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My Permaculture Transformation

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It happened so gradually, I didn’t even see the transformation taking place. A year ago, almost to the day, I was still a normal person. I could wander around outside, and just see terrain. It would be pretty, or it would be boring. It would be desert or it would be alive. It could have cows, or chickens or fences, but I would just see it as it was and move on. I was but a passerby in the great system that is our world.

 

Now, that’s different. Now when I look out at everything around me, my eyes are already mapping contours on the ground. I see where the water will flow when it rains. I see where trees can be added to a space, and how it would change that areas around it. I can estimate how much sunlight an area gets and know what to do to affect that amount. I look at bare dirt and immediately start looking for a source of mulch to cover it and start the healing process.

 

Somehow, without even realizing it, I have become a permaculturist, and there is no going back now.

 

This was spectacularly rubbed in my face last month. Last month, my wife and I took a trip from our dry and rocky desert home in Tucson, AZ to the much lusher and more livable portion of the state in the White Mountains. In the five years we have lived here, we have taken three trips up there. It is beautiful up there. In 100 square miles, you can see every type of terrain known to man. Everything from harsh desertscapes to alpine lakes to grasslands that look like Kansas. We absolutely love it, and always have a wonderful time driving around and just looking at the different landscapes.

 

Each time we go up there, we stay in the town of Show Low, as it’s the biggest community in the area. Show Low is tucked into an alpine forest, and surrounded by trees. If you drive slightly to the east, it opens out into grasslands where they graze adorable little Hereford cows, and you can see them out on the plains. In the past, my reaction was always to look out and moo at them, then drive on.

 

This time I saw the scenario with all different eyes. The trees didn’t just happen to stop and that’s where they were grazing cows, the cows had created the grasslands from destroying the trees. The cows were spread out over way too much space, and were in the process of overgrazing entire ranches. The most useful land in our state was being destroyed without purpose. Yet I didn’t see a hopeless scenario, I knew how to fix it.

 

Immediately my mind was contour mapping the properties, and breaking the grazing areas into smaller spaces for rotations. I knew the area got about 18 inches of rain in a year, which is plenty to regrow the forests. Swails could be cut into each of these pastures to catch as much rain as possible. The cows could be fast rotated through much smaller areas and create a much healthier eco system. Rather than relying on just cattle farming, these ranches could also tractor thousands of chickens through and create a second stream of income. That would help the people as well as building fertility with …

 

Crap!

 

Somehow when I wasn’t looking, my brain has become hopelessly infected with permaculture. It has passed the information consumption portion of the learning, and is now fizzing away at the incredible urge to DO something. There is no problem too big or too small, I just have an incredible urge to tackle them. If you continue with this learning.

 

I even know when it started, yet it was such a gradual change I didn’t even notice it happening to me. The knowledge just reached critical mass at some point, and it all clicked for me. Granted it was probably about 3 months after it clicked for my wife, she is a natural which is God’s way of keeping me humble, but that’s another story.

 

Last year I started listening to “The Survival Podcast” by Jack Spirko. I really wasn’t into the whole food storage and survival aspect, but he would mention permaculture every few episodes, and I was intrigued. He would talk about these two gurus, Geoff Lawton and Sepp Holzer, and how they were doing great things. This Jack guy was using their teachings to grow food in the Arkansas hot dry summer. I looked around at my hot dry Tucson summer, and figured I could learn something.

 

I got tired of waiting for more mentions of these guys, and I went straight to the source. I watched Geoff Lawton’s Urban Permaculture DVD, and it was all over. I just had to learn more. So for the last year I have spent as much time as I can poring over every scrap of information I could find on permaculture. It has saturated my brain and my being. Now, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t turn it off. Permaculture is every where, and you can see the world with new eyes.

Growing your skills

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Its now officially three days into the new year, have you worked on any of your resolutions yet?  I am guessing that most people probably haven’t.  Its so easy to sit down on a piece of paper at the beginning of the year and say you want to lose ten pounds, or get that big promotion, or look at rainbows more.  As I mentioned the other day, it’s only going to change if you put some action into them.  I personally set some ambitious goals for myself this year, and I found a great site to keep me motivated to achieve them, and I wanted to share so that you can start growing too.

