We've started our permaculture project!! Our site is about 110 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri on about 300 acres total with a lake. We'll be using just a few acres, probably less than 5 to start with.

We spent the first weekend of work accomplishing our first goal: building an outhouse for collecting human manure for composting. When this picture was taken we were one day into the project. 95% of the materials used were recycled from abandoned or tornado damaged structures. The only thing we purchased was a bit of siding and roofing material.

We'll also add a gutter and rain barrel for collecting rain water for washing hands. The structure is nestled in with a few cedar and dogwood trees so a good bit of shade. My current plan is to mound up large creek rocks near the treated wood base and then soil further out from the rock and plant with a variety of shade wildflowers like Sweet Willam.

A note about permaculture and composting human waste. For a lot of folks the subject of human waste is taboo. From the perspective of permaculture, it is what it is: the natural by-product of human life which can and should be recycled back into the local ecosystem. We won't be spreading this raw manure onto crops because it does indeed contain a variety of bacteria that should not be near food. A five gallon bucket is used to collect the manure and it is then composted in a special long-term compost pile for 2-4 years to ensure that it is safe to use. In all likelihood it will be used for fruit and nut trees, berry vines, and bushes in our forest garden.

Next on the project list: Utility shed and after that a series of small cabins. Some family will be using cabins for vacationing initially with plans for longer term residence later. I'll likely be living on-site much of the year starting in the fall. Composting has already begun and the garden as well as forest garden will be developed in stages starting this fall. Spring of 09 will be focused on the full development of the garden as well as a new chicken coop for 5-10 chickens and a bee hive.

This is just the beginning of our project but given the general state of energy and climate change on the planet, I'm glad to have it started. I have no doubt that peak oil has arrived and, as fate would have it, the effects of climate change seem to be rapidly accelerating at the same time. It is well past the time that we begin building local communities of people willing to see a life beyond suburbia.