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Ann Torrence
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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One of my goals for 2015 is to organize a few like-minded folks into a homesteading club. I invited about 10 people to come over the first weekend in January, and to bring their friends and their seed catalogs. Most everybody said yes.

I'm hoping we can learn from each other. One woman is a year ahead of us in beekeeping and has already helped us get set up. Two others know a lot about fermentation. We all garden. I'm adding on trees to my nursery order to get everyone a price break. I know of a permaculture meet-up group a couple hours from here that has a monthly movie night-that's something I will see if folks are interested in, at least during our long winter.

Has anyone out there in permie-land joined such a group? What kinds of fun things do you do together?
 
Justin Wood
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Location: KY
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That is a really cool idea. I have homesteading, like-minded friends, but I have never met together as a large group. My guess would be that the experiences of the members would dictate what direction you would pursue as a group. Keep us posted.
 
Ann Torrence
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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Thought I'd update with what we've done so far.

  • Saved a bunch of money. My nursery order for trees was already at a price point where everyone else got my volume discount. We bundled together a couple more nursery orders at our first get together for other things folks wanted. And we are going to do a group buy to replace the bee hive queens for 4 different families's hives.
  • Watched the Permaculture Orchard on a snowy night with too many goodies at our second get together
  • We pooled together our funds to bring a beekeeping instructor to our little town, 200 miles from the city. That's this coming Sunday-our new hives are the demonstration part of the class.
  • We are going to do a bird house making assembly line in the next couple weeks. This came out of Stefan's video-one of the group actually stopped the move to count the birdhouse density, something I never noticed.
  • In early April (the correct time for our climate) we are going to have a grafting night. I saved a bunch of scion wood from our trees and ordered some more and the rootstock. We will share the cost. I already have an omega tool
  • I'd like to do one more thing, inoculate mushroom logs, before summer. Then take a break, except maybe a BBQ or something, until the growing season calms down.


  • So far everyone seems to be having a good time and getting something out of it. We've met some nice people, gotten to know some other folks better. Best of all, it's taken off enough already that I'm not organizing everything. Permies is great but it's good to be building a local community too.
     
    Ann Torrence
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    Posts: 1191
    Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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    Bee workshop--totally awesome. It worked out to $21 each, in which we learned about raising our own queens, how to check for varroa mites, how to move hives, strategies for splitting hives, how to spot laying workers and more. That was just before lunch. Someone brought cornbread from cornmeal from seeds I gave them last year, buffalo chili, guacamole and local honey. Then the instructor and my husband opened all 4 of our hives for the first time this year for a status check, discovered they are already bringing in pollen (the daffodils just started blooming here) and hatching young bees, tested one hive for mites (none!) and even saw a queen. And I got to meet another neighbor.

    As we washed up some dishes, a couple of the other instigators and I hatched plans to keep this going all summer. It only takes a few like-minded folks to get started.

    Note to self: The geese behaved very badly all during the workshop. Move them further away if possible next time.

    PS: next month we are grafting trees in a leaderless workshop.
     
    elle sagenev
    Posts: 1282
    Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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    Ann, how did you get members? Did you advertise? Where did you advertise?
     
    Will Holland
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    Location: CT zone 5b
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    This thread/ idea makes me so happy! I haven't got even the slightest idea how to make something like this happen but the idea is in my mind now at least.
     
    Ann Torrence
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    Sorry Elle, I missed a few days of permies time.

    I asked a few folks and they asked a few folks. The only criteria we have is that members be "do-ers" and not just talkers. If you didn't already at least have a garden going, you didn't get invited. We got to about 10 right away. The beekeeping workshop introduced us to some other people through one guy from whom we all bought hives. But this is a really small community, so somebody always knows somebody.

    The other thing that helps is to have 2-3 activities in mind when you start so you can get things rolling. Movie night is easy to pull off. Pooling chickie orders is another instant gratification opportunity. Then ask everyone what they know and who can teach it. Turns out one of our members is mad for fermentation. A couple of us make a decent cheese. I really want to have our local chef show us how to butcher a whole pig, but she's pregnant so that idea is on hold.

    I can imagine a sustainable bee co-op spinning off of this group pretty soon. For now, we are all excited for the apple grafting supplies to show up.
     
    elle sagenev
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    Ann Torrence wrote:Sorry Elle, I missed a few days of permies time.

    I asked a few folks and they asked a few folks. The only criteria we have is that members be "do-ers" and not just talkers. If you didn't already at least have a garden going, you didn't get invited. We got to about 10 right away. The beekeeping workshop introduced us to some other people through one guy from whom we all bought hives. But this is a really small community, so somebody always knows somebody.

    The other thing that helps is to have 2-3 activities in mind when you start so you can get things rolling. Movie night is easy to pull off. Pooling chickie orders is another instant gratification opportunity. Then ask everyone what they know and who can teach it. Turns out one of our members is mad for fermentation. A couple of us make a decent cheese. I really want to have our local chef show us how to butcher a whole pig, but she's pregnant so that idea is on hold.

    I can imagine a sustainable bee co-op spinning off of this group pretty soon. For now, we are all excited for the apple grafting supplies to show up.


