the state of the jungle

Trying to set up the 2018 permaculture design course.

It seems that the more stuff I create, the more people want of me.

At the same time, the more stuff I create and post to the mighty
internet, the more people find and then they need to give me their

I am getting to the point where just reading the feedback is bigger
than a full time job. I am on the phone with cassie right now and I
ask her “how many hours a day do you spend JUST READING the stuff that
is sent to you?” About three hours. I think that the stuff that I
read that cassie doesn’t read is also about three hours. 6 hours a
day, 7 days a week: 42 hours. So, yeah, a full time job. Just
reading, without replying.

So, to meet my humor needs, I share with you the grand list of what
most of this stuff is like.

1) You need to say my message

1b) I know you don’t agree with my message, so we need to have a six hour chat so you can stop being so stupid. And, no, I won’t listen to your stupidity.

2) You need to make your videos/podcasts/articles this other way. Why not? Explain it to me in detail.

3) I need you to promote my stuff (and no, I’m not going to promote your stuff – that would be silly)

4) I have promoted your stuff on my teeny, tiny, pissant site. I now demand that you take the time to think of a way to promote my stuff in a big way (and no, I don’t want to create an account on your stupid forums)

5) Answer my question in email that has already been answered in the forums.

6) When bad guys hassle you, why don’t you just do what the bad guys want and get on with your life? Explain it to me in detail.

7) You need to run your forums my way (and no, I’ve never run forums before). Why not? Explain it to me in detail.

8) I want to buy the web site for dirt cheap. Hello? Hello? Why won’t you respond to my emails? That’s just rude. You need to be professional.

9) How much advertising can I get on for $50. Hello? Hello? Why won’t you respond to my emails? That’s just rude. You need to be professional.

10) I have listened to all of your podcasts and watched all of your videos. I have read many of your posts at I want to get into a six hour email discussion with you about how I question your values and you need to be held accountable to me.

11) I found your video submission to this other site to be really good. But since you used your real name on the site, and you used your real name on the video I cleverly deduced that the site poster and the video maker are the same person. Therefore, I think it is wrong of you to do that. And I demand that you stop. No, I am not the site owner. Hello? Are you going to stop? Hello? Hello? Don’t you dare ignore me!

12) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in North Carolina. Have you ever been to North Carolina?

13) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in South Carolina. Have you ever been to South Carolina?

14) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in Utah. Have you ever been to Utah?

15) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in Michigan. Have you ever been to Michigan?

16) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in Mexico. Have you ever been to Mexico?

17) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in Costa Rica. Have you ever been to Costa Rica?

18) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in England. Have you ever been to England?

19) Hi! I noticed that you live in Montana. That is beautiful country. I have a cousin that lives in Bozeman. I live in Southern California. Have you ever been to Southern California?

20 … 29) Very similar to 12 through 19

30) ________ sent you a private message on some system that will require you to log in and jump through weird hoops to track down the private message. The private message will probably be long, rambling, demanding, and make no sense. You will be tempted to reply, but that would just lead to another email like this one.

31) I forgot my password on and the email address was a throwaway email from a company/ISP that I’m no longer affiliated with. Could you please give me an hour to try to figure out if I’m a bad guy or if I am legit?

32) Somebody on permies said something I don’t agree with and I demand that you delete it and ban them immediately. But never tell anyone I said this. Why not? Explain it to me in detail.

33) Can you attend our event that would take four days of your driving at your expense? There might be as many as eight people there. Why not? Explain it to me in detail.

34) Thanks for taking six hours to teach me how I can help save you one hour of time. It turns out that I can’t actually do that one hour thing. Sorry.

35) There is one point in this video that I don’t like. I demand that you change the video and re-upload it. And, no, i will not upload my own video. Why will you not do as I demand? Explain it to me in detail.

36) Hi, we’re going to have some lame event where six people might attend. We think it would be a great opportunity for you to give us $500. We’ll mention you at the event and mention you in tiny print on our lame posters. Why not? Explain it to me in detail.

37) I need you to explain to me, step by step, how to build a rocket mass heater. In email. And after you have spent four hours, I will tell you that that won’t work because of some crazy thing.

38) I see that you posted something an hour ago, therefore you are currently on-line. But you have not posted to the thing I want to you post to. I now need you to explain, to my satisfaction, why you posted to that thing and not to my thing.

39) Hi, this is youtube, we noticed that this one video had gotten a lot of views. We need you to provide proof that everything in the video was created by you or that you have written permission that satisfies our legal department. Make yourself comfortable, this is gonna take a while.

40) I know we set a date and time for you to spend a day driving here to video this stuff, and this is sorta the last second, but I have to cancel because I think my hair will look too messy.

41) I know you drove a long ways to get here and I told you I would be glad to do this, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the whole youtube thing. So I’m just gonna say “no”.

42) Now that you have taken all of that video, how much are you going to pay me? I won’t settle for a penny less than a thousand dollars.

43) Remember when you drove all the way out here and took that video a week ago? I need to ask that you not use that.

44) Now that we’re done taking video, I need you to make sure that you run your video by me before you put it on youtube. Frankly, I don’t trust you.

45) I remember when your web site was small and you asked me to do stuff with you. I would have nothing to do with you then. But now that your web site is big, I like the idea that we have a relationship. And by “relationship” i mean that you do what i say.

46) You made a video of me four days ago. When will that video be up? Why not tomorrow? Explain it to me in detail.

47) Can you come speak at our far, far away event? I will promise that 100 people will be there, but when you arrive there will be only four people and an apology from me that I forgot to announce the event.

48) I refuse to use a site that uses any form of censorship, but i still insist that you promote my stuff because your censored site has mysteriously become a thousand times bigger than my free-for-all-spam-and-hate-infested site. Now that you are so big, you have an obligation to do as I say and be my personal bitch.

