SummaReview: The Lost Language of Plants

cover_LostLanguageOfPlantsThe Lost Language of Plants unveils a world (our world) that is both shocking and stimulating, spectacularly disturbing and deeply moving. In this world there are plants, yes, but the book is about much more than plants. As Buhner comments in a note to the reader, “…this book explores the complex, multidimensional, intricately interconnected, synergistic, living organism that we call Earth, and it is designed to be complex and multidimensional as well” (viii). The book itself intentionally transmits multiple layers of communication, reflective of the plants and living organisms that are featured throughout.

He describes how plants communicate using self-generated natural chemicals—affecting, directing, and responding to the environments and communities that they live in. Unfortunately, our global environment has become completely inundated with trace amounts of pharmaceutical chemicals, radioactive materials, and medical, infectious and pathological waste, all of which significantly disrupt the healthy function of ecosystems (including human ecologies). Beyond that, he urges us to see that the simplification of species in ecosystems worldwide dangerously reduces the regenerative capacity of Earth’s ecosystems, and has grave consequences for human health; human health is inextricably tied to the health of ecosystems worldwide.

Man sees the morning as the beginning of a new day; he takes germination as the start in the life of a plant, and withering as its end. But this is nothing more than a biased judgment on his part. Nature is one. There is no starting point or destination, only an unending flux, a continuous metamorphosis of all things.
–Masanobu Fukuoka (148)

The mountain of devastating and publicly available data and statistics about the environmental impacts of technological medicine highlights deeper issues of our modern predicament; these deeper issues have to do with the reductive and mechanistic paradigms, epistemologies, and concepts that we use to understand and interact with the world; this includes the “universe-as-machine” metaphor, which denies the possibility of intelligence, self-awareness, and sanctity in the non-human organisms of Earth.

Ironwood Archepelago

The Ironwood archepelago exemplifies the non-linear affects of the language of plants on ecosystem function.

By describing the systemic and multi-functional uses of plant chemistry throughout Earth’s ecosystems, Buhner makes the case that the chemical language of plants is much more than mere chemistry; it is an intentionally meaningful language that is crucial for maintaining the health of ecosystems. The “lost” language of plants, then, has more to do with the loss of meaning ascribed by humans to the world around us. In other words,  “this book delves into the meaning embedded within plant chemistry, the language of plants—a language human beings in the Western world lost knowledge of when we began to think so insistently with the analytical portions of our brains and quit thinking with other more holistic parts of ourselves” (ix). Thus, what is deeply needed is for us to recover the innate capacity to understand the world as a living system. This means interacting with the land as a sacred place, filled with sacred beings. It’s the foundation for healing the interior and exterior wounds created by the “universe-as-machine” mentality.

“Without deep connection to the land our healers remain anthropocentric—human centered—in their approaches, their theories of human health generated in isolation from the environment with which we evolved. They contain the same category error that all reductionist sciences contain. The solution is reconnection to the natural world and the living intelligence of land” (230).

Citations

SummaReview: Plant Intelligence and The Imaginal Realm

“…you must not extend awareness further than your culture wants it to go.(19)

Plant Intelligence BuhnerThis is Buhner’s fourth book in his series of books on plant intelligence, inter-species communication, non-linearity in nature, including the various non-linear and intuitive capacities in humans. This book dives deeply into the fascinating and emerging scientific fields of plant-neurophysiology, molecular microbiology, systems ecology/complexity theory, and gaia theory, including the effects of psychotropics in nature and in the human brain. But this heavy (very well-written) reading is not the central focus of the book. His synthesis of vast amounts of scientific information exposes a reality that runs contrary to scientific reductionism and materialist maps of the world. He exposes a new scientific understanding that the qualities of “self-awareness, intelligence, and the search for meaning—that have (erroneously) been ascribed as belonging only to human beings, are in fact general conditions of every living organism” (28). Of course, this understanding is not new, as many indigenous groups of humans have known this for a very long time.

