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wren haffner

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since Feb 25, 2014
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forest garden homestead foraging
Ozark County, Missouri
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Recent posts by wren haffner

Tyler Ludens wrote:I can send you Chinese Water Chestnut and Louisiana Iris.  I would love some Blackberries in exchange.

Yay! That's fantastic! Let's do it. I'll send you a purple mooseage and we can exchange addresses. Thanks!
1 month ago

Carson Albright wrote:Did you seal the pond?  
I used to do aquatic plants within an aquarium, I know wisteria and peace-lilly does well in this type of setup.  However, peace lilly is poisonous to cats.  I had the roots of a wisteria plant growing out of my aquarium and it would take off.  Attempted to get it to flower, had a few buds, but never bloomed like I had wished it would.  Never grown food out of an aquarium, heard of a few people who had, but I think they had an aquaponics system set up where the water would flood the roots of what they were growing for a period of time and then go back into the pond.  

No we did not seal the pond. I don't think it is necessary for our purposes and we haven't had an issue. We'll see how it does with time. Thank you for your suggestions. We are getting a wisteria this year from a neighbor and may put it on a high arch near the driveway to make the most of those beautiful blooms!
1 month ago
My partner and I are basically finished building this tiny pocket pond! You can see an earlier postwe made last year when we were wondering if we'd need to seal it.

In this post I am requesting aquatic plant suggestions for this small pond and will walk through what we did!

To start, I am hoping to fill this pond with a myriad of aquatic plants, ones that are edible for humans, beneficial for cleaning the pond and keeping the algae to a minimum/shading parts of the pond and ones that are good habitat for fish, beautiful, etc. Please tell me about pond plant that you love and/or want to trade. We have a lot of plants on our homestead and would like to trade them for some pond plants. Currently we have thornless blackberries (Chester, Triple Crown), boysenberries, Jerusalem Artichokes, Heritage Raspberries, loganberries, to name a few things.

What we did:

We chose a site that is nestled right in between a budding food forest in its 2nd year and our high tunnel. The spot already had a low indent in the soil and it seemed like a perfect choice. We dug out the pond and all of the rocks you see around the edge of the pond are from the hole we dug (it's rocky in the Ozarks!). We then lined the pond with chicken wire and made a concrete mix of 1 part cement and 1.5 fine sand to make a thick icing consistency paste. The bowl of the pond was finished by last year and we got some minnows from our creek and put them in there. I spotted all 5 minnows yesterday and we'll see if they reproduce. I would also like to put more fish in there.

The pond is 3 ft deep in the deepest area, and is 7 x 10 ft roughly in a kidney bean shape. It has a water shelf that is 1.5 ft deep and I was thinking I could put cinder blocks in the deepst part of the pond to act as a plant stand for the floating plants.

I had to go over certain spots with the cement mix to shore up any leaks. At this point the pond is all ready to go and I'm looking for plants to put in it! It is in a spot that had a ton of yarrow and yarrow is coming up all around the berm of the pond. I also sowed echinacea, our native wild skullcap, agastache, clover and we planted a lingonberry in the berm. Aronias and wild false indigo are in a hedge to the north of the pond and the food forest mentioned earlier is to the northwest. It has a paw paw, asparagus, hazelnuts, blueberries, agastache, currants, serviceberries, mulberries, apple, nettle, yaupon, walking onion and strawberries. to the west we have raspberries, lavender, wild false indigo and the south is the high tunnel. I think this spot will fill in nicely in coming years and we've already noticed our animals love drinking from the pond and I've seen a couple frogs. We're hoping it becomes a little haven for LIFE in the midst of our gardens.

I definitely want to put some water lily and water hyacinth in the pond and am looking for other beautiful and edible plants like American water lotus. Looking forward to hearing your other suggestions! Thanks!

Also, we're hosting an internship this summer on our permaculture homestead. Check out our post!
1 month ago
Hey Dave! Great to hear from you. Thanks for connecting with us and we look forward to talking more with you :)

Also, for others reading,  I realize we left out the # of interns we are looking for.

Ideally we would have at least 3 interns and up to 5! We are hoping to have a great group of interns that can make a mini community here! We would love interns to spend a few months here, but we will also have weekend or shorter stay opportunities that will be listed as they occur!
1 month ago
May through November 2019

  • Natural Building
  • Permaculture/Holistic Living
  • Perennial Agriculture/Food Forests

Mountain Jewel is a permaculture homestead in the heart of the Ozarks. Located 15 minutes outside of Gainesville, Missouri on 18 acres, we focus on perennial agriculture, Herbalism, natural building and bioregional living. As a Center for Earth Connection, we seek to observe and align with natural rhythms, making sustainable use of the resources around us while honoring and getting to know the wilds.

At a 2019 internship at Mountain Jewel, there will be a heavy focus on Natural Building as we are building a Passive Solar Post & Beam Straw Bale Infill house!

We also will be tending and expanding perennial gardens and food forests which includes sharing host of practical skills & information on edible landscaping and useful Permaculture & medicinal plants. We currently have 2.5 acres of Food forests, 2 high tunnels, and .5 acre of intensive perennial and annual garden production. Mountain Jewel is completely off grid (save propane used for cooking) using Solar Power and our water comes from a 250 ft well on the property (soon to include more rainwater harvesting as well.)

