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Sort Your Systems – Lessons From Ramit Sethi

As I mentioned previously, I’m starting my entrepreneurial journey. This is a post from my professional website: http://www.yarnnarratives.com, where I offer corporate storytelling services to help companies design action steps to success from their vision. I thought I’d share it with you guys, as it has some pretty interesting insights.

Every entrepreneur gets into a rut; a place where they can’t work out whether the slog is worth what appears to be minimal rewards. You begin to ask yourself if you’re really cracking it or just breezing by.

As a continuous learner, I have a strong belief that when you can no longer get answers from your own paradigm, it’s time to shift that tablecloth and let the dishes smash, just to see what patterns they make on the floor. After all, every Grandfather clock needs to shift its pendulum every now and again to keep the tick tocking.

So, for me, I have had always had a residual dream of owning a regenerative business incubator that walks outside the regular lines of what we expect from business incubators – based on the Permaculture school of thought. While none of us can argue that there are a menagerie of innovative technologies being developed within the embrace of Silicon Valley, I can’t help but feel it still follows this linear pattern of consumption.

For me, I feel that for our generation to truly become disruptive, we need to shake of the dust and recreate our economic models and reconsider our whole mode of working. In this sense, my idea of creating a regenerative business school based on a tangible model of economically-sound business seems as plausible as it is impossible to do.

However, rather than bow down to the pressure of failure, I’ve decided to turn my ears toward some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business thinkers to try and learn some lessons from the horses’ mouth.

One of those very horses is a dude called Ramit Sethi. I’ll be frank, when I first came across his blog ‘I Will Make Your Rich’, I couldn’t help but turn my nose up at his arrogance. However, instead, I listened and the guy’s got a lot to say for himself and many a lesson we could all learn.

So from my many earfuls, I thought I’d impart some of his wisdoms = or at least what I’d taken from them.

losers have goals, winners have systems

We all set goals. I will weigh 15 pounds less in 10 days. I will get three clients in the next three months. I will save $1500 by April. The problem with these goals is that while we set them, we give ourselves completely unrealistic steps to get there. Well, if I just do a 5 mile walk every day, apply for 15 gigs a day, and skip my $4 morning coffee from Starbucks then I’ll get there.

However, these unobtainable actions are just crying out for failure. The moment that we skip it once, we skip it all. We know this from doing diets. One cheat day make us feel like a failure so we just give up. Our New Year’s resolutions fall foul the one day we mess up. Oh, I’ve bailed today so I might as well give up.

What Ramit is saying is that instead of leaving these ‘goals’ to our human fallibility, let’s set systems up where they happen (more) automatically so we can’t fail. Put a direct debit in place so the money is gone before you can spend it. Pick a gym that’s on your way home from work so that you can’t skip it out when it’s right next to your path home. Add an automatic referral template and request to every gig you do so they feel obliged to pass it on.

Set up systems that work for you, so you don’t have to. As a permaculturalist, this is literally the biggest thing we promote. I don’t water the plants every day because I have rainwater catchment systems that divert water to my drought-hardy plants, which in turn, store the water in dry season. That way, I don’t have to have it on my never-ending list of things to do each day; it does it itself.

eat. sleep. workout. repeat.

This, I can’t stress enough. I remember when I used to be one of those ‘I can’t even run a bath’ girls. We’re in an era where commenting on someone’s weight makes us feel guilty about working out. Where the word ‘busy’ makes us stay up until 1am just to feel productive. Where sourcing good food makes you a ‘fried food foodie’ rather than a successful human.

Don’t believe the hype.

Believe this. Your emotional brain is there to pump chemicals into your system to make you respond to your environment. For example, cortisol is given to your body as a stress response. While this was good when we were living in a survive or die lifestyle, now we’re inundated with the stuff. It’s a killer. The prefrontal cortex is designed to help rebalance those chemicals as well as making logical decisions.

If your prefrontal cortex is overloaded by having to remedy to chemical imbalance caused by crappy food, over-stress from sleep deprivation, and a lack of oxygen from slumping in front of a computer – guess what, it’s not able to be it’s best logical, creative self.

Eat properly. The nutrients help to keep the immune system in check which stops you getting sick. Instead of hunger pangs that distract you and cause stress to the brain, you’re energised enough to be your best creative self.

Sleep properly. Sleep deprivation kills. It causes stress, it induces Alzheimer’s, and most apparently, it makes you feel passed off. And no-one works well pissed off.

Work out. Aside from saying that your body is the temple that carries all the potential of what you can do in your life, working out allows oxygen to flow the brain. Oxygen helps you think.

know how to define your work

People always used to ask me to define permaculture in one sentence. It used rile me so bad. If you can’t be bothered to understand, you don’t deserve to know.

Wrong.

If you want people to understand, know how to explain it. Know how to categorise it, tune it up, and repackage it for people to get it – or at least be hooked to ask more.

Permaculture is a set of design tools that allow you to turn linear, wasteful systems that degrade our time and resources into regenerative productive systems that bring comprehensive value, whether that be food growing systems or energy systems or communication systems.

It’s not conclusive in its definition. It’s not even comprehensive. But it gives a definitive insight that invites further questions of ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘show me where this has happened’.

