By Anna Haught
This summer I had the amazing opportunity to be an intern with Blue Rock Station, the first “Earthship” built east of the Mississippi and a beacon of sustainable living just outside of Philo, Ohio, Blue Rock Station was established by Annie and Jay Warmke in 1993. If you have not had a chance to visit Blue Rock Station, I highly recommend coming to visit on a tour or attending an event/class (like Goat College or a Buffalo Gals Workshop). Once you get through the gates and start walking down the driveway, it’s like coming home. The sounds of the Peacocks greeting you (and Mr. Peabody showing off his impressive tail), the goats grazing in the nearby pasture (Fern calling out to you for attention), the glimpse of the forest nearby (the view at the Overlook is incredible), and then there’s the smile on Annie’s face. If you have not yet met Annie Warmke, you are missing out. She is my shero and is the greatest person I know. She has this way of making you feel like you can accomplish anything (she also gives great hugs).
If you would like to learn more about Blue Rock Station, their website can be found at https://bluerockstation.com/. Interested in a tour? Get the chance to walk the 40-acre sustainability center and learn all about sustainable living. All about the goats? I know I am! Attend Goat College 101 and learn all about how to take care of the cuties. Want to become more resilient and develop skills? Come to a Buffalo Gals Workshop to gain knowledge from fields such as carpentry and electrical to foraging and identifying wild food. Want to learn more about solar energy, want to become certified? Jay Warmke is the go to guy when it comes to solar energy and offers workshops and helpful information. You can also listen to Blue Rock Station’s weekly podcast, When the Biomass Hits the Wind Turbine, to learn all about sustainability and sustainable living. I was featured on two episodes, End of the World as We Know It Part 1 and 2. The synopsis of the episodes is, “Different generations have very different perspectives on how the world looks and feels. A global climate crisis, dysfunctional government and media, too many choices, changing perspectives on race, religion and sexuality.” Want to learn how we feel and how we think we can address the issues? Listen here: Part 1, Part 2. Blue Rock Station has so much to offer, I hope that you take advantage of their resources and apply what you learn to your everyday life.
Now that you know a little about Blue Rock Station, let’s jump into my experience as an intern. During my time there, I stayed in a straw bale cabin, the Dogwood Chalet, named after the beautiful dogwood tree close by. I used a compostable toilet in the privy with a priceless view (especially when the goats come to visit by the fence) and a solar shower (tip: make sure not to use it after dark or it will be very cold…I may be talking from personal experience). In addition to being more thoughtful with water usage when it comes to personal hygiene, we also worked a lot in the kitchen to ensure we used the water as smartly as we could. With bins in the sink to collect the water from washing hands and/or cleaning dishes, we would water plants inside (and out) when the bins were full. This ensured the plants were happy and thriving and so were we.
Speaking of the kitchen, we utilized the garden and high tunnel to ensure we were eating fresh and nutritious produce. The zucchini plants were especially successful this year so we had to get very creative with zucchini recipes. If you have some zucchini and are not sure what to do with it, let me know (don’t worry, you have plenty of options). We did supplement our diet of Blue Rock Station grown produce with locally grown food from the Chesterhill Auction. This way we could have fresh fruit for dessert in the evening. If you have never eaten frozen watermelon before, I highly recommend it (especially after working all day in the summer sun)! Every week, we would plan out what meals we would be making that week and who would be the head chef of the meal (and if they needed a sous chef). This way we could all help out and one person did not have to make food every day. Shoutout to Jay Warmke who always elected himself to be the dishwasher after meals. I found that planning meals every week not only helped us to best use the produce we had but also was a fun way to brainstorm ideas with others about what to do with said produce.
I learned so much about living sustainably not only with my water use and food consumption but also how to be more resilient, how to think outside the box to solve problems with items you already have. For example, the solar shower while amazing, did not have a lot of privacy if somebody accidentally walked by while you were using it. Dalia, another intern, and I used bamboo from Blue Rock Station’s bamboo forest to create a privacy wall on both sides of the shower. So using materials that were accessible to us we created a solution to a problem and it looks very aesthetically pleasing (we also learned quite a bit about bamboo along the way). I think resiliency is super important and unfortunately we are not really taught how to be resilient in school. As a recent graduate from the Ohio State University, I still do not know how to file my taxes and before coming to Blue Rock Station had very low cooking skills (I was the pro at using the microwave but not really anything else) and had never used power tools.
So from not having been taught how to do any of these things, in the first week that I was at Blue Rock Station, I was chopping up veggies and fruit, cutting down bamboo, using a cordless power drill to screw bamboo into a piece of wood, taking care of goats and giving goats medicine. I am so thankful that I gained that knowledge because it made me feel more confident in myself and in my abilities. I have the basic skills now to know what I need to do/learn to do other similar projects.
An example of this is my now proudly furnished apartment. I moved into a studio apartment a week before my internship at Blue Rock Station and had no furniture except for a bed, a small show bookcase, and a sofa bed. Annie helped me design out the space and I ended up refinishing a desk, double sided bookcase, and a long table by myself. The Anna that first walked into Blue Rock Station at the start of the internship would not have been able to do that. Yes, I had absolutely no skill or knowledge about how to refinish furniture when I started this project but I had the confidence and knowledge to be able to research what I would need to do and do it (I happily wrote this article on my new desk, new to me, it is a 1920s library desk).
The hands-on experience and mentorship that I received at Blue Rock Station cannot be compared to my previous education at all (it is miles and miles better than what I had before). I am so grateful that I had this opportunity because I cannot imagine who I would be without it. I know that sounds super gushy and fake but I mean it very genuinely. I am a different person walking out the gates, a better person, a more confident person, a person that will make the world a better place. I had the potential there in me all along but it wasn’t until I was there that the spark was nurtured and able to develop and grow. That is why internships like this one are so important. Young people like me want to learn, want to experience, and want to accomplish things. We just need help, we need a mentor to teach us basic skills and to teach us how to be confident in ourselves. Are you an expert/experienced in a field? From woodworking, painting, crocheting, cooking, cleaning, etc.? Please consider teaching through an internship, mentoring, or even informal lessons. We need you.
Thanks for listening to my story and taking the time to learn about the sustainable haven that is Blue Rock Station