Wellbeing Farm, A Pragmatic Approach to Permaculture, Transition, and Reskilling

Preserving the Past to Serve the Future 

Fourth in a Series

Permaculture News has reposted Wellbeing Farm

 After leaving the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub Waterways Reskilling  gathering held on November 23, 2013 I realized that the practitioners who attended and spoke – the Transitioners and Permaculturists, the farmers, millwrights, boat builders, fishermen, eel weirengineers, woodworkers, and sail freighters require a community, a physical location, a place to have re-skilling workshops, to teach classes,to  hold gatherings, to take on apprentices, and to build real world solutions for the coming post carbon, Slow Tech era.

Slow Technology or “Slow Tech” has its roots in the ideological movement called “appropriate technology,” a term coined by E.F. Schumacher in his book  Small is Beautiful,  first published in 1973.  Slow Tech should be thoughtful  about how devices shape our relationships to time, emotion,  energy, and bioregional environment.

A Vision for Wellbeing Farm

This concept is called Wellbeing Farm because wellbeing is the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous. It will be a physical place where Permaculture, an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that reflect the natural world – and Transition where these principles are applied to the dual challenges of climate change and peak oil come together to address themes of energy production, health and wellness, education, economics, and food production and distribution at the community and local level. 

Wellbeing Farm will give a physical presence to moving beyond ‘environmental’, ’sustainable’, ‘eco’ this or that. The work is about transitioning to where we want to get to, Permaculture pondhow do we do it, what we would like it to be and look like when we arrive – while giving people the tools to create more sustainable ways of living in community.  It is also about how to design this transition in such a way that people will embrace it as a collective adventure, as a common journey, and as something positive – to design fossil fuel descent pathways which make people feel alive, positive and included in the process of societal transformation.

Wellbeing farm will be a center for Permaculture, the crafts of Transition, and for re-skilling for a post carbon world,  where demonstrations of the efficacy of producing local food and power can take place, and a place that can provide opportunities for practitioners to have the time and space to develop specific implementable ideas for a world in transition from  extraction and growth to a steady state economy.

 Four complementary directions for Wellbeing Farm

  1.  That it be replicable, scalable and accommodate different bioregions
  2. That it is a location for the Mid-Atlantic version of Maine’s Common Ground Country Fair
  3. That it  is  a “school” along the lines of, Ralph Borsodi’s School of Living, The Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, The Pfeiffer Center, Snow Farm, The New England Craft Program, Whatcom Folk School, Peters Valley Craft Center,  North House Folk SchoolKinstone Academy of Applied Permaculture,  Adirondack Folk School, The WoodenBoat School, and the Penland School of Crafts. 
  4. That it will be a Transitional Community based on Permaculture principles
  5. And that it will be the location of a Bioregional Traditional Knowledge Database   – an opportunity to collect, in one place, electronic sites, books,  drawings, stories, and especially documented experiences with colleagues with traditional skills.  Perhaps this “library” can be the beginning of a that will gather and protect historical knowledge and promote innovative practices based on traditional skills.  

Wellbeing Farm Mission

The mission of Wellbeing Farm is to provide the means to survive the decades ahead as individuals, communities, and bioregions; to determine pragmatic implementable methods of transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels, and to do this as peacefully, equitably, and intelligently as possible.  We will help to create ethical lifestyle changes, teach appropriate technologies that provide benefits rather than cause harm, foster self-reliance, and promote Slow technology through hands-on practice for students, professional practitioners  from rural, suburban, and urban areas.  We will do so by  taking lessons from nature, through care and love of the environment,  by developing the skills necessary in all areas of life, and by incorporating the values of care of the earth, care of people, ethical sharing of any surplus, and by teaching that actions have consequences, and that we have responsibilities for ourselves and others.

 The Power of Just Doing Stuff

Wellbeing farm will be a center for teaching the skills and re-skilling needed in a post carbon world.  Wellbeing Farm will house Permaculture demonstration projects; alternative energy and water conservation pilot projects; and educational facilities built to a
high energy efficiency standard while providing  beautiful, peaceful, productive spaces where students, scholars and practitioners can meet perhaps live, and study.

 Every community in the United States will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present.