The idea that humans are separate from and superior to everything else in the biosphere has taken a terminal blow from the new knowledge about bacteria….There’s no going back.(95)

Using concepts and language from neuroscience, such as “sensory gating channels,” he enlightens us to the reality that our perceptual capacities are flexible, fluid, and multi-dimensional; in other words, we can perceive multiple perspectives, and change our own perspective whenever it benefits us to do so. However, “gating parameters tend to set themselves as time progreses, and all organisms tend to habituate to cetain ranges of sensory intake and response to environmental perterbations.” This habituation can and does limit what and how we perceive, and how resilient and creative we are in the face of adversity. But nature has built in ways for organisms to remain fluid and adaptable; altered states, and the expansion of our perceptual capacity through drugs and other experiences, has been a fascination of humans and other organisms for a long time, and rightly so. Ingesting psychotropics (the psychoactive quality of psychedelic plants) break habituated patterns of gating by opening sensory gating channels more widely, which enables the organism to perceive a greater degree of novelty in ordinary or common experience; this opens the doors to new information and is an evolutionary advantage. Expanded gating also enables us to perceive deeper meanings in things that we are normally closed off to. As Buhner elaborates, “The more sensory data from the image that flows inside us, the more of the text that is embedded within it will flow into us. The more of the text we have access to, the more meaning we can distill out of it, the more rays of relation we can find and experience.”

Thus, the different kind of thinking this book seeks to inspire is one that enables us to access this deeper web of information and meaning that run throughout our lives and everywhere on Earth at all times. He explains that we don’t need psychotropics or advanced trainings to deepen and expand our sense of the world around us. We merely need to regain an embodied feeling sense that touches and perceives the world in a non-linear way.

Although the beauty is what we are most drawn to, in the darkness and terror are truths that all travelers in the metaphysical background of the world eventually encounter, must face, and come to terms with. They have teachings that are necessary.” (279)

This book takes the reader into tremendously deep waters, and challenges you to examine your preconceived ideas about the way the Earth functions. Buhner invites you to discover the “imaginal realm,” where real information flows at the level of subtle meanings; meanings that guide and direct all organisms through the environment; meanings that literally reveal the underlying unity between the environment and its actors, dissolving the illusion that the “environment” is merely a passive backdrop to the moving actors and organisms. The environment shapes organisms and communities just as organisms shape the environment; they are not truly separate, the boundaries are fluid.

Citations

The Art of Composting

Wooden Road In Forest
“Everything is a process, even the [farmer].”

– Michael Phillips

Maximizing the soil food web for your farm and garden ecosystems is not only possible, but inevitable. As topsoil continues to be depleted and lost at record rates worldwide, farmers are feeling the pressure to adopt new strategies for ensuring the long-term productivity of the land. The agricultural community at large is becoming more aware of the ways in which plants depend on healthy soil, and the soil food web is coming into the spotlight. Those who treat the soil as a living ecosystem are experiencing breakthrough success, as their farms demonstrate more resilience to droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events. Farmers and gardeners who treat their soils as a living ecosystem are tasting the results; more vibrant, nutritious, and abundant yields than ever before. And the ecosystem of beneficial insects and pollinators are coming back with authority. (citations)

An increasing number of farmers, gardeners and scientists alike are adopting this new paradigm of “living soil.” It’s not like adopting a child or even a family. When you adopt the living soil paradigm you adopt an entire community; in reality, this shift in understanding is an acknowledgment of an entirely new world. It is changing people’s entire relationship with the process of farming, gardening, and scientific study. The time has come to reform our notions of superiority in the web of life. Nature is not an inanimate resource bank awaiting our plunder. It is an ever-evolving dance of mutuality, collaboration, and adaptation. Time has come to see ourselves as part of this dance, not separate from it. Our roles as participants are many. The integrity and health of the niches that we occupy are largely the result of our attitudes and approaches to management.

