Category Archives: Workshops

March 2014

Our SARE funded Organic No-Till Workshop 2 – took place at Orcas Island High School as part of the San Juan Islands Ag Summit. Thanks to Candace and Peggy for inviting us and putting this huge event together.david montThere couldn’t have been a better introduction to our workshop that keynote speaker David Montgomery who talked about the devastating effects of soil erosion caused by tillage.

audienceThanks to everyone who participated in this event… we think around 50 -60 people came. Its encouraging to see so much interest in organic no-till.

dougDoug Collins from WSU opened the workshop with presentation of research being done at Washington State University Extension. You can see more of it here:

presentingIn our presentation we covered the science of maintaining healthy soils without tillage and then moved on to demonstrate practical applications for those wishing to transition to no-till. We used our SARE funded experiment as a case study and talked about some of our findings and conclusions.

experiment results cover pageYou can download a series of informative and visual pdfs to make up the entire powerpoint on the learn page.

“Thank You! Very beautiful and rich and generous presentation experience; very much appreciate the time and work that obviously went in. I feel enlightened.”

Summer Visitors

kid with carrotsWe had some extra help on our experiment carrot beds, from Camp Eagle Rock kids…

kids thinningwho helped us with some thinning… kids with carrotsbeekiteOur new wwoofer Lee, runs a Kite Collective project so we asked her to do a kite-making workshop for the kids. Linking in with the garden theme, she asked them to make ‘bees’….

making kiteskiteflying2 kiteflying1Thanks to all the Eagle Rock kids! Marcella, Spencer, Julian, Kevin, Brandon, Piper, Rhiannon, Diego, Lily, Maddy, Fallon, Charlotte, Tony, Casey, Tobi, Brandon. And Lily and Katie, their counselors.

Recycled Paper-Making

Waste is a sin against nature, a curse of modern life…reusing, mending and recycling must be regarded as great sattvic virtues. Satish Kumar, Spritual Compass


Amy ran a paper-making workshop for the community as part of the Family Art Day organised by Islands Museum of Art. A technique she learned many years ago.

deckle 1

Old, used pieces of paper are torn and blended in a food blender. The pulp is mixed with water in a bowl then a deckle (mould) is used to collect a thin layer.


The top part of the deckle is taken off…


…and the part with the mesh is flipped onto a cloth and then gently pressed with a sponge to make the pulp stick and come away from the mesh.


Voila! Now leave in the sun to dry and the paper will easily peel off the cloth.


You can add threads, petals and even seeds to create beautiful effects.


This could be a lovely way to distribute seeds saved from the garden.

Cob Oven Building

Gary has built several earth ovens in India – but isn’t it time we had one at home? Having Sam here, a wwoofer who is keen to learn more about cob building, was a good excuse to get started.

oven 1

1. A sturdy foundation was created using bricks and a portland cement/sand mix. The wire was used to form it up.

oven 2

2. Sand, clay (found on our property) and straw…


… mixed together to form the actual oven.

oven 4

oven 6

3. A sand form is created to make a mold. A wooden block helps shape the front opening.

oven 5

4. The clay/sand/straw mix is then applied thickly around the sand and a chimney hole is made on top.

oven complete

5. When dry and firm, Gary and Sam removed the sand and placed paving slabs on the inside and at the front creating a smooth surface.

oven panther

Panther inspects while we wait for another coat of clay to dry. Can’t wait for that first pizza!

12th August – No-Till Workshop I

Andy Bary presentation

For the SARE funded Organic No-Till workshops, we were joined by soil scientist Andy Barry from WSU Extension Service. He presented research done by the Small Farms Team, on reduced tillage in organic vegetable production. They have worked with a variety of cover crops, special planting aids, roller/crimping and flailing and are comparing reduced till to tilled plots. Not surprisingly, the earthworm population was significantly higher in the no-tilled plots. See more about their experiments here: and here

Gary - bed prep demonstration - workshop 1 sunday

We then led a tour of the garden looking at our experiment beds. Gary demonstrated tools and techniques for preparing a bed for direct seeding.

looking at soil

Encouraging everybody to have a feel of the soil, to see for themselves the high moisture content and organic matter in a no-till bed that had not been watered all summer.

