Several items have dominated my thinking throughout the course of the past several months:
- I am doing too much: Real Job, small scale energy production, entrepreneurship, family, home-scale permaculture, community building, and farming… I get to pick 3.
- The Next 20 years will be nothing like the Last 20. Preparing for a successful “transition” will take thought, planning, investment, and action.
- I love Pushing the Envelope. Challenging the Status Quo, Answering Big Questions by putting Theory into Practice and then telling people about it is incredibly important to me.
To paraphrase, having come to the conclusion over the past year that the future that I was raised for (Eternally Progressing, Consumer Credit Based Capitalism) was not going to be the reality for myself, and certainly my children (Declining Energy Availability with all its Uncertainties), I reacted by attempting to shore up all facets of my life that were unsustainable -at once- and to help others by holding workshops, blogging, going to meetings, and giving tours all of which I loved doing.
But looking back over the past 2 years in the relative calm of the past month I have reached some conclusions. I need to find a more focused approach to the next year that still leads me to a more sustainable life, but also adds to the dialogue of Sustainability in a meaningful way. I have chosen to refocus most of my efforts on Small Scale Agriculture, especially here at our personal home. And to all you that have commented “I don’t know where you find the energy!” this is your answer – we’re all human and possessed of finite resources. The sooner we learn this for ourselves the better off we’ll be.
2 years ago when we began market farming, there was literally no one in our surrounding villages that was producing local organic produce. Now, thanks in at least a small part, to our efforts there are 2 young men doing some amazing things. Neither of them have the external commitments that I do (family and Real Job) so they are doing a much better job than we were and making a bigger impact. Our community has caught up to where we were going. Leaving the Farm will be very difficult for me as I am happiest with my hands in the soil; it is possible that I may keep a toe hold there, but I need to move on until I have our own property.
The Appropriate Scale Renewable Energy front is even tougher. When we built our first gasifier 18 months ago, we had a group of only 4 people doing it. In the time since, as many as 2 dozen have shown up for our “Work Days” and with the publicity of the MREA we now have folks literally driving down hundreds of miles to learn from us. It is hard to say that this area is ready to move out on its own, but I am facing the reality of hard choices – and the engineers in our group are better suited to this stage of our project than I am. I will continue to think on applications for this “triage” technology, and to trial biomass crops, but spending 20 hours a month on this project will be a thing of the past for now.
That leaves Home Scale Permaculture in my initial list (Family is a no brainer, and we are not ready to quit the Real Job yet). When I go back and re-read my title page for my Sub Acre Ag, I remember how excited I was before I diluted my energies with actual farming and energy projects. When I surf the web, and especially when I look around South Central Wisconsin, I see very few people pushing the envelope on creating sustainable Suburban Lots. 2 years ago we grew 500#’s of produce from our yard, last year was not even half that and this year will be barely better, despite the improved soils and maturing ecosystems. More concerning, the weeds, especially the Quack, have gained such a foot hold that we will not be giving any tours this year.
So I have reached the determination that what our community most needs, now, is tangible examples of productive Suburban Yards. In my Sub Acre Page, I took my vision to some “logical” conclusions. If even my own small village of 1200 souls was able to follow our example, we would be a net exporter in seasonal fruits and vegetables with our production of over 1,000,000#’s of produce annually. What a dream! Pushing the envelope on this facet of Sustainability -blooming where you are planted- is where I would like to see us spending more of our time. It gets me more time with my family, while better preparing both us and our community for the coming uncertainties.
I am drawing up plans to drastically reduce the amount of space we have dedicated to paths in the “annual veggie” quadrant of our yard while also better defending it against Quack. Looks like a 50% increase in growing space is very doable on almost the same foot print. Connecting my permaculture “islands” will allow for a more continuous soil ecosystem and niches for many more fruiting shrubs. We have yet to grow edible fungus here, most systems are underperforming their potential, and the “zen” of the backyard is a Hot Tranny Mess that is neither soothing to the soul, nor pleasing to the eye. There are plenty of “problems” here to keep my mind occupied, and the work is intrinsically good. Maybe next year will be the year I finally lobby for an urban chicken ordinance…
I will still be active in many other fields, but of course, a house divided cannot stand. Ironically, the MREA fair this year helped to catalyze my thinking here. Literally as I left my workshop on Victory Gardens I had an epiphany that next year I wanted to host a workshop on Suburban Food Production combining Biointensive Gardening with Edible Landscaping and Guilded Plantings within the ethics and goals of Permaculture.
I have learned so much in the past years, but not everything has been skills in composting or welding. Yesterday we picked over 2 gallons of raspberries and currants from the yard to make muffins and 3 pints of jam… and we left 2/3’s of the berries on the canes. And because it was my backyard, the “we” meant my wife, my 7 year old son, and our 6 year old daughter rather than whoever was at the Farm that day, which felt fantastic. Our harvest was so bountiful, I literally felt like I was at a “U-Pick” berry farm. We have achieved the Permaculture goal of creating a Surplus, and we are just getting started.
Be the Change