In recent times, the focus has been primarily on the Ant Village.
Ant village is going well, other projects, not so much. The berm shed that was originally proposed to be constructed in four days may someday soon be finished, more than a year later. Fred is working on it with Kai. A fair amount of it had to be re-built, they are pulling dirt off the roof, fixing things up, doing a better job with the tarps, then re-covering. A big deal. Still, the whole thing is very close to finally being done. Earthworks have been done to control water flow. Fred says they will run electricity in there very soon.
Many of Paul’s projects and income streams sort of dried up while he was flat on his back for three months. The ants were quite busy with their own stuff. Paul’s own plans for the land around the Fisher Price house are still mostly on hold. They’ve got one paddock - he’d like to have four paddocks before he’s ready to have chickens. There’s got to be stuff growing in there for the system to work. Paul can’t build paddocks, he’s got to work on income right now.
Right now, Paul doesn’t have a lot of coin. What he has is deep root plots - land.
So, how to monetize the land? How to get things moving? Some people have come out to help, and found things to be a little too unstructured. They’d like to come out and do a lot of different things. The new plan is called “permaculture boot camp.”
Build some cob, peel some logs, put together some junk pole fence.
Fred will run permaculture boot camp. Kai will help. Here’s the daily plan:
7am - breakfast
8am - working on cool stuff
noon - lunch (boots will cook and clean their meals together)
1pm - back on the job
5pm - dinner
Everybody gets a bunk, everybody gets access to the Fisher Price house. Food may be vegan. Paul’s hoping for more wildcrafting of food. More than just the huckleberry picking that happened during the “20 month party,” which is how he describes the original gapper program.
Boots to Roots. After being a good boot camper for 18 months, you can have a deep roots package. After 18 months of learning, you will be ready to take advantage of this, ready to build your own house and food systems (or whatever works for you). If you do 24 months, your acre will have a little house and some hugelkultur gardens.
Still, some people might come and do this for just a few weeks. We’ll see how it goes. Right now, the available 6 slots are full, they are setting up a waiting list. Official start date is February 4th, if you are fired up, you could come sooner than that but you’d have to find a new gig on February 4th 2017.
Jocelyn wants to point out this is NOT a military style boot camp. It’s simply a more structured learning opportunity. Paul says it’s more modelled after a thing like “java boot camp” where you come in and have an intensive learning experience. It won’t be 100 hours per week, more like 48.
Paul sees Boots to Roots as a great alternative to college. Sometimes college isn’t such a great deal. You put in four years and get into debt, now you have to get a job to pay off your debt. What if what you want to do is build your own home and grow your own food? Come out to the lab.
Fred says “we’ll start with 6 people and see how it goes.”
Paul says he meets people who don’t really know what they want, they just know that their current life is unsatisfactory. Coming out to be a boot is a way to explore what it is that you want. Paul likes the idea that a person may come out for a few weeks and then decide it’s not for them, but it’s fine, because there’s another person on the wait list who is ready to step in.
If you come out, and you love it, you could end up with your own acre to work with after a couple of years. Jocelyn points out that few people have roundwood or timber building skills. If they came and participated in the permaculture boot camp they could learn how to do these things prior to having their own land to work with.
Jocelyn notes that the "20 month party" was a huge drain on Paul - he spent hours trying to get everything to work and get everyone to get along. Ant village has been awesome, because the people there are self starters and do their own thing. They know how to adult, she says. The months where Paul was out of commission probably contributed to more separation between the folks up at Ant Village, and overall that’s a great thing. Paul says these days he only ever hears about things via Fred, and there’s very little that he has to deal with. Jocelyn has instituted regular feast nights to foster connections between base camp and the Ant village.
Jocelyn says whether or not the initial program with 6 people thrives and grows will depend on how well the participants can "a-dult." Paul says it’s unlikely that all six of the original boot campers will end up staying the requisite 18 months to get their own plot, but at least at the beginning of this, he’s willing to commit to every participant having that opportunity. He doesn’t know how long that will last, but he’s very excited that initial enthusiasm has been so great.
Fred says he’s unlikely to call the boots “maggot.” He’s hoping that as time goes on people will need less and less management. Paul says Fred has built an awesome reputation for getting things solved without too much drama.
Paul wants to mention the bounties. Since he’s short on coin to pay for projects, he’s come up with something called FYSH. A Farmstead Yield Standard Hour. These can be earned, and can be spent on rent of various things (structures, equipment, certain big tools), maybe event tickets. A local currency.
