Every season brings change and with spring on the horizon, temperatures are warming, snow around the EcoRanch is slowly melting, and our anxiety to get out and get dirty continues to build. It’s been a winter full of shoveling and planning. The chickens have had enough too. At every opportunity, they dash out the coop door and get as far away to mine in the mud and frolic in the field. Nova continues to find the bony remains of animals that have frozen over winter and stays out longer and longer each day. We are preparing for a new season full of excited volunteers, WWOOFers, and motivated individuals to help us develop in our newly planned projects.
Soon we will be launching our Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for growing cold tolerant vegetables and water collection. We are planting kale, onions, and garlic for a local business, Local Alternative, to provide locally grown products for their veggie burgers. Some of the food grown in our proposed six 5’ x 50’ raised beds will be fed to our volunteers, sold at the community market, and donated to local food banks. We are installing a 3000 gallon water catchment tank off the barn that will supplement our irrigation needs and provide water to an outdoor, solar powered, hot water shower, and sink. This will allow volunteers a place to clean up after a hard day of work and give the EcoRanch a place to wash harvested veggies. There will also be a self-contained composting toilet and small changing room available.
Not only are we working on this project, but we will be planting in the three hugelkultures and three raised beds we built in Fall, installing wind breaks to protect the plants, and working the land behind the house to maximize water collection from rain and snow melt. About ten new chickens are moving in at the end of March and bees will be here the week of April 15th! The Arizona State University Sustainability Club will be staying at the EcoRanch for a weekend of volunteering in April. Professor Peggy Pollack’s Sustainable Botany Class at Northern Arizona University will be helping in May, and 40 high school students from Upward Bound will be lending 80 helping hands in June. We are also booked with WWOOFers through June and have a new intern, Kira, who is studying horticulture at the University of Florida.
You might be thinking, “How did they plan all this over the winter?” I ask myself that question everyday. But the simple answer is that I have had two spectacular interns, Kara and Merintha, helping out. As March comes to an end, Kara will move on to study green building at the Endeavor Center in Peterborough, Canada. She is my first intern and has been here since November. I am sad to see her go but excited she will gain new skills and knowledge.
How do you thank someone that has spent endless hours researching, planning, and nurturing your project like it was her own? Kara has been a tremendous asset to the EcoRanch. She has brought many new ideas, extensive knowledge about plants and permaculture, as well as a self directed, motivated, and genuine personality. She was ready for any challenge; ready to learn about anything new; and most importantly, dedicated to the end goal…educating others and improving our environment.
Kara designed our five year site plan video (seen below) and manual (this will be posted shortly). It takes into account risks, companion planting, and most importantly, developing in conjunction with nature as opposed to conquering it. She has worked closely with Merintha, our intern who is majoring in architecture at Arizona State University and is in the Barrett Honor’s College. Merintha has implemented her technical skills in the development of the site plan. Kara would send her the necessary documents while Merintha enhanced and compiled them into a finished product. Together, Kara and Merintha have crafted something beautiful and creative but most importantly, a reference tool for future volunteers and myself. It is monumental in laying out guidelines and parameters of development while maintaining the preservation of our environment.
Aside from Kara’s dedication to permaculture, she has helped design and renovate our Airbnb, which is helps bring in revenue we can use for future projects and educational outreach. She has cooked delicious food, cleaned, taken care of the chickens, built raised beds and hugelkultures, researched cold weather crops, studied companion planting, and been available to bounce ideas off of. Kara has been an incredible asset to the early success of the EcoRanch and I look forward to having her come back.
As Kara moves on to Canada and Merintha finishes her semester with EcoRanch to continue her education; Kira is starting her six month journey here in Flagstaff. She is a horticulture student from the University of Florida and radiates energy. Before coming to the EcoRanch, she traveled to the Paramanand Institute in India where she received her 500 hour yoga and yoga therapy certifications. She has brought her excitement, motivation, and serenity to the EcoRanch and will be offering yoga workshops on site, started researching grants, and will be spearheading the upcoming planting.
I look forward to these transitions: seasons, interns, volunteers, and projects. I also look forward to seeing the EcoRanch evolve with new opportunities and challenges that develop as these transitions occur.
As always, thanks to everyone who has helped make the EcoRanch possible and we hope to see you out here soon!