The Greenhorn at Blue Rock Station: Post #2


When I was a child, every year I would stay with my grandparents in Texas for the summer break. Some of my fondest memories were from this time; I thought they were the richest people in the world. It wasn’t until much later that I realize how little they had.

My sister and I in Corpus Christi, TX.
My sister and I in Corpus Christi, TX.

Even still, as I thumb through the memories of seven people crammed into a two bedroom apartment, my mind refuses to see poverty. This is largely due to my grandmother’s gift to mask her frugality in a way that kept her children from ever worrying about being poor. The reason why we didn’t use the A/C wasn’t because the utility bill would be too high, it was because the freon gave my grandmother headaches. We didn’t walk miles to the local video store because we couldn’t afford another car payment, she just preferred to walk. The reason why we always had home cooked meals wasn’t because she couldn’t afford to feed us any other way, it was because the white people who owned those restaurants didn’t think she was good enough to eat there when she was a child, so she sure as hell wasn’t going to give them money now.  A lack of money was only an issue back in North Carolina with my parents, but in Texas I wanted for nothing.

As I settle into life at Blue Rock Station, I have begun to recognize that a lot of the things I am getting into a habit of doing here are things that my grandparents already do (e.g. canning food, planning meals, eating together, freezing leftovers, conserving water/electricity, gardening, and composting). I had read quite a bit about sustainability before arriving here, but I somehow missed that connection. For many people my age, our grandparents already know how to live happily with less. However, somewhere during the rise of the consumer culture, my parent’s generation developed a phobia to frugality. Instead, they threw money at all their problems (because it freed up time to work more so they could throw money at other things). In a similar fashion, my generation would go on to accumulate $1.2 trillion in student loan debt in an attempt to learn what our poor, uneducated ancestors already knew. And while I acknowledge that it is unlikely that I would have come to this conclusion without coming here first, I am a little disappointed that I felt more comfortable driving 1000 miles to do an internship than I did asking my family for help.

Fruit Kimchi!
Fruit Kimchi!

Much of my discomfort likely derives from how disconnected I have become from my family, and I know I am not the only one. White culture says that when you become an adult you are supposed to leave home – it doesn’t matter where, but no self-respecting adult should stay home (most likely so you can make room to accumulate more shit you don’t need). Independence is great, but if we’re severing connections prematurely then we are constantly missing opportunities to learn from the people most like us. Instead, we create this distance between our family, only to see them on special occasions. What’s even more unfortunate is that on these special occasions, everyone gets thrown into this chaotic environment where on the inside we are stressed, annoyed, and then relieved when it is all over.

This is something I will work on when I return home. I have felt my ancestors reaching out to me for years; I’ve just been unsure how to reach back. Sustainability would be a great place to start, as it is clear to me now that I have enough of a foundation – given to me by my family – to reproduce what has been reinforced in me while at Blue Rock Station.


The Greenhorn at Blue Rock Station: Post #1

The importance of introductions and goodbyes have always been a difficult thing for me to process. Much of my early memories of social interaction involve my father apologizing to others for my rudeness when leaving abruptly or failing to say hello. Later, it would be my girlfriends who would be apologizing for me. I am still not completely convinced that introductions are necessary; as it all feels incredibly scripted, but I am conscious that others expect it from me.

Chris Guitar

So this is my Intro – my name is Christopher Creech, and I am a sociology major from central Texas with a focus on the consumption habits of North Americans. I am currently an intern at Blue Rock Station, a sustainable living farm located in rural southeast Ohio in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Specifically, the focus of this internship is on correlation between consumption and subjective happiness. I have Asperger’s, and though I have never viewed it as a disorder, it has likely guided much of my frustration with the world. My desire to escape it, through music, first sparked my interest in sustainable living. As an “angsty” teenager, the folk-punk bands from the Midwest mesmerized me with lyrics that rejected the consumer culture and embraced simple living. This blog will be cataloging my journey towards a more sustainable way of life while at Blue Rock Station, in addition to me musing over the various factors that effect human happiness.

