Author Archives: Natasha

Sat., Oct. 10, 1-5 p.m. Corn Harvest & Husking Party

Fellow Permaculture Practitioner Susanna Lein is hosting her:

4th Annual Corn Harvest & Husking Party at Salamander Springs Farm
Saturday, October 10 from 1 to 5 p.m. Potluck at 5:30 followed by a bonfire, music & dancing in the new granary!


Despite the weather extremes of the 2015 season, some resilient cornmeal corn is ready to harvest! We’ll hand harvest ears from the field and then form a corn husking circle to shuck the corn to dry in the crib and select the best ears for seed. Traditionally, corn husking parties were followed by a feast, music and dancing.

The new granary floor will be cleared for music and dancing by lantern light. Bring your instruments! According to corn husking traditions, whoever finds of a red ear of corn gets to ask a kiss from someone of his or her choice! Salamander Springs Farm cornmeal corn has most of the colors of the rainbow, so your chances are pretty good.

Last year’s Corn Harvest Party saw the roof go on the new granary at Salamander Springs Farm. It’s not quite finished but already in use! You can try out the 1904 model International Harvester corn sheller on dried ears of popcorn. Cornmeal corn already harvested may also be dry enough to shell.

We’ll mill and eat some delicious cornbread, using the light-commercial corn mill funded by a KSU small farmers’ grant. You can also contribute by helping prepare farm fresh food for the meal in the outdoor community kitchen. If you’d rather help with a construction project, we’re building a porch addition on the granary for a community gathering/workshop/eating space (funded by a small WWOOF grant).

Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!
Susana, Heather & Courtney at Salamander Springs Farm

P.S. Special thanks to Remy, Derek, Rob and Tom of Urban Indigenous in Lexington’s North End for their awesome contributions to this project last weekend!


  • A potluck dish to share if you can (We’ll have a big pot of Salamander Springs Farm pinto beans, cornbread & other yummy foods.)
  • Warm clothes & hats for the evening
  • BYOB and musical instruments
  • If you are camping, bring a tent, gear, extra blanket, and a headlamp.

For the corn harvest & husking party:

  • A machete for cornstalks
  • Small hand-held pruners (Felco type) and pocket-knife for corn ears
  • Gloves

For construction on the granary porch addition:

  • Hammer, tape measure, pencil, square…
  • Other carpentry tools like an extra drill, saw or a power nailer would be wonderful!

If you want to take home some of Kentucky’s finest spring water, bring along some water jugs!
If you have organically-raised cornmeal corn already sufficiently dry, bring it along and we can mill it for you.

FROM COLLEGE SQUARE at 4-way stop with Boone Tavern Hotel & Union Church: Go south onto Scaffold Cane Rd. (Rte. 595 South) and out of town past Berea College gardens.
After a few miles on Scaffold Cane Road, the road will begin climbing switchbacks (into Rockcastle County). At the top of the ridge, about 50 yards after passing the Old Macedonia Baptist Church, you’ll come to a 3-way fork.
Take the middle fork DOWN on Rte. #1787 (easy to miss in the dark).
Go about 4 miles down into the Clear Creek Valley to a “T” intersection (in front of the long-closed Old Disputanta Post Office). Take a right on Disputanta Rd. (still Route #1787), and go 1 mile to a stop sign for Wildie Rd. at an old barn.
Take a right on Wildie Rd. Go about 1 1/3 miles to an unmarked driveway on left the for Salamander Springs Farm. Across from our driveway is a little old brown house (on right side of road) with a porch close to the road and mailbox #5982. Our gravel driveway goes straight up through woods, less than 1/4 mile to the top. (At the bottom of the driveway there’s a split to an old barn up to the right–don’t go up there, instead straight up). There’s a steep drop off to a creek along your right. Front wheel drive cars do fine; rear-wheel drive trucks without 4-W do best with plenty of weight in the back. Welcome!

Call 859-893-3360 if you have questions (our email access is limited–in town).

According to a friend, GPS coordinates for farm driveway are: 37.4577, -84.259) & for house & farm on the ridge: 37.45965, -84.25916 (Warning: for 5982 Wildie Rd., Wildie, Google Maps will likely send you to Mars or the moon!)

P.O. Box 354 Berea, KY 40403 tel. 859-893-3360
Local Harvest profile
Local Harvest Storefront
Local Harvest CSA newsletter
See permaculture & natural building practices at Salamander Springs Farm: Photos of the Farm.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” -Buckminster Fuller

Living in Two Places

A LOT has happened since I wrote last, and at the same time, not much. I began our move into the little house in Forkland with grand permaculture ideas and ideals. Then, life happened.


Need I say more?

