Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thinking about Fall

Wow, it’s sure has been a hot, dry and crazy busy summer.  We hope everyone has been able to enjoy the summer despite the heat and drought. 

We spent part of the time here and part of the time away on vacation and work related trips. Guy was fortunate enough to escape much of the worst heat. Here's a few of the summer events related to Adventure Farm.
Guy spent a great deal of the summer in eastern Pennsylvania working at a summer camp both as an inspector and trainer for the challenge course and providing tree climbing programs for the campers.

Here he's training ropes course facilitators to perform rescues.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Help Adventure Farm Grow

Help Adventure Farm Grow
Adventure Farm is outgrowing our little urban lot, and we are looking for opportunities to grow and expand
The main thing that Adventure Farm (AF) is missing is space and trees for our Adventure Tree activities. We need trees and open spaces to use for experiential and natural science education activities.
Our most pressing need is trees that are open grown with wide spreading branches. These trees allow us to expand our work connecting people to the natural world while building self-confidence and a connection to place.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May and June Calendar of Events

The previous calendar of events at Adventure Farm seemed to work out really well. Organizing a calendar kept us on track and invited people into the space to learn with us. We had a nice turn out for our first try, so we have decided to continue on. Here's what we have coming up for May and June.  We hope some of you can make it by for a visit or we see you at one of the other events.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Highlights of April Permaculture Work

As I look back at What's Happening at Adventure Farm I realize just how much we've gotten done from that list and more. It's nice to take a few minutes as we near the end of the month to take the time to reflect on how far we have come in just the last month. Not only are we getting a lot done around here, but we are meeting and working with many wonderful like-minded people.  This little space we call Adventure Farm is truly enriching our lives in many ways.  

Here's a little April photographic summary of the permie part of Adventure Farm. There is a lot going on with the experiential education side too. Guy has promised to post the same sort of report later this week. 

The month began in the front yard. We finished not one swale project, but two.  Phase 1 of the "Tackling the Front Yard" project was to include replacing the grassy front hill with native grasses and lavendar plus installing some steps up the side lawn.  That project was finished as planned and withstood quite the rain storm like a champ.  We were so proud of how well that worked and motivated to do more. As so often happens, opportunity presented itself in the form of a deal Deanna couldn't pass up for 50 strawberry plants.  Since the second phase of the front project was to replace the south facing hill with strawberry plants we suddenly found ourselves with an unexpected project.  Deanna started digging while Guy ran off to a tree climbing event. When he returned, together they finished the project. We were a little short on mulch, but the next weekend one of our great volunteer helpers, Ryan, helped haul several loads of leaf mulch and wood mulch to finish the strawberry project and begin  the spring mulching of the back yard paths. The same day Ryan and I worked to haul organic material for his garden. It was very satisfying to help Ryan and his partner, Becky, get set up to grow some food at their apartment. It's wonderful to be building a community of support, a big part of permaculture. 

A picture of the two hill projects.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wow, check out the amazing swales at work

In the last 24 hours we’ve had a number of thunderstorms move through the area, dumping around 2 inches of rain on us over night. This precipitation was on top of a previous day of around 1.5 inches of rain. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant to peek out the window this morning. After lying in bed hearing the rain pouring down outside off and on all night I expected to see leaf mulch running down the sidewalk. Instead I saw a clean sidewalk. Check it out. 
I promise I did no cleaning up. This is what it really looked like!  Notice all the dogwood flowers are knocked off. It was quite the storm.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bye-Bye Lawn!!

Phase One of the "Tackling the Front Yard" project is almost complete. We only have the lower path to mulch and some more plants to install. Thanks to Guy, Rachel and Ryan I was able to get an amazing amount accomplished this past weekend.  After all these years of avoiding that silly hill, I’m so glad it’s started. It sure is looking good. 

 Here’s a little photo journey through the last few weekend work days.  

April 1st 

Guy and I worked to install some steps up the side of the hill using repurposed grates that we picked up last year at a salvage sale.  The plan is to plant them with creeping Thyme and other herbs along the side.

I'm finding out Guy has a good eye for design.
Guy was able to figure out a nice spacing for the grates. I like the angle a lot.

Guy also used his engineering ability to make a very professional looking a-frame for laying out the contours on the hill the next weekend. 

By the end of the day I felt ready to tackle the biggest job the following weekend when I wouldn't have Guy's help. 

April 7th 

The big day. I started alone, but I soon got a lot of help from Ryan and Rachel.  Guy had a tree climbing event all day. 

First I finished the a-frame by adding the string and weight to determine when the frame was level as I worked my way across the slope. That's my experimental strawberry patch in the background. I planted it last year to see how strawberries do in the front yard.  They are doing well. I think I might plant the whole side yard in strawberries...yum.

