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Jocelyn Campbell
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EDIT April 2016 - we are no longer hiring for this position. We are no longer providing meals 6 days a week, so we no longer need a full time kitchen commander.

Some times, we need a kitchen commander during events, which might be 2-4 weeks at a time. Be sure you're signed up for the daily-ish email to see announcements for any temporary opportunity like that.


As we previously wrote about in the paid positions thread, a kitchen/house commander was one of the first paid positions we tried to fill here. That position is currently open again.

Here's a snippet from before:

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:It seems we are in need of a "house commander" sooner rather than later.

Cool, amazing people are coming out to help - though they are falling trees, making shakes, using a draw knife on logs, digging tank traps, etc. all up on the laboratory, and not so much around base camp.

Paul was thinking it's time to pay someone to come out, live here, and take care of the following (they would be paid poorly for now):

70% cooking, food preservation and sourcing, kitchen management
10% wild food gathering, prepping, storing
20% people space care/management
(these percentages are, of course, estimates)


This person would live here at base camp, possibly in a shared bunk bedroom (though we're trying to finish some cabin options) and would dine with us.

If you're still interested after reading how to volunteer, visit or apply for a paid position, then e-mail me at jocelyn [at] richsoil [dot] com to apply or for more info.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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See food and drink at the project for how we like to eat here. It's basically what some would describe as paleo: high fat, high protein (grassfed/pastured when possible) and low starch/low grain, with fermented and soaked foods, and all organic or better than organic.

Here is some fantastic, slow roasted grassfed beef we had at our recent workshops:



Others here still like their grains more than Paul and myself, and loved Cameron's no-knead bread, made in a cast iron Dutch oven of course:

.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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It's a humble kitchen in a double-wide (for now), but here is a quick shot of lots of happy people with happy bellies. We like to keep it that way.

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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This position will be open again at the end of October!

We'd like to (eventually) do more nose to tail eating such as this excellent beef heart prepared by Oliver:


Fermented foods don't last around here very long.


And we really want more wildcrafted foods such as lambsquarters, huckleberries and serviceberries:


If this sounds like something you might like to do, e-mail jocelyn AT richsoil DOT com.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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This is a year-round position.

We anticipate feeding about 8-10 adults over this winter, three meals a day.

This summer we have been feeding an average of about 15-25 people, three meals per day.

For the September RMH workshop, we'll likely feed around 40 - slightly less for the pyronaut lab/innovators gathering.

When the weather warms up again in 2015, we will likely have another influx of gappers to feed. We currently do not plan to put on workshops in 2015 ourselves, but others could use wheaton labs for workshops.

The kitchen and house commander does have regular, ongoing support from everyone living here in terms of food prep, dishes, cleaning, etc. and for large events we usually dedicate a second person as kitchen assistant.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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We are looking at designing better systems for a permaculture kitchen.

Last fall and earlier this year, we stock piled the chest freezer with hundreds of pounds of ground beef that was raised on the laboratory. We do not yet have a way to hang beef for roasts or steaks, so it was all ground. With any type of harvest, there can be seasonal surpluses or large influxes to deal with - this being one example of that here.
 
Earl Aarsrood
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Is this position still open? I have a good friend who I think would be a great fit.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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We are reviewing two applicants so far, so, yes, the position is still open.
 
paul wheaton
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I think about 25 to 45 hours per week of my time gets burned up dealing with stuff that I would like to be dealt with by the kitchen/house commander. I feel it in my bones that if we can get a good person in for this position I can get back to cranking out videos, dvds, books, articles, world domination, etc.

I like the idea that if we have a workshop, all the food and cleanup stuff is all taken care of. I never hear a peep about it.

I like the idea that if I go into the kitchen and nobody is there, the lights are off.

I like the idea that everything is clean and we run a tight ship.

My understanding is that nearly every other permaculture place is set up so that the land owners are the only people allowed in "the house" and all the dirty interns are kept outside under a tarp. And they are on their own for food - or the food is really lame (while the land owners eat really well). I've invited everybody to my table. Many sleep in my house.