Thus, the art of composting has as much to do with your approach as it does your execution. When you approach composting (and farming as a whole) with a sense of reverence and respect, your relationship with the process changes. If you can let go of the assumption that you’re the only intelligent life form on your farm, you can access an even greater ability —a greater sensitivity— to the process. The art of composting is the art of transformation, the art of succession and evolution. If you’re willing, you can begin to tune yourself to that process and become sensitive to the relationships between plants and the living soil. If you’re bold, you might even begin to treat your soil and plants as legitimate business partners and listen to their ideas about how the farm should be.

“Organic gardening is complex and simple, a blend of good science, fact, experience, intuition, experiments, play, speculation.” -Robert Kourik

Please remember that the science of compost, the science of the soil food web, is all metaphor. Cation exchange capacity, the nutrient cycle, carbon to nitrogen ratios – are all metaphors. The reality of the soil food web is something beyond our ability to express in words, which is why plants don’t grow in books. All the information up to this point in the paper, especially in Part 1, has been expressed in linear terms. Nature is not linear; nature is non-linear. The intelligence in the soil food web goes beyond our maps and diagrams, and cannot be explained by our facts and figures. The reality of life (and composting, farming) is not easily predictable. And this is the difference between living soil and dead soil, between an ever-depleted soil from which we extract life, and a regenerative soil that is teeming and overflowing with life. The paradigm of living soil acknowledges the vital interconnectedness between microbes and plants, air and water, sun and people. What we do to the web we do to ourselves, the earth is not a machine. And even the tiniest changes in one place can change everything in ways we wouldn’t expect. Living systems cannot be reduced to their component parts; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is already well-established. This is the glory of natural law; this is the genius of creative intelligence. We are meant to live in abundance, but we need to drop our arrogance and learn how to listen again.

“When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka

I understand that if you’re committed enough to have sought out the information in this paper, you probably already consider yourself a natural farmer or gardener. Let this be an appeal not to reason but to intuition. As you take the information, the compost pile recipes, materials lists and instructions, and prepare to apply it to your current operations, do your best to carry yourself more as a midwife than a chef. Realize that with every compost pile you make you’re giving birth to an entire community of new life forms, and your farm will be a stronger community because of it. Like any good community organizer (which you are), you’ll need patience, compassion and understanding, as you already know. Engage in the process of growing more abundant and healthy plants so that you might become more healthy and abundant in spirit. Farm so that you might create more harmony on earth. Your job is not easy and you know it, and it never ends

Exerpt, taken from the full paper: The Art and Science of Compost: Maximizing the Soil Food Web For Your Farm and Garden Ecosystems

1000 Words on Purpose

I moved to MUM with an understanding that “purification leads to progress.” Yoga philosophy instructed yogis to give up all impurities, intoxicants, unhealthy food, and other bad lifestyle habits. When my experience in meditation improved after eliminating toxic substances I realized that we really are what we eat! Thus, I became much more interested in good food and learned about all the damaging byproducts of our modern industrial food system. Through food, I found a direct connection between spiritual growth and physical life on earth. I figured if I could learn how to grow the purest food and live a natural lifestyle, then I would be doing something really good! After all, it seemed obvious that humans would never find peace on earth if they were poisoning the earth through their agriculture.

My Sustainable Living degree program has been dynamic and inspiring. Key classes like permaculture design, systems thinking, applied soil ecology and deep ecology have taught me to see patterns in nature. I’ve learned about the strength of collaboration between organisms, which supports diversity and abundance. I’ve learned that we can fulfill our human needs by collaborating with nature and connecting with nature on a direct personal level. Going forward, I intend to participate in the sustainability revolution by working with people directly who want to strengthen their own personal connection with nature and realign their communities to collaborate with nature. This is applied permaculture design, with a heavy dose of forest fairy magic.

During my summer apprenticeship in New Mexico my life was forever changed. I learned first hand how to use the “heart-field” as an organ of perception and communicate directly with plants and learn about their medicine. We did exercises to practice using our intuition to read the character of people, places, and anything else under the sun. We did deep psycho-emotional shadow work during our course, revealing layers of subconscious programs, memories, and beliefs that suppress our uninhbited expression. I learned that we all need to heal by reconnecting with our inner child – this unlocks our extrasensory potential, as does opening the emotional heart and healing insecurities. Speaking of insecurities…I learned that sexual energy is life-giving energy and is as useful for spiritual evolution as its is for procreation.