49) Can you drive five hours to give me four hours of advice that I will ignore? I’ll give you a cup of coffee in return. Why not? Explain it to me in detail.

50) How dare you say these things! You are misleading people! You are destroying the fabric of our society!

51) Paul, I love ya, and all the stuff you do, but you gotta change this one thing you do to be more like me. And if you make this change, I will give you empty promises of helping you do things. Of course, if you make this change, i will lose all respect for you and do nothing.

52) Your efforts to block spam from have somehow blocked me. I am not a spammer. Take down your spam block so I can get in. (exchange 20 emails in an attempt to resolve this – and in the end still not be sure if they really are a spammer or not)

52b) WTF? You banned me? What did I ever do to you? (uh, apparently you use the same IP as a spammer)

53) Please give me detailed instructions on how to make a permaculture site like yours, but, you know, without you.

54) I thought I would forward this to you: “I refuse to have anything to do with Paul Wheaton. He’s a money grubber, a censor and doesn’t even abide the permaculture ethics. All of the real permaculture community avoids him.” —- you might want to consider what they are saying. If you are not going to change, can you please explain to me, in detail, why?

Some from Cassie:

55) I find it extremely offensive that you don’t fear words. Because of that, I spent
my entire afternoon carefully crafting this email with no curse words to show you that people can be just as rude and judgmental without using the F word.

56) I’ve never used a computer before today. Can you post my three sentence idea onto your forums? No? Well, then will you spend 2 hours virtually holding my hand while walking me through the steps on how to sign up and make a post?

57) THIS FREE THING YOU GAVE US ISN’T WORKING YOU FUCKING DOUCHEBAGS. Three minutes later.. Oh, I was clicking the wrong thing. Never mind.

58) I know you specifically said the free thing you’re giving away would only be available for 24 hours and I know you told us in advance that this was the case… but I was cutting my toenails so I missed it. Can you personally send it to me?

59) Here’s a 3-4 paragraph angry rant about the government that’s sure to brighten your day. Enjoy.

60) I’m gonna be in missoula for one day. That day is tomorrow. I’m sure you have absolutely no other plans so I’d love to visit Wheaton Labs and have you give me a personal tour. Yes, the full one that takes four hours.

61) I’m a member of My friend’s brother’s half-cousin’s dog just started a crowd-funding campaign. Will you share it to your massive audience even though the dog has never heard of you and doesn’t give a shit about permies?

62) Can you read my 5 page blog and send me a dissertation-length response? If you don’t like it though, fuck off.


I want to thank Burra, Cassie, Adrien, Devaka and all the staff at for doing all the hard work that makes the whole site seem
so simple and pleasant.

I want to thank every person that clicks on “report to moderator” for
icky stuff on the forum. That is a massive time saver to me.

I want to thank every person that has answered a question
with the words “paul would say …” and they are spot on. That is a big

I want to thank every person that has lots of good posts high on
interesting content and has never posted something that I ended up
deleting. You are setting the pace and tone for this site and making
zero work for me. Thanks!

I want to thank the folks that send me purely words of encouragement.
I think I have heard from about 20 people that have said “In my book,
you are the coolest person in the world.” and from about five that
have said “You are my sepp holzer.” One time on reddit I saw a comment
that said “Wow, Paul Wheaton posts here?” and then somebody commented
on that to say “yeah, is reddit awesome or what?” — that was a big
upper for me.

I want to thank the publishers and movie producers that value my
opinion so much that they send me free stuff.

I want to thank all of the people who say they will do something and
then do it. Invisibly. Or, they do cool things for me and never utter
a peep. I only find out about that coolness by accident much later.
That is crazy awesome.

I want to thank all of the people that stand up for me on the internet.

I want to thank Jocelyn Campbell for the hundreds of little things she
does for me every week.

I want to thank all of the people that think I am fucking awesome
exactly the way I am.

Discuss this more in a thread dedicated to this blog

Posted in Uncategorized

Swords, Iron, Missoula Blood and Pie

First, I must apologize as this is a bit of sour grapes. Airing some
dirty laundry.

At the same time, I’m told I am one of missoula’s most popular
bloggers, so maybe this squeaky wheel will squeak a bit louder and,
thus, be more likely to get some grease.

Further, I have some important health information dominantly for older guys.

Since a part of this story involves computers, I wish to point out my
history with computers. In 1991 I created the “Missoula Area
Conferencing System” – sorta like the internet before the internet
became popular. In 1993 I created what became the world’s most popular
software for accessing on-line services before the internet became
popular. My career took me to working on all sorts of massive
software projects, including being an architect for the ground systems
for the space craft that takes pictures for google earth. And, to
this day, I manage some big internet forums.

So I’ve been on the programming end of a lot of big systems.

This story begins with me sitting on my butt, attempting to “work
less”. I am watching a BBC show via the internet called “Doc Martin.”
In this episode, a woman falls over from exhaustion. Doc Martin
says she has an excess of iron and begins draining her blood. Ta da!
Justification for the old leeches practice!

I’m supposed to be trying to “work less” because I’ve been feeling a
bit exhausted. And I think back to many months earlier when my doctor
did some blood tests and one of the things mentioned in passing was
that my iron level was high.

I fired up “Doctor Google” and did a bit of research. Yup – there’s
the “exhaustion” stuff for iron. And a few other things that seem to
apply. And a note that this is quite common in older guys (maybe we
are evolved to have more sword fights than we actually have nowadays).

So I get the idea of just donating blood to see if I then feel
supercharged. I have donated a lot of blood in the past. I remember
getting a “two gallon pin” at some point. I stopped donating because
the missoula red cross said there was something wrong and I should go
see a doctor. Sunnufabitch! I’m dying! I went and paid the doctor,
paid for the tests, paid the doctor to tell me the test results and
the result was “you’re fine – keep giving blood”. But I just never
got around to going back. Maybe I was pissy about the false alarm,
but I think it was just that my life got filled with other things and
I forgot about it all.

