Monday, April 4, 2011

The amazing progression of the Dead-end Homestead

In harmony with the beautiful Spring weather, the permaculture excitement continues to blossom on Austin's East side. The timing, in fact, has never been better to get involved! So many educational projects to work on, amazing people to connect with and delightful local dishes to savor... it's what we mean when we talk about community cultivation!

Thanks to the contributions of so many wonderful volunteers, the Dead-end Homestead has made some impressive transformations over the past two weekends. As Cooper's relaxed demeanor would suggest, the atmosphere is laid back and stress free. When the main goals of the day are to have fun, learn something new and cultivate new friendships... there's never a reason to rush.

At the same time, it's always very impressive to see the tons of projects we manage to knock out in short order on any given Sunday afternoon. The Mulch-crete hoophouse has only one more wall left to pour before it's ready for a layer of plaster to seal it all up. The swales have been cleaned out, mulched and drainage piping laid. Several compost piles have been spread around various fruit trees and grape vines. And several large piles of wood mulch have met a quick death at the end of a pitchfork. All the while, the ambiance remains one of relaxation and leisure. Take it from Cooper, life at the Dead-end Homestead is pretty darn sweet!

Speaking of sweet, this past week we were blessed with a somewhat impromptu wild bee capture workshop taught by Carrie "Queen Bee" Guipe. She showed us what we need to build "swarm boxes" and use those, scented with lemongrass oil, to attract wild bee swarms. After the bees establish a colony in one of our swarm boxes we can build them "top bar hives" so they can begin to build combs and produce delicious honey! The process is actually fairly simple and said to be mostly fool proof -- so long as you don't try to agitate the bees that is.

Carrie graciously set us up with all the plans, basic materials and laid down plenty of wisdom to get us started. Needless to say, she's sweet as honey, and it was very inspiring to have her stir up the dormant hive in us!

To continue on the path of organic design, Daryl Stewart, founder of and host of the Permaculture Park, the one acre site that makes up the core of the Dead-end Homestead, laid out this lovely walkway that makes a beautiful accent to the swale system traversing the land. Fed by the top swale on the property, this walkway will boarder and help to retain a small pond. If you're at all familiar with the Central Texas climate, we sometimes wait months for the rain. When it finally does bless us, we want to hold onto that water as long as possible or risk the serious drought conditions that have surely been the tragic end of many a backyard garden. Creating plenty of small retention ponds helps to keep the humidity high for our dry seasons and, better still, attracts an abundance of aquatic creatures that help us build balanced and resilient ecosystems we can all enjoy.

This and other projects at the Dead-end Homestead is only a fraction of the fun work cooking up. If you've yet to make it out to a Sunday Potluck yet, there has truly never been a better time! As the weather starts warming up and approaches the unbearable 'Jul-august' the work and fun slow down and we start seeking more indoor activities. The opportunity to get some practical, hands-on permaculture education awaits. Best of all, it's completely free of charge! Just bring some work gloves, a wide brimmed hat, some sturdy shoes and an open mind... the rest will come naturally.

If you can't make the work party, the potluck usually starts around sundown and is always accompanied by friendly faces, live music, interesting conversation and, of course, some of the best food Central Texas has to offer! If you come for the potluck be sure to bring at least one dish that will feed 6-8 happy people and, whenever possible, use only the freshest local fare. For those participating in the work parties, no need to bring anything aside from the aforementioned hat and gloves, we're more than happy to feed you and keep you hydrated! Of course, if you have a dish you just have to share... by all means, your generosity is an important part of what makes us a thriving community!

With that in mind, come join us at the beautiful Dead-end Homestead this Sunday! For details check out our facebook event listing. While you're there, join the Community Cultivators facebook group and stay up to date on all the cultivation action, of which, the Dead-end Homestead is just one piece of the big vision we're cultivating together! 

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