It's the season of long, cold nights out here. The animals' water bowls are frozen by morning, people and animals all are cozying up in our respective cob structures, and we're all slowing down a bit.
We're wrapping up our fall fundraiser, just one more week to go! We're so grateful for all of the support we've received so far. If you are able to support our nonprofit and give a tax-deductible gift before the end of the year, you can donate here.
In this slowing-down time, we've been reflecting on the year behind us. Quite a lot has happened since this time last year.
Way back in January of 2020, we dove into learning about alternative organizational models, and we committed to restructuring our nonprofit to operate with non-hierarchical governance and transparent, participatory decision-making. Later in the year we voted to shift to equal pay for all employees.
In March, the pandemic reached critical levels and it became clear that we needed to move toward online programming for the foreseeable future. We have fortunately been able to continue mentoring aspiring farmers while employing rigorous COVID 19 protocols, and it's been well worth it despite the challenges.
Devin, one of the first farm interns to arrive during the pandemic, practicing safe (masked) harvesting.
In April, still finding our feet in the new reality of the pandemic and unable to teach most of our in-person courses, we started sharing garden strategies, recipes, and other information on Patreon. Here's a favorite from Sasha's Wild Kitchen series:
Note that we're taking a break from posting on Patreon to focus on producing our upcoming online Permaculture Design Course. Soon we'll be moving the Patreon videos over to our YouTube channel; stay tuned!
Not knowing what the future would hold, but seeing a possible scenario in which we wouldn't be able to host an in-person PDC for a while, we committed to doing something that we'd been considering for a while: developing an online version of our Permaculture Design Course.
Thanks to onecommune.com for the photo above, and for your partnership in the transition to video courses!
Moving into the heat of the summer (and it was a HOT one), you would've found Jan and Brenton working with local artist Betty Seaman to create the new 17x9 foot mural on the Family Resource Center building that shows the many ways that water moves through our Cuyama Valley landscape.
Design for the mural above. Thanks to the Department of Water Resources and the Cuyama Valley Community Services District for the grant that made this possible!
In June, Sasha (our Director of Natural Building and Advocacy) was invited to join the board of the Cob Research Institute, an organization dedicated to removing the legal obstacles to building with cob.
We're excited to be working more closely with the Cob Research Institute!
Also in the summer, we greatly increased our ability to grow food with the construction of two new hoop houses (which kept the rabbits and ground squirrels out), and the first round of experimental wicking beds (a water-saving technique).
hoop house to keep out rabbits, ground squirrels and quail
wicking bed, a water-wise growing strategy for drylands farming that uses "upside-down" watering
Later in the summer, we completed the first draft of our Ventura County permit application (which is the next big step in permitting our demonstration site), including architectural drawings of all of our earthen buildings.
Drawings of the Farm House, one of our tiny cob structures, above. Thanks to architect Bonnie Sangster for donating her time and talent to make these drawings! And thanks to Ventura County staff for their encouragement and advice in the process.
In the fall, we lost one of the longest term members of our community: our farm cat Sula. She was an elder here, nearly 20 years old, and deeply beloved. We miss her very much.
Thanks to another of our resident elders, Sue Blackshear, for this portrait of Sula (which hangs in the kitchen).
In December, Quail Springs youth educators Molly and Brendan completed a year-long program with Cuyama youth, encouraging civic engagement and empowerment through mentorship in goal setting and skill building.
Cuyama youth with Quail Springs mentor, Brendan. (This photo is from a pre-pandemic session; later sessions involved masks and distancing.) Thanks to the FUND for Santa Barbara for providing the grant, and the Family Resource Center for providing the space, that made this work possible!
Also in December, several of our staff members participated in Soul Fire Farm's virtual training "Uprooting Racism in the Food System." We highly recommend this training — check out Soul Fire Farm's for future trainings.
And last but not least here at Quail Springs, just a few weeks ago we finished installing a 3-mile waterline to bring spring water down canyon to the grazing grounds of the Cuyama Lamb sheep flock. (The goats seem to enjoy it, too.)
Thanks to the Natural Resources Conservation Service for the grant that made this waterline possible!
And here we are, with 2021 just around the corner! Our fall fundraising campaign is coming to a close -- just nine days left to donate and help us reach our goal of raising $100K by December 31st. If you're able, consider making a donation to support our work. Click here to donate and track our progress.
We're grateful for clear skies full of stars, for the smell of the desert after a rain, for mountain lion tracks in the sand reminding us that we are not alone out here, and for all of you who care about this world and this work and share our hope and vision for the future.