Larry & Gary in Garden

We discussed healthy soil structure and how to maintain it naturally, without the destructive practice of tilling. A purely man-made action that never occurs in nature.

Larry in Garden

Today, Larry Korn talked a bit more about the “nuts and bolts” of Fukuoka’s farming methods. But he introduced his talk with an anecdote: A soil scientist came to the farm and took samples and found there was a big phosphorous deficiency. Fukuoka responded by saying: but didn’t you see the rice growing in front of you? Wasn’t it one of the healthiest plants you have seen? Fukuoka farmed intuitively with an intimate knowledge of the ‘family’: place, plants and animals.

11th August 2012 – Natural Farming Weekend

I spent many years of my youth foolishly searching for something I ‘should’ have been doing. Instead, I should have entrusted everything to the flowers blooming in the meadow. Even if people do nothing at all, the grasses and the trees and the songbirds will live on…. I have finally learned that, although nature does not reach out to people directly, people can always approach nature and seek salvation that way. Masanobu Fukuoka, Sowing Seeds in the Desert


Our invitation to Larry Korn (editor of The One Straw Revolution) to be a key speaker at our weekend of workshops, coincided perfectly with the launch of his latest work: Fukuoka’s Sowing Seeds in the Desert.


Wwoofers and volunteers worked hard to create a beautiful environment for the workshop, including flower art by Whitney…

dome barn tomatoes

… in the newly cleaned and renovated round barn.


Larry joined our temporary community for meals (prepared by volunteers), bonfire and conversation.

Larry Korn presenting

He emphasized the philosophy of natural farming and shared tales and images of his experiences with Fukouka. When the visionary Japanese farmer told him that his soil yielding a thick crop of barley had not been ploughed for 25 years, Larry thought he had discovered “the holy grail”.


Videos of all the inspirational presentations will be posted later.

Krista Rome presentation 3

Krista Rome lead us beautifully though the various steps of threshing, winnowing and using screens to clean locally grown grains and beans.

Krista Rome presentation - group

Lots of work for many hands and feet! A great communal activity.

Krista Rome presentation 1

Her fantastic manual is available at

Errol Speed's tools

Tools of the trade, including Japanese hand sickles, like the ones used on Fukuoka’s farm (we love them!) were demonstrated by the highly skillful Errol Speed.

Errol Speed presentation 1

Passionate about every kind of hand tool. He lead us through the complete process of transforming sod-covered ground into a bed without tilling. From sharpening your scythe to using the broad-fork. Errol’s tools can be purchased at his store on Orcas Island

Ana Manilof presentation 1

Seed Saving and honoring the life cycle of a plant is a crucial aspect of working with nature. Ana Manilof from Lopez Island has been selling seeds through her company Green Heart Gardens for a number of years. She quoted from one of our favorite books: Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth:

kale seeds in hand

The seeds that gardeners hold in their hands at planting time are living links in an unbroken chain reaching back into antiquity… Whenever gardeners begin to save their own seeds, they also become part of an ancient tradition.

Ryan Drum presentation 1

Ryan Drum from Waldron Island, talked about another ancient tradition: foraging and healing with plants.

Ryan Drum presentation 2

He managed to find an incredible amount of beneficial wild plants to discuss, just sitting in one spot in the garden. This is because we do not excessively eliminate weeds as part of our natural farming processes. These wild plants help keep the soil and crops healthy. Including Shepherds Purse, that Ryan told us can be used to stop heavy bleeding. What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. Ralph Waldo Emerson

RP presentation

We finished the weekend with a presentation from RP, who has been volunteering at the farm. A former Phd student in applied chemistry who wanted to warn us of the dangers of the newly developing nano-technology field.

workshop lunch

Lots of information and new ideas to digest during all the delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. On the menu: oatmeal and muffins, local poached salmon, BBQ beef from Talking Horse Farm, fresh garden salad, grilled zucchini and leek, couscous and chick pea taboule, borscht, home made bread and ratatouille with brown rice. Dining was accompanied by the lovely gypsy band OPA. We were all too busy eating, conversing and dancing to take any pictures. Thank you to everyone who contributed their head, heart and hands to this very special event.