I have to admit I was ecstatic when the invite from Paul to visit the Wheaton labs came through. We’d wanted to get there for a couple of years now, but never could make it for a variety of reasons. This time when Will mentioned the invite to me I held my breath and became motionless as if either one of those actions would herald a ‘yes’ as an answer to the invitation. Luckily for me the answer was an immediate ‘yes’ and I could start breathing again with the added bonus of a big smile on my face.

It was around this same time I was struggling with the April 13th piece, having written four different rough drafts but didn’t have the will it required to hit the publish button. It seemed to me the world was already flooded with bad news and smart or not it ‘just’ felt like this would be one more piece added to the pile of doom and gloom. We’ve been following the situation in Syria since 2014 – two hundred articles, five books (one of them was a real opus), and research spanning four years didn’t justify in my mind pointing out the inevitable catabolic collapse of the United States due to its military follies in Syria – no matter how accurate that assessment is. Kind of like giving dog poop as a present with a bow on top.

Friends and readers were gently urging me in the direction of life regenerative topics and deep down inside the joy part of me was sounding like the line in Ringers “when the fuck did we get ice-cream?” and wondering how much longer ‘we’ were going to have to do this. Didn’t we already have more-than-enough information and evidence to wrap-it-up and move onto other topics? And again, luckily for me, I hit a wall and could go no further two days before we left for Wheaton Labs. When people hit walls they very often enact a technique called fox-hole prayers, meaning no matter what faith or spiritual leanings a person may have, or even if they don’t, when the shit hits the fan they suddenly default to asking for amorphous help of some kind.

Will was kind enough not to whip me with a cold wet washcloth to snap me out of it, and truthfully I was already there, so a stove-side conversation was all it took and I was able to change gears and start actively thinking about camping preparations. That’s when I started to think about Oh Brother Where Art Thou and the scene of Delbert down by the river. If there was a change to be made, this trip would be the catalyst for that change. And it was.

The Fisher Price home was easy enough to find and we rolled up mid-afternoon, parked via the instructions and walked past Hugelkultur beds to knock on Paul’s and Jocelyn’s door. We sat and talked for a while and then Paul & Jocelyn were kind enough to give us a tour of that portion of the property. Of the 200 acres in totality this parcel claimed the only preexisting structures when Paul purchased the property a little over five years ago and if I’ve got this right that number is three structures; the house and two outbuildings. The little red cabin was brought back to life/built? , the pooper and shower structure, and the bermed storage outdoor work shop were all built from scratch using 99% of the materials found on the property.

Sepp Holzer grain & rhubarb

The Hugelbeds were immense and diverse and I had to take it easy with the (lazy man’s) digital iPad or I would have been there all day taking pictures; mullein intermingled with rhubarb, next to onions, orach, buckwheat, lettuce, emerging cucurbits, tomatoes, potatoes, and three foot tall stalks of grain from Sepp Holzer’s farm in Austria. Those stalks would eventually be eight foot tall and even more fantastic – the beds would not receive one drop of irrigated supplemental water.


Jocelyn’s private backyard garden was beautiful, extending the annual and perennial species list – if you could call any part of their lives ‘private’ as various persons filed in and out of their home on a regular basis and on a ‘no knock’ basis. Guess we were the only persons to knock in quite a while.

There was so much to see; the little red cabin and its RMH, the beautiful showers & loo with their attendant compost piles (for hot water) and willow beds (for the loo output), the bermed outdoor shop area, the shop itself (which triples as an amazing space for movie nights, PDC workshops, & Ant village projects) with its couch balcony https://permies.com/t/65315/permaculture-projects/couch-balcony-wood-timber-framing

I’m not the engineer so I took the pictures. Will could better explain the structures (if I could ever cajole him into writing a post). Here’s the thread with pictures of the beautiful, comfortable willow pooper; https://permies.com/t/47814/permaculture-projects/willow-feeder-wheelie-bin-pooper

Little Red Cabin RMH


Beautiful showers with compost hot water heater

Some serious Dick Proenneke stuff…a door lock…that when occupied…says so on the other side of the door.


The pooper Willows


you will not believe how cool the temp was inside this outdoor shop storage area thanks to the earth berm structure

The ‘shop’ side of the shop

After the tour we hung around at Paul’s request while he organized the logistics of getting us ‘up there’ meaning the Wheaton Lab area which comprised the majority of the 200 acres. Jocelyn invited us to dinner and we were able to continue conversing about all things permaculture and human behavior.

Then it was time to head up.

As I mentioned in the last post the gates around the acreage are there for a reason. For those who don’t venture out into the semi-rural hinterlands anymore you may not know about the great American Redneck pastime of vandalizing National Forest Service or Fish & Wildlife gates. It varies in severity from cutting locks to hold-my-beer-watch-this…and all that’s needed is a sturdy chain and a come-along and depending upon the gate it can be ripped out by the roots. In New Mexico we passed through no less than six gates to get us to the wolf pens. The gates around Wheaton Labs are no exception and constantly under this kind of pressure. Why have gates! Some exclaim.


Think about it, or at least give a read to Tragedy of the Commons by Hardin

Here, I’ll help you think about it. When was the last time you saw a hard core mountaineering enthusiast who goes by the credo pack in, pack out and leave no trace with a giant bolt cutter, cooler of beer, and a gas guzzling muffler loud off road vehicle (with a rifle and jack lights for deer)?

That’s what I thought. Now I’m no libtard but I’m no pig either. I call a spade a spade and I’ve spent enough time in the great outdoors to offer a solution. For all those who are against gates (when needed), feel free to make a trip to these places several times a year to remove and load up hundreds of pounds of garbage and expelled shotgun shells and what-have-you.

