Back to Koinonia for a visit

I took two days to drive down to Koinonia from the Stawbale Studio in Michigan and arrived in the dark.  The first thing I did was head over to the dinning hall to grab some food and then I wanted to go see some people and start catching up with people that I hadn’t seen in a while.  As I walked out of the dining hall, I saw a couple of folks walk into the office, so I headed over there and it was Rob Castle and a new lady that was visiting, Sarah Beth.  We chatted for a while and then it seemed like nobody else was really hanging around anywhere so I settled in to where I would be staying and went to sleep.  The next day was full of reunions and catching up with people and meeting the new folks that had arrived since I’d been gone.  The first two days I spent most of the working hours working on my hunting bows that I had started up in Michigan.  I had to work on them to a certain point or else they would start cracking too much and get ruined, so I took care of that and then started helping Brendan out on the farm.  I went out to dinner with people several times within the first several days of being back, which was nice to take some time to hang out and catch up with folks, but eating out is expensive, so I’m glad that settled down after the first couple of days.  It was really nice to see that the things that I had helped build and plant were still around and standing strong and/or growing bigger.  It was also really great to see all the cool new things that were in the works, such as a really big swale in the middle of the 80 acre pasture, and the plantings in between the duplex and the dining hall, and the new fenced in areas of forest for pigs, and lots of other smaller things.  I also really enjoyed observing how the committed Koinonians for the most part seemed to be doing very well.  The people were more energized and seemed more well rested and in a better state of balance than when I left at the end of last year.

A couple of days before the Permaculture Design Course started, Brendan and I headed up to Virginia to visit Polyface Farms, home of Joel Salatin and “Salad Bar Beef” and “Pastured Poultry Profit$”.  The visit to Polyface was great.  Brendan and I had a lot of time to talk in the car and that was really good for both of us.  We got to the farm early in the morning and had about 4 hours to walk around and look at everything and take our time to observe how things were set up and how the different facets of the farm were working together.  It was awesome to be able to see in person what I had read so much about.  Joel Salatin has written a good number of books about his experiences with being a crazy, lunatic, ecological farmer and I’ve read almost all of them: “Salad Bar Beef”, “Pastured Poultry Profits”, “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal”, “You Can Farm”, and “Family Friendly Farming”.  To see the stuff that he’s written about on the ground was a very educational experience as it is impossible to write everything down.  It was also interesting to see some of the new things that are going on at his farm and how things have changed.  After having a long time to walk around and see everything at the farm, Brendan and I took a little break, ate some bagels that we got from the Panera Bread dumpster on the way, and then it was time for the tour.  The tour was given by Joel and it was really good.  He has a great way of explaining things and of course added his unique flavor and perspective to everything.  He doesn’t have all the answers for how to feed all of the people of the world in a sustainable way, but his farm is an excellent example of how farmers can partner with nature to provide a lot of food to a lot of people in a way that is very much better for the environment and for the farmer and for everyone involved than the crappy pseudo food coming out of the factory farms and centralized food processing industry.  I highly recommend reading Joel Salatins books, especially “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal” as it illuminates the many huge problems of the current food system and points to viable alternatives.  The choices that you make about what you buy have a much larger effect on the world than you think.  Start making more informed choices that are better for the world, better for you, and better for me.

After the tour at Polyface, we drove back to Koinonia and got there at 4:30 in the morning and went to sleep.  I slept in, but Brendan had to get up a couple of hours later for the farm chores.  It took us both several days to recover.  The Permaculture Design Course started the day after we got back.  My friend Wayne Weiseman, the main instructor of the course arrived the day Brendan and I got back and it was great to see him.  The rest of the folks arrived later that day and then for the next two weeks, it was lots and lots of Permaculture.  For most of the course, I sat in the back and observed and worked on other things when I already knew what they were talking about.  It was a great time to observe Wayne teaching and to learn more about teaching through that observation.  During the second week of the course, I taught for most of one day about the healthy use of animals in Permaculture systems.  This was my first experience of teaching in a Design Course and it went really well.  I was nervous and sweating a little at the beginning, but gradually got more comfortable and by the end, I felt very comfortable with teaching this stuff.  In the morning, I taught the students how to slaughter and butcher a couple of chickens and then I gave a long and detailed presentation in the classroom and then in the afternoon I finished that up and then we went out and saw some of the stuff that I was talking about in action.  We observed the cows being moved to fresh pasture, talked more about that and then I taught them how to milk a cow and everyone got a hand in on that and then my part of teaching the course was over.  Wayne told me that I did a fantastic job and then later when I was hanging out with him alone he told me that out of his thousands of students, I had the most potential.  I was really shocked and also very honored when he told me that.  For the last several years, I’ve been increasingly following my heart and really focusing on following where I feel God leading me, and many doors have opened, while others have shut.  I have found something that I’m good at, and that I’m seriously passionate about and that is helping the world and doors are continuing to open.  I thank God for guiding me along this path and ask that the guidance continue.

The rest of my time at Koinonia was really great.  I enjoyed helping Brendan out with the farm and with the animals and I learned a lot.  I also had a couple of unexpected things happen.  I met two women that I’m interested in.  This really surprised me, because I haven’t met any women that I’ve been interested in in quite a while, and then two pop up, wow.  One of them is preparing to head out on the road to do some traveling and exploring and learning more about who she is and the other is interning at Koinonia.  This adds another layer of complexity to my life and I’m very excited to see what happens from here.  I hope that through my interactions with these ladies that I learn more about myself and more about God and that the same happens for them.  I also hope that no drama arises from there being two women that I’m “dating” and/or getting to know better.  We’ll see what happens.  I’m sure it’ll be good and that it’ll be exciting.  Stay tuned, stay sharp, stay focused, love, laugh, LIVE!

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by ellen on November 9, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Dan-
    It sounds like life is going really well for you. If your travels every take you in the vicinity of St. Louis drop us a line and you can come meet our new son. Simon was born Oct. 30, 2010. He was 9 pounds 11 oz (huge!) so I had to have a c-section. We’re both at home recovering and growing. Tibwara, my husband, is working for the St. Louis Zoo and enjoying his evenings at home with the family!
    As I read a little of your blog I was curious if you had ever read anything by Dorothy Day? I read some of her stuff in college and thought it was interesting. She started a movement called the Catholic Worker and we have some friends down here who are part of it. They live in solidarity with the community they are serving. There are 2 houses here in St. Louis, one that serves as a shelter for immigrants and one as a women’s shelter. The community members who run the shelters also live in them. I know there are other communities in various parts of the US that function in urban and rural areas. You might find some of it interesting.
    Hope all is well!
    ellen

    Reply

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