    Excellent and thank you so much for the ideas!
     
    Ann Torrence
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    Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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    Grafting night was a success. We did it like an open house because our place is too small really, but in the end everyone was here all at once. Folks took home way more trees than they expected. One couple came to do 2 and left with 9, which meant 9 holes to dig! I think he borrowed another member's auger...

    Since then, our group nursery order came and everyone's been planting trees all over town. Yay! A bunch of them came over to help the day we pulled our pond liner in high winds. And today our farmers' market starts. One of the group kind of took it over last week because it almost folded and none of us wants that. So it's opening weeks earlier than ever before. About half of us will be there to render support where needed.

    This is the busy time of year, but people are asking me when we are going to get together again, so that's a good sign.
     
    elle sagenev
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    So we've had our third official meeting and the fourth is scheduled for next weekend. The turnout is fairly good for our population density. We have about 25 members, around 13 of them are regulars.

    After this next meeting we don't have anything planned. I'm racking my brains trying to figure it out. I'm trying to make this a monthly thing. Honey harvesting maybe. I might be able to get someone to do that. Then September can be canning and welding or butchering, depending on expectations.

    Being in charge of a group is hard work!
     
    James Everett
    Posts: 94
    Location: Gaines County, Texas South of Seminole, Tx zone 7b
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    Will Holland wrote:This thread/ idea makes me so happy! I haven't got even the slightest idea how to make something like this happen but the idea is in my mind now at least.


    I am like you I worked 20 years in communications field from computer and satellite networks and now a jailer. But now back in my hometown after being away for 20 years and looking at making my 30 acres to a self reliant piece of land with a good community of friends to keep it going.
     
    Michael Bushman
    Posts: 144
    Location: Sacramento, CA
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    If you are looking for workshop ideas, meetup.com is a great resource, just search for various terms like permaculture, urban ag, etc and see what other groups are doing. I help run a meetup group here in Sacramento that has about 500 members although less than 100 are really active.

    We do seed swaps in the spring, food swaps at various harvest times, and then stuff like drip irrigation, grafting, I even did a class on how to get the best deal on residential solar as I used to sell it.

    One of the things we do is "barnraising" where people propose projects on their property and we all pitch in to help out. Its a lot of fun and helps build community. We also tend to host things on the day of th big local farmer's market that is a block from the house so people can cram in two fun things with one trip.
     
    Ann Torrence
    steward
    Posts: 1191
    Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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    Elle,

    I must not have finished my reply, argh. Glad this is working for you and yes it is work but definitely worth it.

    Our next group meeting is going to be a tomato tasting! We took much of the summer off, everyone's busy, so this gives us a chance to get together, eat yummy garden stuff and drink adult beverages as summer winds down. DH and I will also demo making mozzarella with both raw cow and goat milk.

    Another member on another day is going to demo lacto-fermentation.

    And we will probably watch Incubate together, but I want to watch it myself first.
     
    elle sagenev
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    Michael Bushman wrote:If you are looking for workshop ideas, meetup.com is a great resource, just search for various terms like permaculture, urban ag, etc and see what other groups are doing. I help run a meetup group here in Sacramento that has about 500 members although less than 100 are really active.

    We do seed swaps in the spring, food swaps at various harvest times, and then stuff like drip irrigation, grafting, I even did a class on how to get the best deal on residential solar as I used to sell it.

    One of the things we do is "barnraising" where people propose projects on their property and we all pitch in to help out. Its a lot of fun and helps build community. We also tend to host things on the day of th big local farmer's market that is a block from the house so people can cram in two fun things with one trip.


    I imagine CA has a lot more meetup options than Wyoming. lol We looked into meetup but there isn't anyone on it here.
     
    elle sagenev
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    Ann Torrence wrote:Elle,

    I must not have finished my reply, argh. Glad this is working for you and yes it is work but definitely worth it.

    Our next group meeting is going to be a tomato tasting! We took much of the summer off, everyone's busy, so this gives us a chance to get together, eat yummy garden stuff and drink adult beverages as summer winds down. DH and I will also demo making mozzarella with both raw cow and goat milk.

    Another member on another day is going to demo lacto-fermentation.

    And we will probably watch Incubate together, but I want to watch it myself first.


    I like the tomato tasting idea! For the first time ever I've been successful at growing them and now I have 50 tomato "bushes". lol
     
    Ann Torrence
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    Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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    Since my last post we've done the tomato tasting with the cow vs goat mozzarella making test - DH discovered a few new tomatoes he would agree could take space instead of his favorite Early Girls.

    Then we had the lacto-fermentation workshop where we tasted a bunch of stuff people brought then made more together. We all chopped and smooshed for a couple hours and traded recipes and laughed. It's nice to discuss our "crazy" projects with like-minded folks. You don't have to explain the whys, just brainstorm on the hows. DH was surprised at how unstructured the fermentation recipes were compared to cheese-making, then on his own decided to improvise our green tomato salsa by adding apples.

    At the tomato tasting, we made a list of things we all wanted to learn, so I think we'll keep it going through the winter. And I didn't have to do a thing to get the lactofermentation get-together to happen, which was a big bonus. As things quiet down going into fall, think about inviting a few folks over to swap seed catalogs and chat about what you can do together.
     
