Why Plant a Food Forest? Internship Highlights Thinking Long-Term

To read what else the internship program staff and interns have been doing, see Midwest Permaculture’s blog update.

We still have a few seats remaining in our upcoming internship sessions.

Hayden and Ernest walk along newly planted berm, where, in 10-15 years, a fruit overstory will shade the same place.

Hayden and Ernest walk along newly planted berm, where, in 10-15 years, a fruit over-story will shade that same spot.

Our spring interns, along with the internship staff of Ernest, Hayden, and Megan, have been busy digging into Permaculture ideas — literally.  Over the course of three weeks, we have designed, ordered, prepared, and planted a linear food forest, a multi-story edible patch of groundcovers, shrubs, fruit/nut trees, and companion plants placed along a water-catching swale.  As the forest grows, these perennials will be a lasting contribution to our yearly local harvest and provide us with tons of extra raw materials such as firewood for rocket stoves or our own living mulch.

But why plant a food forest, when it won’t truly be a forest until 10-15 years from now?  Food forests are the ultimate in slow food; in our fast-paced and mobile culture, this design doesn’t appear to work for us as individuals.

1095488_af5c674bIn my (humble) opinion, it isn’t working today simply because we haven’t recently been thinking long-term.   Imagine if your parents had planted a few trees for you at birth.  By age 20, you’d have raw materials at your disposal.  Sure, it’s not a new car, but even if you just chop up the trees for firewood, your effort is minimal.  Nature did most of the work.

Besides the estimable value of raw materials growing out of thin air, our interns brainstormed other ways in which food forest planting is useful:

  • If you are an orchardist whose wish is to maintain a healthy and productive orchard, a food forest design is insurance.  Also, with multiple harvest-able products, you aren’t putting “all your eggs in one basket.”
  • Learning to design and start food forests is a learning experience in itself, and is best learned through doing.  You learn not only how to plant a food forest, but how to work with others, and how to imagine how a place can change over time.
  • In 5-10 years when the forest does start producing, the harvest will be much more meaningful and will less likely go to waste.

Permaculture isn’t about designing something to be unchanging and final–nature doesn’t work like that– but it is about designing something that will be useful through multiple stages of growth, and not only to oneself, but to all beings sharing the same environment.  We (the intern staff) hope that this exercise in thinking long-term will, in itself, have a long-term impact.

Slide3-640x480Click here to read more about our food forest design and why we are using it in our Permaculture Design for CSC’s 8.7 acres.

Come visit our newly-planted food forest (and see other exciting innovations!) here on June 8th.

Integrated Gardening Techniques and the Garden Co-op

This 2013 growing season marks the beginning of stepping-up our integrated techniques in the community garden on the CSC property, just west of Stelle.  It is part of our Permaculture Land Design.

Some quick background:  The community garden is a celebrated part of CSC’s history.  Each year, residents of Stelle (and the nearby neighborhood) can choose to become part of CSC’s Community Garden Co-op.  It works differently than most community gardens; rather than renting plots, the garden is planned and managed by a Garden Manager.  

A past year's garden planning meeting, where the "what to plant" and "who will be planting" is decided.

A past year’s garden planning meeting, where the “what to plant” and “who will be planting” is decided.

The Garden Manager holds a yearly garden planning meeting to get interested members’ input on what to grow and how much time they have to work in the garden. Members spend time throughout the season helping to mulch, plant, weed, water, and harvest.  The general rule for the co-op harvest has been:  work a little, take a little; work a lot, take a lot.

It has worked well for some years; however, it is still a lot of work, and plenty of members fizzle out in their volunteer hours when it starts to get scorching hot outside.  What happens?  The un-watered, un-weeded garden starts to give diminishing returns.

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Enter:  Integrated Gardening Techniques!  Some dedicated gentlemen (Ernest and Hayden)  have begun to rethink how to get the garden watered and weeded, to apply Permaculture principles to the garden and make it even easier than before to grow more food than before.  We like to call it lazy persons’ gardening.  What, exactly, are they doing? Continue reading

Stelle’s Annual Celebration of the Earth, May 5th

Hours:  10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Regular Tours and Events

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease join us for Stelle’s annual Celebration of the Earth this May 5th. As tradition goes, various members of our community wish to share and educate others of their gifts and talents that are recognized as being inspired or modeled after some of the wonderful patterns and processes that the Earth shares with us.

