Small Family Farms Will Save Us: Learn at an off-grid homestead with goats, chickens, and a medicinal garden in the Mendocino mountains.
I have decided to host my annual flow arts micro festival this year, as a small private event the third weekend of September. I am looking for helpers who want to arrive mid to late august and stay for a full month, helping prepare for the event, and finishing up some summer season projects in preparation for winter. The opportunity to come to this event is pretty special and definitely a unique experience.
I am asking volunteers to stay for a minimum of one month, both for safety and for flow.
Covid: I am accepting workawayers. I request that you either be vaccinated, OR a recent negative covid test OR that you have either been quarantined/seriously social distancing for two weeks prior to arrival. When you message me, please let me know the details of what this looks like for you. Based on your situation we can create a plan to integrate you safely into the community.
My name is Kelly. This is the short story of my Homestead.
This Homestead is my home, my passion, and the action I take in belief that small family farms will save our species. This is also an extension of the lifestyle choice I had to make to heal from chronic and debilitating pain that consumed my 20’s and 30’s, and still impacts me today.
Located on 22 acres of second growth forest in the Mendocino Mountains in Northern California, this is an off-grid agroforestry and permaculture-inspired project. On the property since 2015, I’m in the beginning stages of manifesting my goal of being zero-waste, self-sustainable, and creating an example of the power of intentional small communities to nurture and rebuild the Earth’s ecosystem through direct action.
The Help I Need Right Now
There’s plenty of work options here for anyone with a good work ethic, but if you have the skills/desire to fill one of these top priorities, please share that with me when responding!
Priority 1 - Daily Chores
I am looking for a person/people who enjoy participating in a farm ecosystem by doing the daily chores and household tasks essential to keeping operations in motion. These people will be good at following well-established rituals, and take joy in knowing they’re freeing me to have some income producing time.
Priority 2 - Housecleaning. I like a clean house, and it’s time for a deep clean. Looking for someone that is meticulous and enjoys this kind of work. Experience is a bonus.
Priority 3 - General outside clean up. This involves lots of moving stuff from one place to another. Ideal for flexible people who enjoy “doing whatever needs to be done”.
Priority 4 - Chainsaw work. With 4 wood stoves on the property, cutting, splitting and stacking firewood is an never ending project. Looking for someone with skills and experience to fill this position.
For more details on these projects and other tasks I need help with, scroll to the “Help” section.
You’ll Thrive here If
- Your radically self reliant and fully capable of taking care of your own needs and behaving like an adult. (This is not an ideal position for people who have never lived or traveled on their own.)
- You’re an internally motivated person able to get work done without micromanagement.
- You like to volunteer in a way that contributes to a project’s big picture and long-term vision.
- You learn by doing and observing, and don’t expect to be taught by someone else.
- You like the challenge of helping to build a project - it is in the beginning stages, we’ve got a lot of room to grow, everything is a work in progress, and there’s a lot of hard work yet to be done.
- You’re okay with the reality that we eat meat (even though we happily accommodate all diets), rely on outside food sources, and have to rely on gas-powered generators when our solar reserve runs out.
- You enjoy living in service.
***If all of this sounds like it could be a good fit, please read through this whole listing before you apply, as I’ve included everything I think is helpful for you to know.***
Since it’s that time of year again. I cannot help you get a trim job. There are lots of locals that rely on this work, and I will always recommend a local friend if I hear of trim work over a stranger. Sorry, not sorry. 🤷🏽♀️
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
Help around the house
Help with Computers/ Internet
The 20 Year Plan
I spent the first year at the homestead observing the land, and created a 20-year permaculture-inspired design plan for the homestead that is constantly evolving. I’m happy to walk you through the property to share the design and the future plans for the project.
The homestead is ripe for hands-on learning. Every day can be an opportunity to learn, observe, ask questions, and cultivate knowledge and skills from the projects you’ve signed up to do, and from other projects happening as well.
Library of Books
I believe that reading a book is one of the best ways to learn because it introduces you to the full journey of someone dedicated enough to learning that they’ve committed to writing an entire book. I’ve cultivated a library of books that have had a deep impact on my homesteading journey, and that I feel share wonderful information. With gentle use and care, you’re welcome to read them during your time off. (Please don’t “accidentally walk off” with these. I’ve had a few too many books vanish the past couple years)
Depending on the season, we dehydrate, can, and preserve food here, and you can definitely participate when this happens.
