My Internship on a Permaculture Farm


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My internship in an off-grid permaculture farm in Pahoa, Hawaii.

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My Internship on a Permaculture Farm

  1. 1. Kelly KokaiselSustainability InternshipGreen Architectural Design/GaiaYoga GardensDistrict of Puna, HawaiiDescribe the internship experience so far. My first week in Hawaii of my internship at Green Architectural Design did not work out. Theinternship sponsor at Green Architectural Design misled, endangered, and deceived the interns. Therewere 3 of us, all female. Rachel is from Wisconsin and was doing the internship to further her career.Sabrina is an architecture student from Nebraska and was doing the internship for her resume. Theyboth decided to leave the internship Thursday of the first week. I decided to leave as well because of thefrustration and disappointment I was feeling from seeing the systems, tasks, and projects being presentedthat did not meet my needs for learning, honesty, communication, mastery, or safety. I took the weekend to find another internship. That is how I came across GaiaYoga Gardens.They have every one of the systems that I came to learn about: sustainable orchard design andmanagement (especially planting and maintaining fruit trees and bamboo), nursery work (potting, up-potting, weeding, watering, and fertilizing), foraging for food (including coconut climbing and harvesting),tarpentry (learning the art of putting up high-quality tarps, including working with ropes and knots), eco-dwelling design and construction (building our own low-impact dwellings), off-grid resource systems (solarelectric and hot water, water catchment, composting toilets, and food composting), andhomestead/community design and maintenance (everything else). I came for a visit and decided tocontinue my internship here. Here I have been perfectly happy and it is actually changing so much of my life for the better.Here most people eat raw (including meat), and whole or organic at the very least. Some people eatalmost completely from the land (for example, breakfast might be coconut water and coconut meat x3,lunch might be 6 mangoes and a couple bananas, and dinner might be some eggs, spinach, potatoes andguavas). Some people eat all fruit. You are encouraged to ‘eat instinctively’. There are many, many fruittrees here scattered all over the 18 acre plot, including avocados, mangoes, bananas, pineapple, lemons,limes, papayas, and even some fruits I’ve never heard of like longons, lychees, and soursap, and then ofcourse the macadamia nut trees. I’ve been told I need to go to Hilo and get a Durian…which isapparently this incredible, indescribable fruit that is in such demand that it costs roughly $20 per fruit(although they are very large). I’ll be picking that up this weekend. There is a large nursery with all kinds of things growing ranging from Black Bamboo to lilikoi(passion fruit), to perennial peanut for sale at the market and for the lawn here (instead of grass—neverneeds mowing and is very soft to lay in). Each eco-dwelling structure on the property (about 10 total) iswired with solar electric power and the tarped roofs have gutters that collect rain into the large on-sitecatchment tank, which feeds the passive solar hot water heating system, which supplies the outdoorbathhouse and washing machine and the two sink areas on the property, and is powered by recycledsubmarine batteries. The stove is propane gas. The toilet buckets are mixed with mulch, tree andgarden waste, and coconut shells from the property and used a fertilizer in the orchard. The food scrapsfeed the chickens, who are fertilizing the ground, which will soon be very fertile, and at which time wemove the chicken coop to another spot and the fertilized land becomes a new garden, which feeds us,and the waste goes back to the chickens. This place really has a lot of things dialed in and working very well…it is so amazing to seesuch wonderful sustainable systems working so well in real life. We survive on very little from the outsideand have very little actual waste here, and in fact all the actual waste from one of the structures, if it wereto be rendered useless, could fit in the back of a pickup truck. But it’ the little things that really make mesmile…in front of every structure there is either rounded lava rocks (very porous) or bamboo strips as a
  2. 2. doormat to knock all the earth off your feet, and the pallet wood and screen doors (a lot of pallets come into Hawaii but not a lot are shipped out, hence free pallets) have a lovely little self closing system where astring runs from the corner of the door, through a pulley, and down to the perfectly weighted lava rock thatcloses the door and just the right force…lovely. No need for a hinges, a wooden top and bottom mortisand tennon does the job. I am, however, getting a bit tired of having to use leaves to go to the bathroom, and that youcan expect that no matter what you make to eat you are guaranteed to have a least 1 fruit fly land in it atsome point. More protein I guess. But I am getting used to everything, and am finding that I am quitehappy and healthy here, and I really appreciate the community that we have. I love being able to work,eat, and live on the same land together…it brings a sense of closeness that I have not found in the city oron the mainland. Besides all that, we have morning meetings every day where we do spiritual work and ‘checkin’ with each other on things like what is alive in us today, things we may or may not be ‘in integrity with’,and celebrations we are feeling. There are also weekly classes on ‘Non-Violent, or CompassionateCommunication’ where we do mental work and learn how to better communicate our observations,feelings, and needs in our close community. I think what I am learning in that class is just as important asthe landance I do. Landance is the physical work we do here on the land, 16 hours a week total, usuallyin 4 day, 4 hour increments (M-TH). Landance is our work trade for living here at GaiaYoga. It’s really pretty amazing…we can live, with everyone’s needs met, on the land, working only 16hours per week. This frees up time for us to go adventure and explore around the island in the evenings,where we talk and learn and make invaluable connections, adventures, and experiences. Saturdays wego cocoing (coconut harvesting), and Sundays we run a booth at the local farmers market. There arealso potlucks on Sunday, and one on Wednesdays at the nearby farm, Polestar, where they also dochanting and meditative work. Surprisingly, there is not a regular ‘Yoga’ class here, as one would think of when you hear thename GaiaYoga. I have come to find that the type of yoga practiced here is the practice of working theland, although a few of us have taken to practicing yoga in the mornings before meeting. Another internhere is also teaching me meditation, which I have found to be very beneficial and pleasurable. I could go on and on, but needless to say, I have found everything I have been looking for andmore here at GaiaYoga.Have you missed any scheduled days?No.How many hours have you completed?As of June 4, 2010, I have completed 86.25 hours. I am working 30 hours a week and will be done onschedule.What elements of your learning objectives have you met? Work with solar panel systems—Learning how the passive solar hot water and electricalsystem works, how to test the voltage in the batteries, and record its measurements every morning. Work with permaculture—Learning how to plant, graft, manage, and harvest fruit orchards,vegetable gardens, and plant nurseries, and how to raise chickens and bees.
  3. 3. Work with rain catchment systems—Learning how the rain catchment system works,including how to string up tarpentry roofs, place gutters, and properly run piping to the tank. I am alsohelping to build the subflooring and flooring of a new structure called La’a Pueo (the sacred owl)…it willbe a private living quarters. Make contacts in the sustainability industry—I have met a number of good people here,including a kava farmer, a number of intentional community stewards, a couple raw meat eaters (haveyou ever seen anyone eat bone marrow?!), a midwife, an electrician/hvac/welder/builder, a monk/violinist,a lawyer/DJ, a hydrocolon therapist, and a very handsome singer/musician/nutritionist.What activities are helping you accomplish your learning objectives? Solar—Oriented on off-grid resource system: solar hot water and electric. Every morning Itake the solar output readings and learned to test the battery voltage. Permaculture—Oriented on sustainable nursery and orchard design and management: work ingardens, orchard, and nursery: weeding, watering, clearing, fertilizing, planting, and harvesting. Orientedon foraging for food and go cocoing (coconut harvesting). Nursery project: perennial peanut weed andseed. Foraging for food project: fruit harvesting. Oriented to permaculture system: chickens. Rain catchment—I measure the rainfall every morning. Oriented to tarpentry: help put uptarps and gutters. Walkthrough on the entire system. Contacts—I have been socializing during the potlucks and at the farmers market, and with theworkers that come here to the farm to carry out various tasks. I am striving to learn everything I canabout our property here from the stewards of GaiaYoga. I am also striving to learn all that I can from theother interns here: nutrition, meditation, music, community, spirituality, and sustainability.How is this experience affecting your skills? Technical—I am learning hands-on orchard design and management, how to use variousgarden, nursery, and orchard tools, and how to plant and maintain fruit trees and bamboo. I am learninghow to manage off-grid resource systems such as solar hot water and electric systems, water catchment,composting toilets, and food composting. I am learning eco-dwelling design and construction practicesand materials and tarpentry (learning the art of putting up high-quality tarps, including working with ropesand knots). I am learning nursery work (potting, up-potting, weeding, watering, and fertilizing). I amlearning permaculture techniques such as growing and foraging for food (including coconut climbing andharvesting). I will be completing a Life Cycle Analysis on an island breeze house eco-dwelling. Creative—I am learning how to communicate better with peers, co-workers, and those in mycommunity. I am learning how to consume locally, ranging in everything from food to materials. I amlearning a whole new thought process around needs; personal and community. Mostly I am learning howto consume less, and create and run sustainable systems. Professional—I am learning skill and habits here that I will take with me forever…everythingfrom my diet and food habits, to communication, to new creative and technical skills and habits. I am sograteful for what I am learning here—things I could not have learned in any classroom.