The biggest and most foolish assumption is to presume people care or need what you think is important. To make them know that it important, you have to define what it is and why it’s important.

keep a calendar

If you don’t manage your time, life will. When you don’t schedule what’s going to happen to you, life will come and invite itself for dinner and talk late into the night.

Waking up each morning knowing what you have to do and what’s on your plate will help you better digest what is to come. If you wake up disorganised, your day will be disorganised. You won’t be able to keep track of tasks in the long and short term and it leads you to forgetting what needs to be done.

Prioritising your life is one of the most effective ways of ensuring everything gets taken care of. If you don’t have a calendar laid out, you can’t prioritise. Things you were meant to remember fall to the wayside.

More importantly, small steps toward your long term goals, like writing a paragraph of your business plan or a chapter of your novel get pushed back and back until they never get done.

Get a calendar. Schedule time for all the urgent things you need to do, like your job and your family requirements. Then schedule in your long term goals as every day tasks and start taking actions each day toward them – penned in so you don’t end up skipping over them in your mind.

In short…

Ramit has some valid stuff to say. As a thinker and an achiever, he’s designed systems that have got him to the top of his game.

I’m not saying I’ve interpreted everything the way he meant it. I’m not saying his words are gospel. But what I am saying is that the lessons I have perceived from him are starting to set me on a track of reorganizing my life from distant drums to actionable steps toward my goals – using systems and logistical time management to get there.

If you’re interested in hearing more of what he has to say, I highly recommend this podcast: Chase Jarvis LIVE with Ramit Sethi

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Permie Entrepreneurs Are Go #1

In my own personal journey to become a more rounded permaculture entrepreneur, I’ve realised that there are a few elements we need to hone in on. While permaculture presents the ethics of earth care, people care, and fair share, I’ve been trying to understand what makes an entrepreneur be able to pursue their endeavour without burning the candle at both ends.

From the yellow pages of resources I’ve been drawing from recently, I see continuous patterns emerge that teach me to look at 3 main things: self-care to preserve your major resource (you), business management, and applicable permaculture skills.

I’ve decided that the most valuable thing I can share with my audience are the lessons that I have learned the most from as I go. While these resources are available to everyone, by providing a centralized place that you can access them, I’m hoping you can learn alongside me. Not only is this helping me to be a more progressive and productive permaculture entrepreneur, I’m hoping it will do the same for you. In terms of my wider goal to provide a regenerative business incubator, I will be using this curation as a route to demonstrate the type of educational platform I seek to provide in the future.

For now, we’ll start with curation of the resources I’m reading, listening to, and watching, but hang tight – there are bigger fish ready for the frier. I’ve been talking with a few interesting souls who are willing to offer their own insights, so soon I’ll be bringing my own unique conversations as podcasts, articles and videos, with some of the bright sparks I’ve had the pleasure of meeting along the way.

To kick things off, here are my picks for this week.

Self-Care

The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown

Brene Brown calls herself a vulnerability researcher. As entrepreneurs and thinkers, we often find ourselves laboured with the incessant shame of feeling like we aren’t good enough. This often leads us to not even taking first steps on our goals. By recognising our vulnerabilities, we can learn to be brave and to value ourselves and our ideas; this teaches us inner compassion. By learning to be compassionate to ourselves, we teach ourselves to only accept passion from others – a powerful driver for change in our own lives and other.

For the startup permaculture entrepreneur, this is a resource that empowers you to understand why we hide and how we deal with this.

Entrepreneurial Strategy

The Startup School by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a world-renowned entrepreneur and business teacher. Leading thinkers around the world, he capitalised on the dot com bubble and rose to the top through hard work and systematic thinking. This series is a collection of excerpts from a course he put on for passionate, hand-selected entrepreneurs. It includes actionable insights into entrepreneurship, helping you to understand how to get started, from your attitude, to testing, to getting through dip periods, to gaining funding. In short, this is an excellent resource. It gives you real world steps you can take and tackles many of the big questions we have about how to get started.

Permaculture

Grow Your Own Eggs by Justin Rhodes

Justin Rhodes is known as the chicken man. He runs a successful and economically sustainable chicken farm and spends his spare time trying to educate others on how to do the same. This is a free video course that runs you through all you need to know to get yourself up and running. The course includes information on what chickens can do for you, how to build your own chicken coops, how to feed your chickens in a fiscally responsible manner, and how to get everything started.

 

If you’d like to sponsor my journey to funding a permaculture business incubation school, please donate at my Patreon by clicking here: I want to support permaculture entrepreneurs!

Daring Greatly – The Lean Business Vision

One of my best friends, Phoebe, came to visit me. We haven’t seen each other in a couple of years now I guess, and seeing an old friend is such a balm to life. It brings such comfort but also shakes you out your skin with a whole handkerchief of unsolicited but well-deserved truths.

She’d recently been on an ayahuasca retreat. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a psychedelic experience that comes from ancient practices. It’s a natural substance that induces an inward experience – hallucinations somewhat, but kind of more along the lines of sorting out your own inner demons and truths. There’s a lot to say for it. I’m not here to argue the ethics of whether people should be doing it or not, but what I do know is that I saw someone who had managed to settle some of their own personal grievances and was now seeing a clearer path forward.

Part of that path was understanding that deep knowledge within oneself of the connectedness of all things in the universe was not enough. That knowing that fractals perpetuate on every level just simply wouldn’t cut it. Now, especially at our transitional ages, the question was what we could, nay, would do with that knowledge.

