In Transit to Transformation: “En kwan des alish” – Good things come to you

In Transit to Transformation: Good things come to you

The universe, does ultimately, give us what we want- but never in the way we expect it, and always at the very last minute. Three years ago, when Gypsy Wagon Farm disbanded and the SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) program was handed to another administrator, I didn’t know who I was anymore. The etch-a-sketch of my life had been shaken, and for the first time in my life I felt like a failure. Weeping into the red Pennsylvania dust of the land I was about to leave, my friend Craig hung on the phone line and asked me, “What are three things you want to do before you die?”

My answer was:

(A) I want to put my feet in the Pacific Ocean

(B) I want to go to Ukraine

( C) I want to serve in the US Peace Corps

“So, go do them.”

I visited Craig soon afterwards and waded in the cold waters of San Francisco. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit my family’s homeland in Lviv, and have since been running online permaculture workshops for IDPs and refugees in Kiev. And three weeks ago, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: To coordinate a permaculture literacy pilot project in Ethiopia with a socially-conscious start-up called GreenPath food. For the next 6-9 months, I will be working with 19 small-scale Avocado farmers in Butajira, Ethiopa to (A) Determine what sustainable farming strategies farmers are already using (B) Co-develop permaculture strategies with each farm and action plan for implementation and ( C) Help farmers collect data to see how permaculture strategies improve quality of yields.

This opportunity is at once exciting and terrifying. On the one hand, I feel like I’m in over my head. At the same time, I feel like this is the job I was born to do. For many years, I have worked as an ESL teacher and literacy coach who focuses on the exchange of ecological wisdom in an international context. Specifically, I specialize in teaching immigrants, refugees and English language learners how to read, write, and grow food at the same time. In permaculture we call it stacking functions; or as I like to call it, “freeing two birds with one key.” My vision of teaching English literacy through permaculture has not always been understood – There were people at the NYCDOE who preferred a more “inside the box” approach, and even Peace Corps recruiters were asking me to “pick a track.” But now, a group of creative, intelligent, and passionate idealists from MIT see potential in this approach.

This is like Café Night 2.0! Instead of working with immigrant teens to design and install gardens, I will be collaborating with Ethiopian farmers to read, write and grow avocados. For 7 years as a New York City High School teacher, I have read a wonderful book with my students called Of Beetles and Angels by Mawi Asgedom. It is an autobiography written by an Ethiopian refugee who winds of graduating from Harvard. Filled with beautiful photographs and heart-felt stories, it is an uplifting book that I would recommend to anyone. Through this work of literature, Ethiopia has very much become a part of my pedagogical imaginary. I always dreamed of hosting an Ethiopian potluck for my students. I never realized how much I wanted to go to Ethiopia until this perfect position with GreenPath presented itself. Whenever I start to doubt myself, new synchronicities arise to guide me towards this path.

Already, I have a super-team of people who want to help me roll in this experience with a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture, with a focus on anlyzing the power of permaculture for peace-building and literacy development in post-conflict areas. Paul Coelho writes about following your own “Personal legend.” I feel like I am about to embark on the challenging and rewarding journey of blossoming into my true self.

As my plane took off from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Shout out to my LCI students!) I found myself sitting next to Phoebe, and 24-year old Ethiopian-American girl who just finished Grad school in Dallas and is about to visit Ethiopia for the first time. I told her the story of how, at this time last year, I was also flying to Ukraine, the homeland I had never seen, for the first time. That all of the stories my parents and grandparents had told me were true. That it was better than I ever could have imagined, and that it would be just as amazing for her. Last year, I celebrated Ukrainian Christmas (January 6th-7th) in Ukraine. As it happens, Ethiopians also celebrate Christmas on January 6th and 7th! Tomorrow, I will be celebrating Ethiopian/Ukrainian Christmas in Addis Ababa. I never could have imagined this opportunity, and yet, it is perfect.

Some interesting facts about Ethiopia: First, it is an ancient society. They had Christianity 40 years after the death of Christ, and the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be housed in one of its many churches. In fact, in Ethiopia, it is the year 2009 right now. They believe that Christ was born 7 years later than the rest of the world does. They are the only nation in Africa to have never been colonized. Their calendar has 13 months- 12 with 30 days each, and one month with 4-5 days depending on whether it is a leap year. Their new year’s day is on September 11th, and the clock starts at 12:00 at 6:00 AM (with sunrise)- we’ll see if I can figure all of this out when I land. Their beautiful language, Amharic, is unlike any other. It has 252 letters in its alphabet, or “Fidel.”