I think a good house commander will make all the difference. All of this stuff would get taken care of so well that I will never hear a complaint. And a good house commander will probably expand our knowledge horizons about wild foods, fermentation, alternative cooking, etc.

Somehow when I thought of getting property, I thought it would be easy to get somebody in this position. When speaking it seems like there were always women in the 40's or 50's that are bonkers about permaculture, have an empty nest and are looking for something like this. I thought that when I moved here there would be a hundred women wanting this (and, I have to confess that saying "women" instead of "people" is rather sexist of me - but the time here on the lab with hundreds of men and women coming through have exposed me to some very interesting things about women vs. men).

My house has become gross. The plants are dying. And I watch good people work harder to cover for others. I see the people that are loudest about "clean that!" be the people that make the biggest messes. The people that do the work are starting to want to break out whips and clubs to persuade the others to clean. There are times that a person will take on a huge, gross job, but they make 20 other messes.

Take a look at this thread about kitchen towels. I have always taken care of my kitchen towels. They will give me many years of faithful service before they are downgraded to rags. But now, apparently, all towels and washcloths are rags. We have no "kitchen towels". Apparently nearly all of them disappeared in a week of somebody wiping out dirty cast iron with a clean towel several times a day. So I am asked to solve this problem. Clearly, buying new towels will just lead to having more rags in a week. That's not sustainable. I could build a big, wooden box covered with labels, but if the label is ignored even ten percent of the time, we still have system failure.

I'm not thinking we need some sort of actual military commander. The idea is that the title is funny. The real position is that of a mom. Somebody that wants to nurture this space and the people within it.

 
paul wheaton
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D. Logan
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paul wheaton wrote:I think about 25 to 45 hours per week of my time gets burned up dealing with stuff that I would like to be dealt with by the kitchen/house commander. I feel it in my bones that if we can get a good person in for this position I can get back to cranking out videos, dvds, books, articles, world domination, etc.

I like the idea that if we have a workshop, all the food and cleanup stuff is all taken care of. I never hear a peep about it.

I like the idea that if I go into the kitchen and nobody is there, the lights are off.

I like the idea that everything is clean and we run a tight ship.

My understanding is that nearly every other permaculture place is set up so that the land owners are the only people allowed in "the house" and all the dirty interns are kept outside under a tarp. And they are on their own for food - or the food is really lame (while the land owners eat really well). I've invited everybody to my table. Many sleep in my house.

I think a good house commander will make all the difference. All of this stuff would get taken care of so well that I will never hear a complaint. And a good house commander will probably expand our knowledge horizons about wild foods, fermentation, alternative cooking, etc.

Somehow when I thought of getting property, I thought it would be easy to get somebody in this position. When speaking it seems like there were always women in the 40's or 50's that are bonkers about permaculture, have an empty nest and are looking for something like this. I thought that when I moved here there would be a hundred women wanting this (and, I have to confess that saying "women" instead of "people" is rather sexist of me - but the time here on the lab with hundreds of men and women coming through have exposed me to some very interesting things about women vs. men).

My house has become gross. The plants are dying. And I watch good people work harder to cover for others. I see the people that are loudest about "clean that!" be the people that make the biggest messes. The people that do the work are starting to want to break out whips and clubs to persuade the others to clean. There are times that a person will take on a huge, gross job, but they make 20 other messes.

Take a look at this thread about kitchen towels. I have always taken care of my kitchen towels. They will give me many years of faithful service before they are downgraded to rags. But now, apparently, all towels and washcloths are rags. We have no "kitchen towels". Apparently nearly all of them disappeared in a week of somebody wiping out dirty cast iron with a clean towel several times a day. So I am asked to solve this problem. Clearly, buying new towels will just lead to having more rags in a week. That's not sustainable. I could build a big, wooden box covered with labels, but if the label is ignored even ten percent of the time, we still have system failure.

I'm not thinking we need some sort of actual military commander. The idea is that the title is funny. The real position is that of a mom. Somebody that wants to nurture this space and the people within it.



