Review: Building A Better World In Your Backyard

February 14, 2021

Sitting here by my window, with over ten inches of snow on the ground, is a great time to review this Permaculture book by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop.
I’ve been working on farms and orchards since the 1980’s, but this book is an inspiration to step up my game.
Paul Wheaton is a bear of a man, somewhat loud and seemingly always clothed in farmers over-alls.
In other words, a guy like me, except he appears smarter and more skilled.

Farming has always been a local and personal activity for me. I have shared the food I grew, occasionally sold some, but it was mostly a personal experience.
Not with Wheaton. He has gone the extra mile to work on building community, sharing duties towards mutual assistance, and educating folks new to the concept of living simply and efficiently.
I credit an interview on the @Grimerica podcast for introducing me to Wheaton.

“Building A Better World In Your Backyard” is subtitled “Instead Of Being Angry At Bad Guys”.
This book is truly an “idea” book, allowing us more choice as well as more personal responsibility.
Normally permaculture deals with the best possible combination of agriculture, raising animals, and improving/preserving the land in it’s most positive, natural state.

Wheaton however, broadens the concept to include everything from eliminating toxins in your personal use, super low-cost and efficient ways to heat, build, and acquire land. And in Wheaton’s slightly off-kilter method, he insists on doing projects with minimum effort, in his words – because he is lazy.

Wheaton is anything but lazy. The guy gets a lot of shit done, just with a simplistic, natural touch that actually does appear to be “the easy way”.

“Building A Better World” is a catalog of ideas and techniques that has footnotes at the bottom of every page to direct the reader to online resources. These include his website Richsoil.com (https://richsoil.com/), and associated videos of interviews and projects. Paul also has a podcast available, and I have listened to several episodes.

Admittedly, I had to figure out how to best navigate his website, but dig through and you will find a remarkable amount of information for both beginners and old hands.
I have (even with organic gardens) previously relied on conventional row crops and seasonal renovation of the garden beds.
However, Wheaton’s written and video tips have got me into the concept of “Hugelkultur” (linked here https://richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ ).

This method uses buried logs and other biomass with piles of soil, leaves, hay, anything you can get – to top-dress the decomposing logs. The logs bank water, resulting in less or no irrigation. Additionally, the mycelium fungus from the decomposing material helps feed and nourish the plants.

“Building A Better World In Your Backyard” is a quick read but long in reference. You can literally pick the book up and flip to any short chapter, in no particular sequence. I highly recommend this quirky little encyclopedia of simple, efficient living that brings forward a far more expansive view of living with the natural world.

Links:
https://twitter.com/paulwheaton

https://richsoil.com/

John Titus,
https://www.covertbookreport.com/

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