Last Sunday I participated in an awesome event called PechaKucha. The event, which was developed in Tokyo ten years ago by a group of young designers, is a way to share ideas and information, in a fast-paced, image-driven setting. The way it works is that there is a theme, there are ten presenters, and each presenter shares a slide show. They get to show 20 slides, for 20 seconds each slide. Then they’re done, and it’s on to the next person. No intro time, no Q & A after, just 6 minutes and 40 seconds on the mic. Malena Marvin has been hosting these PechaKucha nights (which means chit chat in Japanese, btw) in Ashland quarterly for over a year now. The theme this time was Taking Flight, and it was suggested to me by a good friend that I should consider speaking about Squawking Hawk Acres. After all, she pointed out, it’s a project, or a dream, taking flight, and it’s named for a bird! So I did. And it was a great experience. Preparing the slideshow was a really useful tool for reflecting back on what the last year has been like on the property, what we’ve learned, what we’ve done, and where we’re going. I loved getting to sort through all the pictures we’ve collected, and I have to give a huge thanks to Frank Debaugh for his fantastic work behind the camera. Giving the presentation was, as I said, fun and scary! I had to speak into a microphone to a room packed full of people, about something I care very much about…! It went really well. And for those who weren’t able to attend, I’m going to share the photos, and a bit of what I said, here:
I grew up on a small farm and I’ve known ever since that I wanted to own property, to have that connection to the land where I was living, and where my food was coming from. However, buying property was the most impossible-seeming thing I could think of to do. It seemed scary and far-away, and like I wasn’t enough of a “grown-up.” Finally last year, on my 26th birthday I told myself I needed to get over it. I realized it was just fear and self-doubt holding me back, and I consciously decided to release those. I told myself this was the year! Literally two days later I set foot on this property for the first time.
I didn’t even know it was for sale when I went to look at it. It was listed as a rental on Craigslist. But it was love at first sight. It had everything I was looking for. Close to town but with a rural feel, close enough to bike. 3 acres. A beautiful house with space for roommates. A barn. Oak trees. Pasture land. Neglected gardens. Big porches for picnics and parties and sunshine. A well. Water rights from the TID. I took the plunge. And moved onto the land November 13, 2012.
The past year has been about settling into the property, getting to know the land, and clarifying exactly what I want to be doing there, as well as what the land wants to become. I’ve spent a lot of time just walking around the property. On one such walk, in the first few days here, a hawk flew over head, slowly gliding over the land, and calling out long and slow over and over again. I thought to myself then, this is the hawk’s land, he was here first, I am coming on to it, I will be sharing it. Later when we were bouncing ideas around for names Squawking Hawk Acres popped up, and it stuck. I’ve since learned that the hawk lives in the dead tree on the neighboring property. We see it fairly often and it is always a beautiful reminder of all the creatures with whom we share the land.
We also got chickens. For the same reason. Instant food. Plus great manure. And they are massively entertaining. It’s important to have this harvest coming in while we are working on the bigger picture. It’s like permaculture teaching us to Obtain a Yield. It helps to keep you motivated.
And we built this coop, which you can read more about in this post. It was a fantastic learning experience. We’re doing a lot of learning and growing here in this first year.
Along with planting the garden and getting chickens, the other first thing we did was to fill the house up with people. There are five of us that live full-time on the property. We actually don’t have a great photo just of us yet, but I love this shot. This is from the Siskiyou Challenge, and shows several of our housemates as well as a couple other friends. We are actively living in community together, and discovering what that means, and how we can support each other in our individual lives, as well as with what we are creating here on the land.
So the vision that’s emerging for this land, as we’re connecting to it and getting to know it this year, is this idea of Squawking Hawk Acres as a homesteading and permaculture demonstration site, a community gathering space, and a venue for educational and creative events. It’s all about connecting. And connection happens when people gather around food, growing food, cooking food, preserving food, eating food, and sharing food.
As we develop the big picture, the vision, for SHA we’re looking at ways to facilitate this happening on a greater level. We’re designing the infrastructure and the land to be able to support educational, skill sharing events. Building in parking space, tent camping sites, and outdoor kitchen and bathroom facilities so we can host multi-day workshop and retreats in the future.
Already we’ve hosted a great variety of events. The above photo is from a community dinner we hosted, organized by housemate Candace. We had 18 or so people gathered around a dining room table in our living room, sitting down together to share food, and discuss what community means to them, both the smaller more immediate communities of our homes and families, and the greater communities we interact with in our towns, and world. It was an amazing, stimulating, thought provoking evening.
We’ve hosted a variety of parties and concerts, including a HipHop Hootenany, and a cello concert with Anna Fritz and her band.
As I’ve been letting go of this fear and self-doubt that were keeping me from pursuing this dream that I’ve had for so long, I’m starting to take myself seriously. What’s been amazing for me to watch and realize, is that other people are taking it seriously too. And this dream and vision are shared by a lot of other people, and SHA can support a lot of people’s projects in different ways. Like my friend Jeanine, above, who approached me with the idea of the Art of the Farm days.
He came out and built this beautiful cob oven for us, using clay from the land and urbanite and rock that he sourced locally. The red color in the plaster coat on the tree is created using clay that a friend had given him from down near Happy Camp, CA. Now another good friend of ours, John, who is studying natural building, and particularly timber framing, is designing and building a timber frame roof to cover the cob oven area. So each of these projects is part of the demonstration aspect of this site, what we build or do, how we go about it, the materials we use. We’re learning as we go, and sharing what we learn.
I closed the presentation by saying that every time I tell someone about Squawking Hawk Acres, every time I talk about the vision, it becomes a little bit more of a reality. And I thanked everyone for being there, for listening, and for helping SHA take flight.
I want to say the same to all of you who read this blog. This is part of it. Creating this website has been, and continues to be, a huge learning experience for me. Sometimes I’m still in disbelief that all of this is happening. But it is. And it’s because of the amazing community of people, near and far, who believe in, and see the value of, this dream. Writing this blog is a great opportunity for me to reflect on and share in the process, and knowing you are out there reading it is immensely supportive. So thank you for being part of the Squawking Hawk family, and for helping this fledgling project gain its wings and start to soar.