If I was in a different place in life, I might have come running for this. I just don't know that I am currently the right person for the job. I suspect that there a lot of other people who feel the same way. People who look at what you are dealing with and would love to help (paid or otherwise) but who doubt that they are the right person to make it happen for you. Some of us have families (I assume the free room and board is meant for a single person), some of us lack the right set of skills, and still others of us may be unable to readily move out or settle in (someone mentioned being in Bali as I recall).

I know I have spent the last year cooking for just two families and the differences in eating styles along with personal likes and dislikes is daunting. It is especially hard on a budget. The unfortunate effect is that with each person added, more items get moved on the do not cook this list or on the rare food list to only happen once a month or less. One person is allergic to fish, another refuses to eat anything with onions, tomatoes or mushrooms, yet another hates pasta and only wants rice with most meals (along with lemon juice in everything). I picture in my mind having ten or more people, all from different walks of life. Each has expectation and each has an opinion of what things like good food or clean are.

Once again, I find that my view on clutter vs dirt is different from others. Some people can't stand clutter of any sort, but will then leave a sponge in dirty water to grow whatever science experiment might happen to form there. I don't think it is intentional, but each person grew up in a certain unique way and literally don't see what you or others see. What you see as clear laziness, they just see as normal clutter. If they are screaming "Clean that", then they probably see something there as being different from the sorts of messes they make. That doesn't make it right, but it is true enough. More or less, I feel your plight. I just thought I would say something on my thoughts in case there were others out there thinking it would be a great position, but not moving to take it for one reason or another.

It is a nice position, even with low pay since it comes with room and board included) and would be a great place to be active in. You have a lot of interesting things going on and a lot of irons in the fire. I almost want to say there should be a clear outline of all expectations and constraints on the position, though I also expect that goes against your grain. Since most of it is cooking, that is at least clear enough, so really, just having an idea of what the normal daily budget is along with the numbers of people eating daily. Since that is 70 percent of the work, knowing that would be a huge help. Currently, I can feed people on an average of 1 dollar per meal per person without focus on everything being fresh (some is, just not everything) and not counting on organic or better. Adding the organic or better raises the price-tag per meal per person noticeably, though some things do go down due to the joys of bulk and such. I know if I knew the budget and number of mouths, I could probably work out a menu for a week. I am sure someone who wanted to be considered for the position might be more willing to step forward if they could as well. Sort of a way to show they can at least handle the cost/sourcing portion. No way to test their cooking until you had them there of course.

Anyway, I suspect I have moved into the territory of rambling and will now shut up. With luck, something I said is actually helpful instead of just stream of consciousness.

Edited for clarity on one wording
 
Jessica Gorton
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I think one important facet of this job (and I have no idea if this is already the case or not) is that this person is given Authority, and also knows what the rules and expectations are up front. You say that 25-45 hours of your week is given to tasks you want this person to handle - I'm assuming you aren't cooking 3 squares a day already for 10 people, so is that 30 hours per week on top of the cooking all the meals job? Because I wouldn't want that job, myself.

So what it seems is that you want someone who can delegate all the jobs that come with preparing food for a community. Because I would think that anyone who lives there full time (or part time, for that matter) is going to be a part of the cooking and cleaning, if they are a part of the eating, right? If that's the case, it needs to be made clear that the Kitchen Commander has the right and the authority, directly from you as King of your Particular Small Volcano, to tell folks, "hey, Wednesday is your night to cook and clean up the kitchen, along with Joe and Bianca", and that that statement is going to have the weight of an order.

So the real job of the Kitchen Commander is that of organizing the help, creating the menus, ordering/procuring the food, and making sure everybody knows the rules (associated annoying jobs include knife sharpening, pantry rotation, oiling the cutting boards, organizing the tools and gadgets, and on and on). While I get the sentiment of wanting a "mom" type for this position, I think you need someone with more of a managerial bent than your standard mom might have. Plenty of moms I know, including my own, aren't good at shepherding large groups of people into doing what they want; many moms cook for an audience of 3 to 8 ingrates (and I include myself, my brother and my dad in that number) who don't lift a finger to help without a serious rolling of eyes. You want a mom who has also worked the line in a busy restaurant.

