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Newbie looking to start a intentional community or just meet like minded people

 
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Hey everyone!

Let me introduce myself. I am Jae, my family and I live on the west coast but seriously want to escape the madness of wildfires and overcrowding. We have been researching eco, sustainable living and building techniques for some time and are ready to pull the trigger. I have built houses in the past and look forward to building more in the future. We are currently researching land to purchase in Vermont so we can get the ball rolling. We plan on building houses similar to earth ships but using cob instead of wood and cement. We hope to build a community on the land and have the community be a part of educating people on this lifestyle and show that you can live comfortably off grid with little impact on the environment and have a much more fulfilling life as well. I hope to chat with people in this community and build some long lasting friendships.
 
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Location: Bought the farm and moved from Maine to western tip of Virginia.
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Unless you have family in Vermont or other reasons for moving there, I'd suggest you rethink that.  I'm from Maine and I love Vermont and New Hampshire for hiking in the mountains, skiing, and water sports, but farming, not so much.  Growing season is too short and winter too cold and long.  Two years ago I set out to do what you plan to do.  Buy a large enough piece of land somewhere in a temperate climate with a longer growing season and much less snow to shovel or plow.  I searched all over western Virginia, TN, KY, and NC and ended up buying 30 south-facing acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of SW Virginia.

But before I bought, I spent two years seeking like-minded people who had enough money to buy a couple of acres and some usable skills.  Most were just wannabes who thought they could get a free place to live and had no conception of the amount of physical work required. The first family I selected had gotten themselves out of debt and saved up enough for a couple of acres.  He talked a great talk about living off-grid with solar power, gravity-fed rain water catchment system, gray water system, and composting toilet, etc.  Though not really interested in living off-grid myself, I was eager to support his ideas.  He seemed eager to build infrastructure and start gardens and other stuff I was interested in.  Once we agreed to join forces, he set aside the portion of his savings to acquire the farm and still had enough to build his "tiny home."

It looked like it would be a symbiotic relationship.  What I didn't take into consideration or do an analysis of was his family.  I knew that he was high-functioning Autistic and thought I could work within his limitations.  His wife had some experience with gardening and wanted to learn ways to preserve and store food.  But it turned out that she was addicted to Rx pain killers, was being treated for multiple ailments, and was literally unable to function most days.  Their two children were learning disabled and the younger one had multiple physical disabilities.  I think I felt sorry for them and thought they would all benefit by moving out of the Boston area to a more healthy environment with real food instead of the Franken-foods they'd lived on all their lives.

With my savings and theirs, we had just enough to close on the property.  I bought the farm in mid-Nov 2019 and moved there in early Dec.  I spent the winter rehabbing the mobile home on the property, cleaning up trash, repairing the barn and other chores, and they joined me in May 2020.  The idea was the trailer would provide temporary shelter for all of us until we could build our own homes and would then be available for the next family until they built and so on until the community filled up and then the trailer would be used as our community center and housing for WWOOFers or visitors or something.

The day they moved in, all renovations on the trailer stopped.  I'd left the walls and cabinets unpainted so they could pick colors and do some of the painting.  It was so crowded with their stuff and my stuff that there was no room to work, barely enough to walk from front door to back.  They had the master bedroom and 3rd bedroom, all of the living room but a space for my recliner which they took over.  We shared the eat-in kitchen and the one bathroom I had rehabbed.  I moved my tools and other stuff I could do without up to the barn, and gradually over the next few months, they went through all their boxes and moved enough up to the barn to create a little space.

But living together was an exercise in frustration.  I'm neat; they're slobs.  I love peace and quiet; they are all loud and anything but peaceful.  I have an abundance mentality; they have a poverty/scarcity mentality.  I eat a lot of fresh or frozen veggies; they eat a lot of fried meat and junk food.  I had to build a doghouse for my dog and relegate him to outside-only because the girl is allergic to everything.  I eat at the dining table; they take off to their bedrooms with dishes full of food.  I wash dishes after every meal, dry them, and put them away; they toss their dirty dishes in the sink or leave them all over the house, porches, or elsewhere.  I take responsibility for my animals; they think the livestock can take care of themselves.   Over a period of 9 months I became so angry, resentful, and frustrated, that I had to take off for a week to regain my perspective on life.

