Non-Hippie Permaculture with Paul Wheaton from Permies

Paul Wheaton thinks a distinction needs to be Permaculturemade between hippie and non-hippie Permaculture

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More info on Paul, Permies and Permaculture:

Paul’s Kickstarter for Permaculture Earthworks and Hugelkultur

Permies – Paul’s awesome site

Permaculture with Cliff Davis of Spiral Ridge Permaculture

Darren Doherty’s Regrarians – Permaculture, Holistic Management and Keyline Plowing

Restoration Agriculture with Mark Shepard

Paul Wheaton is is the tyrannical ruler of two on-line communities. One is about permaculture and one is about software engineering. Named “The Bad Boy of Permaculture” by Occupy Monsanto, “The Duke of Permaculture” by Geoff Lawton, the Director of Permaculture Research International and “Hardcore Green” by, Paul has podcasts, videos and articles which advocate his brand of Permaculture.

About The Kickstarter:

Documentary of the ultimate garden, with a pond, a swale and a hugelkultur bed on a terrace.

A fancy video camera followed me around as I taught a workshop last Spring. I was told they were going to do a kickstarter and make a DVD. So I wished them well and tried to be a good in-front-of-the-camera guy (and not bump my microphone too often). In the end, the feedback was that the workshop was excellent. Later, my friend Bart and I did a kickstarter about a rocket mass heater workshop and we did really well! And the final product turned out really good too! Next thing ya know, all the footage from the earthworks workshop was handed to me and Bart and we were asked to try a kickstarter. Spiffy!

This workshop covered three days. The intent was to build, at the very least, one pond, one hugelkultur bed and one swale. We accomplished that plus several other things. And a lot of emphasis should be placed that we want to build a pond WITHOUT a liner!

After looking over all the footage, the plan is to squeeze three days of workshop into three information packed DVDs of workshop concentrate (just add water). The whole thing will be in chronological order, so we can convey the actual workshop experience as closely as possible.

DVD 1: Sealing a Pond Without a Liner

At the high point of the property, water is rushing in whenever it rains. This water is cutting a deep channel through the property. The idea is that we would like to capture this water and use it to create an oasis! Of course, water coming off of a road will probably contain some heavy metals and petroleum residue. So we need to clean the water first. A pond is dug so that the heavy metals will sink to the bottom of the pond, and gross stuff that floats (like oil) will be caught by the vegetation. We then do some minor re-shaping to the road so the water will enter the pond.

DVD 2: Ditches and Swales

Several ideas are mapped out about where to put in some swales. The land owner would eventually like a natural swimming pool, so we decide to put a finger on the pond to route the water to the natural swimming pool. And just in case we get an exceptionally heavy rain event, we extend the finger to a swale. The swale is designed to soak the excess water into the land. We demonstrate the use of laser levels to make sure our finger runs downhill and the swale is level.

DVD 3: Hugelkultur and Terracing

Now we talk about food production. This location gets frost in the winter and can be really hot in the summer. A lot of the surrounding area looks very desert like. We decide to make a hugelkultur bed shaped into a sun scoop. And the angle of the slope is optimized to the level of the sun in winter. We also talk about how swales are excellent at creating frost pockets which works to your advantage in the summer. What type of wood and different variations for hugelkultur are covered. A terrace is constructed to hold the hugelkultur bed.

Thanks Paul. It was great to hear you talk about all of this Permaculture stuff and clear the air on things like what to expect when taking a Permaculture Design Course.

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  • Tate Smith

    I like what you have to say Paul and I’ve followed your stuff for a few years now. The question I have is, is there anywhere in the vastness of the knowledge web on the internet where someone could find resources to assist in navigating legal issues pertaining to earth works. For example, in Colorado, it is illegal to retain any form of water with an earthen structure less it be permitted and designed by a licensed engineer and the water rights have to be in place to do this. Even in the name of erosion you can’t stop water from moving across the surface of a landscape. Seems like there are probably loop holes that myself and other legal jargon illiterate folks can’t necessarily find that easily in the laws. Any resources that you know of that can assist in guiding permaculture minded folks through the legal nonsense that is western State water law?


  • Mark Ludwig

    Can you do some key line fracturing along the contour of the land? I would also check your soil tests for base saturation of major cations. Depending on your soil texture you may want to crank up you calcium levels to improve infiltration. If CEC exceeds 15 base saturation of Ca should be 65 to 70%, Mg about 15%. If you have a lot of Na the Ca becomes even more important to improve infiltration. On the flip side if the Ca is very high you start to loose the ability to bond water to the clay effectively. If the soil is very light (CEC under 10ish) a little more Mg can help bond water to the soil, shoot for 20% Mg saturation and more like 60% Ca.

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  • Mike K

    Great interview! Super excited to hear more of Paul’s podcasts. As to the “money is the root of all evil” idea I agree that this is a false notion. Those who are pulling this from the Bible are misquoting — it says the love of money (ie greed) is the the root of most evil.

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