Deja Vu

is reliving similar challenges and obstacles in life: physical, mental, or spiritual. We all face the challenge of pushing our limits to greater boundaries. The difficult math concepts, the social problems in the family, or doing one more pull up, they all push us to new understandings.

As life progresses, the boundaries will revisit us to test if we are ready to move further or relearn basic concepts before we can grow. Preparing yourself for these challenges and knowing the limits in your life will prepare you to level up and move out of the infinite cycling of an obstacle. Once you’ve moved past the obstacle, it becomes a tool in the art of cultivating yourself.

Filter Out the Chunks

When I first began my search for a way of life, I reached for any available opportunity. It was an expansive expedition to do everything.

For a few years, this type of journey falls apart. It never gains traction in any area and it’s a common pattern for people who hold an idealistic view of their journey, everything will work itself out. In time, it does, but at the beginning, I found it was best to seek many opportunities and begin the process of filtering out the chunks that didn’t work for my present needs.

Because of it, I was about to determine projects that suited my visions and goals. It enabled a greater capacity to devote more time and energy rather than spreading myself too thin in many areas.

This is the process of reflection, knowing the areas in life to expand or contract. The timing in my opinion is less important. It’s far better to make a decision and take action than to do nothing at all. In this way, it’s not a matter of if it will happen just when.

Taking, Slowing Down, and Unlocking the Fertility of Nature

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and my views on land restoration are shifting.

Building soil happens in a variety of ways, but sometimes it entails: taking resources from other places, slowing down resources, and unlocking the fertility of the land.

Taking Resources
This is the most used method to regenerate a landscape. It’s most often the easiest. Buying compost, collecting kitchen scraps, and gathering your neighborhood yard waste, are all but a few examples of taking resources from other areas to make good soil. Importation of these resources are an easy way to get your garden growing, but it is also degenerating the landscape where it came from. Those resources are best used in the area that it came from. At the same time, if they’re not being utilized, then best to use it somewhere else. Another downside is the transportation of moving those resources to another location.

As a side note, selling produce to people is another form of transporting resources from the land; although it’s probably a small portion of the fertility.

Slowing Down Resources
It doesn’t matter where you are gardening, Nature has ways to move the fertility of the land by rain, wind, and even sunlight. Rain displaces fertility by sinking it further into the soil horizon, or washing it away (erosion). Wind can blow away organic material and soil during storms. Sunlight is Nature’s sterilizer, it can bake away soil if it is exposed and causes rocks to shatter and break from expanding and contracting from temperature fluctuations. Soil that is baked long enough will began to fissure and crack as well from exposure from the sun.

To slow down the loss of organic and soil material requires mulch and plants. Mulch will slow down the wind, rain and sun from harming the soil beneath it. Heavy loads of straw or wood mulch has been best in my experience. Plants will shade the soil, lock in nutrients and slow down water with their root systems. The roots will also enrich the soil by creating habitats for the soil microbes.

Unlocking the Fertility of Nature
All land is capable of growing the plants that it needs to create a richer environment on site. Those plants may not be the ones that you desire to eat though. A combination of techniques using plants and animals can be used to further enrich the environment without  transporting resources there.

Nitrogen fixation is one of the best ways to enrich the soil. The Pea family is notorious for having a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that take atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and convert it to ammonium, NH3. Nitrogen is essential for proper DNA replication, protein synthesis, and chlorophyll (the dark green color in leaves and the organelle that utilizes photosynthesis).

Ruminants enrich the soil by taking it’s growth and enriching it with nitrogen rich manure, and the microbes that dwell in their stomachs. One of the fastest ways to regenerate the land is with animals. By moving grazing animals daily, the nutrient and water cycle is enriched. In time, this results in ecological resilience.

Suburban Gardening
I imagine it’s going to take all three methods until we can shift to Unlocking the Fertility of the land. My desire to move away from using fossil fuels to transport and grow the fertility onsite. This way, more energy can be used to grow gardens in other areas around the metroplex, train people to nurture them, and continue the expansion.

Gardening on Land that Isn’t Yours

So I’ve made the decision to take ownership of land that is not mine through gardening. I ask permission or it has been offered to me. I know lots of folks that guerilla garden and it’s awesome. This post is not about that.

The idea that the land is ours has brought about a job at a school where I garden, and doing garden jobs when I have the time. It’s not 100% ownership; nature owns a good chunk of it and so do the people that have the papers to it. As the gardener though, I get to call the shots and so do you. Just don’t get too attached or financially strapped, and you can always let go and move forward.

Finding Land
is not hard. It’s actually the least important aspect. I’m afraid there’s a huge pattern of people who want to garden, but they think they have to do it on a hundreds of acres. Start with a family member who will let you use a small section of the yard, do some container gardening, or get started with some indoors plants. Land is simply the space that is around us. It’s everywhere and it’s just sitting there (waiting for us).

It’s best to start with a location that is nearby than too far away. Make sure you have easy access for at least a wheelbarrow and irrigation is always a plus. Just remember, slow and small solutions builds up into bigger and better opportunities.

Tell Your Story
Every time I meet somebody, I tell them that my dream is to provide the resources and knowledge that will create a restorative environment that supports mankind and nature. Gardening is part of it. Teaching and sharing exponentiates the ethics, principles, and techniques. For you it may be different or much of the same. The key is to find the words and ideas that ring for you and the people you are influencing.

When you know you are ready, all you have to do is add in the extra part of, “I’m looking for more land to:” garden, raise chickens, livestock, whatever you want. The people that have seen the progress and hard work that you’ve put into it will listen and provide.

It’s May Not Be What You Think It Is
It has it’s consequences though. The gardening job at the school requires me to take orders from a boss. My boss doesn’t trust everything I say, and she shouldn’t. So she makes me work on things, I don’t believe in. It’s part of it.

My Feelings really dont’ matter in the long run. Slow and small solutions are the key here. For most of the year I don’t get heckled but every once and a while there is a barking call in the distance or a late night/early morning phone call. I just do what she says and everything moves along smoothly. In the future, I make a note to get that done or find a solution to do it easier next time. As for you, don’t get too attached to any particular place or project. The experience and story are more important; they combine to form the bigger dream you should be building up to.

As far as I’m concerned, I get to do what I love, and the details don’t matter so much. In the long run, I’ll just add in, “I’m looking for a new opportunity,” or I’ll create that new opportunity at the school. The trust will build over time, and if not, I can always move to another project if I desire.

The key is to know that there are plenty of opportunities. Take your time to weed out the bad from the good and give it a try. It’s not going to be easy, and you’ll have plenty of learning experiences. Don’t give up because of a few or a lot of mistakes; they help to make a good story for you to share.

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.

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.