108 – Listener Questions and Starting from Scratch

Paul Wheaton and Jocelyn Campbell answer listener questions. While Jocelyn prepares the questions, Paul quickly covers the “Ban Paul Wheaton” Reddit thread which originated from the desire of someone for Paul to run the Permies forums in contrast to his artistic vision and community building philosophy.

Question 1 from Bill who wrote a lengthly response to Pauls post “Deviating From The Norm” pod cast, and Jocelyn works on finding a question in Bills post while the conversation drifts to another pod cast with Kelly Weir and Paul talking about Rainwater Harvesting. The pod cast series is a review of the Art Ludwig book Rainwater Harvesting. Paul and Jocelyn also talk about Kelly’s post out at permies with questions about gray water fall and winter preparation on site for rainwater harvesting. Paul’s response: once the system is setup, there will be very little to no maintenance. You will have more work if you plant something not native to your region. Paul relates a time when a guy with a green house saying you cant raise tomatoes without a green house, Paul talk about how he was able to raise tomatoes without a greenhouse, from seed, and as volunteers on the second seasons and beyond. When it comes to greenhouses you are taking on a lot of work, watering, temperature regulation during the summer and mid winter, pest regulation, just a great deal more work.

Jocelyn then steers Paul back to listeners questions, “R” hastings asks about making the big bucks with permaculture and their fear of making mistakes and “screwing something up”, and lose what capitol they have and then going broke. They are hoping to get started with 40 to 60 acres. Paul talks about how it will take some time to get ramped up until you are making the big bucks. It will take some time to develop the systems-feeding-systems approach that is at the core of permaculture. But once those systems are setup, you will end up with a big advantage over other farmers not using that type of system. The farms relying on inputs from the outside may be easier to start but are not sustainable in the long term. Another thing to consider is what products are going to be in demand in your area. One approach would be to try many different things and see what is the biggest income generator for your area. Jocelyn makes a good point about where a particular farmers talents and abilities are the strongest. She cits an example of a gentleman in Costa Rica that uses Permaculture to grow trees that he harvests to use in wood carving. Other people might focus on work shops and trainings, while still others might be all about the market gardening. But it really boils down to the prevailing local market. Paul makes sure to not paint to rosie of a picture and takes a more realistic perspective that indeed it might take years to be profitable and there is no guarantees. But one sure way to never make a good living at Permaculture is to take a negative mindset and tell yourself that you will never “make it big”. In fact, he points out that many people in the Permaculture community are opposed to generating what they consider “excessive income”, and would rather give away or sell at a reduced price what they are able to produce. It boils down people being entrepreneurial, and willing to take that “leap” into homesteading. Sometimes conquering that fear, whatever it may be, can be too far out of peoples comfort zone, and may times that boils down to not having that security of someone handing them their paycheck. However, there are many ways to make that transition. Such as working your day job (full time or part time) while making the transition, or being able to telecommute. Having a nest egg to fall back on is always a good idea if possible to make up for those times when things are tight and the income is not there. The objective is finding a model that works for the individual.

Jocelyn laments about a friend of hers that was bemoaning people not doing their true love. The example given was about photography, and how people would say they would love to be a photographer, and the friend was critical of these people. Her point of view was, then if you want to be a photographer, than start taking pictures. In your spare time, develop your skills and talents and be able to generate wealth from it. The people that would complain about it and not take any action to follow there dream would drive her crazy. To bring that back to the general topic of starting from scratch. The amazing people would be those that are discussing things, reading books, trying things, and doing this work and building their knowledge base before they go out to try their hand at homesteading.

Paul talks about the saying “Good luck comes from hard work.” You have to go out and try 100 things, and 2 of them are going to work out and you will never know in advance which 2. As far as the photography is concerned, either go be a photographer or shutup about it. While there is something to be said for that, when it comes to couples/partners/spouses Paul talks about how sometimes one person in the partnership will really grove on a lifestyle choice (in this case an intentional community) and the other half of the couple ends up hating it. Even if they thought they were going to love it, but for some reason ended up hating it and realized it was just not for them. And now they regret the change, often a “leap”, into a different life style. Even tho they were so sure. He brings that back to the topic at hand, and points out that lesson as it pertains to a hobby versus a job. Now that their hobby is their job, they hate it. That shift in perspective needs to be respected.

Jumping onto a piece of land could be a problem when making that “shift”. As it relates to making a sizable income. Especially in the first year which Paul thinks would make an interesting topic. But just making a livable income in the first year Paul suggests people read the books Mortgage Free, and Early Retirement Extreme. These books have recipes that will help you “buy your freedom”. Of course, if you have a large amount of dept, then you are going to have some preparation work to do. If however, you have 20 thousand dollars in the bank, own a piece of property, have built a WOFATI on the land then you have provided yourself a buffer of a few years (depending on lifestyle). Then during those years when you first get onto the land you can focus on building your Permaculture markets and your own personal empire.

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Credit: Wade Luger

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