A friend of a friend recently, amidst a drunken conversation of the meaning of it all and Egyptian history and the patterns of birds, said to me: ‘Yes, you’re right, it is fascinating, but is it useful’.

This has stuck with me. This and my friend Phoebe reminding me less than delicately that my dedication to wanting a sustainability school was only a pipedream if I did nothing to get myself on that track to it happening.

I’ve been considering accountability and how I hold myself accountable to my own goals. Brene Brown, a vulnerability researcher famous to many of us, talks about ‘Daring Greatly’. Putting oneself out there is difficult because it leaves you vulnerable to failure. It leaves you vulnerable to falling flat on your face and everyone telling you they were right that it wouldn’t work. But after all, the man in the arena is far more likely to win than the one jeering from the sidelines.

Brene Brown refers to this famous statement by Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

But I guess nobody talks about the strongest critic being yourself. Myself. It’s me jeering from the sidelines, snidey and slick-witted, sneering about how I don’t have enough money to achieve it, how nobody cares, how nobody will help me, how it isn’t even needed or worthwhile. After all, someone else could do a far better job than me.

The First Step

Brene Brown talks about how shame has two heads. ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘Who do you think you are’. It’s harrowing when they converge. That’s how this idea has always sat in my head – I’m not good enough to do it, and who do I think I am to even try?

So my point, I guess, is to find traction, I must first put myself out there. Not to the external critics but to myself. I must hold myself accountable for this dream and say I’m going to take steps to achieve it.

But that’s one small step. To get to what I’m aiming for, I must first decide the actual vision I’m trying to achieve. To do this, if it weren’t me, I would tell someone to use this visioning tool I created – I’m sure someone else has come up with it before me, but for the sake of my own sanity, I created it within my own paradigm.

I imagine where I am five years from now, where I’m sitting, what I’m drinking, what I see.

Five Years From Now…

I’m sitting on a deck outside my own home. I’m drinking a glass of homemade fruit wine. I look behind me and my home is a beautiful cob house with a big open back. In front of me is a terraced vegetable garden that drops off, and the view is of rolling hills. It’s late afternoon, the sun is still hot but sagging in the sky. I can hear my husband laughing with my little girl. They’re gardening below, collecting salad for dinner. I can smell the homegrown chicken roasting in the cob oven to the right of me. A good friend and owner of our on-site market garden comes up to me, dirt between his fingernails. He slumps down next to me, tired, and cracks a beer made by our on-site brewer. People start to gather around the table for dinner. It’s been a hard day’s work and we’re all working to get the site back to normal after a week long of yoga courses and PDCs. We’re retreating back as a family and everyone starts to tell horror stories and funny tales of the week before. My husband comes back with my daughter and kisses me on the forehead as they go inside to prepare salad. We’re this family of individual goals all intertwined in something that works to build each other and provide education.

Setting the Vision

What I want is so complex. Or perhaps I lack the linguistic ability to define it right now, but in my deep dark gut I know it can work, breed, breathe.

So this post is about me setting the vision, so that we all know what I’m working toward. I know the logistics are glitchy. I know the nay-sayers can tear holes in my holes but perhaps just with this simple outline, I can define a framework for us all to work upon; so here it goes.

THE PLAN

The first arm is a school. The main aim is not to teach sustainability skills but to teach us all how to create regenerative economically-sound businesses. Right now permaculture stands on a cliff where the physical and social have been ironed out by the economics are still a little frantic.

The school will offer courses, like many other sustainability and permaculture schools. 1-4 week courses covering yoga teaching teacher, medicinal herbs, natural building, sustainable leadership, social permaculture, non-violent communication, and so on and so on.

But. Most importantly, we will be a regenerative business incubator. Young entrepreneurs will come for 6 months to a year and we will offer them a program that teaches business skills – from communication to marketing to management and leadership – alongside a hands-on internship working with an economically sound business that operates on site.

Because here’s the real thing. Every sustainable permaculture school I’ve seen so far only survives because of education. That proposes that you cannot make the model work without charging to teach others to do a model that doesn’t work. That’s a freaking ponzi scheme. Or as Eric Reis refers to it in his book The Lean Startup, it’s ‘success theatre’ – inflating growth based on the appearance of growth, though it may not be plausible or economically viable.

While I agree that education is absolutely vital, I reject the idea that the model cannot work without financial supplements from education – the model should stand alone.

I propose that my site will have a plethora of functioning businesses serving as a working model who will each have the primary goal of being an economically sound institution, providing whatever business they care to, from a market garden to a massage parlour to a honey making business – but it MUST be economically sustainable and it will mentor a future entrepreneur through the school.

So this takes me to the second arm. The businesses on site will work together to become a working model of regenerative economics, using each other as a resource to help provide each other with the things they need. The market garden will work to trade with the restaurant who in return may feed the gardener. The beekeeper will provide was for the lipstick maker who will in return help to tend to the environment in which the bees will live. The intricacies will be decided between the businesses using a diverse currency system of FIAT, crypto, local currency, and timeshares.

This part is complex. Of course, parts of each business will need to be sourced from outside. But the school itself will assist by providing business lessons to help these businesses learn to sell online, to the local community and afar. The businesses will work with the school to provide paid mentorship to the interns, to provide workshops to the school’s guests, and to provide lessons to other incoming vacation guests from the third arm – the resort.