The blood donation place is no longer on Higgins, but out on Reserve.
Google maps shows they have three locations – it turns out there is
only one. When I did not yet know there was only one, I tried to call
them to say “which of these is correct?” but I ended up going through
the big maze of “press 1 to donate money to the red cross.” So I just
had to drive around and see. All three addresses were on Reserve, one
near the interstate, one near Brooks and one near Mullan. Just north
of Mullan is the correct spot.

So i get there and answer all of the questions:

Have you ever paid to have sex?

Have you ever been paid to have sex?

Have you ever had sex in Haiti?

Have you ever had sex in a box?

Have you ever had sex with a fox?

Have you ever had sex with somebody called “Sam-I-Am”?

Did “Sam-I-am” ever pay to have sex?

You don’t get a copy of the questions when you leave, so I am trying
to remember the questions. Maybe they don’t want you to take the
questions, because you might share the questions with other people and
that could lead to cheating on the test.

I know why they do this, but I think there are much better ways to get
this task done. But, of course, the people that work here don’t want
to talk about how to improve their system – they just work with the
system they have.

So I answer all the questions and hand the results over to the nice
woman. I kinda feel like we now have a pretty intimate relationship.
I mean, I shared some seriously private stuff here. In fact, I’m
kinda feeling a bit down that at no point in time did any woman ever
pay me for sex. That would have been pretty cool. I used to be in
pretty great shape. Well, maybe “pretty good shape” or “not horrible
shape.” Maybe “okay shape.” Maybe “pretty okay shape”?

There was one time when I was in my 20s, a woman asked me out on a
date. She paid for all sorts of fun things that night. She then
wanted to buy me some hooch. Since I don’t like the taste of hooch,
she ended up buying me hoochy stuff with umbrellas in it that didn’t
taste much like hooch. Once I was a bit wobbly, she revealed her
devious plan to take me home and have sex. Yay! Unfortunately, she
did not calculate in my lack of experience with hooch. So I think the
night ended with me asleep and her being disappointed.

But the Red Cross blood donation center has no question for that. Nor
does it have an essay section under “Have you ever been paid to have
sex?” Or even “On a scaled of zero to ten: have you ever been paid
to have sex?” I would have marked the scale at somewhere around “1.3”
because there once was a woman who parted with money in a feeble
attempt to have sex with me and then the story gets a bit blurry from

Back to the Missoula Red Cross blood donation place and I am handing a
nice woman a document of my embarrassingly boring sex life. I feel a
little like it is only fair that I get to see how she answers the same
questions, but, of course, that is not how things are set up. So I
am sharing my intimate details *AND* the engineer in me has a design
of how this can all be done better, but I know that nobody there

Then I go into a little room with the woman. She types my name into
the computer and …. look, they still have records about me from
before. So she updates my address and then tells me that I am not
allowed to donate blood.


“I don’t know. There is a flag on your account that your are not
allowed to donate blood.”

“But that was from … something like 20 years ago. They sent me a
letter, I went to the doctor and the doctor said it was an error on
the part of red cross.”

“There is nothing I can do. But here is a phone number you can call
and talk to the red cross about it.”

“But I’m currently at the red cross. Can’t I talk to you about it?”

I kinda got the impression that it had something to do with my
privacy. Which seemed a bit silly after my questionnaire about my sex
life. I do like the idea that if somebody has something like AIDS or
Hep-C then it can be a bit more private – talk to somebody in new york
city rather than in missoula. But I know what it is and it is stupid,
so I’m thinking “I hereby give my permission to look at the ‘why’ and
solve this and move on.”

No amount of whining on my part would change anything. So I left.

Calling the number resulted in 45 minutes of talking to somebody where
english was not yet a second language. My name had to be respelled
about seven times. I was told that it was 1994 when I last donated
blood and the thing they told me about was something they don’t even
test for anymore. She said the computer would be updated and I would
also be sent a letter just in case the computer in Missoula did not
show the change. (Again, my brain is thinking about a better system –
but I still need to remain quiet).

A month passes and no letter shows up. I go back to the Missoula Red
Cross and am required to answer all of the questions again. Again I
feel a little lame that there have been no new developments in the
past month about getting paid for sex. Of course I know that that
would be a big red flag for them, so it is probably for the best.

Off to the little room again …

Apparently I am still in “reject” mode. But wait! I thought ahead
and I brought a brand new note from my doctor that says my blood is
excellent for donating. They don’t care. Again they tell me to call
the number and speak to red cross. I remind them that I am currently
sitting in red cross. I then suggest that since red cross has an
internal problem, that maybe it would be handy for a person at this
office calls the other office and get things sorted out. “Nope. Go

I suppose I can call the number again. It was 45 minutes last time,
so I am guessing it might be two hours this time. Ug. Why should it
be so hard to donate blood?

I go to google and look for blood donation stuff that is not the red cross.

I end up going to spokane. Oooooo … fancy. Way better snacks.

I don’t like Spokane in general. It reminds me of all the things I
find icky in a city. I love Missoula so much. I could fill a book or
two on how Missoula is awesome and Spokane is lame.

On the other hand, I am being overwhelmed with curiosity: if I donate
blood, will my productivity go up? Will I be so consumed with
productive energy that I just don’t have the time for an internet show
like “Doc Martin”?

Driving so far for something so trivial seems like a horrible waste of
fuel and time. But powerful curiosity combined with a prius overcome
these concerns.