I feel as good as this woman looks when I'm meditating...

I feel as good as this woman looks when I’m meditating…


The daily practice of transcendental meditation has been one of the most transformative influences of my MUM career. I had experimented with other meditation techniques and had good experiences, but this technique has been the most reliable one for getting a daily dose of inner peace. Closing the eyes each day and transcending connects me with the mysterious inner reality and satguru that guides my life. Doing meditation in the framework of the ideal daily routine at MUM has helped me learn that rest and activity are equally important steps of progress.

Cultivating relationships with people at MUM continues to be the most rewarding ongoing experience next to meditation. From day one at MUM I’ve grown in love and openness with people through deep connection and intimacy. I learned the value of honesty, openness and transparency; self-knowledge can be gained through interaction with others, especially when people are aware of the power of their interaction. At MUM, more people are aware of that power than anywhere else I’ve ever been. This shared intention to grow and support each other in becoming whole has made me realize “Vasudhaiva Katumbakum” – “The World is My Family.” I’ve been able to live in co-housing with other people studying sustainable living, and this has emphasized the importance of community. Living a collaborative lifestyle with other people has given me the opportunity to actually learn how to live together in harmony, which is priceless

GoodFriendsinNYC

Friends from all over the country here together in Union Square NYC. Bonds at MUM strong enough to bring us together wherever we are on the map!

So Who am I NOW? How have my experiences at MUM changed me? And What do I want to do next?

I’m much more balanced now. Rest and meditation are the foundation for my activities. I’m more sensitive and in-tune with my body and emotions. I’m much more responsive to my digestion day to day and have good control over what I eat. I’m less afraid than I used to be, and more willing to be my honest, open and unguarded self. Thus, I’m more compassionate and loving than I used to be. I’m a more sexual person now….Or should I say…I’m more comfortable expressing my innate sexuality, and I don’t feel as much pressure to be anyone other that who I am in the present moment. When I came to MUM I was inspired, and am still inspired, but now I’ve got a clear direction for the future, getting clearer everyday…except for the days when I haven’t had enough rest. I’m beginning to understand what it really means to be autonomous; I’m taking full responsibility for my life – an empowered, self-referral life. I rarely run away from intimacy because I’m not ashamed to be seen. Naked. I feel prepared to go off into society and offer my gifts to the world!

Its clear to me that my writing skills, public speaking skills, organizational and administrative capacity, and critical thinking ability are all valuable and marketable assets wherever I go. What I really want to do in the immediate future is play a major role in creating a small-scale example of sustainable community living here in Fairfield. The nature of the work I’m getting into is intensely entrepreneurial, and I may need to acquire some good business skills. However, the field of permaculture and sustainable community design is highly interdisciplinary, so I’ll rest on my tested ability to learn on the job and adapt as I go. I know that I don’t know everything, which is important. But I know enough to undertake the project at Prairie Song Farm, which will require computer and media skills, advanced plant and ecological knowledge, practical gardening and soil fertility knowledge, advanced social skills and emotional intelligence, tractor mechanics and machine work, basic and advanced carpentry, electrical engineering, etc.

Wow, clearly I need more than just me to accomplish my goals. I should’ve studied cloning. This illustrates a simple yet profound point: Community is formed by a group of people working together – it can’t be top-down. I see my role as a leader (initiator) who is also a catalyst and connecting agent. My gift is the ability to gather and articulate a shared vision. From that point, a design can be made, and it takes a community of people to bring the design to life. One thing is for sure: If a deeply spiritual, environmentally regenerative and economically thriving culture were to emerge anywhere in North America, it would be Fairfield, Iowa.