We began in the middle of winter by living in two back bedrooms of the house, as the rest of the house was unlivable. Since our lovely predecessors had presumably stolen the copper piping out from under the house, we were without running water, unless you count the creek out back. Indeed, for a while, we actually did use that creek for water. Everybody say, Thank God for Berkey (water filtration)! My mother, being a nurse, understandably freaked, but we all survived without any bowel distress. :-)




Even when you're shivering, you can still appreciate beauty.

Even when you’re shivering, you can still appreciate beauty.


As we huddled around the space heaters in the back bedrooms, snow drifted under the back door in the kitchen and stayed frozen on the floor all day. At one point, as I was trying to bake my sourdough bread on our BabyQ, my husband saw that the loaf was darkening too quickly on the bottom, and without thinking, he quickly pulled it out and set it on the  frozen kitchen floor. What an exciting moment of living science we had! The “explosion” was instantaneous.


How we survived

How we survived

Spring of that year came along with great plans I had drafted while dressed like the abominable snowman. Next year, we would have a rocket mass heater, use water from our cistern, fresh-caught from the metal roof, and have fruit and nitrogen-fixing trees in place. We would also be rotating our chickens on plots that had been plowed up by them and planted with their favorite grains and be milking our own cow. Uh, yeah, reality check!

Our beloved Mama Carmen: may she rest in peace.

Our beloved Mama Carmen: may she rest in peace.

Instead, this year we have a very small woodstove that kept us fairly warm in one room, we’re still using city water, and we have purchased exactly zero trees so far. Traveling back-and-forth has only gotten three chickens killed by an opossum and six ducks either hit by a car, eaten by a hawk, or carried off by some unknown predator. Like I said, life happens.

Hey, at least we’re still making full-on compost (if you permies know what I mean). That counts for something, right? In the meantime, while I continue to work toward utopia, I have forged ahead learning new skills in the kitchen and wherever else possible. My first Indian paneer cheese came out tasty, although with a slight hint of apple cider vinegar (oops). Though my kefir didn’t seem to like our cold kitchen, it made a fine kefir cheese.


Ha, ha, ha I totally forgot about the pixie shovel I was using!

My pickled kombucha scobies are waiting patiently to be put back into use, and the molded ones that were left in cloth-covered fermenting jars fertilize the garden. Reality knocked my hopes for the garden down several notches. I began the spring thinking, Surely, I will knock a massive hole in our food budget with all this fresh produce!









How about, No, no noticeable difference. I blame it on the fact that I did not have enough man-power or man-hours on my own to properly get the garden into ideal workable conditions. By the end, I was so tired from the work that I dug my garden bed sides out, flopped the sod over onto the bed, scattered as much leaves, sawdust, compost, and whatever I could get my hands on and said, That’s it! Maybe, all things considered, I did get a really good harvest. The budget just didn’t reflect it that first year.


My one decent bed, the one hubby carved out some time to haul mulch for. I’m not going to show you what the others looked like.

However, I believe God sent the Amish to our rescue. The blessings they have provided us have cut our food bill in half, and we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Thus, we come to the subject title of this blog.

My husband alerted me to an amazing opportunity. Asbury Theological Seminary was on the hunt for a Community Developer/Head Gardener. The position was only part time but came with a house on campus. My husband had been spending two hours on the road daily on the days he did not work from home!

Needless to say, he and the kids supported me, I applied, and voilà. Here we are, living between houses. At this point, we still have the animals back on the Fork, so we have to care for them a couple times a week until they find new homes. I was unable to convince my boss in a timely enough manner that our chickens would be a lovely addition to the community garden. :-)

The Fork house still lingers in a state somewhere between not-suitable-for-homeowners-insurance and too-far-along-for construction-insurance. Right . . . Need I describe the feelings of extreme irritation we felt as we tried to justify ourselves to the insurance companies for why we still have piles of lumber hauled out from the wreckage, waiting to find a more orderly home in the garage packed with hay for the cow we never got and no-good salvage lumber for the too-small woodstove. (It’s a very humbling experience to see yourself through a stranger’s eyes sometimes. At the same time, I remind myself, Natasha, when you meet someone new, let this be a lesson to you, you have no idea what they are going through or why their life looks as crazy as it does.)

Doesn’t that fearless face just spur you on to dump your debt-inducing ways?

While I’m on a rabbit trail, how about the irritation bordering on true anger I feel when I think about how far our society has “progressed.” No longer is it normal for a family to want to work their way to a finished house. No, society, insurance, and banks do everything in their power to force you into the fix-it-now-on-borrowed-money mentality. They have tried to make us feel criminally negligent or unintelligent or backward.

I refuse. I stand with my head held high, pleased with our choices and honored to be among the ranks of our great-grandparents and theirs before them who worked and saved and paid their own way with patience and perseverance. Debt is a slave master, and I will not choose the path of slavery any longer. (Any Dave Ramsey fans out there?)