Any old weight will do.

Each step of the a-frame required a flag to mark the spot. I decided to do two swales across the hill. I was alone at this point, so I couldn't get a picture of me working the frame. However, I will say it was a lot of fun. I sure would have never guessed that these lines are level. Thank goodness for simple tools like this a-frame.  

Next I dug the swales and placed the soil in front of each swale to make a berm. This made a surprising difference in the slope of the hill, it doesn't look nearly as steep any more. The swales will help to keep water on my property, which will reduce the runoff into the sewers and our urban streams. Of course it will also reduce the amount of watering I will have to do. The plants I selected for the hill should be able to survive just fine without any watering from me after they are established. This year I'll have to water regularly. 

We then filled the swales full of straw. I didn't want to be able to see the swales quite so clearly. I was looking for a more terraced look and I hope this will help that. You can also see that we have placed the plants on the hill.  Initially I had thought I would lay the paper down first and then plant the plants by cutting holes in the paper. After thinking about this and discussing it with Ryan, who had arrived by now, we decided it would be easier to plant first and then lay the paper. 

So that's what we did!

 After the plants were in, we placed the newspaper around them and stood back to take a break.  Rachel and Ryan made the job go fast.  After a short break we started hauling mulch.  We didn't have enough mulch to finish the job this day...

but an early Easter morning run to get more mulch and some time spent adding cardboard to the upper part of the hill that wasn't part of this planting and this is what we have!!!! Now I just need to get more herbs for the steps and figure out what to plant under the dogwood.

I put flags by the plants for now so I make sure I see everyone when I'm watering. The plants on the hill include prairie dropseed, a native Missouri grass, and lavender.  Both plants tolerate hot, dry places and crappy soil. I think they will enjoy living on this hill.

THANKS GUY, RYAN and RACHEL for all your help!!!! Permie community is great!

Monday, March 26, 2012

What's Happening at Adventure Farm?

A Whole Lot!  For those of you who have been asking, and for those who might be wondering what we are up to, here's our plans for the next month or so. We sure would like to see some of you.

Adventure Farm Spring Happenings

“Tackling the Front Yard” events 
Getting rid of that front lawn and working to hold water on the property.

Phase One:

April 1 (9 am - noon) Developing a path and building an A-frame
Guy and Deanna will be creating a path across the front yard. We will be repurposing some old salvaged metal grates for some steps and hopefully mulching the path and planting some-sort of “walkable” herbs in the grates. Guy and I will also build an A-frame for making my swales the following Saturday. Free veggie plants for those who volunteer to help.

April 7- (9am-until I’m finished or the sun goes down)   Swales, mulching, and planting
Deanna will be digging swales on the front hill, sheet mulching with newspaper and leaf mulch, and planting native grasses and lavender. Free veggie plants for those who volunteer. 

Other Adventure Farm Happenings!

April 7- (11am-2pm and 2pm-5pm)  Tree Climbing
Guy will be hosting an introduction to tree-climbing event. This is a free event, but you must register to attend. We have a limited number of spots. There is a morning and afternoon session. Here is a link to find out more details about this event, but you don’t have to join the meetup group to come, just let us know.

April 13-15- Tree Climbing Course
Adventure Farm will be hosting Tim Kovar. Tim is a world renowned tree-climber and will be here working with Guy as they teach an introductory tree climbing course. If you are interested in learning basic tree climbing, then check out the Adventure Tree website at:

April 17- (6:30-8:30) Permie Book Club meeting
We will be discussing Earth User's Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow and whatever else comes to mind.  Come sit on the back porch, snack on some good food, and enjoy some good permie company.

April 21- (9-whenever we finish) Installing rainbarrels
Guy and I will be installing guttering and a row of five rain barrels on the back shed. The shed is situated at the highest point in the yard, so it should be the best spot for a row of rain barrels. Get your engineering head on and come help us figure this one out. 

A few other fun events around town where you will find us.

3/31-"No Child Left Inside" Conference at UMSL 
Guy and Deanna will be attending.  Find out more here

4/18- (7:30-9:30) Transition Town Book Discussion at Foundation Grounds in Maplewood
Deanna will be attending a Transition Town Book Discussion-Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic farming works.The author, Atina Diffley, will be there to read from the book and sign copies. I believe there will be copies there to buy, too. Come join me.  
5/19-(8:30am -noon) Awakening the Dreamer
Deanna will be attending Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium at St. Stephen’s Church in Ferguson, MO. You can find out more at  If you are interested in attending this event, contact Carleton Stock at

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Plants Need Good Homes!!