Animal Care and Butchering
I have goats that we milk, that I sell, and that we slaughter for meat. I also have chickens on the farm for eggs and meat. Although you do not have to participate in the slaughter of animals, those interested are welcome to learn how to butcher, pluck, and use the full chicken for eating and art (we use the feathers for jewelry).
Medicinal Plants and Herbs
The garden is currently mostly medicinal plants, and I create tinctures and other natural products. You can help harvest the plants, and observe how I process what I’ve been growing in the garden.
The Flow and Festival Community
I am actively involved in the flow arts and festival community. I spin hula hoop, poi and fans, and also dance with fire. I host a Free Hula Hoop Camp here at the Homestead each fall, (Second week in September) as well as other smaller parties and events. (These things are mostly on pause due to covid.)
The peace and quiet up here is remarkable. It’s a great place to escape the grid, live symbiotically with nature, and with amenities like compost toilets and outdoor showers, you get to really immerse yourself in minimal living.
These are some of the opportunities for workawayers to learn in a hands on way as they help us stay sustainable.
Daily chores are the heartbeat of this homestead, and are perfect for those who like routine in their day. Chores are deeply helpful to me as well. When you complete chores, it frees up my attention for decision-making and the oversight needed to keep the homestead moving forward. Or maybe just to get some income generating online work done. The ideal workawayer for chores likes consistent routine, will be able to follow well-developed, tried and true instructions, show up on time for certain tasks, and is capable of clear and open interpersonal communication. This task is partially indoors.
Daily chores include things like feeding chickens and gathering eggs, playing with and brushing the dogs (including picking up poop), washing dishes, vacuuming daily, and other household tasks. If you’re interested in doing chores, I can send you a full, detailed list with instructions.
Forestry - Chainsaw skills actively wanted!
Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the old growth forest on our ridge was unsustainably clear cut. The density of our second growth forest is overgrown and unsafe. I am working to gently thin and clear the forest over time to steward ecosystem restoration. If you’ve got chainsaw and/or arborist skills, I’d love to have your help with this process. When trees are cut down, they feed the goats, fill the wood boxes, are used for building projects, and used in hugelkulturs to restore the soil and grow crops on the land. I’m also happy to explain and show you how the ecosystem has changed as we’ve stewarded in a more healthy balance. Mostly I just need help bucking down logs into firewood size pieces.
Barn Cleanouts, Compost, and Soil Building
Goats and chickens are an essential part of our sustainable and regenerative ecosystem. I use a deep litter system for our goat barn and chicken coop, and when we clean them out, we use the material to develop compost piles. You can participate in building and turning a developing compost pile, and cleaning out usable materials from the barn and chicken coop. These materials transform the compact clay soil into healthy soil that can grow abundant food in our no-till garden.
Pulling Weeds, Harvesting Herbs and Flowers
Pulling weeds can be a fascinating way to observe and manage nature as a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. As you weed you’ll learn the names of plants (and I’ll learn too as I don’t yet know all the names of the plants!) that we’re trying to keep, and the plants we’re trying to remove. I also need help harvesting herbs and flowers throughout the year.
There are opportunities for carpentry across all levels of the experience spectrum, whether you’re completely new to carpentry or have expertise. Beginners can participate in recycling usable construction materials for future use through easy tasks like disassembling pallets, and removing nails. Those with introductory carpentry experience can continue to learn by doing basic repairs that are a constant part of homestead life. If you are an experienced carpenter, I would love to hear from you. I also have some larger-scale construction projects, and I have opportunities for both ecological and modern woodworking techniques. (Check out my profile pics for the amazing fence that we built last year. Would love to have your help building another one like it this year.)
Composting Toilets, Humanure, and Hugelkultur
Everybody shits, including humans, and human shit can be just as useful to the ecosystem as goat and chicken shit. If you volunteer here you can learn how we use human poop to the greatest effect (it’s not as gross as you might think). The barrels of poop from the composting toilet sit and age to eliminate any pathogens before it becomes one part of a layered hugelkultur style bed. While pouring the humanure is one part of a hugelkultur bed, most of the labor for this task is gathering the other hugelkultur layers (logs, sticks and dirt). Eventually these garden beds will be covered in beneficial and medicinal flowers.