There's a lot more to this story, but I'd already come to the conclusion that either they or I had to go.  I didn't have the cash to buy them out, and they didn't have the cash to buy me out, so I decided to sell the farm, pay them off, and go find something smaller for myself and forget about the permaculture community idea.  I soon found a buyer for the farm who was willing to pay my asking price.  But, I couldn't find anything comparable to replace it.  Even 10 acres with no barn and a fixer-upper house or trailer was asking more than I was for 30 acres, barn, and nearly fully rehabbed trailer.  After a couple months of looking, I called my buyer and told her I was taking the farm off the market.  I'd have to find another way to buy them out.  I'm staying right where I am.

This may sound like a rant, but what I'm saying is, IF you decide to build a community, make sure you vet your candidates completely and don't share your living accommodations with strangers.  You just never know what they are really like until it's too late to do anything about it.  People sometimes aren't truthful about themselves.
 
Jae Lowell
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Thanks for the long thought out response Cimarron Layne. I appreciate all the advice. Also, those people sound truly awful, sorry you had to deal with that.

My wife and I plan to start this by ourself. I am saving up and have an inheritance coming to me. It just seems like the right time. After we get ourselves set up we plan to have an entire process for choosing people who live on our land, not in the same house as us. We will have a shared central area and they will have to sign a lease agreement that will outline some basic rules and responsibilities. Just run it as a business.

As for the Vermont thing. We really have our hearts set on Vermont. It's just fitting to our personalities. We have thought about the growing season and we are hoping to get a greenhouse that is heated by geothermal and thermal mass in the winter so we can grow all year. It's done in some Northern states by a hand full of people and their winters are pretty harsh. We will take your words to heart though and consider it when making our final decision. <3
 
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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There is a pretty wide literature now around intentional community, ic.org is a good place to start. I've spent a good part of my adult life in community settings of various sorts, and there are a few ways that it can succeed, and rather more ways to crash it, some of them spectacular.  Cimarron's story above is probably one of many many that could be heard and mined for their lessons.  Do the research.  If I were you I would try to visit some already existing communities...that website is searchable by keyword and location.  If possible stay a while, as in a few days at least, and try to get a feel for them.  Most smaller communities are usually happy to host helpful visitors, especially if they are game to camp or bring some $ or stuff to share; in exchange for helping out on the day's work, of which there is always too much.  Ask people what it's really like, especially if you find yourself one-on-one.  
 
Jae Lowell
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Alder Burns wrote:There is a pretty wide literature now around intentional community, ic.org is a good place to start. I've spent a good part of my adult life in community settings of various sorts, and there are a few ways that it can succeed, and rather more ways to crash it, some of them spectacular.  Cimarron's story above is probably one of many many that could be heard and mined for their lessons.  Do the research.  If I were you I would try to visit some already existing communities...that website is searchable by keyword and location.  If possible stay a while, as in a few days at least, and try to get a feel for them.  Most smaller communities are usually happy to host helpful visitors, especially if they are game to camp or bring some $ or stuff to share; in exchange for helping out on the day's work, of which there is always too much.  Ask people what it's really like, especially if you find yourself one-on-one.  



