It’s usual for a Hackaday scribe to read hundreds of web pages over a typical week as we traverse the world in search of the good stuff to bring you. Sometimes they’re obvious Hackaday stories but as you’ll all no doubt understand we often end up on wild tangents learning about stuff we never expected to be excited about. Thus it was last week that I happened upon a GQ piece charting the dwindling remains of the communes set up in rural California by hippies during the counterculture years.
With only a few ageing residents who truly embraced the back-to-the-land dream remaining, these adventurously-designed home-made houses are gently decaying into the forest. It’s a disappearing world, but it’s also close to home for me as someone who crew up on a self-sufficiency smallholding in the 1970s. My parents may not have been hippies in the way those of everyone else in that scene at the time seemed to be, but I learned all my curiosity and hacking skills in the many opportunities presented to a small child by an unruly combination of small farm and metalworking business. There’s part of me that would build a hippy home in a Californian forest in a heartbeat, and throw myself with gusto into subsistence vegetable growing to get me through each winter.
Should Nixie Clocks And Retrocomputers Give Way To Farming Robots?
So fresh from musing on hippy utopias and rose-tinted reminiscing, a Tweet from [Mara¹] struck a chord. They asked “So which hacker con is going to be first to offer workshops in woodworking and horticulture?“. Woodworking should be right on-message, but horticulture?
While at first sight the idea of gardening at a hacker camp seems unlikely, I think I’m right in understanding that their point lay not in the best technique for potting out the petunias, but in permaculture skills. In effect, hacking the environment to grow plants whether for food or not, and therein lies a huge range of crossover with a hacker camp, as well as with the self-sufficiency side of my upbringing and those aged hippies in California.
When your summers growing up are spent running wild and barefoot in the Oxfordshire countryside, you take for granted the things that you learn and it’s only later that you find it’s not that common to be able to milk a cow, deliver a calf, make hay, or extend the growing season and pick the right varieties to have home-grown fruit and vegetables year round in the soggy British climate. Perhaps they have a point, and should our community be applying more of its skills towards permaculture hacks and less towards technology for its own sake? Perhaps this is best expressed not in terms of going back to the land to live the life of an 18th century subsistence farmer, but going forward to it, and helping create a future where technology is an integral part of successful permaculture.
Paging through a week of Hackaday articles it’s pleasing to see that you, the community we cover, are as inventive as you’ve ever been. Hackaday articles cover a varied range of fascinating hacks that captivate us who spend our days under the sign of the Wrencher, and we hope they do for you too. But it’s true, not many hacker takes on permaculture come our way. Is that because not much of interest is happening in that field? We don’t think so, more likely is that the really interesting projects either aren’t being documented online or appear in communities that don’t (yet) intersect with ours. We’d like to see more agricultural robots maybe like the FarmBot in the header image, and smallholding automation. We think you might too. Should our community turn its thoughts forward to the land? As always, the comments are open.