Posts Tagged With: intern

Northwoods and Knives

After saying that I would update more frequently I promptly left home and didn’t update. Sorry folks!

What I’ve been up to:
Northwoods Vacation!
Jamie and I took a trip up to Superior country for a few days. It was wonderful.  The lake and surrounding area are gorgeous. I really enjoyed seeing Ashland and Northland College as I had thought about going there way back when during college application times in high school. One night when we were camping I heard some crazy wildlife that I am unfamiliar with and haven’t been able to identify.  I also heard WOLVES!

What Cheer? Brigade!
On Friday night the What Cheer? Brigade took our little town by storm and it was a dance party extravaganza never to be forgotten. Pretty much everyone I knew or have ever seen in town was there and dancing and having a blast.  Not many bands come to Viroqua and it was great to see everyone out and having fun!  I love this community!

Early American Knives!
A full update with photos will follow this but let me just say that I made a knife and its awesome! I’ve never done any blacksmithing or forge work before and I really loved it!  More later.

We recently got a half bushel of peaches and I have been preserving them in various ways all day.  I have some peach rings and fruit leather in the dehydrator right now and I am mid-canning some in a light syrup. Unfortunately the propane tank ran out and I must wait for the new one to get here this evening until I can finish!

We harvested the garlic a couple weeks ago, tied it, hung it in the barn to dry, and yesterday I cut it down, cleaned it, and prepared it for storage! It’s fun to see the whole process and it smells oh so yummy!

More to come and don’t worry, there will be pictures!

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New Catalogue!

Life here is all about learning and this week I decided to take my skills to a place where I didn’t think I would go with the folk school—the computer.  After a very full 8 hour day working on the new catalog with the rest of the work/studys I decided that I would step up and volunteer to finish the project of my own.  At some point it just felt silly to have everyone working on it when we only had one computer with the design program. 60+ work hours later, the catalog is finally finished and I can breathe easy.  In creating the catalog I learned two valuable skills that I can honestly say I didn’t have before starting the project—using a Mac and using InDesign.  Through this process I have learned that I am way more of a perfectionist than I ever claim to be, I am capable of living on little sleep and lots of caffeine even without the college environment, La Crosse is a great place to get stuff done, and I have a great support system here.  Mad props to the other work/studys and several board members for calling around and gathering/creating sweet artwork.   Even more gratitude and awe goes out to Jacob for compiling and writing all the class descriptions and teacher bios.  Also props to Jamie for designing a beautiful cover, finding lots of great artwork, doing the final touches and supporting me like no other.

You can find the new catalog here.


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Black Locust Logs!

Black Locust Logs:
Did you know that black locust trees are actually legumes? Did you know that you can peel the bark off the freshly but trees extremely easily with your hands? Did you know that it takes good when you lick the inner park? Did you know they are nitrogen fixing and grow like weeds here?


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Pickling– more photos!

Since taking the class I have become decently obsessed with pickling and canning.  I have pickled garlic scapes, green beans, and beets so far.  I love it. It’s easy and fun and makes for a nutritious snack later on. Here are some pictures:

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Pickling– a teaser!



Yesterday I took a pickling class with the Folk School.  We pickled carrots, garlic scapes, and green beans!

More to come later!

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Even kids like me who didn’t grow up in the country knew about hay lofts.  It’s one of those things we learn through osmosis from books or Fischer Price.  Every barn I ever drew as a child had hay coming out of a tiny window on the top floor—why did I never question how it got up there?  It wasn’t until actually experiencing the wonders of the grain elevator this past week that it even occurred to me to ask how the hay got upstairs. Yellow tufts of hay were simply always sticking out of red barns.

Last Saturday we had a work party at my host farm to load hay into the barn for winter feeding.  The hay was baled on my host family’s other property and then transported to the farm in a large trailer made especially for this purpose. Each bale was then shoved off the trailer and loaded onto the grain elevator. The grain elevator takes the bale up the barn’s second floor window where it is, forcefully, dropped and picked up and stacked 5-6 bales high.