Hey Alder, thanks for the information. I am actually on IC.org and I have been doing a lot of research for years and grew up around a lot of people who were into this lifestyle. I have helped my Grandparents farm, I built houses, I have been in a plethora of industries that have given me a lot of helpful skills. I am okay with failing because the only way to learn is to fail. The worst that can happen is I go back to life before but more wiser. I have noticed though, A lot of the people around the community are very discouraging, not saying that your intentions are bad. Obviously you and Cimarron are just trying to help and make sure people don't end up in these situations. But, to be fair, you have no clue what my background is, where I came from, the information I have or what I have done in my life. Why not welcome people and let them know that there are resources available? My ultimate goal is to create a resource center, both physically and digitally, of easily accessible information, how-tos, videos, classes, everything that one might need to know so that when they do enter this world they don't end up having these horrible experiences that completely put them off of a sustainable, eco friendly lifestyle. Because ultimately, it's about making the world better for everyone and the more people who can be convinced that this life is obtainable, and in some cases, if you just want to reduce your carbon footprint and get off the grid and don't care about growing your own food, it can be very easy with the right knowledge. I know this is the goal of sites like this as well, but one more couldn't hurt.

Again, I appreciate your sentiment and understand you're just trying to warn me of how bad it can go. My wife and I have been through very hard times, we got this. <3

I sat on this message all day before I sent it because I was afraid I sound like an A-hole. Sorry if I do.
 
Cimarron Layne
Posts: 18
Location: Bought the farm and moved from Maine to western tip of Virginia.
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I appreciate your sentiment and understand you're just trying to warn me of how bad it can go. My wife and I have been through very hard times, we got this. <3

I sat on this message all day before I sent it because I was afraid I sound like an A-hole. Sorry if I do.



No, Jae, you don't sound like an A-hole, but you do sound very defensive.  We have pretty much the same skill set and apparently have done the same research into eco-communities, etc.  I've visited several but didn't find one I'd want to live in, so decided to start my own.  I've learned from this fiasco that compatibility is crucial.  So is communication.  Hopefully you are better equipped to deal with all sorts of people than I am.  I doubt I'll try this experiment again because I'm too old and set in my ways.  I'd rather do it alone or hire an occasional worker than build a community.  Maybe when I get out of this mess and get my earth bermed passive solar house built, I'll try hosting WWOOFers or mentor an apprentice or two, but won't take on any more long term commitments.  Good luck with your start-up community.  I wish you well.
 
Jae Lowell
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Cimarron Layne wrote:

I appreciate your sentiment and understand you're just trying to warn me of how bad it can go. My wife and I have been through very hard times, we got this. <3

I sat on this message all day before I sent it because I was afraid I sound like an A-hole. Sorry if I do.



No, Jae, you don't sound like an A-hole, but you do sound very defensive.  We have pretty much the same skill set and apparently have done the same research into eco-communities, etc.  I've visited several but didn't find one I'd want to live in, so decided to start my own.  I've learned from this fiasco that compatibility is crucial.  So is communication.  Hopefully you are better equipped to deal with all sorts of people than I am.  I doubt I'll try this experiment again because I'm too old and set in my ways.  I'd rather do it alone or hire an occasional worker than build a community.  Maybe when I get out of this mess and get my earth bermed passive solar house built, I'll try hosting WWOOFers or mentor an apprentice or two, but won't take on any more long term commitments.  Good luck with your start-up community.  I wish you well.



Well, glad I'm not coming off that way. I'm not defensive either, just an observation. I have nothing to defend, lol. I love Earth bermed passive solar houses. Thats where I plan to start. :-)
 
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What are the odds you would be willing to consider co-ownership with another investor? I am in N ID and was looking toward the east coast for minimizing fire season a bit, myself. Also becausereal estate in Idaho has become outrageously expensive this last year or so, unfortunately.  It's hard to leave home because it's a beautiful place and I have never lived anywhere else... but here are my options, I guess. As for fires, it seems it isn't as bad there just yet... and the real estate hasn't  skyrocketed there yet either. I don't imagine it will stay that way forever though.