I’m in the process of setting up a platform for educational purposes, and I currently use social media as a tool for this. I’m looking for people who want to use skills they’ve cultivated in videography, photography, and/or writing to help me create a range of content, including YouTube videos.
-These spaces are large and comfortable, tall enough to stand up in and furnished with proper beds. You have the option of your own space, or to share with a friend. Most of these have twin beds in them, but if desired, I have some double beds available for couples.
This rustic one-room cabin is about a half mile walk down the hill from the main house. It is heated with a wood stove in winter. There is a composting toilet a short walk away. There are two beds in this cabin.
A single-room cabin with a kitchenette, wood stove and solar power. This space is habitable, but also a work in progress.
Information About Bedding
I believe that people working hard should have a really comfortable place to sleep, I offer proper mattresses on bed frames. I also have pillows, sheets, and blankets. Bedding is washed between workawayers.
If you travel in your van or small camper, I have a flat and shady place for you to park. (If you need sun for your solar panels, there is a spot by the road that has great sun)
Items you can count on being available here are dry beans, rice, oats, olive oil, and pasta. The rest of our food is mostly sourced from the (pretty incredible) local food bank, which includes a mystery amount of fresh veggies, bread, eggs, grains, legumes, pasta, meat, canned goods, peanut butter, and fruit. There are sometimes other fun surprises like candy or fizzy drinks. Sometimes the food is organic and locally grown, sometimes it is not. People can participate in food bank runs as they wish. Participation is appreciated but not required. There is always plenty of food bank food to share whether you participate or not.
When the farm produces surplus, I happily share the abundance with helpers. Right now, I have an abundance of eggs, I’m still getting a little fresh goat milk, and I’m starting to get fresh veggies from the garden.
If you want food outside of what is available and provided, you are more than welcome to purchase it. However, if desired you can stay here and be nourished without having to buy food. (I do recommend bringing some food with you as it may be a few days before our next food bank trip.)
We do eat meat here, and raise animals lovingly for this purpose, but I support all dietary preferences.
Update On Communal Meals (I don’t coordinate these anymore).
In the past we’ve done regular communal meals, but I’ve found it works better when volunteers coordinate this amongst themselves. If you love to cook meals for groups, feel free to propose this to your fellow workawayers.
Outdoor Camp Kitchen
There is a covered outdoor kitchen where the helpers cook their meals. You will have access to lots of counter space, a communal propane-powered camp stove, pots, pans, and dishware. There is a deep sink with hot and cold running water, gravity fed from the rainwater tanks. There is a secure cupboard for food storage. Greywater-safe soap and propane is provided.
There are two cupboards for food storage in the outdoor kitchen. To prevent problems with attracting predators to the homestead, it is vital that all food is securely stored, and scraps and dishes are cleaned up immediately. There is a fridge in the main house that you are welcome to store a small amount of perishables in. Freezer space is available, but limited.
We do not have trash service, so your help with waste management is necessary. There are recycling bins at the main house for communal use. All recycling must be cleaned completely before being placed in the bins. I ask that you take all non-recyclable trash to town yourself, and I can recommend places to throw this stuff away.
There is a primitive outdoor shower available. While this shower is not heated, the water does run through black tubing and you can get a hot shower in the warmer months at the right time of day.
Biodegradable and Greywater Safe Products
The shower water goes down to Bloody Run (the creek at the bottom of the property) and then into the Eel River Watershed. Please be sure ALL your personal care products are biodegradable. This includes shampoo and conditioner, bug spray, lotion, makeup, etc. Greywater safe soap is provided, but please provide your own towels. The house shower also requires greywater safe products.
There are 2 sets of compost toilets on the logging road. There is another compost toilet on the front of the main house, and a “normal” septic toilet inside. Every toilet is a bit different, so please follow the instructions in each specific toilet. Use the compost toilets as much as possible, the house septic system was designed for use by only 1 person. Peeing in the woods is encouraged, but please poop in provided toilets.
Getting to the Homestead:
The property is a 25 minute drive from the closest town of Willits. The last 4 miles is a steep dirt road that can be challenging for people new to mountain driving. Totally doable, just steep, and definitely easier during daylight.
There is no public transportation to my house.