The resort will house the course guests, while also providing a business model that will entice weekend getaways, corporate retreats, and so on. By collaborating with the on-site businesses, the resort will provide activities for guests. By collaborating with the school the resort will provide accommodation for the course participants. By collaborating with local businesses, the resorts can offer tours and days out. By bringing in weekend guests, the resort will help to provide income to the on-site businesses through sales of goods, such as local honey, dinner from the restaurant, or through services like yoga lessons or massages.

Lean Disclaimer

This isn’t a business plan. Not every step is ironed out. I’m not even getting going into the concepts of local currencies and the intertwined nature of digital industry-specific cryptocurrencies – that’s for a whole other post.

Right now, I’m holding myself accountable. This is the bare bones of my lean business plan. The kinks aren’t smoothed over yet. The structure isn’t there.

But what is there is a person saying that this is my vision. And right now, blood, sweat, tears, and every business book and podcast under the sun – I’m trying to work out how to make it a coordinated concept that can be actionable.

I’m inviting you to join me on this journey. To give me your two cents worth. To guide me on what to read, think about, adjust. But most of all, I’m letting you know that I’m game. That I’m daring greatly.

That I’m in the arena.

x

 

If you’d like to support me on my journey, please donate at my Patreon. It would be greatly appreciated.

www.patreon.com/permieemmy

Bangkok’s Green Pockets – The Wild Wee Woods in the Giant Metal Jungle

Now, it’s no secret that the pollution in Bangkok is unreal. Some days it’s so hazy that you can’t see the horizon and it makes you sit back and wonder if you’re experiencing the end of the world. Some days, when it rains it drowns the pavement and you end up with an oil slick ice rink that makes you slip and slide all over the show, as the rain brings the pollution to floor level. Some days it’s so bad that working out is more of a hazard than a health boost.

Despite this though, nestled in the new city of glitzy robot tower blocks and buzzing automobiles and flying trains, you’ll find that Bangkok is dotted with mini jungles.

IMG_0459.JPGWhen I look out my apartment window, yes I do see skyscaping metal boxes and thick tar rivers of screaming traffic, but I also see these nuggets of nature, blissfully working as their own spheres of serenity and productiveness. Luckily, there are certain rules in Thailand that mean you can’t build too close to temples, which helps to maintain these little pockets of paradise. Unlike the manmade falseness of picture-perfect parks – man’s ironic attempting at recreating what he tore down – these bundles of bushes are cacophonies of natural occurrences.

IMG_0465.JPGIn these parts you’ll see the natural patterns of the jungle springing up, with the multiple forest layers pushing through to beat that race with concrete. Often positioned, not strangely, next to poorer neighbourhoods, you’ll find that these gashes of green are abundant with edible plants and forest foods. These small jungles are teeming with life and in that, provide life. From the butterfly peas to the morning glory vines, from the banana and mango trees to the wild basil and turmeric and ginger, from the tamarinds to the yucca, you will find these miniature microcosms mimic the larger forest of which they were once part. And you will find their inhabitants live very similarly too, despite the urban sprawl and prevailing poverty that is being thrust upon them.

IMG_0462.JPGFor the likes of me and the other dusty computer kids of this choking city, we probably owe our lives to these little islands of oxygen. They drink in the smog and spit out a treat for us to guzzle, barely noticing of its giver. While the pollution is bad here, hell it will get worse when they start cutting back those clusters to create curls of creeping windows that reach the sky for more commuters to rest their anxious heads after a long, hard days typing on the box inside a box. When will we learn?

I guess right now, all we can do is thank that the sacredness of these places helps to keep the demolition team at bay. For now.

 

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Emancipation Economics – Social Permaculture & Cryptocurrency

I’ve been knees deep in the permaculture world (officially) for just over a year and I want ya’ll to realise where a year of permaculture can lead you. I went from digging out drains to speaking on stages so quick my head’s spinning like a yo-yo in the early 90s.

Social permaculture is still new and no disrespect to the fore-people that lead the way (honour and love to Starhawk, Looby McNamara, and Adam Brock in particular), but we’re still working on the vague, missing out some of the finer and somehow monumental concepts. Let’s take the economics.

I know, right, thrilling. You’re probably gripping your seat, thinking, I can’t wait to learn more. Please unwrap this candy of delight she is about to discuss. Give me that sweet sugar of maths and logic rolled into one like a statistical ball of all-consuming fun.

Oi. Don’t knock it, right. I want to take you on a journey of whole systems thinking in a direction none of us conceived. Standing in the awe of my PDC teacher talking about tree types, I never thought I’d be about to indulge you with the transition economics and real world whole systems thinking of incredible cryptocurrencies.

BURN THE WITCH, I hear you cry. Don’t be scared. I promise I’ll be gentle. But I really think it’s time we talked about this.

We can pretend that a market garden is going to give us a self-sustaining future where we can survive on selling our products at the market. We talk about cottage industry like selling tinctures is gonna send our kids to college. It isn’t, and here’s why, you bunch of self-indulging capitalists. While the system that leads to making those products may be regenerative, the economics you employ to market them are not. Oh you think they are, I thought they were. Don’t worry, this ain’t no high horse situation. I’m not buying a ladder to get on my trusty steed.