When I first arrived at Blue Rock Station I felt mostly apprehensive. I had spent most of my life running away from places; this was the first time I had ever arrived anywhere with a purpose. I would be spending the next 11 weeks learning new skills, interacting with new people, and all sorts of other things I normally tend to avoid because I have an aversion to failure. However, I had gotten to a point in my life where I felt like I was getting everything I had ever wanted, yet I was deeply unsatisfied. I eventually came to the conclusion that my dissatisfaction with life could not be cured by wants, but by the need for something different. This is what led me to Blue Rock Station.

Chris & Mel
My first day mostly consisted of me being acclimated to the farm. I drank tea with Jay while we discussed what skills I currently had, what skills I wanted to learn, and what goals I have for the internship (i.e. none, all of them, and the confidence to change the world). He then expressed his disdain with Texan’s infatuation with the shape of their state, only to proudly announce that Ohio was in the shape of a heart several minutes later (highlighting how individual differences tend to be slim). Afterwards, Melanie, the other intern, explained to me the assorted functions of all the buildings on the farm. I then followed her through the garden trying my best to not be annoying. She was incredibly kind, though, and helped me plant black radishes in one of the garden beds. I was intensely proud of myself, though I was too self conscious to show it.

As it got further into the evening Annie, Jay, Melanie, and I all convened at the Overlook to discuss the events of the day. I mostly just observed, but I appreciated everyone’s genuine interest in each other. They listened intently as each person told their version of the day. I recognize that this shouldn’t seem novel, but within our fast moving culture I have become accustomed to the scripted calls and responses that plague our daily conversations. It was refreshing. After night came I went to bed earlier than I had in years, likely because I hadn’t spent my day saturated in electronic interference. Laying in bed, I thought to myself, “I can do this,” feeling more confident than I had since I was a child.

Peace Grows
P.S. If you have questions or comments I would love to hear from you.

June Celebrations Fail to Keep the Raccoons at Bay – the News from Blue Rock Station

News from Blue Rock Station:

Now that spring is finally here and the summer interns have arrived (Melanie Newell) has left a huge hole in our hearts with her departure in May) we’re in full swing with work schedules, gardening, trying to complete the solar installation study guide, and fall planning.  Some days it feels like I’m on a treadmill with the long days of beautiful sunshine.  All of that light makes my brain think I need to work from dusk to dawn, and with so many strawberries to put up, and new goat kids (and all of those weeds), I feel I might begin to long for winter (I’m not serious, don’t worry).

June is a time of celebration here at Blue Rock Station.  This year marks 33 years since Jay and I have been together.  It surely doesn’t seem that long ago.  When we got married, I  worried that we wouldn’t have enough years together.  I was 29 and had significant health issues.   I worried that we wouldn’t have a long time together.   As I tell him from time-to-time, our life together will never be long enough.  It has been over three decades of travel, children (ours and temporary ones), economic prosperity, going broke, loss, gain and learning.   I wouldn’t want to trade one day of it for anything.  ferry at Doverwaiting to get married

Upcoming Workshops from Blue Rock Station:

The complete schedule for 2014 is now posted at


  • June 14th – Father’s Day Earthship and Sustainable Farm Tour (SOLD OUT)
  • June 14th – June 15th – Designing, Building and Maintaining Living Roofs Weekend (SOLD OUT)
  • June 16th – June 20th – Solar Electric (Photovoltaics) Certification WorkshopColumbus, Ohio (SOLD OUT) 
  • June 21st – Goat College: Hoof trimming, basic cheese making, and natural goat health


  • July 5thEarthship and Sustainable Farm Tour (Please RSVP early, all tours this year have sold out prior to the tour date)
  • July 5th- July 6th –  Earth Plastering Weekend Workshop
  • July 8th – City Folks Farm Shop talk by Annie on Sustainable Business Practices, Columbus OH
  • July 19thEarthship and Sustainable Farm Tour (Please RSVP early, all tours this year have sold out prior to the tour date)
  • July 19th – July 20thRiver Stone Mosaics (Walkways and Patios) Weekend Workshop
  • July 21st – July 25th – Solar Electric (Photovoltaics) Certification WorkshopCleveland, Ohio (several slots are still available but sign up early to avoid disappointment)

You can also join us online at Facebook (Blue Rock Station Green Living Center – OR follow Annie Warmke’s blog at (Homesteading and Livestock).

