As I reflect back on the past two months and try to write this last blog post that will be up after I have left, I think of this past week (when my last post came up), but also the entirety of my time here. I observe the changes and growth that the garden and I have gone through. The alliums that we planted around the almond tree in the west food forest seem to be working to combat fungal pathogens. Some of the onions by the roses are happy. It does not feel like I have learned that much until I stop and think of all the specific tasks that I have done over the past two months and could now lead or at least not need that much guidance. Particular things like setting the gate posts, or broader things like transplanting trees. Also realizing that a very abundant fungus is quite tasty!
Permaculture is often the realm of new age hippies and one of the reasons I moved away from northern California is because of too many new age hippies so whenever looking at places to WWOOF I want to learn permaculture (because of the revolutionary nature of its ethics based approach), but without the dogma that often comes with new age hippie intentional communities.
There are other ways in which the community authentically creates a culture that honors the earth. With a decent number of the foundering members of Songaia having lived in developing nations and bringing those experiences of living closer to the land and possibly more tribally to the community. The Festival of the Earth, and Nancy's drumming party which felt like one of the most authentic instances of (mostly) white people siting in a room drumming both exemplify that authenticity.
However the community aspect of the community spaces (garden, kitchen particularly) and lack of obvious “rules” can be a little challenging at times particularly manifesting as lack of communication. Such as knowing (and remembering) to put (extra) soap in dirty dishwashers, communication about where things are in the kitchen. Or knowing where to find tools for the garden which seem to go missing. They could be somewhere in the garden forgotten to be put away, they could be in the barn, by the (goat?) shed (that is practically as far away from the goats to be while still being on property...?), or in a variety of other creative locations that surely make sense to some creative individual...
When looking at Songaia I was a little skeptical that it would not be one of those new age hippie intentional communities that I was trying to avoid. After my first few days here I breathed a sigh of relief feeling that the people here were relatively “normal” (liberal/mainstream). That provided the hope that I was looking for; that permaculture and community can flourish even amongst “normal” people which tells me that it is a viable solution and provides hope for the future.
Songaia seems to have a good balance of personal “private” individual space as well as communal/community space and time. Participation is not mandatory but more of an opt in program. However some people seem at times frustratingly too “normal” being stuck in old paradigms of order, control, violence that makes it hard to apply principles of permaculture (for example) which are so outside the “norm” of the past 10,000 years!
Which brings up the perennial question of; how to systemically change paradigms? Permaculture talks about living by example and (in theory) people will see actions as fractals and replicate things that work.
One of my friends who is deeply into the permaculture scene in Sonoma County CA talks about exemplifying the new paradigm in one's actions. People who interact with them will notice a shift and they will change their actions as well and it will slowly ripple out...
Does that even work? If it does, does the planet have time for the ripple method of change to work, or do we need to take a systems approach to systemically change the systems that maintain the dominant paradigm of order, control, violence?
Another great example was when we were making the base to hoop house #3 there was a brassica plant flowering in the corner, that was kind of in the way but I at first was pretty cautious to try to leave it as in tact as possible. Then it was decided arbitrarily that it was too in the way, so we went on with walking on it and pushing it into the bed. Only to realize later that it has a “save for seed” sign next to it...
Garden bloggers are community members, volunteers and interns at Songaia.