Phoebe has been kind enough to teach me so important phrases in Amharic. One important word that you say to congratulate a person is “En kwan des alish”- literally, “Good things come to you!” So many experiences over the past year has led me to believe very firmly in a higher power

My plane is about to land in Addis. But before I sign off, I wish to say thank you to a number of people back in Blacksburg who made my departure possible. Thank you to Elliot Crompton for helping me pack my bags and edit my life. Thank you Caitlin Gallagher for sub-leasing my car and Sydney Darden for subletting my room- this helps a lot financially! Thank you Naeem Mia for being a legal, economic consultant and also being a great friend who knows me well enough to support me in taking calculated risks. Thank you Natalia for generously hosting me in Washington DC. Thank you Mike Heitzman for loving, forgiving, and supporting me, imperfect as I am, and for being there for the adventure before the adventure. Thank you Tim Naylor for overnight mailing me an important package, and thank you to Maureen to taking the lead at Crow Forest while I’m gone. Also, thank you Steven Banks for the digital camera, and thank you Will and Kacy for the soundtrack and great pair of earrings. Also, thank you to Christine, Cathy, and Jesse Lawrence, who blast back from the past despite everything they have on their plate. Also, of course, thank you to Mama (Irene Zawerucha) and my brother (Nicholas Zawerucha) for raising me to be open-minded and embracing of different cultures and perspectives. Thank you to Blacksburg Friends Meeting and All Souls Bethlehem church in Brooklyn for keeping me in the light as I muddle through. Thank you Jerzy Nowak, Ozzie Abaye, Paul Struik and Susan Clarke for encouraging me to pursue an international PhD in Sustainable Agriculture in connection with this project. Thank you, everyone- Amesegenalahu!

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Permaculture for Peace: Deep Thanks and Exciting Developments

We have been so busy doing the rewarding work that we do, and it’s time for an update on exciting developments with Permaculture for Peace!

First of all, our application for a grant from Barilla Pasta is in 3rd place to win $20,000 to start an Heirloom Seed Bank in Fondwa, Haiti.  Please vote for us before 11/30/14!  Your vote will really make a difference!  Thank you Junior Beauvais, Fang Wan, Laura Zanotti, Christina Zawerucha, and Max Stephenson for making this project possible!

Second, Christina Zawerucha will be presenting “Permaculture Publishing: Empowering Immigrant Youth in an International Sustainability Context” at TESOL 2015 in Toronto, Canada.  This is the largest applied linguistics conference in the world, and Christina will be bringing permaculture to the pedagogical table.  May it make a resounding impact!

Finally, our Life at the Crossroads: Permaculture for Peace course in collaboration with the NGO Permaculture in Ukraine will be drawing to a (temporary) close in December.  Please check out our calendar of events to participate in the last few sessions on Aquaponics and Permaculture in Public Education.

As Thanksgiving draws closer, we would like to give a big shout-out of thanks to the amazing people who have made Permaculture for Peace possible.  Thank you Junior Beauvais, Fang Wan, Nuri Elmekharam, Parakh Hoon, Pavlo Ardanov, Tetyana Chuchko, Vita Lazorkina, Laura Zenotti, Steven Banks, Maureen McGonagle, Tim Naylor, Dennis Chang, Caroline Montgomery, Ben Wilke, Jesse Olsen, Pace Schneid, Drew Hornbein, Chengen Li, Oumoule Ndiaye, Aissatou Diouf, Mousa Alzahrani, Abdulrahman Al-Saqqan, Tom Martinez, Cullen Hedlesky, Alicia Hedlesky, Crystal Allen-Cook Marshall, Edward Marshall, David Edelstein, KD Jang, Roy Lee, Starflower O’Sullivan Miko O’Sullivan, and all of the many inspiring people who have made this project possible.  You are all amazing!  THANK YOU!!!!

With love,

Christina Z

 

 

 

 

Permaculture for Peace: Our New Volunteer Organization and Project for Refugees in Ukraine

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new volunteer organization, Permaculture for Peace.  Please come to our next event “Zone and Sector Analysis Workshop” this Sunday, 9/7/14 from 2:00-4:00 PM in the barn at Crow Forest Farm, 3300 Old Farm Road, Blacksburg, VA.

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Caroline Montgomery, Sydney Darden, Maureen McGonagle, Oumoule Ndiaye and Aissatou Diouf reflect carefully in our first “Permaculture for Peace” session: “Introduction to Permaculture: Life at the Crossroads.”

Permaculture for Peace: Permaculture for Peace-building in Post-Conflict and Conflict Areas

Vision: Permaculture for Peace is a collective of international farmers, educators, and artists focused on exchanging ecological wisdom in an international context.  The goal of Permaculture for Peace is to facilitate peace-building in post-conflict areas through permaculture workshops that empower marginalized and displaced communities to co-develop long-term food security, energy efficiency, and participatory democratic structures based on permaculture principles. Permaculture is a design approach that mimics patterns in nature in order to develop sustainable and self-regulating agricultural, economic, and political systems.  

Permaculture for Peace in Ukraine: The Challenge is the Solution

Crow Forest Permaculture, in collaboration with our partner NGO Permaculture in Ukraine, has launched a “Permaculture for Peace-building” 72-hour Design Course “Permaculture Roundtable” that is being video-taped, translated, and broadcast for free online to approximately 500 internally displaced refugees in Ukraine. Permaculture design strategies (described in greater detail below) will be introduced, explored, and implemented with the purpose of empowering internally displaced persons as they rebuild their homes and communities.  Participants will learn practical skills, including but not limited to small-scale, intensive systems designed to generate and store heat  energy (e.g. Solar ovens, solar glazing, thermal mass,) as well as provide strategies for food security (Greenhouse growing, succession garden design, food foraging, food preservation) and conflict resolution that incorporate permaculture principles.

