What to do with Apples from the Backyard Orchard

We are new members of the Center for Sustainable Community, but we felt right at home helping out this fall with the apple preserving, harvesting, and orchard maintenance.

This post is a general how to preserve apples article that demonstrates how C.S.C. worked together to preserve apples this year. We have a 3-ish acre orchard (mostly apples) that is quite mature and in need of some tender loving care. We have many apple trees that could be replaced and we believe the orchard is in need of greater tree diversity as well. But it is still an amazing orchard to spend time in with friends or just by yourself. This year C.S.C. built two chicken coops and experimented with raising chickens in the orchard. We learned a lot of things and are eagerly anticipating next year while enjoying the meat from our harvest throughout the winter. (For more about the chickens, visit the Midwest Permaculture Blog post.) Continue reading

CSC Swale Building Perma-Blitz

Our community garden as it stands now (above) takes more effort to water than a passive irrigation design would. We’re building swales to create the optimal low-energy water retention.

November 18th through 20th Hayden, Ernest, & Megan will be hosting their first Perma-Blitz. if you would like to get experience in building swales & creating a passive irrigation system for medium-sized gardens, then this is the Perma-Blitz for you!!

This seems like the last break of warm weather we are going to have for the year, so here is the agenda:

  • Have a cozy dinner Sunday night with Hayden, Megan, & Ernest and relax with a game of Taboo or your favorite Permaculture book.
  • After breakfast, go over basic design and begin with the Perma-Blitz
  • Come in for lunch and enjoy salad and potato soup made from scratch with CSC garden veggies.
  • back to Perma-Blitzing (we gotta get these swales level, folks!)
  • Enjoy the sunset and work of a hard day and stay for Monday Night Dinner and spend some time with folks that you may have met during one of the past Midwest Permaculture Courses (suggested $5 donation)
  • Everyone is welcome to stay for one more evening and do it all again on Tuesday, that is why it is called a Perma-Blitz!!  Continue reading

November Open House: Sustainable Home Tour

Handmade Thermal Mass Rocket Stove – Finished Concrete Floors

CSC Open House:  November 18th, 2012
Sustainable Home Tour at the Malchows’ 

Come take an in-depth tour of  Wayne and Bev Malchows’ property!  They have implemented numerous sustainable features into their house and yard.  Wayne is a permaculture design course graduate and used his training to improve his home.  Learn how.

We’ll explore:

  • a thermal mass rocket stove (more about these),
  • their garage made of strawbales, 
  • an earthen plastered wall over Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) blocks in the house, 
  • stained and finished concrete floors, 
  • and a permaculture planted yar

A 2 Year Old Willow Hedge – Free from Pond Over-growth

Making Cob for the Rocket Heate

1200 sq/ft. Home, AAC Walls, Weather proof exterior plaster, Earthen plaster on inside

How to Organize a Large-Group Visit to CSC


School Field Trips and Large-Group Tours

Over the years we have hosted many groups requesting a visit to Stelle. Tour groups have ranged from college students and their instructors, who seek fresh insights into sustainable living, to local public-school children who romp through our orchards and gardens in the fall and get hands-on experience making their own apple cider using an old-time cider press. For more information call 815-256-2204 or e-mail us at [email protected] Group tours are managed on request and tailored to meet specific needs.

Workshop: CSC Land Tour

CSC Land Tour

August 1, 2010 1P.M. – 4:30 P.M.

Offered by:
Ed Homeier on the Chicken Cooperative,
Argena Marie on the Orchard, and
George Blackman on the Garden.
Location: CSC, Stelle, IL

Tour Highlights
The CSC recently formed a Land Committee to act as caretakers of its 7- acre property adjacent to Stelle. One of the objectives adopted by the Land Committee is to demonstrate the sustainable production of healthy food while decreasing outside inputs. The land tour offers an opportunity to observe progress toward that goal. Components of the tour are: one half hour at the Chicken Cooperative, one hour at the Orchard and two hours at the Garden.

The Chicken Cooperative Tour
Ten Stelle families established the Chicken Co-op four years ago on the CSC property by written agreement with CSC. The objective was to illustrate the production of chickens for meat and eggs at cost. During the first two years of operation, the co-op raised and harvested two 100-member Rock-Cross rooster flocks, which were fed certified-organic grain blends and grazed, using home-made chicken tractors. Currently, seven families manage a mixed-breed laying flock of 30 hens (Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds) and four roosters. Eggs are shared at cost among co-op families who sell regularly to families in Stelle at a slightly higher cost. Ed will describe the co-op’s experiences, with attention to the features of the current flock and the coop, which is fitted with solar lights, rain water catchments, and AC power.