The spokane place has the same questions, only the questions are asked
on a device with a camera on it. I did some software development in
2003 (or so) for this type of device. The idea is that the camera
records you filling out the form. If a lawsuit comes up, they can
play back the video complete with what selections were being made on
the device. So if you die and your family says “he didn’t know the
risk, so you owe us a million dollars.” then the video can be shown
where the person is reading the part that says “do you you know that
if we hack at your innards with sharp things, one of the possible side
effects is ‘ death ‘ – right?” And the options include “yes”, “tell me
more” or “I would like to talk to somebody about this first.” I was
not allowed to add a button that said “Screw all this, I’m going
home.” or “If I die, my family will come and get revenge on all of

So I’m being recorded as I am again presented with the question about
whether anybody has ever paid me for sex. I kinda wonder if I check
“yes” if the contraption will then ask questions like “how much?” or
“what sort of stuff did you have to do?” or “We have somebody here in
the office that is also interested in paying for sex.”

Over all, the blood donation experience in Spokane was really nice.
The missoula place seemed kinda …. cheap …. compared to the
spokane facility. The spokane facility had a lot of beauty and
professional looking stuff. I remember a huge fish tank, cushy
chairs, a massive snack table with super fancy snacks and drinks. And
they gave me a tshirt. They even had my size (freaky big). The
missoula place had little plastic chairs, and looked like it was as
cheap as legally allowed.

I guess in the Spokane facility I kinda felt like the blood donor is
somewhat revered as something that smells a bit heroic. Maybe
honored, or respected. In Missoula it felt like even if I made it
past the little room, I would be treated like a bag of meat to be
reluctantly processed.

Maybe in Spokane they are super desperate for blood and they have to
roll out the red carpet for donors, or they don’t get enough. And
(maybe) in Missoula, they get so many people wanting to donate blood,
that processing these people is something of a hassle. Maybe the
people in the Missoula office are given instructions to discourage
people from donating, because there’s just too many people wanting to
donate. This line of thinking makes sense to me because I think
Missoulians are so awesome that they would go donate blood just to
have an excuse to visit and bond while doing a good deed.

(Side note: whenever I need a dose of missoula awesome, I like to go
to the big Ace Hardware at Trempers. I stand and look confused at
something and in two minutes, somebody will offer help – and that
person doesn’t even work there. THAT is my favorite example of what
makes missoula freaky awesome.)

And now for the medical results: Immediate, large and positive. I
think my overall productivity went up 40% after just one donation. Of
course, this is purely anecdotal compounded with guesswork, but I do
think that anybody feeling exhausted could give it a try. Before
taking your blood, they do test it to make sure you are not anemic

It is now many months later and the Red Cross still has not sent the
letter they promised, and I don’t want to go in to get rejected again.
In the meantime, the place in spokane has called me to say that they
found my blood to be delicious (it is October, so this is a funny
thing to say in October) and they would be happy to have me come by
again. They have all new tshirts, more snacks, lots of locations,
plus a blood mobile. They seemed genuinely interested to any ideas I
might have to interest me in coming over again. Their blood mobile
does come as close as Wallace, Idaho and Kellogg, Idaho.

Related note: I get contacted from time to time by non-profit
organizations that want things that I have. It seems that their
general expectation is that I will donate my time and resources to
them because they are a non-profit. For a non-profit like “Missoula Freecycles“, I am glad to do it, nobody over there is getting rich and
when I talk to them, they do massive awesome stuff on a shoestring
budget. For most other non-profits, I get the impression that I am
being contacted by somebody that is getting paid a professional wage.
I just feel that the person that is earning that professional wage is
making more money than me – and so that person is profiting while
waving the “non-profit” flag. So I kinda feel like the non-profit
should pay for stuff just like anybody else. Unless, of course, they
are super awesome like Missoula Freecycles. So, just now I googled
“how much does the Red Cross CEO get paid?” Answer: More than a
million dollars per year. And there are other people working for the
Red Cross that get paid more than a half million per year. I’m all
for people getting a professional wage while working for a non-profit
– I just feel weird that they call it a “non-profit” while there are
people profiting, and then the people profiting are asking me to give
them stuff for free. But I get the impression that I might be the
only person in the world that feels this odd “profit with non profit”

One other weird perspective: I kinda think that the Red Cross blood
thing is sorta like eating at some lame chain restaurant, and the one
in Spokane is a bit more like eating at a really nice local

I feel like Missoula is where all the awesome stuff is, and spokane is
where all the sub standard stuff is. So I feel like there was some
sort of mixup in blood donation stuff.

I’ve donated more than two gallons of blood to the missoula red cross,
but their own internal broken-ness has dictated they don’t want my
blood anymore.

I’ve donated one pint to the inland northwest blood center in spokane,
and they were, in comparison, freaky awesome.

I wish there was something as nice as the INBC in Missoula.

I also wish for a lovely piece of pie, and to win the lottery. And I
wish for more wishes.

Discuss this more in a thread dedicated to this blog

Posted in Uncategorized

jumping spiders and daddy longlegs in your house keep away brown recluse

This video is of a jumping spider that found its way onto my monitor.

I was once bit by a brown recluse spider. I had a big welt on my arm for six months. In those days I killed all spiders and had to kill lots of flies and other bugs too. Now, I leave all jumping spiders and daddy long legs. They are safe to me, and they eat all the flies and bugs which makes me have nearly zero brown recluse food. So, a greatly reduced probability of brown recluse spiders.



Posted in Uncategorized

struggles, hurdles, challenges and observation

the tree

When I was about 12 I read a book where there was a father and son living in a simple house with a simple yard and a big tree behind the house. Somehow things were such that the father could spend all day, every day under that tree. He would read books. He would visit with friends that came by. He would tinker with things and maybe dabble in a bit of art. And napping seemed to be a part too. The son would go to school. The son told the father that he was embarrassed that the father didn’t work like the other fathers. So the father got a job and became miserable. The boy liked his father from before more than the working father, so he asked his father to go back to his old life. And they lived happily ever after.