Parakh Hoon, Dennis Chang, Nouri ElMekharam and Christina Zawerucha set up the technology to "Think Globally and Act Locally."  Each of our PDC sessions are streamed live to Ukraine and translated to Ukrainian and Creole.

Parakh Hoon, Dennis Chang, Nouri ElMekharam and Christina Zawerucha set up the technology to “Think Globally and Act Locally.” Each of our PDC sessions are streamed live to Ukraine and translated to Ukrainian and Creole.

How can you help?

Crow Forest Permaculture is offering a 72-hour permaculture course over 36 2-hour sessions, every Sunday from 2-4 PM.  Students can attend the course in person at our 8-acre permaculture demonstration farm in Blacksburg, VA, or online through google hang-outs. Each 2-hour session is a $10 donation to the “Permaculture for Peace” project fund. Students can “drop in” for specific sessions, or attend all 36 sessions to receive a “72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate.”  Security-permitting, key participants may also opt to volunteer on-the ground in Ukraine in 2015.  Scholarships and work-study available.

Junior Beauvais, Permaculture Instructor, Director of Haiti Project

Junior Beauvais, Permaculture Instructor, Director of Haiti Project

Christina Zawerucha, Certified Permaculture Instructor

Christina Zawerucha, Certified Permaculture Instructor, Director of Permaculture for Peace and Ukraine Project

Details about the Challenges in Ukraine & the Work of Our Partners

According the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, over 117,000 thousand civilians have been displaced as of 8/05/14.  Approximately 20,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are currently resettled in the Kiev region of Ukraine, and our NGO Partners (Permaculture in Ukraine,  Ukrainian Society of Overcoming the Consequences of Traumatic Events, Volunteers Hundred, Squadrons of Goodness, Psychological Crisis Service, Legal Space) are currently serving 700 IDPs in Coordination Center of the Kyiv Hospital  #17.  Coordination Center of the Kyiv Hospital  #17 has successfully found money to purchase medicine through the Fund Education for Democracy (Polish NGO), but has no funds to pay staff. Most IDPs are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, preventing their social assimilation and hopes for the future.

The role of Permaculture for Peace is to provide training to IDPs in order to meet long term goals and short-term goals.  With cold weather approaching, displaced persons are attempting to build or repair destroyed homes with little to no resources.   The rise in energy prices, and projected shortages in natural gas make Permaculture Design approaches to using renewable resources, maximizing passive solar design, capturing and storing heat energy, and food security of timely importance.  In the long-run, the “Permaculture ” and “Growing Experiences” curriculum will be used to facilitate conflict resolution, planning, decision-making, and reconstruction of disturbed communities via the following 14 permaculture design principles:

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Our partners working on the ground in Kiev Hospital 17 with the NGO “Permaculture in Ukraine.”

Details about the Challenges in Ukraine & the Work of Our Partners

According the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, over 117,000 thousand civilians have been displaced as of 8/05/14.  Approximately 20,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are currently resettled in the Kiev region of Ukraine, and our NGO Partners (Permaculture in Ukraine,  Ukrainian Society of Overcoming the Consequences of Traumatic Events, Volunteers Hundred, Squadrons of Goodness, Psychological Crisis Service, Legal Space) are currently serving 700 IDPs in Coordination Center of the Kyiv Hospital  #17.  Coordination Center of the Kyiv Hospital  #17 has successfully found money to purchase medicine through the Fund Education for Democracy (Polish NGO), but has no funds to pay staff. Most IDPs are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, preventing their social assimilation and hopes for the future.

The role of Permaculture for Peace is to provide training to IDPs in order to meet long term goals and short-term goals.  With cold weather approaching, displaced persons are attempting to build or repair destroyed homes with little to no resources.   The rise in energy prices, and projected shortages in natural gas make Permaculture Design approaches to using renewable resources, maximizing passive solar design, capturing and storing heat energy, and food security of timely importance.  In the long-run, the “Permaculture ” and “Growing Experiences” curriculum will be used to facilitate conflict resolution, planning, decision-making, and reconstruction of disturbed communities via the following 14 permaculture design principles:

Permaculture Attitudes

  1. Turn problems into solutions. Constraints can inspire creative design. “We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.”—Pogo (Walt Kelly)
  2. Obtain a yield. Design for both immediate and long-term returns from your efforts: “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Set up positive feedback loops to build the system and repay your investment.
  3. The biggest limit to abundance is creativity. The designer’s imagination and skill limit productivity and diversity more than any physical limit.
  4. Mistakes are tools for learning. Evaluate your trials. Making mistakes is a sign you’re trying to do things better.

