Convert the Opposition

The opposition is a mix of all sorts of people. In my case, it’s a mix of family, friends, co-workers, and the at-large community. At the same time, I have co-creators in each of those categories as well.

Before I rant on how I go about converting people with opposing ideas, it’s important to know that I do this passively all the time. It’s never an active duty of trying to change them or a want to change them. They have to want to change themselves. After that, I only serve as a guide pointing out paths and destinations that I visited and how they get to the same place.

Passive Conversions
It’s much like passive income. As a side note, passive income are assets that build up over time. For example, if you grow a plant from seed, nurture the plant, and get it to the point of having seeds, you now have more seeds to grow more plants. This is more active, but it can be passive if the soil is prepared and the seeds self-sow themselves or if the plant is perennial. It grows back year after year while providing for our needs and Natures.

To passively convert people is much of the same techniques as planting a seed. It starts with telling them about your story. Those that are interested will find ways to find you and build a relationship. That’s all it takes. For people with opposing views this often leads to arguments and goes nowhere. In that case, it becomes more active. It’s important to remember that you’re not trying to change them. They have to change themselves.

Converting the Opposition
When I first wanted to garden, my parents never understood how I would make a living from doing it. I didn’t know either, but I believed I could find a way. For a short while they were right, and didn’t want me to waste my life growing food. In my eyes, they opposed my passions and dreams. It didn’t matter what I said; it never changed what they believed about my ambitions.

I made the right choice in ignoring their criticisms. I found a job, but I still didn’t convince them about the many reasons why we need to garden. One summer at the school we had a bumper crop and nobody was there to harvest and use it. At the time, I wasn’t actively cooking so I gave it away to family and friends so it wouldn’t go to waste.

In one evening, the vegetables got used and those who spoke out against me gardening are now inviting me to garden for them.

More than One Way to Communicate
It’s often that we forget that actions speak louder than words. The act of giving away the abundance from a garden spoke louder than any word that I have ever spoken to anybody that has not agreed with what myself and my friends are trying to accomplish. I believe that more of these simple acts of love and kindness will crush all the arguments we have with each other and bring us back to the table of good food and delightful discussions.

On Arguing and Discussing

It’s usually a waste of time. Arguments are for people who are trying to win something. It’s an ego type of thing. The best way is to have a discussion.

The difference is that arguments tend to be heated. Although it’s a deep type of honesty, the heated exchange doesn’t solve a problem, shed light on a new area, or build relationships. It most often increases conflicts and creates a greater divide between parties.

Discussion, on the other hand, provides a medium where people understand that they may not agree, but have the opportunity to reach a common ground. It should still be honest with the addition of giving people the space to be heard.

Ways that I’ve found to help are time limits for speakers and a totem like a stick or any object to know who has the power to speak helps. Why time limits? People can talk forever, don’t give them the opportunity to drown the other voices out. A totem is used to denote who is the speaker. It’s much like a gavel for a judge or a whistle for a referee; you don’t interrupt those people.

As a conscious species, we should all be able to discuss matters of importance while growing out of arguing over nothing.

Resource Dilution

It’s a concept that is used to describe the amount of resources available for the amount of children that you have.

The theory is based on the idea that parents only have a limited amount of resources. With each additional child the parents resources get diluted. Imagine two families with the same amount of resources, one family only has one child and the other family has four. The family with one child has four times the amount of resources available for their one child than the other family.

This same idea is true for projects, friends and just life in general. The more you do the more spread out you are, the less energy, time, and resources you have for each addition to your life.

The common pattern is that less is more. Don’t fall into the trap of doing everything. You’ll end up with nothing.

The exception in my opinion is when a person has conquered a project to the point where people and their environment can build up on it or when a person is questioning what they truly want to do with their life. For example, conquering a project to benefit mankind and nature could be feeding and growing the soil to cultivate food for us and the microbes in the soil, win win. Next steps in succession could be selling the extra produce, giving it away, or making value added products like making pickled vegetables or raising farm animals. Questioning what you want to do is simply trying a lot of things to find the few things that you are passionate about, running through the gauntlet.

All of this is slow and small solutions in permaculture or the Tortoise and the Hare if you like fables.

The Gauntlet

The largest limiting factor in getting people to pursue their dreams is the initial passion and drive to get it started. People can say what they want, but if they mean it, they will do what it takes to live it. You can’t make someone passionate. It just comes with practice and time.

