Thursday, October 28, 2010
While they were here Albert took them on a mini tour of the ETC and explained our developing system of using biochar to enrich our soil through carbon sequestration. "Bio-what? Carbon-what?" you ask? Biochar is a substance used in the pre-Colombian Amazon. It's similar to charcoal, but with a few major differences. These differences allow the ground up biochar to be added to the soil to help encourage healthy growth. It's also being used now to trap carbon in the ground, instead of allowing it back out into the atmosphere, where we already have an over abundance contributing to things like climate change and global warming.
I played paparazzi and followed Albert and the Jameses around while he was showing them our system. Here's the little video that came out of it. (I also made one outlining our use of strawbales in our garden and greenhouse, but it doesn't seem to want to upload. I'll try to get that fixed within the next week or so.)
Friday, October 8, 2010
Here's a quick video of the crew preparing and applying an even coat of plaster to the crumbling, mix-match exterior of the beautiful little building. Once that's dry, they plan on adding one last tinted layer, probably in a rich orange or burnt umber.
Monday, September 27, 2010
|Jason and Cliff, along with two |
apprentices, Jordan and Jessie, getting the job done.
The window is removed every June, as the weather heats up, and replaced with screen. This allows all the heat created from cooking to move on out of the house. And, during our first cool snap after Fall Equinox, we put it back in. Just in time, too, as getting up to cook breakfast at 6am was starting to be an exercise in "How fast can I get this water to boil, so I can have some tea?!"
Some other signs that fall is here:
- The pear tree has finally been stripped of all its fruit, having fed a gaggle of Gaia University Southeast students.
- We're all showing off our favorite sweaters that have been stored during summer.
- My kitten slept under the covers with me last night.
- The tomato plants have been ripped out of the greenhouse and replaced with winter greens.
- Cloudy days and cool rain.
- I'm starting to think of the lower story of the hostel as "Siberia," its common nickname during winter due to its tendency to collect all the cool air in the house.
- The kitchen is decorated with a bounty of pumpkin and butternut squash from Mt. Lebanon Farm.
- The sound of the kettle singing in the early hours of the morning. Repeatedly.
So, what's your favorite sign of Fall?
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Ta daa! It's Conversations on Collapse, by our very own KMO!
In addition to being the resident ETC podcaster, co-innkeeper, and all around great guy, KMO is the producer and host of the long standing C-Realm Podcast (the C stands for "consciousness.") For over four years, the C-Realm has brought you interviews and conversations about...well, I'll let KMO tell you in his own words: "possible technological singularity, entheogenic exploration, the re-localization of community & agriculture, and individual conscious autonomy."
Conversations on Collapse is a collection of transcribes of C-Realm interviews that explore the idea of a collapse of our current industrial, petroleum-based system, and what people are doing to prepare for that eventuality. Among others, Conversations includes the view points of James Howard Kunstler, Daniel Pinchbeck, Sharon Astyk, Dmitry Orlov, and the founder of the Ecovillage Training Center, Albert K. Bates.
Would you like a copy of this tome of knowledge and inspiration? Nothing could be easier! Simply click here to purchase one (or two, or three) of your very own through fictionondemand.com.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Doug was kind enough to leave some of the cider behind for the hostel. As the innkeeper here, I’m always trying new ways to produce our own food. With Doug’s gifted apple juice, I thought I could try making a little bit of fermented cider. Inspired by fellow Tennessean Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation, I filled two pint canning jars with the golden goodness, laid some cheese cloth over the top, and screwed the canning rings on the top. Without the flat canning top, this leaves the juice open to wild yeast floating around in the air. I’ve been stirring them a couple of times a day, whenever I think about it.
It’s only been about three days, and the cider already has a bit of a bite. It’s fizzy from the carbonation released by the fermentation, and I can taste just a hint of alcohol. I’m loosing some to evaporation, so I’ll probably go ahead and drink it pretty soon. I’ve got just enough for me and a couple of friends to enjoy a bit with dinner tonight…hmmm…maybe some roasted squash to carry on the autumn harvest theme?
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Four new ETC apprentices also arrived this week, yesterday in fact. Jessie, Emily, Jordon, and Martin are settling into the Hodge Podge Lodge just fine, and are looking forward to getting to work tomorrow. Today has been filled with orientation for them, as well as a tour of both the ETC site and The Farm. They, too, have a great vibe around them. I know that the next two months will provide them with some amazing learning experiences. Apprenticeships of this nature give you a chance to learn as much about yourself as they do about permaculture skills. They can be both a mirror and a canvas. Every nail hammered, every egg gathered, every weekly community check-in is a chance to get to know your own dreams, your own limits, and your true self.
