Open House- March 2014: How Community Can Respond to Global Climate Change

Afternoon Workshop
Randall Jamrock – How Community Can Respond to Global Climate Randall JChange                                                                     

And His Report on the International Permaculture Convergence hosted in Cuba, Nov. 2013

 Randall Jamrok practices permaculture in Northwest Indiana and took his permaculture certificate training from Midwest Permaculture here in Stelle, IL. He recently attended the International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) in Cuba.

cuba picture randal jIt was his goal to bring what was the theme of the conference “Permaculture Solutions to Climate Change” back to his community and to the greater Midwest. This presentation is about the permaculture solutions to climate change that he learned while at the IPC and while touring many Cuban urban gardens and organoponicos (organic farms that came about during Cuba’s special period).

 After returning from Cuba, Randall put together a booklet based on the knowledge he took from the convergence: “Permaculture Solutions to Climate Change: Pieces of the Puzzle Learned at the IPC 11 Cuba.” It includes five main solutions and sixty seven additional solutions for communities to implement that are presented in a checklist-style format which can be used to prioritize and set goals. In the booklet he explains that it is imperative for communities to redesign the social system they use in their interpersonal communication first, since a dysfunctional community will likely fail at the important task of creating sustainable agricultural systems. The booklet is a tool that communities can use for taking on collective projects that will effect systemic change.

Pictures from the urban gardens and other permaculture sites in Cuba will be featured and discussed as well.

This workshop will benefit those interested in community-building and community redesign (e.g., Transition Towns), social permaculture and redesigning food and shelter systems, as well as learning about Cuban urban gardens and their history.

To prepare for the coming changes we will likely change some of the ways we live by becoming conscious of–and by cooperating with–each other and the natural world.  Therefore, the discussion at this workshop will tie in with Midwest Permaculture co-founder Bill Wilson’s Agraria concept: combining the best aspects of suburbia and the farm to create a new tiny-village concept.

 

Adventures in Portable Pig Pens

Building Portable Pig Pens

Several of us started a pig co-op this year. We purchased four pigs: two purebred Mangalitsas, and two Mangalitsa hybrids. We wanted to raise them and harvest them for meat for the community. However, in addition to providing food for us, the pigs can help in many other ways.

As a community we met together and made plans over this winter to expand the diversity of our orchard, and in order to plant more, the ground needs to be prepared for planting. Here’s where we can get some help from the pigs. By building portable pens, we are able to move the pigs all around the orchard. They are happy with all the fresh grazing, and we are happy because they are tilling up the ground for us and adding rich compost! Just by moving four pigs around the orchard several things happen. The pigs provide rich nutrition to the earth, they are able to enjoy the space and fresh air of the outdoors, we’ve reduced the amount of human work needed for tilling, and in the end we will have meat to be shared amongst all the members of the cooperative!

Procedure

We kept the young pigs in a barn over the winter for protection, but as soon as it got warm we wanted to get them grazing in the the fresh air in the orchard.

piggies 2These are the portable pens we created.

1. We used livestock panels (provided for free by a farmer friend- thanks Jim!), some wire, a tarp, and several sets of hands. We bent the panel by walking it into the barn halfway then shutting the door on it. Technical procedure, I know, but it worked!

2. Then we overlapped two panels to make the pen taller, because our pigs are actually very big and healthy and can jump pretty high. We overlapped about one foot for stability instead of just stacking one on top of the other.IMG_1631

3. We fastened the corners and started wiring. We used heavy gauge wire to fasten the panels together, at a few places along the sides and ends, until it felt stable. Sue tested it out for us!

 

 

4. Then we fastened a tarp on top to provide some protection from the elements.IMG_1644

5. To keep the pens in place, we simply used string, hooks, and concrete blocks. We fastened some string (from hay bales) around a concrete block and fastened a hook on the other end of the string.IMG_1663 These blocks add weight to help secure the pen, but when it comes time to move the pen, we simply unhook the blocks, move the pens, and hook the blocks up again. Easy!

 

 

These pens were easy to make as a group, cost no money, and are providing for our pigs, our orchard, and our community!

Til Next Time,
Jeni

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