Amazing GCC Students visit with other schools

Hello all,

We had an amazing visit (yes, amazing students have amazing visits!) with Dave Jacke, Keith Salztberg, and students/leaders from Wellesley, Williams, UMASS, Wesleyan, and Smith. We drove 2 hours to Wellesley, which is just outside of Boston, sharing stories (Abrah and I shared where we were when we were 20), stopping at NIKNUD STUNOD for a bathroom break and water (Yes, we permaculturalists are linguistically deconstructing corporate food):

yup yup! And Sam was working on an awesome belt she was weaving. Sweet ride out.

We got there right at 9, when the networking/workshop/workday/fun festival began. We got a walk through of the garden designed by Dave and Keith which was said to be a “fruitbowl” because the garden sloped down until its low end where the horizon habitat (which I think means the height of the canopy when plants/trees fully mature) rose up again, creating the shape of a fruit bowl. The garden was for research purposes with a design articulated for the next 20-30 years at least! That’s some kick butt designing, I must say. I’m not even sure how tall my tomatoes will grow this summer, let alone how habitats might morph and grow and change over the next 20+ years. Crazy cool…

Quick story I heard today from Charlie Laurel: an old building at the renowned Oxford University in England was totally adored for its 500 year old oak timber frame. What a thing of beauty, all thought. Some time recently, however, those oaks were found to be rotting. What a pity, all thought. And the administration, in all their distress sought many renowned builders, architects, experts and so on. What a pity, they all thought too. And they offered their solutions, from Add cement to the core foundation to Zip it up and demolish the thing, time to start over. Well, someone approached one of the groundskeepers and he had an interesting insight: he pointed to an oak grove across the way from the building in jeopardy and remarked: “you see that grove yonder? Well, when they built this building 500 years ago, at the same time they planted that oak grove, knowing this day would come.” And all truth became true.

To get back to the Wellesley trip, Dave Jacke was shining in his humility and inspiringly pointed out that THIS IS ALL AN EXPERIMENT. “We don’t know what’s going to happen!” Permaculturists only have some theories (“we have 200 years of research to be doing and I’m glad to see you all here today joining the exploration”). Straight from the mouth of a permaculture legend. Pretty nifty thing to hear.

After the intro, we spent part of the day weeding (I now know the difference between crown vetch and astragalus…can you tell?:

Crown Vetch:


And for lunch we got to share the stories of all the projects of all the schools, which was awesome. FYI, we’re not the only ones totally stressed and in way over our heads (not totally true but feels true at times). Viva the overworked permaculture students’ and teachers’ brigade!

We got some great feedback from the group: “design your garden for the next 20 years,” “blog!” (I guess I got the message on that piece of feedback…sorry about the lapse Abrah), and some other nuggets.

We went back to work on the garden and finished up the day with Pizza from the Upercrust: Upper Crust Food

Had my first Pesto pizza, really awesome. Anyone craving now? The three people I know who eat dairy and gluten might be.

Around the same time we got more amazing feedback about our project from people, including a really essential piece from Jono Neiger around how we need to start designing for the whole system…think about the social system on campus, the community, the whole landscape, the resources, the social and structural leverage points. He’s really onto something, which I’m just starting to understand. This stuff takes a while to grasp, for me at least.

Anyway, we bolted after the pizza party. Actually, I took my sweet old time getting to the car and got an earful about it from the women–Abrah, Sam, and Krystal). Must’ve deserved it. I mean, Sam had a date for which I was contributing to her lateness and Krystal was sicker than Vermont Yankee, poor thing. Need to work on my awareness of others’ needs. Thanks for the feedback, ladies. Loved the road trip!

One thought on “Amazing GCC Students visit with other schools

  1. Wow, what an insightful and humorous blog entry!

    To answer your question, yes–horizon habitats are the “climax stage” of a forest, and yet, we can apply the notion of “shifting baselines.” What we traditionally thought of as a climax or stable forest was possibly myth, and that is why the term “horizon habitat” is used: as we approach the sky’s horizon line, it continues to recede in front of us, always dynamic, never finite. That is how nature is, and our designs must plan for such dynamic stability as we move forward into the unknown…