As for your kitchen towels...I think this is a lesson of new communities. You just need to codify everything. You need to create new norms, and include highly visible signs as to the operation of those norms, for the uninitiated. What are folks supposed to wipe the cast iron pans with? Is there a sign pointing to those rags? All this stuff will get less stressful for you as you clarify what is supposed to happen in any regular task, and give folks easy direction and tools towards completing those tasks.
 
Seth Peterson
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Hey all,
Great ideas and comments.
So, I was at Wheaton labs for three weeks in Sept. (Awesome) and am trying to help out in the kitchen department and after talking with everyone and getting your feedback, came up with this document to clarify what is needed and expected and offered in the package. I think it is a really awesome job!! Help us find the right person and any feedback is welcome. And to the powers that be, how can I get some attention on this very important thread Jocelyn started? Lets get the word out.

Kitchen commander / Seneschal / Level Nine Mom position profile and job description

"Permaculture based homestead looking for A 'Kitchen Commander' who enjoys nurturing a house full of dedicated inspired passionate people trying to make a better world."

Do you enjoy making wholesome food to nourish those around you? Do locally sourced better than organic ingredients matter to you? Are you a self starter and a go getter? Do you want to work with like minded individuals who are building a better life and a better future? Do you enjoy cooking for groups and making sure community spaces are cleaned and organized? Do you have a passion for permaculture?

Seeking a Kitchen Commander for a burgeoning permaculture homestead in its second year of fast tracked growth. The Kitchen Commander is a critical position to the functioning of an intentional community. We are looking for someone with the skills, experience and talent to get in on the bottom floor and take full ownership of all kitchen processes from cooking to ordering, overseeing cleanup, sourcing local better than organic food and fermenting both food and change as the position grows into a dream job. The kitchen commander has the opportunity to build and expand on a living permaculture kitchen system; including designing and implementing better food/cooking/harvesting/sourcing/storing systems, protocols, recipes, and people systems (kitchen assistants).

We want a person who will come in and enjoy taking charge and creating the position from scratch, a self-starter, a doer, a 'get-things-doner.' This is an awesome opportunity for the right person to come and build something, a person who is wanting to expand their knowledge.

Candidate Profile
Good knowledge of cooking techniques, food, professional kitchen practices
Loves from scratch traditional cookery and has a good palate
Has interest or experience in alternative cooking methods and/or desire to learn more (hay box cookers, solar cooker, rocket stove smoker, solar ovens)
Obsessed with sanitation, food quality, timeliness, flavor and continual improvement.
Someone with enough experience to know what to do and how to improve, someone who can build out the permaculture kitchen concept
Passionate about learning more and expanding beyond their comfort zone
Able to orchestrate and surf chaos and able to recover from mistakes well
Highly developed pro-active inter-personal skills. Says "hey can you help me wash these dishes in a way that uses less water and makes us epically awesome" rather than saying "you totally suck at washing dishes!
Is goofy about permaculture
Has listened to some or many of Paul Wheatons podcasts. Permies.com
Does not smoke cigarettes or marijuana
Is a bit of a lion tamer who can put out 'fires' and serve dinner at the same time

Job Responsabilities
Prepare and serve, on time, 3 meals a day, 5 days a week for between 15-30 people
Daily, weekly, and monthly menu planning and execution of meals
Basic, healthy, cost conscious foods that are generally Weston A. Price and Paleo-friendly.
Calculate and cost out dishes served
Teach community members to cook and clean
Follow up on cleaning schedules and make sure kitchen assistants perform their kitchen duties and complete cleaning tasks in a timely manner
Supervise and train kitchen help and cleanup crews. Also, be able to say "floor is dirty, hey you, can you clean that?" and feel comfortable in a leadership role
Can 'Call people out' when they make mistakes, and do so in a way that empowers them to get themselves 'together', rather than create animosity
Practice all forms of preservation throughout the year to have food during the winter
Do monthly inventory