Okay, back on track, life between houses: Only this weekend, as hubby and children were away, I was responsible to go home to the Fork to feed the animals and do our weekly Amish run. Insert really old community garden van and output surprise quiet weekend stuck in town. Yeah, life happens.

Or, how about that time when It’s such a warm, cozy night, and it’s already so late that you decide you’ll ride home to the Fork in your pajamas after a nice shower at your house in town (an hour away). You’re going right home to bed, so why bother putting on a certain feminine undergarment. You’ve got an extra one at home. Except, when you don’t, and it’s Sunday morning, and everyone else is almost ready for church, and it’s waaaay too cold to get away with wearing a sundress with built in coverage. Try to explain to your kids why you may not be able to make it to church with them . . .

When you’ve spent the entirety of your marriage moving from place-to-place, you quickly learn to become a minimalist. That usually works in your favor, except when you suddenly find you have two houses to live in. “Okay children, we’re bringing one spoon for each of you, one fork, etc. You are each responsible to wash your dishes as soon as you use them, so you will have them again when you need them.”

Oh drat, I only brought one mixing bowl! My sourdough bread is rising in that one; I guess I will need to make the pancake batter in my saucepan.

Here we are, and though it gets hairy at times, we are truly thankful for this opportunity. The children are excited to make friends from all over the U.S. and the world. I am extremely pleased that I still have the privilege of homeschooling my children and working with a budget outside our own to implement permaculture design while building community, and my husband couldn’t be any happier to have excommunicated the commute to-and-from work. Once the animals are given new homes for this season of our lives and we figure out a workable plan for making progress on the Fork house, you may well just find us over the moon!

Asbury Theological Seminary Community Garden

Asbury Theological Seminary Community Garden


Worms Update

Checked the worms again today. I was hoping to switch out a bucket of castings for the latest bin of waste material. Happily, the worms are still thriving, even when we were away for a few days, and I couldn’t be there to lift the lid for them (for a bit of fresh air).

I have been unable to find the original post that prompted me to try this experiment. Here is a semi-similar one though: I found his results interesting.

My worms are multiplying. They remain near the top of the bucket and do their business there. They are not drowning in worm juice as I feared they might.

I hypothesize that the leaf litter and tiny sticks mixed in on the bottom of the buckets are creating a sponge for the juices. Whether it’s the air pockets created by the crossed sticks and eggshells in the bucket allowing them fresh air or my lifting the lid, I don’t know. Maybe it’s both.

Bucket #1 is just now getting to the barely-recognizable stage of decomposition. Bucket #2 still has mostly moldly, slimy-looking food residue. Neither, however, are ready for emptying. I definitely need to re-vamp with more worms if I want to make this a feasible option through the winter. Based on bpearcy10‘s findings, though, I would need to be sure to find the right ratio of food to worms and split them off, once they have multiplied. Maybe it’s time to invest in a scale . . .

Rocket Mass Class

This video is making rocket mass heater science clear to me finally. There are many excellent snippets of information. It’s worth an hour of your time if you are curious about how these heaters work.

Mentor Check-in

My husband and I grabbed the opportunity tonight, the niche in time, to catch up with my permaculture mentor, Doug Crouch. He’s been in Portugal for the past five months, so we really enjoyed hearing the progress on his work there. He asked about what I’ve been reading, progress on the land purchase process, my opinion on my online course with Geoff Lawton, and how the design process is coming on the land (Forkland Rd.).

I was really honest with him that I am getting mired down in the details of the elements and throw my hands up in frustration many times. Doug has re-encouraged me to take some steps back, print out an overview map, write down simple elements on small slips of paper with no details at this point, and start playing around with placement. He wants me to get back to the fun of the process.

We talked about a vision for field schools as an alternative or complement to university training, considering how ill-prepared for real life we have become with the lack of practical skills-training we receive. This really hits home right now, as we face all the work we need to do on the house to make it live-able to American standards. Especially since our return from Haiti, I find it very ironic that it is practically illegal to live without running water and electricity here.

Just a few days ago I read an article in the local paper where the lack of these two conveniences were held forth as two of the standards that determined a couple was unfit to keep and raise their own children. I found that nauseating. Yet here we are, and now we must scramble to learn these skills from scratch to make our own home acceptable to our culture.

More thoughts to come . . .


Plans for Winter Hot Water

So here’s what I’m thinking for our hot water this winter:

I love the calm, simple way “Hadley” explains his system. For the first couple weeks in our “new” house we will probably be heating water on top of the woodstove, but I hope to graduate to this system once we feel comfortable that we can execute it properly. During the summer I would like to go solar. We would have electric back-up for both of these.

Eventually, we may be able to work in a rocket mass heater as the primary winter hot water source, to save on wood and the environment, but we need to gather more knowledge/experience before we go there. I don’t think our floors can handle three tons of weight without shoring up.