May Workshop: Pond Restoration with Caron Wenzel

Join us on May 25th for our Pond Restoration Workshop!

We’re currently in the process of restoring our pond here on the CSC property and we have invited Caron Wenzel to come share her knowledge with us. She is the owner of Blazing Star Inc. that specializes in restoration and agroecological consulting. Last year, we raised money to excavate and empty our pond because it had been overtaken by cattails and algae. This year, we plan to restore the habitat both inside and outside the pond. The pond has been stocked with fish and we are working on replanting the area surrounding the pond.

During this workshop, you will get to hear from Bill Wilson and get a brief summary of what our pond used to look like, some of the problems we are facing, and how we intend to restore it. After lunch, Caron Wenzel will continue with a presentation on what native plants work best for restoring and replanting, and the importance of maintaining a healthy, living soil community in and around a pond. There will also be a portion of the workshop spent outside doing hands-on work by our pond where participants can ask questions and identify plants. For more details on registering, pricing, and itinerary, click here.

April Workshop: Introduction to Rain Gardens

What are rain gardens and what can they do for you and your garden?

This one-day workshop will be on April 27th, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.!

In the morning, there will be a short introduction and an optional walking tour of our town. We will show you some of the neighborhood’s examples of sustainable living and some of the highlights from our recent work on the CSC landscape including: a young food forest, swales, livestock, and our pond that’s in the process of being restored (join us in May for our Pond Restoration workshop!). In the afternoon, we will begin with a brief presentation on rain gardens followed by a hands-on rain garden tutorial on our CSC property.

Rain garden design concept by Kasandra Ireland
Schedule:
10:00-11:45 A.M.: Introduction to tour of the town
12:00-1:00 P.M.: Local/Organic Lunch
1:00-4:00 P.M.: Introduction to Rain Gardens Workshop with Kasandra
Ireland and Meghan Arcari

We will be meeting at our Stelle Community Center where we will gather before the tour and where the presentation and lunch will be held. If you don’t want to join us on the tour, meet us at 12 P.M. for lunch.

Cost: $40 per person (lunch included)

Space can be limited, so please call or email to reserve a spot.

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.

IMG_5517

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. 

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.

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

Warren Brush Tells Inspiring Tales of “Peace in Permaculture”

Warren Brush Poster

Midwest Permaculture and some of us CSC folks went up to Chicago to listen to Warren Brush of Quail Springs Permaculture talk about “Peace in Permaculture”. The MA Center of Chicago was our host at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum at University of Illinois Chicago.

It was exciting to meet some new permaculture folks from the Chicagoland Permaculture Meetup Group and it was equally exciting to see some friends that took some PDC courses here in Stelle. While the number of Permaculture folks are growing every year, the fact remains we are pretty spread out, and so it’s kind of strange to spot permaculturalists you know in public. Continue reading

The Shifting Baseline, Food Myth Busting, and Food Forests

I just thought I would share some interesting information on the Shifting Baseline Theory, Food Forests, and Food Myth Busting. I came across these individual videos today while doing some research and some dots were connected in my brain. Each of these videos are short, less than 10 minutes, and together they are very powerful and absolutely inspirational (at least to me). I will give a brief explanation of each video with links and then give some extra credit to those that produced them. Continue reading