The Critters:

So far my new animal protection psychology program is working.  It is, however about to be severely tested.  For the past year or so I’ve been “working with” the predators that make their home at or near Blue Rock Station.  I cope by keeping the chickens safely tucked inside their coop and enclosed run, letting them out to roam only every second  or third day.  I vary the time of their release, in an attempt to confuse the predators.   Yesterday they were out all day, but the day before they were only out for about an hour.   All of this takes some thought and planning, but in the evening when I conduct the chicken census – the numbers are holding fast.  So I suspect it has been worth the effort.

For the past two nights a critter that acts a lot like a raccoon has been pushing and pulling at the chicken wire of the run outside the coop.  The chickens are tucked safely inside the Chicken Chalet at night so, for now, all that’s happening is that the little demon is sniffing around.  Last year a raccoon actually dug out the clay/can wall of the chalet and killed two hens. T o be on the safe side, we’re in the process of building a new bottle wall (this time with concrete) where the coon has been sneaking in.  I’ll keep you posted.

Words that Guided:

Just for today, the world is at peace.

Kindest Regards, Annie

Sunday was cold…

Sunday was cold.  Instead of really working in any committed capacity after morning chores, we went for a little hike in the woods.  We gathered up some limbs to use as fence posts and we marked a bunch of sugar maples with the hopes of tapping a few of them for syrup.  Tapping and making syrup will be more of an exploratory exercise than an actual focused venture I’m sure.

Anyway, the leaves are changing and the walnuts and buckeyes are dropping.  We gathered up an entire plastic grocery bag of buckeyes from a somewhat dry creek-bed.  Annie said we could make a pretty penny selling those babies at the auction but I elected to attempt to eat them instead.

Apparently their tannin levels naturally border on poisonous so we are soaking them to steep out the tannins.  Once they’re ready, well score their shells and roast them.  I hope they’re delicious.  We had a Chinese Chestnut tree in the back yard of the house I grew up at and those nuts were delicious so maybe the buckeyes won’t be far off, being in the same family and all.

Lindsay and I cooked lunch, which was leftover potato soup and grilled cheese.  Lindsay was also stuffing peppers with goat cheese and baking them in the toaster oven.  When I then turned on the electric teapot we blew a breaker, only we did not know we blew the breaker for some time.  I stood there, cutting butter and cheese, preparing for the next round, and eventually thought, “Man, these grilled cheese sure are taking forever,” after which, I deduced the problem… five more minutes later.  Idiot. Oh well.

After that I wandered around looking for various things for an art project I’m slowly working on and a solar space heater I haven’t started at all.  After balancing across some fallen trees in the woods, traveling between barns, I crossed paths with Annie on my journey and helped her finish harvesting some amaranth for the goats as it started to rain.

We had some tea and I went off to take the coldest solar shower to date.  Somehow even though I could tell this was the coldest shower, I could also tell that I handled it better than that which previously held the record.  It might have helped that it wasn’t 11pm and windy and that the sun came out while I was in there.  After showering I started some laundry and then took some pictures of my new sleeping quarters… The Happy Nest!
Aaron has moved out of The Happy Nest and into The Dogwood Chalet and I have moved out of The Bunkhouse and into the Happy Nest.  It’s a re-purposed stock garden shed that was going to be thrown away that was renovated into a living space.  It’s got a bunk bed and a desk and that’s pretty much it.  Under the barn wood walls is some straw insulation that will hopefully make this little home a comfortable place to winter… especially with a tiny space heater in there—mm, toasty.