It's time to find homes for our basement babies. They're all looking healthy and happy. Besides tomatoes and basil we have broccoli, eggplant, kale, peppers and ground cherry.  Get them while they last. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Love Affair

 Honestly, I think this love affair has been bubbling near the surface for a while. However, just recently it has reemerged with a vengeance.  I’m referring to an amazing passion for honeybees and pollinators in general. In part this resurrection began strangely enough a while back with the viewing of Avatar and the subsequent reading of a person’s post on some Avatar site about how they wished they could live in a world as amazing as Pandora (the world of Avatar).  I remember this left me a little stunned at the time, since when I watched the film I found that I was constantly comparing the visuals to similar things found in the natural world. After all, James Cameron must have gotten his inspiration from somewhere and what better place than the place in which we all live, Earth. In fact, where else do we base our creative energies? I’ve always loved the natural world, and one part that I find most interesting, and a part many of us miss, is the world of pollinators. This relationship between plant and animal in my opinion is simply miraculous. 

Last year I was fortunate enough to purchase my first honeybee hive and soon after a small colony of bees called a nuc (nucleus). This began what seems to be turning into a much more personal relationship than I could have ever imagined, considering I’m reffering to a lively group of thousands of stinging insects.  I now have three hives, two that are shared with a friend.  These past unseasonably warm days we have been doing spring inspections of the hives and celebrating the strength of one colony and nursing along our weaker “adopted” colonies that we purchased during the winter. To say I like my bees is a gross understatement.  There is no doubt that this is love.  My emotional attachment to these insects keeps me up at night worrying that they don’t have enough stores, that I made the wrong choice to move some frames in the hive, that I didn’t see much brood (eggs, larvae or pupae)…  My impulse to pick up a bee book and become totally engrossed denying myself sleep and food so that I get a little more time to learn about these amazing creatures is a familiar sign that I am hooked. 

Just learning about this complex community that lives in my backyard is astounding. Firstly, most of the bees that make up the colony are females, and if you happen to be a male (drone) you don’t do much of anything for the hive. The only drone's job, as far as I know, is to meet a queen bee on her maiden flight and fertilizer her. That's it. Pretty important job, I realize, but really. The females (queen and workers) make sure that things run smoothly and that all is cared for. I guess that is part of the intrigue, that girl power. Without going into much detail about this complex community, I will add that they are great pollinators for my yard and my surrounding neighbors' yards. The relationship that has evolved between animals and plants that help with pollination is quite complex and amazing. Without pollinators it's hard to imagine what we would eat. We sure would miss out on a lot of wonderful food. If you think about the food you eat and the plants they come from, most of what blooms requires pollination from animals. Some plants are dependent on wind and rain for pollination, but largely it’s some type of pollinator. 

Recently I was fortunate enough to see the attached TED talk.  It's an amazing eight minutes of time that reminds us of what we can discover in our own backyard if we would just allow ourselves to open up our senses and reconnect.  I hope you all will take the opportunity to reconnect with your world and get out this spring and find the magic.

He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Permaculture Reading Group and Training

Hello Everyone!

After an extended absence to get hitched and hike for a while on the Long Trail through Vermont, we have been busy getting back into the swing of things around here. Even though there hasn't been much activity on the blog, we haven't been sitting idle. It's been a busy fall and winter. Guy has been busy with winter tree work and some tree climbing activities and I have been working on preparing the gardens for the spring planting, ordering seeds, preparing to start seeds in the basement and most importantly networking with other like-minded people.

This networking has led to at least one immediately exciting event. These past few not so wintery months I've been reconnecting with Jamie Haubner who owns Liberty Hill Farm in High Ridge. Jamie is working to convert her 22 acres into a Permaculture paradise and has kindly asked for my assistance. Jamie has her Permaculture design certificate and a wonderful space to work with. She also had an amazing and ambitious vision. I've also been getting to know Rachel Levi with EarthDance farm in Ferguson. Together the three of us have decided to start a Permaculture reading group. The first meeting will be held here at Adventure Farm on February 21st.

The first book on our list is Gaia's Garden. A great introductory book to permaculture.

Please consider joining us as we get together to support each other in our permaculture journey. RSVP by commenting here to get time and directions.

Another exciting event is a four day hands-on intensive course coming in March to St. Louis. The course is taught by my permaculture teacher, Bill Wilson, from Midwest Permaculture. I am very excited that St. Louis will have the opportunity to learn from this amazing teacher.

The course will be held at the MO Botanical Garden, March 8-11. This course will go towards your design certification if you desire to continue, which I bet you will. It is a great pleasure for me to look forward to seeing Bill and his wife Becky when they are here in March. Hopefully they will put me to work and I can help with the class some. Please check out the site below for more information.

Overall, 2012 seems to be getting off to a great start. I hope to see some of you at the permie course or the reading group.