Living and thriving through regenerative practices and a sustainable worldview.

Permaculture

The Nitty Gritty Guide

Check out a new project from Alli and Carlo Manzella, called “The Nitty Gritty Guide – Our Guide To The Good Life“.

The Nitty Gritty Guide

The Nitty Gritty Guide

An excerpt from their site states: “We are a growing number of individuals from various different backgrounds who have come together to share and learn time honored skills, traditional art forms and revive the knowledge that kept our ancestors alive and thriving without the dependency on modern conveniences, imports, petroleum based products, the commercial agricultural system and conventional food.”

These two are interviewing people who are doing work in the areas mentioned above within their local community, in order to spread the word and educate folks about what they’re doing.

Check out their latest interviews here!


Gift Economy vs. Gift ECOLOGY

I’ve been exploring the idea of alternative economies recently, and realized that something kept causing friction in me when it came to discussing the idea of a “gift economy”.

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew it had something to do with the idea that a gift economy didn’t seem to be capable of reconciling our evolving, flowing, ebbing needs and gifts.

I know that there are many forms of capital and many forms of alternative economies, but when it came to trying to determine the logistics of how a gift economy would actually provide for everyone, I kept finding myself with an inherent desire to keep some kind of balance sheet to prove its worth and efficacy.

It seemed to me that I must be missing something, or that maybe my intellect was “getting in its own way”, until I came across this article.

From Sharing Economy To Gift Ecology

I think that my cognitive dissonance was being caused by the difference in the actual nature, or definition of, “economy”, and how I and a lot of other people define it or see it operating as a Transactional system.

I personally think of a transactional system as one that inherently maintains a series of checks and balances, in order to meet certain needs. But I think that true Gifting doesn’t keep track. And it is actually unconcerned with meeting needs or numbers. It is an act of selflessness, and nothing more, whether it is received in that spirit, or not. There is no expectation.

In nature, everything provides for everything else, just by being what it is. The outputs of one become the inputs of the other and so on. There are no blance sheets. It is a perfect, almost effortless ecology.

And so, looking at it as a “Gift ECOLOGY”, rather than economy, fixed everything for me by viewing it as a web of relationships, rather than transactions, therefore shifting the actual nature and function of it in my mind.
“Economy reduces value into a few focused dimensions, whereas ecology implies a more intricate interplay of relationships that generate diversified — sometimes immeasurable — value.”

I actually saw a video with a member of the organization publishing this article, and he mentioned how, after Hurricane Katrina, the only things left standing were not houses or building, etc., but old oak trees. This was because they had deep, deep roots, that also intertangled with the deep roots of other oaks, sometimes forming chains as long as a hundred miles. He saw this is an example of a Gift Ecology, where the relationships between the trees created immeasurable value, while asking for nothing in return.

I think that this is really what people long for- a sense of deep, rooted connection, coupled with the meeting of needs, and so I would love to see the idea of a “Gift Ecology” take off and eventually make the word “economy” obsolete.


So… why “Resilient Existence”?

The reed that bends does not break...

The name of this blog is a mouthful.
I know it better than anyone when I have to type it into the address bar, ftp server, etc.
But the name is purposeful and has a lot of meaning.

If you look at the right side of this blog, under “RECENT POSTS”, you’ll see the “TOOLBOX”, which is chock-full of awesome tutorials, videos, podcasts and other resources. It’s all there to help you figure things out on your own, do things yourself (DIY) or do things with others(DIT, Do-It-Together)!

In recent years, there has been a subtle undercurrent that I feel has been diluting the solution-driven, permaculturist movement, and the name of this blog also addresses that on some level.

The reed that bends does not break...

The reed that bends does not break…


You see, there are a whole lot of Lone Wolf types out there, who think that the way to address breakdowns in culture and infrastructure is to hole-up, hunker down, create a wall of resistance, and hoard. They might apply this approach to many different situations – a hurricane, new neighbors, or even general overall uncertainty.

I’ve seen the “I’ll protect me and mine” mindset one too many times, and I believe that it creates more problems, because it’s furthering the idea of scarcity and rigidity. Rigidity is not Resilience, but is often mistaken for it, when paired with a huge body of DIY-type knowledge.

