Taking the hippie out of permaculture

Call a person a "futurist," and everybody crowds around to hear a tale of doom – and maybe what we can do to avoid it. Call a person a "hippie," and everybody runs for cover.

I think the difference really is in the language each uses. When someone talks about thinking seven generations, or 20 generations, or 100 generations into the future with our decisions about energy consumption and food consumption, that person is a hippie, and therefore crazy. When someone talks about running out of food and oil in 300 years, and describes what the world will look like if we don't start doing x, y, and z, that person is a futurist, and therefore a visionary.

Let's talk permaculture for a moment. If you ran that through spell-check, you got squiggly red lines. Outstanding. So the word is an invented one, which means we're still on the hippie or futurist path. Let's look at one definition:

Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in the natural ecologies. It was first developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. The word permaculture is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, as well as permanent culture.

OK, so now you know I'm heading in the "let's think 7 generations into the future" direction.

Now let me tell you about my Saturday afternoon.

I joined some of the Alchemical Nursery folks in one of those $1 undeveloped houses on the Near West Side of Syracuse to build a permacultured spiral herb garden, with an urbanite construction.

Right, OK, so what the heck does that mean?

Basically, we made a multi-level garden out of broken-up sidewalk that had been discarded at a construction site. It will become semi-permanent (it can always be moved or removed) structure in the owner's back yard that he'll be able to plant things in every year, and with a vertical construction, it allows for more things to be planted.

And from a gardening standpoint, he can plant things that need more moisture on the bottom, since water will drain downward, and he can plant things that need more sunlight on the south side of the structure (the sun's east-west path is in the southern sky, so there will be more shade on the north side of the garden).

How we did it:

We started by laying flattened cardboard boxes on the ground, so that grass wouldn't grow into the garden. We then laid broken sidewalk in the first level of the spiral on the ground.

We mixed sticks and compost on the bottom layer, then began spiraling the concrete up the mounded compost. We added more compost, and continued the spiral upward.

With eight of us there to help out and learn from the experience, from introductions to planting some starters (oregano, chives), it took less than two hours.

Hopefully our host will post some photos soon and I'll be able to share. But basically he has a decorative concrete garden base in his back yard, and he'll be growing some of his own food – nothing weird about that, right? But it's permaculture, so let's learn to embrace it, cool?

Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and Brand You

What is Brand You? In Morgan Spurlock's TED talk (above), there's one segment in which he goes around and asks people what their brand is. They primarily define their brands by their clothing and hair styles. He also asks the folks who market Ban deodorant how they describe their brand – and they couldn't, mostly because you put their product in your armpits to keep you from stinking (although Axe seems to have been able to define their brand just fine, thanks, even though they're essentially the same product).

So, what is Brand You? If you buy into the whole Fight Club "revolution" of you are not your job, you are not your clothes, you are not your possessions, how do you describe your brand?

Brand Josh is passionate, creative, energetic, hardworking and generally likeable. How do I know? I work hard at being those things. I have a fair bit of self-knowledge because I've worked on it, and I listen to the feedback of people around me.

Which brings me to Chris Brogan's recent post on Gary Vaynerchuk. (Now there's linkbait if I ever saw it: both of them in one sentence?) I've never had a face-to-face conversation with either of these gentlemen, but I think they're both really smart. And I think they're really smart because of what I see of them – the face of their personal brands.

Maybe 10 years ago we didn't think about our personalities as brands, but we most definitely do now. We may have always been selling an image – through our hairstyles, our clothes, our circles of friends, the music we listen(ed) to, the sports we play(ed) – but only in the past few years have we been able to market that image worldwide, and actually been able to make it pay off financially.

So what is Brand You? Are you what you do or what you look like? Are are you how you do? And what of other brands you represent? Can you be the face of a business brand and still have an individual Brand You? (For the record, as a community manager, I believe you can; I may be building a local gym's brand, but I'm definitely Brand Josh both inside and outside the gym's walls and website.)

It’s spring, so let’s talk sex. And orgasms. And TED.

Note: This video is about sex and orgasm. It includes adult situations but not offensive language. You've been informed.

Howdy. Many of you who read my blog (and I assume that number is dwindling, given the frequency of my posting) know that I tend to go into hibernation in winter. True story. I do. And with the weight loss program I've been doing, it's been worse (though the past couple of weeks I've been a little better about public appearances).

But it's spring: the sun is starting to not only come out, but stay out longer; birds are starting to migrate back to the area; and I guess grass is coming in soon (still waiting to see evidence of that, though).

This is supposed to be a time of renewal. In addition to the weight loss (roughly 28 pounds so far since the beginning of the year – official weigh-ins are in about an hour from this writing, so there will be more blogging this week), one of the things I've been doing is gleaning some knowledge and inspiration from TED talks.

The Technology, Entertainment and Design conferences draw the best and brightest speakers on all kinds of topics. One of my recent viewings is Mary Roach's talk on orgasms (above). Some other favorites include this talk by performance poet Sarah Kay and one by Barry Schwartz on choice (not as in the abortion debate, but as in "which jeans do I buy?").

I can't say enough about TED as an education and personal growth tool. Catch up on some talks (here's a handy index by tag), learn a little, grow a little, and share your favorites.