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Guest post by Daniel Chmielewski
"Connected, connected, everything’s connected.” One of the well known songs at Hidden Villa, it strikes a central point in the ecological imperative of our times: "to recognize and understand that humans are intrinsically related to all life and the systems which support it (water, air, soil).” Once “unconnected” we risk alienation from the natural flow of life processes and education, whether through formal or informal experience, is a bridge into being connected. My internship at Hidden Villa has been rich in education and in my eyes, most importantly, exposure. In my second year here, seasonal changes of weather, edible and ornamental agriculture, animal husbandry, environmental education, and sustainability have deeply connected me to the land and to the future.
In hopes of learning more about sustainability and permaculture, I have dedicated the next year of my life to a Permaculture Design Course through the Regenerative Design Institute. Our permaculture class meets once a month for a year and up to this point, I have attended four classes. An expensive course, I’m able to do this because of the emphasis in Hidden Villa’s Internship Program on professional development. Interns are encouraged to pursue future career goals while benefiting the organization through projects like this, known commonly as “externships.” Daunting as it may be to synergize an intern’s future career goals with their employer’s current needs, I have been able to utilize what I am learning in my permaculture course to not only fulfill an organizational need, but also to be given the freedom to artistically design and implement a branch of my externship project: the management of rain water through building swales and infiltration basins on the property of Hidden Villa.
Water…one of the most important natural resources on Earth. Water was the theme of the third permaculture class in my course and what excited me the most was building an A-frame (which I have been using in my externship project), swales, and checking out portable rain catchment barrels – putting into action what I am learning. This class on water, combined with home study and physical implementation of these practices, has allowed me to feel more in tune with the natural flow of the California winter season (even though we have yet to have more than 2 inches of rain fall). Preparing the swales and infiltration basins before the rain falls produces excitement for the present and for the future.
Soil. Dirt. The matter that anchors our food and filters rain water. This was the theme of our fourth permaculture class and the reason why I am writing this blog entry today. In the fourth class we learned a lot about soil science, soil structure and texture, and being grounded . What I didn’t expect to learn is that about 75% of what was being presented in that class I had already been exposed to at Hidden Villa through my work, chores, and Monday Classes. At one point I felt as though I had a head start on the direction of the class and the song, “Connected, Connected,” popped into my head. We covered topics such as the soil food web, fertilizer nutrients, the role of organic matter in producing healthy soil, increasing fertility by composting, sheet mulching, cover cropping and amending the soil, and building a compost pile. I had already learned permaculture principles without knowing it.
Monday is one of my favorite days of the week. Instead of plowing ahead into the work week, interns are given the beautiful opportunity of either going on educational field trips or staying on the property and learning from Hidden Villa staff and their huge breadth of knowledge. I definitely am appreciative of everything that I have learned and will learn in these Monday classes over the course of my internship. At the end of August 2012 my time at Hidden Villa will end and with it, the opportunity to connect professional goals with organizational benefits. But when I leave I will be bringing with me these connections, my experiences at Hidden Villa and a permaculture certification from The Regenerative Design Institute, into the next stage of my life as I work towards a just and sustainable future.
Daniel is a Second-year Environmental Education Intern. In California on loan from the state of Indiana, Daniel has been involved in a number of Hidden Villa departments, and is entering in to his third summer at Summer Camp. He mentions that he couldn't help all the dirt puns in this entry - something else to thank Hidden Villa for?