EarthCamp Village – From Dream to Reality

The groundbreaking of the next phase in the permaculture design for the CSC landscape has gone underway this summer.  EarthCamp Village will consist of a series of shelters made mostly out of natural and recycled materials found close to Stelle, particularly clay.  These cabins made mostly from clay slip, clay brick and cob will provide luxury camping accommodations for those visiting or taking trainings here at CSC as well as provide a natural building demonstration site.  These structures will to help facilitate the concept of Agraria , living close to the land but not cut off from community.

Design-Build-Team-Dudley-Ernest-Randy-Hayden-Tim1CSC staff members, interns , friends, and various residents of Stelle have all contributed to this project taking it from the drawing board to a beautiful, in-progress, structure.

Pictured is the completed timber-framing sitting on a rubble trench with a cement bond beam.  Posing are 5 MIdwest Permaculture PDC graduates who took key roles in its construction.

Click here for a picture summary of the construction progress
of Earth-Shelter #1.

Midwest Permaculture (MWP)  has partnered with CSC to create the various structures. Plans for developing the rest of EarthCamp Village include designs such as this “hobbit hole”  among many others. 

Hobbit-Root-Cellar

Click Here
More Pics of Cute Cabins
Learn more about our plans for EarthCamp Village and to view pictures of other attractive cabins and their interiors.

CSC is excited to be on this journey of creating a physical representation of blending sustainable living and community that can serve for both education and everyday function. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Time at CSC – Food, Fun and Forward Motion

As the summer months have arrived, our CSC community garden has produced bountiful diversity, we broke ground for Earth-Camp Village, and celebrated the 4th of July and the 40 year anniversary of Stelle on the same weekend. 

In the gardens, bountiful harvests of spinach , lettuces, green onions, garlic scapes, rhubarb , asparagus, mulberries, redcurrants, and even a little cattail have been filling our CSA shares the past several weeks. In addition to the fruits and vegetable crops gathered, our interns successfully raised and harvested 42 birds for the community chicken co-op.  It was a full circle experience for the intern staff to see first hand the fruits of their labor.       

In preparation for the coming months, potatoes, peppers, sunflowers, mid-season greens, celery, okra, eggplant, pole beans, bush beans, squashes, and the three sisters guild have all been planted. 

garden planting

CSC has intentionally made bio-diversity a key component of the gardens which also presents an opportunity our our interns to learn about the care of many varieties.

(Click here for personal reflections of our interns journey in sustainability this summer.) 

Besides the gardens, a new project has also made its way to the forefront as we begin the next stage of the permaculture design for the CSC property–the building of what we are calling Earth Camp Village.  This will be a demonstration sire for natural building techniques that use clay as a primary source of building material since it is our most bountiful resource besides sun and rain. The cabins can be used for short-term lodging/camping for interns, students, and guest of CSC and Midwest Permaculture. The intern staff of CSC and some volunteers of the community have all taken a turn at the shovel as this ground breaking design has begun to take shape! Even Bill (Wilson of Midwest Permaculture) lost 6 lbs. from a weeks worth of digging.

Rubble trenchCome and see the progression of the Earth Camp design and learn the principals behind living in an alternative life style in our afternoon workshop on August 10th. 

Even with the busy operations of the gardens, co-ops, and land developments, time for celebration and community was made over the July 4th weekend for our community’s annual Festival of Joy.

This annual celebration commemorates the founding of Stelle, our nation’s independence declared in 1776, and expressions of gratitude for all of the freedoms we enjoy.

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Games, talent shows, a parade, food and laughter set the stage to give thanks for what the community of Stelle that has been and created over it 40 years.    (To the left you can see the classic lawn-mower-tractor race.)

tent cropped

From the small talk of many families enjoying a beautiful day together, to the music and talents within the community being displayed during our annual variety show, it brought home the importance of the work at hand within CSC for creating sustainable community.

 

 

Summer Intern Staff – Adventures of the Young and Restless

The garden was blooming, the bees were buzzing, and summer interns arrived to take part in the many activities the CSC and Midwest Permaculture (MWP) had to offer in the coming weeks. 

Our second pair of interns (Dan and Conner) took an 8-day Permaculture Design Course with MWP then settled into life here in Stelle for a 4-week internship.  They  participated in Monday night co-op dinners, preparing Wednesday lunches for the community, pub nights, and even some swimming pool time setting the pace for their summer experience in sustainable community.                                                                                                              

The interns, while enjoying community, also learned many practical skills such as raising chickens, planting and harvesting from the 2-acre garden, and advanced composting . 

shot of garden bed

In addition to their practical skill set, they also learned to use sustainable design principals in everyday life situations, from learning how to build the foundation of a natural building, to approaching business from a holistic perspective. 