Paul, one of our apprentices for the June-July session shared this lovely poem with the staff after he left. My hope is that these four new community members, as well as the two that will be joining them shortly, leave here with the same feelings that inspired this.
Looking out the window of an earthen dwelling…
A blue-tailed skink scuttles
along the lumber
A gentle breeze sways the bamboo
A deer frolics far
across the forest
Hearing the conch call in the distance…
berries and a blooming red rose
Be greeted by smiling faces
hands around the table
Feeling the magic of a fire at night…
blanket of stars
Float out of the chair
at the ETC…
Where QOL > GDP
There's time to develop skills
what day it is
Remember what’s truly important...
Being immersed in
Connected to community
A chance to be fully human
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Last week, though, we had a lovely morning shower. The gentle rain woke me up to the soft sound of "sshhhhhhhh" as the droplets hit the surrounding trees. After feeding the chickens, ducks and my calico kitten Cleo, I picked up my little camera and headed out into the yard to get some pictures and video of the beautiful site. I hope you enjoy the resulting video.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
"But, surely people lived in the southern United States before air conditioning," you may exclaim. "It can't be that bad. And don't you have passive solar heating and cooling? Isn't your place a working model of how to create comfortable living spaces without the need for large, noisy, electricity-guzzling machines?"
"Yes!" We reply, to all of it. People did live here before air conditioning. n fact, people have lived here since before Europeans landed on this continent. What did they do to keep cool? They built for the heat. The Cherokee of the area built wattle-and-daub dwellings for the summer, taking advantage of the temperature regulating properties of earth. The European settlers of the area used techniques such as tall ceilings that allowed hot air to rise above head height, and front porches with big overhanging roofs for shade to beat the heat.
Friday, July 30, 2010
- A simple stir fry. Zucchini tastes super yummy sliced then pan fried in a little olive oil and butter. It's doesn't need much help. I usually sprinkle on a little black pepper and a generous dose of Italian seasoning. If I'm feeling really fancy, I'll hit it with a couple of sprays from the soy sauce pump bottle. That's all it needs!
- Zapples. To my delight, the recipes that came with this week's share had a great way to make zucchini taste like apples! I'm serious. Simmer your peeled, seeded, sliced (or diced) zucchini or yellow squash in a pot with lemon juice, sweetener (sugar or honey), and cinnamon and nutmeg. Voila! Zapples! I've used mine in zapple muffins and zapple crisp. No one knew it was squash unless I told them. Even then, some people thought I mixed the two together.
- Pickles. Yes, you can pickled veggies other than cucumbers. I've got some beautiful yellow squash sweet pickles on the shelf right now, and even munched on some pickled okra with lunch today. Yum!
- Zucchini bread. Ah, the old standard. I like making zucchini bread specialer-than-normal by adding things like diced apple, raisins and pumpkin seeds. What do you like in your bread?
That's all I've done with them so far. Anyone else out there got some tips on what to do with the abundance of squash that summer brings?
Sunday, July 25, 2010
What do you do with the water used in the shower or from rinsing the dishes? What about the laundry?
In this episode of Ask the ETC Jason Deptula, our site manager, talks about how we filter our gray water through our constructed wetlands.
Click here to listen to episode three of Ask The ETC. Like what you hear? You can subscribe to the podcast on itunes at asktheetc.podomatic.com!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
- Washing Dishes - We hand wash our dishes. Many statistics are coming out now that dish washers actually use less water than hand washing, but only if you don't pre-rinse them. I don't know about you, but I have never encountered a dish washing machine that didn't require pre-rinsing. So, we fill a large mixing bowl with warm, soapy water for washing. The next basin in our sink gets filled with clear, cold water to rinse the soap off. This helps cut down on gratuitous use of the faucet.
- Showering - I love our solar showers! I could easily stand under a stream of the sun-warmed water for half an hour, especially after a day of bread baking or earthen plastering. But, I rarely give into the temptation. Instead, I take navy showers. Named after navy seamen's practice of conserving fresh wash water while on a ship, it is a super simple way to cut down the amount of water used while showering. Turn on your water to wet down, then turn it off while soaping up and/or shampooing your hair. Turn the water back on when you're ready to rinse off. Don't think that will save much water? Try showering with the plug in the tub. Note where the water level is at the end. Make your next shower a navy shower, and compare the water level. I guarantee you'll see a difference.