It’s this simple. I recently took a job in analyzing cryptocurrencies. As a hardened anti-technologist, this was my version of reading the Bible to use educated arguments to slam homophobic Christians. I partly took this job to prove the idiocy of cryptocurrency.

But I was wrong. 180 flip on my view. You wanna see real anarchist economics in action with whole systems design? This is where you should be looking.

Rather than talk to you about the ins and outs of cryptocurrency, I’d rather give you an example. We all know that’s far easier to swallow.

The cryptocurrency I will be explaining is called Tutellus. It works with a whole systems design that brings in students, teachers, and businesses to benefit each of them. So first, I want to outline the problem.

HERE’S WHAT SUCKS

Students: As students we get ourselves in debt by having to pay through the nose for education. What’s worse is that most degrees are a vague attempt at teaching us subjects that are pretty much irrelevant to today’s world. Now I’m not shitting on philosophers, but how much have you used that degree. As a graduate of criminology, I can tell you out right that I’m not Inspector Gadgeting much in my life.

Teachers: You can teach the hell out of your students or not at all and you’re getting the same wage. Nobody cares about whether a student is really learning real world stuff anymore, they care whether your data is up to date and whether your data is datery enough for them. I see this very dichotomy in my sister who talks wonders about what her children have learned each week, while sacrificing her own social life to stay up all night punching numbers into spreadsheets.
Businesses: Oh there’s a bunch of people applying, but none of them have real world skills or even the specifics to handle the job you’re looking for.

WHATEVER CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS?

Here’s what we can do. We can pull our problems and assets together and stop acting like we’re all individuals wandering around the chicken coop looking for the handful of grain we hope our masters will give us.

Just as a sidenote, this is hard to explain. As with all full cycle solutions, it’s hard to work out where to jump on the circle.

So we’ll start by chasing the money.

So you’re a business and you want to employ a candidate that’s going to fulfil your role completely, be qualified to jump on the job imminently and be up to date with all the advances in the field. Problem is that many degrees are still working with texts from the 1980s and lecturers who are so up their own egos that they don’t want to talk about Anonymous because they’re busy telling you the worthiness of Freud’s handful of generalized experiments.
But you’re willing to pay for recruitment so you hand your money to an ‘expert’ recruiter hoping they’ll find you a gem in a desert of sand. Let’s bypass that pony show shall we?

So as a business you put your money into the pool. This gives you access to the best students, performing the highest in the general field you’re looking. Yes, you’re going to pay more depending on the market rate of the job you’re looking for but if you want the best, you gotta pay for the best. So you plunge a sum of money in and you get a portfolio of students who fit the bill. Thing is they’re not at the end of their learning. They could be at the beginning. What brings them to your attention is this score that they’ve earned. They earn that score not only through being a smart arse, but also being a hardcore participator in their own learning. You know that those students are going to bring that hardworking attitude to your doorstep. This allows you to communicate with them, encourage them to angle their learning in a certain way. In fact, you can offer them scholarships so that they start to tailor their learning to exactly what you need.

It’s an investment, right? By the end you get a student that is so adept in what you need, that you don’t need to waste thousands of dollars training them with half-arsed corporate training, because they’re ALREADY THERE.

So then we have the students. You’re working working working, unsure if it’s leading to anything. On top of that you’re spending spending spending with blind faith that it’s going to come out with something. If we were in a casino, we’d call that gambling, my friend. Laying down money in the blind hope of return. I mean tell me I’m wrong but if I were, we wouldn’t have the student debt crisis we have, right?

So imagine you knew that your hard work was being rewarded. You pay for a course but you can make ALL that money back if you work your darndest. Not only do you do well in your exams, but you participate to improve the community, because only with an improved community will you get improved services. So you review your teachers, you participate in debate, you answer other students’ question right and so on and so forth. You engage.

This builds the score that employers see while also getting you financial rewards from the system. But where do these rewards come from? Well when businesses put their money in, that money gets distributed out to those students who are killing it. Then you get noticed. Then you get more rewards and you get sponsorship, then before you know it, your education is not only free, but you’re getting real world enterprise mentorship that guides you into working out what you need to learn to get a real world job. Hint. It isn’t an age-old degree based on yesteryears’ philosophy.

So that leaves your teachers. The people who educate the next generation, stuck on wage fit for a weekend server at a local restaurant. This is disgusting and disrespectful to our whole culture and development as a human species. Bound by curriculums that are defined by data and endorsed by governments who have, of course, no other agenda but the kids’ best interests at heart, teachers are confined to providing one-size-fits all education that neither benefits each individuals’ creativity and flair, or the teacher’s own capacity to demonstrate innovation.

In this sense, with this new system, teachers are rewarded. The money paid into the pool by businesses rewards teachers who get students to the top spots. How do those students get there? By tailored education. Teachers producing the most dynamic and relevant courses with the greatest conversions of learning are being rewarded by the businesses. Not only that, they’re rewarded when kids sign on to their courses, not just when they do well. So if you’re providing courses that are poignant and intriguing, you’re getting what you deserve.

So to sum up, kids learn a relevant and useful education for free while becoming hard-working, self-driven individuals. Teachers are motivated to be the best educators they can be, receiving the accreditation they deserve for that. And businesses get the best and most relevant candidates for the job, that need little training and are self-driven, without paying more than they’d pay to a recruiter. Damn that makes sense, don’t it?