'Kitchen Commander' is considered to be an on site position - living here at base camp and invited to dine with Paul - and will be offered a stipend based on experience. Additionally, the Kitchen commander has the chance to be involved in all aspects of sustainable living practiced onsite, from earthworks to rocket mass heaters, compost heaters, wofati construction, etc.
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Sam brings back veggies as he cries out "love free or daikon!!"
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Richard foraging berries, never saw so many huckleberries!
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Oliver and I smoking large hams, hocks and bellies. We butchered, brined, smoked and roasted till the skin was shatteringly crispy, some of the best pig I've ever prepared.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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D. Logan wrote:
I know I have spent the last year cooking for just two families and the differences in eating styles along with personal likes and dislikes is daunting. It is especially hard on a budget. The unfortunate effect is that with each person added, more items get moved on the do not cook this list or on the rare food list to only happen once a month or less. One person is allergic to fish, another refuses to eat anything with onions, tomatoes or mushrooms, yet another hates pasta and only wants rice with most meals (along with lemon juice in everything). I picture in my mind having ten or more people, all from different walks of life. Each has expectation and each has an opinion of what things like good food or clean are.


We do have some food issues here, driven mostly by Paul and myself. Paul pays for the food, so it makes sense that it should be prepared as he would like it. Other than that, we don't accommodate random preferences, and people have generally been eating well and feeling well fed around here.

Here is what I recently posted to clarify how we want meals:

simple food guidelines

No dairy in main dishes (except butter; butter is okay)
TELL PAUL IF DAIRY IS IN A SIDE DISH

Grain/gluten free main dishes - thicken with tapioca, arrowroot or potato

Paul and Jocelyn want to eat high fat and LOW carb

Most everyone else seems to enjoy lots of carbs and this keeps grocery costs down


We generally have rice, pasta, potatoes, polenta, cornbread, oats, or bread separate in our meals, and then folks can combine carbs or grains as much or as little as they wish. One guy can't abide by hard boiled eggs, so he grabs other leftovers if lunch happens to be primarily egg salad. Though someone not eating the meal like that only occurs perhaps 1% of the time. In general, most people here are adults and LOVE veggies. So we don't usually see folks picking out or avoiding tomatoes, onions, or mushrooms, which I agree would be daunting!

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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We had a candidate or two prior to the onslaught of the rocket mass heater events, and I dropped the ball in the midst of the priorities that ensued.

HUGE thanks to Chef Seth for picking up the baton, refining and redefining our needs and reviving this thread. We'd love to hear even more thoughts on this!

And yes, we are still searching. Contact jocelyn AT richsoil.com to apply, or for private questions.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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We're still recuperating from September, and still looking.

I found in this article Dear Chefs, (This Is For You):

I'll take a hand full of burn blisters, some achy knees and the hankering for a cocktail at the end of the night, over ever having to sit at another desk miserably debating whether or not to shove needles through my eye balls. Living this life means we get to be creative...Even if it means suiting up for brunch every now again, we get to make a difference in the lives of people around us, in the best way we know how. We get to make them happy.


In our case at wheaton labs, we could also argue that we get to make people healthy - or help them stay that way, at the very least, with the food we share here.

 
Seth Peterson
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Hey all,

So, I am finishing up one glorious month at base camp as kitchen commander. I arranged with Jocelyn to come out here for the whole month of February as a follow up to when I came out here last September. In fact I had to squeeze the month in between some permaculture work and site visits in Hawaii last January and Permaculture voices in March, and I am so glad I did.

Why am I glad? Because it allowed me to really test out the Kitchen Commander position and see what is possible. When I first visited and observed the system in place, I estimated that a good cook could do the job of cooking for the crew and overseeing cleanup as well as improve kitchen systems and do awesome kitchen projects, and I originally, I broke it down something like this...

PER DAY
3-4 hrs. Actually cooking
1 hr. Cleaning and overseeing community members clean up
1/2 - 1 hr. Doing systems improvement like making an inventory spreadsheet, or putting up nice wooden signs to guide people on kitchen use
1/2 - 1 Doing awesome experimental kitchen projects like flavored salts, canning, pickling, etc.

I figured that would make for a six hour day, six days a week, so a 36 hr. Work week which seems plenty fair for a salaried position. And at the same time would allow the kitchen commander to get involved in other awesome Homesteadding activities from making seedballs to fencing, to planting, to hugelkulture, etc.