- Landscaping - We incorporate native plants into our landscaping. These plants are adapted to our annual rainfall patterns, and don't require a lot of additional watering. Planting native plants also helps reduce the encroachment of invasive, sometimes harmful, imported plants.
- Gardening - We incorporate the techniques of synergistc agriculture. Developed by Emilia Hazelip, and based on her work with Masanobu Fukuoka. Synergestic agriculture incorporates a heavy mulch. This mulch helps hold moisture in the soil, cutting down on the need to water.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Click here to listen to Episode 2 of Ask The ETC.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
But, that's ok. The quiet and the slow pace has opened up a space for more homesteading kitchen skills to happen! Over the past couple of weeks I've pickled okra from the organic CSA we belong to, researched what to do with all the beautiful white cucumbers coming in form the garden (I think refrigerator pickles are the way to go at the moment), and had fun getting as many dairy products from a gallon of milk as I can.
Our first attempt at mozzarella produced something that tasted like the familiar cheese, but was crumbly instead of stretchy. It was still deliziosa on our home made pizza that night. We added the ricotta we made from the left over whey, some cheddar donated by a guest, and fresh tomatoes from the garden. Yum!
Today's bread-and-cheese adventure was fresh bagels and cream cheese. Well, not strictly cream cheese, rather Lebnah, the middle eastern cheese created when you let the liquid drip out of yogurt. Did I mention that we made the yogurt ourselves? And the bagels? (I love cooking in community.) I've done this process of turning milk into yogurt, then yogurt into a spreadable cheese several times and I always love the results. Sometimes the yogurt turns out more liquidy than other times, but I'm ok with that.
Merry's Milk to Yogurt to Cheese Process:
Materials & Ingredients:
- Two quart glass jars & their lids
- A pot large enough to house the jars
- A food thermometer
- A small cooler designed to hold a six pack of cans & a quiet place for it to rest over night
- Dish clothes or tea towels
- A spoon
- Oven mitts
- Cheese cloth & a place to hang it when it is full of yogurt
- A small to medium non reactive bowl (stainless steel or ceramic is fine)
- Half gallon of milk (pasteurized is ok, but not ultrapasteurized)
- Some yogurt that contains live cultures
Note: I start the process about 7:30 to 8pm. It's just the right time for me to make the yogurt, wash up the dishes, and get to bed at a reasonable hour. In the morning the yogurt is ready for my breakfast!
Step One. Yogurt:
- Fill both quart jars with milk.
- Place them in the pot and fill the pot with water until it reaches 3/4 of the way up sides of the jars.
- Place over high heat on your stove and heat the jars in this water bath until the milk reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This kills bacteria in the milk that may make you sick or give your yogurt a bad flavor. Stir occasionally to distribute the heat evenly throughout the milk and to prevent a skin from forming on top.
- Using the oven mitts, as the glass jars will be hot, remove them from the water bath and let cool until the milk is 110 degrees. This is the right temperature to make your desired bacteria cultures nice and happy.
- Add a few spoonfulls of your already-made yogurt to both jars. I'm sure there is a recommended amount, but I never can remember what it is. I just add two or three spoonfuls. Put the lids on the jars.
- Line your little cooler with a dish cloth or tea towel and put the jars in it. Gently stuff more cloth around the jars and on top of them to help insulate. You want the temperature to stay as constant as possible for as long as possible. This allows the good bacteria cultures to grow and multiply all night long.
- Place your cooler in its over night spot, then leave it alone. Yogurt doesn't like to be disturbed while it's doing it thing. Be sure that it is away from curious pets, and that everyone in the house knows not to move the cooler in the night.
- Go to sleep. Or go out partying. Or stay up all night playing WoW. Whatever makes you happy. In the morning, you'll have two quart jars of yummy yogurt to enjoy with your breakfast.
- Fill some cheese cloth with one jar's worth of yogurt. I usually have a few strips of the cloth that I lay down inside of a bowl, criss-crossing the layers of fabric. I then pour in the yogurt and fold over the inner layers, tying them up so that they hold in the yogurt. The outer layer gets tied towards the tips of the strip, making it an easy to hang sling for the cheese-in-potential. Be sure to double knot it so that it doesn't slide undone as it hangs.
