Apprentices, Appearances and Farm/Garden Design Class

Sharon September 10th, 2009

First of all, some of you Southerners asked about my appearance in Macon, GA.  I’m going to be speaking at the “Caring For Creation” Conference at Mercer University, Sponsored by Mercer and by Harvard University.  The Conference runs Thursday October 29 to Friday October 30th. I’ll be speaking in a breakout session from 11:30 to 12:30 on Friday, and again at a Plenary Session from 2-3:15.   I hope to meet some of you there. More info and registration information is here: 

Next, Aaron and I are announcing that we’re running our “Home Farm and Garden Design” class this year over six Thursdays from October 15-November 19.  The class is run online and asynchronously – that is, you don’t have to be online on Thursdays or at any particular time, but can follow along at your own convenience.  

Fall is a particularly good time to run this class, because as you are putting this year’s garden to bed (or winding up your CSA subscription if you don’t have a garden) is the perfect time to begin planning for next year, and even doing some of the basic work of expanding or creating new beds and plantings.  Even if you live in a year-round garden climate, October/November are often cool enough to begin doing serious work again.  So we think this is the right class at the right time. 

We’ll talk about everything from site selection, sun, soil and water, to what to plant and how to plant it, how to start plants from seed and divide and propagate perennials cheaply, forest gardening and woody crops, how to integrate cover crops and livestock into your plantings, how to grow vertically and make good use of small spaces, and how to work with large ones.  We’ll include succession planting and harvesting, and dealing with suboptimal conditions.  We’ll also cover oppportunities for making a business out of your farm or garden.  We’ll explore ways to deal with major garden challenges, including climate change adaptations you can make.  At the end of this, you should have a good and coherent garden design plan to implement.

Aaron was a landscape architect by training before he began farming full time – he now runs a large CSA in North Carolina.  I used to run a CSA and now I do subsistence farming, medicinal herbs and livestock farming.  I also vaguely remember we wrote a book about farming ;-) .

Cost of the class is $180 per household/participant (ie, spouses and family members are welcome to follow along), or mutually beneficial equivalent barter.  We also have spots reserved for those in financial need who can’t afford the class.  If you’d like to reserve a spot, email me at [email protected]

Also, in my “Gleanings Farm Rides Again” post, I mentioned I was thinking of a farm apprenticeship program, and there was a lot of enthusiasm, and the more I think about how much fun it would be to spend a weekend with some of you, the more excited I am about the idea.  So I’m going to be running a pilot program here at the farm in January of this coming winter – probably the weekend of January 8-10, 2010.  I know that people would probably prefer to come during the growing season, and I’m hoping eventually to be able to do that, but I need to do some experimenting with this – both to see how it works out as a family experience, but also to see whether it works with our heaviest in-season work periods.  January is a quiet spot on the calendar, not too near my book deadline, no major holidays, and there’s time to imagine a weekend spent doing the following wintery skills:

- Basic animal care with an emphasis on winter husbandry

- Goats and dairying – includes milking lessons, hoof trimming, feeding, etc…

- Making Cheese, Yogurt, Kefir and Butter

- Food Preservation – Root Cellaring, Lactofermenting, Water Bath and Pressure Canning

- Fibery things of interest, including sock knitting, darning, mending and simple scrap quilting

- Cooking and Heating with Wood (on both a cookstove and heating stove).  Breads, soups, staple foods and new recipes for warm, wintery things.

- Seed starting of useful plants, including winter sowing and indoor starting, and garden planning 

- Medicinal Herb work – Tincturing, making teas, getting familiar with herbs

The weekend would also include a mini-AIP class, with a chance to come out with a plan for adapting your home, to talk about various concerns and worries, and hang out and drink tea while talking to other people who get it.   Just to be clear, I’m not sure we’ll get to all of the above, but we can somewhat tailor things to the group.

Accomodations could be at my place (I have 3 queen sized or double beds in rooms not containing anyone else, so could accomodate up to six people, if they knew each other well enough to share a bed) or in the general locality (there are a couple of B and Bs near us, and we’re within 45 minutes of most places in Albany and Schenectady, if you’ve got a place to stay.  I also have a couch that I could offer to one person (or floor space for a couple) who wanted to barter a little help with cooking, dishes and keeping things reasonably tidy for a free spot in the course.  Vegetarian meals will be provided.  I think I can max out at 6-8 apprentices and give you each a good fair share of attention.

I’m going to try this out, but because this is my home, and my kids may be present (we may decide that that weekend is a really good one for them to go on a visit, not so much for their safety but to keep them from being pests), I’m also going to be somewhat cautious about who I have here.  That is, if you are interested, email me, and we will exchange emails and I’ll send you an application.  I will ask that we speak on the telephone at least one time before you are finally accepted into the program. Payment will be by suggested donation (at this point I’m only taking donations, because I haven’t yet figured out whether if you pay me I have to meet the legal requirements for a hostelry in my state), and depend on whether it includes meals and accomodations.   I will note that without donations, I won’t be able to do this again ;-)

If you are interested, do email me at [email protected]


17 Responses to “Apprentices, Appearances and Farm/Garden Design Class”

  1. Crunchy Chickenon 10 Sep 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Ooooh! I would love to do a farm apprenticeship, although you’d have to count me in after the spring thaw if you do one later in the year. Me no travel during winter to snowy places.