  •  Wellbeing Farm will be a physical place where demonstrations of the efficacy of producing local food and power can take place. 
  • Wellbeing Farm will be a place that can provide opportunities for practitioners to have the time and space to develop specific implementable ideas for a change from resource extraction and growth for growth’s sake to a steady state sustainable economy.
  • Wellbeing Farm will be a place with workshops for preserving the past to serve the
    blacksmithfuture with wood fired ceramics, practical and decorative iron forging and bronze casting; traditional rope making (from locally grown natural fibers); stone and thatch work; woodworking for building furniture, “passive” buildings, wind and water mills, and “short sea” hybrid sailing freight vessels; leather working for tack for working horses; beer, cider, and spirit distilling for food preservation and medicines; sustainable artisanal fishing; and an incubator for low carbon transportation, communications, and commerce.
  • Wellbeing Farm will provide educational opportunities and creative, implementable, real world solutions to the environmental, economic, and social crises we are likely to face in the near and mid-term future.
  • Wellbeing Farm will be one tool that will enable people to work locally to transition our communities and bioregions away from a fossil fuel-based economy to a “restorative economy,” an economy dedicated to core values of human and environmental health and safety, cultural and biological diversity, care for commonly held resources, and cooperative nonviolence.  A restorative economy is human-scaled. It embraces alternative locally based energy, is less extractive and less violent.
  • Wellbeing Farm is about how to compose this Transition in such a way that people will embrace it as a collective adventure, as a common journey, as something positive, and how communities can feel alive, positive and included in this process of societal transformation. Paraphrasing the title of Rob Hopkins’  new book, Wellbeing Farm will be the embodiment of the Power of Just Doing Stuff.

Permaculture is about designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is a land use and community building movement which strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way we place permaculture-garden-design-3them in the landscape. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature.

The core tenets of Permaculture are:

Take Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.

Take Care of the People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.

Share the Surplus: Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. We humans can do the same. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

Permaculture at Wellbeing Farm entails much more than just food production. Energy-efficient buildings, waste water treatment, recycling, and land stewardship in general are other important components of Permaculture. At Wellbeing Farm Permaculture will include research into and realization of  economic and social structures that support the evolution and development of more permanent communities, such as co-housing projects and eco-villages

 We live at a fascinating point in history. The convergence of challenges, most particularly global warming and peak oil, have brought us to a point where we are profoundly challenged to act. We are surrounded by “experts” telling us that this means the end – that we have gone too far, that it is inevitable that life as we know it will collapse catastrophically and very soon. Yet, at the same time, something very powerful is stirring and is taking root the world over. People are choosing life and are manifesting that in their lives and their communities. People are starting to see “peak everything” f as the Great Opportunity, the chance to build the world they always dreamed of. 

The Transition Movement represents one of the most promising models available to us for engaging people and communities, to achieve the far-reaching actions required to mitigate the effects of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. Furthermore, re-localization efforts are designed to result in a life that is more fulfilling, more socially connected and more equitable than the one we live today.

Underpinning the model is recognition of the following: peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis require urgent action; a world with less oil is inevitable so adaptation now is essential; it is better to plan and be prepared, than be taken by surprise; industrial society has lost the resilience to cope with shocks to its systems so we must act together now using all of our skill, ingenuity and intelligence, our home-grown creativity and cooperation, we can unleash the collective genius within our communities, leading directly to a more abundant, connected and healthier future for all.

In the United States, Transition US is a resource and catalyst for building resilient communities across the United States, and The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) envisions an environmentally sustainable, integrated and resilient Mid-Atlantic Region comprising seven states along the US Eastern seaboard, a corridor characterized by a chain of closely adjacent major metropolitan areas.  Its mission is to support, promote and foster the interconnectedness of emergent Transition initiatives in all stages of development in the Mid- Atlantic Region. Continue reading

PRESERVING THE PAST TO SERVE THE FUTURE

Transition, Permaculture, and Slow Technology

Slow Tech referenced Preserving the Past to Serve the Future

A version of this article first appeared on the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) of Transition US, blog

Transition US has published Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://www.transitionus.org/stories/preserving-past-serve-future-using-pre-fossil-fuel-technology-regional-waterways

OpEd News has published Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://www.opednews.com/articles/Preserving-the-Past-to-Ser-by-Andrew-Willner-130731-538.html

Keene Transitions has re-published Preserving the Past to Serve the Future, http://keenetransition.wordpress.com/events-calendar/re-skilling-workshops/

The Permaculture Research Center has posted Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://permaculturenews.org/2013/08/23/preserving-the-past-to-serve-the-future/

Resilience re-posted Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-08-27/preserving-the-past-to-serve-the-future-using-pre-fossil-fuel-technology-on-regional-waterways

oyster sloop2

 “Today, traditional knowledge is in danger and its disappearance would not only cause the loss of people’s capability to keep and pass on the artistic and natural heritage, but also of an extraordinary source of knowledge and cultural diversity from which the appropriate innovation solutions can be derived today and in the future.”

