Hierarchy is a type of control. It disrupt the natural order of things, usually using large quantities of energy to do so, placing the beings that are the object of control in a state of stress, which denies one or more of their needs, products, behaviors, or intrinsic characteristics, so that their usual outcomes accrue to the controllers benefit.

The Big Fish Eat the Little Fish, c. 1619

Here I describe hierarchy as a clearly negative thing, I have heard some protest at it being used in a negative way. I would suggest that in those instances it would be better to use words like network, position, scale, or even relationship. Hierarchy is a mis-ordering of relationships in a way that rearranges benefit and stress.

So many questions! How do hierarchies exist in our own lives? There are many hidden in plain sight within our lives, the more we look the more we’ll find. What energy is used to maintain them? Could we use that energy in a higher leverage way? What stress is imposed on the controlled? How does that also affect the controller? What benefit is given to the controller? What happens to the controller if that benefit is removed?

I have been exploring this thought wave over at Glorious Debris. Through this process I am seeing permaculture as a removal of hierarchy.

8 Forms of Capital & Pollution

8 forms of capital, originally published on Appleseed Permaculture and written by Ethan Roland & Gregory Landua in 2011, has become a core permaculture methodology. As an analytical tool it can help us map flows and exchanges between ourselves and the rest of the world. It broadens our focus from money alone, helping us see the wealth of connections that exist around us. 

Briefly, the eight forms are:

  • Social capital, such as influence and connections. 
  • Material capital, non-living physical objects, both raw and processed 
  • Financial capital, currencies and other tools of the global financial system
  • Living capital, living beings including plants, animals, and soil
  • Intellectual capital, knowledge learned from a book or school
  • Experiential capital, knowledge gained by doing
  • Cultural capital, shared knowledge of a community
  • Spiritual capital, religion, spirituality, or other means of connection

In my own practice I’ve found it useful to consider an additional aspect of the 8 forms of capital. When too much capital accumulates and stagnates it becomes pollution. Identifying, remediating, and resolving this pollution becomes a source of leverage in our designs.

The kind of pollution we all know and love.

Ways pollution could manifest in the 8 forms of capital:

  • Spiritual pollution, cults, dead world, “hollow” churches, new age thinking
  • Social pollution, being totally dependant on others to the point of parasitism
  • Material pollution, pollution as we normally think of it, wasted resources
  • Financial pollution, paranoia, control, solitude, lack of community
  • Living pollution, invasive species, ecosystem out of balance
  • Cultural pollution, colonization, disconnection from one’s own culture
  • Experiential pollution, adrenaline junky, all action with no contemplation
  • Intellectual pollution, ivory tower, undisclosed conflicts of interest clouding interpretations, book knowledge only with no real world experience

Capital is best as a flow, not an accumulation. Our interactions with capital need to focus on that flow. When we do have accumulations it is our responsibility to find the root causes and transform them back into alignment with nature and to remediate the problems those accumulations have caused.

Rocket Stove Workshop 2021

Back when the pandemic was young I had planned to lead a rocket stove workshop at Symbiosis Ranch. Things being what they were it didn’t end up happening.

Fortunately, the workshop is back on the schedule, for the weekend of September 18th & 19th. We’ll be putting a batch box rocket stove mass heater in the Aircrete Dome. It will be held 9 am – 5 pm each day, is $198, limited to 15 students, with free camping on site, and will include a ranch dinner on Saturday night. Additional ranch operated accommodations are available onsite or in town. You can register by calling (989) 317-4787. https://www.symbiosisranch.com/ranch-sponsored-courses

We’ll be using the Peterburg Batch Box Dimensions to make our stove. For the small space of the dome I’m modeling it on “the cyclone” built in 2017 at Wheaton Labs. Here are some videos:

The Sheeple

Cowboy is the daddy and one of the borrowed sheep.

Well, I’m a shepard now. My flock is small, just three ewes, but I’m also able to borrow three more to make it a larger flock. So far it’s been really satisfying. I head out to check on them once a day, making sure they have enough pasture, set up my next moves, check their water, and make sure they have enough salt.

My draft grazing plan.

I’ve got a draft plan to move them through the food forest at the cooperative. White is where they’ve been. Red is approximate future paddocks. Blue are the alleys that some of the other coop members will be growing in. Yellow arrows are the move paths. It’s not exact but I think I’ve got them covered till November 11.

They’ll be overwintering with Project Mow, then I’ll have them back out again next spring.

