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.

 

 

 

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?

Chicks, Bees, and New Beginnings: The First Day of Spring

Today is the first full day of Spring, and it’s already off to a beautiful start!

The chicks are in the mail!

The chicks are in the mail!

At 6:30 this morning, I got a call from the Blacksburg post-office, telling me that my chicks had arrived, and that I had better pick them up as possible.  Yes, the chicks were in the mail : )

Spring Sunrise!

Spring Sunrise!

When the lady handed the box to me at the post office, I had to get down on my knees and think “Thank you.”  I could hear little mysterious cheeps and tweets escaping from this magic box.  I turned up the heat in my car, and drove them back up the mountain as gently as possible up our rugged dirt road.

15 chicks traveled for 2 and half days through the US Postal Service.  Thank you USPS for calling us and for making sure they made it home safe and sound!

15 chicks traveled for 2 and half days through the US Postal Service. Thank you USPS for calling us and for making sure they made it home safe and sound!

As soon as I got home, I woke up Maureen and Timmy.  We excitedly hurried to the Octagon house to make a new home for our babies!  Maureen laid a cardboard box with paper shreds (Courtesy of the Language and Culture Institute) as I hooked up the heat lamp and chopped up fresh veggies.  Timmy cooked us a nice breakfast of fresh eggs (ironic, yes) and asparagus.

Maureen gives a chick its first drink!

Maureen gives a chick its first drink!

The chicks had been traveling in the US Postal service for the past two days.  They have never had anything to eat or drink in their lives.  Instead, they are living off nutrients from the yolk of the egg until they arrive in the mail.  We therefore needed to give them their first drink.

Tim gives a chick its first drink! We gave them water with a little diluted apple cider vinegar and fresh-pressed garlic for health.

Tim gives a chick its first drink! We gave them water with a little diluted apple cider vinegar and fresh-pressed garlic for health.

In order to help them understand the idea of drinking and eating, we acted as mother hens.  Each of us took a chick from the mailing box and gently put its beak in the water feeder until we saw it start to guzzle. We added some homemade apple cider vinegar to the water (to add electrolytes) as well as some garlic (for its antibiotic properties).

It's important to give chicks fresh chopped vegetables and wild greens from day 1, just as a mother hen would!

It’s important to give chicks fresh chopped vegetables and wild greens from day 1, just as a mother hen would!

We gave them “free choice” of unmedicated chick starter feed from Blacksburg Feed and Seed as well as fresh vegetable scraps.  As recommended by Harvey Ussery (The Martha Stewart of Chickens), its important to offer chicks fresh vegetables, grass, and dirt from day 1, just as a mother hen would.   In the long-run, chickens that forage and eat a diverse diet of living foods are healthier than those that are fed chicken feed exclusively.

Our chicks in their happy home by the wood stove!

Our chicks in their happy home by the wood stove!

Chick TV!

Maureen and I then sat around our little chicks, watching them until we needed to head off to work.  Each chick has their own personality, and I look forward to getting to know each of our girls on a deeper level.  We have 15 layer hens, all Rhode Island Reds, which are supposed to be great dual-purpose birds (as in good, for laying and for meat) that are resilient free-range foragers.

CZ Beekeeping at Gypsy Wagon Farm in Beach Lake, PA.

Today will be an exciting day, as Maureen and I will head over to a local farm to check out some old beehives.  Our bee nucs will be arriving in about a month and we’ll see what we can reuse.  We’re also hoping that if there is still a live hive there we could transport it to Crow Forest Farm.

Tom and Dennis film exploding fruit for the official Rock the Blocks Promo Video.

Tom and Dennis film exploding fruit for the official Rock the Blocks Promo Video.

This weekend,  the Rock the Blocks Music Festival will kick off in Blacksburg.  Director Dennis Chang filmed some exploding fruit at our farm last weekend.  He also let me smash some watermelons outside our barn.  Very cathartic, and I got some great fruit salad to boot!   Check out his spectacular video here:

Dennis Chang’s Amazing Promo Video for Rock The Blocks Music Festival!

I’ll be volunteering at the Rock the Blocks Music Festival main office this weekend, checking out shows when I can take a break.  Please check out some awesome local bands playing in Blacksburg, including Atoka Chase and Orbit Eyes.  Schedule is here:

 http://www.rocktheblocks.com

Permaculture in Ukraine Day 3: What is Permaculture?

What do the people of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus think permaculture is? Here are some of our brainstormed definitions, across generations and transcending boundaries. Many of these definitions are translated into English by our gifted translator, Pavlo Ardanov. Enjoy!

Sasha is a spunky 18 year old college student studying journalism in Lviv.  She has great vision and energy, and is my partner for this week’s projects : )

Ukrainian:  Пермакультури це система проектування, яка фокусується на імітуючи закономірності в природі. Його засоби проектування свій бізнес, ферма, або організацію як екосистеми для того, щоб бути самодостатнім в довгостроковій перспективі. Пермакультури це спосіб мислення, обгрунтування, яке фокусується на укладання функції, збільшуючи перевагу, оцінюючи різноманітність, і отримання врожаю. Пермакультури фокусується на довгостроковій достатку, а не короткострокового прибутку. Йдеться про розумний задум сьогодні так у вас є система саморегулівний без особливих зусиль завтра. Це невтручання сільське господарство: Добре розроблена система саморегулюється. Це спосіб життя, який включає в себе організацію навколишнього середовища та інтеграції компонентів довкілля для того, щоб підтримати один одного без пошкоджень, не проводячи ніяких відходів та обміну достаток. Це про децентралізованої успіх від низу до верху. Це незалежна система, що є стійким під тиском.

English:

Permaculture is a system of design that focuses on mimicing patterns in nature.  Its a means of designing your business, farm, or community like an ecosystem in order for it to be self-sufficient in the long-term.  Permaculture is a way of thinking, a rationale that focuses on stacking functions, maximizing edge, valuing diversity, and obtaining a yield.  Permaculture focuses on long-term abundance rather than short-term profit.  It’s about intelligent design today so you have a self regulating system with little effort tomorrow.  It’s laissez-faire agriculture:  a well-designed system regulates itself.  It is a way of life that involves organizing the environment and integrating the parts of the environment in order to support each other without damage, producing no waste and sharing the abundance.  It’s about decentralized success from the bottom- up.  It’s an independent system that is resilient under pressure.

Maryna is a landscape architect from Moscow.  She has traveled in America and is a wonderful roommate : )