 So far this summer, the interns have had multiple experiences in different community based businesses, learning how to feed, care for and harvest 42 chickens for a community co-op, how to run a local artisan bread business, and projects like developing building design with natural low cost materials.

 

interns conner &dan chicken harvesting

 Chicken Co-op

Conner and Dan (right) harvested the chickens that I (Mary-Kate) helped to raise in the first internship period.

                       “Spending time with everyone and learning to harvest                                                      chickens were some of  the best times I had during my internship.” – Dan 

Below, Ernest (who guides the internship program) teaches about making bread from a local business perspective.  

bread making3                      interns diggining earth camp foundation close up

                                                   (L to R) Hayden, Dan, Conner and Earnest creating                                                        the foundation for the first CSC natural building.        

 

dan operating backhoe Dan operating the back hoe we rented for one day to dig the final trench for the 1st earth shelter.  This structure will be timber framed and the walls made of cob (clay, sand, straw).                                                                                            

research for design

 

 

Bill, Conner and Mary-Kate Researching  the design for the earth camp village, and maintaining the daily operations of CSC.

 

In their few weeks of bonding from coming across the United States with different back grounds, they discovered a common unity in their interest for a sustainable future being a highlight of their summer eager for a better tomorrow while embracing the days at hand.

Conner one of our summer interns, reflected on these experiences in learning practically applied permaculture.conner survey for earth camp building

” I liked learning how to live off the land in a sustainable manner, the basics of gardening and animal husbandry are unique and vital skills that modern homesteaders and permaculturists must acquire in order to succeed in their  endeavors. Permaculture is more than a design system, it is a lifestyle. When we apply the same principals of creating harmonious, nurturing environments, we as a culture of care, can secure a legacy of abundance for future generations.” 

 

A New Face

Hello and welcome to my introduction to the CSC family, I have been most fortunate to become a part of Center for Sustainability as the Outreach Coordinator. I had completed my first Permaculture Design Course in Austin,Texas , and desired a hands on training with a focus in community in urban/suburban environments.

mk profile pic midwest

I found Midwest Permaculture, (MWP) their clear vision and opportunities for hands-on experience became apparent, so I decided to jump in.  

From first arriving in Stelle for my second Permaculture Design Course  and following internship with MWP and CSC, I was able to see this was a unique opportunity that had much to offer for anyone interested in community centered on ethics and care for the environment.

 Upon completing my internship, I realized that sustainable community was truly my deep passion and working with CSC and MWP was where I could see my energy best utilized.

I am learning that even the best science and ethical design can only take you so far, true sustainability incorporates relationship and community as foundational elements. If we have the means to meet our physical needs, but social aspects are in poor condition, then the system of culture in place remains unsustainable. 

The wonder of possibilities remains fresh and exciting as this journey has just begun for myself, there is a genuine thrill of being surrounded by mentors that even after decades of work in sustainability, they remain productive, passionate, and positive. 

I look forward to not only working on current developments, and reflection on my experiences with them, but aiding in the discovery of a better tomorrow on a personal and relational level. 

October 2013 Open House: Agraria – The Tiny-Village Concept

Agraria

Agraria?

It’s not suburbia…and it’s not living an isolated life on the farm either.  

It is combining the best of neighborly-suburban living with being on the farm. The ‘tiny-home’ concept is grabbing hold in America.  It’s time to apply permaculture thinking to the ‘tiny-village’ concept.

Bill Wilson will host this talk and lead a tour of the CSC land.

Afternoon Workshop on Agraria – with Bill Wilson of Midwest Permaculture
What is it like to live in abundance and security? This will be an introduction to a lifestyle alternative — living close to the land, using natural building supplies and techniques, being mortgage free and having neighbors you cherish.  Bill will discuss how this might work and feel for the residents of such a place. 

CSC-Land-Midwest-Permaculture-Design

 The Permaculture Design for the CSC is an example of an Agrarian Life

bill wilson

Bill Wilson will host the afternoon workshop. He is a co-founder of Midwest Permaculture with his wife and partner Rebecca and has hosted and taught at over 40 Permaculture Design Courses.

He also teaches Advanced Permaculture Training and provides permaculture design services and consulting.

Join Bill as he draws from his 35 years of research and experience in community living and permaculture design centered on working with nature.   Bill will discuss how it is possible to live abundantly off the land in a way that builds soil and people.  It is certainly possible. It can be as simple as education, research, and the willingness to move toward the beat of a different drum.  

Why Plant a Food Forest? Internship Highlights Thinking Long-Term

To read what else the internship program staff and interns have been doing, see Midwest Permaculture’s blog update.

We still have a few seats remaining in our upcoming internship sessions.

