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Fence Posts to Hugelbeds [Entrepreneurship
Posted on May 31, 2016 @ 04:58:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Isaac Newton was one of the greatist physicists ever. He also spent alot time engaged in alchemy, the attempt to turn a "base metal" into a "noble metal", particulary gold. He never had much success in this venture and one wonders how he reconciled his hard-nosed physics and mathematics with his alchemical pursuits.

Lately I've been engaged in a form of alchemy that involves the conversion of old-rotted fence posts into functional and aesthetically pleasing hugelbed content and structure. Hugelkultur is a type of raised bed popularized by the premier Austrian permaculturist Sepp Holzer. It generally consists of digging a trench and laying down large woody material followed by smaller woody material followed by non-woody material (e.g., hay in various states of decay) and finally the escavated soil mixed and topped with some compost. There are different ways to construct a hugelkultur bed and the version that we implemented was derived from Jenni Blackmore's book Permaculture: Abundant Living On Less Than An Acre (2015). I highly recommend this book for its self-deprecating humor, writing quality, and her ability to find simple and easy designs for building permaculture structures like hugelbeds, spiral gardens, etc...

This is what the hugelbed looked like as we began building it. Notice the rotted logs used for both the side supports and as humic content in a trench just below the sides of the hugelbed.

One way to look at certain forms of entrepreneurship is as a form of alchemy, a transmutation of base elements to noble elements. In modern lingo we might call this "adding value". Isaac Newton may have been pursuing an entrepreneurial quest when he tried to convert base metals into gold and his failure is perhaps a caution that even the greatest minds can fail to add value. On the other hand, we can be quite successful at times and the three hugelbeds we constructed from the old fences we tore down involved converting something I would have considered waste into something that will help grow veggies, herbs and strawberries well into the future. A common slogan in permaculture is that the "problem is the solution" and in this case the problem of old rotted wood was the solution to finding content and structure for my hugelbeds. Adding value may not simply be about making something good even better, it can also be about turning a problem into the solution to a different problem. There is alot of alchemical thinking involved.

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