But knowledge is not wisdom. And rigidity is not resilience.

The name of this blog is about what it says- “resilience”, and applying it to how we “exist” in the world. But also, if you remove a bunch of the letters, you are left with the word “RESIST”.
It is a reminder that there are a whole lot of options to go through before one must resort to simply resisting. I do believe that resisting has its time and place, but I am of the firm belief that energy flows wherever your attention goes. If you put your attention and energy into resistance, you’re going to meet a wall. If you put your attention and energy into creating alternatives and solutions, you may get better results.

I was once involved with creating a public charter school, and the biggest lesson I learned from that experience was gleaned by watching not the kids, but the parents. I recognized that there was a distinct split into two types of parents. On the one hand, there were the parents who totally believed in the mission of the school and wanted their children to be in an environment that encompassed the ethics, processes, etc. that were our vision. On the other hand, you had parents who were dissatisfied with the local public schools, many having had bad experiences, and just wanted their kids to go “somewhere else” that wasn’t an expensive private school. The first group may have also had bad experiences with other schools, but were more focused on building what they WANTED. The second group was more focused on what they DIDN’T want. It was often this second group that created drama, made it difficult to get through a board meeting, issued unrealistic demands, and in the end, even caused one incident that cost the school tens of thousands of dollars! I realized that this was a prime example of creating what you put your energy into.

So… once again, I’ll just mention that I think resistance can be useful. For instance, I think it is sometimes necessary when being applied to very large scale issues, like civil rights and social justice, when you really need something to give, shift or heave. Resistance can be non-violent and still work – just ask Ghandi or MLK Jr. But we’ve been conditioned to think of resistance as violent, so that is why I think that other options must be used first, even if they are just buying time while we are reflecting and looking ahead to the possibility of perhaps having to use any kind of resistance. The time that it takes for the “other letters to be removed”, is necessary in order to properly assess what is needed and what would be useful.

Hidden within the name of this blog is a reminder to “slow down” and make sure that any resistance will promote resilience rather than rigidity, and also nurture the existence of all, rather than undermine it or create competition.

I hope this makes sense!


Cutural Capital and Other Forms of Exchange

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different forms of exchange available in the world.

There’s been a lot of noise about Bitcoin in the past year, and the weather is also getting warmer, which finds me at more swap meets, flea markets, etc. where I tend to barter.

But what has really been nagging at me is all the fuss that is always being generated from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. I started to think about all this fuss as capital.

It seems that a whole lot of people want it, which puts it into the realm of commodity, and any business who has ever looked to promote themselves knows that “buzz” is a form of exchange that converts into financial capital. Hell, Google’s building an empire based on Search Results, a form of this kind of capital. I am personally beginning to think that we could eradicate the national deficit if we were to tax all of the invisible, freely-given capital that we give to Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. every day in the form of marketable demographic data and intelligence. But I digress.

What has been the most revealing to me, is how individuals are valuing their Facebook “share”. No, not the “Share” button, but actual share, as in, their slice of the Popularity Pie. People are crazy about this shit. Facebook “Likes”, have become a commodity, as people’s self-worth becomes attached to them. This has been steadily growing to the point that it is a widely accepted practice, and I recognize it as another form of social and cultural capital.

A friend recently forwarded the following link to a list I’m on, which started to take the conversation even deeper.

Scientists link selfies to Narcissism, Addiction & Mental illness

As I read, the following sentence jumped out at me:
“The more likes we get on social media sites the happier we feel. Is this sustainable?

Hmmm.
I realized that this concept goes back to another conversation I’ve been having in the general permaculture community, regarding economic permaculture initiatives.

If the structure or framework that we are working within is unsustainable (the global economy, perhaps capitalism, depends on your views) , then perhaps continuously trying to implement sustainable initiatives within a larger, unsustainable context is not the way to go. That’s like using “holistic” medicine for lung cancer, but still smoking…

I think it’s the same here, but it is within a cultural framework, rather than economic. Our general culture is unsustainable, hands down. It does not sustain or regenerate our emotional/spiritual/mental/physical/generational health. It has largely become saddled to the idea of profit/gain/resource hoarding. The hoarding of resources can include social “capital”, too (Facebook Friends, Likes, etc.).

