said not to do it.  When it was great, you said not to do it.  When the hell am I supposed to do something radical?

Well you aren’t.  At least not if you listen to your friends.  Your friends mean well, they really do.  They only want to see you wrapped tightly in the same insulating blanket as they are.  They don’t even realize that they are doing it.  In fact, if you told you friends AFTER you put in your two weeks and had bought the RV, they would probably be telling you how cool it sounded.

Your friends suffer from something called normalcy bias.  In fact, everyone does, but your definition of normal is different than mine.  It takes great courage and determination to break past the normalcy bias in your life, and the first step is to realize you have it.  They don’t, so they can’t help it.

This isn’t to say that you can’t ask your friends for advice and such with whatever you are doing.  In all likelihood they are great people, you just need to realize that they will never support you being different.  People tend to want others to be like themselves.  It makes them feel better about the choices they have made.  I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could all drive around in an RV for a year.  No, that can’t be possible, so I have to keep everybody insulated here in the nest, that way no one gets hurt.

The world was never changed from inside a nest, so get out there and fly.

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