I compared this position and salary to a restaurant cooking job, which in the super expensive Bay Area pays about $10-15 an hour, for 5 eight hour days a week. In this job you work as hard and as fast as you can for eight often sweaty and grueling hours a day and still have to pay your own rent, some of your own food, commuting expenses if you have them, etc. It's a job for illegal immigrants and passionate obsessed chefs in the making, and it puts you below the poverty line. So, I calculated that you would come out way ahead at wheaton labs, especially sice there is little to spend money on. I figured you would have an easier job AND come out with some savings, probably even be above the poverty line.

So, this month I got to test out my theories, and I will post to this thread over the next month to show people what I did, what I discovered, what we ate (yes I have photos) and how I improved my efficiency over the month.

But, let me give a quick summary, and that is...

After two weeks 'practice' on the kitchen equipment and paleo cooking, and the ingredients at hand, and people's food preferences, I got down to 3hours a day of actual cooking time, and some days less. And about an hour clean up with community members help was very doable. And I didn't have a grueling work pace like in a restaurant, in fact I had a relaxed work pace.

Breakfast 30 mins. Usually eggs of some type, sausage of some type and greens or sweet potatoes, etc.
Lunch. 1 hr varied, I will post menus and photos
Dinner. 1 hr varied, I will post menus and photos

And I still had to time to play with the hay box cooker, butcher and brine a whole pig, make seedballs, innoculate straw with fungi, design and make fences, attend food production systems meetings, play cards against humanity, walk the land, gossip with Jocelyn et al. About the day's events, go shooting, visit a local spa a couple of times, get trapped up on a mountain in the snow for half a day, attend an Eco summit in missoula, as well as a film festival, Skype with my Fiancée (yea I said it, Fiancee), etc. AND I had time to do my work back home long distance, setting up several culinary and permaculture workshop for March, April and beyond as well as a whole host of other activities. (Thank god I have hugelbeds, and don't need to attend to my garden regularly).

Did I do a perfect job? No. I started off needing more hours, and cleaning less than I should, after two weeks I started hitting my stride, and in my last week I managed to cook off enough food to feed the core winter group here for the next week or so. And I could still improve greatly, that's what life is about.

Disclaimer: there were only 8-10 people here this month, that number will go up in the summer. But three considerations come into play here 1) more people means more chopping but the same cooking processes. Cooking 1 fish is the same as cooking 5 fish. 2) when there are more people here, like 20 or more, maybe, then the kitchen Commander would have more hands to help in the kitchen, so this system scales up easily. 3) this job, community structure and lifestyle ain't for everyone, BUT for the right person.... Who has probably listened to all or most of the podcasts, then maybe, just maybe...

Let me say that, I loved Caitlin's post about her experience here last summer, she hit a lot of nails right on the head, and as the next month rolls around I will post many more thoughts and photos to help develop this space. So, please post your thoughts, questions, considerations, etc. And if you like this sorta thing, well then, come on out to the......

So, who will take up the gauntlet, who will become the next, and hopefully permanent Kitchen Commander? Whoever does can count on my support.

Later, today I fly back to the west coast, to continue living the dream, but I look forward to being back here in June for the Eco living summit that Zach Weiss is putting on in Montana (check it out on the forums this week), and seeing a whole bunch of people, living, laughing, crying and overcoming in community.

Lastly, if you have a permaculture based homestead and want to talk about the kitchen possibilities you can either post here for all the permie world to see and learn or PM me as well.



Jump at the sun y'all,

Seth Peterson,

a permaculture chef


 
Julia Winter
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This is awesome and I can't wait to hear more about lunches and suppers!

Oh, and FIANCEE !! Woo hoo! Mazeltov!

Kitchen commander will be a wonderful opportunity for the right person. It's just that there's not a whole hell of a lot of people in Montana, and then those of us that don't live in Montana have some misconceptions about what it's like there.

You'd be a short trip away from Missoula, folks! Look into it, it's a lovely city. Also, don't freak out about the winter. If you've been living east of the Rockies, you've already experienced more winter than they did at wheaton laboratories this year. Yes it snows, no, it's not like Chicago, or even Boston this year.
 
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