For the next couple of years I spent all of my time digging in the Earth to grow food in a Permaculture manner. I trained in Permaculture. In fact, a week before tendering my resignation to the Matrix (which is what I called what I was doing with my life) I signed up for a program out of Asheville called "Permaculture In Action." This was hands on Permaculture training where we implemented permaculture design for home owners. I learned a lot about permaculture in that program. Two years later I received a PDC (permaculture design course certificate) from Spiral Ridge. In parting words of wisdom Cliff Davis rightly told us all that "you can't eat your PDC."
During all of this I was bitten by the bamboo bug. That resulted in Environmental Control being called to my residence (while I was away taking the intensive PDC training). Apparently the horse weed that I let grow up in the chicken run sent up a red flag that I was growing marijuana (I was not). While they were there they took the opportunity to tell my aunt-in-law that she needed to cut all of the bamboo down to 16 inches or be fined. They said it was a grass and therefore could be no taller than 16 inches...which is a complete joke, and come to find out not even true. That was the message I was presented with upon returning from the permaculture design course. I pulled onto the property and was instantly greeted by my hysterical aunt-in-law who had been fear mongered by the local environmental authorities. I was told I had to cut all of the bamboo down or she'd have to pay $500. I complied with Environmental Control by digging up all of my bamboo and putting it in pots. All but one of the varieites I had growing. I left Phyllostacys Aureasulcata f. Spectabilis in the ground. It was in it's first year that year. All of the bamboo I had planted was planted that year.
I left Spectabilis in the ground so that I could confront Environmental Control when they came. I was going to have my wife video record the event. I was going to have her record them telling me that I had to cut all of the canes down to 16 inches or that they would fine my aunt-in-law. I never got the chance to confront them because they came by the house unannounced when I was not home. However, they cleared us of any infractions and said "it's not illegal to have a garden but you have to keep it weeded." I immediately put all of my bamboo back in the ground where it has been ever since. This is the third year at "Kitsune Bamboo Nursery," which is the name I gave my bamboo operation here at "The Fox Den." Kitsune is Japanese for "fox."
Permaculture and bamboo can sustain every single human need. Bamboo itself can sustain humanity. In fact, all bamboo wants is to be honored by man. It bends itself to us and beckons us to eat it's shoots, or to let them grow and then use the poles for whatever needs we have. A grove that is managed properly is actually much healthier than a grove that is left to natures devices. The quality of the bamboo wood becomes much better in a managed grove. It becomes harder and resists splitting better than it's wild counterpart. The problem with bamboo is that we do not have the culture for it here in America. Bamboo can provide for every human need, but if we don't know how to use it then it just becomes an invasive weed that monopolizes the landscape much like kudzu does. Kudzu is a similar story because it too is infinitely useful to our species. It's a food, a medicine, and a fiber for us to use, but since we do not use it it simply becomes a scourge in our landscapes.
I am interning with Keiji Oshima of Haiku Bamboo Nursery to learn the culture of bamboo. I have learned to split bamboo with a traditional Japanese blade, and I have learned to make and play Shakuhachi flute. Soon I'm going to start learning to weave with bamboo. Along with learning the culture I am also learning how to manage bamboo groves for all of the various purposes. A bamboo grove is managed based on what the purpose of that grove is. Will it be for shoots, for poles, for a nursery, or just for esthetics? I'm still learning the differences in management. Every week I go up the mountain to Hendersonville to apprentice with Keiji...to learn the culture of bamboo.
Now for the cognizant dissonance part of this blog. I have found the answers to address the future of energy scarcity that we are on the precipice of. I fear gasoline will not remain cheap for very much longer because it costs the energy companies more money to extract it than they can get in return on the market. They can't raise the prices to where they need to be because doing so crashes the economy, but they can't not raise prices because not doing so means losing money. If it costs more to retrieve and render useful the petroleum than is received for that effort than eventually that game has to come to an end. If it costs you a dollar to do something that you only get .50 cents for, and you are a business and not a government, than you are a losing business.
Secondly, all of this petroleum is going a long way to explain the rise in global CO2. Combine all of the emissions of noxious chemicals into our atmosphere with the removal of our forests and you've got a global disaster in the making. We are poisoning the biosphere that sustains us while at the same time cutting out it's organs. Basically we are commiting suicide as a species. Anthropogenic Global Warming is a real phenomenon. It's not some global conspiracy perpetuated by the hands of the global climate scientists. The fact of the matter is that effectively immediately we need to stop burning petroleum and begin addressing our climate problems. Bamboo is more than ready to address those problems. Bamboo takes up more CO2 than trees do. Bamboo grows more biomass at a faster rate than trees do. If taken seriously I believe that bamboo can save us and fix our climate problems.
