- Now Accepting Extended-Stay Volunteer Applications for 2014
Application Deadline: January 15
- Free Workshop Schedule for 2014
November 5, 2013
- Added new photo albums
Updated November 5, 2013
Maya Creek is currently being built as a sustainable bed & breakfast, education center, and retreat in rural central Missouri. The goal is to create an environment for people to remove themselves from the often chaotic and unhealthy cacophony of modern society and to reconnect with nature while also exploring ways of living simpler, healthier, and generally more conscientious and fulfilling lives.
My name is Tao Weilundemo, and in 2009 I moved out to the 310 acres of forested mid-Missouri land that is Maya Creek. I have been learning how to live an increasingly more sustainable and self-sufficient life since that time. Thanks to the help of volunteers and friends I have been steadily building infrastructure, but I still have several years of construction before Maya Creek will be ready to open for paying guests.
Currently, I hold free workshops on topics such as shiitake mushroom logs, home brewing, permaculture, natural building, composting toilets, wild edible and medicinal plants, earthen plaster, etc. I also gladly give tours and host volunteers who earn room and board for 20 hours of work per week.
I plan to host a variety of instructors and hold multi-day educational courses and retreats. Eventually, I will also build several more guest cabins using different natural and indigenous building styles other than the load-bearing and timber-frame straw bale styles I have now.
Below you’ll find my most recent blog posts. The site is structured so that the folder tabs are the main categories and the colored tabs are the sub-pages. To learn more about who I am and the vision for Maya Creek just click on the red tab above. I post many pictures and small updates on the facebook group, Maya Creek Forum.
I am looking for two extended-stay volunteers(3 month minimum) to help on a number of different sustainability-related projects at Maya Creek for 2014. Short-term volunteers(2 week minimum) will also be invited out when more labor is needed, but extended-stay volunteers will be able to take on more complicated tasks and projects with many more learning and hands-on experience opportunities.
The work season starts at the beginning of April and runs through the end of October. All volunteers will be provided room and board in exchange for 20 hours of work per week.
I am specifically looking for one volunteer to focus on the garden, food forest, medicinal and wild plants, and food preservation. The other volunteer will be focusing on natural building projects, specifically applying earthen plaster, helping construct the rainwater cistern, root cellar, and rocket stoves. They will both get plenty of opportunities to help out on the other types of projects. More detailed descriptions of each position to follow.
You will be expected to put in 20 hours per week, weather permitting. Cooking and doing dishes from communal meals count towards this. There is a work log where everyone enters a general description of what we did each day and roughly how long we spent on it. It will serve as a chronicle of Maya Creek and is useful for future planning, but it also lets you know if you need to find more to do or you can chill out and spend the day down at the lake or the river.
We will attempt to do most of our work during weekdays and keep the weekends free, but sometimes circumstances demand we work on the weekend, ie workshops, weather, etc.
One side of the strawbale duplex with loft or a small 80 square foot strawbale cabin. Both come furnished with full size beds, night stand, dresser, etc. Each place is livable, but not totally complete. If you would like to spend some of your work hours working on making your quarters nicer that would be more than acceptable. The first volunteer to arrive will get their choice unless you agree ahead of time.
The first construction project next Spring will be setting up the indoor solar shower system, but until it is working rainwater can be heated up on the stove and you simply pour it over yourself with a cup. There is a composting sawdust toilet outhouse in the campground.
We will rotate through cooking duties. After dinner each night we’ll discuss plans for the next day as well as who will be in charge of the various meals and dishes. Often breakfast and sometimes lunch may be on your own, but there will be plenty of food to choose from. Everyone is in charge of washing their own plate, glass, and utensils. Pots, pans, utensils and other equipment used for preparing common meals will be done after dinner by whoever’s turn it is that day and put away by whoever has the first meal shift of the next day. All reasonable grocery requests will be filled, don’t expect filet mignon or other junk food, at least on a regular basis.
I would like to find volunteers who have their own vehicle. There will certainly be local events and chores that we will carpool for, but you’ll inevitably want to take your own excursions, as will I. This is not an absolute requirement.
