The Peanut Butter Palace is a community house and a permaculture project in suburban Orlando. I was invited to the house after the Orlando Permaculture meeting I attended, and I had a wonderful time getting to know the folks who live there. We stayed up late that night, sitting by the pond they had recently installed, listening to and watching all the frogs. A whole community of frogs moved in right after the pond went online, and it was fascinating to observe them all, listening to their songs and watching their throats bulge out like a bubblegum bubble.
The next morning I went on a tour of their land, which really has a lot going on for a relatively small (somewhere between a quarter and a half acre) plot. I did a video tour, which is a great way for people to see a permaculture project up close, with brief explanations of what things are what functions are being served. I also made a video in the house, where we talked about community living, something that’s important in permaculture, whether it be in a shared home or a village.
Peanut Butter Palace is a cooperative, where they share the expense of living and the work of keeping up the gardens, and they co-own the business of selling their produce. They have an aquaponics system that produces microgreens and other vegetables, and they have plenty of fruit coming in from papaya and banana trees, which have grown and matured quickly. They have only been on the land for three years, and they’ve accomplished a whole lot in that time! You should really check out the video if you want to see what all is going on there.
Sharing space in a house is a great idea for young people who are interested in learning permaculture, as it makes living much cheaper, and it helps us to learn the dynamics of community living, from self-governance to cleanliness and communication. Community living forces us to develop our own practice, and to develop the kind of daily lifestyle where we are not having a negative impact on others, something that comes right to the surface when we live in close quarters. Organization and coordination become part of our routine.
The Palace is a three-bedroom home that has been divided in to six living spaces. Two of the bedrooms remain as private bedrooms, for which occupants pay a bit more, and the master bedroom was partitioned off into three sleeping and dressing areas. Another private space was curtained off from one of the common areas. The kitchen is shared space, of course, though they don’t hold all food in common. Their arrangement is something of a mix between shared meals from commonly purchased food and individual cooking. They are all friends and it seemed to flow organically. Some of their food comes from what is sometimes called dumpster diving, but this has a negative connotation, and seldom do people actually go into dumpsters to find food. Usually you cultivate relationships with food stores or restaurants that throw out food that they can’t sell anymore, and you simply go to pick it up at arranged times. Some people, who we call freegans, get most of their food this way.
They share the bills and they pay low rent, which goes to the budget for the project. They each contribute a few hours a week to cleaning and chores, and they have gatherings and events there from time to time. It was a nice house, with lots of really cool art on the walls. And the gardens were amazing! They have done so much there, and I was introduced to some new species on our walk through.
I had great conversations with several house members, particularly Justin, Yuan, Matt, and Michael. I wished I could have stayed longer to get more plugged in with their scene (something I often wish when I visit cool projects) but I am on tour, with many more destinations down the road. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…”