The gate we entered is shared by the NFS and Wheaton Labs and I always marvel and the welding ingenuity of shared locked gates that have been designed to minimize the locks being cut. I volunteered to be the one to stoop down, check out the design, and get us in and out when we had to. It reminded me of New Mexico again and that’s always a good thing. Martha.

C.E. the wonderful camp host met us at the gate and led us to the tipi, and once there made sure we had everything we needed and knew where the artistic main loo was located*. He showed us the beehive structure located 75 feet from the tipi, answered some questions, pointed out a few plants and then disappeared off into the woods.

* I went looking for the pictures of the beautiful compost loo (because I forgot to take a picture) and found Fred’s picture thread from 2015. https://permies.com/t/47311/permaculture-projects/Fred-photos-Wheaton-Labs and stumbled on some of the most extraordinary photos of the flora & fauna.

What a rare and fortuitous opportunity to stand in the evening light and watch bats catch insects as the sun headed NW pulling its last light away from the yarrow and wood roses and knowing I would go to sleep and wake up without the aid of electricity and all its devices; the time tellers, and the time stealers. Always the philosopher I asked myself why is it time expands when you’re camping and contracts when you’re back home, and how could I change that when I get back home?  How could I foster the perceptions required in order to be in continual timelessness? The sweet sounds of crickets ended at twilight and picked back up again, some six hours later. The Labs, like CBP are both located in the neighborhood of the 47th latitude and now that the northern temperate days are inching towards summer solstice the nights are considerably shorter.

The following morning it would be time to test the new Jetboil to make coffee, and in case I was groggy, I’d brought a thermos of black coffee to hold me over until I got reacquainted with the simple steps it took to boil water in under 120 seconds. I still have the original Jetboil my mountaineering brother gave me as a gift – so original – the Jetboil Design was under ‘patent pending’ status. I’d forgotten all about the camping equipment I actually possessed and in digging for it and through it, felt like I was meeting an old dear friend again. We didn’t need the tent but did put to use the two ridge rests, sleeping bags, backpacks and a few other camping-relevant items. We also didn’t need to talk about the logistics – extensive camping experience in each of our lives meant – it all came together in a really easy way.

What a joy it was to stretch and breath with a few yoga and tai chi movements while my eyes discovered a salsify here and equisetum there; the whole visual feast of the living forest as a backdrop. No better way to get the kinks out from the first night’s sleep on a RMH bench.

Our hosts had invited us to the schmoozeroo during the peasant PDC and had graciously said “go wander wherever you want” and that is exactly what we did all day Thursday. We wandered.

I wondered why it is I don’t wander more often on my own property.

For three days I reversed the old aqium and repeated it like this; Don’t just do something – stand there!!

I also wondered why we end up using so many dishes and culinary tools at home when it’s obvious here that one cooking pot and a few utensils will do. Humans seem to drift towards complexity every chance they get.  I remember having to damn near memorize Escoffier’s book, codifying sauces, in order to pass my culinary exams, so I guess I can blame the French for that situation.

Exuberance & necessity give birth to creative expressions in all cultures throughout time. What happens when the ‘perceived’ necessity runs roughshod over exuberance – even when there’s no need for the object? What happens when natural exuberance and gratitude get replaced by novelty seeking? I think, as a society, we’re there. The two accomplices this time are Mr. FF (the most concentrated wack of energy this side of the Universe) and his helper Mr. Monkey Mind (the dopamine reward center of the brain in response to unexpected novelty).

Here; I’ll give you an example in my own life. Gee whiz this camping by the tipi is wonderful…look at the rustic tree stumps and wooden table for sitting and fire side cooking…vs. shit look at that weathered deck at our house…something must be done! The mind wants more. The mind is never satisfied. Here? Rustic cut logs are good, but at home the rustic wood deck isn’t good enough…it can always be better…improved…a better color.

Oh man.

I think Nietzsche nailed it and I’ll paraphrase: there are two times in a man’s life when he is unhappy; when he doesn’t get what he wants, and when he does.

Betcha any amount of money if I stayed here long enough I’d start bitching about the walk to the showers. It wouldn’t take most of us very long before the mental-want list kicked in and started listing ways to improve things, and of course, find more things, to then improve.  There’s nothing wrong with utilizing the advanced monkey mind to innovate in order to improve our chances for survival – but in combination with FF, the thirst to improve standards of living back in the 1800’s morphed into complexity during the 1900’s and now rests in technological and societal abstraction, both having left the fundamental workings of Nature and any concept of ‘enough’ behind in the trash bin. The now deadly combination of FF input (energy per capita) and the chase for dopamine novelty hits has positioned us in the western world for a very large fall visa vi falling inputs and contracting energy per capita and a whole host of predicaments to go with that situation. Problems can be solved, predicaments cannot.

Speaking of money, it helps to gain some clarity when discussing that topic to have a clear understanding of which portion of the economic triad money belongs to; it occupies the tertiary position – not the primary position many of us have come to know been indoctrinated to believe. If you have any confusion about the place $ holds on a finite planet governed by the laws of Entropy, John M. Greer will help you sort this out and find a new path to side-step the upcoming eventualities of reality.




Meanwhile back at the labs…

We wandered through the woods, Dances with Pigs meadow, the clay pits, Ant Village and met up with C.E. who, as consummate host took the time to show us the work of Kyle and Evan https://permies.com/t/1000/45960/permaculture-projects/evan-ant-village-log

After that it was time to head back to camp to think about and discuss what we had seen. The following day we would spend more time with Paul discussing what’s what, visiting the two beautiful large wofatis, visiting with Erica and Ernie & the peasant PDC students, and our walk with Cara hunting morels.