- Hang this sling over the bowl for twenty four hours, letting the whey (the yellow-ish, cloudy liquid) drip out of the yogurt and into the bowl. No need to hang it in the refrigerator, usually. I've had success leaving it out at room temperature. However, we don't have air conditioning here. So, when it's hot outside I get to worrying about spoilage. I take the middle rack out of the fridge, place the bowl on the bottom shelf, and tie the cheese cloth to the top rack. I get a good night's rest knowing that it won't spoil.
- A day later you've got two, count 'em two, usable dairy products. The first is the cheese. The cheese cloth will still be a little moist, so unwrap it on a plate or in a bowl. It should have the consistency similar to ricotta or really smooth cream cheese. It will also have a bit of tang that makes is ultra yummy to spread on toast or bagels. The second product is the whey. I've used it to make biscuits, and I hear you can do all sorts of other nifty stuff with it like cook grains or add it to smoothies. Store them both in separate sit tight container in the fridge, and use them with abandon!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Our very first episode is about one of our favorite plants here at the ETC: bamboo. Queen Goddess Uokes asked us on our facebook fan page:
I sat down with Cliff and he explained about the different types of bamboo, how best to root it, and how to enjoy the young shoots as food. Enjoy!How to root bamboo? Where to cut it? Eye was just looking at some large pieces eye just gathered and noticed the small shoots on the side. Is this a good place to take a clipping. HELP PLEASE.
Click here to listen to Episode One of Ask The ETC.
Like what you hear? You can subscribe to Ask The ETC on iTunes through podomatic!
Monday, June 21, 2010
Service was not always viewed this way. In some cultures, being of service is a sacred act. Not just an act, either. To give of your time and energy is a form of communication. It says to the person you are serving that you are glad to know and be with them, and that you appreciate what they contribute to your life. In a capitalist system, the served shows their appreciation for the service with money. The more valuable they deem the service, the more money they give. When living in community, service happens in both large and small ways every day. In a healthy community, where everyone recognizes the importance of being of service to each other, this tends to even itself out.
Here at the ETC, the opportunities to be of service abound. Today we’re focusing on the kitchen. The kitchen is a powerful place in a house. It provides for the sustenance needs of the family or, in our case, community. At its best, cooking for those around you is an amazing act of love. It is also an opportunity to abandon the worries of the day, and to just be in the moment. When preparing food for yourself or others, let the rest of the day go and just be there with the process. It shows respect for the people who will eat the meal (even if it’s just yourself) and respect for the food itself.
The food that you eat, whether it be organic produce or a fast food burger, all comes from the same place; the Earth. The choices we make when we obtain and prepare food are direct lines of communication to our planet. Becoming conscious of what you are communicating with those choices is an easy first step towards living a sustainable life.
Take, for instance, granola. Granola was once viewed as the ultimate hippy-dippy, cardboard tasting, health food. When made from bulk foods, its preparation takes little time or effort. That little effort rewards you with a low impact, healthy, portable snack. As people became more focused on eating healthily, but were still buying into the idea that preparing food is a time consuming, menial task, large food corporations jumped on granola as a way to make money. Now, people with the good intentions of eating more healthily buy trucked in cardboard boxes full of individually wrapped snack food bars full of preservatives and just as much sugar as a candy bar. They think that they are doing a good thing, but they are actually doing themselves and the planet a great disservice.
The granola bars you probably buy at your local grocery are not only full of stuff you body doesn’t need, it’s carbon footprint is huge. The agricultural system its ingredients came from is killing our nation’s tradition of small farmers, it’s packaged without thought to reducing waste, and it deprives us of the opportunity to discover how rewarding preparing your own food from local or bulk foods can be.
So, here at the ETC we took the time one afternoon to make ourselves a batch of the crunchy goodness. Here's the recipe:
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
1/4 cup safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 chopped dates
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients except dried fruit.
3. In another bowl, mix all wet ingredients.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix thoroughly, coating the oats and seeds.
5. Spread the granola in an oiled, shallow baking pan. Bake for ten minutes, stir the granola with a spatula, then bake another ten minutes.
6. Remove granola from the oven and stir in the dried fruit.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The apprenticeship here at the ETC is heavily based on experiential learning. In other words: Get out there, get involved, and learn! But, a little chalk talk is necissary to make sure that our apprentices have a base of knowledge on which to build as they learn.
