Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Six Life Changing Weeks

Earthquakes, hurricanes, apocalyptic bird swarms – just a few of the things that Deanna and I encountered on our 6 week trip to Vermont. Perhaps the Universe was celebrating our marriage (or maybe we just got lucky), but we sure enjoyed an adventure filled trip.

We arrived in Huntington, WV coincident with a huge swarm of Purple Martins bound for South America. Groups were testing roof-top guy wires and other roosting places, until they all settled into 4 or 5 trees next to a retirement home.

On our first full day in Vermont, we finished hanging our supply caches in preparation for hiking the Long Trail. Then, although we never felt it, the eastern U.S. had the biggest earthquake since 1897. Here's Deanna enjoying lunch at almost precisely the time that the earthquake hit.

We got married in a wonderful celebration outside under apple trees with family and friends all around. Then hurricane Irene rolled in, inundating Southern Vermont, washing out roads and causing a state of emergency.

We set out on our 4 1/2 week hike, spent a few days wondering where everybody was (until we found out that the Green Mountain National Forest had been closed in the aftermath of hurricane Irene) then continued on with the trail and shelters virtually to ourselves.

Tropical storm Lee rolled through while we were out there. Thankfully it wasn't all rain and mud. We had some nice hiking days and great views.

In the end, we finished 200 of the 273 miles. There's something indescribable about looking back from whence you've come to see, fading in the distance over the horizon, the mountain peak upon which you stood just days before.

Getting off the trail, we had unbelievable car problems - my brother's transmission gave out before we got back to his house causing him to junk his van. Then our car suffered from a seized alternator and rear brakes because of the soaking from hurricane Irene. Welcome back to civilization :-|.

We made it back to St. Louis in time for Deanna to return to work, me to pursue my Adventure Educator path, and for us to begin the next stage of our lives together. Thanks for reading. More to come ...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adventure As A Life Choice

Five months ago I quit my former career and set out to work as an adventure educator. Learning from adventure means going beyond that which is familiar, entering your “stretch zone” where you feel uncomfortable, like you may not succeed. Well … I’m there.

Just between you and me, I’m terrified! On the one hand, I know I have a lot to offer. On the other hand, I’m not at all certain that I can survive monetarily doing what I do. In my corporate engineering career I could indulge my introvert, only concern myself with technical details, and collect my paycheck. Now I’ve got to do a whole lot more including outreach to prospective clients, package and promote myself and what I offer, and find ways to make it pay well enough that I can keep doing it.

I just want what I do to be meaningful and worthwhile. I recently had the opportunity to enunciate my personal mission and it came out “to help people learn and help people grow.” That’s it, that’s what I’m committed to doing. But how, specifically, will I do that? And why should you, prospective client, trust me with your best interests and compensate me for my efforts?

Don’t get me wrong, I have answers to those questions, and I think they’re pretty compelling. But is it going to be enough? Am I going to be enough? I’m in the nascent beginnings of building my adventure education practice and I’m not at all sure how it will go. Who will I serve, where can I do the most good, and how can I keep doing it? And what will I do if I fail and my efforts come to naught? I don’t have those answers and, moreover, I don’t really know how I’m going to find those answers except to not give up and keep working at it.

So here I am, in the crux of Adventure. Michael Meade, author and teacher in the ‘90’s men’s movement, said that meaningful transformation is often accompanied by feeling that you may not survive the experience; it reaches into your core. I feel that way now. But I do feel that this is my path and I must walk it. I can only have faith that it leads me in the right direction.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sustainable Backyard Tour a Success

This past weekend Adventure Farm was a host in the first Midwest Sustainable Backyards Tour. There were 30 backyards on this self-guided tour and 40 participants visited our yard.  It was a great day with people trickling through at just the right pace, which allowed time to talk and enjoy meeting each person.  It was a wonderful way to introduce the backyard space we call Adventure Farm. I learned a lot from my visitors and I hope they gained something from their experience here and at the other sites. I’m looking forward to next year already.

Ed, Lucy and Arlo arriving in sustainable style.

Adventure Farm was also one of the featured yards in a St Louis Public Radio station slide show produced by Madalyn Painter.  It was fun meeting Madalyn the week before the tour when she visited several of the homes that would be participating in the tour. You can see the photos of Adventure Farm at:

When you watch the slide show, Adventure Farm is featured in slides 5-13.