It has been my understanding that MANY things can abstractly be considered social capital, or commodities. For example, just as Facebook friends can be thought of as a resource for the ego, gossip can also be considered a form of capital when it is exchanged between people and they receive some social/emotional benefit from it (profit).

The idea of being an “expert” or “know-it-all” in social circles, can also be a form of attempting to hoard or exude authority, which in turn, affects people’s social interactions and is a form of control (profit for the ego). Both of these require more and more information, and at some point it becomes unsustainable. It’s not a loop unless you’re going to gossip about yourself, which I’m betting won’t work very long. ;)

So, the way I see it, since our culture nurtures these behaviors through emphasis on media, ego, disconnection and polarization of views/”other-ness”, and rewards us for doing these things in the short term, we are left with what I think is the greatest re-skilling challenge of all: understanding, using, and developing tools of SELF, and also in/with our families/tribes/communities, to navigate the current culture and transform it into a sustainable/regenerative framework that promotes our health and well-being.

If we remove the need or pressure to stroke ourselves so much, then selfies will just feel pointless.

To me, it seems that it always goes back to Culture in the end. It’s the framework we all are trying to live within, since no man (or woman) is an island.

As if by fate, a few days later the following article tumbled into my Inbox and added another layer to the conversation.

8 Forms of Capital – Ethan Roland, Peak Prosperity Podcast

The section concerning cultural capital in regards to New Orleans and Japan during recent disasters is especially relevant to the discussion. I’ve often observed how Americans will pull together immediately after a disaster (Hurricane Sandy), and when there is a general time frame where things are expected to return to normal (Boston Marathon). However, when the effects of a disaster perpetuate indefinitely (poverty), or there is no help on the way (umm… poverty?), they are more apt to cannibalize each other in some form. It seems directly tied to the idea that we are living in a scarcity model, rather than an abundance model or something else, and I view this as cultural (the idea of “bigger, better, more”, “keeping up with the Jones’”, etc.).

How do we assess our cultural capital as a nation, a globally spreading cultural influence, a planet…?

How do we tie that capital to other forms of currency so that we are receiving regenerative returns in other areas and demonstrating a regenerative abundance model? (emotional, spiritual, social, etc.)


Lessons from Hurricane Sandy: infrastructure and resilience

I’ve been thinking a bit about this whole hurricane thing, and as is often the case, it has turned to more permaculture-related thoughts.

When my grandfather was a boy, he had a little kerosene lamp to light his way to bed every night. You see, they didn’t have electricity yet. During Hurricane Sandy, my mother used this very same lamp to read by and navigate through a darkened house.
I find it amazing that in around just one generation’s time, we’ve gone from having no electricity, to being so UTTERLY dependent upon it.

I recognize that this is largely due to the fact that electricity has been built into our infrastructure. Generally, we don’t put wood-burning stoves in new homes or apartment buildings. We think of fire as a potential hazard, even if we cherish the warmth of a fireplace enough to make electric versions of them.

All of this brings me back to my grandfather. In his childhood, they had a lot less “infrastructure”, but stronger social relationships. I’ve had a lot of discussions about alternative infrastructure, how to strengthen it, getting off the grid “in order to be self-sufficient”, etc.
But none of those are really the same as talking about the idea of infrastructure ITSELF as being a crutch or a potential obstacle to resilience.

Back in the day, my grandfather’s community, in a town next to where I still live, had a very important discussion. These people were very hard-working folks who believed very much in the church as center of community, and in helping your fellow person out. These people also invented the very first insurance company in the U.S., and the idea of “insurance”, and this was almost a scandal inside the church.

Why? Because they recognized that it had the potential to “relieve” folks of the moral responsibility of helping their fellow community members, since insurance would step in and do what had traditionally been done by people: re-build houses after a fire, loan resources, etc. In the end, it was decided that they would only make “insurance” available to “heathens outside of the church”, in order to not make their own people complacent and apathetic. Obviously, the idea grew past those boundaries, and we now have a nationwide epidemic of insurance fraud and a litigious court system. Our good natures are now actually HAMPERED by insurance liability in many cases. Which is exactly the kind of thing that they were worried about. Oops.