But why blockchain?

Here’s why. Humans are arseholes. All of our resumes show better humans than we are. All teachers give less than 100% because they don’t need to. All businesses promise things they can’t deliver. No we don’t, you plead in defiance. You do. Why? Because you can.

Blockchain is a trustless immutable ledger that can’t be ignored, can’t be changed, and can’t be denied. When you have that, you can really see who truly shines. Without doubt, without reservation. And that kind of guarantee, makes people work harder, better, smarter, and with more guile.
We create the currency so the money stays in the system. With that currency, we can then spend it inside the participating businesses so eventually they make their money back. It’s basically barter, except there’s an immutable trail of accountability.

You can choose to walk away from this kind of oncoming technology, hoping patterning plants will save you. Or you can realise it’s all important. Top to bottom, inside and out, fractals in hand, this is how our economics should work. As permaculturalists, it’s our responsibility to be at the pinnacle. We’ve been pushing local currencies and transition economics for years. Now you have it. You going to embrace it, are you just sit there gawping with your head in flowers?

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When 2 Worlds Meet – The Ecotones of Bringing Together Local and Global Knowledge

As I said in previous posts, I spent a little time on Ometepe in Nicaragua. This post is about my time spent with the local gardeners.

The hostel I was working at, Little Morgan’s Hostel is run by a guy called Morgan (the father of Little Morgan). Morgan is the kind of man that continuously makes you raise your eyebrows in heartfelt surprise at the many tricks of knowledge he has up his sleeve. On the face of it, his hostel appears as a drinking haunt for half-arsed backpackers trawling the same trail as all the other fish in the sea. But when you look slightly closer at the inner sense of community within his circles, you see a glorious mix of locals and internationals intermingling to get all the jobs done and Morgan flitting between them all with equal understanding, appreciation, and eagerness for each.

When I first suggested to him that I come down and build a garden for his restaurant, I was aware that his whole site was a menagerie of tropical trees and flowers planted himself. However, when I first visited a year ago, I wasn’t looking through permaculture lenses so in reality the true depth of the intricacies of his plantings had never occurred to me. No doubt it doesn’t occur at all to the backpackers who travel through there, distracted by the excitement of their short breaks from regular life, juiced up on alcohol and adrenaline from all the wonderful places they’ve swooped through. It’s not fair to say people don’t notice the beauty, but they don’t necessarily notice the multifunctionality of the beautiful site; me included.

DSC04030.JPGHowever, this time around I was entering with a new perspective and a different purpose. This enabled me to pop on my observation googles to notice what was hiding among the jungle chaos of the place. I was headed to build a garden on a spot which had previously been used for growing, but had become overgrown. Before I even got to the garden, I noticed that the bar itself is surrounded by a plethora of fruit trees and various other edibles. Mangoes, pineapples, squashes, coconuts, bananas, and plantains are casually hanging around dripping with goodies, and that’s just from a quick glance. And you can’t miss the animals mingling in and churning that soil while grabbing belly rubs from the patrons.

DSC04642.JPGThe thing is that the intricate density of all the green that splurges across this climate and landscape is difficult to comprehend. You need to have a helping hand. Often in permaculture we can be a little…let’s say…know-it-all. The principles set out by Bill Mollison and David Holgrem have served as a fantastic manual for working; the issue is that often we butt heads with local people when we come in with our white people club of new age farmers and tell them how they should be doing it. I’m not doubting the validity and excellence of permaculture and regenerative agricultural methods, but nobody knows the land better than the people who have had their hands in it every day of their lives.

I’ll be honest, when Morgan introduced me to the garden guys, I was intimidated. These guys have done this every day in the blistering heat, wearing jeans and knocking back whisky while they get the job done. Not only that, they built the myriad of phenomenal structures from the very garden they grew.

mirador.png
Source:volanthevistI couldn’t see them really taking my ideas, physical self, or vision seriously. While we want to think that our brand of feminism is the way forward, there’s no escaping the fact that traditionally, women do not work in the fields here. I was prepared for them to reject my capabilities. I was wrong.

They welcomed me into their team with open arms and spent a great deal of their precious time working with me to teach me some of the intricacies of the land and some of their knacks. But it didn’t stop there.

To begin with, it was a very macho experience; them trying to take the hard labour out of my hands, somehow humouring me with my little gardening fancies. But before long and as my Spanish developed, it became an exchange of friends and it ignited an interest in all of us.

It first started with the oldest guy in the crew, Chefan. Chefan tried to put an insect repellant on the soil and I nearly exploded with desperation. I didn’t want to insult him but I wanted to grow organically and I wanted to test the methods I’d be taught. I politely and in the most restrained way I could, asked him not to. I will never forget the look he gave me. The pause of a man who had lived many lives while never having left that island. The pause of a man who’d seen a million faces shit all over his culture and suddenly see one who wanted more than cheap plastic and throwaway touism. He cracked this smile so wide that I could have fit a boat in his mouth. He gestured for me to come with him and pointed to a neem tree, handing me the longest machete I’d ever seen and signalling that he’d give me a boost. When an indigenous Ometepian pulls you into their fold and tells you to climb that tree, guess what you’re doing. Up the tree I went and retrieved some neem. He put the neem, some garlic, and some of the local brain-blowing chilies in a bucket and we left it over night. We sprayed this all over the ground and plants and I had no bugs (for a while, this is the tropics, not Never Never Land!). He later laughed about how his Grandfather taught him this but he’d never used it and was amazed it had worked.

