Kareen Erbe

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since Jan 19, 2012
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Recent posts by Kareen Erbe

"Keep going.  Evolve.  Adapt.  Be in the garden as much as possible, but also know when to rest."


Sound advice from one of our experienced instructors for the Montana Practical Permaculture Design Course that takes place June 16-30 at Sage Mountain Center in Whitehall, Montana! There are still spots left if you want to join us, including one and 3- day options for those of us who can't join us for the full 14 days. Check out our interview with Allison below and come learn with her during our course!

1) What is your background? Why do you do what you do?
I grew up in central Wisconsin, where both sets of my grandparents were homesteader/farmers.  I spent a lot of time being on the land as a kid, and on my maternal grandparent’s farm especially, where they grew large gardens, kept bees, grew fruits and had a commercial Christmas tree farm.  I went to college for three years in Stevens Point, WI, and pursued an art degree while there.  I moved to Montana in 1995.  Being immersed in wilderness, living on the edge of Glacier National Park, I came to understand that more than anything I craved a deep and permanent connection to the land itself.  The beginning of understanding that there were alternatives to what I was seeing as normal American existence in the late 1990s happened thanks to my time in northwestern Montana.

My curiosity about the land, and particularly food, was piqued when I first learned about organic farming in 1996, which led me to develop the habits of eating organic food, and reading voraciously about organic farming and gardening.  I eventually learned to garden in my backyard in Bozeman, and I gardened that way on a handful of rental properties for several years.  I enjoyed gardening and producing high quality food that was not only the best I’d tasted, but also the most beautiful, as well as the idea that I could actually contribute in a positive fashion to a great many environmental ills to the extent that I decided to attempt to find out how to make a job out of farming. This led me down an almost 20 year path to the job I have today.  I spent several years working in busy restaurants, doing summer landscaping, and working as a farm intern, before eventually forming my first business providing gardening installation, maintenance and design services in 2004.  That business morphed into our organic farm in Wilsall, which was begun in 2008.  I think ultimately, I do what I do because it feeds my being.  I find much sustenance in the tactile realities of gardening and farming, from the soil, the plants, the animals, and being active outdoors most of my days.  I also find great inspiration in the colors and shapes I encounter in my work.

2) Why did you get involved in permaculture?
I learned about permaculture while taking part in an internship on a commercial herb farm in Williams, OR in 2001.  The farm, Herb Pharm, is an 80 acre diversified farm growing 32 acres of mostly perennial organic medicinal herb crops, for a robust value-added tincture business.  In the several years before my experience there, the farm’s owners had installed extensive water catchments, utilized keyline plowing, cover cropping, crop rotations within their soil-building programs to transform an over-grazed sheep farm into a very productive system for producing plant medicine, and a very beautiful farm and education hub.  I got to see first hand the before-and-after photos of the farm’s transformation, along with experiencing the reality firsthand.  

We had over 50 hours of intensive permaculture training from certified instructors/designers alone, both in class and in the field that season, and when I first learned about permaculture, and became familiar with the Designer’s Manual, I was profoundly struck by the practical concepts involved in setting up holistic systems that were highly productive and regenerative, and in how the methods could contribute to a very drastic shift in how we provide for our needs as humans by working proactively with nature and landscapes and the systems that govern them, with the intent to give back and create community, rather than simply take.  In particular, I was moved by the approach within permaculture to understand and work with water as an enlivening element in the landscape, but I was also moved during our extensive farm touring schedule, to see how many farmers in that region were utilizing permaculture design techniques on their beloved and beautiful farms.  It was, and still is for me, a very fascinating approach to growing food and medicine, and a source of life-long learning opportunity.

3) Describe what you have going on on your property. What is the overall vision for your place?
We have 20 acres of land on an arid and cold climate version of an ecosystem called the Sagebrush Steppe.  The property was managed previously using an over-stocked form of dryland continuous grazing by leaseholders, and we were looking at depleted topsoils, very limited presence of plant or animal species, and erosion of exposed and compacted soils in a wide-open landscape at high elevation off the northern slopes of the Bridger mountain range, with probably one of the shortest growing seasons in the US.  I felt that the permaculture techniques that I had learned could help us make what had ended up as a wasteland of sorts into a livelihood, and that it was worth a go, considering prime farm land was not likely to become affordable to us in our lifetime.