    Ann Torrence
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    Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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    Latest score: 15% off our seed orders by combining them for the volume discount and Fedco. Our January meeting was all about exchanging seeds and information.

    If you can gather up even a few like-minded individuals, it's well worth it.

     
    Joel Bercardin
    Posts: 251
    Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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    Ann, glad your situation has worked out.  The topic you started is a good one.  Thought I'd recount a slice from my own experience.

    There are a couple of main paths I know of toward shared-interest circles coming together.  One is shared interests in themselves (and people methodically working toward finding the right people locally).  The other is chance or synchronicity.

    When my wife and I first moved to this valley, we bought a run-down but, to our eyes, promising piece of rural prooerty.  We bought here because prices were low, the general region was beautiful, and we’d previously met a couple people.  We secured the property in the fall of one year, and since my wife was pregnant, we stayed in the city where I was working until our daughter was born, the next spring.  There was an old funky smallish house on the property.  Turned out, there were a couple of people in the vicinity who wanted to start a school for young children that would be an alternative to the local primary school.  They asked if they could rent the house on our new place, and we said okay.  Because we were supportive of their concept, we didn’t charge the “school” for the use of the house, just got a pledge that they’d take care of the building and pay all over-winter expenses associated with the use of the building.

    When we moved out the next spring, the school had now, per agreement, been moved into another location.  We found that the people who'd started the school had formed a work-party circle with some neighbors. We were already considered cool people by time we arrived, so we were invited into the circle.  Families from five or six households took turns envisioning projects on their places, and prepared by doing necessary planning and getting the materials on-site.  Then the whole group would come together  on one family's property for a Saturday. The adults worked from morning until noon, everybody had a nice potluck lunch, then work more after lunch to evening.  Then we enjoyed an amazing potluck feast! and played music, etc. Childcare for smaller kids during work time was handled by one or two of the women.

    The "multiplier effect" of eight or ten adults working on a project together in a coordinated way is tremendous.  The group went to another household's place the following Saturday.  And around the circle we went, with maybe two complete orbits (IOW, ten or a dozen sessions in as many weeks).  With work parties, I’ve not only seen big projects accomplished, but participated in doing them, like the building of a house addition, or the cutting, splitting, and stacking of a year's-worth of firewood, or the terracing of a modest-size hillside.

    So, my point is we got involved in that first circle by chance.  Years later, having moved to another part of the valley, we seemed to have acquired the knack for meeting other like-minded people, and were able to become part of other interest circles and work party groups.  Some cooperative stuff gets started from something as simple as people getting together for potluck meals at somebody’s house.  My partner and I know a lot of organic gardeners.  We’ve come to know people we can call on if we have something very heavy or awkward to lift or move around.  Various combinations of us do a lot of things together.
     
    To be more deliberate in meeting people who would be game to do something of this kind, there are the usual ways of making contact.  Like pinning up notices on the local message boards (physical ones), utilizing any local internet message boards or Facebook pages, phoning or emailing or texting anyone you've already met who you think could be interested.  Be social.  Try joining any existing local social groups that accept new members, or just be forward enough to talk to people who ‘look like the right kind’ that you chance across in local businesses or elsewhere.

    In the long run, these sorts of social connections are vital in a rural place.  I wish everybody who reads this thread good luck with making these connections.

     
    Angelika Maier
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    It is a really great idea. I have a question: do you organise all the meetings or is it a self runner that people take turns  - in an organised or unorganised fashion?
     
    Joel Bercardin
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    Angelika Maier wrote:It is a really great idea. I have a question: do you organise all the meetings or is it a self runner that people take turns  - in an organised or unorganised fashion?

    Who are you putting th question to?  is it to Ann Torrence?
     
    Ann Torrence
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    Angelika Maier wrote:do you organise all the meetings or is it a self runner that people take turns  - in an organised or unorganised fashion?

    I'm still spearheading the thing, but after 2 years, we have developed a system that sort of works. We don't do much in the summer, a lot of us are too busy. We watch the tomatoes slowly ripen and figure out the best day for a tomato taste-off party. This year we went too early, first week in September, not everything was ripe. But we have a potluck and at some point I circulate a list for ideas for what to do together that winter. It has three columns: I want to do this, I want to help organize this, I can lead it (or know someone who can). We pick what to do based on enthusiasm and resources.

    We did a turkey butchering workshop the Sunday before Thanksgiving at my place. Last year we had the county bee inspector come out, a felting workshop. Next year, one of the members has five depredation tags for deer, and has volunteered to organize a large-animal processing workshop.  Someone is signed up to do soap-making and I need to call her to get it set up for January. We do a seed swap and I hope to get Joseph Lofthouse to come this year to talk about landraces (our climates are not so far off).  Maybe another movie night.

    So it's a mix. I hope to get to the point where I could disappear and it would carry on by itself, but we're not quite there yet. But it's worth it for the community that is coming together and growing more resilient and supportive.
     
    We should throw him a surprise party. It will cheer him up. We can use this tiny ad:
    Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
    https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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