It only escalated from there. Chefan came to one night with the head builder, Luiz, and they said to me: ‘I see the fire in your eyes’. And we talked. Over whisky and tears we spilled our hearts. Luiz explained to me about how Chefan and himself bring young boys to come and work at the hostel to teach them about empowerment. No doubt you have seen the raucous of politics happening in Nicaragua right now; this was at the backbone of everything they were teaching. They taught these young boys to plant the seeds, grow the trees, design the building, choose the right branch, and build from it. They taught them to utilise what nature gives them, not to control it or break it or bend it to one’s will, but to work with it and create from it. They taught them to be empowered by the land, not to try and take power over it. They taught them that they didn’t need an oppressive regime if they could take care of everything themselves and until they could, they had no business fighting that regime (that’s a story for another time).

From here on in, these two older men had the younger men work with me. They explained that of they taught me the hands on sneaky tricks, I would teach them the science. I taught them to rebuild the terraces along contour to preserve water.

DSC04608 (1).JPGThey taught me to grow yard beans along the fences to keep weeds out, I taught them to stake yucca as the fence. They taught me to pierce pigs noses to stop them rooting, I taught them to use the pigs to root the pesky bindweed first. They cut down the overgrowth while I made them hot sauce from the local chilies. They taught me to plant my nursery in a bed of ashes, I taught them to create guilds to protect the tomatoes from fungus. They taught me the native plants and I taught them the names in English.

DSC04615.JPGOne day, when I was suffering from conjunctivitis and everyone was throwing back antibiotic drops, they made me an eye wash from witchhazel.

I taught them to look for the signs of pests and adjust the carbon to nitrogen. They taught me that the jungle will do what it will, and to eat what grew and enjoy it.

I spent many a night discussing philosophy and corporations with them. I will never forget the tears in Larry’s eyes when he was sure he was crazy, trying desperately to explain his own personal observations of how pesticides seem to affect the land and how nobody seemed to believe him. He’d never left the island, he doesn’t have the internet, he knows nothing about the worldwide anger raging about the use of these products; he just knew what he saw and drew his own conclusions. The wholehearted embrace that he gave me when I explained about Monsanto was like I’d put his mind at peace.

It wasn’t just knowledge they gave me. They gave me their hearts, their community. They had their wives teach me Spanish and how to cook. They shared stories and introduced me to their families.

Between us we grew a garden that managed to create some of the most delicious recipes I’d ever tasted, making that restaurant a bit more sustainable. Between us we managed to teach and learn and create. I thank them so deeply for those lessons and to me it’s proof that social diversity creates resilience, it creates strength. Because alone neither of us had the answers, but together, we killed it.

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I believe that as a community, we can all do our bit to help and having your help would mean the world to me.

Got a Cob On – Building a Natural Kitchen

cob_building_book
Morgan’s Gift for Cob Building

I was presented with an exciting opportunity this week. I got talking to Morgan, who up until now, has built all of his structures with wood and bamboo grown on the property. However, we’ve been discussing expanding the menu and offering more roasted dishes along with pizzas with homegrown ingredients.

He suggested that it would be a nice project for me to build a cob oven with the garden guys. This is brilliant for my permie learning journey as I wanted to expand into toying with natural building next, so it gives me the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a new skill, while also giving me another design to add to my portfolio.

The day after we discussed this, he threw a book at me called ‘The Hand-Sculpted House’. It’s a guide to working with cob and although I read some things here and there, this is one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve ever read. Not only does it discuss the physical methods of completing it, it also talks about the psychological improvements to one’s life with cob design, as well as the philosophical underpinning and historical background. It’s a great read for anyone looking at diversifying into cob building.

So hold on to your seats as you start to see that project develop over the next couple of weeks.

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The Mystery of the Wilting Tomatoes

This week there was a little bit of an issue. A whole row of my tomatoes started to die and I really couldn’t work out why.

wilting_tomatoes
Wilting tomatoes from unwanted guests

I have spent the last week or so trellising everything to give the tomatoes support for the next period where they start to really burst outward and upward. Equally, I have been spreading charcoal on the beds as well.

My first reaction was that one of these two actions had caused the tomatoes to wilt. However, like with all systems, we need to look for the feedback loops, and while this may have caused some disruption through root tear or chemical imbalances, it still led to the question of why only one row was affected.

I was completely stumped, so I went to my team. One of the great things, as I’ve mentioned before, with working with local guys, is that they know their land and they tend to know any problems that are occurring. While I don’t know the name of the specific issue, having observed the plants with me, they showed me how the plant was turning brown from the root upward, demonstrating that the issue is within the soil. With our mix of broken Spanglish, they managed to get across to me that it is some form of parasitic fungus which attacks the roots. It’s common here, especially when planting non-native species such as this.

Bug_Eaten_Beans
Bug Eaten Non-Native Beans

My response to this was two-fold. On the first hand, I made a neem, chilli and garlic insecticide. The ingredients are left to steep in water for a day or two and then sprayed on the plants. This will help to keep that parasitic fungus back in the same way that it keeps insects back.