Ideally the garden manager would arrive before transplanting starts in early to mid-April and stay through mid-October to help finish preserving the harvest, clean up the garden, and spread compost. The ideal volunteer would have some experience or a strong desire to learn about permaculture design. They would also have some experience gardening, preserving food(ie canning, dehydrating, fermenting), and be good at self-directing themselves.
This coming year I would like to design and begin implementing the next phase of the permaculture food system and I would like the garden manager to work with me on the plan and initial stages of implementation. This will involve laying out the conversion of the currently fenced-in combination perennial food forest and vegetable bed area into a solely perennial/medicinal food forest with the idea that chickens or ducks will be housed there. We will begin some initial plantings once we have a design in place, but we will continue to use some of the vegetable beds as they are for the coming year.
The other part of the design will involve a design for a kitchen garden and herb spiral in between the common house and the current garden. The volunteer will be put in charge of building the herb spiral once the design is complete.
Apart from these projects the volunteer will spend much of their time weeding, watering, dealing with pests, harvesting, and preserving.
Natural Building Assistant
The natural building assistant has a more flexible long-term schedule compared to the garden manager, though I would like them to arrive by early May at the latest. They will assist me on finishing construction of a below ground rainwater cistern initially, but then move on to the more independent task of applying earthen plaster and earthen floor finish coats to the straw bale structures. Depending on the volunteer’s interests there are a number of other discretionary projects such as 2 small rocket stoves for the cabins and work to be done on the root cellar.
This volunteer should be in good physical condition and have an eye for detail as it is important that the finish coats be done well. The ideal candidate would also have some artistic ability and interest in sculpting and/or frescoes. There are a variety of techniques such as incorporating lime into the plaster to allow for fresco paintings or adding textures and small shelves, nooks, or other embedded mosaics and designs.
There will also be opportunities to help me with some of the more detailed work on the rainwater catchment/filtration system as well as the solar hot water system. They will leave having a good understanding of both load-bearing and timberframe straw bale construction, passive solar design, and various other aspects of natural building and off-grid infrastructure.
How to Apply
I will close the application process on January 15. I will contact references, make my decision, and notify all applicants by February 1. To apply please fill out the Volunteer Questionnaire and also provide 2 references either via e-mail to me or in one of the volunteer questionnaire fields.
My summer-long volunteer, Syndey, arrived last week. She’s a Wisconsin native who has just finished an engineering degree in California. She’ll mainly be focusing on the food situation, maintaining the garden, harvesting and preserving food, etc. We’ve already spent a good amount of time familiarizing her with the garden, the plants, the pests, and the tasks to keep it on track.
We just put up a few cattle panels with t-stakes to act as tomato supports. So far I’ve tried tomato cages and last year I used t-stakes with rope tied between them as supports, but I can already tell that the cattle panels are going to be my favorite so far. They are far more stable than the other two styles, and I think the clean up at the end of the year should be fairly minimal.
The squash bugs made their first appearance several days ago and we’ve been religiously checking for eggs and adults. I think we caught it early and it seems to be under control. I pulled off the straw mulch on the squash beds, so they’ll need to be watered more, but taking away the squash bug shelter is more important. I’ve laid down some boards and pieces of granite in between the plants so we can flip them over in the morning and kill the adults that shelter there. Another trick we’ve started doing is using duct tape to pull the eggs off rather than just pulling the section of the leaf off altogether. It works reasonably well.
A lot of things in the garden are doing well. There’re loads of peaches on the trees, and there’s even a handful of pears and apples ripening. The blueberries are growing ever so slowly, but the gooseberries are loaded down and the thornless blackberries are finding their stride as well. The potatoes are looking phenomenal, and most of the other annual vegetables seem to be kicking into high gear.
The goumi berry harvest has been completed. This morning Sydney, Molly, and I got almost a gallon of berries off one bush. I’d already picked the small goumi plant clean for fresh eating over the last couple weeks since it ripened first. We made juice and fruit leather out of it. I’ll be posting a step-by-step guide on how we did it since there wasn’t a whole lot of useful information, especially on how to separate the seed from the pulp.
