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. 

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.

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

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.

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: 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.