The big tree, the books, the puttering … that is the part that I remember. I think about that quite a lot.

I suppose a few years ago I was at a point that I could do that. But I traveled another path. Maybe I can still get to that path, but it seems there are so many things I still want to do. Maybe, in a way, I am sorta doing it now. I am doing a bunch of things I want to do rather than having a workee-job. So it is a bit like the puttering part of the story.


But here is another part of the same story. Something that isn’t discussed in the story. Why is it that the main dad doesn’t have to work, but it would seem that all the other dads do have to work?

So we activate permaculture observation and see that there are people who “have to work” and we see people that seem to work in order to fill their days. We also see people that are retired and we see people that don’t need to work at all even though they are not of retirement age.

I’m not yet of retirement age, but I suppose I could say that I am retired …. from being a software engineer. Sorta.

We could explore the fictitious path of the characters in this story or other stories. Another possibility is to observe my path and compare it to the paths of those that are still working. Or those that feel that they “have to work”.

a challenge

On January 2, 1989 I started a new job as a software engineer. I was handed a huge gob of code and told to make this program work within four weeks. There is no slip in this date, because the company has a million dollar bond on the project. If the project is not done on time, then the bond must be paid. The program was written in C – a language I had never used. The program had been getting worked on for 18 months. Over the first week, I learned that seven other engineers had, one by one, worked on the project and quit the company. What I was handed wouldn’t even compile. I looked through the code and I could see the many different styles of writing. I learned C and got the program done on time by working very long hours. I ended up pretty much rewriting the whole thing. Today I calculated that I earned $3.78 per hour on that project.

I built a reputation within that company for being a freaky awesome developer despite my youth. I added excellent resume material. I learned a lot about the C programming language, which then became the language I worked in for the next 11 years. I got paid while building my skills, which I would later leverage into a lot of money.

So I did not benefit directly. But I did benefit indirectly.

I can only speculate about the seven developers that came before me. Through the decades of my career I met lots of engineers, so, in hindsight, speculation is pretty easy.

Some things we know for sure: They had 18 months. I had four weeks. They all knew C already. I didn’t.

Now for the speculation: They had oodles of meetings. For each concern or problem they had more meetings. When an obvious solution did not present itself, they would need to ask others, do research, etc. They worked no more than 40 hours per week and when they went home they did not refine their craft or build their knowledge – they …. relaxed. Maybe even at the foot of a tree.

Further speculation: they feel that their job is to show up and gently move software forward. Business needs are generally “unrealistic”. Basically, they want a job where they are paid a professional wage, but the part where you do the professional work is “unrealistic.” So they work to find a job where they can get maximum pay for least effort. And then they are baffled that other developers are earning ten times as much.

what does that make you?

Sometime around 1999 there was a software product out called “EJB”. What it does or how it works is not important. But it broke all software engineers down into two groups: “long hair developers and short hair developers.” A “short hair developer” worked 40 hours per week and was mediocre at best. A “long hair developer” worked 100+ hours per week … so many hours that they usually just slept at the office. These were the superstar programmers. The promise of EJB was that the long hair programmers developed the EJB engine and then if the short hair programmers wrote code to the EJB specs, the resulting program would have super powers.

The superstars would do epic shit and some would collect epic coin. The short hair programmers accomplished little things for little coin. One could argue that most of them led little gray lives in little gray houses. They would read books and articles. They would sometimes attend a conference or a training seminar. In their 60s they would humbly retire.

Taking a moment to forget about the tree and forget about the money. How does it feel to know that seven people tried and quit, but you were given the same project with more hurdles and you got it done? How do YOU feel based on YOUR standards? How do you feel when you’ve been put to the test and YOU found YOU to be a champion by YOUR standards?

A life champion. A superstar by your own standards. No one else needs to know. You know.

good luck comes from hard work

The company sold that software for years. Unmodified. I never touched it again. The company gave me no recognition. I was given more tasks. After about eight months I got a healthy raise. My work life was easier, despite my youth, because I had accomplished so much.

I had a lot of philosophies about programming that were contrary to the norm. So I started to flesh those out, on my own time, in C. And, later, in C++. I don’t think I would have learned C or C++ if it wasn’t for that job. But even more than that, I proved to myself that I had become relatively competent. I rapidly built a lot of software, both at work and at home. The quality and quantity grew exponentially. I racked up lists of stories like this. Most of them were of little value as resume fodder. They were mostly of value to me and some of my peers online.

As I made things and shared them, opportunities kept popping up. And my own ideas kept me busy which would lead to more and more notoriety/opportunities. In time I became something of an authority. The struggles I took on during that four weeks played an important part in rapidly expanding the new world in which I would become something awesome by my own standards.

struggles, hurdles, challenges

I suppose there is a certain level of comfort in following a normal path. Your income is predictable. Your retirement is predictable. You have your evenings and weekends to relax and enjoy life. Maybe a nice restaurant and/or a fun movie. Bowling. Rooting for the home team. Parades. Bars, parties, barbecues, video games, concerts …

And when presented with problems … the solution sought is for finding “normal” or “average” or “good enough”. Which, of course, is “good enough”. Sometimes the solution is to change your job, or maybe even your career. This path is fine. It works. You still get paid and life is … calm.

But if you take on a large problem and don’t just solve it, but create an EXCELLENT solution (maybe even the best ever), you build a great deal of knowledge and skill. You are now able to take on a larger problem. And then, by the time you are old, who are you by your standards? What have you done? What is your mark on the world?

So you take on bigger problems and bigger problems. Each preparing you for something bigger than you thought possible. Each solution so excellent that you are an authority on these problems (or you could be). This is not a life of “good enough” this is the life of FUCKING AWESOME! This is the life of being a superhero by your own standards! Do epic shit!

Permaculture, as a whole, has a lot more hurdles to overcome. Thousands?