On the to do list is an improved shelter (I think I’m going to copy Justin Rhodes sheepshaw), and make sure they have all the free choice minerals they need.

Chickadees Sing Frank Black

I was out working at the coop and I was struck by the song of the chickadees. They would sing and then my head would fill in the Frank Black tune that I had just been listening to in the car ride over. If you’re impatient just skip ahead to about 4:00.

The chickadees in this video aren’t quite singing the same interval as they were that day at the coop, but I think it’s close enough that you’ll get the picture.

It’s fun when those little synchronicities lead you into nature. The chickadees sing Frank Black. Or, perhaps it is Frank Black playing the chickadees song…


Science is one way of knowing the world. To say that it is the only way or that only it can validate other ways of knowledge is colonizing.

To me science is something I can practice. A methodology that can reveal an understanding about the world. I can ask a question, create an hypothesis, and then verify to the best of my ability its accuracy.

When others tell me “the science is settled”, “follow the science”, or some other “but science” exclamation I have to question an untold number of motivations and influences that can be unpacked from that statement. It leaves the realm of my direct observation and enters the fog of faith. I trust the method can produce but not all the actors involved any statement.

Reduced to the level of all the other second hand information that I have access to, it is worth knowing but always taken with a grain of salt.

Brought To You By Spam

Spam is an ever present reality on the internet. I get my fair share here, as I was clearing the backlog this morning one spam comment caught my eye. The text used a quote from Goethe, in order to appear as a real contribution to the conversation, but of course the link provided lead to something unsavory.

I think this quote is worth sharing, I hope it brightens your day!

A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine. I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now. When, while the lovely valley teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me: when I hear the buzz of the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image, and the breath of that universal love which bears and sustains us, as it floats around us in an eternity of bliss; and then, my friend, when darkness overspreads my eyes, and heaven and earth seem to dwell in my soul and absorb its power, like the form of a beloved mistress, then I often think with longing, Oh, would I could describe these conceptions, could impress upon paper all that is living so full and warm within me, that it might be the mirror of my soul, as my soul is the mirror of the infinite God! O my friend — but it is too much for my strength — I sink under the weight of the splendour of these visions!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

Thanks spam!

Action Cycle

This is my current thinking on a permaculture design process. I’m sure it will mauture and change on down the road, but this is just a snapshot.

Over the years I’ve never been able to do any of the OBRADIMET or SADIMET type design processes that are commonly taught in permaculture. However, I’ve observed my own process of working in the world with permaculture and have teased out a pattern I’m calling Action Cycle. It works weather you’re designing a property or the next move in your life.

Vision is the why we do. It’s where we are going but not where we will end up, owing to the influence of many other beings we share this world with and their own visions. It reflects the permaculture ethics of earth, people, and future care. Vision keeps us directional and also begets shorter goals that move towards the vision that are the actual apparatus of change.

Awareness is opening yourself up to what is really going on in the world and all the other people that we share it with. It’s an ongoing, ever expanding process itself. If we let awareness completely dominate we would never get anything done but if we ignore it what we do won’t reflect reality. It’s always growing and changing.

Process is how you do things. That can vary from consensus to royal rule, hand made to industry made, fossil fueled to horsepower, improvised to meticulously planned. It affects the actors involved and creates their experience of being. As our awareness and vision change they will affect our process so to can process change awareness and vision.

These spin around until a critical mass is achieved and action begins to happen. Action can inch forward or move in complete units. It brings forth change in the world that moves us closer to our vision, creates new opportunities for awareness, and plays out a certain process that specifically affects the world. Action creates reaction and we begin the whole new cycle begins.

For example, if you were working as a chef for a tech company in central California, you might have a vision of buying a property with no mortgage, starting a mobile pop up concept, and using some perennial veggies/fruits grown on that property to highlight the food for the pop up. And raise chickens too. Process would be working on your chef job to make it more sustainable/profitable, researching land for sale to help shape might include checking land prices, making contacts with farms, researching mobile pop up requirements, calculating how long you would have to work/save to make that happen, figuring out how to do it progressively (what’s the minimum required to start), brainstorming alternative visions. With awareness expanding in these specific ways the next right thing to do to.

Each being that we share the world with participates in the same cycle. When we are aware of something we change our process, thus change the multitude of effects that come from our actions. The action cycle is easy and natural to follow. If your not sure what to do start to increase your awareness, that will change both your vision and process, naturally leading action. And the cycle repeats.