Primary Principles for Functional Design:

  1. Observe. Use protracted and thoughtful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless action. Observe the site and its elements in all seasons. Design for specific sites, clients, and cultures.
  2. Connect. Use relative location: Place elements in ways that create useful relationships and time-saving connections among all parts. The number of connections among elements creates a healthy, diverse ecosystem, not the number of elements.
  3. Catch and store energy and materials. Identify, collect, and hold useful flows. Every cycle is an opportunity for yield, every gradient (in slope, charge, heat, etc.) can produce energy. Re-investing resources builds capacity to capture yet more resources.
  4. Each element performs multiple functions. Choose and place each element in a system to perform as many functions as possible. Beneficial connections between diverse components create a stable whole. Stack elements in both space and time.
  5. Each function is supported by multiple elements. Use multiple methods to achieve important functions and to create synergies. Redundancy protects when one or more elements fail.
  6. Make the least change for the greatest effect. Find the “leverage points” in the system and intervene there, where the least work accomplishes the most change.
  7. Use small scale, intensive systems. Start at your doorstep with the smallest systems that will do the job, and build on your successes, with variations. Grow by chunking.

Principles for Living and Energy Systems

  1. Optimize edge. The edge—the intersection of two environments—is the most diverse place in a system, and is where energy and materials accumulate or are transformed. Increase or decrease edge as appropriate.
  2. Collaborate with succession. Systems will evolve over time, often toward greater diversity and productivity. Work with this tendency, and use design to jump-start succession when needed.
  3. Use biological and renewable resources. Renewable resources (usually living beings and their products) reproduce and build up over time, store energy, assist yield, and interact with other elements.

 

Crow Forest Permaculture’s 1st Year Anniversary: Growing Possibilities

Yesterday, August 13th, was the 1-year anniversary of my decision to stay in Blacksburg and establish Crow Forest Permaculture.  The grapes are ripening on the vine.  Our chickens are roaming free.  The tomatoes are rolling in.  Apple and pear season has come early this year.  The ground hogs have retreated!  And the paw paws are growing fatter on their branches.

What a life-changing year it has been!  Here is a review some of the  month-month highlights of 2014 and goals for 2015.

STEPS TAKEN in 2014

NEXT STEPS in 2014-2015

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Advanced Permaculture Teacher Certification Course in Truskavets, Ukraine. I was blessed with the opportunity to take a “birthright” trip to the land of my heritage, all while making friends with Ukrainians who care deeply about ecological sustainability and social justice.

Eating at the Armenian Restaurant

Permaculture for Peace Roundtable Design Course September 2014-June 2015

Christina Zawerucha will be co-teaching a 72 hour hybrid Bilingual Permaculture Design Course with the NGO- Permaculture in Ukraine and Permaculture for Peace with Tatiana Chuchko and Pavlo Ardanov.

Crow Forest Permaculture, in collaboration with our partner NGO Permaculture in Ukraine, has launched a “Permaculture for Peace-building” 72-hour Design Course “Permaculture Roundtable” that is being video-taped, translated, and broadcast for free online to approximately 500 internally displaced refugees in Ukraine. Permaculture design strategies will be introduced, explored, and implemented with the purpose of empowering internally displaced persons as they rebuild their homes and communities.  Participants will learn practical skills, including but not limited to small-scale, intensive systems designed to generate and store heat  energy (e.g. Solar ovens, solar glazing, thermal mass,) as well as provide strategies for food security (Greenhouse growing, succession garden design, food foraging, food preservation) and conflict resolution that incorporate permaculture principles.

How can you help?

Crow Forest Permaculture is offering a 72-hour permaculture course over 36 2-hour sessions, every Sunday from 2-4 PM.  Students can attend the course in person at our 8-acre permaculture demonstration farm in Blacksburg, VA, or online through google hang-outs. Each 2-hour session is a $10 donation to the “Permaculture for Peace” project fund. Students can “drop in” for specific sessions, or attend all 36 sessions to receive a “72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate.”  Key participants may also opt to volunteer on-the ground in Ukraine in January 2015.  Scholarships and work-study available.

***Please email czwriter@vt.edu if you are interested in participating.

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Stage-Building: Chris Piatt, Kelly Junco, Parakh Hoon, Mike Heitzman and Christina Zawerucha worked in the cold and snow to design and build a beautiful stage for our barn.

Our Stage Building Crew!

Shed Talks: Ongoing

We have started a series of shed-talks.  Please come to our next shed talks:

Lebanese Astronomy: 8 PM, August 23 with Alex Hazouri

Water and Wisdom: 6 PM, August 30th with Jada Kelly

Sauna and Sledding Party

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Sauna Club: August 2014- February 2015

We are running an official “Sauna Club” to fund the repair of our hot-tub.  $50 membership gets you 5 visits to the sauna/hot tub.

***Please email czwriter@vt.edu if you are interested in participating.

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The Joy of Fermentation Workshop

Participants learned how to make ginger beer.  Some people learned how to make their own potting soil.

Our cider press!

Cider-Making Workshop

We hope to run a Cider-Making workshop with local brewer Justin Martin, using our very own cider-press in October.  We also hope to run a lacto-fermented pickling workshop over the winter.

