Ali’s a Minnesota native by way of Bend, Oregon. After a day tending livestock at Happy Chicks Farm, she sat beside me on the sofa, stretching her legs straight out and then tucking them under herself like a gymnast doing warm-ups. Ali moved to San Marcos three months ago to live with her boyfriend, Phillip, a fair skinned Bryan, TX native with a full beard, who remained in San Marcos after college. Phillip writes music, DJ’s at local venues, and contributes to the local permaculture movement.
Carlos, a New Braunfels guy whose family traces back before Texas independence, even before Mexican independence, has never traveled beyond the state’s borders. He sat near the computer, jiggling the You Tube soundtrack of our evening. His brown skin, shiny long black hair and big bone structure suggest Carlos’ rich racial heritage. “I got Spanish, Indian, Mexican all mixed together into one big breakfast taco.”
Carlos described New Braunfels and San Marcos as two very different places only fifteen miles apart. “New Braunfels is proud of its German heritage. Everything there is Germanic. San Marcos is looser, full of college students and Hispanics. There are a lot of Hispanics in New Braunfels as well, but you won’t see them name a school after one.”
Carlos likes to cook for friends. He boiled spices and oils down to syrup; baked sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and other root vegetables; then stir-fried them with broccoli and greens. He stirred in his pungent sauce and served over mung noodles. It was delicious.
Phillip and Carlos met digging a grey water pit for a friend. “We have lots of work parties here.” Next weekend they’ll participate in a work blitz with two friends who received a Young Farmers Grant. “We’ll be planting trees and doing some carpentry work.” They’ve already built one barn, from mostly recycled materials. The 1600 square feet space only cost $9,000. “About sixty people will attend, we’ll work all day, and eat a feast of barbequed pig afterward.”
‘Perma-blitz’ like these happen at least once a month among the permaculture community here. Carlos explained, “San Marcos is the psychedelic cow-paddy of Texas. We aren’t video gamers. We like to work with our hands. We are a group of plant nerds but we all bring a different perspective.”
Phillip is an anarchist. “I have no borders, no masters, no gods.” He doesn’t give credence to any of the presidential candidates. “Any state is oppressive. It doesn’t matter who is in charge.” He does, however, note Donald Trump’s appeal. “The man is a vampire. In a group of people, mention his name and immediately everyone talks about him. He sucks all the energy from the room. That’s what a vampire does. He sucks away life.”
Ali’s been a wwoofer (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) at several organic farms around the U.S., where people interested in organic farming practices intern with local farmers. They work 4-5 hours a day in exchange for room and board, but aren’t paid. “It’s a 60/40 positive thing. A few farmers provide good teaching, more just have us work; some work us long and don’t teach much.”
Ali and Phillips’ agricultural endeavors permeate the 500 square foot cottage they share. A table is covered with seedlings waiting for a March planting. Their small backyard is a vegetable garden. Beneath the porch is a pen for raising quail.
Somehow, the messages of our consumer culture have not permeated into Ali, Phillips, and Carlos’ world. It’s as if they live in a previous century, where people were more self-sufficient on a daily basis, yet more cooperative when many hands are needed.
How will we live tomorrow?
“Having empathy is a difficult thing in an industrialized society. We are passive and disconnected from each other.” – Carlos (declined photo)
“Having food in your own backyard is important. Our garden is easy and makes us less dependent on the grocery store.
“People have to follow their heart and not give into the machine.”- Ali
“That depends on a lot of things and the time frame you consider. Obviously, tomorrow is a construct of the future. The change is happening, slowly. I hope we can design and redesign our cities to integrate human’s better. We do water well. Everyone has access to water, though we have to pay for it. But we don’t do as well with food. We need to get food environmentally connected to our lives.
“If people were taught all aspects of being human, not just knowledge, not just consuming, we’d be better off. I had a cooking class in high school. It was one of the most valuable things I learned.
“When you get older, you see things for their true nature.” – Phillip