The Gauntlet is a filter to determine the passionate areas. It’s simple. Go try it out in real life. Then try it again and again until you can answer this question:

Is this your passion?

Thoughts on Patterning Success

That is Succession, the process of being successful or the pattern of being successful. The question is how do we get people on this planet to embody success and help spread it to their surrounding communities?

I, We, You
That’s a teaching model that is used in some of my lessons to teach children. In order for children to see how something can be used, we have to first model how the knowledge is applied, that is the “I.” Once the modeling is done, “We” work together on an example together. Finally, I allow the students to work on their own, the “You.”

This same model is a good representation of how we can pattern success in other people. It’s one way to set an example for others in order for them to do something for themselves, on their own, and eventually for others.

Meta- I, We, You
To take things a step further, the same set of principles can now be applied so that they too can begin to teach others the same principles so that their success can be leveraged to do the same for others. This is where the “You” becomes the “I.” Once this is accomplished, succession is done. People are now in the stage of spreading the idea and reality in other people.

The question now is what are the steps and processes that allow for success to work within an individual and how can it be reproduced in others. To do this, we look to Nature.

A Pattern in Nature to Mankind
To pattern success, we can look to reproduction and redundancy in our natural systems. Nature has set in motion a way for ideas and material items to reproduce exponentially under the right conditions. As human beings, we can dissect those patterns to gain some insight on how Nature reproduces so we can aide in the redundancy of abundance. This mutualism creates an everlasting effect that can last forever. Reproduction comes from an organism successfully living to the stage of being able to reproduce to make more of its own kind. The reproduced organism will now redundantly live out to its best abilities a similar life of its parent so it can too one day reproduce and make more of its own kind to be more successful at doing things to reproduce; and the cycle continues.

For ourselves, it means that we have to first become successful, be conscious of the pattern that has allowed us to get to where we are and how we got there, teaching that pattern to others and walking them through the steps to get there, and finally testing others to see whether their knowledge has solidified and then reproducing that pattern into others.

Patterns to Details
There are many forms of success and it surely will taste different between various people. However, I believe it is safe to say that we all would like to live a fulfilling life, that’s the pattern. The details (in my opinion) are less important. To set this pattern into motion requires people to define what success is for themselves. We can call this step definition. It also entails determining what is not success and leads to the feeling of extinction. Next, we find small steps that bring us closer to that feeling of abundance and a transition away from scarcity. In other words we are moving from surviving to thriving.

As time progresses, the definition of the idea manifests the tangible reality. Furthermore, walking with other people eventually should turn into a journey with many people who are following each other. This idea is much like the picture of a snake eating its own tail. The people are not really following any one individual, but they are feeding off of the ideas and realities of everybody. At this point, the pattern is self-replicating.

These are just some thoughts on the idea of patterning success or succession in our lives. It’s what all those self-help books are for, but if the pattern is successful, we shouldn’t need anymore of those books since we can rely on each other instead. That’s all.

Room to Play

requires a safe environment for people to fail miserably without the harsh or sharp feedback.

For example, when children play with each other it is often fast paced, rough, and at times it looks dangerous. Except for the life threatening or crippling instances of child play, most adults should not interfere and protect the child from every little instance of pain. As babies, this is understandable. They are not familiar with their environment or themselves. However, as children age, they have to learn how to play and learn the limitations of what is safe and what is dangerous.

Especially when children begin to play with each other. It usually starts at a slow pace and builds up into a momentous  rancor that is hard to keep track of. In time, a child may get a scraped knee or a cut, but that is part of the experience and beginning of their education in taking risks.

If a child never experiences pain, they will be ignorant of what kinds of risks to take as an adolescent and as an adult. As this ignorance progresses, it only builds up. Think of the absorbant college student that intakes an absurd amount of any substance. Yes, that was me.

Now, this may not be true of all children, but I would argue it is true for most. They learn through repetitive experiences in life until the moment it begins to stick. The transition then goes from learning to knowing and through a slow cycle of relearning  and reconfirmations. Without the room to play and to make mistakes, the person takes an unfamiliar risk that could be a crippling mistake (the drunk college student).

Allowing a safe environment to play creates the opportunities for the children to learn how to take calculated risks that offer them the opportunity to have fun and get injured in small ways.

As adults, we can design these environments and craft play experiments that allow for making minute risky choices. In time, the repeated practice becomes a behavior. Hopefully, it becomes a key part of the future adult who will learn how to think and make good choices.