This opportunity and the positive response we received has made me think of other ways that we can share this small oasis.  Guy and I are already talking about  giving people other opportunities to enjoy the yard and share their knowledge about greening the space in which we live. We'll be sure and keep you updated as more events begin to happen here. The next big event is the “Essential Permaculture”  weekend on July 9-10.  The workshop is being held at St Louis University, and the afternoon immediately following the training we will once again visit my yard. This time the yard will look a whole lot different than the first walkabout in April (check out the April 5th blog entry to compare). 

I hope to see some of you at the Essential Permaculutre Workshop and walkabout in a few weeks.

"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. "
       J.K. Rowling

Make good choices my friends.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Essential Permaculture Weekend Training

I am very excited to announce that Adventure Farm is Co-sponsoring a two day "Essential Permaculture" training in July.  Spend a weekend learning more about permaculture and how you can begin to apply permaculture principles in your yard and in your life. As a bonus, spend some time experiencing a walkabout at Adventure Farm immediately following the training with Bill Wilson, the Co-Founder of Midwest Permaculture.

Essential Permaculture Trainings  are regularly offered for $195.00. This first time St. Louis training will be offered for $175.00 and only $125.00 if you sign up before June 9th or if you are a student. I think this is a great opportunity to get an excellent introduction to permaculture and to meet like minded folks in the St. Louis area.  Bill is a dynamic and engaging speaker and one of my permaculture design certification course instructors. I can personally guarantee that this weekend will be well worth the money. Please consider joining us for this important event


“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

―Victor Frankl

Friday, May 27, 2011

Adventure Farm is Going Public

Well, it looks like we are taking the leap with our first truly public event. If you're in the St Louis area mark your calendars for the 1st Annual St Louis Sustainable Backyard Tour on June 26th. Go to Home Eco's site http://www.home-eco.com/Home_Eco/Home.html  for more information and to register to take the tour or join Adventure Farm and be IN the tour.

This was the end of  last June. Lets hope the yard looks like this this year. 

Another exciting St. Louis event is coming up in July.  Brick City Gardens and the Center for Sustainability at Saint Louis University are co-sponsoring an Essential Permaculture Weekend Training July 9th and 10th. Go to http://midwestpermaculture.com/courses-training/about-2-day-essential/ for more information on this great two day workshop featuring my permaculture teacher, Bill Wilson.  It's not confirmed yet, but Adventure Farm may be involved with this too.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bees are buzzing at Adventure Farm

The bees have arrived!  Karen, my good friend, came along for support, and Saturday morning we picked up the bees at around 7:30.  Boy, was I nervous. The bees were in what is called a nuc. A nuc, or nucleus, is a small hive of five frames that includes a colony of bees with their queen. 
As you can see there were stacks of nucs with bees flying everywhere. You can see in the foreground one of the helpers actually vacuuming the bees off the boxes. I’m not sure what happened to those bees. It appeared that the bees went into a box inside the vacuum. I wonder if you could start a hive from mixed up bees from all different nucs? 
Each of the boxes were a nuc

Luckily, I had thought to take the truck so we could secure them in the back. The trip home went well since most of the bees were riding in the bed of the truck. We did have one bee ride home on Karen’s jacket and two that managed to cling to the windshield of the truck.  I guess those hitchhikers were completely lost, as I seriously doubt they were from my hive. I feel a little bad for the bees that were trapped outside the nucs.

After arriving home I had to get this box of unsettled bees transfered to their new home.
The nuc next to the new home.  The goal was to get them transferred from one box to the other...Yikes!
I gathered everything I thought I would need:

  • Hammer to get the top off
  • Smoker to calm the bees
  • Protective gear for Karen and me
  • Sugar syrup that I made the night before for the feeder
Karen ready to release some bees

Once we were geared up, we started what turned out to be the hardest part, prying off the top.  There were only two nails, but between my nerves, not wanting to jostle the hive and having a hard time getting the hammer in a place to get some leverage, it took a little doing. I would suggest screws to make this a little easier.

Finally I got the lid off, puffed a little smoke on the bees with my brand new smoker and rather smoothly, I thought, transferred the frames full of bees to their new home. 

