visiting the Salatins at Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia

the entrance to Polyface farm in Swoope, Virginia.

the entrance to Polyface farm in Swoope, Virginia.

I have applied to be a Polyface Summer Intern with Joel Salatin and his family for two years in a row. The first year I did not make it past the first round of questions, but the second year I did, and was invited as one of 45 “check outs” for a two day visit this last December. I want to share my experience with you, but will first explain the application and acceptance process. Continue reading

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“INHABIT” the documentary: a permaculture perspective

INHABIT_Poster_Video Frame

I recently watched an early screening of a film called: “INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective” with the makers of the movie at the Permaculture Voices Conference in San Diego. It is truly worthwhile — the best of the food and agriculture documentaries that I have seen. I believe this film has the power to inspire and inform people of all ages and walks of life with the hope that there are good and positive changes happening in our food systems. The film is released on April 22, 2015, and can be viewed here on our blog. I am planning to buy a hardcopy and show this movie to as many people as possible!

Synopsis

Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet? This is the premise behind permaculture: a design process based on the replication of patterns found in nature. INHABIT explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design lens of permaculture. Focused mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.

Farmer and Rancher Rally Day at the Oregon Capitol

2015-Rally-Poster

Tony and I participated in this rally yesterday at the Oregon State Capitol. It was sponsored by the Friends of Family Farmers organization, whose goal is: Promoting and protecting socially responsible farming in Oregon. It was established ten years ago when some concerned citizens got to together to protest the establishment of a 55,000 head dairy operation in eastern Oregon. Since then, their numbers have grown and they operate a number of programs that help them in their mission. For more information about Friends of Family Famers, go here.

Yesterday, Tony and I decided to join the ranks of over 150 oregon small farmers at the state Capitol where we were educated on some current bills including:

Enhancing and Funding Aggie Bonds (lower interest loans for beginning farmers)

Protecting Working Lands

Increased Funding for OSU Extension and Ag Research Programs 

State Level Genetically Engineered regulation

Agritourism liability protections

Preventing Misuse of Antibiotics

Farm to School funding

Urban Agriculture incentive zones

Continue reading

Permaculture Voices Conference #2 is fast approaching

Color-Small

We wanted to put a quick plug in for the Permaculture Voices Conference, which will be held in San Diego March 4-8. Last year, Tony and I attended the first annual conference and were blown away with the quality, inspiration, and information we gained in 4 quick days. We heard talks from people like Michael Pollan, Geoff Lawton, Allan Savory, Joel Salatin, and Willie Smits, among dozens of others. We were incredibly inspired and walked away ready to change the world by permaculturing a midwestern corn field, or greening some desert somewhere. Of course, in reality we’d like to settle near some mountains and in trees but the information we gleaned about properly managing animals, soil health, setting up a small dairy or starting our own business was well worth the investment. Perhaps the most inspiration we’ve taken away from last year’s conference, and Diego Footer’s podcasts (which are well worth your time, by the way, and found here) is our motivation to get serious about our goal to start a farm by thinking realistically about the business end of farming. Continue reading

new bikes and plans for the winter

Tony and I have been visiting his family and friends in Wisconsin for the last month, and we will soon be heading to San Diego to spend time with my family. We have had time to reevaluate our goals, and set new ones. We left Wheaton Labs, after almost a year living in the Tipi, and spent a couple of months traveling in the Canadian Rockies and central Idaho where we felt inspired to get serious about our plans to start a farm. We are still unsure of where we’d like to live, but in the meantime realize that we can cooperate with existing farmers and start our own small farming enterprises. We plan to spend this coming winter on a farm to develop these ideas.

One of our thoughts has been to go on a long bicycle tour to visit any potential place to set roots, and to visit other small farmers. So this last spring we decided to buy nice bikes: Surly Ogres:

our new bikes on the back of the tercel

our new bikes on the back of the tercel

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The Lost Art of Sharpening

Grinding.

Grinding on a  grit Japanese waterstone.

I like sharp things. They are useful beyond belief. Sharp edges were one of the first tools of mankind. They have been adapted in many ways to be many tools: knives, axes, chisels, and so much more.

I think that the vast majority of american culture has lost respect for the value of sharp things. It is easy and quick in our culture to replace a dull tool with a new one. There are endless outlets for purchasing cheap tools made of soft metal. The classic characterization of this is the disposable razor. So instead of fixing, we throw away and buy more stuff.

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a long overdue update from our tipi in montana

A recent photo of our home for the last 10 months: a tipi surrounded by a garden berm

A recent photo of our home for the last 10 months: a tipi surrounded by a garden berm

Hello from the Tipi in Montana! We don’t actually have internet or electricity (or even water for that matter) at the tipi, so that combined with the fact that we have been keeping ourselves very busy these last months, our posts have become non-existent. It is often much easier for us to pretend the virtual world doesn’t exist, but it certainly has its value. I do think that sharing our story is worthwhile so we plan to update this blog more often when we find the time.

Continue reading

our winter home: a Rocket Mass Heater in a Tipi in Montana

our winter home: a Rocket Mass Heater in a Tipi in Montana

It has been far too long since our last blog post. We have not been lazy. Once the government shut down October 1, we packed overnight and headed out to Paul Wheaton’s land near Missoula in Montana. We will be spending the winter here, and possibly longer. And there have been many projects. We have helped build the first ever “wofati” (more on that later), attended workshops on building rocket mass heaters and slaughtering, butchering, curing and cooking pork, and are now trying to finish our winter home: a cob rocket mass heater in a tipi before it snows too much. We have a thread at permies.com where we have been updating our progress with photos. If you are interested check it out, and we will try to post more often now that winter is approaching.