I left Lost Valley Education & Event Center this morning – my home for the past 6-7 months – after saying my final goodbyes, hanging up a Texas flag in the community Lodge, and getting my car battery jumped (which was super stressful, but a huge relief once it started up!)
The weekend before our final week, Bri and I went over the Bethany’s to make final touches to our PDC project design and PowerPoint presentation. I was very proud of our design, and really appreciated Bethany’s proactiveness and follow-through, because those weren’t common characteristics of the people living in the community.
As the final weeks of the program were before us, Sara Siegler (Lost Valley’s Executive Director) and Colin Doyle, approached me to see if I was interested in working as the part-time Communications Manager for Lost Valley Education and Event Center. I accepted the position knowing I could put my marketing skillset to use and help Lost Valley move forward with their marketing and outreach. I was even given my own office space that I overhauled and organized for myself, and anyone else who needed public space to work.
That weekend before classes started, Rich – the friendly neighborhood vagabond – returned to Lost Valley, and we got the dragon pizza oven fired up! Rich has a long history with cob fire pizza ovens, which started at his grandpa’s and was also how he wound up staying at Lost Valley and became an approved seasonal traveler.
Pizza days at Lost Valley generally attracted a large crowd, and this weekend was no different. We had residents making fresh dough, cutting up ingredients and toppings, and others just hanging out around the cob booth area while Rich tended the pizza oven.
It took time and reflection, but I got into a better head space for the rest of the week since miserable Monday.
Wednesday started with presentations of our initial design concepts for our PDC projects. Bri and I went to Bethany’s the day before to make the initial design and overlay concept layers, which was a hand-drawn scaled sketch on white butcher paper and colored pencils, and Bethany taped transparency sheets to make large overlay mats which we drew the design layers on. These layers includes wind direction, summer and winter sun patterns, water flow, levels of elevation, human and animal foot traffic, as well as other considerations. And for our design, those considerations were client aesthetic preferences, existing infrastructure, resident mobility and the original goals of food production and outdoor interaction space.
Our permaculture instructor after the presentations was Simon Hanson, a former resident who helped with the past apprenticeship program. The topics for the day were appropriate technology and human nutrient cycling. Simon boiled down the use of appropriate technology to ‘levels’ and ‘context,’ for instance, if one entire neighborhood block bought a single lawnmower and shared it on a schedule, then it reduces consumption so everyone wouldn’t need to buy, refill and fix their own individual mowers.
Simon also helped with the evolution of the composting toilets and the humanure treatment system, which was the “number two” topic he discussed with us. We toured the toilets and he explained the initial design flaws they ran into like bug access to the catchment barrels and mobility issues. He also gave a thorough explanation of the on-site human nutrient compost cycle, which averages about two year per barrel with the added non-human organic materials and the average local temperature.
The final classes of the week were with Oblio on ‘power’ and ‘leadership.’ In these classes, we talked about various forms of power, like ‘power over others’ and ‘power from within,’ as well as cultural power stereotypes related to gender, sex, ethnicity and privilege. Oblio had us do some ‘spectrum’ exercises to show us similarities and differences between everyone, which were ‘go to one side of the room if you agree…’ and ‘stand further away from the line is you’ve been…’ And these exercises really showed us various situations and beliefs that effected how power is seen and used. Our final activity was on leadership and we were tasked in groups to build the tallest marshmallow and spaghetti noodle tower.
Our group consisted of Matt Mcnall, Sarah Curran, Bri Hoffman, and myself. I had previously done this exercise, so I had some design experience and helped Matt build a stable structure that was above average height. However, Matt wanted to go higher which Sarah and I verbally objected to several times. He ignored our objections and went ahead and attempted to add more, and nearly brought the tower down twice! In the end, our team won but wound up frustrated at each other and Matt realizing he didn’t listen to half his team.
Oblio spoke to our team’s situation in relation to ‘leadership,’ and highlighted the fact we won, but there was a cost to it without some leadership…