Well, it’s be…

Well, it’s been a while since I (Andrew) have written.  In addition to a weekend build, another workshop, visitors, volunteers, parties, a new intern, and general exhaustion, I’ve been busy with the Llama Lounge.  We’ve completed both bottle walls, a lengthy and time-intensive process, and attached a gate, reused of course.  I’m currently painting the wood, which is the bane of my existence, second only to writing the blog.  I’m trying my best not to paint the slate but I am.  I’m also painting my hair.
The good news is we’ve busted out the instruments.  I now have access to a guitar, keyboard, and violin.  I’m not good but I like to play.  The “bad” news with the keyboard is that it is not 88 keys and thus pieces like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata are out of play.  I hope to “fiddle” around with the violin the most, as I know how to play that instrument the least.  This may be difficult because quarters are tight in the Earthship so bad violin-ing would be heard easily, quickly reaching madness-driving decibels.  Perhaps I’ll steal it away when I move into the Happy Nest for the winter.

The Happy Nest is where Aaron currently resides, but once he finishes the Dogwood Chalet, he’ll move into there.  Mandy, a repeat volunteer, has been showing up to help since her participation in the weekend straw-bale build.  This place is addictive, people, and we have proof!  Today they’ll be lime plastering the vaulted ceiling which will be quite messy over head and eventually under foot.

More positive proof of Blue Rock Station addiction is the addition of intern #3, Lindsay.
Coincidently, she and I are from the same part of Ohio.  And interestingly, she is somehow or another related to June Carter-Cash.  She will mainly be helping out with cooking, but she has already done more with slate here than me.  I’m hoping to convince her to share the blog responsibilities with me, especially because I have, of late, poorly kept up with them.

Well, it’s off to chores and the Llama Lounge.  I want to try to finish it today because we have another build this weekend with the ETHOS engineers from University of Dayton, which means if I don’t, I won’t be able to work on it again until Monday. So, here I go!

(Brief explanation of blog as bane: take this particular entry for example: I tried for an hour to post this on Friday to no avail.  Nothing would load on either wordpress or facebook. Nothing would copy or paste.  This happens often enough to discourage anyone, mainly me, from attempting in the first place.)

Thursday and Fr…


Thursday and Friday in Athens, OH, Annie and I attended Waste to Wealth: “Building Rural Assets Through Resource Recovery,” a summit organized by the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative dedicated to finding solutions for all things recycling in our region. When Annie asked if I wanted to attend, I had assumed there would be around twenty people total from various city councils from two or three Ohio counties.  Well, in addition to those people, as the conference unfolded, I was overwhelmed by attending Ohio state senators and reps, CEOs and government officials from other states, and chairpersons of various federal boards from D.C.  I was certainly the smallest fish in the “waste stream” (industry jargon).

Neil Seldman, President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Thursday’s keynote speaker delivered an inspiring account of successful ventures across the nation achieving zero waste goals.  He praised the Austin, TX waste plan as the template all other cities hoping to achieve zero waste should adopt and adapt.  As he generally explained our current waste issues and potential solutions he lobbied for extended producer responsibility meaning that companies should be accountable for all of the waste they produce.  To prevent millions of pounds of material from entering the waste stream, Neil also petitioned for a bottle bill to demand the use of refillable containers, professing that the real, lasting solution to waste was to not generate any in the first place.  he continued to suggest reuse as the solution to recycling and I was very much encouraged by this notion, especially as that success would make obsolete the jobs of many in attendance, or at least force an adaptation to a changing market.

Pam Curry, Center for Economic Options Executive Director, inspiringly spoke about deconstruction as an option for harvesting valuable materials.  She and her constituents are working hard to make deconstruction a viable and valuable part of our economy.  I spoke to her after her plenary panel asking if she knew of the hundreds of foreclosed properties in the Columbus and Zanesville area about to be demolished and if she knew of a way to salvage the building materials rather than throw them away.  She was receptive to the idea, suggesting one of her colleagues probably knew about it, but went on to share the difficulties of bringing deconstruction to fruition. She explained that, locally and across the nation, entrepreneurs are not convinced of the value of this pursuit.  It was more discouraging to hear that the Chinese are convinced to the point of sending workers to the US to deconstruct buildings and ship the material to China.

I also spoke with Kyle O’Keefe, Rural Action coordinator of the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative about communication difficulties related to creating a network to connect commodity sources to producers.  There are probably resources available that producers simply don’t know about because of a lack of media infrastructure to support the information in addition to ignorance about the worth of those commodities.  Additionally, broadband is currently extremely limited in Appalachia Ohio.  It was encouraging to hear that our regions State Rep is working on a broadband solution and that Rural Action sees the importance and value of a kind of social network for waste-based commodities.