  2. Parma Powerdownon 10 Sep 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I would do it but not this year–sounds like a great opportunity. I hope you get to do it again.


  3. owlfanon 10 Sep 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the info on the appearance in Macon. I’m trying to see if I can make that work out.

  4. homebrewlibrarianon 10 Sep 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Sounds like an excellent way to see how an apprenticeship might work! I’ve been talking with my friend with goats and we’ve decided that she really needs help and people younger than 50 would be ideal. The sticking point is room and board. The place is an hour outside Anchorage and too far to walk to the nearest community. But you’re most of the way there with extra rooms and providing meals.

    I’ll be very interested to read your report afterward. I suspect I’ll be able to glean some good stuff to help my friend build up an apprenticeship program for herself.

    BTW a January trip wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. If there’s anything Alaskans know extremely well, it’s winter. And for me personally, I kept the heat at 55 degrees all last winter so I think I’d survive inside temps at your place just fine!

    Kerri in AK

  5. sealanderon 10 Sep 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Dang, that sounds like my dream vacation. A pity you’re on the other side of the world :(

  6. Crunchy Chickenon 10 Sep 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Oh, Kerri. Quit showboatin’.

    If your friends do a more seasonably warm apprenticeship, I’m sure people might be willing to camp at the property?

  7. Sharonon 10 Sep 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Awww…c’mon Crunch, it’ll probably 8 or 10 degrees above 0 most of the time. And you can have the spot next to the stove while we’re knitting!


  8. Crunchy Chickenon 10 Sep 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Only if I’m knitting nekkid. That sounds like an awfully warm spot. But, then again, apparently you are running a nudist colony over there anyway so I should fit right in. Except I don’t have a penis.

    Really, it never gets that cold around these here parts. So you might need to add glass etching to one of the list of crafts we’re working on.

  9. homebrewlibrarianon 10 Sep 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Well, Crunch, if it wasn’t for bears, tenting would be an option. Several of us came out last Saturday to help build a goat pen (four early 20s young men can get a LOT done in an afternoon) and it was reported that there was considerable bear scat and fresh out in the woods around the cleared area. While bears are most likely eating the copious amount of berries growing everywhere, they’re still loitering around and who needs that sort of rude awakening!

    I’m in the process of ordering a yurt to help with the onsite housing issue. We’re hoping to have it up and habitable by next summer.

    Kerri in AK

  10. Crunchy Chickenon 10 Sep 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Oh, yeah, I forgot about that pesky bear situation. But, what about the goats? Will the bears bother the goats when they are in their pen? Sounds like easy snack packaging to me.

    I hope the yurt works out. I love yurts.

  11. gaelon 11 Sep 2009 at 4:46 am

    I am interested in weekend apprentice, seems like a great way to get a lot of hands on info- please send an application, thanks

  12. homebrewlibrarianon 11 Sep 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Actually, the bears seem to ignore the goats although my friend got quite a scare this spring when a mama grizzly and her two yearling cubs showed up. The neighborhood was abuzz with talk but the consensus seems to be that the bears, while digging around for grubs, were probably attracted to the goats as two of the does were ready to birth. In fact one did during the episode where my friend was trying to shoo them away (using her truck and a lot of noise mind you). Bears are opportunistic creatures and the goats are behind fences that would take some pounding to get through. On the other hand, tents made of tissue paper are a lot easier to explore. Sooooo…reducing the opportunity seems like a smart plan to me.

    Kerri in AK

  13. gaiasdaughteron 12 Sep 2009 at 3:56 am

    Ah, the devil is in the details! I would love to do an apprenticeship, but to justify the cost (both financial and to the environment) of travel, I would think a week minimum. But I can see how disruptive that would be to Sharon’s family life. Don’t know how to make it work both ways.

  14. Kay in Wisconsinon 12 Sep 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Oh, I’d LOVE to do this. Unfortunately my son is still too young for me to be gone for any length of time. He’s four, but a total mama’s boy.

  15. Over Here!!!on 13 Sep 2009 at 2:46 am

    I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t been out of my community in over 7 years, and we do what we gotta do. A frosty January weekend with busing days to and fro might be doable, if my little elderly mom keeps her head above water. Last month she had surgery for breast cancer, and she is now in the hospital following a hip fracture and subsequent repair.

    Fresh winter air and p*p*p*pie crumbs….

    I’m working on it!!!!

    Best, and Happy High Holidays!

    South by Southwest

  16. Sharonon 13 Sep 2009 at 9:24 am

    GD, Kay, I may try other formats over time – this one is an experiment, and if it goes well, won’t be the only one. I am not opposed, for example, to a longer event or to something kid friendly, if people were willing to work together to provide kid care and activities. I might do that for a summer event, and then my kids would have fun playmates and Eric could participate. For the first weekend, and for a weekend where there’s a really good chance we’ll mostly be in the house (it being January and such), I’m thinking adding a whole bunch more kids and keeping my four around might not be conducive to learning, or anything else ;-) .


  17. Elizabethon 14 Sep 2009 at 5:48 am

    The farm weekend sounds awesome!! I need to get through basketball season but would be interested in the class at another time…

    THanks –

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