317 – Wheaton Laboratory Update Part 1

Published 9 years ago in Podcasts - 0 Comments

Paul Wheaton opens with the declaration that this could be the most important podcast of all times since the podcast is going to focus on the least talked about but in Paul’s view, most important, aspect of permaculture:


Paul and Jocelyn describe the 20 month long “party” with having over 200 guests and visitors staying at Wheaton Labs, experimenting with different aspects of community living. Paul gives an overview of some of the new changes they will implement at Wheaton Labs with the community set up, like how they will no longer have people reside in their home or have a kitchen commander.

Paul points out that the recipe they were using for community was much better than many other communities he had experienced, but it still fell short. He makes it clear that they aren’t intending to throw anyone under the bus with this discussion, but want to talk about this important aspect of permaculture in the hopes of improving it and finding the solutions to make it work. Paul also expresses that he feels it’s his fault that it did not work out, being a badly designed system which he hopes to improve on.

They go into the new system, which is the ant village and deep roots design. They discuss how “obligation is poison” which Paul felt was part of the reason things did not work out, since everyone felt obligated to work or get things done, which can take the passion out of the activity itself.

Another big change will be how big equipment is used. They circle back to make clear that the situation with everyone leaving Wheaton Labs was more or less organic, with everyone leaving at different times and for their own reasons (ie. time they commited to was up or getting a job etc.)

Paul gives a few more details about how the ant village and gappers will work in general, and how himself and Jocelyn will be less involved in the system but still there as a support in different ways.

Wofati 0.7 is going to be dedicated to gappers and ants, the center point for a tool library, and community kitchen.

Paul discusses his philosophy that if you are going to build something, you need some level of predictability. He shares that the “flake out factor” is the straw that broke the camels back, since continuously asking people to come through on something and then having them not, is debilitating in many ways.

Another problem they had was enormous amounts of time was taken up by equipment repair or building infrastructure instead of gaining experiences in permaculture and natural building etc that would be more enjoyable, which took its toll on people.

Paul and Jocelyn discuss some of the more intricate problems of community living and sharing a space and how the hardworking, responsible people whom they want to be a part of the community are often those who can’t come for long periods of time.

They dig deeper into the specific downsides of community living. First off, Paul and Jocelyn talk about how when people leave Wheaton Labs after making mistakes, they make a point of not talking about it in podcasts or on the permies forums to protect the integrity of the people and their lives.

Paul vents a bit on the flake-out factor again, which ultimately was the biggest problem in the end since things had devolved so much at that point.

Jocelyn points out how Wheaton Labs is an experimental space, and trial and error is a big part of it which could lead to different issues and frustrations. They start to give the example of the fence scenario, and then the podcast finishes to continue on in part two.

Credit: Vida Norris

Relevant Threads

Benefits of Having 20 People in one House
Community Food
The Power of 200 Organized People

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