Paul is looking for a couple to spend a year in Allerton Abbey. It will need a bit of light carpentry and a lot of cob work to be finished. Next summer, the thermal mass needs to be charged and the following winter shall be the test of the thermal mass theory. You will have needed to listen to 200 podcasts. You have to stay for the entire test winter, not gone for more than 2-3 days. Winter runs from October 15 to March 15.
He’s hoping for a couple who will live pretty normally in there, and that includes cooking a couple of meals a day in Allerton Abbey. Maybe you could be someone who works from home, but commuting to a job is not an option. At the moment, there’s no good wifi up on the lab. Verizon has the best cell coverage.
Here’s a thing: the structure will need to be “tour ready” from 8am to 5pm daily. You kinda need to be naturally neat so that you’re ready at all times (reasonable daytime hours) for strangers to check out your place.
Last, Paul would like to talk about printers. He hates printers, although it's better now that he switched to Linux. Paul's printer is in the office and it seems like some people feel free to print massive documents without asking permission. A couple of weeks ago somebody printed out 70 pages (by mistake). The problem is that it’s a laser printer, not an inkjet printer and it costs $300 to replace the ink cartridges. During the PDC and AT conference they ended up removing the power cords from the printers to keep people from using it. Sadly, somebody attached an incorrect cord to Jocelyn’s printer and fried it.
Paul sees that there is a need for a printer for people to use. Sometimes you just have to print things. A printer is a thing that should be shared. It’s just so hard to keep track of what’s been printed, if you were going to have people pay for what they use. Maybe have a jar, use the honor system. Maybe.
The last item. The lateness of the DVD projects led to three big debts for Paul. The DVDs were supposed to be edited by May of 2015, then October, then it went long. Paul had $45,000 set aside to pay for the editing, for the printing, and for the shipping. However, if the money isn’t spent by the end of the year on these business expenses, it counts as income, and there’s $15,000 of tax on that.
Anyway, there’s these three debts. Paul hasn’t wanted to do podcasts because he feels he’s got to focus on income. This podcast here was Jocelyn’s idea. Jocelyn is trying to get Paul to be less “blamey,” but he is, he’s a blamey person. He knew long ago that probably only 5% of the people will work out. He’s been having a hard time getting into “creative mode” while he has a debt. He feels like his time belongs to that, right now.
Jocelyn notes that she and Paul are both still working their full time computer jobs, along with trying to manage things at the lab. Both of them have “workaholic tendencies” and she’s working on getting better work/life balance. Jocelyn is trying to get Paul back to doing more creative things, more soul-fulfilling things. Still, she used to think, in her 20’s, that she could fix all her flaws with enough therapy and enough effort. She’s learning to accept the fact that everyone is flawed.
Paul says when he was making lots of videos and podcasts, he didn’t have any debt. His time was his own. He’s looking forward to a time with strong cash flow so everything can move forward. He needs to get past the debt.
Fred wants people to check out Paul’s Patreon account (even though it’s kind of neglected at the moment). If the offered reward goes up to more than $24/thing, maybe Paul will be inspired to get the Patreon thing going. He didn’t like the idea of the monthly payments, where you get money whether or not you create stuff, so he's got it set up so you pledge to contribute $1-10 per artifact. Paul saw someone who apparently gets $6000 per video. Wow, if he got paid $6000 per video, he’d drop what he was doing and make a video right now - today! He thinks if the per video payout got to something like $300, then that would make it worth doing the work. Content is no problem - there’s so much to show! The problem is the time.
Actually, there’s one more item. Recently there was a discussion about how much wood you need to heat a house in Montana with a rocket mass heater. Paul has calculated that if they fill their wood shelves six times this winter, that will be half a cord and that’s 1/10 the usual. Lately they’ve been having a fire every other day. There’s a thread about this experiment
If you go to the Wheaton Labs forum, there are some easy links at the top with good information about what’s going on and how to visit. (Paul’s not a fan of making things easy. Your first test is finding the thread about how to visit.)
And, that’s that! Thanks Jocelyn for getting Paul to sit down and share his thoughts with us. Thanks Fred for making things happen! Thanks to anybody who has read this far down! Look: https://www.patreon.com/paulwheaton Pro tip: you can put a monthly limit on your pledge, just in case Paul gets fired up and starts churning out artifacts.
Credit: Julia Winter
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