My point is this: is infrastructure that is not based in social relationships, but rather, in contracts, actually an impediment to resilience, both physically and morally?


Halloween Necromancy!

It’s that time of year again when the moon visits longer, the morning comes slowly, and the wind brings a chill to the earth.
The time when certain folks possessing knowledge of the old ways, gather together the remnants of the dead in order to slowly transform them into new life through ancient alchemical practice.

No, I’m not talking about All Hallow’s Eve or some sinister ritual…  I’m talking about fall composting!

I ran across a great article on eartheasy.com that gives a nice bunch of autumn composting tips and figured I’d share.

For those who don’t have a yard, or access to leaves, fear not!
You can still compost, as long as you have enough heat to keep some tiny helpers happy.  I’m talking worm composting, also known as vermicompost.

What the heck is worm composting? Check out this great link that gives a nice run-down on the “ins and outs” of the whole shebang.

 

For those of you who just aren’t into the idea of sharing your home with some creepy crawlies, there’s also bokashi composting.
Although to be truthful, bokashi is more of a fermentation process than composting.

Bokashi

It’s got a tiny space footprint, which makes it great for apartment dwellers, and has been used extensively in Japan for some time.  Bokashi uses “effective micro-organisms” to break down organic material, including a lot of things you CAN’T put in a worm bin or compost heap.  It’s fast, odorless,  and convenient.

Here’s some more information on bokashi.

Keep in mind that there are a LOT of bokashi products out there, from bins to EMs, but you can make any of them at home yourself.

Here’s a good link on making your own bokashi “EM” powder mix.
And here’s a link to Make Your Own Bokashi Bucket


Word of the day: "Balanoculture"

So, what the heck is “Balanoculture“, you ask? Apparently it’s just a fancy-schmancy word for the process and practice of eating acorns.

It’s already made the rounds a LONG time ago in Greece, Arcadia and even North America when Native Americans were still able to live according to their indigenous cultural practices. And now, once again, as America is jumping on the trendy foody/self-sufficiency bandwagon by casually slinging around the term “Balanoculture” in certain circles.

But lucky for you, I’m on the blunt edge of such fancy-schmancy-ness, and have found a great tutorial on how to make your own acorn flour.

Here it is!

Acorn

Acorn


Transitioning through the seasons and pattern recognition

This post is chock-full of stuff, so be forewarned!

I don’t know about you, but this year I’ve been a little “ahead” of the seasons. Maybe it’s the crazy weather, or maybe it’s just the “hurry-up” pace of work, life, technology, etc.
Whatever the reason, I found myself fantasizing about Halloween and apple cider early last month, and although my kale hasn’t even fully invaded my garden yet, I am now looking forward to curling up in layers of blankets and socks, and hibernating with a cup of hot cocoa as snow falls silently outside.
Perhaps I just need a good crisp day of hiking in the autumn foliage to set me right.
With that said, it seems serendipity stuck her foot out and I tripped over this wonderful diagram of the Seasons of Transition.
(click the image to view a larger version)

Diagram of Seasons

Diagram of Seasons

Diagram of Seasons

This diagram actually reminds me a LOT of the 8 Shields model, which allows you to “map many of the phases and relationships occurring in nature, both on a grand scale, and also within the nuances of human learning and culture.”

This includes phases of the day, physical needs, seasons, lifespan, etc. It is an EXCELLENT and very flexible tool for permaculturists who want to map patterns in nature, behavior, and really, just about anything.

 

 

 

 

The Eight Shields Model:

I’ve used it myself as a guide for mapping the relationships between generational tendencies and Euro-American history, based on the work of Howe & Strauss.  I’ve also used it as an attempt to map our own sentient thought processes and behavior based on the work of David Bohm.
So, as you can tell from the applications, this model is a pretty powerful, useful tool.

8 Handshakes

8 Handshakes

Pattern recognition is a VERY important skill in itself, and there have been tons of really great articles written on its uses in self-sufficiency, the economy, etc.

I would also like to take a moment here to give credit where credit is due. It is my educated guess that all of these models are probably derivative of the Native American use of the “Four Directions”, or “Medicine Wheel”:

Other ancient indigenous cultures used similar models:

Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel

YungDrung Bon

YungDrung Bon

 


Seed Bombs!