“The Brain is a River, Not a Rock” (Last) Part III

Experience changes the brain – that’s the only way I can understand how my lifestyle has changed so drastically during the 4 years in college. The motivation for change first started after an experience in the car with my mother in 2008. We were 4 hours into a long ride down to southeast Virginia to visit Christopher Newport University, which I hoped to attend after graduating that year. I was behind the wheel, and once again my mother’s wisdom had a CD playing a man named Eckhart Tolle, who was speaking to a group at a spiritual retreat center. His calm, intelligent voice took my unsuspecting attention to a place I never expected: the present moment. As he spoke, he guided my attention not just to the words but also to the silent space between the words, and to my great surprise I found something there. As I listened and drove my mind became still, his teaching became clear, and the reality of “me” expanded way beyond the ego-personality that is confined to a human body. The awareness in me noticed itself and the infinite nature of its presence. I felt peace and freedom like I had never known before.

This experience propelled me into a new world, one that was enlivened by inner-silence, mystical experience, and meditation. To my surprise, the pleasure of this sense of inner awareness and freedom was more expansive and interesting than any altered state I could conjure up with drugs. As weird as I seemed to others who had no reference for this strange behavior, my interest in the Eastern traditions of Vedic, Taoist, and Buddhist meditation was justified by the peace, freedom, and clarity I felt during and after meditation. Today at age 23 I sit down to meditate as part of my daily routine. The simple and natural process of transcendental meditation brings me to a stress-free place where there is nothing but pure subjectivity – I am a witness – and infinite silent space pervades. After twenty effortless minutes I emerge as the exceptional thinking-feeling individual who I knew myself as before, but something is different: My brain. Even though the content of my waking experience had disappeared, my brainwaves revealed that something significant was occurring during the process of transcending.

As a student at Maharishi University of Management I’ve been literally required to learn all that brain scientists have discovered about the positive correlation between Alpha 1 coherence in the brain and transcendental consciousness (meditative state). These well-established findings include other unique physiological markers, which establish the transcendental state of consciousness as distinct from simply sitting with eyes closed or contemplative practices. Alpha brain waves are a sign of relaxed activity in the brain, and are defined as waves that cycle between the frequencies of 8-12 hertz. Alpha 1 brainwaves are active during “peak experience,” and are associated with the feeling of “being in the flow” and operating at a highly creative level. This provides neuroscientific understanding as to why daily meditation is such a good thing to be doing. The repeated experience of Alpha 1 coherence throughout the cortex during consistent meditation practice changes brain circuitry to support optimal brain function. Each new experience in meditation strengthens and reinforces the Alpha 1 coherence, just as the effects of any other behavioral pattern or habit is encoded in the brain. So the science is out – The experience of transcendental consciousness changes the brain in a special way, yet the mystery and intrigue of this deep state remains.

The ancient Vedic knowledge of Indian yogis explains that the state called “Cosmic Consciousness” (CC for short) is the inevitable progression of a person experiencing transcendental consciousness over time. This state of consciousness is what others refer to as “Enlightenment.” Aspects of this state of consciousness include total brain integration with alpha coherence as described above, as well as some subjective markers like experiencing the unbounded, stress-free awareness of meditation simultaneously while functioning as an awake individual in the world – being “in the world, but not of the world,” as the Indian mystics say. One additional prediction was made about life in CC that can actually be studied scientifically: witnessing sleep. Strange as it may seem, neurophysiological markers of alpha and beta brainwaves are found in coexistence with delta patterns during deep sleep in long-term practitioners of transcendental meditation reporting subjective experiences of being consciously aware that the brain and body are asleep. The coexistence of alpha-beta-delta deep sleep patterns are currently beyond the acceptable scientific paradigm; the studies done on “witnessing sleep” are immature and thus considered protoscience, which calls for replication and further analysis of new findings. Nonetheless, so-called “higher states” of consciousness do appear to be a real and inevitable development of human potential.