 Slow Money is a movement to organize investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small food enterprises, organic farms, and local food systems. The Slow Foodslow food movement aims to preserve cultural cuisine and in so doing to preserve the food plants and seeds, domestic animals and farming within an eco-region. It is also a social and political movement that resists the dehumanizing  effects  of fast food and corporate farming.  Slow Tech is about the re-invigoration of heirloom technologies and traditional skills needed to thrive in a carbon-constrained future.

Transition is the movement by which people are re-skilled in heirloom technologies.  Permaculture gave birth to the Transition movement and offers guidance on how to use those skills to design resilient lives.  Transition HandbookThe ethics; earth carepeople care, and fair share  form the foundation for Permaculture and are also found in most traditional societies.  Permaculture incorporates knowledge from cultures that have existed in  balance with their environment for much longer than our consumer centered fossil fueled society. We should not  ignore the positive accomplishments of modern times, but in the transition to a sustainable future, we need to consider values and concepts different from what has become the social norm.

Slow Technology:

C. Milton Dixon, interviewed in The (Chicago) Examiner, May 2011, said:

 “(high tech is) industrial technology and refers to things that are out of your control, as opposed to low technology, which is simple things done in a smart way. Low technology is using the intelligence of nature to accomplish tasks. High technology is buying an apple from the store; low technology is getting an apple from a tree you planted yourself. One of the big differences is in high technology you are disconnected from cause and effect relationships. So if you pollute through high technology, you may not feel the direct result. Low technology is connection because you are involved in the process and you are directly affected by the consequences.”

The idea of Slow Technology has its roots in the ideological movement called “appropriate technology,” a term coined by E.F. Schumacher in his book “Small is Beautiful,” first published in 1973.  Slow or appropriate technology centers on ideas of proper scale: technology should be “people-centered.”  “Slow technology as an ideology that extends smallisbeautifulandbordthoughtfulness about how devices shape our relationships to time, emotion and energy. Slow Technology is articulated in an article by two Swedish designers, Lars Hallnas and Johan Redstrom, who in 2001 described Slow Technology as “a design agenda for technology aimed at reflection and moments of mental rest rather than efficiency in performance.”

….. the central condition of empowering people to develop to the best of their abilities and to have freedom to succeed or fail based on their own efforts is critical.  The appropriate technology movement has at its philosophical heart the desire to capacitate people of all walks of life to create (1) Meaningful Employment, (2) Comprehension of Technology, (3) Self-Reliance, and (4) Reduced Environmental Impacts. 

Transition fosters and supports the revitalization of Slow Tech skills and Permaculture asks us to consider relearning the proficiency needed to reanimate wind mills, watermills, and sailing vessel while putting hand tools, levers, and blocks and tackle back into service.

Technology can be Slow in various ways: 

  • It takes time to learn how it works,
  • It takes time to understand why it works the way it works,
  • It takes time to apply it
  • It takes time to see what it is
  • and it takes time to find out the consequences of using it

woodworking toolsNo woodworker’s first project is a chair, a house, a mill, or a boat.  My first woodworking lesson was to take a rough piece of lumber, and using hand tools that (I sharpened) to shape it into a three dimensional absolutely square finished piece of wood.  It took me a full day and I used every tool on my bench.

Once my practice was established I developed a method that worked for me.  First I sat with a piece of tracing paper and did a rough sketch of the final product.  Then I drew it full scale in three views.  From that drawing I could determine what amount of wood was needed, where each joint would go, and how the pieces would transition from one toandy chair and table another to create an aesthetically pleasing whole.  Then the sawing, planing, joinery, shaping, and finishing would take place.  Each of those steps were learned by doing, learning from others, by using traditional references, and knowing that the dimensions and materials were appropriate for the final use.