This weekend I’m making seed bombs, or “seedballs” at a children’s festival.
Everyone has been so awesome, both kids AND adults.  I think I’m having as much fun as the kids, if not more!

Seed Balls

But first…  “What are seed bombs?”

Well, basically, they consist of a variety of different seeds rolled within a ball of clay and compost.
The clay keeps the seeds safe from animals and wind, and binds the ball together. Once placed outside, the rain washes the clay slowly away and waters the seeds. (You can also place the ball on top of a pot of soil an water it.)

The compost inside the ball provides nutrients for the seeds to grow.

Many people like throwing the balls over fences into vacant lots to grow flowers. I know someone who throws them up a hill onto railroad tracks where they grow into tall stalks of corn that they have seen others come along and harvest. Whatever YOU do with them is up to you, but I”m sure you’ll have fun!

If you’d like to make your own seed bombs, here’s the recipe I’m using, adapted from the “Heavy Pedal” website:
(Click on image to launch PDF)

Ingredients:

5 parts dry red clay (non-toxic)
3 parts dry organic compost
1 part seed
1 – 2 parts water

Directions:
Step one: Measure three parts of dry compost. This provides a growing medium for your seeds.

Step two: Measure five parts of dry powdered clay. Once mixed with water, the clay will hold the seed balls together.

Step three: Add one part seed.

Step four: Add one to two parts water, and combine.  You want the mixture to be moist,
but not really wet. Add water as you go.

Step five: Roll the seed ball mix into balls 1-2 in. in diameter. Be prepared to get messy!

Step six: Set aside on newspaper for a few days to dry.

Throw your seed balls over fences or into vacant lots. Plant them in containers. Use them anywhere!
(The best time for them to grow is in early spring.)


Rainwater Catchment

Came across this most EXCELLENT resource over at www.grownyc.org.
I think it might be the most complete little PDF of rainwater harvesting I’ve ever seen. It literally has pictures of the individual components used in their systems, along with pipe measurements, filtration systems, treatment, tanks, etc.

Rainwater Harvesting 101:
http://www.grownyc.org/files/osg/RWH.how.to.pdf

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater Harvesting

 


9 Simple Steps to Sheet Mulching

Source: http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/9-simple-steps-to-sheet-mulching/

Excerpt:

Nine Simple Steps to Sheet Mulching

  1. Mow or cut your lawn, weeds, or other vegetation right down to the ground.
  2. Plant any crops that will require a large planting hole (including woody plants, perennials in large pots, and large transplants).
  3. Add soil amendments (as determined by your soil test).
  4. Water the whole area thoroughly. You are going to be putting a layer of cardboard or newspaper over it, and rain and irrigation won’t soak through very well until that weed barrier breaks down. Water also helps the decomposition process get going.
  5. If you have compost materials that may contain weed seeds (like fresh manure, leaves, or hay), spread them in layers on the ground. Put a dry, carbonaceous layer of hay or shredded leaves below any manure layer. Avoid thick layers, and make sure to get a good carbon-to-nitrogen ratio just as if you were building a compost pile (see Start with the Soil or other gardening books for details). Water this layer well.
  6. Lay down a weed barrier. I prefer to use large sheets of cardboard from appliance stores, because these last longer and are quicker to lie down. You can use layers of wet newspaper too. Make sure to have a 4- to 6-inch overlap where sheets meet so buried weeds can’t find a route to the surface. If you have already planted crops, or have other preexisting plants, don’t mulch over them. Cut holes in the cardboard to make some breathing space for each plant (or leave some room around each plant when laying newspaper).
  7. Now you can add your weed-free organic materials. I like to keep it simple, and just add a nice layer of compost. You can also do some sheet composting here, alternating layers of nitrogen-rich materials like fresh grass clippings with carbonaceous materials like weed-free straw.
  8. Now you add your final top mulch layer, at least 3 inches thick. Water the whole bed thoroughly once again. Your sheet mulch bed is complete.
  9. You can plant right into your bed if you like. To plant tubers or potted plants, just pull back the top layers until you get to the weed barrier. Cut an X in the cardboard or newspaper. If you are transplanting a large plant, peel back the corners of the X. Throw a double handful of compost in the planting hole and then put in the plant. Pull the layers and top mulch back around the plant, water well, and you’re all set. Planting seeds is easy too. Just pull back the top mulch to the compost layer and plant your seeds. You may want to cut through the weed barrier below first, depending on weed pressure below the barrier. If you are planting seeds, be sure to water regularly, as compost on top of cardboard can dry out quickly.