Homesteading, in general, is going to be a long list of hurdles.

When it comes to rocket mass heater innovation there have been oodles of hurdles. I debate a lot with ernie and erica about this stuff. For big issues there have been things where they were right and there have been things where I was right. And there have been accidental discoveries too.

Without the challenges, you can never be fucking awesome!

And that is what I should have said yesterday.

Discuss this more in a thread dedicated to this blog

Posted in Uncategorized

junkpole fence: freaky cheap chicken/deer fence made from wood typically thrown away

We needed a permanent fence that would keep flighty chickens (layers) in and keep the deer and the wild turkeys out. We experimented with a few designs that all ended up being awful. And when we tried this design, the fence went up mighty fast and cheap.

The wood being used as the “filler” is from thickets that are already so packed, that the gub’mint pays people to cut it down in the name of “reducing fuel load” (forest fire danger). Normally 95% of these small poles will die and then get super dry and become a great spot to help a forest fire. What nearly everybody does around here is to make a big pile of this wood and set it on fire in winter when it won’t cause a forest fire.

But rather than needlessly burning this stuff, I like the idea of using it.

So here is the final product which I’ve decided to call “junkpole fence“:


Fenceposts where you expect. Three poles that will hold the junkpoles in place. The top and bottom poles are mounted to the posts and the middle pole is mounted to a few junkpoles.



This costs about $2 to $5 per hundred feet of fence. Once you have the materials gathered, it goes up pretty fast.

People were tempted to put the junkpoles in where the fat end alternates every other pole, but I think it is important to always keep the fat end down. This makes a strong barrier along the bottom to keep the chickens contained, and a “good enough” barrier at the top to keep flying chickens in and jumping deer out. Plus, it allows more light to pass down to the growies.

There is concern about rot along the bottom, but if rot does occur, then the poles will just slide further down as needed.

Only a few junkpoles are attached to the fence. The rest are loose-packed. They just slide right in mighty quick. This design makes for using just a few screws or nails (we used screws) – thus keeping the materials expense very low.

Gaps in the fence are easily mended. Sometimes some of the junkpoles want to gather up – so we put little spacer sticks in. Sometimes there is a curve in the bottom of the junkpole, so we put a few rocks in.

This is from Evan’s plot:


This is at basecamp where we have to use rockjacks because we cannot get a regular fencepost in the ground:


Our first attempt at a junkpole fence:


I think the junkpole fence design is similar to “stick fence“, “brushwood fence” or “twig fence”, but none of those seem to come close to what we did here. So a new name seemed justified.

Since this is a brand new thing, it is possible that as the years pass it will become a terrible idea. I hope to keep you all updated. I also hope that we will get more pictures in this thread – as it seems a lot of other people like this idea.

In comparison, we built some field fence too. It was running about $150 per hundred feet in materials. It did go up three or four times faster. Most of the time came from gathering the wood that would be used. But a lot of time went into going to the store to get the field fence material (plus, you could say there was some time that went into earning the money that paid for the field fence material). I also think that the aesthetic of the junkpole fence is much better.

Lastly, I have two more points to emphasize.

One is the idea of how you can save a few screws and make a stronger fence by toenailing the middle pole into the fence post. But I am reluctant to say this because less skilled people will then attach the middle pole straight to the post (without inset – to avoid the toenail).

So I made two more images. One showing the better way and one showing the “don’t do this” way.



Discuss this more in a thread dedicated to this blog

Posted in Uncategorized

Quest For Land: My Advice For Permies and Homesteaders Part 3 of 3


(Photo by Art Held)


While I was in Montana searching for land, my brain stumbled into this idea that I now call “rehusp” (or “re-husp”). In a feeble attempt to summarize: I want to grow the future of permaculture. Not just with my ideas, but with 20 different artisans in seed and soil. Each permie would have their own vision for what is “best” and as they demonstrate their vision and talk about how the other 19 are “wrong”, the cross pollination accelerates discovery.

This discovery came as I pitched an idea to a local tribe in an attempt to lease land from them. While it didn’t work out with them, the idea became clearer and bigger in my head.

Part of me remembered seven years ago with just $5000 and a residual income stream how I needed a few acres to do my thing. I paid a lot for that and didn’t get what I wanted. I also met other people that were looking for a space to build a cob home. They just needed to try. And they were willing to pay thousands of dollars just to have a space to try.

And I’ve met hundreds of people on their quest to find a place where they can do their permaculture thing. To get out of the rat race and stop being a wage slave. To build a magnificent gift to their future self. To someday pursue art, beauty, and delicious instead of pursuing the dollar to just barely pay the bills.

Yes, I have my own crazy stuff that I must do because my innards demand it. And my innards now demand that I do re-husp even more.

Crazy is Relative and Subjective

About 95% of the population looks crazy to me. I expect that nearly all of those people will look at me and think that I am crazy.Crazy is relative and subjective. Well, most “crazy” is relative and subjective.


Of the remaining 5%, I think they are not crazy. And I am comfortable with most of them thinking I am crazy.

This bit about “crazy” is the foundation for my next few points.

When trying to get a million dollar property, one idea that comes up is “if I go in on this with nine other people, then I only need to pay $100,000 instead of a million dollars.” The math can run for all sorts of properties for all sorts of different number of partners. You get the idea. The key is that if this works out, you can leave the rat race a LOT earlier. But people are crazy. And even if they are not crazy, people change. And even if they are not crazy and they stay not crazy for life, there are still all sorts of things that can go wonky.

Consider for a moment: marriage. Two people come together and judge each other to be not crazy. They are even certain that the other party is so super awesome that they decided to inform the authorities of their marriage. And half of them get divorced. But more importantly: before they even try to get married, look at all the relationships they had that didn’t work out. A pretty high failure rate.