Cliff Davis of Spiral Ridge Permaculture took some time this week to share with our group the basic principles of permaculture, one of the philosophies we use when designing projects here on site. Permaculture, originally a mix of the words "permanent" and "agriculture" is a system of site design that seeks to intelligently mimic the way nature works. Now, most people think of the term to represent so much more, and present it as a shortened version of "permanent culture." Since its inception in the 1970's, its principles have been applied not only to agriculture, but to also help design co-ops, homesteads, villages, and even towns. There's even a subset of permaculture that focuses on financial systems.
The facet of permaculture we focus on at the ETC relates to the ecovillage or homesteader. Our gardens and buildings have been arranged by the "zone" system. In this system of design, the main house is thought of as zone 0, then zones 1 through 5 radiate out in concentric circles. Plants and buildings accessed on a daily basis are close to the ecohostel, in zones with lower numbers. For instance, we use lots of fresh herbs in our cooking (can anyone say "basil pesto pizza?" I thought you could.) So, we planted an herb spiral right next to the inn, in zone 1. No need to tromp on out to the Organic Garden across the yard for our daily dose of basil! (Or oregano, tyme, and rosemary.)
If you are interested in learning more about permaculture, Cliff reccommends Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison or Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a way of buying food directly from a local farmer, rather than going through a middle man such as a grocery store. The customer pays either a lump sum up front or weekly installments for a share of the farmer's produce. Then, the customer picks up his share on a weekly basis directly from the farmer at either his/her farm, or a convenient drop off point.
Why do this? To cut out some of the "hidden petroleum" in our food. According to the article Does it Really Matter Whether Your Food was Produced Locally? the average grocery store food item travels over 1,000 miles to get to your plate. Prepare a meal of grains, beans, veggies and a salad, then add common condiments, and you are easily into the tens of thousands!
So, who did we choose? Mt. Lebanon Farm, near Lawrenceburg, TN. They are a brand new family farm, and are super excited about being able to provide their neighbors with fresh, organic foods. We took a tour of their place on March 31st, and came back with a bushel full of fresh, organic greens and lettuce. One of the kids even dug a few baby carrots up on the spot for us to take home, and then threw in some radishes, too. In addition to viewing their produce, we got to take a look at some of their animals. Chickens for both eggs and meat, ducks, goats, and a momma cow with her baby round out the farm yard crew. Some of the products from these animals are available now, but more will be included in the CSA next year.
If you are interested in lowering the miles your food travels, head on over to LocalHarvest.org. They have a searchable data base of CSAs, farmer's markets, food co-ops, and more. That's where we found Mt. Lebanon. Now, a portion of our produce will go from using 1,000 miles worth of petrol, to less than 60 (and that's the round trip drive, not just one way.)
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Last year, the focus of most of the work here was on building. This year, Cliff and the apprentices are really working the garden. Garrison, Nilsa, and Rich have all spent many hours in the greenhouse and garden, setting the stage for an abundance of home grown food. These apprentices leave on June 5th, so they probably won't get to eat what they've worked so hard to get in the ground. So, thanks, you three, we really appreciate all your work!
Garrison gave me a tour of the new plantings a few days ago. Among the bounty, we've got tomatoes, peppers, okra, corn, melons, and cucumbers. As he walked around showing me where all of these are, it reminded me of my grandparents' back yard. My father's parents grew up in the rural South during the Great Depression, and always kept a food garden going. I'll always remember sitting on the floor by my grandma's chair snapping beans and talking.
Backyard gardens used to be the norm. With the advent of modern convenience foods, and most families current need for two incomes, the small garden seems like a thing of the past. Not so! More and more people are finding joy in getting their hands dirty and growing healthy, fresh, (sometimes even organic) food. Like my daddy always says: Only two things money can't buy. That's true love and home grown tomatoes!
Friday, May 21, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
- Housing & Bedding: The babies are housed in a wooden box without a lid. During the night, we put a rectangle of metal screening on the top and weigh it down with bricks to prevent mice or rats getting it. Their original bedding was straw, but it was quickly soaked and soiled. We changed to a commercial pine shaving bedding. It still gets very wet and soiled, but exec pt for right next to the water dish, the dampness and feces seem to be confined to the top layer. This makes it easier to clean on a daily basis. Some websites on duckling care warned against pine shavings due to the duck's tendency to try to eat it. Ours did try it out at first, but quickly spit out most of what they tasted, deeming it "icky." They've had the pine bedding for two days, and are all still alive and kicking.
- Heat: The ducklings' home is in a greenhouse that maintains a daytime temp of high 70's to mid 80's depending on cloud cover. We've got a heat lamp clamped to the side of the box, and keep an eye on their behavior to determine whether it's too hot. From what I understand, they should be at a temp of about 90-95 degrees, gradually decreasing it after about 10-ish days.