Hayden and Ernest walk along newly planted berm, where, in 10-15 years, a fruit overstory will shade the same place.

Hayden and Ernest walk along newly planted berm, where, in 10-15 years, a fruit over-story will shade that same spot.

Our spring interns, along with the internship staff of Ernest, Hayden, and Megan, have been busy digging into Permaculture ideas — literally.  Over the course of three weeks, we have designed, ordered, prepared, and planted a linear food forest, a multi-story edible patch of groundcovers, shrubs, fruit/nut trees, and companion plants placed along a water-catching swale.  As the forest grows, these perennials will be a lasting contribution to our yearly local harvest and provide us with tons of extra raw materials such as firewood for rocket stoves or our own living mulch.

But why plant a food forest, when it won’t truly be a forest until 10-15 years from now?  Food forests are the ultimate in slow food; in our fast-paced and mobile culture, this design doesn’t appear to work for us as individuals.

1095488_af5c674bIn my (humble) opinion, it isn’t working today simply because we haven’t recently been thinking long-term.   Imagine if your parents had planted a few trees for you at birth.  By age 20, you’d have raw materials at your disposal.  Sure, it’s not a new car, but even if you just chop up the trees for firewood, your effort is minimal.  Nature did most of the work.

Besides the estimable value of raw materials growing out of thin air, our interns brainstormed other ways in which food forest planting is useful:

  • If you are an orchardist whose wish is to maintain a healthy and productive orchard, a food forest design is insurance.  Also, with multiple harvest-able products, you aren’t putting “all your eggs in one basket.”
  • Learning to design and start food forests is a learning experience in itself, and is best learned through doing.  You learn not only how to plant a food forest, but how to work with others, and how to imagine how a place can change over time.
  • In 5-10 years when the forest does start producing, the harvest will be much more meaningful and will less likely go to waste.

Permaculture isn’t about designing something to be unchanging and final–nature doesn’t work like that– but it is about designing something that will be useful through multiple stages of growth, and not only to oneself, but to all beings sharing the same environment.  We (the intern staff) hope that this exercise in thinking long-term will, in itself, have a long-term impact.

Slide3-640x480Click here to read more about our food forest design and why we are using it in our Permaculture Design for CSC’s 8.7 acres.

Come visit our newly-planted food forest (and see other exciting innovations!) here on June 8th.

June Open House: Permaculture Design Tour and Cob Building Intro

What’s it like to live, work, and play every day as a permaculturist?  See our design updates and learn to make some cob!
cob feet 2

This one-day Open House will be on June 8th, 10am-4:00pm.
In the morning, we will take a walking tour of town and show you some of the neighborhood’s examples of sustainable living–our wind turbine, rain gardens, and more.  In the afternoon, we will feature an introductory tour highlighting some of our recent work on the CSC landscape and including a cob-making tutorial.  And . . . stay overnight to take Midwest Permaculture’s Rocket Stove workshop on June 9th!

Schedule:
10:00 amINTRODUCTION
11:00 amWALKING TOUR OF THE TOWN
12:30 pmLUNCH
1:30 pm- 4:00pm:   PERAMCULTURE DESIGN TOUR AND COB INTRO
                              WITH
  MARY-KATE CARTER & HAYDEN WILSON
                              (meet at the Stelle community center)

We appreciate your contributions of $10 for the morning tour and lunch and $15 for the afternoon workshop. If you are coming for just the afternoon workshop, please arrive before the workshop begins.
 
Space can be limited, so please call or email to reserve a spot.  For more information on how to sign up, please click here.
Aerial-Master-CSC-Land-Midwest-Permaculture-Design

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Afternoon Workshop:
What’s it like to live, work, and play every day as a Permaculturist?
Our introductory tour and cob building intro will give you a glimpse into this world.

IMG_4996Mary-Kate Carter is a current intern who has been working to implement features of the permaculture design on the CSC property.  She will share our progress in the garden, pond, and chicken production, as well as her perspective in the continuing journey of building permaculture systems in the Midwest.  Mary-Kate is using her design skills from Austin Permaculture Guild (as well as Midwest Permaculture) in creating everything from chicken coops to food forests.

Midwest Permaculture’s resident intern Hayden Wilson will join us for the afternoon; Hayden has worked extensively in permaculture design and holds a Permaculture Teaching Certificate (more about Hayden can be found here).  

Hayden-3-Edit-226x300

Get an insider’s perspective on our internship and survey the giant leaps we’ve made in making our design a reality.  

We will tour CSC’s 8.7-acre landscape that adjoins Stelle, focusing on our new developments, including our newly-planted linear food forest, water harvesting via a solar pump, new mobile chicken tractor, and more!  We will also have a hands-on cob-making tutorial to show how we made our earthen oven from the ground beneath our feet!