Adding the sugar syrup to the feeder to help the girls get a start without having to work too hard. 
Karen and I then left to do some scavenging for bargains at yard sales and let the bees get settled. They were still rather franticly buzzing about when I got back in the early afternoon, but by Sunday morning they seemed settled, and I even saw some coming in with bright yellow pollen on their legs.  It was hard to stay away form the hive and I found myself just squatting near the entrance to watch the comings and goings and not getting a lot done in the garden.

They sure are a nice addition to Adventure Farm.

Welcome Home Bees!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bees and Peas

Spring is hectic for anyone growing food, and Adventure Farm is no exception. Every evening I find myself rushing home from work to take advantage of the lengthening days to prepare beds, plant, and weed. On top of the “normal” spring chores, we are getting bees this month. So, while Guy was out working with kids on a challenge course this past weekend, I was at home trying to assemble a beehive for the first time.

Notice the pile of pieces and the sheets of paper, the only instructions,  at the end of the glider...not a whole lot of help included.

Viewing the task laid out before me reminded me a lot of a box of Lincoln logs, all these wood pieces, some small and some large. Also, I’m pretty sure the instructions were written for seasoned beekeepers, they seemed more like reminders than real instructions. Despite the feeling of defeat when I saw the amount of pieces,  somehow I managed to assemble and paint the hive.

For those of you who are already beekeepers, I know I have my boxes stacked incorrectly.  Too bad the beekeepers don't get the big boxes :)  So, for those who don't know, the big boxes are hive bodies where the bees raise their brood and store honey that will keep them alive over the winter.  Once the two large hive bodies are filled, the beekeeper can add the "supers" to the top and harvest the honey collected in these boxes. The beekeeper needs to leave the honey in the bottom two boxes so the bees have a chance to survive the winter. 

At the end of the day I was left with a pile of small pieces of wood and nails with not a clue as to how to arrange the frames where the bees will build their combs. Even with the Internet, I was a little lost. Fortunately, I know a few beekeepers and was able to get some help yesterday from one of them. 

Now I just need to assemble 40 of these. The bees arrive April 30, and I think I'm close to being ready.  I wanted to get the gluing and painting done early so it would have time to season. The only gluing and painting required were the exterior pieces, which I have finished. Overall, I think I did okay with my body assembly. There are a few blunders, but only the bees and I will know, and I’m pretty certain the bees won’t even notice. 

Cool Trellis Material

Another exciting new addition for the garden is cattle panels that I am cutting and using for trellises. This weekend I finally got my peas in the ground and installed my first section of a cattle panel that I picked up last month.  

This stuff is so awesome. It's sturdy and  made of galvanized wire rods so they hold up a long time without rusting.  With bolt cutters you can cut sections to use as sturdy and rather artistic, I think, trellises.  They come in 16-foot lengths and are a little over 4 ft. tall. I’m in love. 

I'll be posting some photos of my installed trellises soon. It's too dark now to get pictures, and I want to get this entry posted.

Happy Gardening,


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Springing Forward at Adventure Farm

Things are picking up here at Adventure Farm.  Guy has had a number of tree-climbing events in the St Louis area and is busy helping prepare for the upcoming TREEmendous event at the MO Botanical Garden, April 30-May 1.  Come out and join the celebration of trees and forests at the garden.

Banners for the TREEmendous event outside the main entrance to the MO Botanical Garden

The picture in the Forest Festival banner was taken at one of Guy's events and is a friend's daughter. 
We are excited that Laurellyn is getting her moment of fame and that Guy is involved in this great event. 
Hope to see you there. 

The urban farming and homesteading piece of Adventure Farm is also busy this spring. This past weekend Bill Wilson, co-founder of Midwest Permaculture and one of my instructors at the permaculture design course I attended this past fall, was here to do a talk at Schlafly Bottleworks on April 2. Part of the day included a Walk About at Adventure Farm.  

This is the first public event for the permaculture portion of Adventure Farm and a very exciting event it was.  There  were 16 people who chose to spend a few hours of a beautiful Saturday afternoon touring this small urban farm and giving feedback and suggestions. 
We met and started in the front yard 

I was particularly looking for suggestions for the front yard, which is just beginning its transformation into a working part of the space. Notice the hill. This has been a design challenge for me. During the walkabout,  I got many ideas on things to do to make this space productive while still being attractive in an urban setting.  Stay tuned for future entrys on its evolution. 

