So, I was thinking to myself today, what are the four most important needs that human beings have. Right then and there I ticked them off: water, food, shelter, community — in that order. And these are the needs that I’ve been focusing on in this blog, as well as those that I’ve been focusing on here at home ever since I realized we were in trouble, back in 2003, when I watched the Cuban film about how they survived Peak Oil and realized that, one way or another, our petrochemicalized civilization is about to crash, hard — and that our only option is to attempt to find ways to soften the blow.
So it was that, in the Fall of 2005, and then again in the Spring of 2006, I found myself in a weekend commute (split into two parts) for the Permaculture Design Course. Classes were held at the beautiful McCormick Creek State Park, about a 20-minute drive from Bloomington. I drove out and back with Kevin Polk, who, I discovered that first day, lived in the same neighborhood, Green Acres.
Our collaboration began then. Together with Sylvia — a young woman in the course from Holland who lived in this neighborhood and has since moved to England — as our Practicum for the course, one of our teachers, Peter Bane, suggested that the three of us create a permaculture design for our Green Acres Neighborhood.
In 2006, working with the city of Bloomington, our design was translated into an official Plan, and the visions and values in that original design are now enshrined in the website for our still forming Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage.
Kevin became one of the stalwart persons that we could count on for any neighborhood projects or programs, including writing and getting a “Small and Simple Grant” from the city gov for shared tools for the GANG (Green Acres Neighborhood Garden) which we set up within a year of that class.
Kevin himself, whose B.S. was in astrophysics, and ever the experimenter and explorer, was at the time writing a book about Earth, Gaiome, a serious look at whether or not we should even think about going into space before we’ve figured out how to live here on this planet!
After that, he taught himself how to draw cartoons, and wrote a series he called “Permies: composting the first 2000 years of empire.” A great title, I thought. I’m not sure how long it lasted, and I can’t find it on the internet now. Unfortunate!
A few years ago he and his wife Kimberly then decided to move to Athens, Ohio, a decision which really rocked me to my foundation. He was not the first stalwart crony to leave Green Acres for apparently greener pastures, and each time I would feel betrayed and abandoned. In fact, Kevin’s decision to leave was what finally put me through a transformation in my own permacultural understanding of this college-town neighborhood. Remember, I now tell myself, students (and others who prove to be transient) are a flow of energy like any other. Our job is to capture and hold this flow for awhile, meanwhile, inspiring them to move on like spores in the wind, taking what they have learned about permaculture in community with them wherever they go.
The two of them decided to move to Ohio because land was more affordable, and her relatives lived in that state. They bought a piece of land and started what they hoped to be a permaculture garden that would support them at the local farmer’s market.
That experiment turned out to be unsustainable. As he told me in a recent email:
The market garden didn’t work for us because, as I learned in my second permaculture course (with Geoff Lawton), home gardening techniques just don’t scale to commercial farming, even when we could sell at retail. We never could find and move enough mulch, or water adequately. That’s where ponds, swales, alley cropping and other mixed forest/pasture systems come into play. These are part of the design for the eco-parks. Since they will grow food mainly for use on-site, they should waste much less than I did trying to sell at a farmer’s market. Green Acres is really on the right track.
Now Kevin is onto a new path, tiny homes in community, a path one which, incidentally, echoes a plan which my son Colin, now busy with the Garden Tower Project, also wants to put into motion on land somewhere near Bloomington two years hence.
(Yep! Ideas, in the wind, get picked up by various folks. It’s gotten to the point where if I’m thinking a “new” thought, I know others must be thinking it too.)
Kevin has already built one tiny home, from which he learned much that will help him build the next one. He’s now got a kickstarter campaign to help him keep going.
Here’s the email he sent out to those of us he hopes might support him. Count me in!