I’m noticing that the birds are leaving the berries in the garden alone this year. I’m not sure if that’s because the glut of rain has made earthworms and other sources of food more accessible or if the looping mp3 of predator sounds is discouraging them from staying out in the open. There certainly seems to be fewer birds hanging around the garden. It’s probably some mix of the two. I’ll post the MP3 of sounds I’ve made in the future when I’ve perfected it.
We had a week of very heavy rain since I last reported on the root cellar in the shed leaking and alas, significant amounts of water seeped in again. I’ve finished half of a french drain on the uphill side of the shed, and I should finish the other half later this week. I also put a rain diversion swale in the driveway to redirect water away from the shed as well as laying down some more tarps around the shed. We got .75″ of rain last night and so far nothing in the root cellar.
Eastern Hog Nose
John came across a previously unseen species of snake out here recently. It was right outside his cabin and scared him pretty good as it was an eastern hog nose snake, aka “spreading adder” or “puff adder” as it puffs out it’s neck like a cobra and hisses loudly. It’s not poisonous and will even play dead to avoid predators, but it’s certainly nothing I’d like to mess around with.
I’ve also had the first serious run-in with carpenter bees. They started digging holes in the earthen plaster near the top of the gable wall on the common house. They’re typically good pollinators to have around, but I don’t want them digging holes in the walls so I’ve sprayed them with a pesticide which I loath using but don’t have a suitable recourse at this time.
I’m hopeful that once the finish coat of plaster goes on it will discourage them because it should be significantly smoother and harder. I’ve got my fingers crossed otherwise I’ll have to figure something else out.
I was on the phone making plans to visit my friend Daniel in Hawaii over the winter. He just surfaced from a 7 month tour on a submarine, and we’re planning on doing some sailing around the islands there when I come for a month in December. Anyway, I looked up and I saw Feist perched on the side of a rain barrel having a drink. The lip has to be half an inch wide at most. She sat there for a good 15-20 seconds after I noticed.
It was four years ago on April 15th that I landed at Maya Creek. I was asked recently about my personal state of being now after this much time pouring my everything into my work here. So this post will be a little different from my normal updates on projects, observations, and whatnot. I’ll post about more external affairs soon, but this is a personal audit of sorts.
I’ll start with the easiest aspect to describe, that of my physical condition. I lost 15-20 pounds that first summer on the land, but gained back about 10 over the winter. Since then the pattern has somewhat equalized so I gain 10-15 over winter and lose 10-15 over summer. I spend about 2-3 weeks every spring being pretty sore as my body gets back into shape.
I haven’t noticed any permanent wear and tear on my body apart from the injury I got in October of 2011 when I cut my wrist badly. My flexibility and strength has returned in the hand, but the nerve sensation is only slowly returning as is expected with that kind of injury. I’ll probably never recover the sensation fully, but it should continue to return indefinitely. It doesn’t hamper me for the vast majority of tasks.
All in all though, I eat better than I did, feel better, and at any given time I’m in some of the best shape of my life. As a side note, I’ve noticed that I have a much broader comfort range than I had before when it comes to things like temperature, pain, cleanliness, bug bites, etc.
The first couple of years on the land I only had a couple people helping me, if any at all. I was so eager to see my dreams come to fruition that I worked hard day in and day out. I started to wear down and so took in some friends and more volunteers to help out, but instead of keeping my goals small I expanded them and ultimately made more work for myself and felt less able to regulate my work schedule around my own personal energy levels. On top of the larger project scope there was significant amounts of energy going into managing volunteers and even just maintaining relationships of all kinds to the point that I began to seriously burn out.
This year I’m scaling my volunteer help back to what it was the first couple of years and am taking my time; working on things when I feel like it, and taking time to relax and recharge when I need it. As the zen story goes, “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.” I already feel like I have significantly more control over my life and I’m finding a pace that I can keep for the long haul.
It’s been VERY easy to bite of more than I can chew and then spend large amounts of time stressing about getting everything I’ve started to a satisfactory conclusion. It’s also been VERY easy to get overwhelmed when I start to break down the bigger picture into all of the steps. My vision for the future has changed so drastically that having more than a rough outline for the future is almost waste of time in it’s own right. Setting realistic goals in a general direction and focusing on taking things a step at a time is certainly the path to maintain sanity. It may sound obvious, but it’s been easier said than done thus far though I’m certainly taking it to heart now.