Topics on the Chicken Cooperative Tour:

  • How the co-op works: members, duties, finances, etc
  • Breed selections
  • Feeding options
  • Seasonal care
  • Medical Care of the flock

The Orchard Tour
The CSC orchard contains over 100 mature fruit trees. Argena is a member of an orchard co-operative established by written agreement with the CSC to use a variety of organic techniques to restore this 35-plus year old orchard. Argena has also worked with children, passing on her knowledge to the next generation. Two goals of the Orchard Co-op are to improve the tree-health, creating high quality fruit, and to develop a park-like environment. Tour participants will be invited to take home some of the ripe apples and pears from this year’s crop.

Topics on the Orchard Tour

  • The Orchard Co-operative and how it works
  • The Junior Orchard club and how it works
  • Results of different pruning techniques
  • Pests and preventive options
  • Seasonal care for the trees
  • Mowing and mulching

The Garden Tour
The tour will conclude with an overview of the CSC gardens, describing what has been planted this year. Different growing methods will be identified, along with the features of our composting systems. George will then focus on the Bio-intensive growing method which affords more vegetables on less land using less water than other methods. He will demonstrate one of the features of this time-tested method, “double-digging” cultivation, which he is using to create a new garden bed for a fall crop. Participants will receive handouts and references for further study.

Topics on the Garden Tour:

  • Double- digging: tools needed, preparing the bed, how to dig, benefits of the method and planting in the new bed.
  • Creating a living mulch in the bed 
  • Companion planting 
  • Pests and organic solutions
  • Growing various vegetables
  • Seed saving

Registration for this event
The cost of the 3½ hour Land Tour is $35.

An optional free Open House Tour of the Stelle Community will begin at 10:30 and, at an additional cost of $10, you are also invited to share a lunch featuring locally grown and organic foods in the Stelle Community Center. The lunch will begin at noon followed by the workshop at 1:00. We hope you can join us!

Workshop: Common Weeds and Their Medicinal Values

Guided Tour Identifying Common Weeds and Indicating Their Medicinal Values

Sunday July 11, 2010 1P.M. – 3P.M.
Offered by Carroll English
Location: CSC, Stelle, IL

Carroll enjoys sharing her acquaintance with medicinal/food herbs (“weeds”) with the public from time to time in Stelle. Each workshop participant is presented with a booklet delineating the health values ascribed to each of 20 very common weeds in our environment. After a brief discussion of the booklet, Carroll leads the participants in a walkabout of Stelle and the adjacent CSC property, while identifying the plants discovered and discussing their health values. Wear your walking shoes! Carroll comments, “There is an amazing amount of information to be gained in this simple and pleasant process. The 20 weeds/herbs that are featured are common all over the eastern United States, permitting participants to take the book traveling as a portable medicine chest.” Cost for this 2 hr workshop is $35. You are invited to begin the afternoon workshop by sharing a healthy organic meal at the Stelle Community Center at an additional cost of $10. Lunch begins at noon and the workshop begins at 1 P.M., following the optional Open House tour.

Bio: Carroll English

Carroll has been studying nutrition and herbology since before her arrival in Stelle 37 years ago. Her commitment to natural eating and herbal medicince are famous in the vicinity. Carroll’s received her formal education in Florida, where she was born. She studied Education and Spanish at the undergraduate level and has a Masters in Theology. Her formal teaching career was limited to the Stelle School, when it existed. However, she still teaches Spanish to small groups, at the College level, or to individuals. Carroll has also just published a book describing her experiences in Cuba, where she was doing ministry prior to and following the Castro Revolution.

Workshop: Exploring the Art and Science of Composting Methods

Exploring the Art and Science of Composting Methods

Saturday, May 22, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
1:00-4:30 P.M.
Location: CSC, Stelle, IL

Compost is at the heart of sustainability in organic growing methods. A person can be malnourished by not receiving the necessary nutrients from high-quality food. Plants can become unhealthy or they can thrive, based on the quality of the food they receive. Organic plant food is compost, and the compost, when fully broken down, is called humus. Humus is the dark material, the end result of the decaying process, when microbes have transmuted the organic material into plant food, rekindling the cycle of life!

Like cooking an egg, there is not just one method for creating compost. Different composting systems bring various qualities into the finished product. This workshop will show you how to create a variety of composting systems and give you the pros and cons of each. Then you can decide which system will work best for your needs, given the materials you have available and the quality of compost you want.