We started in 2008 by forming a market garden and high tunnel production, establishing some water catchments, and have continued to expand our permacultural and agricultural educational exposures, water catchments, tree plantings, animal systems, and management structures from there.  We raise Nigerian Dwarf goats, chickens and ducks, grow produce almost four seasons of the year, and market various crops and goods mostly to the Bozeman area.  We’ve used Holistic Management principles and practices increasingly over the years, both for our livestock and pastures, but also for our broader business.  Currently we are in the thick of food safety systems creation, maintaining a busy production schedule, and fitting in work on our orchard areas and other tree and shrub plantings.

The overall vision for our property can generally be described as a sustained effort to expand land regeneration in increasing ripples to and beyond our boundaries to the greatest extent we are able in whatever form continuing to achieve our economic goals takes as we evolve, recognizing that we are on a multi-decade trajectory in a landscape with inherent limitations.  At minimum, our goal is to provide a healthy and secure and happy livelihood for our family, while having a positive impact on water harvesting and biodiversity.

4) What advice would you give a budding permaculturist/gardener/farmer?
Do whatever it takes to get your hands dirty, learn from your experience and observation, but spend sustained quality time learning from folks with real-life expertise before setting up your own business, whether it’s through internships on farms or permaculture sites, or by working in the landscaping, construction or nursery trades, or all of the above.  Take business planning courses.  Learn to constantly observe and assess details.  Assess early and often your skills and shortcomings, and adjust your endeavors accordingly.  Plan to constantly improve your communications skills.  Devour books, but spend more time doing.  Learn budgeting and money management and recordkeeping, stay nimble and creative, use what you have, be bold but stay extremely well-organized.  Desire to master horticultural and livestock skills, so that the repetitive physical labor challenges can be overcome.  Keep it real, sometimes the best skill is having common sense.  Keep going.  Evolve.  Adapt.  Be in the garden as much as possible, but also know when to rest.
Broken Ground in Bozeman, Montana is offering a variety of Spring workshops and free presentations beginning in March! Check them out!

Free Permaculture Presentation - The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Design It: Permaculture for Sustainable Living and Beyond - Tuesday, March 7, 7-8pm
Free Gardening Presentation - Get Your Garden Started - Wednesday, March 8, 7-8pm
Gardening Series at Lockhorn Cider House - March 8, 21, 28, April 4
Organic Gardening Made Easy - Saturday, March 25, 1-4pm
Edible Backyards Series - April 5, 12, 19, 6:30-8:30pm
Permaculture Design Series - April 22 and 29, 9am - 3pm
Composting 101 - Saturday, May 6, 1-3pm
Growing Great Tomatoes - Wednesday, May 10, 6:30 - 8:30pm
Montana Practical Permaculture Design Course - June 16-30

If you can't make any of these workshops in person, Broken Ground also has online course offerings including the Edible Backyards Series, Designing Your Edible Landscape, Composting 101, Building Healthy Soil, and Growing in your Garden. For more info: http://brokenground.teachable.com/
3 years ago
Create a backyard ecosystem brimming with fresh vegetables and fruit!

This three-part online class will teach you everything you need to know in order to convert your yard into an edible landscape, using permaculture principles. Learn ways to design a beautiful and bountiful space!

Leave this series with:


  - An integrated design of your property
  - A comprehensive plan for what you’re going to grow
  - Concrete strategies to improve your soil
  - Practical advice on growing more successfully in a cold climate

The Edible Backyards Series is divided into three Modules:

Module 1: Designing your Edible Landscape

   - Dreaming and Design Goals
   - Mapping your Edible Landscape
   - 6 Key Tips for Designing Success

Module 2: Building Healthy Soil


   - What is Soil
   - Composting, Vermicomposting and Compost Teas
   - More Soil-building Strategies

Module 3: Growing in your Garden

   - Vegetable Growing in Cold Climates
   - Season Extension Techniques for Cold Climates
   - Planting Strategies and Plant Communities

Class includes:

   - 14 training videos that cover the course topics
   - Worksheets to reinforce the material and activities to make it specific to your site
   - A private forum to get your questions answered, available for one year from the date of purchase

For more information: http://www.brokengroundpermaculture.com/edible-backyards-online.html
3 years ago
ROCKET MASS HEATER WORKSHOP
Learn how to build a super-efficient, clean-burning wood stove in a weekend!

Saturday, October 26, 9am-5pm and Sunday, October 27, 9am - 3pm
Gallatin Gateway (near Bozeman, location emailed upon registration)
Cost: $150 (both days, early bird, before Oct. 15); $175 (reg. price)
$90 (Saturday only, early bird); $110 (Saturday only, reg. price)

For those near the Bozeman area wanting to learn more about rocket mass heaters! This two-day workshop intensive will cover the theory behind rocket mass heaters, share basic materials needed and offer a hands-on opportunity of assembling an indoor rocket mass heater. Participants will spend the first day on theory and building the stove. On the second day, participants will work with cob, a building material made of clay, sand and straw, to build the bench that acts as the thermal mass and is connected to the stove.