I was lucky both to have mentors, and to have the time to hone my skills first as a student, then an apprentice, and then as a resident woodworker at Peters Valley Craft Center in New Jersey.  Peters Valley gave me the opportunity, and the time, to learn the business, practice my craft, and teach.  It also was a community of like-minded professional potters, weavers, metal workers, and woodworkers that supported one potter at peters valleyanother.  If we are to learn the skills necessary to survive and thrive in a post carbon world, more places like Peters Valley will be necessary, more experienced craft workers will have to open their shops to apprentices, and more people are going to have to be willing to take the time, resources, and effort to learn.

I left a “Deep Transition” course at Genesis Farm in New Jersey where we decided that one of the “take aways” was to look for streams in our home watersheds called “Mill Creek,” and streets in our towns called, “Mill Road.” In doing so we might find a mill converted to another use. I easily found at several Mill Creeks and one Saw Mill Creek in my watershed.

red mill clintonNear a farm where I work part of the week In Clinton, NJ one mill is an art center and the other is operating as an exhibit. In Thompson PA the old grain mill is operational but abandoned. Many mills are currently used as educational tools by historical societies or operated as restaurants and shops rather than for the purposes for which they were built.

Water mills are being built and rebuilt for grinding grain, pressing cider, as well as producing electricity for individually owned operations and nearby communities. Building, restoring, preserving, and actively using these technologies is key to preserving the past to serve the future. In order to support these efforts, Transition advocates must make alliances with historical societies who use these mills as educational tools but are not operating them for the purposes for which they were built; with restaurant owners and antique stores that are using the mills for a completely unrelated purposes; and to identify locations where mills can be built or rebuilt in order to re-skill the woodworkers, millwrights, and inform farmers about the advantages of water power for the future.

Commerce and water transport of farm and manufactured goods flourished for millennia before cheap fossil fuels became readily available.  Short Sea Shipping:  i.e. carrying freight that does not cross oceans,  is having a resurgence particularly in Europe as more people build and rebuild  ships for the transport of goods along coastal waters.  The inland waters of the mid-Atlantic is a region where sailing cargo vessels may well be competitive right now for certain cargoes.

Erik Andrus’ Vermont Sail Freight Project is the most viable such project in The Mid-Atlantic region. Thevermont sail freight vessel Ceres, built on a farm near Lake Champlain will carry Vermont farm goods to New York City and ports in between, and return to Burlington with fair trade goods, like cocoa beans that have been delivered by sailing vessel to Brooklyn from the Caribbean.

The Vermont Sail Freight Project is worthy of our support, but Transition advocates must encourage the owners of small sail freighters like the South Street Seaport’s Pioneer to put her back into that service for the part of the year she is not carrying passengers, and for other vessels like Clearwater to become pilots for the Slow Tech freight carriers of the future.

The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) of Transition US will support these efforts in the fall of 2013 by bringing together builders, millwrights, boat builders, woodworkers, crafts persons, and historical societies to participate in a Powered Down Waterways Reskilling Festival. Jim Kricker, preeminent restorer of traditional waterwheels, windmills and sailing vessels, rondout woodworking 2will anchor a two-day Reskilling Festival featuring demonstrations, talks, and hands-on instruction. Jim’s website, Rondout Woodworking  is a valuable resource for locating working and restored mills.

The International Traditional Knowledge Institute gathers and protects historical knowledge, promotes and certifies innovative practices. Using traditional knowledge does not mean direct reapplication of techniques from the past, but rather seeks to understand the logic of past models of knowledge. It is a dynamic system able to incorporate innovation subjected to the test of the long term and thus achieves local and environmental sustainability.

Lewis Mumford wrote in 1970:

The great feat of medieval technics was that it was able to promote and absorb many important changes without losing the immense carryover of inventions and skill from earlier cultures. In this lies one of it vital point of superiority over the modern mode of monotechnics, which boast of effacing, as fast and as far as possible, the technical achievements of earlier periods.

There are schools and apprentice shops for learning large-scale woodworking skills that are and will be needed for Slow Tech water-driven mills, and wind-driven vessels that will be part of the continuum that supersedes the “blip” of petroleum powered short term thinking and consumption.

The following are some links to the resources, skills, and techniques that are needed to Transition our Bioregion to one that is carbon constrained yet resilient, abundant, and equitable. Let the following list be a starting point – an opportunity to contribute your water wheelown favorite sites, books, , drawings, and especially experiences with humans with these skills.  Perhaps this list can be the beginning of a Bioregional Traditional Knowledge Database  that will gather and protect historical knowledge and promote innovative practices based on traditional skills.