- Food & Water: We're feeding them a non-medicated 20% starter/grower chick feed. Its small crumbles are perfect for little bills. According to the bag, we should switch to the pellet form at about ten weeks. The food is served in a purchased UFO-shaped feeder with holes cut out of the top. The perforated lid allows the ducklings access to the food without it spilling all over the place. The water has been a learning experience. They drink (and spill) a lot of water. The water dish consists of a quart ball jar with the dish part screwed on top. It's turned upside down and gravity feeds the water into the dish as the ducks drink it. Ducks are dabblers, and drop food in the water and sprinkle it all over their bedding in the blink of an eye. We check the water at least once an hour, and refill the jar many times a day. I've taken to putting the water dish up on a platform of a couple of smooth bricks, so that the ducklings don't stand in the wet bedding while trying to drink.
- Swimming Lessons: Nothing yet, so far. I've read conflicting advice, saying that they can have supervised swimming in shallow water from day one, or that they shouldn't be in water until their true feathers grow in at about 9-12 weeks.
That's pretty much it right now. On their first day here, I took a little video of their cuteness and posted it to youtube. Here are the little ones in their cinematic debut: Cute Baby Ducks.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
One of the goals here at the ETC is to teach people how to grow their own food. We do that in a number of ways, incorporating both gardening and wildcrafting. Oftentimes, as in the case of our numerous bamboo stands, the line between the two techniques blurs a bit.
As the weather in central Tennessee gets warmer and wetter, our bamboo is doing its best to spread itself out into any path, lawn and garden area it happens to border. Bamboo rarely flowers and seeds. Instead, its root (called a rhizome) sends up new shoots that will eventually grow into the tall, sturdy, wood-like grass that we use around here for our natural building projects. These little dark points may seem like a nuisance to those who don't know their secret: they're food! Ever wonder what the little white, crunchy rectangles in Chinese takeout are? Yup, that's bamboo.
Two days ago, a baking dish full shoots appeared in the kitchen, courtesy of Cliff and the apprentices. They harvested the baby bamboos from the yard in an attempt to control the growth, and we ended up with wild-ish, organic, as local as you can get food. Woot! So far, we've added them to chilli and soup, both of which were inspired by recipes from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. We simply peeled off the tough, dark outer leaves and fried the chopped hearts in olive oil with onions and garlic. Cliff, who is homesteading with his wife and two children, recommends boiling them with pickling spices for a yummy treat. Then, the juice can be used in soups to give them a little kick. Ellie, an intern over at Adam Turtle's nearby bamboo nursery, eats the inside of the young shoots raw! Be aware, though, that some sources say that uncooked bamboo shoots can be toxic and should be parboiled before use.
For a run-down on the nutritional value of this easy-to-grow, easy-to-cook, easy-to-enjoy semi-wild food, check out this article on about.com.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
An herb spiral is a beautiful way to create a diverse herb garden in a small space. It is basically a mound of soil, with a spiral of rocks winding its way up to the top. Plants that like different amounts of sun and soil moisture can live together comfortably on an herb spiral. Ones, such as basil, that handle a fair amount of sun can hang out on the south and west side, while plants that thrive in cooler shade can survive on the north side and east. We planted some micro greens and perennial kale on our north side. Have a plant that likes dryer soil? It goes right on top. We even added a water feature at the bottom of the spiral that's giving a home to some cattails. It was a lovely way to spend Earth Day.
When I say "we" I really mean Cliff, Garrison, Nilsa and Joel. What did I do? Well, a little rock arranging, and a lot of picture taking. Here's the short how-to video I made of the pics I took.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Without a clear chain of command or a traditionally structured student/teacher model here at the ETC, it can be a little confusing for the new apprentices to know who to talk to about their reflections on the program. Last week Cliff sat down with the apprentices, KMO and me to talk about how the evolution of the apprenticeship program reflects a natural system, such as a forest or prairie.
Instead of the main stream approach to teaching, where the instructor draws up a detailed syllabus with specific plans for each week, the Permaculture Immersion Apprenticeship Program mimics the regrowth pattern that happens in the space left by a downed tree in the forest. While there are planned projects for the season, and an overarching view of what needs to be accomplished by the end of an apprenticeship, the first week or so of the program may seem a bit chaotic. Just like the myriad of small plants and saplings that spring up in the new sunshine left by a hole in the forest canopy, the first few days of the program is about trying new ideas and getting a feel for what works and what doesn't.
