Adventures in Permaculture: Day 2

I would’ve made this entry last night, but I was too damned tired!  Did I mention 13.5 hour days?  I wasn’t joking.

I drove my trusty rental car (which was thankfully a Hyundai Elantra and not a Jeep Commander, which is what I got last time I reserved a compact car) the 10 minutes to the course site.  It’s in a residential neighborhood just off a major thoroughfare in Eugene.  The instructions were to park at least five blocks away, but since I was toting two large pieces of luggage, I felt justified in parking around 3 blocks away in a place that seemed very quiet and safe.

While I was approaching the address, I saw someone being dropped off in a shuttle, so at least I knew some other fools had signed up for this course.  We were directed behind the main house to a cob and straw bale structure.  No shoes are allowed inside the buildings, so I took mine off to step inside and stow my bags.  There were a few other people there, and we chatted a bit.

Then I decided I needed to pee.

I returned to the front of the property and asked the person where I might do that.  I knew the site had composting everything, so I was expecting such.  I was shown an outhouse which was where “the girls pee.”  I was fine with that.  What I was NOT fine with was that the bathroom had not seen any love in a very long time.  It was dirty and covered in cobwebs.  Not being the overly squeamish type (and someone who can tell old, uninhabited cobwebs from ones with unfriendly hosts), I started clearing away the most offending ones that were attached to the toilet lid.  I knew I wouldn’t be the only one using this facility, and I guessed there were others for whom the cobwebs would be more of an issue.

I did my business, although the seat was not very thoughtfully placed on the bench, especially for people shorter than me.  It was set back really far so your legs had to practically rest against the wood in front.  Also, it was practically touching the wall, which makes for a close encounter with any cobwebs in the corner.  Just not a very thoughtful placement, and I made a mental note of how much better my future composting toilet would be than this one.

I returned to the cob building, and more people arrived.  The structure itself is used on a regular basis for yoga.  It mainly consists of one wide-open room with skylights and lots of windows.  The wooden floor, we were told, used to be high school bleachers.

The next 4 hours was spent mostly sitting on the wooden floor of this building with little heat using back rests and blankets.  Keep in mind, it’s 42 degrees out.  Then we broke for lunch, which was in a kitchen with no heat.  (We did have a portable heat blower type fan that we carried in with us.)  All the meals are vegan, which is fine – I brought extra protein bars.

The people running the course are very nice.  The owner/director is very soft-spoken and thoughtful.  His assistant is the most shockingly sincere person you will ever meet.  He is a caricature – a character right out of an SNL skit.  He is a former marine, chiseled from head to toe, covered in tattoos and talks about compost like it’s the latest life-changing gadget from Apple.   Sometimes I stare in disbelief as he says something to see if he’s making a joke – but he never is.

The participants in the program are diverse and all very nice.  There is the usual talker, hippie, reformed silicon valley techie, college student, etc.  Much of today was spent getting to know them through improv-style exercises.

The rest of the day was spent sitting on that hard floor watching movies about how crappy the world is and how a small group of concerned people are trying to affect change.  I had to continually adjust my position to avoid feeling achy.

After dinner, I was super tired and not really absorbing any new information.

I slept in a dorm-style arrangement with the seven other women.  Everyone had their own futon. Did I mention I do not sleep well on futons?  For some reason, my hips cannot handle the hardness and they ache and go numb.  I wish it weren’t true, but it is.  Even when I was younger, I could not sleep on them.  They have newer, thicker mattresses now, but this one not one of them.  I struggled to get comfortable all night.

My impressions so far: the course is taken a little more seriously than I’d like.  I wish it were 8 hours a day instead of 13.5, and I wish they’d come to the campus and taken care of the little details a little earlier.

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