Presenter George Blackman

Workshop Topics:

  1. Vermi-compost using the red worms to make compost 
    1. The “dos and don’ts” for raising the red wiggler worm
    2. Raising the worms indoors or outdoors
    3. Harvesting the compost
  2. The BioIntensive Composting Method
    1. •Creating a quick-processing compost or a long- lasting, slow-nutrient releasing compost
    2. Growing special materials for your compost
  3. The Biodynamic Method 
    1. Materials used in the compost pile
    2. Preparations used in the compost pile where to get them and where to place them
    3. Rudolf Steiner, a scientist and clairvoyant, developed this system. The various preparations are designed to bring the effects of cosmic forces into the compost.
  4. The Tumbler Drum for making fast compost 
  5. The Rodale Composting Method
  6. Compost Tea
  7. Composting Structures
  8. Materials for the compost pile and their nutrient values
  9. Materials to avoid in your compost pile
  10. The Effect of Compost in the soil and on plants
  11. Review of the Basics for achieving a working compost pile

Workshop: Permaculture Orchard Design and Maintenance

Permaculture Orchard Design and Maintenance

Saturday, March 6, 2010
12:30 – 4:00 p.m
Location: Nisse Farm Manteno, Illinois

Planning an orchard?
Years since you’ve pruned your favorite apple tree?
Not sure how to care for your young fruit trees?

Whether you have one fruit tree or want to start a small orchard of your own this workshop will help you on your way. Join Mark Hoffman and Bill Land for an afternoon dedicated to orchard design and maintenance. Mark and Bill will discuss orchard design from a permaculture perspective including:

What branches would you prune from this established pear tree?

  • Planting fruits that perform well in our Midwest climate
  • Permaculture-based orchard location and layout
  • How and when to prune
  • Integrating the orchard with other plants as well as with animals
  • Managing pests
  • Harvest and storage tips
This orchard workshop will focus on integrating the orchard into your over-all food production system. It will also cover techniques for pruning and includes hands-on pruning practice. Handouts provided.

Pruning an established apple or pear tree is a lot like cutting hair. If you cut off a little too much, before long it will grow back and you’ll never know the difference. So….don’t worry about making a mistake. Apple trees grow vigorously and therefore are quite forgiving to the amateur pruner!

Note: please bring your own gloves. A pruning saw and/or pruning shears is desirable but not required.

What branches would you prune from this established pear tree?

Bio: Mark Hoffman

Mark is one of the founding members of the Center for Sustainable Community, having been engaged in the Stelle Community for over 20 years. Mark grew up on a wheat and cattle farm in central Kansas, and his farmboy roots provide the foundation for a number of agricultural pursuits include beekeeping, raising poultry, and operating the permaculture oriented gardens at the bed and breakfast he and his wife Guia operate two miles from Stelle. Professionally, Mark works as a technical writer, trainer, and engineer, and has served as the webmaster for the CSC website.


Workshop: How to Make Mead

How to Make Mead 
The Fermented Drink made from Honey
with Matt Mehawich

Saturday, February 27, 2010
1:00-3:30 p.m
Nisse Farm, Manteno, IL

Mead is regarded by some as the ancestor of all fermented drinks due to the honey-based libation’s many ancient historical references. It was said to be the preferred drink during the Golden Age of Ancient Greece. Aristotle even discussed it in his theories about the earth sciences, Meteorological. The term “honeymoon” comes from the northern European tradition of newlyweds drinking mead everyday for a month after their wedding in hopes of keeping their new marriage sweet. Mead is also frequently mentioned in British and Celtic legends. Spend an afternoon learning how to make this drink that is so rich in history and tradition.

The flavor of mead can range from dry to sweet just like fruit wines. With all the great tasting, local honey available at the farmers markets why not try learning to make a few bottles (or more) of this lovely drink.

Topics include:

  • A brief history of mead and the tradition of mead making 
  • Fermentation basics 
  • Brief overview of yeast strains for mead making 
  • Honey in the mead making process 
  • Mead styles (traditional, melomel, metheglin, cyser, etc.) 
  • Equipment and where to find supplies 
  • Mead brewing demonstration 
  • Safe bottling procedures 
  • Problems and Troubleshooting 

Bio: Matt Mehawich

Matt first discovered the magic of mead after moving to the city of Chicago in 2000 to finish college. While watching a documentary on the Vikings he found out that mead is made from honey and it sounded simple enough that maybe even he could make some! After he made a couple of batches of what was essentially lighter fluid, he discovered that with some basic equipment and a little technique, really really good mead could be made. He also realized that with proper aging, mead can rival even the finest wines! When he is not making mead Matt also enjoys organic gardening, cooking and playing keyboards in his band, Rhombus.