I am up for 4 seasons and the northern climate, as I grew up with those things and am not only used to them but am also partial. Vermont is in the general vicinity of the area I was considering. I was actually eyeing Maine because it's got good prices on large acreage and some mountains at least, plus the coast. But Vermont seems comparable.
I have experience with small livestock and had a horse once. I have done a decent bit of gardening, some permaculture style, some canning and food preserving, lived off grid and hauled water a while, washed my laundry with a bucket and a plunger and hung to dry (including cloth diapers, haha), and dabbled a little in alternative building methods... mostly have done a ton of research, but I have done a bit of the physical work involved in clearing land (own and run my own smaller/medium sized chainsaw for firewood and cleaning fallen trees as needed, though I do prefer to leave them standing when possible) and tried a start at an earthbag structure, but then I had spontaneous triplets and had to put it all aside. I actually have 5 little kids, and those little gems are the most trying part of this whole thing for me. 😅 It's hard to do much else than be a mom, and I don't feel I can wear all the hats without dropping something now and then. As they say, it takes a village...
My partner is supportive but not as helpful as I would like with the hard work part of things. He was a city kid whose life goals were playing guitar and writing a book, and like Cimmeron was saying, he just doesn't seem to have any concept of real hard work 😬 (at least compared to my family,  but my dad was often referred to as the hardest worker many people had ever seen; he used to go logging by himself and load his own log truck without heavy machinery,  for example,  and brought many loads in to the local mills. I was raised to a different  standard in that regard and it's hard not to compare and be frustrated with the pace here...). He also gets anxious and irritable when I put him on kid duty. 😒 So I try not to do that too much. (To be fair he has emotional and stress management issues due to a really abusive childhood and all things considered he came out awesome despite all that. Still kind of a bummer for me though.) He's often away for days at a timefor work anyway though. He's a good human by the way and I don't mean to badmouth him but I feel like I need to be transparent about it so people know what kind of dynamics they are looking at here. He does his best to do his part and he is well employed making airplane breaks, and he does participate as he is able. But I think I am definitely the work horse in my relationship, and I am sort of bogged down.
What I would love is to find other families to share kid duties with and even cooking responsibilities, in the fashion of Dancing Rabbit's food co-ops, so we can take turns getting more done while the kids still get their needs met. Still doing what I can on my own though... I am actually reflooring my house and repainting and doing small repairs as able, and usually manage to cook healthy meals for my kids, usually from scratch.
Before I had kids I worked at a local sawmill and saved the money to put a down-payment on an investment property/rental that I hoped would support my lifestyle as an off grid permaculture mom. Haha. It doesn't make much yet but it will provide a modest living once paid off, which could be done by selling my other properties, so I would have a steady income stream for projects or the like, and possibly to help support the village a bit. I have 10 acres in Idaho I had been contemplating making a micro ecovillage on, or selling and using to buy or co invest with someone else. (Value probably between $150-200k.) I am also living in a house that has a decent chunk of equity, should I sell it. Would love to buy a large parcel with someone that my kids would have the option to build on as well, should they wish to when the time comes.

Let me know what you think and we can chat more to see if we are compatible for sharing this project. Good luck!
 
Jae Lowell
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Alicia Reed wrote:

Let me know what you think and we can chat more to see if we are compatible for sharing this project. Good luck!



We can for sure chat more. My wife and I aren't quite ready to do it just yet. We are currently a year out on our lease for where we live now so we are taking the time to practice gardening techniques, building techniques, saving money, taking classes on green energy and anything else we can get our hands on.
 
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What part of ID. used to live in Kalispell MT. Moved to AK when it started to GROW in the 90s
 
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Location: NE TX (at the moment)
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Cimarron Layne wrote:This may sound like a rant, but what I'm saying is, IF you decide to build a community, make sure you vet your candidates completely and don't share your living accommodations with strangers.  You just never know what they are really like until it's too late to do anything about it.  People sometimes aren't truthful about themselves.



The vetting really should go both ways - we're in a situation now with an owner that is quite literally a mooch and scam artist, and all of his neighbors will back that up.  All of his neighbors can verify this as they have been mooched from, too.  One neighbor told him to leave her lawnmower alone because he would just take it whenever and mow over anything - sticks, rocks, etc., mow his place and run the gas out of it, never offering to chip in on gas.  When the neighbor told him to stay out of the fridge (he helped himself to everything), he got mad and refuses to go over to her place now.  Previously, he had been helping her with odds and ends around her place as she's in her 80s and can't do much.  