Thousands of properties have been purchased jointly. Some do work out. The concept of people coming together on a common piece of land is called “intentional community“. Some smell a lot like an HOA. Some smell a lot like a hippie love-in. Right now you can pop out to and look at the hundreds of intentional communities that are currently open to new members. And hundreds more that are in the stage of “forming” (a group of people searching for the perfect piece of land). This doesn’t include land that was purchased by married couples, or business partners or the hundreds of other potential arrangements. The point is that there are a lot of ways that this idea can be attempted. And a few do stand the test of time.

Permaculture is a very long term thing. What is the point of giving a gift to your future self if your future self moves away in two years to get away from all the crazy?

So we need a solution.

Seven years ago I dropped a lot of money and moved all my stuff to a place that sounded like a fit. Only they lied because they needed my money. It turns out that they knew nothing about permaculture. My permaculture ideas seemed not just crazy to them, but fucking insane. When they prevented me from building hugelkultur, they couldn’t even allow raised beds. Naturally, as expected, they looked crazy to me.

And I wasn’t even looking for 30 or 40 years – I was looking for something for three or four years.

So how could I have prevented that? How could I have found a better match? And all of the other people that are looking for a place to get out of the rat race and start with permaculture and homesteading.

The book “Mortgage Free” offers a dozen different strategies. Typically, you live frugally, build a grubstake, buy land that is near a town where you can continue to work and then build a tiny house in your spare time. And in the coming years, you add on to the house in your spare time.

In the book “Early Retirement Extreme“, you live frugally, invest your money and the more frugally you live, the earlier you can retire. It sorta leaves open the idea of forever renting or buying your own place.

An Experimental Path For a Few

I have given some general advice for people seeking land to purchase, but my brain is screaming about my own devious plots and ideas.

Suppose a person has saved up $30,000 and has built $300 per month in residual income streams. There might be a small property somewhere than can be purchased. There might be an IC somewhere to join. Maybe you can find a farm where you can rent a room and be allowed to do your permaculture stuff there.

Each of these things could work, but it just seems doomed for most people. The probability of success seems really low.

So I have created another path. This new path is also terrible for most people, but I think it might have a high probability of success for a few. For just the right people. Further still, I think that this idea could be a template for thousands of other properties, each with different values. It is a bit of a hybrid between all three of the above designs, plus one little thing that could take out 90% of the crazy (or crazy potential).

I confess that this idea is powerfully driven by two things:

1) My passion for re-husp

2) My frustration from seven years ago

There are a lot more things in the mix, but let’s start there.

In 1989 I rented a room in a house in missoula. I lived there for nine years. The rent was cheap and the landlord didn’t care about my gardening efforts. The landlord was very different from me. In nearly every way. Yet for nine years everything was okay. I could have kept living there, but … I moved to get a better job.

I have met hundreds of people that have lived more than 20 years in the same place – renting. They are content. But, of course, for each of those people, there are probably a hundred people where they moved out or were evicted.

Why do these rental arrangements end? Usually due to a difference of opinion in how renting should happen. For example, the tenant builds a garden and the landlord thinks the garden will add maintenance work, or it will lower the value of the property.

Here is what I am currently trying: I now manage 300 acres. I like the idea of 20 people living here to do the re-husp thing. A person lays down some money to have “skin in the game” and then has an acre or two that is pretty much for their own use, plus access for projects (like raising cattle) to the full property.

A requirement is to listen to the first 240 podcasts that I have put out. I suspect that 99% of the people that try to listen to the podcasts will reject the idea of coming here. But I hope that this idea will end up being done, eventually, on thousands of properties. So anybody that likes this idea will find a place that is a fit for them.

The goal is to facilitate/incubate those that want to get out of the rat race. They want to stop being a wage slave to the system and give a gift to their future self. To get to the point that they are, for all practical purposes, retired at a very young age. They can then pursue their passions without having to get up every morning and go to a job they hate.

Rather than buying four acres riddled with problems, they might have a hybrid between 1 acre and 300 acres. They have their one acre plot for their home and gardens. They can arrange use of ten more acres for an overlayed use.


So when comparing this solution to land ownership: You don’t have neighbors that spray. You get much better land for a much lower price. You are obfuscated from property taxes and the myriad of bits and bobs that come with ownership. You get some level of access to community resources.

When comparing to an IC: You don’t have to attend weekly decision making meetings. The cost and benefits is about the same. The “crazy” is a significantly more predictable. Hopefully this solution has less than 1% of the drama in an IC.

When comparing to renting a room/house with land: Far more predictability. Permaculture is encouraged. The design is to have life long relationships as opposed to the idea of “flipping the property.”

I like to think that for a few people that are bonkers about homesteading and permaculture, I have created the best path for them to get out of the rat race and TRY. The two dominant paths right now are:

Ant Village: rent a plot year to year. Currently priced at $800 through the end of 2016 (so 20 months if you start now). Plus we are currently offering something called “ant village” where one plot will be awarded a “deep roots package”.

Deep Roots: rent a plot for “life”. A sort of “rent a whole bunch of years and get a whole bunch of years free”.

Discuss this more in a thread dedicated to this blog

Posted in Uncategorized

Quest For Land: My Advice to Permies and Homesteaders Part 2 of 3

Selling Your Soul Into Slavery

So many people living in the city are coming to the conclusion that they hate their life. The work at a job they hate – mostly because they would hate other jobs even more. They take the money and pay for things they don’t really want: car, house/apartment, work clothes, student loan so they can get a good job, stuff to dull the pain of their existence (toys, alcohol, hobbies, drugs …).


They then start to get the idea of how cool it would be to walk away from it all and live in the woods. And then the mind wanders to other solutions. Universally, step 1 is “get out of debt.” Naturally, thoughts turn to stuff covered in books like “mortgage free” or “early retirement extreme” (ERE). In time the solution appears to be permaculture and homesteading.