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Ukrainian Pysanka Egg-Painting Workshop- We ran a series of hands-on workshops with Warm Hearth Community Center.

Thanks for a great creative and collaborative community!

Pysanky at Gypsy Fest, Sept 8 2014

We will be running a Pysanka-making booth at Gypsy fest in Rhiner on September 5th, 2014.

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Greenhouse building workshop Part 1

Nouri, Junior, Parakh, Ethan, Mousa, Mike, Maureen, Tim, and Christina built a foundation and frame for our rainwater harvesting greenhouse. 

The Crew!  Parakh, Nouri, Drew, Evan, Tim, Christina and Maureen.  What a day!

Greenhouse Building Workshop Part 2

Monday, September 18th.

Please help us complete our greenhouse roof and walls before winter sets in.  Scheduled for Free food provided. 

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Korean Wild Food Foraging and Cooking Workshop

On Saturday, June 7th, we had an awesome “Wild Food Foraging and Korean Cooking workshop” led by my dear friends KD Palwole Jang and Roy Kim.  During this fun filled evening, KD, a certified acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and Korean Medicinal Healer took us for a stroll through the woods to discover nature’s wild abundance growing all around us.

KD and Roy teach us the fundamentals of Korean cooking in the Octagon house.

Fall Food Foraging and Korean Cooking II

KD and Roy will lead a Fall Session of the Korean Food Foraging Workshop.  Stay tuned for specific dates!

Ivana Kupala Ukrainian Solstice Party- Thank you Orbit Eyes, Sovereign Goblin, and Dan Steinberg for your amazing artistic and music contributions.  This was a fantastic party that mixed ancient traditions with new ones.

Christina and Kaity take a leap of faith on midnight of the longest day of the year.

Ivana Kupala: June 20th, 2015

Be ready to jump over the fire on June 20th, 2014!

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GROUND HOG BBQ

CZ shot a groundhog and shared it with the community.

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Hunting for Sustainability Nov 2014

We would like to learn how to deer-hunt.  Anybody interested in leading a skill share or workshop?  Please contact czwriter@vt.edu

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LEBANESE ASTRONOMY AND STARGAZING WORKSHOP

Master Naturalist Alex Hazzouri will  lead an astronomy and Stargazing workshop at 8:00 PM on Saturday, August 23rd.  $5 suggested donation and/or work-study.

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YOU CAN GROW THE POSSIBILITIES!

Do you have an interesting skill or concept you would like to introduce to a larger community?  Do you want to share culinary or ecological wisdom from your heritage?  Then you may want to run a workshop with Crow Forest Permaculture.  Please email czwriter@vt.edu or call 540-315-7059.  Thank you!!!

Deep thanks must go to my roommates Maureen, Tim, and Tom, as well as Mike, Parakh, Nouri, Junior, KD, Roy, Kelly, Chris, Kaity, Adam, Elliot, Nancy, Aissatou, Oumoule, Drew, Patrick, Seneca and all of the other loving friends who have encouraged and supported these experiments from near and far.  Deep thanks must go to Crystal Cook and Edward Marshall of We Are All Farmers, who encouraged me to follow the dream here in Virginia.  Thank you to Tom, Rachel, Carrie, Pete and my long-term friends who root for me from afar.  Also, thanks to my family for accepting my choices, even if they do seem a little different.

Thanks, Parakh for this funny Easter photo!

Thanks, Parakh for this funny Easter photo!

I often struggle with the tension between wanting to accomplish more, and being able to simply relax and enjoy what we have built here.  But I am grateful for the opportunity to grow, both internally and externally.  I beat myself up for the blunders, but as I look back on 2014, it looks like the path can be retraced.  I want to focus on being a better friend and community member for the second half of 2014.  May we all stay true to our dreams, and blossom into our true selves.

Wild Foraging and Korean Cooking Workshop a Success!

KD and Roy teach us the fundamentals of Korean cooking in the Octagon house.

KD and Roy teach us the fundamentals of Korean cooking in the Octagon house.

After a long hiatus from the blog, we’re excited to report some new developments at Crow Forest Farm.  Thanks for keeping in touch!  On Saturday, June 7th, we had an awesome “Wild Food Foraging and Korean Cooking workshop” led by my dear friends KD Palwole Jang and Roy Kim.  During this fun filled evening, KD, a certified acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and Korean Medicinal Healer took us for a stroll through the woods to discover nature’s wild abundance growing all around us.

KD teaching us in the barn about the "Five Elements Theory" of Korean cooking.

KD teaching us in the barn about the “Five Elements Theory” of Korean cooking.

We began the afternoon with a short round of introductions and a 20-minute presentation by KD about the “Five Elements Theory” of Korean cooking.   She described the kinds of foods that our bodies crave when we need certain kinds of healing, and what kinds of foods can balance our energy.   The astute observation of one of our ~20 participants  was that it made sense to eat food in season.

Garlic mustard.  One of the most abundant and nutritious foods in the wild!

Garlic mustard. One of the most abundant and nutritious foods in the wild!