Each group of apprentices comes in with its own expectations and desires to learn about one subject or another. We love that, and work with them to establish a schedule that accommodates both their passions and the ETC's need to accomplish the planned projects. And just like the seemingly patternless growth of random plants in the space around the downed tree, the chaos eventually falls into a pattern. Healthy, strong, fast growing saplings eventually shade out the weaker, smaller ones. As coordinators communicate the overreaching vision for the program and start offering suggestions as to what could happen first, the apprentices are encouraged to give feedback. The feedback is considered, and new suggestions may be made.
Once a schedule is agreed upon, then it's up to both the apprentices and the coordinators to keep communicating during the apprenticeship to make sure that everyone is included to their desired level and that the project gets completed within the agreed upon time frame. Some of our feedback tools include a "check-in" where coordinators and apprentices get a chance to talk about what's going well and what's challenging, an "intention blackboard" where apprentices and coordinators can write in their ideas about projects for the near future, and a co-counseling technique called "think and listen" where apprentices have a chance to process what they learned during the previous week.
These tools, along with informal chit-chat around meals or work, give space for a healthy community to flourish. Hopefully, the community that develops will prove to be as beautiful, rich, resilient and diverse as the forest that surrounds us here at the ETC.
*Co, which stands for community member, is a non gender specific pronoun commonly used in intentional communities which support gender identification freedom of choice.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I hung around and took a bunch of pictures while they were building. Here's some of the best, in a simple how-to slide show. Hope you enjoy it!
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Friday, the first full day the chickens spent at the ETC, 1 egg was yield, in the late morning. Meanwhile, Cliff, Garrison, Nilsa and Rich started building a bamboo chicken tractor to use in the nearby permaculture garden. Primarily made of bamboo, the chicken tractor is both functional and aesthetically pleasing, thanks to the mix of yellow and black bamboo. By sunset, all the hens and the rooster found their way into the chicken coop by the time they needed to go in for the night. No human prodding was necessary for Bobby McGee (or the others).
Saturday morning, 1 egg with a substantial hole in it (and empty of its' contents) was found on the floor of the chicken coop at ten after seven in the morning. About an hour and a half later, Nilsa discovered four hens outside the chickens' fenced in yard. With the help of some feed, Nilsa and Rich were able to coax the hens back into their yard. However, the chickens escaped again later that day. This time, the door to their yard was left open and the chickens eventually returned on their own. Shortly after sunset, all the chickens appeared to be nested in the chicken coop, although it was tough to tell in the dark.
Sunday morning, it was realized that Bobby McGee, the lone rooster, was missing. Remnants of rooster feathers appeared about 80 yard southwest of the chicken coop and it was generally decided that a fox ate Bobby McGee. So, three days after the arrival of Bobby McGee and the four hens, there remain only four hens, with no rooster. Then again, four eggs were laid today.
Currently, there are five residents at the Ecovillage Training Center, and one kitchen. To save time, money and food we've banded together to create a cooking cooperative. There are many different types of co-ops, from strictly buying cooperatives to ones that share the buying, cooking, and cleaning duties every day. The kind that we have here is the latter. This model is most frequently seen in cohousing or intentional communities where people are interested in both cooking and dining together on a regular basis.
During a couple of short stays at Dancing Rabbit, an ecovillage in Missouri, I ate my meals through their open co-op, Sunflower. As an apprentice here at the ETC last year, I participated in the kitchen set-up run by the Hodge Podge Cooperative, the group of about seven people that collectively ran the educational opportunities. I loved the sense of community that manifested itself around the kitchens of both places, so I knew that I wanted to take what I had learned from both of them and apply it here.
As a co-op, we pool our money to buy groceries. Dry goods are purchased from either the local Amish bulk food store or a bulk foods catalog. Our fresh produce and dairy comes from either The Farm Store, a nearby locally owned market called Duncan & Son's, or straight out of the garden. We also share all cooking and cleaning duties. The simplest solution here was just to post a sign-up sheet on the refrigerator, so that people can choose what shifts they would like to cover during the week.
Not only are we saving resources by cooking together, we're learning so much from each other and having fun in the process. Five different people with five different sets of skills in the kitchen makes for a wonderful variety of dishes. Take last night for example. We hosted out first Second Saturday Potluck here and our contribution was made by an apprentice, Rich. He made a big ol' batch of vegetarian bean chilli with sweet potatoes in it! The smokey spice of the chilli really brought out the caramel sweetness of the potatoes. Yum!
