Almost a week ago my wife saw a mouse. She screamed. When I came in the living room, she was was nearly on the table. Ah, cliche.
“That’s it,” she said. “We’re getting a cat.”
Well I wasn’t ready for that. We needed to be sure we got a good one. It wasn’t in the budget. So I bought a couple mouse traps and had taken three mice by the next day. Then all was quiet for a while…
Not a week later she picked a beautiful short-haired tabby cat from the rescue. $50 down with a free bag of food. She was sweet, well mannered, attractive, cleaned herself and liked to be pet. The house seemed lonely and after long discussion, we took her home and called her “Winter.”
In Episode 50 of Paul Wheatons podcasts, Toby Hemenway stressed that an animal solution is usually another animal. Even vegans can include animals into a permaculture design without using them for food.
This morning we were pleased to see Winter diligent at her task. She saw this mouse herself and caught it several times, but didn’t finish it off before it ran away. I have plans to help teach her to complete the task (I plan to catch one live and set it in a plastic tub like a gladiator arena for her to chase until she sees it through.)
It also helps that my wife has “mouse-proofed” our kitchen, storing everything in plastic or glass containers with lids.
We’ve starting learning how to make our own cat food from locally caught trout, venison and grains grown on property in time. I hope that will help food costs. Like the first cat we owned from the rescue, unfortunately, she developed an upper respiratory tract infection shortly after arrival, which we believe came from the vaccinations.
She’s a sweetheart, and we’re glad to have her on the homestead.
One reason we chose this property, as opposed to some alternatives (like buying bare land or purchasing a yurt from Shelter Designs in Missoula), was due to something Bob Theis (legendary green architect who trained with Bill Mollison) said in Episode 1333 and Episode 1352 of the Permaculture Podcast. He said something like this:
“The best thing young people can do is to buy one of these old stick-built homes from the mid 1900’s and renovate it using green methods.”
So we did. In fact, I called Bob Theis personally to ask him about this decision. He approved and encouraged me, despite lacking construction skills. He offered to be consulted later for his hourly rate, which we believe will be a good investment in time.
Our house is 1600 sq. ft.; a three bedroom stick-built home in need of some love. Half of it had been recently remodeled and the other half was in good working order with a good layout, except for one major issue: the crawlspace was soaking wet. We knew this upon the inspection and took it as something we needed to fix right away upon moving in. We didn’t need to consult Bob for this.
Enter the crawlspace:
What a mess. There were decades of discarded pipe, projects, an entire discarded septic line, ripped vapor barrier plastic and rotting insulation over clay almost as wet as mud in some places. I descended three times, for a total of five or six hours cleaning it out. It reminded me of the hidden spaces in some people’s lives—neglected, overlooked, and a potential disaster to the entire house, hauling out decades of garbage. Looking at all the pipework down there got me thinking about simpler ways to do plumbing, like going grey-water style!
Next comes stapling new vapor-barrier to the ground and fixing a few areas of insulation. Part two of this project involves the French Drain Project outside, a mighty task for a humble gardener wannabe.
We made it.
Our new homestead, on six acres. A dream come true.
We hope to use this property as a permaculture experiment, a design site. We are learning as we go, and this is how we can share. Please follow us!
What is permaculture? It is growing your own food; sustainable living; stewardship of the land; a design science; and philosophy of living; and a lot more. It’s about interrelationships in the landscape; a way of living; low input with high yield systems; and a better way for humans to co-inhabit nature in symbiosis (a mutually beneficial relationship). It is closely related to the field of agro-forestry, in which perennial, living food-forest systems replace traditional agriculture and all its negative impacts through soil depletion, landscape deprivation, chemical malfeasance and subsidized yields (especially over time). Permanent + Agriculture = Permaculture.
Let me make one note. Paul Wheaton (permies.com) mentions in podcast 002 that people who have not formally taken a PDC (Permaculture Design Course) should not use the word Permaculture. We’re going to do that anyways. We hope the community will forgive us, as we’re growing into this. We want to share our journey along the way.
Yes, I do intend to take a PDC as soon as possible. I’ve also listened to hundreds of hours of Permaculture podcasts and am reading Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual (a stout, nearly 600 page textbook sometimes considered the functional equivalent of a PDC, minus field time). Take that as recompense, please.
Another project started in 2015. From the book Gaia’s Garden, when a family member asked for help in designing a “permaculture garden.”
Visit Permies.com: Toby Hemenway’s Bombproof Sheetmulch