We then took an hour and a half walk-about over Crow Forest Farm, learning how to identify different edible plants in the wild.  We learned that wild edibles grow best on the edges of forests and in places that are rebounding from disturbances.  Our first great discoveries were wild mustard greens and lamb’s quarters (wild spinach).  Both of these plants are growing in abundance in an area where the invasive “Tree of Heaven” has been cut down.  Tree of Heaven is an allelopathic invasive plant that sends out hormones into the soil that prevent other plants from growing around it and competing for nutrients.  It was interesting to observe that only these strong, wild edibles were growing in areas where nothing else could.

Wild spinach is growing like crazy in our space!  Super delicious and nutritious!

Wild spinach is growing like crazy in our space! Super delicious and nutritious!

We learned that the best way to harvest lamb’s quarters is from the top, so we could get the most tender leaves and could allow the plant to continue to produce food.   The food made a delicious sautée with Korean Chile paste!

 

Mulberries!  Ferment them as a condiment, or just eat them fresh off the tree.  So good!!!

Mulberries! Ferment them as a condiment, or just eat them fresh off the tree. So good!!!

Next, we harvested mulberries from our five mulberry trees!  We learned that the smartest way to harvest them is by putting a bed sheet underneath the tree and shaking it.  Mulberries can be eaten fresh or fermented to create mulberry wine or condiments.

Bush cherries are not just for birds : )

Bush cherries are not just for birds : )

We then discovered bush cherry, sour cherries, and blueberries growing on the edge of the forest.  We also had jerusalem artichoke, or “pig potato” poking out of the weeds.

Autumn olive bears delicious fruits in the late summer/early fall.

Autumn olive bears delicious fruits in the late summer/early fall.

Around the autumn olive, we found beautiful honeysuckle blossoms that we collected to make a relaxing tea!

Honeysuckles make a delicious tea!

Honeysuckles make a delicious tea!

We then continued deeper into the woods, where we found “To boong young” growing around wild rose and paw paw trees.  The new growth on the wild rose and To boong young can added to salads.  We also found wild garlic growing among the ferns in the paw paw grove.

Roy demonstrates how Burdock root makes an excellent "chop and drop" mulch for garden vegetables.

Roy demonstrates how Burdock root makes an excellent “chop and drop” mulch for garden vegetables.

We then went to the edge of the forest, where Roy made Parakh dig up a bunch of burdock root.  This edible is particularly  nutritious because its taproot absorbs minerals from deep within the earth and then brings them up to the earth’s surface.  For this same reason, it makes an excellent “chop and drop” mulch fertilizer.

Poke weed is a delicacy that can only be eaten during its earliest stages of development as a cooked green.  Once it matures, it becomes highly toxic.  We look forward to keeping our eyes out for this next spring.

Poke weed is a delicacy that can only be eaten during its earliest stages of development as a cooked green. Once it matures, it becomes highly toxic. We look forward to keeping our eyes out for this next spring.

 

We also discovered some delicacies such as pokeweed and milkweed, which we could not harvest this season but could harvest next season.   Pokeweed makes a delicious cooked vegetable when it is young and immature.  Once it matures, it becomes highly toxic.  Hence our appreciation for expert guides like KD and Roy.

 

Blueberries!

Blueberries!

After identifying different edible plants, we then broke up into harvesting groups.  People harvested as much of their assigned plant as possible and brought them in paper bags to our outdoor washing station near the spiral garden.

Samuel, Eunyoong, Kama, and Parakh sorting and washing wild vegetables in the barn.

Samuel, Eunyoong, Kama, and Parakh sorting and washing wild vegetables in the barn.

Once the harvest had been double-checked and cleaned, it was taken to the kitchen!  We prepared Bimbim bop, Kimbim bop (Which is the Korean precursor to sushi) real miso soup, and kimchi.  We ate a feast and had a toast of fermented ginger wine with mottled speramint leaves and sugar.  Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Our delicious Korean Feast!

Our delicious Korean Feast!

Deep thanks must first go to KD Lee and Roy Kim for driving all the way from Chapel Hill to lead us through this workshop today.  Thank you to Nouri El Mekharam for coordinating the carpool and Junior Beauvais and Elliot Crookshank for helping prepare the barn for the workshop.  Thanks to Adam K. Ernest for his photos and Maureen McGonagle for being an awesome co-host!  Love and thanks to all!  -CZ

Stay tuned for our Ivana Kupala Ukrainian solstice celebration on Saturday, June 21st!

Stay tuned for our Ivana Kupala Ukrainian solstice celebration on Saturday, June 21st!

Please join us on Saturday, June 21st for Ivana Kupala- a Ukrainian Summer Solstice Celebration!   Ivana Kupala is an ancient Ukrainian holiday celebrating the two elements that created the world: water and fire. Traditionally, virgins, lovers, and crones gather on the summer solstice to seek the Tsvit Paparot (the mystical fern flower) on the shortest night of the year. Maidens make wreaths to toss in the stream to be found by their future lovers. Crones tell your fortune over wax and water. Minstrels sing. At midnight, couples test their faith with a leap over the kupala vatra, the bonfire, to affirm their commitment to each other.