Natural_Insecticide
Natural Insecticide

Secondly, with a more long-term look, I tried to consider how to keep this issue from returning. Fungus tends to indicate high levels of carbon, and the rice husks on the bed are adding carbon to the soil. Where I am planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops in this area, they haven’t spread very far yet, meaning the likelihood is that the rice husks are unbalancing the system somewhat with too much carbon. In response to this, I sprayed a home-made nitrogen fertilizer that I had previously been fermenting.

Natural_fertiliser
Natural nitrogen fertiliser

For this, I walked around the property and pulled leaves and fruit from as many different leguminous plants as I could find. I placed them in a five gallon bucket, filled with water. I placed banana leaves on the surface to keep everything under the water (to stop it rotting) and I popped the lid on for two weeks to let it brew. Boy, did it stink when I opened that lid. Hopefully, however, it will help to give those plants a boost and keep that fungus back.

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Ponzi Permie – Is the PDC a Pyramid Scheme?

During my travels, I have come across some opinions of the permaculture movement being somewhat of a ponzi scheme; mostly in relation to the Permaculture Design Course. Though worded in many different ways, the general disgruntled rumblings surrounding permaculture are in relation to training teachers.

Here’s the issue that keeps cropping up. The PDC is expensive, there’s no doubt about that. While the PDC teaches you to design the systems to live a more sustainable and regenerative life, it doesn’t necessarily teach the skills to implement it so easily; a great deal more learning and experience is needed after. However, the argument comes in that quite a few PDC teachers don’t have farms of their own but instead travel around spending their time teaching courses, as this is a more reliable route to making money. These courses bring people into the permaculture forum, leading them themselves to shell out the dollars to train to become a PDC teacher. While the course should be teaching people to go out and practice, instead it is leading them to spend further money to become a teacher to teach others the PDC, then enrolling more people into the system of having to spend money to become a teacher, withut ever really building their own projects that demonstrate success and longevity.

While all this is going on, PDC teachers tend to go from place to place, helping on projects or even designing, but rarely following through with the full period of implementation, never allowing them to further gain the experience of implementation over time and long-term reassessment of a site. While the idea of teaching permaculture is to encourage others to live a more self-sufficient life, many people are not in fact actually following through with this, leading to the question of whether permaculture is merely a conceptual ideology rather than a practical reality.

It’s really difficult to address this concern. On the one hand, it’s no secret that Bill Mollison was not keen on traditional education and felt that people should learn from the nature around them. So while the permaculture institutions in each country seem to be enforcing a strict curriculum that must be followed to become a ‘permaculturist’, some may disagree with this method, likening it to a ponzi scheme, or just another indoctrinating education system.

On the other hand, however, I can personally say that the PDC was extremely important to helping me to think in the way I do. To connect the dots. The PDC puts a whole group of people on the same page. If we want this to work, we need to work together, fighting the good fight from all corners of the world, but on the same page. Not only does the PDC teach a basis that gives everyone a backbone to work from, a way of thinking to help increase their own empowerment.

With regards to becoming a teacher, I think it’s important to recognise that permaculture is not a mainstream idea. It’s getting there, but it’s not there yet. We’re not building fancy gardens to feed the world, we’re encouraging people to take their own power back and show them the way to learn to do that. This requires a mass paradigm shift, which really isn’t simple. Awareness and education are the best tools to doing this, and so having as many teachers as possible on the ground spreading the message is important.

The only reason that people would consider permaculture be a ponzi scheme is because there’s money involved. Yes, people do become PDC teachers to have some money in their back pockets. But why is that so wrong? While we hope for a utopian world of self-empowered humans creating abundance all around, the reality is that right now, we live in a world run by money. A well-constructed permaculture dwelling can provide you with most things you need, but unfortunately, there’s a need for money; even if it’s to buy the things you need to build your site.

In my journey, I can honestly say that making money is hard and not having it is worrying. We’ve been indoctrinated to need to be financially secure, which leads us to feel undervalued without it. Despite the fact that people can be rewarded in more ways than money, it is unrealistic to think that anybody would be happy to carry out work without a certain amount of financial gain.

For example, I have worked on many sites for food and accommodation. While I am grateful for the lack of those outgoings, it’s hard back-breaking garden work out in the sun all day. Every terrace I dig, every seed I sow, every shovelful of manure is toward building someone else’s future. So yes, gaining food and accommodation for my work leaves me with all I need in that moment, but it doesn’t allow me to work toward my future. I am gaining neither financial security toward having my own property, nor am I working to improve something I will later benefit from. I’m doing the work for somebody else to benefit.

Becoming a teacher means that I would be able to gain some financial means while also having ample time to help other people’s projects and to spread awareness. Those financial means would allow me to one day have a site that I can build on, while also enabling me to worry less when helping other people’s projects as my nest egg is safe.

It’s not a ponzi scheme at all. It’s a way of creating self-sustainability and empowerment in all ways. We live in a financial world, we need to consider that.

But and I stress this, anyone teaching PDCs and not practising is guilty of bringing this scene closer to being a ponzi scheme. Teaching permaculture is a noble thing to do and to be the best teacher you can be, you need to gain experience and enhance your skills, while also practising the messages of community and cooperation that we preach.