For the Carless
A car is not required to come, but please inform me if you do not have your own vehicle. We make trips to town 1-2 times a week and, while I don’t make special trips to town normally, I am happy to make a special trip to pick you up. When I pick you, I can take you to get supplies like tobacco, food, etc.for yourself before returning to the homestead.
In this area, hitchhiking is a form of transportation people use, and volunteers have used it to get here.
If you are a tourer that has experience on dirt riding up steep grades, getting up to us is possible. There is a one mile steep gravel/dirt section that, even for the strongest tourers, will require pushing the bike. From Willits, the ride will take anywhere from 1.5 - 2.5 hours, depending on how strong a rider you are, and how much gear you have.
Feel Free to Explore, But Stay on Our Homestead
I have 22 acres of woods, mostly steep hillsides, but there are some established paths and roads to take for walks. Try to keep to a Leave No Trace attitude when hiking in the woods. Google that if you don't know what Leave No Trace means. Please do your best to stay on the property or on the dirt road, the neighbors DO NOT appreciate visitors.
It generally does not work out when people bring their pets. Even well behaved pets can upset the balance here, as my dog Zoey is very territorial in her job as farm protector. If you think your pet might be the rare exception, feel free to convince me to change my mind, it can happen. Tell me your pet’s favorite game so I know you read this far and acknowledge you are asking to discuss a rare exception.
There is not wifi up here. Seriously, NO WIFI. Cell service is poor at the property with the exceptions of US Cellular and Verizon. You can walk up the road a short bit to overflow parking where reception is better for other carriers. (A short walk further down the road is a stunning spot to view the sunset.) I can briefly hotspot from my phone if needed, but only for quick messages, my data does have a limit. There is free wifi in town at the Library and at McDonalds.
What else ...
Be Serious In Your Communications With Me
It’s often the case that I have more people interested in coming than we can accommodate, so what you write when you get in touch matters. Please be serious when contacting me and be as clear as you can about your needs, expectations and plans (or lack of plans😉). Long and thoughtful emails with proper sentences and punctuation are a great way to catch my attention. If your initial message to me is less than 6 sentences I will probably choose someone else.
Please Read This Whole Thing Before Asking Questions
Reading this whole thing before asking questions is also appreciated. I’m currently working multiple jobs (cause farm life doesn’t pay the bills...) and I’m grateful when applicants respect my time by not asking questions already answered here. If the answers to your questions aren’t here, I’m really happy to answer them.
Clearly Communicate Changes in Your Plans
If your plans change or you choose a different host please let me know as soon as you can. If I say yes to you, and then you change your mind, please just get in touch. No judgment. If you can’t come, I still need help, and would like the chance to invite others up here as soon as I can. Your clear communication makes this flow smoothly for everyone. Ghosting is difficult for me as it drains time and energy, and is unfair to potential workawayers who I reject after saying “yes” to you.
Social Media for More Information
If you aren’t ready to commit yet, and want more information, shoot me an email asking for more info. I can link you to all my social media sites so you can learn more about us that way.
Show Up With Integrity
I am not your parent, and I also don’t want to be a controlling boss. I expect you to arrive for the daily meeting on time, to do daily chores (If this is your roll) on time, and to do the work requested of you without having to nag or remind. I expect that you will follow house rules, and ask questions when you don’t understand the house rules. I expect that you will take good care of the land and the tools, and you will clean up your work site when you’re finished working each day. I expect that you will act like a mature adult, clean up after yourself, and respect the other members of this community.
My Alone Time
While the main house has an open-door policy throughout the day so that you can charge devices and help with daily tasks, I thrive on alone time, and I appreciate a few quiet hours alone in the morning, and in the evening.
John Is No Longer Involved In The Project
John and I came to a mutual decision to part ways in early 2020. Just to clarify, as I know he is mentioned in the reviews.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read all of this. I greatly enjoy the workaway experience!
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
There is a flat space near the outdoor kitchen where you can park your home and an outdoor fire pit you are welcome to use during the wet season. Best for vans or small campers. For those with solar panels, this spot is pretty shaded, others have driven to the parking area (maybe 1/4 a mile) for lots of sun as needed. (Parking area is also a option to park your home, but is not as nice a location due to road traffic).
More than two
5 hours a day, 5 days a week maximum
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