Before coming to MUM I only read about “higher states” of consciousness in terms of philosophical or psycho-spiritual theory, and individual anecdotes seemed to point to glimpses of potential for experiencing an unexplainable reality. The framework of brain research used to support the understanding of transcendental consciousness and “higher states” of consciousness as distinct from waking, dreaming, or deep sleep states is very informative. At first I could only relate to my meditation and other spiritual practices in terms of philosophy and the great wisdom traditions that teach about them. Coupling experience of transcendental consciousness with knowledge of brain development has influenced me to refine my paradigm once again. I am beginning to realize just how powerfully our minds limit and constrain the range of experience that is available to each of us.

Given what is known about paradigm blindness I must make it a practice to seek novelty on a daily basis, which can be as simple as opening my mind wider to what is possible and present in this moment right now. What if I really can consciously communicate with others without word or sign? What if illness and disease in the body can be prevented and reversed by believing I am healthy and immune to disease? Based on the nature of the brain I have realized that an emotionally-supportive and loving environment infused with wisdom, honesty and openness is conducive to the type of growth I am seeking. I can intentionally create a lifestyle overflowing with beautiful and pure food for all the senses, as well as challenging activities that draw out my higher capacities and talents for Self-mastery. As self-organizing systems (humans) our unique physiologies determine which stimuli in the environment disturb us and warrant response; the influx of new information from this course has created a disturbance that I have chosen to respond to. As I continue to digest and assimilate new ideas and information I realize that my brain is changing accordingly. The more open I am the more flexible and resilient I will become. If I refine the filters of my reality to accept the whole range of experience as growth promoting and evolutionary, the way I interpret and perceive my reality will change; this inevitably shapes the flavor and nature of my experience. How far can we go as human beings? How much are we capable of? What limitations do you hold yourself to? What will it take for you to thrive?

Change of Mind, Not Heart

Fairfield is a transformative place to be, especially when you’re already working on yourself. The inner work of Self-awareness and liberation from unconscious conditioning is the good work of becoming your True Self – free from guilt, shame, fear, suppressed emotions, hidden desires – and free to be happy, sad, mad, loud, quiet, tough, rough, soft, so long as it respects the free will of others and is non-violent to others. It’s this process of inner transformation that makes life most exciting for me daily, and being in a place like Fairfield allows me to connect with a ridiculously high number/per capita of other people consciously becoming their unique and liberated True Selves. Interestingly, not in Fairfield but New Mexico I experienced an enormous acceleration and integration of my personality; participating in the Earth Medicine Apprenticeship was a primary reason for this progression.

“Earth Medicine” is a way of healing; it involves sacred plant medicine and herbal medicine, deep ecology and environmental philosophy, ecopsychology and psychotheraputic experience, shadow work, inner child work, extra-sensory perception and tracker skills. I just threw out a bunch of labels to point to a process that is more than the sum of its parts. To practice Earth Medicine is to commune deeply and develop a compassionate healing relationship with our own inner nature, which is guided, inspired, informed and blessed by deep communion with Earth Mother – Gaia – Mother Nature. This process involves developing our innate intuitive and psychic skills and developing a deep capacity for sensing with the heart-field as an organ of perception; the experience of these practices challenge the boundary we perceive between “us” and everything else. This work in integrative in the way it connects individuals with a sense of wholeness and oneness with all things “inner” and “outer.”

As I was reflecting with my school advisor on my decision to do a permaculture design for my senior project it became obviously, undeniably, irresistibly apparent that what I want most deeply is to continue to go deeper with “Earth Medicine” now and on into the future after graduation; thus, it would be most appropriate to focus my senior project around this area of interest to go deeper and get to know what aspects of it I am drawn to most. This would include actual physical work in the garden where I live – planning and planting a perennial medicine garden, writing a 30-page integrative paper on the subject, and offering a series of workshops on “Earth Medicine” to the community.

There is, however, an important consideration and responsibility that I must uphold – Doing the Permaculture Design. Since my original project proposal was for a permaculture design at the site where I rent and live, I need to consider my landlord’s expectations, since we agreed that I would do the design for his land. I am free – I was born free and I will die free -and I’m not bound to anything. But keeping agreements is something that is important both on karmic and personal levels. Thus, I need to re-negotiate my agreement with my landlord because the timing of everything is going to change. While my intention and interest still lie in doing an ever-so-necessary design for the land, my highest passion and most precious attention will be going toward Earth Medicine for the 2 months of my senior project. Fortunately, there is overlap between certain aspects of permaculture design (observation, analysis and assessment) and the process of Earth Medicine will help tremendously with the initial fundamental stages of any good permaculture design.