Friday’s final plenary panel hammered home that localization and treating clean waste as commodities were the best steps toward zero waste.  There is no such thing as a pile of worthless trash.  We have commodities that have worth, from paper and glass to food scraps and yard waste.  We are a resource, either individually or collectively as a city, business, or other entity, and if we connect with, or create, local producers who need our commodities then we become an outlet for sales that will not only get rid of our “waste” but create a profit and jobs for our local communities.

All in all, I had a great time at Waste to Wealth and felt very lucky to have been in attendance.  I was excited and encouraged by everyone’s interest in being accountable for the future, a cleaner planet, and a better life.


Thursday I began work on the Llama Lounge.  I brought Guilliame with me so that he wouldn’t feel lonely and so he would have an entire field to eat if he wanted.  As I began to cut up the earth with the mattock, he was more interested in what I was doing than roaming the vast expanse now available to him.  When his young mind wandered so did he off into the field.

Eventually, when his mind wandered again, he remembered he came here with someone and returned to beg for my attention.  I complied for a while but then returned to work and he’d returned to the field and the cycle continued throughout the day.  Despite these pleasant interruptions, I finished digging the footers for two walls and a shallow trench for water run-off along three sides.
Friday I poured the concrete into Thursday’s dugouts.  I had hoped to pour everything but it ended up taking much longer, and using more concrete, than anticipated.  We had purchased more cement the night before but did not unload it from the car.  Of course then we forgot about it and the car was gone most of today.  Luckily the downtime between not having more concrete and the car returning was minimal.

I did not bring Guilliame to help today, as he was sure to step into the wet concrete.  I had to corral the llamas out of the field as well for the same reason.  At one point, they escaped their little enclosure and Aaron and I had to herd them back inside.  I finished pouring the wall footer we needed for Saturday’s Build (and adjoining drainage culvert not crucial for Saturday.)
Saturday, Diane arrived.  She was the sole person enlisted in today’s build.  It was raining and I was not looking forward to working in it.  But soon the rain stopped and we began to construct a bottle wall on top of Friday’s footer.  The bottles act as bricks and a sand-clay-cement mixture (6-3-2) acts as the mortar. We built three layers and then had to stop to let it set, so we turned our attention to the two existing walls.  One of the two was ready for lime plaster so we mixed up a batch (three parts sifted sand to one part lime). Like me, Diane seemed to find the application meditative and before I knew it we were done.
So we could cob beneath it, from the remaining wall, Jay had been removing the slate, which was there as a feature in previous-intern Nans’ design (the Llama Lounge is made to resemble a llama’s head).  Months ago, strong winds had blown off the slate in several places, and it was decided that cobbing the wall might make for less wind under the slate.  Also, the llamas had broken through the wall on the other side and ate some of the straw.  The hole which had been repaired before, needed repaired again, so I cobbed that while Diane cobbed the “slate” side.   Then we were done for the day.  Diane said she had a great time and that she’d be back for next week’s straw-bale weekend workshop.

Sunday, I built another level of the bottle wall and cobbed some more of the slate wall.  But then I wanted to spend some time with Guilliame who I could hear crying at the barn.  I’m pretty sure he knows his name and my voice because when I call out, his cry changes from one of utter despair to “I’m still really sad but I really hope that’s who I think it is.” And then, when he sees me, he has no need to cry anymore and smiles a great goat smile.
We climbed the rocks in the field and went into the woods.  I walked along the trails the other goats had made and he followed right along behind me.  (Why can’t Tomas be as good of a follower?  I’m pretty sure Tomas is mad at me—jealous I’ve been spending more time with Guilliame.)  We made a big loop and it began to rain a little, but we climbed the rocks in the field again anyway and then I returned him to his stall.
Tomorrow I think I’ll try going for a walk with Tomas and Guilliame.  I think Tomas will still be too much of a kid and quit early on, or make such a fuss as to not even begin.  Either way it will be fun.