Because everything is better with peeps, also they grow.

Because everything is better with peeps, also they grow.

How many of us grew up with a father or a grandfather that seemed able to fix anything with a hammer and some caulk?  I remember once my grandfather’s clock in his truck quit working, so be framed in an alarm clock on the dashboard.  Hilarious, and effective, I bet that truck was always on time.  How about a mom or a grandmother who could simultaneously can food for winter, embroider a beautiful piece of art, and make homemade soap?  Do you feel like any of that rubbed off on you?  I sure didn’t.  I would sit in my house hoping that the light switches never break because I was terrified of replacing one.  A saw was a foreign object meant only for removing fingers and a hammer was good only for breaking things.

While I am no longer completely terrified of wood working and home maintenance, I still feel my biggest area of improvement is in my skills.  I personally feel like my generation no longer knows how to do anything.  If something breaks, or we want something new, we call a guy.  We are afraid to even try to fix it ourselves.  In a homesteading situation, that can be both dangerous and very costly.  What if before calling a guy, we simply took a half hour to see if we could fix it?  Hell, with Youtube you can probably find a video showing you how to do it.  Which, by the way, is exactly how I hung the screen door on my back porch.

Thirteen Skils Badge

Thus I invite you to join the 13skills challenge.  At a basic level, the site is a way to set goals for yourself in different skills, and allow you to mark them off as completed.  There is even social media integration so you can share your successes with your friends.  Although this site is hosted by the Survival Podcast, its geared towards everyone.  Skills run the gamut from the classic “Firearms” and “Permaculture” through “Second Language”, “Social Media”, and “Entrepreneurship”.  There is literally something there for everyone.

In addition to being a great tool for self accountability, there is another component to this.  You are instantly inside a community of 4,000 people and growing who are all either learning or teaching skills.  Do you know how to woodwork, teach someone else on the site.  Do you want to know how to fix a sink, I bet you can find someone to teach you.  What a great way to help keep these skills flourishing, than to pass them directly to a new mold-able mind.

I personally am very excited about growing as both a person, and a homesteader this year.  You can check out my profile directly here.  I am absurdly proud to be member 346 out of 4079 so far.  Below are the goals that I have set for myself in the coming year.  I look forward to working on myself, and I would love it for you to walk with me as well.

Butchering — Planned

To humanely kill and butcher a chicken in such a way that the animal dies quickly, and the meat is edible. I have killed two chickens before, one which I ate, but had help from the wife, and another that I ruined on my own.

Container/Portable Gardening — Planned

To successfully grow at least three types of kitchen or medicinal herbs indoors.

Meditation — Planned

To be able to meditate for at least 10 minutes a day, preferably in the morning, to allow for a calmer existence.

Pickling — Planned

I would like to create at least three different styles of lacto fermented food this year, one of which just has to be sauerkraut.

Hunting — Planned

Neither my wife or I have ever been hunting before, and this year once we move to Idaho, we would like to go. We will take someone along who hunts to teach us.

Permaculture Design — Planned

I would like to attend at least one permaculture class or workshop.

Get Out Of Debt — Planned

Pay off our car and AMEX card to free us up to start saving for some land.

Making Salves and Balms — Planned

I would like to make at least one skin salve that actually feels like it solves a problem. Bonus points if it comes from herbs I grew myself.

Fitness — Planned

I would like to continue my paleo fitness journey, and achieve and maintain a weight of 210lbs.

Wood Working — Planned

I want to build for my wife the table and chairs she saw at Crate and Barrel. They look like they are just made from 2X4s, but they cost $4,000. I can make those.

Writing — Planned

I would like to continue the blog I have started, and success will be defined as either making $1 from something I wrote, or writing a minimum of 5 posts a week.

Fishing — Planned

I have never been fishing on my own in my life. I would like to take my lovely wife fishing with me at least once in Idaho.

Real Estate — Planned

I will successfully execute a short sale on our Arizona house by April 1, freeing us to continue to Idaho.