We're also enjoying inviting other people to participate in the cooperative on a more temporary basis. The ETC plays host to a continual stream of travelers interested in sustainability and green living. I never know what I'm going to hear when I ask the question, "So, what brings you to The Farm?" People open up and feel free to share their stories over the welcoming, family-like atmosphere of a table filled with good food and good company. And that, as a well known pop-culture food guru would say, is a good thing.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Our goal in creating this program is to promote systemic social changes towards sustainable human habitats and to encourage loving personal growth, free artistic expression, caring relationships, deep environmental awareness, and celebration of cultural and individual differences. We hope to inspire people to work for something bigger than themselves.
Our first group of apprentices will be staying with us through the end of May.
Nilsa: I'm from Cape Coral, FL and volunteer at ECHO in North Fort Myers,FL. http://www.echonet.org/ It's an awesome organization. I'm here to learn all I can regarding permaculture and natural building to utilize these skills in a third wold application, sustainability. I also am involved with local area community gardening. In a nutshell, I would love to learn these skills well enough to teach them to others in the near future, God willing.
Rich: Thirty year old explorer of life, Rich, is looking forward to getting some chickens laying eggs at the Ecovillage Training Center. This, of course, will require a chicken tractor (or two) being built, but Cliff and the ETC apprentices seem gung ho about the idea. The project will be a great learning experience for Rich to take back to Twin Oaks, when he returns there for membership in June.
Rich was also excited to find a potential solar cooker today in the dome near the ETC, but more investigation is necessary. A little over 24 hours into his apprenticeship, the northern Virginia native is excited about the swimming hole, the abundance of items at the The Farm Store, the potential for a soccer game on the big field and whatever else The Farm may bring.
Although this is the 7th community Rich visited in the past two months, traveling Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, there lay many possibilities in what should be the longest visit this year, at The Farm.
Garrison: Garrison F. Creamer originates from Panama City, FL and serves as the director and founder of the Gulf Coastal Free Currency Coalition and BeachForest Harmony, an investment bank which seeks to redistribute capital to sustainable communal development through private and voluntary currencies. Co* has experienced firsthand the effects of the housing boom caused by artificially injected capital into circulation and witnessed the destruction of co's natural environment at a time when the Florida panhandle was the most viable and desired real estate investment. After completing this internship co plans to devote the rest of co's life to the practices of permaculture and Austrian economics. Co is also an avid surfer who loves to travel and find new waves!
*Co, which stands for community member, is a non gender specific pronoun commonly used in intentional communities which support gender identification freedom of choice.
Monday, April 5, 2010
We’ve got a lot of exciting things planned this year at the Ecovillage Training Center. Cliff is heading up our Permaculture Immersion Apprenticeship, with plans for organic gardening and natural building. I’ll be helping him to integrate the garden and the kitchen by working with the apprentices on things like food preparation and preservation. He’s already started micro greens and radishes in the green house, and the garlic is really doing its thing in the garden. I’m having visions of marinated chard, roasted garlic, and radish butter spread on fresh bread. Yum!
Jason and Alayne are back again this year, as site manager and inn manager. They are in the process of building a home here on The Farm, and are using natural building techniques such as cordwood and light clay straw. They both look forward to welcoming the apprentices and have plans for fun work days out at their place. Later this season Jason, along with other builders on The Farm, will be giving the inn a big face lift. The renovation will give us new sleeping quarters, new inside and outside common areas, and a brand new kitchen.
We also welcome a new face to the ETC this year. KMO, who produces a weekly podcast called the c-realm, is joining the crew. He’ll be managing the bookstore, and setting up an online presence for it. Pretty soon you’ll be able to order titles like Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities by Diana Leafe Christian, or The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook by Albert Bates, either directly from us or through our Amazon store. There’s even talk of possibly setting up an etsy.com shop for Farm residents to sell their crafts through.
Speaking of Albert, he’s been traveling and staying in other ecohostels lately, and has some great ideas for creating a relaxed, fun, inviting atmosphere here at the inn. I can’t wait to chat with him on his vision for the hostel. (I’ve heard mumblings about planned canoe trips.)
And if those aren’t enough plans for the summer, I’ll also be hosting a regular vegetarian potluck at the hostel. If you’re in the area on the second Saturday of the month, drop by with some food. (Eggs and dairy are ok, but no meat or broth based dishes, please.) Things will get rolling about 6:30pm. Hope to see you soon!