Maquettes: Sound it Out

A marquette is a tiny scale sculpture that artists makes before building huge masterpieces. It is synonymous to children asking me how to spell a word. My default response is, “Sound it out. Sssss–owwww-nndd iiiitttt owwwwwww-t.”

Slow and Steady + Slow and Small
Its surprising how often I have to remind myself of Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, and the Permaculture Principle of Slow and Small Solutions. It’s a common theme in any passion. The love to accomplish a task or get involved is often drowned by the very same fuel of love. Slowing down is a necessary task. It slows down the instant gratification in order to learn and appreciate the small things. We all need to be reminded of this.

My Reminder
For the past two weeks I’ve been going on nature hikes with the children and it’s been a constant reminder of how appreciative they are just to simply be outdoors. After walking a few feet, the kids are jumping and shouting about the rollie pollies on the ground. Being an adult, I guess I don’t see things that small and obscure anymore, but this has been a good reminder to slow down even more to notice those subtle details. I should be more observant than the children and yet it is they who are pointing it out to me. Then again, I’m not looking for rollie pollies.

In any new project, small scale projects need to be accomplished first before scaling up to bigger things. It doesn’t always get better with bigger. Often times, it can get worse. Investing your life savings on number 21 on the roulette table. It’s a lucky number they say.

Regardless what type of project it is, a tiny sculpture is less likely to break the bank.

Redefining Design Processes: The Rabbit Hutch

The Design process that humans use have many areas in need of improvement. Take for instance the rabbit hutch. In Texas, we have high heat and winds around Dallas-Fort Worth. The rabbit hutch is made with a box with some wire to hold them in and allow their manure to drop. From what we know about heat, it rises. The body temperature of this little mammal runs around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. WIth heat rising, this causes them to gasp for air and struggle to survive. Further complications are a decrease in fertility, increase in maintenance and infrastructure to cool down the bunnies, and a high risk of losing rabbits to the heat.

Rethinking the Design of the Hutch
For a few months, I’ve been thinking about underground and reading up on what’s available on the interwebs. There are people who have had success in various regions around the world but I haven’t found anybody experimenting with this in Texas. Recently, I’ve been thinking of another opportunity.

Water as a common element has a high specific heat (4.186 joule/gram °C). In other words, it helps to regulate the temperature. If a rabbit hutch could be made underwater, this would greatly reduce the infrastructure and labor involved in raising rabbits. The design so far is fairly simple. Cut out a hole in a barrel, insert a tube that is big enough for the rabbit to crawl into, and seal the edges around the hole where the tube goes in. The tube must be able to withstand the pressure of water crushing it and allow enough crawl space for the animal to go inside. Once the edges are sealed, fill the barrel with water and see how much water is needed to maintain a comfortable environment for the bunnies.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 10.31.02 PMDesign Methodologies
As far as designing homes for other animals, I believe that people recreate homes they see as comfortable and fitting. It’s stupid and selfish. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of these animals if we are to raise them and care for them. To do that requires careful observation and proper analysis to determine the key pieces of information to make a design appropriate for any living organism.

The Death of Planning

We plan things to death, literally. It’s great to get ideas and get an idea on how to initiate it into action; however, it’s can be a destructive pattern. Get an idea, plan on how to initiate the idea, get more ideas on the initiation of the idea and you end up with ideas^3. It never reaches a starting point.

Micro Planning
I’m going to use the analogy of starting a business. Many people save up a fortune to start up something they believe will be desired by the masses or they just dreamed of having that fruit orchard once they retire. The sad truth is that initiating a big idea does take a lot of big planning. It can be done through thoughtful analysis and proper use of time. Unfortunately, most of us have not learned or thought of the processes that it takes to use time effectively or to ask the right questions on how to improve and make our ideas into reality.

Micro-planning takes care of that for us. If you have an idea, get what you need to make it happen and start. That’s all. You have an idea, list the materials and get started. No dilly dallying or frolicking with a boatload of crap ideas. Try something out and learn the steps it takes to made it happen.

In Action
From there you have more to plan around and can generate better ideas on how to improve each step. For example:I want to educate and empower others by making resources and knowledge accessible to them.

TO DO that I’m going to teach them how to make wicking wine bottle gardens and slowly teach them other realms of gardening while they learn areas they are interested in. 

TO MAKE IT HAPPEN, I need wine bottles, something to cut glass, a piece of yarn, soil, some plants, a space to make stuff, and people to educate

After doing it, I’ll evaluate things to make it better.
TO MAKE IT MORE EPIC, I’ll teach them safety and having a clean workspace, give them the opportunity to tell me what they want to learn, provide access to books and other wealth of resources, and find more time to get them creating and learning.