The deal when we came here was that the rent was $400/month and $100 to cover our part of the utilities, and that we would work it off at $8 per hour.  Work included was feeding/watering the rabbits, helping him with planting and weeding, and fixing up the house and property. It also included going over to the other property where his tree farm is and help thin so the bigger trees weren't competing for nutrients, and he'd pay cash for those hours.  The hours at this house and property works out to about 64-1/2 hours per month, which is an average of 16 hours (and some change) per week, average of 2-1/4 hours per day.  When we realized how much the electric and water jumped, so we offered to pay a little more so he isn't getting stiffed.  Mind you, we get just under $800/month and we have just under $400 in non-household bills.  He agreed to pay his part and the connection fees.  He's got a tiny house out back and we're in the 2-bedroom, but the electric is connected to both.  Basically, he uses very little electric.  He uses the washer and dryer, his microwave, a hot plate, and a slow cooker.  With the water, he does 2 loads a week, takes a shower a week, used around 150 gallons a week for watering the rabbits, and around 300 gallons a week watering his orchard/planting area of nearly 1000 plants.  The water bill was going up and up and up (county water), yet all we uses is for one load of laundry a week, 2-3 showers each, doing dishes, flushing the toilet as little as possible, and water for our dog.  My wife and I sat down and figured out who was paying what because his usage has increased, but the amount he pays isn't.  Turns out that he was only paying the connection fee and stiffing us with all the water, most of which was his usage.  When we questioned him about it, he decided that he wants us out by the end of the year because he's going to sell the house (which we offered to buy, but he declined before storming out the door).  He also decided that the work on the house and property no longer counted.  He also decided that anything we do must be for the orchard and it must be two and a quarter hours each day or more (but only 2-1/4 hours counts).  And it only counts when he's standing there watching because we don't do anything right and he feels he's being stiffed on hours.  The time of day to work is quite random, so if we go to the store or go get our mail at the post office, he's mad because apparently, that is when he wanted to start.  Every. Single. Time.  He was mad when I had to go to my eye doctor appointment to get new glasses and get a warranty replacement on the lenses of the old ones.  He was even madder when I had to pick them up two weeks later. And he had advance notice - he was okay with it until we actually did it.

Dude insists on knowing what we get in the mail, what we do on our computers and phones, any packages we get, what we do with our money, what we should eat (liquid diet only or live on eggs and potatoes like he does), our bedtime, our get-up time, medical stuff, you name it - this is not a complete list.  He has no issue eating our food uninvited.  Example: We get 4 pounds of butter a month, and not the cheap store brand like he uses.  He decided one day that he would help himself to it.  That 4 pounds lasted 5 days.  When confronted about it, he got all p****d off.  He can afford to get his own food and stuff, but gets very little because he feels he can just raid everyone else's stash.  We don't mind sharing, but we have an issue with being taken advantage of.  He uses my wife's good pans to make his eggs (which is fine), but gets all p****d off when she asks him not to use metal in them as they are not cheap pans.  I drink a high alkaline bottled water that's close to $10 a case.  He'd guzzle those down like they were free (since he wasn't buying them).  When it was mentioned to him, he got all p****d off again.  Scratching up her pans was the last straw for him - now he wants us out in 90 days.  Two days after getting written notice of the 90 days, he asks my wife, "Are you looking for a place to go, or are you going to milk the 90 days?"

My wife had her gall bladder removed yesterday and came home right after.  He actually expected her to get right to work not 5 minutes after watching her slowly (and in obvious pain) get out of the car and I helped her up the steps and into the house.  He was mad again that she was struggling to feed the rabbits this morning, just less than 24 hours after having an organ removed.  This doesn't even count the very demeaning, condescending and chauvinistic way he has treated my wife - conveniently when I'm not there to hear it.  His reason for not running his mouth in my presence - apparently I have anger issues.  The only time he could be referring to about these "anger issues" is when we were transplanting trees at the other property and he literally stood over me and in a very condescending and snotty manner told me how to transplant a tree (something I have plenty of experience with and he is aware of that).  I looked up at him and said, "No kidding?  You mean I've been doing it right all these years?"  That's anger issues.  But I think most husbands would be angry if another man is mistreating his wife.  I haven't seen/heard it for myself yet - waiting to catch him in the to speak up about it.  If I had anger issues, I'd be in jail right now!!  I learned to hold my tongue and not let emotions dictate my actions during my years in public safety.

