We (Dan and Cathy Schellenberg) began the Propagelle Project in an abandoned 11-acre cotton field in East Texas. Having no existing structures, roads, or power—the property was truly a blank slate. A master site plan was drawn up in 1992, and after studying the soil and natural drainage patterns, we designated appropriate Permaculture zones throughout the property.


With our plans complete, we began the first phase of development in 1993. In approximately 5 years, the family built an 1,800-square foot home, separate office, multiple decks & gardens, greenhouse, tool sheds, passive waste treatment system, rainwater catchment system, and water tower. We have since begun development of other zones- including completion of a second three-bedroom home, larger vegetable garden, planting of fruit trees, windmills, chicken coop/greenhouse, roads, and walking paths. 


Each zone is optimized to yield a part of our diet as well as provide for large animals—whose protein and waste are integral to organic food production. Food and garden scraps are used for animal feed and composting. Animal waste & grass clippings provide biomass for a digester that produces methane gas for cooking and fertilizer for the gardens.


At the core, this project is about recognizing available, renewable resources and using them to create a productive, sustainable way of living.


We have implemented:

  • Efficient building systems, tailored for the humidity and heat of East Texas

  • Solar orientation of all structures to enable passive heating, cooling and natural light

  • Hybrid power production incorporating solar, wind, and methane gas

  • Methane digester, powered by cow manure and grass clippings

  • Constructed wetlands to allow passive treatment of human sewage

  • Rainwater collection and storage for livestock, irrigation, and fire prevention

  • Design of roadbeds and swales for water collection in ponds and landscape

  • Organic gardening using on-site materials for mulch and compost

  • Soil and pasture development with compost tea and natural amendments


Our goals for the near future include:

  • Providing internships and residencies for college students

  • Further minimizing of external power usage

  • Networking with like-minded families and organizations to share resources and information


We believe in the prime directive of Permaculture, which states:

It is now possible to consciously design and maintain economically productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural systems. It is our duty to harmoniously integrate humans and landscapes where local people meet their needs in a sustainable manner because without a sustainable food source, it is impossible to have a stable social order.


In summary, we hope to model a One Planet lifestyle for our grandchildren who, we believe, will have no choice but to live within those limits.


The propagelle symbolizes our lives. We feel small and not very powerful, but we are collectively in search of an alternative to our contemporary culture. A new way of thinking must spring up. Creative alternatives exist that are both economical and elegant. We are committed to cultivating such alternatives using our own surplus cash and muscles so that others without many resources can believe there is a way out. 

Dan & Cathy Schellenberg on their 40th wedding anniversary