Once a month, the Austin Permaculture Guild has a potluck at somebody’s project in the area. San Marcos is only about fifteen miles from Austin, and during my visit, the potluck was to be held at Thigh High Gardens, a permaculture community close to downtown San Marcos.
I took the kids with me, because they really wanted to swim in the San Marcos River. When we lived in Texas, we would hit up as many of the swimming holes as we could, and the headwaters of the San Marcos was always one of their favorites. Unfortunately, the best swimming spot was blocked off by some orange fence and prohibiting signage, and parking anywhere near this great spot is never easy. We did find a good place to get in, though it’s not as good as the spot right there below the Aquarena Springs lake.
Still, the San Marcos is so clear and clean, and even at nearly seven in the evening, it was hot enough to really want a nice dip. The girls swam across the river and back a few times while Lila led me on an adventure up into tributary that was draining into the river from a concrete ditch that carried the water from the other side of the road.
When we went to the potluck, there were far fewer kids than I’d hoped, and as soon as the kids had eaten, they were ready to go. Lila loved the huge bamboo forest that had some neat trails cut into it. But she wanted me to go play with her, and when I tried to get into conversations, it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to spend too many hours there. The kids were restless.
I went on a self-guided tour of the gardens right at sunset, Gaia coming along with me. The gardens were large and very permaculture feeling. The garden beds were mostly straight and in rows, but lots of cover crops and dynamic accumulators filled the empty spaces, and perennials abounded. A nice nursery was cultivating many different trees and bushes in pots, and a young mixed orchard had been planted to one side of the garden.
Thigh High consists mainly of a large house and barn, with a beautiful yurt set up just across from the main space. They were in the middle of a permaculture course, so many folks attending the potluck were part of that, many of them camping on the land. The house itself housed a few people as well, and I heard that they had plans for further development so that more people could stay on the land, either as long term stewards or short term teachers or students. Thigh High is very close to being an ecovillage, though I am not sure if they see themselves this way. I met one of the primary caretakers of the project, who told me a little bit about the vision.
The land was originally owned by a woman named Stephanie Bledsoe, who is now passed, and who left the land to be used as it is, both as a small community and a campus for permaculture/homesteading educational programs.
I met many other great people that night, but as I expected, I had only about an hour after we ate before the kids started tugging on my sleeves to leave. Right when I started to really have some good conversations, too.
Thigh High is on 20 acres, and I only explored a small part of it, but I could tell they have a good thing going on, and I consider it a prime example of a new paradigm campus, where people learn more than just information, gaining skills and experiences that will pertain to a more localized economy. One can count on this to become more and more of a sought after thing.
And until it is as available to young people as the army or college, we still have much work to do, strengthening networks and promoting these sorts of programs. Such is the work of Permagora, which will continue to bring you glimpses into the many communities and projects being created around this country and all over the world. Many will feel called to leave their current lives to seek alternative education in communities far afield, but hopefully, even more will be inspired to put the new paradigm into practice right in their own neighborhood. Ready set go!