Dress as your favorite nymph, god, or traditional costume. Bring instruments, snacks, beverages and a sense of adventure. Live music and fire dances from Orbit EyesSovereign Goblin and George Hardebeck.

 

 

 

Shed Talks, Ukrainian Eggs, and Building our Green-Coop-House Structure

 

The Crew!  Parakh, Nouri, Drew, Evan, Tim, Christina and Maureen.  What a day!

The Crew! Parakh, Nouri, Drew, Evan, Tim, Christina and Maureen. What a day!

Starflower O'Sullivan facilitates our first "Shed Talk" at Crow Forest Farm!

Starflower O’Sullivan facilitates our first “Shed Talk” at Crow Forest Farm!

Every day, I am blown away and grateful for the amazing life I am suddenly leading, and the wonderful people who have come into it.  This was a particularly eventful weekend at Crow Forest Farm.  On Saturday, we had a Pysanka (Ukrainian Egg) Painting workshop, where we wrote our intentions for Spring using ancient symbols.  On Sunday, we had our first ever “Shed Talk,” hosted by Starflower O’Sullivan, regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, and a meaningful discussion about alternatives.  On Sunday afternoon, we built the frame for our Rainwater Harvesting Chicken Coop Greenhouse (We’ve got to come up with a shorter name!), and had a beautiful dinner at sunset.  Life is beautiful.

A quality audience for our first Shed Talk!

A quality audience for our first Shed Talk!

First, I must give thanks to Chris Piatt and Kelly Junco, who spent much of February/March leading the clean-up of our barn and building a stage for the eagerly-awaited Shed Talks.  I must also give thanks to Parakh Hoon, who lent us his projector, and to Dennis Chang, who gave his input regarding lighting/orientation and shot video of our Shed Talk. (Soon to be uploaded).  The pysanka workshop went well, and thanks must go out to Steven Banks, who took beautiful shots of Crow Forest Farm and the wonderful artisans who frequent it.

Industrious artists drawing symbols with beeswax on our pysanky.

Industrious artists drawing symbols with beeswax on our pysanky.

Starflower did a wonderful job of researching and presenting the issues and challenges surrounding the Keystone-XL pipeline.  She facilitated a heartfelt discussion, where people from across the political spectrum discussed what courses of actions to take.  Some advocated a middle of the road approach, allowing the pipeline to be built under the conditions that all tarsand oil be earmarked for building a green energy infrastructure.  Others discussed the implications of the pipeline in light of the recent NASA study and statements from the UN regarding the imminent impact of global warming.  Others discussed the virtues of developing intentional communities, where resources such as cars and computers are shared.  Some asked tough questions about the reality of congressional politics, and how congress-members’ decisions to support or reject the pipeline could effect the shape of congress in the long-run.  There were also discussions on how to engage with people who disagree on a personal level.  The most heart-warming thing, however, was how two of our guests from the Middle East came to me afterwards, saying how grateful they were to see Americans discussing the implications of fossil fuel dependence.  Over dinner later, we learned more about how US consumption of Middle Eastern oil has empowered dictatorships in the region.

 

Arranging our diverse collection of recycled wood and securing it to our foundation.  We are proud to say we are still at a budget of $0!

Arranging our diverse collection of recycled wood and securing it to our foundation. We are proud to say we are still at a budget of $0!

After the shed talk, Maureen, Tim, and Evan planted potatoes, cabbage and onions.  Meanwhile, Nouri, Parakh, Drew, Mousa and I worked on building the wall frames for our chicken coop.  We are deeply grateful to Dan Warren, a barn-builder who stayed after the Shed Talk to advise us on how to attach the walls to our foundation.  He was very encouraging, and his expertise saved us a lot of time and head-scratching.  Just like last weekend, we accomplished more than I expected.  Thank you, hard working people!

Nouri, Evan, Christina Z and Parakh building the frame for our chicken coop/greenhouse.

Nouri, Evan, Christina Z and Parakh building the frame for our chicken coop/greenhouse.

When the evening was over, we had a beautiful dinner outside the Octagon house.  We had roasted Jerusalem artichokes, thanks to generosity of Elliot Crookshank and his Mom Nancy from the 3 Cow Dairy in Floyd.  We ate Soujouk, a smoked Halal beef sausage, a gift to Nouri and Moussa.  I contributed leftover Ukrainian food from the pysanka workshop, including kapusta, kasha, and turkey shnitzli.  Finally, Tim and Maureen prepared a delicious salad of lettuce and mustard greens, freshly harvested from our cold frames.  The discussion lasted long after the sun went down.

Our finished frame for our chicken coop/green house!

Our finished frame for our chicken coop/green house!

My friend Drew, an OWS “hacktivist” friend who came to help on the farm, reassured me that the life we’re cultivating here at Crow Forest Farm is not unconventional.  Rather, it is “neoconventional.”  That you can have a professional day job, but have a collaboratively self-sufficient community for the other 16 hours of the day.  That night, I slept so soundly, grateful for the beautiful community of people that have been blossoming around this great experiment that has become my life.   The universe works in mysterious ways, and while it’s not always easy, I feel grateful to the people who are helping me “grow my hands” along the way.

