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 : )