Author Archives: Karen

About Karen

Director of Life Systems of Berry Mountain Center for Sustainable Living

Planting our first fruit and nut trees!

This past weekend we excitedly planted the apple, hazelnut and flowering trees we were gifted from our wonderful cousin Pam from the Arbor Day Foundation.  These saplings from the Arbor Day Foundation were fine, strong and succulent – a far cry from the spindly little dogwoods and redbuds we received from our local state forestry service.

It must always be a very important day on any homestead when you plant perennial food crops. They will (God willing) long out live us and continue to feed future generations of people and wildlife. We are profoundly grateful for this gift and so very hopeful that we are doing right by our beloved Berry Mountain.

Where we planted, the earth was deep, dark, rich and loamy. We planted the two apple trees in memory of two girlfriends I lost in 2015. Our Jonathan apple is to honor Annette. Our Lodi apple honors Becky. I miss you ladies, but now will always have a reminder of the joy and light you brought to the world. You will always have a home on our Mountain.

Peace on Earth and Good Will to All.



Rain water barrel system – with a bonus for off-grid!

Hey everyone! I just wanted to post a quick video look at what Tim was able to devise for our (5) 55-gallon rain barrel system at the homestead. We have 5 of these barrels which provide more than enough water for us as weekend homesteaders, but the construction method he used is particularly ingenious. This summer he added a brace for adding a solar shower bag which sends the engineering to a whole new level. I hope some of these ideas are useful to you in your quest for self-reliance.


God Bless!

Adding solar panels to the Homestead

This past weekend I filmed a little video clip focusing on the adjustable, moveable and DIY solar panel frame set up Tim devised this summer. I spent some time highlighting the construction methods he used to create something super flexible and infinitely moveable. Our cabin is nestled in a clearing of very tall trees, so we have to chase the sun throughout the day and the year. If some of you might need that same level of flexibility, take a look!

We bought most of the components of the 3 panel (100 watts each) system off of Amazon as a kit for less than $500. Later we added an extra battery, extensions for the power cords and a new charge controller.

We are considering adding more panels to the cabin roof (which is sited almost perfectly facing south) – but the debate whether we should spend money on improving the cabin vs. putting that money towards new building projects continues to be a subject of discussion.

Thanks for stopping by!

Video Update – Clearing the Land Sept 27 2015

Hi Everyone – here is a video tour of what our cleared homestead site looks like after all the machines are gone and we begin the second phase of terraforming a forest into a working homestead. We are creating hugelkultur beds, addressing our pond-in-progress and shaping terraces to catch water and soil.


Thanks for stopping by!

Sept 26 2015 – Happy Hour Chat

So. we’ve decided to try and record weekly video updates on the progress at Berry Mountain. We call them “Happy Hours” – because every step of the way has a different flavor of happiness. This particular week includes mild profanity (NOT FROM ME!) and descriptions of what and how much it costs to carve out a homestead from a wooded landscape. Cheeky, saucy, eye-rolly (is that a word?) We got it all. Love to all of you.


Progress! Clearing land for the homestead

Here’s another video peek into the process of clearing the land to build the homestead. In this clip, our guy with the big yellow machine had been hard at work for 2 days. What he could not know, nor did we, is that it would take another three weeks to finish the job. (Originally, we all thought it would be four days. tops.)

Crew members came and went. Equipment broke down. It rained a lot. There were Sabbaths to observe and other clients to meet. Fortunately, we were not really in a rush, but we did feel bad for our contractor. July and August are hot months to be struggling with two acres of trees. Tim joined the crew for much of the work and pulled his weight.

It’s a process – and we are underway.