You’re just home from your Permaculture Design Certificate class with ideas swirling in your head, excitement in your stomach, and hands ready to start something. Light bulbs! Epiphanies! Insights! Now what? What is the first thing you should do? The first thing I did was to decide to quit my job, sell my house and lose weight. Seriously? Yes. Here’s how I started it all.
Of course, I didn’t actually DO any of those things right away – I just DECIDED to do them. While I am deeply passionate about making Permaculture Design my life’s work, I have a family and other obligations for which I am responsible – remember the prime directive:
“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.” Bill Mollison.
So how did this all come about? I did the following things mostly in this order:
- Observed the current state of my life, including self, family, property, job.
- Thought about what I wanted each of those to be like in five years,
- Considered various changes to each of these that would move me toward that vision,
- Selected the next action needed for each desired change, even if it wouldn’t be easy.
- Start each next action and persevere.
First, I stopped thinking so hard, giving me a sense of what was good and what wasn’t. I realized my health, while not bad, could be improved. I realized I wasn’t playing music enough, a thing that gives me and my family great joy. I realized I wasn’t particularly good at nor did I like my job – I liked my team and believed strongly in their mission, but needed to play a different role. I realized my family was struggling with geographic isolation from family and good friends.
Finally, I was thunderstruck by the realization that I had moved into a dreaded Home Owners Association – one of the great banes of Permaculture designers. And, the property was too small and was hemmed in front, sides, and back with subdivision, apartment complexes, and road and property construction everywhere! [Now a real Permaculture Designer would say, “there are no small properties, only small designers!” or maybe “more constraints makes better designs!”]
Next, I spent time thinking about what I wanted at some definite point in the future. Five years seemed a good point, giving enough time to do some complicated things, but also far enough out that I didn’t need to have every task mapped out, just the big picture. My vision was that my property provides half my groceries and energy needs, that I spend a very small amount of time each week maintaining that system, leaving me much time to be with Maria, Zane, family and friends, and to play music regularly, and to write software valued by a world-wide community, and to help grow the community and practice of permaculture design. [Hint: that doesn’t mention having a job ;-)]
Third, I brainstormed about ways to achieve my vision, one part at a time. The first big part I considered was my job. Among the options were: outright quitting; looking for another job nearer where I wanted to move (which points out how these systems have internal dependancies), or take a slower tack by stepping down to a role with lesser responsibilities within my current company. The latter seemed the most responsible way to eventually retire within the time frame. So at my next meeting with my boss, I asked him to begin the search for a replacement, that I would provide a graceful transition, and then take on other tasks within the group. I will forever be grateful that he said, Yes.
There are a lot of things I need to improve about myself, but I wanted something fairly easy that would be a fairly certain success. I wanted to eat better, and my PDC (plus various other readings) had pointed out the poor quality of the food in the average American’s diet. I had been reading about the Paleo diet, so I started the dairy and fermented beverages version around January 1st. I don’t often get on a scale, and for about six months I didn’t. But I eventually started feeling a change and got on the scale sometime in July – I had lost twenty-five pounds. I stopped cold turkey the soda pop, breakfast cereal, and most breads. I still enjoyed a baked sweet once in a while – in fact I baked and enjoyed a few awesome cherry and peach pies during that time!
Concerning the property, I (er, we) had a few options on this, too: stay and ignore or fight the HOA and local zoning board; buy old farm property, buy mountain/forest property, buy a medium-sized property in or very near a small town. Since this involved Maria, she and I had long talks about priorities and towns and drive times, and …, well you get the idea. To this, however, we had a unique twist: we needed a school district that would be good for our son, Zane, who is Autistic. [There is a long story about this, and maybe someday I’ll tell y’all. Suffice to say that we have gotten quite good at the “small and slow changes” Permaculture principle because of Zane’s aversion to change and transitions.]
Fortunately, we have a large network of friends in our search area and several have personal experience with Autism and the school districts in the area. That dramatically reduced the options, but unfortunately eliminated many property types that I originally found desirable. That is how we found a beautiful property about ten minutes outside of a small town and, ironically, about fifteen minutes from where we lived fifteen years ago. (Almost makes me feel guilty when humming along with “The Edge” by The Formidable Vegetable Sound System :-)
I haven’t made much progress on the music, yet, but that will change after the move this month. However, I have been working on preliminary prototypes of permaculture design software targeted for people like me with a freshly minted PDC, some systems thinking skills, but little knowledge of plants and soil. Stay tuned!
Getting started after graduating your PDC is the same as getting anything started. Remember, five steps to getting started are: Observe, Imagine the Goal, Consider many Options, Select the Best from each set of Options, and Start One and Persevere.
[reminder]How did you get started after completing your PDC? What steps did you take?[/reminder]
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