Paul Wheaton is the unlikely Duke of Permaculture (now, there’s a story!). He describes permaculture as the ultimate prepper tool: “build a home from the materials on your land, establish a food system that pumps out food year after year without maintenance, heat with systems that require minimal effort on the land… and all of these things can be carried on year after year without external inputs.”
His forums on richsoil.com and permies.com have more than a million participants. He has developed numerous videos, podcasts, other tools and products.
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: I grew up on a ranch, then developed a bit of fame as a software engineer while being obsessed with gardening. Eventually my
gardening obsession took over my life under the umbrella of permaculture.
Q: How did you become the Duke of Permaculture?
A: I have a few hundred podcasts including about a dozen with Geoff Lawton. In one podcast I was trying to ask Geoff about an official
stand in permaculture and I referred to him as the crown prince of permaculture. He said that if he was the crown prince then I would be
the duke. This little bit of silly seems to have grown and grown. The best part is that Sepp Holzer gave me a giant wooden “medal” that
says “The Duke” on it.
The title is fun, but thoroughly meaningless. I suspect it sticks mostly because of the comedy of a fat guy who wears overalls every
day sporting such a fancy-pants title.
Q: For the uninformed, what is permaculture? Why is it important?
A: Permaculture, to me, is a more symbiotic relationship with nature so I can be even lazier. Can I do something on an acre of land so that it
produces more food than a conventional garden with a tenth of the effort? Can I create a system that produces quite a lot of food with
zero effort? And then, if I need it in the future, put a little more effort in and triple the production without leaving the land? There
is a crossover between the techniques of many cultures that existed 500 years ago and what we know now, that leads to producing enormous amounts of food with hardly any effort.
Heat is another part. When the grids are down, wood heat has been proven to be the most resilient solution. Rocket mass heaters make it so you can heat your home with one tenth the wood. If you have ever https://permies.com/put up ten cords of wood for the winter, I think a rocket mass heater is an extremely smart solution. So rather than depending on a full-size pickup and a gasoline-powered chainsaw, you don’t need anything more than an ax and a stand of trees nearby. As an added bonus: no smoke trail.
A: Richsoil.com started out as where I put everything. The site grew really huge and I felt the need to split off the forums. This was the
birth of permies.com. It seems we are in an era where forums are fading, but the permies.com forums are on a huge growth path,
currently serving 1.4 million people and 26 million pageviews each month.
Three things you’ll find on richsoil…
Horticulture, gardening and soil. My philosophies are controversial, but tens of thousands of people are having success.
Techniques of gardening without irrigation or fertilization. Hugelkultur is one of the things I am most famous for: burying wood
so that years later you can have a garden that doesn’t need irrigation. Large-scale earthworks can help provide texture to the
landscape that will make for wetter spots and longer growing seasons. The techniques of Sepp Holzer show a massively resilient system
cranking out massive quantities of food (and income!) with virtually no effort.
Energy and heat. The only reason people pay so much for heat, or work so very hard to provide heat, is because they don’t
understand that there are three types of heat. The type of heat that nearly everybody leans on (convective) is the least efficient. Once
you understand the more efficient types of heat (conductive and radiant) then you become immune to the lifetime of marketing that has
been pitched to you, a whole different path in your life opens up. How does a rocket mass heater heat a home with one tenth the wood?
How to cut 87% off your electric heat bill by using a single incandescent light bulb? How to eliminate all heat with annualized
Live a more luxuriant life while parting with less coin. It’s about bits of unconventional knowledge that are contrary to the marketing we have all be saturated with. A cast iron skillet is non-stick and will last hundreds of years if you know how to care for it. Diatomaceous earth is a bug killer that you can not only eat, but it is good for you. You can have a magnificent lawn with a fraction of the effort and expense.
Q: What are your most popular forums/videos/podcasts/courses? Where should people start?
A: I now have more than 400 podcasts. Some podcasters will cover the same topics over and over. I have tried to not repeat myself. My most
popular podcasts of all time are:
#1 Podcast 284: Treatment free honey bees with Jacqueline Freeman. A lot of unconventional techniques
#2 Podcast 236: Raw milk with Sally Fallon Morell
#3 Podcast 230: Review of Hands on Agronomy with Helen Atthowe
#4 Podcast 240: Poo-less: experimenting with zero soap and shampoo in the shower
#5 Podcast 104: Rocket mass heaters with Ernie and Erica Wisner
#6 Podcast 074: the beginning of the 21-podcast review of Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture
#7 Podcast 235: review of Pig in a Day hog butchering
#8 Podcast 059: Early Retirement Extreme with Jacob Lund Fiskar
#9 Podcast 392: landrace seeds with Joseph Lofthouse
#10 Podcast 339: listener questions about hugelkultur
As for videos: I have put out a few hundred youtube videos and then transitioned into making professional DVDs. On my YouTube channel, some of my most popular videos are about:
– Rocket mass heaters
– Respectful chicken harvest
– $15 house (oehler design)
– Hot water from a compost pile
– Cast iron
– The invisible house
– Solar food dehydrators
I also have three DVD offerings that are also available in digital formats:
- 8-DVD set (the first 4 and a newer 4) about rocket mass heaters
- DVD about rocket ovens (this year’s creation)
- 3-DVD set about earthworks called World Domination Gardening
Last year we had a sold-out permaculture design course and an appropriate technology course and people asked if it could be
videoed. All of the information was so packed, it would be silly to edit it down. Instead, we set up heaps of cameras and did live
editing like a live TV show. We have 177 hours of video you can find here.
We have a very popular pack of “permaculture playing cards. Every year, about this time, we sell thousands of decks. People buy them by the dozen to give out during the holidays. We have set an especially sweet price for two dozen!