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.)

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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.

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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.

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.
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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).  

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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.