So, when you are shopping for property, I would like to make a strong suggestion to not get into a mortgage. It is an obvious suggestion. Nobody want’s a mortgage. I just want to mention that for a lot of people, this is moving from “slavery to the system” to “slave to your dreams.” There is a good chance that five years into the future, you might hate the five-years-ago-you.

Some people will do a lot of work to find a job that they can do out in the sticks. Or they will find land that is still really close to a town where they can continue to work. And with a 30 year mortgage, you might have to do that for 30 years. Your new life could turn out to be quite the burden.

Some people tell themselves that they will make major coin from their new property. I do think that is possible, but it almost always takes a big hunk of cash to get started. That’s the cool thing about ERE, the root of the book is: the more humbly you are willing to live, the better your forward velocity.

I think a big part of permaculture is the opposite of credit card debt. With credit card debt, you sell your future self into slavery to pay for your whims of today (the whims are usually about anesthetizing your current existence). Permaculture is more about giving a gift to your future self.


I like to think that the thing to do is to explore how humble you can be (ERE style) combined with residual income streams. But, this is a story for another day.

There are hundreds of arguments for the infinite number of paths. I just wish to encourage everybody to have a strong preference to get out of debt and stay out of debt.

Attributes for a Property That Were of Interest to Me

80 acres minimum. 200 optimal.

Need deep soil. A lot of the property I looked at had no soil, or just a few patches of shallow soil. One property I saw was a 480 acre rock – beautiful, but not for me.

Need extreme privacy – I don’t want a public road going through the property.

No building codes.

Sloped land makes it so you can control frost pockets. Plus flat land is usually a sign of flood plains – where other people’s persistent building codes get washed onto your land annually.

Need lots of weeds – this indicates that the soil is not poisoned with persistent herbicides that can take decades to get rid of. Probably 90% of the properties were dominantly grass – a strong indicator that persistent broad leaf herbicides were used.

Surrounded by properties that generally never spray. The forest service and timber companies will spray sometimes, but usually they don’t bother. The nature conservancy sprays (which seems like an oxymoron, but it is true). Check the surrounding properties for lots of weeds.

Within an hour of missoula. For a while I looked at land that was within an hour and a half of missoula, but am glad that I found something within an hour.


– first, I have a powerful bias. I just love missoula. The carousel, freecycles, the saturday market, the events and people, the flavor of community …

– second, I have a powerful desire to be someplace where it gets cold so I can build soil the way I want to build soil, plus, less bugs and less disease

– someday I want to be able to say that I grow a lemon tree, outdoors, in montana

– when showing off the power of the wofati or rocket mass heater, it has more weight when you say you are doing it in montana

– I just love to say that I’m a montanan. When people ask “where are you from?” I found I like to say “montana” about 20 times more than “idaho”, “oregon”, “washington state” or “colorado.”

Seven Years Ago …

I built up dozens of tiny residual income streams. I had about $1500 per month coming in from residual income streams. In other words, I could do utterly nothing and my bank account would gain $1500 per month. I could go sit on a boat, out in the ocean for ten months with no connection to the internet or anything and come back to find about $15,000 in my accounts.

I was debt free.

I would sometimes take a programming job and bring in a few more bucks here and there.

I was bonkers about permaculture.

I had about $5000 of buffer in the bank. Not enough to buy land. Not even enough to buy land with somebody.

For a bunch or personal reasons, I wanted to stay in the seattle area for about three more years and then move back to montana. During my three year stay, I wanted to “do” permaculture. I wanted to express my vision in seed and soil on a few acres. Chickens, pigs and gardens. Maybe four acres. I also wanted to be part of a community. I was willing to pay.

After four months of visiting dozens of places, I found a place. I lay down my money and got moved in. Then I found out that they told me whatever I wanted to hear because they just needed somebody to rent the place. I was not allowed to do my permaculture stuff. I was only allowed to do landscaping according to their limited, fucked up ideas on landscaping. At first I tried “patient communication” to help them learn about what I was attempting to do. That was working, but it was sloooooooow. I then met sepp holzer and he asked me about my situation. When I told him, he said “Get out. Now.” It then all clicked for me. I got out.

Things changed and I started my search for land in Montana. At first I tried to arrange a 15 year lease. I talked to lots of land owners about such a lease. My ideas were too different. I did find somebody that was cool with my ideas and I drove from seattle to montana and spent a few days talking and working things out …. only the land owner couldn’t decide whether to keep the land and have me do my thing, or sell the land (80 acres for $900,000). I made lots of contacts. I moved to missoula and intensified my search. I would do lots of speaking gigs so that in the middle of the presentation I could tell the audience that I was looking for land to lease.

The Fall of 2012

I lived frugally, beefed up my residual income streams, plus did some work, plus …. all of my giving stuff away for years and years resulted in some very lucky opportunities …. In the fall of 2012 I had saved up about $70,000. I figured that if I could put $40,000 down on an owner carry plot of at least 80 acres, that would leave me with $30,000 to make improvements.

Something clicked within me and I realized my innards NEEDED me to get some fucking land right fucking now. Yes, my passion is in putting out free stuff, but now I want to be a bulldozer and bring in funds asap. I’m sick and tired of dancing around all this stupid shit of owner financing. If I work hard for a short time i can come up with enough money to buy SOMETHING and get STARTED!

A lot of hard work and a lot of help and a lot of luck …. In May of 2013 I closed on 200 acres. It has issues, but it has crazy deep soil, lots of weeds, privacy, slope, no building codes, surrounded by forest service and timber company land and within an hour of missoula. Bonus of thick forests – the heavy tree growth is indicative of the deep soils.

This giant gob of advice is continued in part 3.

Discuss this more in a thread dedicated to this blog

Posted in Uncategorized