Tour of the Off-Grid Stelle Telephone Company -1:00pm
Tim Wilhelm manager of the Stelle Telephone Company and Professor of Renewable Energy Technologies at Kankakee Community College will give a history and overview of Stelle Telephone. Stelle Telephone was the first totally solar powered digital telephone exchange and the first solar powered internet service provider in the U.S.

Jon and June Haemes’ Straw Bale Home with PV tour! 2:00pm
A bit too far to walk but just 3 and a half mile drive, the Haemes’ home was the first straw bale home built in Illinois. Jon works for Trina Solar as a technical support manager. He used his solar powered work trailer to power all his tools used to build the home. About 30 residents of Stelle helped stack the straw bales in a single day. Jon will also talk abou the ARE 110 wind generator and its energy saving features.

Kids Garden and Pond Activities – All Day at the Pond
(Children should be accompanied by an adult)

This year we are bringing back a time-honored tradition of having family activities in the community garden. Here are the activities that are planned so far:

Kids' Activities

Kids’ Activities will be going on throughout the day in the garden.

  • Family Fishing
  • Seed Planting
  • Garden Art
  • Nature Hunt

Join us throughout the day in between our other programs.  The activities are all simple and low key, but the more the merrier.  We will request that parents accompany children 10 years and younger. (Only a limited number of families will be able to fish at one time since we are furnishing the cane poles)

  Continue reading

April Open House: Applied Permaculture Demo

165486_10151414058102851_1770827148_nTake an in-depth look at how to build resiliency, one neighborhood at a time.  We will explore both cases of applying permaculture to the landscape–backyard examples as well as community endeavors here in Stelle.  We will demonstrate scaling-up:

  • from individual rain gardens to linear food forests
  • from backyard gardening plots to garden co-operatives
  • from backyard hens to pastured chicken production
  • and more!

In the morning, we will take a walking tour of Stelle and show you some of the neighborhood’s examples of sustainable living–our wind turbine, rain gardens, and more.  After lunch, we will tour CSC’s 8.7-acre property that adjoins Stelle, focusing on its current community use and future design aims, and will also touch upon how to design self-directed work enterprises and foster social permaculture.

Peaches2

This presentation will be a joint program by Rebecca Wilson, co-founder of Midwest Permaculture (shown right), and Ernest Rando, CSC member and permaculturist in Stelle.

Schedule:
10:00 amINTRODUCTION TO STELLE & CSC
11:00 amWALKING TOUR
12:30 pmLUNCH
1:30 pm:   APPLIED PERMACULTURE WORKSHOP
 
We appreciate your contributions of $10 for the morning tour and lunch and $15 for the afternoon workshop.
 
Join us! For more information on how to sign up, please click here.

March Open House: Chicken Basics and Ethically Raising Them

That Spring Chicken Thing
March Open House Features “Ethics: The Basics of Raising Chickens Workshop”
 
It’s almost springtime, when chicks will arrive here and in many first-time chicken owner families throughout the country.  Join us and discover why keeping chickens is becoming so popular.  

In the morning, we will take a walking tour of Stelle and show you some of the neighborhood’s examples of sustainable living–our wind turbine, rain gardens, and more.  After lunch, CSC member and permaculturalist Ernest Rando (pictured above) will present strategies for raising chickens ethically in both urban and suburban environments.  We will spend time handling 50 broiler chicks and three hens that live in a sustainable backyard paddock system.  If you are considering keeping chickens for the first time, this workshop is for you!

Schedule:
10:00 amINTRODUCTION TO STELLE & CSC
11:00 amWALKING TOUR
12:30 pmLUNCH
1:30 pm:  CHICKEN HANDS-ON WORKSHOP

We appreciate your contributions of $10 for the morning tour and lunch and $15 for the afternoon workshop.

Join us! For more information on how to sign up, please click here.

Warren Brush Tells Inspiring Tales of “Peace in Permaculture”

Warren Brush Poster

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

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

The Shifting Baseline, Food Myth Busting, and Food Forests

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

January 24th Orchard Pruning Permablitz

This January the 24th, the Center for Sustainable Community will be hosting its monthly permablitz. We will be pruning and collecting scions in our community’s three-acre orchard. We will begin by reviewing some of the main principals of orcharding at 9 a.m., then begin pruning trees throughout the orchard. We will also demonstrate how to harvest scions and perform various grafting techniques. We will, of course, allow anyone who desires to harvest scions to take them back to their own communities for propagation. Continue reading