So now he claims that we're not getting our hours in (we keep meticulous written records of it as well as using a time clock app where we punch in and out, and that keeps records as well.  When he found out we were doing that, he was mad again and says "it doesn't feel like 2-1/4 hours."  Well, it turns out that my wife was getting the most hours, on the order of nearly 70 per month, so that's what she turned in for the rent.  I was also doing between 10 and 30 hours per week which was never counted.  He got a lot of free work out of us and has the gall to claim we're not getting our hours.

If I am working for a decent person, I actually willingly toss a few extra hours of work in here and there to show my appreciation for the opportunity.  But for this guy, he's only getting the required hours for the remaining 90 days and when we leave, he's not going to con us out of any of our stuff.  We have no issue contacting a deputy or constable to stand by while we load up our stuff to avoid issues.

In contrast to the above, our last farm stay (intended to be a budding intentional community) went very well until the owner passed away unexpectedly.  He had no complaints and bragged about us to everyone he knew, including the owners of the feed store and his coworkers at the hospital (he was an ER doctor).  Dr. Eakin was like a dad to me.  We were there for two years with every intent to be there forever if he wanted us to.  He told us multiple times he was glad we came into his life and he never wanted us to do.

I wrote this "book" to say this:  Owners, vet your workers.  We have several people that know how well we work, including our neighbors here (who we're on excellent terms with).  And workers - vet the owners.  There's nothing like getting settled and things start going downhill as you discover that the owner is a con artist (or a womanizing pig).

And to both workers and owners - get everything in writing!



 
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Jae Lowell wrote:Because ultimately, it's about making the world better for everyone and the more people who can be convinced that this life is obtainable, and in some cases, if you just want to reduce your carbon footprint and get off the grid and don't care about growing your own food, it can be very easy with the right knowledge.



I like how this was worded, it was very well put. We need more people to want to come to making the world better, while that is a challenge now, and with reducing the carbon footprint, getting off the grid, and certainly each growing food themselves that will work very well for betterment. I am for going to that, and I talk for going that way with others. We can learn for doing these things which would not be so hard to know.
 
Jae Lowell
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Tomas Mansfield wrote:

I wrote this "book" to say this:  Owners, vet your workers.  We have several people that know how well we work, including our neighbors here (who we're on excellent terms with).  And workers - vet the owners.  There's nothing like getting settled and things start going downhill as you discover that the owner is a con artist (or a womanizing pig).

And to both workers and owners - get everything in writing!





I'm sorry for your garbage experience. Theirs garbage no matter where you go. I have been in management for the past 20 years and I plan to bring some of how I run a things at work to the plate as well. I vet all my employees, interview and all and then they are on probation for the first month or so just in case it's not a good fit. I appreciate you sharing your experience.
 
Alicia Reed
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Jae Lowell wrote:

We can for sure chat more. My wife and I aren't quite ready to do it just yet. We are currently a year out on our lease for where we live now so we are taking the time to practice gardening techniques, building techniques, saving money, taking classes on green energy and anything else we can get our hands on.



It's certainly a challenge to get the right people aligned and ready to go at the right times, haha. I hope it works well for you. Would be happy to stay sort of in touch in case things work out in the future.
 
Alicia Reed
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Glen Brausky wrote:What part of ID. used to live in Kalispell MT. Moved to AK when it started to GROW in the 90s



North of Sandpoint, south of Bonners Ferry. Pretty close to Canada.
 
Good night. Drive safely. Here's a tiny ad for the road:
177 hours of video: the Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/hours-video-Permaculture-Design-Technology
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