Stay updated on what our interns are designing & building via our blog.

Integrated Gardening Techniques and the Garden Co-op

This 2013 growing season marks the beginning of stepping-up our integrated techniques in the community garden on the CSC property, just west of Stelle.  It is part of our Permaculture Land Design.

Some quick background:  The community garden is a celebrated part of CSC’s history.  Each year, residents of Stelle (and the nearby neighborhood) can choose to become part of CSC’s Community Garden Co-op.  It works differently than most community gardens; rather than renting plots, the garden is planned and managed by a Garden Manager.  

A past year's garden planning meeting, where the "what to plant" and "who will be planting" is decided.

A past year’s garden planning meeting, where the “what to plant” and “who will be planting” is decided.

The Garden Manager holds a yearly garden planning meeting to get interested members’ input on what to grow and how much time they have to work in the garden. Members spend time throughout the season helping to mulch, plant, weed, water, and harvest.  The general rule for the co-op harvest has been:  work a little, take a little; work a lot, take a lot.

It has worked well for some years; however, it is still a lot of work, and plenty of members fizzle out in their volunteer hours when it starts to get scorching hot outside.  What happens?  The un-watered, un-weeded garden starts to give diminishing returns.

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Enter:  Integrated Gardening Techniques!  Some dedicated gentlemen (Ernest and Hayden)  have begun to rethink how to get the garden watered and weeded, to apply Permaculture principles to the garden and make it even easier than before to grow more food than before.  We like to call it lazy persons’ gardening.  What, exactly, are they doing? Continue reading

Stelle’s Annual Celebration of the Earth, May 5th

Hours:  10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Regular Tours and Events

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease join us for Stelle’s annual Celebration of the Earth this May 5th. As tradition goes, various members of our community wish to share and educate others of their gifts and talents that are recognized as being inspired or modeled after some of the wonderful patterns and processes that the Earth shares with us.

Tour of the Off-Grid Stelle Telephone Company -1:00pm
Tim Wilhelm manager of the Stelle Telephone Company and Professor of Renewable Energy Technologies at Kankakee Community College will give a history and overview of Stelle Telephone. Stelle Telephone was the first totally solar powered digital telephone exchange and the first solar powered internet service provider in the U.S.

Jon and June Haemes’ Straw Bale Home with PV tour! 2:00pm
A bit too far to walk but just 3 and a half mile drive, the Haemes’ home was the first straw bale home built in Illinois. Jon works for Trina Solar as a technical support manager. He used his solar powered work trailer to power all his tools used to build the home. About 30 residents of Stelle helped stack the straw bales in a single day. Jon will also talk abou the ARE 110 wind generator and its energy saving features.

Kids Garden and Pond Activities – All Day at the Pond
(Children should be accompanied by an adult)

This year we are bringing back a time-honored tradition of having family activities in the community garden. Here are the activities that are planned so far:

Kids' Activities

Kids’ Activities will be going on throughout the day in the garden.

  • Family Fishing
  • Seed Planting
  • Garden Art
  • Nature Hunt

Join us throughout the day in between our other programs.  The activities are all simple and low key, but the more the merrier.  We will request that parents accompany children 10 years and younger. (Only a limited number of families will be able to fish at one time since we are furnishing the cane poles)

  Continue reading

April Open House: Applied Permaculture Demo

165486_10151414058102851_1770827148_nTake an in-depth look at how to build resiliency, one neighborhood at a time.  We will explore both cases of applying permaculture to the landscape–backyard examples as well as community endeavors here in Stelle.  We will demonstrate scaling-up:

  • from individual rain gardens to linear food forests
  • from backyard gardening plots to garden co-operatives
  • from backyard hens to pastured chicken production
  • and more!

In the morning, we will take a walking tour of Stelle and show you some of the neighborhood’s examples of sustainable living–our wind turbine, rain gardens, and more.  After lunch, we will tour CSC’s 8.7-acre property that adjoins Stelle, focusing on its current community use and future design aims, and will also touch upon how to design self-directed work enterprises and foster social permaculture.

Peaches2

This presentation will be a joint program by Rebecca Wilson, co-founder of Midwest Permaculture (shown right), and Ernest Rando, CSC member and permaculturist in Stelle.

Schedule:
10:00 amINTRODUCTION TO STELLE & CSC
11:00 amWALKING TOUR
12:30 pmLUNCH
1:30 pm:   APPLIED PERMACULTURE WORKSHOP
 
We appreciate your contributions of $10 for the morning tour and lunch and $15 for the afternoon workshop.
 
Join us! For more information on how to sign up, please click here.