We need to be the change we want to see in our world. I believe that to be true. But what I've learned over the last few years is that you have to afford to be the change, and nobody can afford it. Which is why I have ended up as an entrepreneur with my own landscaping business, Ancient Earth Landscaping. Ancient Earth started off as Ancient Earth Design which was a permaculture business that a friend of mine and I started after Permaculture In Action. For a while it seemed that we were going to be a success and then for some reason clients didn't have the money, and new clients stopped showing up. My business parnter got tired of the struggle and went back to teaching. I changed the name to Ancient Earth Landscaping (AEL) and kept chugging along.
The point of business is to make money. I did manage to find a couple of clients here in the Upstate of SC, and I made some money with permaculture design as AEL. However, what was paying the bills for me was conventional landscape maintenance. People don't pay for permaculture, but they pay lots of money to have their grass and shrubbery cut. They pay even more money when nature gets out of hand and needs to be put back in a box. AEL has becomes a phenomenal success. I am at a place where I can no longer take on new clients because I can barely keep up with the clients I have. I'm looking to hire help, but I can't because I need every dollar I can get. In the South, when winter arrives, my business tanks. That means I have to save for a three to four month period where I will not be making much money at all. It is possible to make money in landscaping during the winter, but there is no guarantee. Cutting grass is what sustains the landscape maintenance business because it relentlessly grows and therefore must be maintained. If you don't cut your grass Environmental Control will show up and fine you $500. My business is basically mandated by local ordinance.
There are a lot of problems with what I have become. I drive around using a 5.7 L hemi to pull a trailer full of engines and gasoline. I use the power in that gasoline to violently control nature six days a week. I try to not work on the weekends but lately I've had to in order to keep my clients satisfied with the services I provide. I use weed eaters, hedge trimmers, back pack blowers, lawn mowers, a wood chipper, a chain saw, and other small engines to do my job. I am contributing to all of the problems that I sought to address when I resigned from the Matrix. I pollute the atmosphere more now than I ever have.
The question I have asked myself over and over again is "why would a Druid ride a lawn mower?" A Druid is the last person who should be riding a lawn mower for an entire army of reasons. On the one hand I have the belief that nature is sacred, and that belief defines my spiritual practice and identity. On the other I pollute and destroy nature everyday. Why? The answer is very simple. The world of man requires me to make money. Money is the problem. I have a wife and children, and even without having to pay rent or a mortgage I still need money.
Our civilization, the one that is teetering on the verge of collapse, requires me to make money. That is what plugs us all into the Matrix. I would love to spend all of my time farming bamboo, crafting with bamboo, and sustaining my needs with bamboo (and permaculture). In order to do that I need land to do it on, and unfortunately the world of man constantly requires that I be making money. Money doesn't care about the environment. Money doesn't care about anything. It's a bit like our ego is. It's self perpetuating for the purposes of self perpetuation.
And so I persist in this state of cognizant disonance. I'm constantly yearning to awaken from this contradictory state of existence that is my daily life. I am forced into hypocrisy to sustain myself and my family. If I put all of the engines down and stop polluting and destroying that which is sacred than I lose my ability to make money. If I hold onto those engines and continue successfully making a lot of money than I continue contributing to all of our real problems.
It seems there is no way to win. We are hopelessly left twisting in the winds of the imploding world of man that we all create everyday. We are all guilty. I'm sure of one thing. Petroleum is a limited resource that will not be replaced by anything on Earth, or in outer space. Petroleum is the fuel that enables our current global civilization. We literally eat petroleum. We chose the wrong substance to depend on, and now we are hopelessly addicted and in denial. This losing game that we are all playing is bound to come to an end. Until then...I guess we just keep playing. It's a dog eat dog world. I intend to win, and I've gotten just old enough to shed the majority of the idealism that has always lurked in my mind. In the words of Cage The Elephant "I've got bills to pay and mouths to feed and ain't nothin' in this world for free."
I suppose our saving grace is that there is a lot of beauty in the world. The best we can do is to revel in that beauty. Who knows, maybe a miracle will happen. Maybe Jesus will come back and save us from ourselves. In the meantime the Buddha is hear to point the way to salvation here and now. He's pointing at a bamboo grove...at least when I look at him that's what he's pointing at. I seek refuge in the bamboo that resides in nature. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed everything on the surface, bamboo was the first life form to return. There is much hope in bamboo.