I think the most important lessons I learned from my experience at Linnea Farm was about community. I had been focused on the physical side of permaculture (the different plants and the way the physical systems moved through the landscape etc.) and in the back of my mind I knew there was a people side of things, but I had no idea the people side of things was the most important side.
I showed up at Linnea and was instantly in a community. I was sharing a house with about 15 other people and sharing space on the farm with over 30 people! I have never been in a situation where that many people are sharing the same space for that long.
I was delighted to see that the entire time everyone supported and nurtured and cared for one another. Everyone was lifting one another up. If anyone was down for any reason, the entire web of people worked together to bring them back up. It made me see how the the ethic of permaculture of Care of People must come first. If people don’t care for one another, then no one will have the well being needed to care for the earth, let alone, share the surplus.
I grew up around farming, but on a much larger scale then what I experienced at Linnea Farm. When I first arrived I kept thinking about how different their styles of cattle management must be because of the different scales.
My mind kept noticing the differences, until in one instant that changed when I saw Tamara interact with the cows. The look in her eye of compassion and caring was the exact same look I saw in my families eyes when they interact with their cattle. I also saw the way the cattle regarded her as their leader and noticed they looked at her the same way the cows back home looked at my family members. The only difference was scale. Back home there are 100’s of cows, here there were 9.
My family also uses the ‘intensive grazing’ technique of moving of the cows daily to a new paddock. Again, the only difference is the size of the paddock!
This experience made me realize that no matter the scale, the love for each individual animal felt by a farmer does not change if they are a true farmer at heart.
At Oliver’s house he showed us how he needed to protect some trees from the deer so they could grow up tall and strong so one day they would not need a fence for protection, they would be big enough on their own. He also needed to fence in the chickens to keep them safe.
His simple solution was to fence the trees in with the chickens. This provided the trees and chickens protection with one fence, while also having the added benefit of the chickens fertilizing the trees. The trees also provided shade and protection to the chickens.
This all struck me profoundly similar to what we were doing on Linnea Farm. We have our instructors (the trees) and us (the chickens) all fenced in together to for our mutual benefit. The trees started small with baby chicks around them. As the trees grew alongside the chicks they helped one another and exchanged energy in different ways and now they share a history that will forever be intertwined. Some of energy from the chickens are in the trees and some of the trees energy is in the chickens. The chicks grow older and the cycle continues, new chicks, the trees get bigger and change their appearance, but still offer the same protection. The chicks continue to feed the trees and the cycle continues.
One day I hope to become a tree and offer my wisdom and protection to a new flock. Right now I feel like I am a teenaged chicken who kind of knows what is going on, but still is not even an adult chicken, let alone a tree. I am excited to continue to learn from the trees and other chickens. I am looking forward to seeing what connections will be made in the future and what relationships will evolve from this chicken-tree situation.
Oliver Kellhammer had a huge impact on me. His ecological art made me question what is considered art and how art can affect people. I had never thought of combining nature, growing plants, art and education to inspire people and change. How he used birds and various plants to stabilize and beautify a bank that would have otherwise been built from cement made me question the status quo. It created a place for people, a habitat for animals and plants and sucked up a little carbon from the atmosphere instead of adding to it using cement!
Photos of this project can be found at http://www.oliverk.org/