I’ve become better at recognizing when an emotion has arisen in me and examining it for what it is rather than letting it control my thoughts and actions. I still have a long way to go in this regard, and regularly say things or behave in ways that don’t reflect the person I want to be and who I know is still buried within me. Yet, that person comes closer to the surface as time goes on and any progress in that direction is welcome.
The word “spirituality” brings to mind new age ideas, which don’t appeal to me. Still, the more intimately I entwine my life with the natural world the closer I feel to something sacred. I often feel like a child while closely examining insects, reptiles, birds, mushrooms, plants, or watching the interactions between any number of participants in this natural web of life. It’s awe-inspiring and a large reason for slowing my construction pace down is so that I can spend more time connecting with it. It makes me feel more alive.
Altogether, I’m happy and optimistic. The enjoyment and satisfaction I get from completing even small tasks and projects keep me motivated and excited to continue my journey. There are certainly pitfalls to this lifestyle, and I’ve skirted dangerously close to their edges at times. I now have the sense that I’ve found stable footing and though there’s still some rough patches ahead I feel well-equipped to handle them while still appreciating the view.
UPDATE: I’ve found someone for this position. Thank you for those who applied, inquired, or spread the word!
I’m taking it slow this year, but it’s still much easier and more fun to get things done with at least one other pair of hands. I can offer room, board, a small stipend, hands-on experience with organic gardening, permaculture, and construction, a beautiful piece of woodland to explore, a pond to swim in, a relaxed atmosphere, and some good company in exchange for your assistance on different projects and chores around Maya Creek.
The work includes help with planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, and preserving the 3,000 sq. ft. organic no-till garden. The critical project that needs to get done this year is to finish the 3,500 gallon concrete rainwater cistern. The hole has been dug, though it will need some more shaping. There may also be some work done on the shed and various other projects.
Other tasks will include things like helping to load/unload manure to build compost piles, general clean up, watering/harvesting shiitake mushroom logs, and taking care of the dog and cat if I’m away. We will either share or take turns cooking and doing dishes.
Having cooking experience is a plus, though I don’t mind teaching what I know. You will need to be in moderately good physical shape, ie able to lift 50lbs. Based on my goals for the year I expect we’ll have a leisurely work pace, but if you find yourself tired or feel overworked I expect you to tell me and we’ll slow things down. I prefer a non-smoker and that you not be in the habit of abusing other substances.
I’m looking for someone who can start in May and who can stay for at least 4 months, although you’re welcome to stay on up through October. I expect that we’ll be putting in around 30 hours of work most weeks, though I’m including things like cooking, dishes, laundry in that estimate as well as the gardening/construction work.
I’ll be gone for a week here and there during your stay, in which case I only ask that while I’m gone you do general maintenance ie, take care of the dog and cat, take out the garbage, clean up after yourself, etc. I’m also flexible if you would like to take some time off for trips during your time here though I ask you that give me as much notice as you can.
You will be given the other side of the straw bale duplex, which is roughly 180 sq. ft. including the loft area. There is no finish plaster on the walls or floor, but it will keep you dry and cool in the hot summer. There will be a full-size mattress and some basic shelving provided for you.
I typically make mostly vegetarian meals, though I am flexible to your dietary needs or wants. Once the garden produce starts coming in we’ll likely be eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables from there. All reasonable food requests will be provided, unreasonable requests would be things like filet mignon, caviar, microwave dinners, etc. Also, candy and beer are not included, though there will likely be some just don’t count on it. I have a large collection of homemade wine that I’ll gladly share.
If you’re interested in the position, please send me an e-mail about yourself and why you’re interested in it. Please let me know about any skills or knowledge you have that may apply to working and/or living out here. Also, I ask that you include 2 people as references as well as any questions or concerns you may have.
We had a serious failure in the duplex, but were able to save the vast majority of the building thanks to some helping hands. The following videos cover briefly the cause of the fire and then the reconstruction results. I took more footage of the recovery process, but I will save that for a longer length video at another time.
And now the recovery.