Written by Doug Crouch
Having this gem of a property in the family for now 34 years is such a wonderful gift of karma that its hard to express the magnitude of my gratitude. My grandparents stewarded the land and business for 30 years and so much honor goes to that part of my now ancestry. After rebuilding the dam at a hefty price in 2001, besides the forestry work that I have been doing over this 16 years, not much change has occurred. The main business that the property is based off of, pay fishing, is a fading industry. The bar business we have has grinded to a halt and even the campers aren’t showing up this year. But since my return from Europe and even before I arrived the place has had an evolution.
When I was back in Ohio/Kentucky last fall, I ran into my mates at Dark Wood Farm, Annie Woods and Chris Pyper, at the Northside Farmers Market in Cincinnati, Ohio. They farmed about 15 minutes from the Lake and had been our suppliers of pizza toppings for the two Pollination Festivals we were able to pull off in 2014 and ’15 here at the lake. They said they were looking for a new spot to farm and I quickly went into negotiations with them and my family to make their next spot the sandy flats behind the bar at the lake. Thus over the winter as I was mainly in Spain planting trees, creating gardens, and teaching courses, we continued negotiations and farm design. In February they began to move their operation over and started to break ground on the one acre market garden plot.
This year they have turned to a 44 member CSA with no farmers markets and selling to a cooperative that is the interface between local farmers and restaurants who want these high quality ingredients locally. The trend continues to grow which is great
because production on this sandy loam soil has been fantastic. Annie and Chris are ripping it up, working very diligently to implement this first year garden and the results are amazing! I have been contributing here and there but with other responsibilities and their more than enough capability, I am merely a moral support, a helping hand, and also working on the fertility of the farm for the future. Mulching perennials and composting are my main tasks with that and we have great talks about what is to come at the lake and the farm together. Kudos to them and the network of people that supports them including friends and family.
To breathe life into a place like we are takes courage, fortitude, and a network. I continue to work with my family to clean the place up, a legacy of neglect after the tough process of the elder generation dying out. We do our best to keep the place open, the bills paid, but with my life in Europe and their full time jobs, its hard to stay on top of everything. This place was always built around community and again my friends continue to show up and deliver. I have been spending time also in the city conjuring up energy around the place again and its proximity to the city of only 35 minutes allows my network in Cincinnati to pop over with ease.
As life evolves and new connections are born, energy also fluctuates at the place. One of those occurrences was with an old acquaintance from Pollination Fest 2015, Emily Hunt, and we, along with Alex Rydberg, launched the idea of painting a mural on the wall of the back porch patio at the bar (my Mom’s original idea). So with old high school mates, permaculture crew, and with Emily and one of her friends we smashed out a live art party that will forever be etched in my memory. Still after weeks I sit back and smile as the back porch is both my office and bedroom since Annie and Chris are renting the cabin to run the farm operation. The mural started at about 5 pm and the painting went in waves till about 1:30 in the morning. At midnight, after hours of hosting, I got up on the wall and contributed physically to the work for the first time. As I began I was infused with such an energy that the general in me, like during hands on
time in the PDC’s I teach, I was shouting in encouragement to my mates to get back up on the wall and crack on one last time for the final push. It was an epic finale to a fantastic night and since we have been cleaning it up and putting final touches on. As per request of my father, the next week we did it again, different crew and this time in the bar to get some fish on the walls to honor the essence of the place. And to add this past weekend we built community with one long time customer, Emmanuel, to host a reggae night at the bar. After all these years, like 30 years of fishing here, I never knew he was a musician till about a month ago and we got our first event worked out and implemented. It was a great time and we look forward to having more performances by their band Positive Creation in the fall!
Another community connection that continues is with one one of my dear friends here Alex Ryberg. We met several years ago and out of our connection we launched
the original idea of Pollination Fest along with a couple of others. Alex is a dedicated yoga teacher and natural healer through many modalities. I highly respect her work and with the idea of another Pollination Fest returning to the lake, we as a bigger collective decided we should morph into something else. Having worked at a yoga retreat in Spain for the vast majority of the last year and now having this practice much further integrated into my life, Alex and I decided to launch a weekend camping yoga retreat at the lake. We are combining many of the pillars of Pollination Fest together with yoga, a Permaculture/ ecology tour of the forest, local foods including Dark Wood Farm right out the back door, local music, and the art to compliment. Registration is good and we plan to continue this theme in the future as well. Alex runs retreats globally but giving access to this kind of experience locally to the Cincinnati tri-state bioregion is an important mission for both of us.
I continue my work in the forest as well, keep going back over old spots to manage regrowth of cut invasives and check in on my evolving understory. Many paw paw patches are looking great and the fruit is there for sure this year with some spots producing for the first time. Paw Paw paradise is simply my vision with this 40 acres (16 HA) of forest. There is so much work to do to further this paw paw patch fruiting mission but I am also encouraged by another native understory, the extremely beautiful redbud trees emergence as well. In many spots they were simply being taken over by the Eurasian bush honeysuckle but with quick and strong hacking back of this plant they emerge back into their native habitat role. The flowers in spring really light up this place and from this work the place really lit up this year from what I hear.
And as always, the evolution of the business plan/ permaculture design continues. My network has helped tremendously with that, great friend Grant Gibson formely with Compost Cincy and Ryan Doan, founder of Urban Greens. Both are coaching me on next steps and I am very grateful to have these two leading this advice generation along with the myriad of others. It never stops the networking, Jordan and Jen from Fab Ferments, the GoSun crew, local entrepreneurs who are doing it; making dreams come true and supporting a revolutionary new local economy. And the folks at Canopy Crew as we continue to hammer out design ideas around TreeHouse Development at the lake. The possibilities are endless, but the livestock will be here before too long, more events are coming, more courses and educational opportunities, more local foods available, more community, more networking, and more of a home for me. I think its time to pull out of Europe for now and manifest a new role in an old project. Exactly how and when, well that is the big question for now.