Sunday, November 11, 2012

My 500 year plan.

Life is funny. There is almost no way to know what you will want out it when you start down the path of life, sometimes you get most of the way down a path just to find a fork that takes you in a totally new direction. Even if you know the fork is ahead there is almost no way to know what it is you choose until you are looking down both paths. OK, enough soliloquy.

It's been more than two years now that I've been interested in something called Permaculture. When I fist heard about it I knew I felt right away like I had found a missing piece of my life.

Since I was little I have dreamed of self sufficiency. I have always been interested in doing things myself, how things work and how to make things better. I've been obsessed with researching "perfect solutions" and making things from "scratch" most of my life. If I had to pinpoint the first thing that awakened this for me it would be when I read The Cay at around age 9 or 10. It's a book about survival where a privileged young white kid and a black man survive a ship wreck and the kid overcomes his prejudice. Next was the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen where a boy survives on his own after a plane crash leaves him stranded in the wilderness.After these was a book my brother turned me on to called  My Side of the Mountain where a boy runs away from his life to survive in the woods on his own. Added to this list has to be a book my mother got me that I was obsessed with called Diary of an Early American Boy that highlighted the many skills required to survive in America's earliest days. My Mother was involved heavily in the "Wheat Ridge Historical Society" and I fell in love with traditional life skills. On television I loved watching the PBS show "The Woodwright's Shop" that detailed traditional woodworking skills; my favorite episode being where he builds his own log cabin from scratch. PBS sparked another love for me of BBC comedies, one of my favorites being a show called "Good Neighbors" where a suburban English couple drop out of corporate life to turn their suburban home into a self sufficient homestead.  As I got older more and more things added to this obsession such as the PBS documentary "Alone in the Wilderness" a true story of a man who builds his own log cabin in the backwoods of Alaska and lives in it with a minimum of resources. When survival programming went mainstream I idolized "Survivorman" Les Stroud and to a much less extent Bear Grylls and his show "Man vs. Wild".

Another thing that caught my imagination as a child was gardening, my dad built me a small garden plot next to my mom's rock garden in our back yard when I was about 7 or 8. My mom contributed to my project by buying me Kids Gardening: A Kid's Guide to Messing Around with Dirt, a book that came with seeds and a plastic trowel. I followed the directions and grew a very small crop of vegetables. When I was about 12 I started taking care of the lawn and gardens around the house. I went to the garden center every year and helped my mom pick out plants for the various gardens. I turned over the soil and planted annuals and tended perennials. I came home every day from school and hand watered the various plants around the house till the yard took on an amazonian quality.

So, when I came upon Permaculture and the community around it felt like I had found the culmination of many life long passions. Permaculture, for the uninitiated, is a design philosophy, that is applied to designing ecological systems. Breaking down the jargon, it's a way to plan out a garden, farm, ranch or anything that provides output for human use in a way that mimics natural ecosystems and creates something that, more than sustainable, is restorative to the environment.

This brings me to my 500 year plan. I've talked with my wife many times in our 15+ year relationship about legacy, that I've always wanted to build something for my family that lives on generation after generation. Until I found Permaculture I didn't know what that something was. Now I know what I want. My wife is finishing college, so right now it's all planning. After she finishes school we move into the saving phase, then onto the action phase. I want to create a farm that provides as diverse an output as possible with as much biodiversity as possible. I don't want rows of crops, I want to create a managed land that will output food and income for the next 500 years. Something that the word "Sustainable" doesn't ever get used to describe. I want something that every year makes the land better than the year before.

So, if anyone asks me how my plan is going, I'll simply reply, "ask me in 500 years!"
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