Garlic harvest

What can an intern expect?

As in intern you will have an amazing opportunity to engage in the intimate process of building a natural home & creating and tending food forests.

You will learn mostly by doing, although there will also be some structured “classroom” time. The process is messy at times, involves plenty of consideration and creativity and a lot of physical labor, which can be taxing emotionally as well (especially in the beginning as you familiarize yourself to new surroundings and experiences.)

Through hands-on skill building in a variety of natural building methods and Permaculture principles, you can expect to receive a good introduction to a wide range of practical topics.

Throughout the season we will be going working on different aspects of the build. Starting with site prep and foundation, we will continue with framing, roofing, raising straw bale walls, plastering, laying floors, plumbing, wiring solar systems, plumbing solar hot water, building a rocket mass heater, etc…

In addition to the building, we also tend annual & perennial gardens, high tunnels and food forests, which account for much of our diet. Other opportunities for learning may include rain-water catchment and irrigation systems, grafting, layering and other propagation methods, seeding, general gardening tasks, pruning, fertilizing and more.

On top of this, there is also the reality that you will become an integral part of an organic Permaculture homestead in the country.

Early summer garden

 With 3 acres of our land open for food forests, high tunnels, outbuildings and gardens, the rest of the land (15 acres) is mature forest which has choice wild edibles and provides respite, recreation and beauty throughout the year (and ticks during the warm months!). Some of our diet is also obtained through foraging and wildcrafting and you are welcome and encouraged to join us in our wild forays where we teach ethical, safe and sustainable harvesting methods.

Wren making a cleaver’s tincture

As we ask for your help 5 out of the 7 days of the week (not necessarily Mon-Fri), this also leaves 2 days a week for rest and exploration of the surrounding areas, much of which is the Mark Twain Natural Forest and includes stellar waterways like Bryant Creek and the Norfork, a world class destination. Our property has a creek of its own and we take dips down there often!

Our western edge

What do we expect?

In opening up our homestead to interns we are seeking to share our experience in hopes of equipping, inspiring and empowering others to participate in meaningful practical ecological ways of living.

Mountain Jewel is foremost a Center for Earth connection and we provide an holistic haven and skill building opportunity for modern humans to reconnect with that which is essential, Nature. Our homestead is dedicated to living in alignment with these natural rhythms and it is these skills we want to pass on.

We foster a culture of respect from ALL participants including ourselves, each other, the wild, the site and the process of learning. This means respecting boundaries, personal space and guidelines we outline as a collective (depending on expressed & present needs.)

Sunset on Ozark Mountains surrounding our homestead

We encourage applicants who are engaged, interested, motivated, self directed, passionate and ready to learn. We see this internship as a relationship between you and us, other interns, the process itself, and most importantly, the land. At Mountain Jewel, interns are crucial members of the team and as such we ask that interns take active interest and initiative to facilitate their learning process, express their needs and desires, and support the collective.

This internship will require a lot of physical work and we want you to know that ahead of time. If the workload is ever too much, please express this to you as we seek to create a healthy work culture. During work hours, we invite your full presence and participation.

Mountain Jewel inspired art by

What time frame?

We would prefer interns to stay from 1-3+ months throughout May- November as we feel this gives a richer depth of experience. It takes time to build relationships to place, process and people, as well as taking into account the skill building process. Seeing the building and gardening process through time is a much more grounded way to build skills and experiences. As we are a family run homestead, we are open to various possibilities and opportunities, and if a situation isn’t working for either party that will be discussed.  In these cases, if possible, we practice the Art of Council communication technique to gain clarity and hopefully resolution before going our separate ways. We are all here to learn from and with one another and see these connections as  opportunities to do just this. We have a no tolerance policy for any forms of abuse and will not tolerate drug use.

For all potential interns there will be a 2-week trial period to see if the experience is a good fit for all. It will include orientation, training, check-ins and some hands-on tasks. At the end of this, there will be a process where we clarify next steps and make sure all parties are on board. It is our goal to hold space for interns to have a great experience learning more about themselves, the earth and all that we have to share on this homestead.

Lodging and Food

Lodging at Mountain Jewel is simple and rustic. We cannot offer any indoor lodging during the summer months, but offer shaded tent platforms in the woods, running water and a covered outdoor kitchen space for simple food preparation (including a double burner propane range, large sink, shelves, food storage, counter space and table.) While we have a couple extra tents we can loan out, we encourage you to bring a tent that will be your shelter, a sleeping pad or mattress, hammock (with mosquito netting and a tarp) and/or build a shelter (if you know how to adequately do this) once you reach the land.

We live close to nature and ticks, spiders, and other insects inhabit our space with us and the transition to such a lifestyle can take some getting used to. Come mentally prepared and see it as an opportunity to challenge yourself and strip off layers of modern conditioning. It gets hot in the summer and at times this can be oppressive, but we balance this with early morning starts, frequent creek dips, and midday siestas. As mentioned, we do have a creek on the property and this aids a lot in our self care.