Before going on let me describe a grain elevator in case, like me, you’ve never seen or fathomed one before. In simple terms a grain elevator is a massive metal contraption that brings hay bales up.  In my opinion they would be more aptly named hay escalators because they move at an incline not straight up and down like I had pictured in my head while eating breakfast that morning. Our first task of the day was secure one end of the elevator (its about 40 feet long) to the window we want the hay to go through and one onto a platform that  we made by stacking palates. Maybe newer models of grain elevators have figured out how to make this an easier task but what we simply tied a rope to one end and pulled it up and tied it off at the top. To start the machine a string it pulled much like a lawn mower and a large chain with hooks starts quickly going round like a bike chain or really large chain saw.  The hooks are what the bale is places on that that 9 times out of 10 they don’t fall down and endanger the people below.  It’s quite a formidable machine.  Definitely not one to wear dangly jewelry around.

So anyway, I was one of the three stackers in the hay loft which I can say with all honesty is one of those jobs that I wouldn’t want to do more than once a year.  Don’t get me wrong—we had a blast up there but it was very hard work.  The bales bound and bounce through the window every 10-30 seconds and in that time we would race to the other side of the barn while lugging a bale and heave it upwards into a neat stack to the ceiling.  Once we blocked the back window and lost our airflow things got a little rough.  Hay dust and high temperatures threatened to beat us but we kept on! The two trips to restock the hay trailer had given us two swims in the cool creek and an afternoon coffee break kept the energy up. Hours flew by and before we knew it the hay loft was full.  At the end of the day as we sat outside with our beers and scratchy throats we felt nothing short of victorious.

Question of the Day:  If each hay bale is between 40-60 pounds and throughout the day we stacked around 500 bales and if a polar bear weighs a standard ton—how many polar bears did we lift?

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Oven Building!

Portable Brick Oven and Earthen Oven Building!
Last weekend I took two oven building classes and my mind if all a buzz with dreams of building my own someday.  Both classes were full day, hands on, and we left having actually built an oven.  See pictures below:

The first class was on Saturday out in Soldier’s Grove at the house of a now good friend of the Folk School.  There were about 10 of us in the class with some people coming from several hours away! We started with a palette of firebricks, some insulating bricks, cinderblocks, and some leveling sand and in an hour we had a functioning and really attractive brick oven!  The teacher asked that I not share pictures of the oven design online so you’ll just have to trust me that it was really neat looking and that the process of building it really didn’t take too long at all.   After we built the over we lit a fire and then had a baking class. Once the oven was hot enough we pulled the fire out and bake some naan, pitas, and… ::drum roll:: PIZZA!  They took no time to bake and were quite delicious.  I can imagine it would be amazing having one of these in your backyard where you can light a fire in the afternoon, gather all your veggies from the garden, make some dough, and have pizza for dinner.   The question on everyone’s mind—why is it called a portable brick oven—has such a simple answer that it didn’t occur to me.  Of course the oven isn’t portable but the bricks certainly are because there is no mortar involved so it can be relocated, rebuilt, and redesigned to the owners delight!

The earthen oven class, in my opinion, was a lot more fun because we got super dirty and used mostly natural and local materials.  Because it is such a popular class it filled on Sunday and another section was opened on Monday so that all the work/studys (and our new friend Randy!) could take the class as well.  Class was held at the farm where two of the work/studys are living which is nice because it is a cool way of giving back to the community that supports us because they’ll have the oven for years to come. It’s not totally free for them but it sure beats using the woodstove inside to bake on a hot summer day so it’s definitely worth it! To make an earthen oven all you need is clay, straw, sand, some fire bricks, water, tarps, and nice level (preferable raised) place to put it.  The bricks are really the only thing that cost money and I’m sure there are ways of getting around that! I won’t explain the whole process because I wouldn’t be able to do it any justice but I highly recommend building an earthen ANYTHING someday. It’s really fun to mix the materials with your feet and it’s definitely a great activity to do with kids. I dream of using natural building materials to build my house in the future and the folk school is making that dream feel more and more attainable.