Thanks for a great creative and collaborative community!

Thanks for a great creative and collaborative community!

We’re took a break this weekend to observe the holidays.  Happy Pesach, Happy Easter, and Happy Cambodian New Year!  Until next time : )

Free-Range Ideas in Action: Chickens in the Greenhouse, step one

 In only two weeks, our baby chicks have already tripled in size.  Awkward and pubescent, these feisty creatures will soon graduate from their cardboard box into a proper chicken coop.  And what a chicken coop it will be!

Our Inspiration: But can it be done?  For $0?  By us?

Our Inspiration: But can it be done? For $0? By us?

 In permaculture, we often speak about “Stacking Functions.”  This means that you design elements of your system to fulfill different needs with shared resources.  A long-discussed example of this is using chickens in a greenhouse.  During the heat of the day, the chickens roam free.  But at night, their body heat can keep plants above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, even in freezing weather.  The inspiration for our chicken coop comes from Bill Mollisons “Introduction to Permaculture”

    As you can see, this design has it all:  Rainwater harvesting, chicken watering, poultry manure for plants, nesting boxes that can be harvested from the hot house, chicken wire between chickens and plants, north facing heat sinks, cold frames, elements that reflect changes in solar insolation– but is it a unicorn?   Going online, it was impossible to find blueprints or even real-life examples of passive solar chicken coop designs.  This meant that I had to do some math, and develop these beautiful concepts into a concrete plan.  It means taking a risk, carefully documenting our work, and hopefully developing a design that would be a point of interest for other farmers.

Junior and Nouri leveling out the ground for our foundation.

Junior and Nouri leveling out the ground for our foundation.

    There are many other factors that go into this design.  We are trying to do this completely with recycled materials from old farm, with a budget of $0.  So far, we’re in the black.  We also have little collective experience with building a structure of this magnitude.  And it’s an adventure– Nobody on the web has really done it before.  So, wish us luck!

Laying our cinderblock foundation.

Laying our cinderblock foundation.

First, we measured out perfect 8X8 Square, using a T-square and 2X4X8 lumber.  We then used a water level and string to determine how to level the ground.  We then moved and shifted soil, using the soil we removed to cover hugulkultur beds.  Finally, we took old cinder blocks to create the foundation for our chicken coop.  We arranged them to have no holes facing outward in order to deter predators from digging in to our henhouse!  We then had a relaxing dinner of Borscht, homebaked bread, fish salad, chicken salad, and cake.  Not to mention the great cross-cultural exchange of ideas concerning permaculture and organic farming in a Haitian and Muslim context.  Is there demand for Halal organic chicken, anyone?

Our solid foundation and solid super-crew!

Our solid foundation and solid super-crew!

 Deep thanks must go two of my students, Nouri Elmeklhi and Junior Beauvais.  Nouri is an engineer from Libya- he brought his two beautiful daughters who started cayenne pepper seedlings for us.  Junior is a Haitian farmer who actually received a permaculture certificate in the Dominican Republic last year, and has been working to establish a permaculture site in Haiti.  These two were a Godsend!  They led the charge today, systematically creating a level foundation for our passive solar chicken house.   Thanks must also go to Tim Naylor for turning our tree of heaven into firewood, and to Mike Heitzman for resurrecting our cinder blocks, one chip at a time.  Finally, thanks to Mo for working to fill our “mosquito pit” as we transform it into a Ukrainian Cranberry bog.   

As far as upcoming events goes, we have two next weekend:

Celebrate spring at the Pysanka Ukrainian Egg painting workshop Sat. 4/12  2-4 pm.

Celebrate spring at the Pysanka Ukrainian Egg painting workshop Sat. 4/12 2-4 pm.

Ukrainian Egg Painting Workshop- Saturday 4/12 from 2:00-4:00

Since 2000 years before the birth of Christ, Ukrainians have welcomed the beginning of spring with pysanky, beautiful beeswax batique painted eggs. Come join us to participate in this ancient pagan turned Lenten tradition. Learn the history, symbolism, and techniques of this beautiful art form. Create your own pysanka to take home! Light Ukrainian Snacks Provided!

Activist and Master Naturalist Starflower O'Sullivan will facilitate our inaugural Shed Talk about the Keystone-XL pipeline.

Activist and Master Naturalist Starflower O’Sullivan will facilitate our inaugural Shed Talk about the Keystone-XL pipeline.

Shed Talx: The Keystone-XL Pipeline Exposed- Sunday, 4/13 from 1:30-2:30

Activist Starflower O’Sullivan talks about the Keystone XL Pipeline, why it’s a problem, and what we can do about it.  Participate in a community discussion following a short film screening of the documentary “Keystone PipeLies Exposed.”  Prepare for 350.org protest in DC on 4/26!   Chicken coop building to follow.

 

Our Inspiration: But can it be done?  For $0?  By us?

Our Inspiration: But can it be done? For $0? By us?