Many but not all meals will be shared, and we expect interns to be able take part in food preparation on a rotating schedule. We have yet to work out details, but what has worked best in our experiences has been setting up basic meal plans and going through a rotation where each team member takes their turn in preparation of meals based on what’s seasonally available.

We will offer simple whole foods and seek to eat a balanced diet. We strive for sourcing 100% organic food where we can’t meet these needs ourselves. We eat meat occasionally (wild and locally grass fed from a nearby farms), eggs (don’t have chickens anymore but will source locally) and may source local dairy (depending on refrigeration options at the time). 

During the summer, we will have abundant greens and other produce as well as fruits grown on our homestead. Sometimes we fish and often we go mushroom hunting. We buy bulk grains, beans, oil and other staples.  

*SORRY, but we may not be able to accommodate certain special diets or allergies. Contact us if this is a concern.

As this is a work exchange there will be no stipend offered. In exchange for 6 hours of work a day 5 days a week, you will have access to bulk food staples, fresh garden produce, one healthy shared group meal a day.

Shiitakes we grew on oak logs


A personal vehicle is recommended but not necessary. We are located 1.5 hours from Springfield, MO, 45 minutes from West Plains, MO, Ava, MO and Mountain Home, AR and frequent these cities biweekly for bulk food runs at the health food stores and other sundries (these towns have a lot of options.) We live 15 minutes from the very small town of Gainesville which has basic amenities (post office, small conventional grocery, library, and gas stations, etc.) You are welcome to come along for these journeys.

Ini with a harvest of wild Paw Paws

To Apply

Answer the following questions and send us at least 500 words to on why you want to do this and your current related knowledge and experience (it’s fine if you have no experience). Tell us a bit about yourself. You can share blogs, social media sites, etc.

Name, Age, Current location, time availability and desired length of stay, special needs/allergies/other considerations, do you have your own camping gear, vehicle or pets, one thing that scares you about this and one thing that excites you, what you’re hoping to get out of it and what aspects you’re most looking forward to. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can learn more about us at Mountain Jewel by checking out our blog at or

1 month ago
Hey permies,

My partner and I are building a pocket pond within a food forest landscape to catch and store water (partially from the High Tunnel that’s up slope from it) that we can use, provide habitat for aquatic life and plants and be a cool landscape feature. We live in the Ozarks (zone 6b) and made the pond quite deep- 4 ft at its deepest with sloping sides.

It’s our first time building a pond and we’re finishing up the concrete work now (ratio 1.5 sand to 1 cement) and wondering if we need to seal it.

I am not so concerned with the slow seep porosity of concrete, but more curious about the leaching of lime from the concrete into the water making it more alkaline (is this true) and also the lifetime of the concrete- will it last longer if we seal it?

Have you built a pond and used concrete? Did you use a sealant? Thanks for your help!
7 months ago
Also, the slower method allows for the more resilient (and cheaper) option of propagating plants from your plantings. We're already happy to see our nodding onions and comfrey exploding in numbers in a short time. Took quince rootstock cutting this year so we can get more Asian pears planted on the cheap, and when we're ready.
8 months ago
I can relate to The slow method. My partner and I are establishing a food forest on our homestead and are happy to be taking it days (relatively). It's already proven Well worth the time Waiting, observing and focusing on chunks at a time.

"Rather than use a bulldozer, backhoe, or hydraulic hammer, I use hand tools and small power equipment.." 100% agree with this. Can't tell you how many Herbs and shrubs Ive found while I Had my feet on the ground. It's
Harder to find gems with heavy machinery.

I can also relate to the desire to "get it established" quickly, but also appreciate the feedback through watching what works and doesn't. This year's drought has taught me a lot! Plenty more goumis and Asian pears to plant after seeing their success.
8 months ago
What a great thread! I especially loved the insight into the French "culture en hautain".

We are creating food forests on our Ozark homestead mimicking what is already taking place here as well as implementing ideas found from around the world.

This year, as I was observing patterns already taking place on the land, I noticed a niche wherein a wild grape variety was very successfully trellising on a native dogwood. In this expanded guild, we also have

  • native persimmons (that were already here, they are like a "weed" on our land) which we plan to graft onto with select cultivars
  • canby raspberries, asparagus, aronia, comfrey mugwort, holy basil, mint we planted this year
  • select annuals like squash which we use to fill in the existing space

  • I got a good harvest from these grapes this year and in future years, once the other things we've planted start to make the planting denser, it's okay with me if things start to phase out or if I need to prune. To me, that's a part of a living food forest, different stories taking more of a central focus as it grows and matures and based on what the cultivator wants.

    Excited by this concept of planting vines amongst trees, we also planted Ken's Red Hardy Kiwi amongst our 16-25 ft tall existing native persimmons. We may not get as great of yields as we might if the kiwis were trellised with full sun, but it mimics what the Chinese have done with the hardy kiwi (harvest it from the understory) and so it seems worth the trial. Doing this also keeps the food forest growing and diverse and not the arbored trellised areas which are basically tended as monocrops.

    1 year ago