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Midwest Renewable Energy Fair

Each year just outside of Stevens Point, WI is a massive renewable energy fair.  The name is kind of misleading as it’s not entirely about renewable energy or even mostly about it.  If I could rename it I would call it the Midwest Sustainable Living Festival or the Midwest Moving-Past-Greenwashing-Into-Real-Solutions Extravaganza.  There are hundreds of exhibitors, hour long workshops on everything from solar panels to humanure to herbalism to building, great food, live music, awesome locally brewed beer at the beer tent, and an excellent vibe from everyone there. The four work studys and two board members went up to represent the Folk School and truly had a blast.  We brought with us a timberframe booth we made and a shaving horse for giving trunnel (wooden peg) making demonstrations.  I had such a fantastic weekend.

Since we had a booth at the fair we all took turns hanging out there, handing out catalogs, and talking with all the neat people that stopped to chat with us.  When we weren’t at the table we got to go to however many workshops we wanted! I went to a bunch including: Building Interfaith Environmental Coalitions, Ultimate Downsizing (living in small homes off grid), Using Local Herbs (herbalism/wild foraging), Pedal Power (using bikes to teach about electricity), and a couple others I am blanking on right now.  I learned tons and the instructors were all very inspirational.

When I first decided to move to Wisconsin I was nervous about what kinds of people I would be meeting. I definitely believe we are running out of oil and that our dependency is greater than ever—being at the Fair gave me hope for the future.  As we drove the couple of hours North for the Fair we passed thousands of acres of industrial agriculture but also wilderness areas,  beautiful rivers, and plenty of small farms.  Part of my reasoning for becoming a Driftless Folk School work/study was to learn more skills for homesteading, farming, and living sustainably and not only am I feeling fulfilled through my host farm and the school but also by the opportunities it is giving me—like going to the fair.

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Obligatory Introduction Post

My name is Annie B. and I am a 23 year old college graduate doing what many of my peers are doing in this economic climate—traveling, doing internships and work-trades for little or no money, and blogging about it!   Growing up in Massachusetts, spending summers at camp all around the Northeast, and going to college in North Carolina has all contributed to my current state of wandering and I couldn’t be happier with all the experiences I’ve had. After graduating from college with a degree in Outdoor Leadership Studies I stayed on campus as a Resident Director where my duties mostly included planning under attended events for my residents and writing up or lecturing loud underage drinkers.  I then moved to California for a year-long position as a Community Intern for the Woolman Semester—a radical semester program for high school juniors, seniors and gap year students based on peace, sustainablility, and social justice.  As an intern I wore many hats including: “grown-up”, gardener, vegetarian chef, trip leader, nanny, camp specialist, chaperone, etc. and loved them all. Now my wanderlust has pulled me to Southwestern Wisconsin where I am a work/study for the Driftless Folk School.

Driftless Folk School is a community based program focused on sharing knowledge, skills, and passion related to sustainable living.  The school has no physical location and classes are held at various homes, schools, farms, and homesteads around Viroqua and Vernon County. Classes are signed up for individually so that a person can take as many as they want throughout the year. Local experts and enthusiasts are hired to teach skills like pickling, natural building, chicken butchering, cheesemaking, blacksmithing, etc.  As a work/study I live with a host family on their farm outside of town where I work for room and board and a couple hours per week for the Folk School itself for a small stipend and free Folk School classes.  The folks I am living with out at Turtle Hollow are absolutely fantastic and I feel so lucky to have this opportunity!

My goal for this blog is to make it appealing to family and friends as well as those interested in Driftless Folk School, folk schools in general, or farm/rural life.  I feel I should mention that each work/study lives a very different life depending on what their host farm is like so it would be impossible to represent each experience in my blog. I’ll just keep to what I know! To follow will surely be photos, recipes, anecdotes, class reviews, and whatever else spills out of my brain. Enjoy!

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