So far, it’s been great. One homeless person has a book learning about bugs and she’s now teaching me things about them. A few others are hyped up on different types of gardens they want to create. In the end, the dream is being fulfilled, it didn’t take a lot of resources to make it happen, and I’m making great use of my time and energy.

Since it’s only a few hours a week, it doesn’t kill my efforts in other areas. I can try different projects while I evaluate what I really want to do and accomplish.

If the project turns out sour, I can always kill it and try something else without too much grief. In the end, I know that I’ve learned valuable lessons in getting started and learning along the way instead of going through the constant and never ending cycle of planning and forever thinking.

Once ideas begin turning into actions, more thoughtful and energy intensive projects are now more accessible. It’s easier to think about the building blocks of a project, determine the essential elements to make it successful, and pushing that idea into reality.

Cultivating a Beneficial Community with Pests

Community dynamics are complicated. They’re constantly changing and evolving with every little variable reacting to every element. A bird eats a seed, poops it out and plants a tree for you and me providing shade and shelter from the too much of the Sun’s rays.

In many instances, the truth of community dynamics are paradoxes. At first glance it looks contradictory but the underlying principles guide a more complex and diverse environment in the long run.

Home for Pests
I believe all gardens need to provide a shelter for the rampant reproduction of aphids. They’re one of the first pests that I’ve observed to infiltrate beginning gardens. The reaction is to spray them all off and eliminate them from the garden immediately; however, ladybugs and other beneficial insects require these pesky bugs to thrive. Without them, the beneficials leave to find a home somewhere else just not in your garden.

A Few Facts about Ladybugs
The famous lady bug is a voracious gorger of aphids. A larva, a baby ladybug, will eat roughly 500 aphids a day. An adult may eat as much as 1000 or twice as many. Without an infestation of aphids, you have no ladybugs. In many instances, people will buy dehydrated ladybugs and release them into the garden. Life is not stupid. If they know there is an insufficient supply of food, they go somewhere else that can provide.

Arguing for Aphids
As people, we enjoy jumping to conclusions that aphids are a pest and provide no benefit to the garden. In my opinion, the need for pests are to restore ecological balance and feedback on whether a garden is resilient or brittle. If a plant within a garden can hold out until the ladybugs and wasps come, it’s a sign of resilience. If the plant withers away and dies, the garden is brittle breaking down from a greater effect that is not as evident.

The true underlying cause is that the plants within the garden are not in a proper habitat to thrive. The elements I’ve observed that provides a thriving space for them are soil, and plant diversity.

The proper soil habitat creates an environment for all types of plants. The right mixture then creates a home for an assortment of animals. Creating soil is simply adding more dead or digested material to the top of the soil and continually feeding the soil biome. Continually disturbing the soil structure kills off the soil life. In fewer words, don’t till every season. For compacted soils, take a fork and loosen up the soil by stabbing it and loosening it without turning it. The soil structure remains intact allowing water and life to begin again with time.

Victims to our Own Actions: We are Our Own Pest
I was having a deep conversation with some friends the other night about victims and if they were necessary. In my eyes, yes we do. Victims are usually people harmed by their own ideas, words, or actions. It happens to all of us. We are our greatest enemy just as aphids are to a weak brittle garden. However, if we come to terms that we are often harmed by our ignorance then we can take this feedback loop and turn it into a negative feedback loop where we observe a destructive pattern, stop it, and change it to one that eliminates the symptoms of being victimized.

I’ve seen it time and time again with myself. For example, I witnessed how my father chose to work for long hours for many days supporting his family and our futures. Once he established his foundation enough, he continued to work to develop a stronger foundation and neglected the responsibility of enforcing discipline, responsibility, and bonds between all of us. Today, I’ve become the image of my father. I work long hours and I’m working to create a foundation that supports the future. As much as I tried not to be like him. I am him.

The same is true for many relationships; people to people, people to nature, an individual and themselves, people to technology. Once we can identify the pest within us, it’s only a matter of unleashing the beneficial cycles and patterns that resolve the underlying issues. In my opinion once we can learn to do that with ourselves developing a community with other people gets much easier. We are open to discussing the brittle areas and the resilient ones. In this way, we all become resilient to the aphids within us, which is really just food for a higher order of thinking and living.

In permaculture, this can be summed up with the principle that the problem is the solution. That’s all.