This workshop will be taught by Bozeman local Anthony Smith. A mason for over 20 years, Anthony is the owner of Sustainable Masonry and has extensive experience working with block, brick, and stone. Anthony’s personal interest in sustainable living led him to years of research on energy-efficient, low-cost heating systems. He now focuses on building passive solar greenhouses and various types of energy-efficient masonry stoves.

Please sign-up in advance. To sign-up or learn more: Broken Ground, info@brokengroundpermaculture.com or call Kareen Erbe at 600-7881.
7 years ago
Allison Rooney from Cloud Nine Farm and I (Broken Ground) are really excited to be hosting this great workshop in Montana in a little less than a month. Today is the last day for the early bird discount so sign-up soon! Bringing innovative and successful water harvesting techniques and holistic management practices to Montana is such an important practice for long-term sustainability. Go to Montana Whole Farm Fertility for more info.
7 years ago

Hi All!

I know you are mostly all in the Missoula area, but if you know of folks in Bozeman wanting to learn about Rocket Mass Heaters, send them our way! A local mason, Anthony Smith, will be running a Rocket Mass Heater one-day Workshop Intensive in Bozeman on Saturday, March 16th from 9am to 5pm. Workshop participants will install two rocket mass heaters, including one in the classroom tent which will be used for the upcoming Sepp Holzer Workshop at the end of March!

Rocket Mass Heater Workshop
Saturday, March 16, 9am-5pm
Springhill Road, Bozeman (location and directions emailed upon registration)
Cost: $90 (early bird until March 6), $110 (after March 6)

This hands-on workshop intensive will cover the basic materials needed and assembly of two different rocket mass heaters. A rocket mass heater is an innovative and efficient space heating system developed from the rocket stove, a type of hyper-efficient wood-burning stove. Workshop participants will build a temporary stove used to heat a tent and a permanent stove in a greenhouse. Aside from heating the greenhouse, this heater will have a system of ducts, which will run under a rooting bed to help facilitate germination and growth of seedlings.

This workshop will be taught by Bozeman local Anthony Smith. A mason for over 20 years, Anthony has been involved in a range of projects from residential to commercial and has extensive experience working with block, brick, and stone. Anthony’s personal interest in sustainable living led him to years of research on energy-efficient, low-cost heating systems.

To sign-up or learn more, go to www.brokengroundpermaculture.com or call Kareen Erbe at 406-600-7881.
7 years ago
Hi all,

A local mason, Anthony Smith, will be running a Rocket Mass Heater one-day Workshop Intensive in Bozeman on Saturday, March 16th from 9am to 5pm. Workshop participants will install two rocket mass heaters, including one in the classroom tent which will be used for the upcoming Sepp Holzer Workshop at the end of March!

Rocket Mass Heater Workshop
Saturday, March 16, 9am-5pm
Springhill Road, Bozeman (location and directions emailed upon registration)
Cost: $90 (early bird until March 6), $110 (after March 6)

This hands-on workshop intensive will cover the basic materials needed and assembly of two different rocket mass heaters. A rocket mass heater is an innovative and efficient space heating system developed from the rocket stove, a type of hyper-efficient wood-burning stove. Workshop participants will build a temporary stove used to heat a tent and a permanent stove in a greenhouse. Aside from heating the greenhouse, this heater will have a system of ducts, which will run under a rooting bed to help facilitate germination and growth of seedlings.

This workshop will be taught by Bozeman local Anthony Smith. A mason for over 20 years, Anthony has been involved in a range of projects from residential to commercial and has extensive experience working with block, brick, and stone. Anthony’s personal interest in sustainable living led him to years of research on energy-efficient, low-cost heating systems.

To sign-up or learn more, go to www.brokengroundpermaculture.com or call Kareen Erbe at 406-600-7881.
7 years ago
Paul,
I am now gathering that Sepp's 'public' presentations will actually be part of the 11 day seminar series for which you would have to sign up and pay. I think I was imagining perhaps a evening lecture at some point that would be open to the public but I understand that might not be possible with his super busy schedule. Please let me know if something like this evolves.

Thanks!
Kareen
9 years ago
Paul,
Can you tell us when Sepp is going to be doing public presentation while he is in Montana? I would like to let people know in Bozeman and perhaps have a caravan of folks come up.

Thanks!

9 years ago