We then headed to the back

I imagine that the backyard was a little more helpful to folks who were looking for examples of urban permaculture since not much is going on in the front yard.  I got quite a bit of positive feedback and some good design suggestions for back here, too. I was a little nervous about opening up this space to others even though that is our intent. It's always a little scary to put myself out there in this way, especially this early in the season when things don't look quite as nice as they will later. 

Bill doing his design thing 
We worked our way from the front of the house to the back with me introducing everyone to the space and explaining what I was attempting to accomplish. 

We then worked our way back around to the front giving people time to give design suggestions
Overall, the Walk About felt like a success to me. The bonus to this event was the opportunity to meet like-minded people in the area. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with many of these people. For those of you who might be interested in learning more about permaculture design, please take a moment to check out Midwest Permaculture at http://www.midwestpermaculture.com/

There is also a weekend permaculture training coming to St. Louis in July.  I'll be posting details as soon as they become available. 

The Good Gardening, Good Food series that Bill’s talk was a part of is being hosted by Slow Food St Louis, Schlafly Bottleworks and Brick City Gardens. Check out their 2011 Schedule of events at 


Happy Spring, 


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

YMCA Demo Tree Climb

In early December, Adventure Tree Climbing had the good fortune to host a demo climb for Missouri's YMCA of the Ozarks, which has a large and really beautiful facility just south of St. Louis with challenge courses and climbing walls in addition to a really nice lake and hundreds of acres of woods. They host thousands of visitors per year and it would be a great opportunity for us to provide folks with all the fun and educational benefits of recreational tree climbing.

White Oak Climbing Tree

Ropes and Gear Ready

There are lots of trees, but only a few are really good climbing trees. I looked over the YMCA grounds and found a stately White Oak with wide branches and a full crown that was located on open ground right in front of some cabins – a fabulous climbing tree. Also, although we didn't get a chance to use it, adjacent is a large Pine that could be used for high climbs or traverses.

First, I cleaned the tree of any looming dead-wood. Although hard work, this is one of the funner parts of the job because I get to climb high up and all over the tree. There were quite a few curious passers-by, and one vehicle pulled over and watched for awhile – I imagined they were wishing they could be up there swinging and climbing around with me.

When everyone arrived to climb, I had all the ropes set except one – I figured I'd demonstrate the process of installing the ropes, and also generate a little "wow factor", by launching a throw-weight over a high branch with my Big Shot (which is basically a huge sling-shot). These were all experienced facilitators and I was demo-ing more than simply what a tree climb is like, but also how to facilitate a climb, so I showed everyone the process of putting up the rope and the cambium saver and then how to tie the Magic Knot (i.e. Blake's Hitch) and set up the climbing system.

Gearing Up

We went through the standard intro, occasionally discussing facilitation issues like how to work with different age groups, etc., and then we got to climbing. There is probably no easier group to work with than a bunch of young adults who are accustomed to overseeing the safe enjoyment of adventure activities for others. Everyone learned the tree climbing process quickly and was climbing and bat-hanging and swinging around the canopy in no time.

Bat-Hang and Big Smile

Climbing to Various Heights

Most everyone climbed at least 2 or 3 times. The ropes that went high into the canopy, about 40 feet up, were the most popular. It was a chilly day but everyone was prepared for it – plus it's easy to stay warm with the excitement and exertion of tree climbing.

A pair challenge – climb adjacent ropes with harnesses carabinered together.

Bat-hanging together ...

And sitting on a branch - all while attached together - Impressive!

It was great fun for a couple of hours and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to show the folks at the Y what recreational tree climbing is like and discuss some ways that we might work together. I do recreational tree climbing for the fun, educational and therapeutic benefits it provides to people, and I'd like to work with the Y so that I may reach many more people with these benefits, and also so that I may gain the income that will allow me to continue providing tree climbing. I had a good talk afterwards with Daniel and Angie about possibilities, and I'm excited to see what comes about.

This is my first post about the adventure activities that are part of Adventure Farm. I'm kind'of starting in the middle of the story and I hope to back up and post info about how we got to where we're at now, as well as keeping up with current activities.

May the coming year bring good things to your life -