  4. 4. What do you plan to accomplish in the remainder of the internship? • Continue sustainable orchard design and management project: grafting, planting, maintaining, fertilizing and harvesting fruit trees. • Analyze and record components eco-dwelling: chicken coop. Feed and collect eggs. • Perfect the knots for the tarpentry: bowline. • Analyze and record components of the off-grid resource system: rain catchment. • Analyze and record component of a tropical breeze house eco-dwelling. • Analyze and record components of the off-grid resource: solar system. • Assist on eco-dwelling project: tarpentry. • Document fruit and deciduous trees, vegetables, and plant types. • Community design project: nutrition, eating raw, eating whole, and eating instinctively. • Complete Life Cycle Analysis on eco-dwelling: The Bedouin.
  5. 5. Weekly Hours: Green Architectural DesignWeekly Goals 5/24-5/30: • Get oriented to sustainable design practices and materials • Get oriented to off-grid resource system: rain catchment • Get oriented to permaculture system: chickens • Get oriented to projects and clients Friday May 14, 20109pm-12midnight: sweep out cabin, set up beds, and set up kitchen. Saturday May 15, 2010 9am-4pm: cleaned out construction debris from cabin, installed storage and counter space,overview of water catchment system, and introduction to chickens. Monday May 17, 2010 8am-4pm: morning meeting with contractor, orientation to websites and products, and overviewof projects. Tuesday May 18, 20109am-12noon: morning meeting, client communications. 2-5: Web advertising. Wednesday May 19, 20109:00am-12noon: morning meeting, client communications. 3-4pm: Web advertising. Thursday May 20, 20109-11am: morning meeting, client communications.30 hrs Weekly Hours: Gaia Yoga GardensWeekly Goals 5/24-5/30: • Get oriented on sustainable nursery and orchard design and management • Get oriented on eco-dwelling design and construction • Get oriented on foraging for food and go cocoing (coconut harvesting)
  6. 6. • Get oriented to tarpentry • Get oriented to the off-grid resource systems: solar hot water and electric Tuesday May 25, 2010Tasks:30min loading pallets, 2.5 hours working on sub floor at new structure and getting oriented.Took pics and vids. Wednesday May 26, 2010Tasks:9-10am: morning meeting. 12noon-6pm: working on sub flooring. 7pm: 15 min gatheringspinach leaves for dinner. 8-10pm: NVC class. Thursday May 27, 2010Tasks:9-10am: morning meeting. 12noon-3pm: weeded perennial peanut patch, weeded tomatoes,helped put up tarp in carport. Friday May 28, 2010Tasks:9-10am: morning meeting. 11-11:15am: learned how to measure the voltage in the solarsystem batteries. 6:30-9:30pm: read GaiaYoga book. Saturday May 29, 2010Tasks:9:30-4:30: coconut harvesting/pruning. 5:30-6: cleaning out truck/van. Sunday May 30, 2010Tasks:12:30-1:30: Read GaiaYoga book. 6-7: prepared food for neighborhood potluck.30 hrsWeekly Goals 5/31-6/6: • Continue nursery project: perennial peanut weed and seed • Continue eco-dwelling construction project: subflooring at La’a Pueo • Nursery work: potting, up-potting, weeding, watering • Community design project: Implement Non-Violent Communication techniques • Foraging for food project: fruit harvesting • Begin work for LCA on The Bedouin