Fortunately, I plan to remain living where I am for several seasons after I graduate, which will allow me to continue to work on the permaculture design after I graduate. I also have a feeling that having more time to deliberate and research proposed aspects of the design will make for a more intelligent and appropriate design overall. Ultimately, what’s most important is that I’m being True to mySelf. So long as my thoughts and actions are grounded in the integrity of who I am at my core the outcome will be most evolutionary for all concerned.

Prairie Song Permaculture Project (Part II)

By the time mid-November came around I was exhausted from all the grunt work but felt great about the increased growing capacity in the garden from the formation of new beds. All in all, there is about 1500 sq ft. of prepped bed space that will be ready to plant in come spring. Originally, the plan for my senior project was to focus on growing as much food as possible in the garden to feed farm residents and sell at the farmer’s market; in addition, I would do a comprehensive permaculture design for the farm.

However, various conversations with friends and fellow permaculturists inspired me to think about the garden’s growing potential more as a perennial medicine garden than purely annual veggies. Growing herbs for market and certain restaurants seems to offer more of a profit-earning niche for the farm than would annual veggies; also, it seems to be a better use of space, since the price per pound of fresh herbs may yield more dollars per square foot than would melons or broccoli or beans, if you know what I mean…

With this shift in focus for the garden I realized that the garden itself will be an ongoing project beyond the scope of my 2 months of senior project. Thus, the formal permaculture design will be the primary deliverable and focus of my senior project, along with the creation of a website to display and present the design among other things.

Thus, the deliverables for my proposed project are:

  1. The entire permaculture design, with physical base maps, overlays, species lists, etc.
  2. A digital representation of the full permaculture design and a presentation of the design from the viewpoint of the website. This will include a guided tour of the website for Stacy, who will be grading my project.
  3. A 10-page summative/integrative essay (double spaced) to replace the 30-page paper (double spaced) currently required by the official SL Senior Project Guidelines. This paper will integrate the most pertinent principles of SCI that inform and enrich the project, as well as a summary of accomplishments and short discussion/reflection about the significance of the senor project experience (what I got out of it).

Since most of my time during this month of self-directed study was spent outside in the garden, it was only toward the end of this month that I really sat and thought about the permaculture design process itself. I chose to do a formal design for the farm because I identified that it will provide a thoughtful and comprehensive basis for the ongoing development and creation of this sustainable living experiment. For a concise background of Prairie Song Farm and its mission see “Unconventional Rurual Permaculture Farmstead with Work-Trade Renters,” posted on February 24, 2012.  As students come and go, this design will be useful to offer a context and common basis for action, with regard to project phases of implementation and long-term goals.

I feel like this process is important for my evolution as an individual, because I’m learning that the key to a successful design is how well I observe. My primary goal is to spend quality time observing and yield to the voices of the land and its inhabitants – plant, animal, elemental, invisible. This place is home to people seeking spiritual growth as a primary purpose for life, and the actualization of material projects, whether they’re called “permaculture” or “business” or “creative,” are a waste of time if they don’t serve the spiritual evolution of the people, planet, and universe. This means that this project is less about what comes to be and more about how it comes to be. I don’t expect to be perfect when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the design. All that I hope to accomplish is a deeper acquaintance (and thus knowledge) of the land and its diverse inhabitants, and that I observe/listen to the source of creative intelligence out of which all things come.

If I can leave behind a permaculture design that is creative and useful to residents in some way I will be happy. If I can learn to be a better inhabitant, a more responsible co-creator, a better son and servant of Mother Gaia during the process I will be happier. And if by some miracle I can remember to keep things simple and not over-think it, I might actually enjoy myself the whole time.