See that itty-bitty yard space out front?

BAM!! Awesomeness!

Please go visit http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/9-simple-steps-to-sheet-mulching/ for more!


A Disturbing Trend

A snippet from a great piece of writing on permaculture, race, and good intentions. Please click through and read the whole article, it’s a very good read, and is something that I think is not being discussed as much as it should be within the “sustainability” community.

Source: http://www.beblackandgreen.com/content/disturbing-trend

“Over the past few years, I have attended several national, state and local good food conferences at which various non-profit organizations doing work in schools and/or community gardens in urban communities were featured in powerpoint presentations or slide shows.  Invariably, at least one of the images features a group of inner-city Black children posing in a garden or kitchen with one, two or three young white adults, standing with them, smiling broadly…”


Portable Poly Pipe High Tunnel Hoop House Construction Plans‏

The Noble Foundation poly pipe hoop house was developed in response to the needs of growers for a low cost, portable structure. It is the product of three years of research and development conducted at the Foundation’s Headquarters Farm.

Download plans here in pdf format:
http://www.noble.org/global/ag/horticulture/poly-pipe-hh-plans/nf-ho-12-01.pdf


The Tree Sisters

Check out this project- The Tree Sisters
And at the heart of all they do, are these wonderful maps!

Map of Five Choices:

Shadow Map:


Holistic Management International – Free Resources to Help You Grow

This is a great website with some good free downloads.
Check it.

http://holisticmanagement.org/free-downloads/

HMI is proud to offer a series of packages for our practitioners, students, and supporters. We offer four free download packages: Introduction to Holistic Management, Holistic Financial Planning, Holistic Grazing Planning, and Kids on the Land. Each download packet comes with a Readme inventory file that details the contents and applications of each document. Details on each packet are provided below.

1. Introduction to Holistic Management: This package contains our 130 page Introduction to Holistic Management Manual, a special edition of HMI’s bi-monthly newsletter In Practice, the case study publication A New Environmental Intelligence, a full-sized full color version of the Holistic Management decision model, and a pocket-sized version of the Holistic Management decision model.

2. Holistic Financial Planning: This package contains our 59 page Holistic Financial Planning Manual, a financial planning worksheet, a large-sized annual income and expense worksheet, and a financial monitoring control sheet.

3. Holistic Grazing Planning: This package contains our Holistic Management Grazing Planning Manual, an electronic version of the holistic grazing planning worksheet, a livestock production worksheet, and the Holistic Weed Management worksheet.

4. Kids on the Land: This package includes our 8 page Guide to Starting Kids on the Land and six separate how-to manuals for conducting a Kids on the Land programs. These six manuals are designed by grade-level. The first begins with Kindergarten and they progress sequentially to Grade 5.


Permaculture Free Library

Permaculture Free Library

“…an online service to those who are seeking information about various aspects of Permaculture… The Website is structured to echo the 14 chapters of Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual with an additional 3 sections.”


Some Mid-Atlantic wild edibles…

Wild Edibles Common to Philadelphia Area
by Lynn Landes, organizer of Wild Foodies of Philly – wild edibles enthusiast, not expert!

http://www.learnstuff.us/CommonWildEdibles.htm


IDEP's Companion Planting Guide (Permaculture Perspective)

IDEP’s Companion Planting Guide - This chart lists companion plants from a permaculture perspective, and includes things like “antagonistic” or “companion”, and also insect repellant tendancies.

Click here for full PDF


FREE Permaculture eBooks!

http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/books/ebooks/free-ebooks.html

“Permaculture is all about one part of a system trying to help another, so this is our attempt to help replicate that, by sharing permaculture knowledge as freely and as widely as we can.

In this section you’ll find a selection of completely free eBook downloads on permaculture and wider environmental topics…”