  7. 7. Monday May 31, 2010Tasks:9-11: morning meeting, work outline for the week. 11-3:30: unloaded truck and trailer of marketgoods, weeded perennial peanut patch and paths. Tuesday June 1, 2010Tasks:9-10:30am: morning meeting. 1-1:30: chores in bathhouse. 1:30-4: work on subflooring at La’aPueo. 4-5: weeding in garden/La Bedouin. Wednesday June 2, 2010Tasks:12noon-4pm: quarried and hauled lava rocks to La’Apueo, cleaned The Landing, worked onsubfloor at La’a Pueo. 9-10pm: read ch. 1-3 NVC book for class tomorrow. Thursday June 3, 2010Tasks:9-10:30am: morning meeting. 10:30-2:30: watered plants, weeded, cleared, and organized inthe nursery. 8:15-10pm: NVC class. Friday June 4, 2010Tasks:9-10:30am: morning meeting. 11:15-1:45pm: mulched and planted perennial peanut patch.26.25 hrsWeekly Goals 6/7-6/13: • Continue sustainable orchard design and management project: grafting, planting, maintaining, fertilizing and harvesting fruit trees. • Analyze and record components eco-dwelling: chicken coop. Feed and collect eggs. • Perfect the knots for the tarpentry: bowline. • Analyze and record components of the off-grid resource system: rain catchment. • Analyze and record component of a tropical breeze house eco-dwelling. • Analyze and record components of the off-grid resource: solar system. • Assist on eco-dwelling project: tarpentry. • Document fruit and deciduous trees, vegetables, and plant types. • Community design project: nutrition, eating raw, eating whole, and eating instinctively. • Complete Life Cycle Analysis on eco-dwelling: The Bedouin.
  8. 8. The Landing (the communal structure)The Bedouin (my sleeping quarters in a tropical breeze house eco-dwelling)
  9. 9. La’a Pueo (The Sacred Owl, a new structure with a lava rock and pallet subfloor) Tarpentry roof systems
  10. 10. A bowline knotThe chicken coop
  11. 11. Chickens and compostThe passive solar hot water panels (solar electric on the roof)
  12. 12. The laundry area (our off-grid resource system) underneath the solar panels Old submarine batteries for the solar system and our rain gauge
  13. 13. Solar panel system control unit and inverterHot water heater and daily solar and water records
  14. 14. Au’au Heiau (Bathing Temple) The coco-bar
  15. 15. The pineapple patchA lemon tree and the banana gallows
  16. 16. Some banana trees and lava stones (they lock together well) The beds I laid of perennial peanut
  17. 17. Mulch and perennial peanut
  18. 18. The lawn (perennial peanut)A properly hacked drinking coconut
  19. 19. The vegetable garden The nursery
  20. 20. Cocoing (coconut harvesting) at Dr. Sakimoto’s Cleaning the crowns
  21. 21. Loading up the fronds and coconuts
  22. 22. SmartZone Communications Center Collaboration Suite KellyKokaisel@comcast.netRe: Hours worked Tuesday, May 25, 2010 8:59:13 AMFrom: To: kellykokaisel@comcast.netHi Kelly,this is too confirm that you worked 30h during your time with Architectural Design in Keaau Hi. in May 2010Sincerely,Joachim HagemannOn Mon, May 24, 2010 at 7:18 PM, Kelly <> wrote:Hi Joachim,Can you please confirm that I worked 30 hours for you over the first weekend and week I was here please. Thank you.Regards,KellySent from my iPhone--